Archive for November 2014

When SJWs & RPGs Collide

Someone in my circles made a post yesterday asking whether anyone felt that what he had said in another post was "wrong". When he mentioned Dungeon World I had a pretty good idea where things were going, but as soon as he mentioned Tim and Tracy I not only knew exactly what was coming next, but also exactly who he was talking about.

Now unless you're on G+ and play Dungeon World you probably have no idea who the hell Tim is. Basically, he's a social justice warrior who has said some astoundingly stupid shit like "every gaming group needs at least one woman", and if you can't find a woman then someone has to play a female character.

Why? Because, and I'm paraphrasing here a bit, "you need to have a woman's perspective in order for the game/world feel truly alive and fun".

Tracy is...somewhat more infamous, but in case you don't know who she is, like Tim she's also a social justice warrior that gets outraged over bizarre shit like Aleena's attire, trying to stop an online woman's convention because they actually wanted to play games, and calling a pornstar a "fucksack".

The original post is made by Tim, which I've archived here. I did this partially because I wanted everyone to be able to easily see it, and partially because both Tracy and Fred Hicks both have me blocked (the SJW MO), so it was the only way to actually see their comments.

Basically, someone asks Tim's character why she's "not in the kitchen and caring for children", he overreacts, and amid all the pity and armchair-support Andrea drops in and, erroneously believing that when a SJW posts a bunch of whiny shit in a public space that it's an invitation to actually talk about it, says that if the character said that then why not run with it?

Mind you Andrea also said that if the player says something like that and actually believes it, that they're "100 years behind the world we are living in". He also admits to not knowing about the session and people, but that if the player's character makes a "misogynist" comment, that his character could take that as a challenge to prove him wrong.

How does Tim respond? He's part of the Manufactured Outrage Brigade, so of course he responds with a wall of text, all caps, so you know he's upset, and that's all that matters: if someone says something that upsets you, then they're in the wrong. Always. What they said, how they said it, context, and other factors? Fuck it: go whine on the internet instead of being an adult and either talking about it or simply shrugging it off.

The entire thread can be summed up as Tim (and most of the rest) wanting people to only act/play the way he wants, Andrea very calmly and politely trying to clarify that he is fine with a variety of playstyles, but thinks that groups should establish up front the general tone and style is ahead of time, Fred Hicks stating that Andrea is "repulsive, simply repulsive" (I know who I'm not supporting anymore), and Tracy Hurley both accusing Andrea of "mansplainin'", as well as things he never even said ("never leave the room").

Really, what Tim needs to do is just make it clear before joining a group is that he has incredibly thin skin, and that anything he perceives as sexist and misogynistic (which can be hard to predict since SJWs like to change up definitions) will make him run to G+ and bitch to the rest of the pseudo activists, eager for fuel to make them feel better about themselves without actually having to do anything.

Honestly? I'm curious what the group thought of him. Tim can be very...abrasive when he thinks you aren't playing the game "right" (i.e., the way he wants). I recall a post in the Dungeon World Tavern where someone was talking about a last breath 7-9 result that Tim didn't agree with: that went on for a while before Adam or Sage came in and said that the other guy wasn't doing anything wrong.

Anywho, Tim says this at some point in the thread:

"Okay people. It is already after 12pm here and as our playstyles don't seem to mix I think I will go now" 

then I was kicked out of the skype call. 
I was going to say "I hope you all have fun and raid the dungeon and stuff." but didn't get to. 

Well yeah...

Hrmm...maybe they were just tired of your shit? When someone says they need to leave and gets immediately booted, that sounds like the actions of someone that's just had enough of you. I know that you've got your little yes-person echo-chamber hug-box going on, eager to show you pictures of kittens and make you feel better after your oh-so traumatic experience, but that's still just one side of the story.

Maybe he expects everyone to just listen and believe?
November 30, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

SJWs & Meaningless Awards (And Games, And Titles)

Maybe it's just the people in my circles, maybe it's the people they have circled—probably a combination of both—but whining about "social justice" without actually doing anything seems to be a pretty popular trend on Google+ well, not nowadays, but for at least the past few months or so.

I've heard that it's even worse on Tumblr, but when I go to Twitter things drastically shift: contrary to the armchair-activist narrative of every single woman ever being oppressed by evil white men, there's no shortage of women, feminists, minorities, and sexualities that don't feel like they're victims in need of special privileges, play games, work on games, and/or support GamerGate.

Ironically, and perhaps hypocritically, I find that it's a handful of men—and sometimes women—telling everyone else what's globally best for women, minorities, and people of other sexualities and gender identities, while at the same time labeling any combination of the above that disagrees with them as deluded, misogynistic (internalized or otherwise), sexist, racist, idiotic, or whatever it takes to dismiss their argument because they have no way of refuting it.

Oh yeah: if you describe yourself as a feminist they'll just say that you aren't really a feminist (by their definition, anyway, which isn't surprising since they like to redefine words like sexism and misogyny as needed), and in some cases might go so far as to state that you don't even exist at all.

If there's anything positive about the pseudo-activist crowd it's that they're occasionally a source of hilarity, like when some of them were desperately trying to prove that half of all viking warriors were women despite the initial report not actually saying that.

These are the kind of "issues" that social justice whiners concoct in order to get their fingers riled up for a frenzy of clicking +1, Like, and Share, sometimes preceded by empty quotes like "This is important": apparently, regardless of the kind of professions and even games that men and women tend to enjoy, there must be an equal number across the board. Well, for the "good" jobs anyway: let the men get shot up over seas, and work in fast food and coal mines.

Less amusing is that this ideology is also infesting tabletop games. Case in point a while back I'd seen a blog post where a woman painted broad strokes about the alleged "barriers" that women face when trying to make it into the game industry, lamenting issues that ranged from having to deal with kids and not having money—because of course those are only problems for women—but also experience and confidence.

The article could be distilled down to a bunch of whining (along with a reference to the gender wage-gap myth and even "the movement that shall not be named"), with no proposed solution other than to pander to her so that she can get her name in a book with as little work as possible.

Unsurprisingly a few white knights jumped at the opportunity to help out this poor, oppressed, and most relevantly lazy woman: I'm sure there aren't other people out there that are much more passionate, qualified, and willing to work, but even if there are they're probably just men, and as we know all men always have it easier and better.

More recently saw a post on Google+, also by a woman, that won an award I've never heard of—and if you think most gamers have no clue what an ENnie is just imagine the fraction of a fraction that might have both heard and care about this one—for designing what I suppose amounts to a game that I'd also never heard of (I did eventually find it, and holy shit it's fucking horrible).

She starts out by gushing about her meaningless, participatory-grade award before going on to state that the reason she used to never think she could be a game designer, was because she didn't know any female game designers. I mean they obviously exist, and she even admits both near the beginning and end of her post that she is aware of that, but because she couldn't name any off the top of her head this somehow makes it is a problem to her.

The real problem is her claim, that representation matters, that if someone with matching genitals—and if not that, then skin color, sexual orientation, physical competence, finances, time, and so on would presumably be the next set of goalposts—hasn't already done what you want to do (or more accurately, if you can't name them off the top of your head), then what hope do you have? Frankly if that's the yardstick you use to determine whether you can do something, or should even try, then the real problems are merely your self-esteem and work ethic.

Unless all you care about is having your name in a book so you can feel good about yourself, the solution isn't to bitch and moan until some misguided individual that is marginally more successful than you throws you a bone, but rather actually put in some work and make something. Yes, it might suck, and it probably will the first few times, but so long as you can accept criticism, refine what you've created, and keep working then that's fine.

There likely are people like her that "write games", though they probably aren't well known because the games they make just aren't fun, or at least aren't as fun as other games out there that are about things like killing monsters and taking their shit. That's not a problem, but the business, which of course means that for her and the rest of the manufactured outrage brigade it is a problem: people outside of their ideological bubble don't like the things they want them to like.

Honestly no one is going to look at a game and write it off because a woman made it. Well, SJWs will if it doesn't match up with their criteria, which is essentially "being made by people they like".

Anywho, she eventually wraps things up by declaring herself a game designer by virtue of designing what I suppose technically counts as a game. Honestly, if this is how you have to appease your ego, to feel like you're pioneering something, then knock yourself out, but the reality is that the title is still meaningless, just like your game and award.

Not just for the majority of gamers, but even for you, as you yourself have fabricated just about the smallest possible hurdle to overcome in order to qualify for a title that you only care about because you consider it to be prestigious. It's like calling yourself a vet because you can identify why your pet is sick and you know how to treat it, or a Python programmer because you know how to write some basic code, or a mechanic because you can fix some issues with your car.
November 29, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: The First Fane

Cast
  • Felicia (level 4 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 4 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 4 living star)
  • Locum (level 4 slayer)
  • Mim (level 4 witch w/ familiar)

Summary
Gamamyr was bound to the alter by thick vines, and to make matters worse the hag that had abducted him was also holding a knife to his throat. Though she hadn't explicitly said so, it was a safe bet that if they approached she would surely kill him.

Kyr was considering whether his flight would be able close the distance before she could slit his throat, when Locum started muttering something under his breath. He'd only gotten a few words out when the hag's mouth opened, revealing a glowing, crimson eye at the back of her throat.

Locum coughed, fell to the ground, and began painfully retching up brackish water, rotted fish, and other filth. Satisfied that he was incapacitated, the hag motioned about her and asked what had brought them to her "illustrious home".

Mim started to explain that they'd come to destroy Strahd's sources of power, but the hag cut her off mid-sentence, stating that such places could not be destroyed, only...freed. Before Mim could ask her to elaborate Locum fired a crossbow bolt at her, striking the knife from her hand: he'd been aiming for her hand, but that also worked. She idly watched the knife as it went, landing several yards away, and when she turned back Kyr was already flying towards her.

He was almost at the altar when she suddenly leaped over it, at him, stone teeth bared. Her speed was...unexpected for someone that looked so old and frail, but he managed to twist about mid-flight and narrowly evade her. Though his burning hands made short work of the vines, once Gamamyr was freed the bones surrounding the altar clattered and rolled about, stacking upon themselves into a group of five skeletons.

Gamamyr tried rolling off of the altar, but was quickly overwhelmed by the skeletons. They tore at his clothing and flesh until Kyr, heedless of his own safety, managed to pull him free and fling him to safety. The skeletons didn't pursue him, instead focusing on tearing apart Kyr. The hag had stripped him of his possessions—which in all reality probably wouldn't have availed him much—but he still had his magic.

Including fireball.

With the hag's back turned Locum charged towards her, intending to quickly take her out while she was focused on Kyr. As he brought his sword down she whirled about to face him, and instead of moving to avoid the attack simply blocked it with her arm. It cut through her flesh but not the bone, and as the blade slid down the length of her arm there was a loud scratching noise. It sounded like metal and stone, and as the meaty flap of her forearm fell away he realized what it was.

Her bones were made of stone.

Both unconcerned and unhindered by her wound, the hag advanced menacingly towards Locum who, understandably more than a bit fearful of her capabilities at this point, backed away to keep his distance. For all the good it was doing him, at any rate. Mim uttered a curse that sewed her mouth shut; after all if she couldn't open her mouth, then she couldn't use her evil eye, which would give Locum a fighting chance.

The hag tore her lips off.

Mim gasped, Locum hesitated, and then she opened her mouth.

Pain raced through Locum's hand as branches and vines began to sprout from it, forcing it open so that he could no longer hold his sword. Biting back the pain he tried using his other hand to weave a spell, but it washed over her with no effect aside from a faint cloud of steam. Mim looked at him, eyes filled with fright, and fled.

And that was it. He had nothing left. Mim was gone, his sword was gone, not that he could even hold it, and Gamamyr and Kyr had their hands full. The hag loomed over him, mouth still gaping open, hellish eye still staring, and she told him that he would suffer greatly before she permitted him to die.

Then her chest exploded.

At first Locum thought that this might be intentional. After all she didn't seem to mind losing chunks of muscle or tearing her own face off, but then he looked through the hole and saw Mim holding his sword. The blade was still stained with the hag's black blood, he supposed, and one of her poppets was dangling near the tip.

When the hag looked down to inspect the wound, Locum drew his silver kukri and desperately drove it towards her head; she tilted it quickly, caught the blade with her teeth, swallowed it, and enraged turned towards Mim. Mim was in the process of yanking the poppet off so that she could stab it again when she fell to the ground, screaming and writhing in agony as black marks and veins covered her skin.

There were a pair of bright, blinding flashes near the altar, and smoking bones clattered about the hag. When she turned to see what had happened Kyr slammed into her and drove his fist into her mouth. The heat instantly vaporized the eye, and as both her clothes and—mercifully—flesh quickly blackened into ashes the silver kurki tumbled out. When Kyr was done, the only thing that remained was her skeleton.

After Gamamyr and Locum helped rid Mim of the hag's curse, they checked what was left of her remains and discovered that her canine teeth were magical: whoever, well, "wore" them could smile while gazing into reflections to try and glean information. The only problem was that you had to replace your own teeth with them in order to get them to work.

Mim happily volunteered, and after some impromptu surgery they settled in for the night, which aside from a few strange noises and ominous lights thankfully passed by uneventfully.

The following day Gamamyr attuned his sense of hearing to magical energies, again hoping that they were close enough to the Sunblade that he would be able to sense it. Initially there was nothing, but when he approached the ziggurat could hear a faint, sinister tone echoing from within. It sent a chill up his spine; though he wanted nothing more than to get away from it, they had yet to find the Sunblade and were not exactly sure what to do about the whole "place of power".

So, in they went.

The first thing they found didn't do much for their resolve: a pile of bones that had obviously been gnawed on. The heap was so great that they weren't sure if the passage beyond had collapsed, and the bones had just been piled onto the rubble, or if the hag had in fact consumed enough victims to fill up an entire hallway. They decided that the chances of possibly confirming the latter weren't worth it and continued on, but further in wasn't much better.

The chamber was circular and low, with much of the walls covered in roots and vines. A channel of water flowed into a pool that contained several blood-red orbs. They looked like fish eggs, but were the size of a man and inside they could clearly see tremor-worm larva wriggling about. Suspended from the ceiling were several bodies. Their throats had been slit so that their blood could be collected in a wide stone bowl.

Kyr incinerated the eggs, and at Gamamyr's suggestion Locum hacked apart some of the vines and roots that were covering a section of the wall, revealing a passage. They followed the passage, which quickly terminated at a round door made of concentric stone circles. It was covered in glyphs similar to those they had seen on the pillars outside, and there were pegs that allowed the different rings to be rotated.

Assuming it to be some kind of combination lock they tried numerous combinations, but after a lengthy period without success Mim returned to the previous room and gazed into a bowl of blood. She was aware of a presence gazing at her through the reflection as the solution was revealed to her: there was no combination, but a hidden latch in the center of the door.

She returned while everyone else was still busily rotating the door, grabbed part of the snake in the center, and pulled the latch. There was a loud grinding noise, and the door rolled aside to reveal a flight of stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs was another room. Along the edges stood three stone sarcophagi with lids that were carved into abstract representations of alligator, and the center of the room was dominated by a statue. The head was that of an alligator, but the rest looked more or less humanoid. The eyes were large rubies, and it appeared to be sitting on some kind of throne. There were more hanging bodies, but this time their blood was flowing through grooves in the floor that led towards the statue.

The moment Locum stepped into the room the sarcophagi cracked open, and a mummified humanoid stepped of each. Like the statue they had alligator heads—also mummified—but in addition to effortlessly bearing their sarcophagi lids before them as they walked, also wielded flat wooden clubs lined with obsidian blades.

They charged towards Locum, but before they could attack Kyr landed in front of them. The force of the winds that carried him bowled them over, and while they were recovering Gamamyr hurled a fireball at them. The fire incinerated them, but not before they were able to regain their feet and get in a few strikes on Kyr.

Figuring that the blood was somehow "feeding" the statue, and that this was ultimately a bad thing, Locum poured some oil into the grooves and lit it on fire. Once the fire consumed the blood, the statue's eyes flared brightly, it stood up, and the floor shook violently as it lumbered towards them.

Locum and Kyr tried to keep it away from Gamamyr and Mim, but it's sheer size made it difficult to get close, and the fact that it was made of stone allowed it to shrug off most of their attacks. It was also incredibly strong, able to effortlessly swat Locum across the room and pick up Kyr with one of it's hands.

Unable to escape from it's crushing grip, the statue brought Kyr close to it's face. The lower jaw slid open, and he could see that obsidian blades were embedded along the walls of its "throat". He heard the sound of stone grinding, and the blades began to spin. Gamamyr hurled the silver mace into it's mouth, figuring that it might jam up its inner workings. There was a cacophony of clanging metal and shattering glass before it shot back out, shattering against the wall.

Not only was the mace ruined, but the blades were still spinning.

He then tried a fireball, but if it did any damage there was no sign of it, and the statue bit down. Kyr pushed against the statue's mouth while Locum, who was now on top of it's head, pulled. Their combined strength enabled them to pry the jaw open enough for Kyr to escape. He tumbled out of it's mouth and hit the ground hard, but as the statue prepared to crush him underfoot the top part of it's head exploded, revealing a black orb.

Still lying on the ground, Kyr looked up to see Mim angrily stomping on the head of her last poppet, a fragment of stone wedged into its body.

Fortunately it seemed to need its "eyes" head to see, and Locum was able to easily scramble up one of its arms and onto its pulverized head. Up close he could see ghostly faces swirling about within the orb, and figured that it was powering the statue. When he grabbed it he felt agonizing, icy tendrils course through his body, but was able to maintain his grip long enough to wrench it free and throw it to the ground.

Sure enough the statue immediately stopped moving, and when nothing else appeared or animated they examined the room. The "throne" that the statue was sitting on was actually a rune stone that was focusing the energies of the swamp: one of the places of power. Unsure what they were supposed to do they destroyed it: there was no explosion or flash of light, but the glowing runes on it faded, which was hopefully a good sign.

They found some square, golden coins in the sarcophagi, and one of the statue's ruby eyes was still intact. While Locum pried it free, Gamamyr realized that his hearing was still attuned to magic; he could hear what sounded like an out of tune harp faintly strumming from within the statue. Given that no one wanted to crawl into its mouth Mim pulled the poppet in half, and the statue likewise broke apart.

Something glimmered amid the congealed blood, putrified flesh, and shattered bones that poured out: a sword hilt, and only the hilt. The cross-guard was stylized after a raven with it's wings spread, the grip looked to have been wrapped in golden leather, and the pommel was a disk that looked like a sunburst, with a diamond set in the middle.

It was safe to assume that this was the Sunblade, or rather part of it. They wondered where the rest was, if there was more to it, and recalled Eva's words: the sword slept, and it could only be awoken within the bowels of Strahd's castle.

Behind the Scenes
Real quick: The Living Star, the class that Adam has been play(test)ing for the past month or so, is available over on Drivethrurpg now! There are also a few new bundles, including one that contains every single playbook we've ever written.

I'm very proud to say that everything in this session was created on the fly—except for the witch's teeth: I dreamt of them the night before—but it was also very, very tense: on more than one occasion the players didn't think they were going to make it. This was entertaining for me because I could see the monster's hit points, and knew full well that they only needed another hit or two to succeed.

I feel bad for Melissa because she has a history of missing out on cool parts when she leaves the table, usually because I take over for her character. Case in point, the part where she stabs the poppet with Locum's sword: I had her defy danger to avoid the hag (thankfully she rolled a 10+), grab the sword, wipe the poppet across the blade, and then stab it.

(In case you don't have The Witch, poppets are an item that they can use to deal automatic damage. The drawback is that it's a one-use thing and you have to have something belonging to the target. This ended up being so useful that Melissa took Poppet Master as her new move: now when she deals damage with one, she deals more!)

Gamamyr created a bond to learn magic from Mim: once he's resolved it I'm going to just let him take moves from The Witch freely, because the multiclass moves from Dungeon World are stupid. I figure if the players can justify it, just let them take moves from whatever. I let Kyr pick up the fighter's Armored move so that he could wear scale armor, and things are still going juuust fine.

Here's the stats for the fane guardians and the big-ass statue:

Fane Guardians Group, Terrifying
Alligator club (d8 + 2 damage, 1 piercing) 10 HP 3 Armor
Close, Forceful, Messy
Special Qualities: Vulnerable to fire, cursed touch

Bloody Relic Solitary, Large, Construct
Crushing fists (b[2d10] + 3 damage) 20 HP 3 Armor
Reach, Forceful
Special Qualities: Made of stone

  • Shrug off on attack
  • Grab a creature 
  • Devour a grabbed creature
  • Restore itself by drinking blood


Just gotta work on a description, instinct, and moves.

Similarly, here's the start of the hag's teeth:

The Hag's Teeth hand, precise, 2 piercing, implanted, 0 weight

I didn't bother thinking of a move, because honestly I knew they were going to give them to Mim, and since she has a divination move I made it so that if she uses them in a reflecting surface she takes +1 to use Divination. The normal move would probably do something similar to the cleric's Divine Guidance move.

Earlier in the campaign Shane wanted to make a bag that would let Gamamyr hold more stuff. An obvious go-to for this is the bag of holding (Dungeon World, page 333), but I figured that if he wants to make one it should involve some extra-dimensional mojo. Now that they're at a font of power and he has a nifty soul gem, I let him go for something with a similar effect (but different drawbacks):

Ghost Bag haunted, 0 weight
The bag is less of a bag, and more an opening into the land of the dead. Objects placed inside appear within a random crypt or grave somewhere. When you reach across the threshold to find something you stored, roll+WIS. *On a 10+, you find it. *On a 7-9, you retrieve the item but choose 1:
  • A brush with a ghostly spirit drains you: you take -1 forward.
  • Something bit you! Take 1d6 damage.

Melissa wants to make something with the witch's skeleton, namely armor and perhaps a weapon so that she's better at hitting things. We're thinking of having the ribcage be armor that gives her 1 Armor, and something extra against magic, and turning her skull and leg bones into a weapon (the Witch Hammer?) that lets her auto-hex when she hack and slashes with it and gets a 10+.

Image Dump





November 24, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: The Living Star and Various Bundles

We've got several new products today! Well, technically there's one new product plus a few new bundles, but Drivethru still counts them as individual products.

The first is that The Living Star is now on sale (and I'm really fucking proud of this cover). This is yet another strange concept from Melissa that we've been playtesting for about a month now.

She got the idea from a quote by Carl Sagan, that we're all made of star stuff, and just went with it: you're a human (or humanoid, we don't care if you're a dwarf or halfling) that is somehow able to manifest various "star" themed powers, like glowing brightly, superheating your hands so that you can rend metal apart, and fly through the air on solar winds.

The advanced moves let you hurl plasma, zip about at light speed, manipulate metal, and more: all told there are twenty-one of them, with a couple extra that we couldn't fit on the character sheet.

This playbook is a bit cheaper than other stuff we've made because it doesn't have magic items and/or compendium classes, but if you want to pick it up even cheaper we've got a few options for that with a pair of new bundles!

The Awfully Big Playbook II bundle has all of the playbooks we made after the first playbook bundle we made; The Bard, The Living Star, The Spider, and The Vampire.

If you want to get everything, then just snag All of the Playbooks: this has every playbook we've written, plus Playbooks of the Dead since it includes all of our undead books.

If you've got any questions, complaints, suggestions, etc, you can hit me up using those nifty social network icons in the upper right-hand corner.
November 21, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: Class Overhaul

First things first, here are links to the current-enough versions of most of the classes from A Sundered World:


I mentioned at the ass-end of this post that since they're all based around roll-and-hold moves, I was considering changing some of them. Partially because I'd like to see more variety in how they operate, but mostly because I think that there might be better ways to mechanically express what the class does.

I think the battlemind and nomad seem to be fine as is: they both saw some action in the session, and from what I could tell the battlemind was tearing through baddies and soaking damage, while the nomad was zipping about and auto-damaging from a distance.

Adam has mentioned some possible tweaks, like adding a tear currency or something along those lines for teleporting and making attacks: when he shows me his idea, I'll post that and see what people think.

With the shaman I was considering adding a point pool (Spirit?), as I envision the shaman gradually exhausting her spirit as she calls upon it for power. Both Dan and Chris have played this class, and the only complain was how you could get nothing when you called upon it and missed (this has been changed so that you hold 1).

I dunno, maybe the "take -1" option is good enough? If you think the Spirit pool is better suited, should it be based on Wisdom, Constitution, a flat value, or something else?

As for the wizard (and warlock) I was thinking that instead of rolling to hold magic, when you wanna use magic you gain fatigue (or debt in the case of the warlock), roll+INT, and then pick something from a list (similar as to what you do now, you just get the one thing, though).

If I did this I would make a rotes move that lets you perform minor magical feats without gaining fatigue, and just fold evocation and thaumaturgy into one thing, maybe even change moves so that you can gain more fatigue to deal more damage and/or add tags.

Anyway, what do you guys think? Do these sound like better/more fictionally appropriate mechanics for making the classes do what they are supposed to? Do you prefer to roll-and-hold? Do you have something else in mind entirely?

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: Swamp Meat With The Drowned Lady

Cast
  • Felicia (level 2 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 2 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 2 living star)
  • Locum (level 2 slayer)
  • Mim (level 2 witch w/ familiar)

Summary
After driving off a small pack of werewolves, the party returned to Barovia so that they could rest and resupply before heading back the following day: thanks to Mim's divinations, they knew that the Sunblade was somewhere in the swamp, and once they found it they'd find the place of power, too.

They'd been slogging through the swamp for a few fruitless hours when Gamamyr suggested using his magic: it had a limited range, but there was a possibility, however slim, that they were close enough for him to detect the sword's presence.

He had intended to attune his sense of smell, hoping that if there was magic nearby it'd block out the swamp's foul odor. Somehow the spell backfired, and instead of allowing him to smell magic it greatly enhanced his natural sense of smell; given that they were waist-deep in a swamp it had unfortunate yet amusing results.

While everyone else waited for him to recover, Mim gripped her upper and lower jaw and gave them a hard pull. There was a snapping and tearing sound as her body, then her neck expanded and her face peeled back. A serpent slithered forth from her mouth, leaving her former body, clothing, and possessions behind in a crumpled heap.

Shortly after Snake-Mim, well, snaked her way into the water three dark, long shapes drifted out of the mist. They certainly looked like logs, but were floating directly towards them despite each coming from a different direction and the water being perfectly still.

Not taking any chances, Gamamyr held his breath and released his most recently-learned spell: a small orb of flame arced overhead, and as it struck the water between two of the Not-Logs it exploded, engulfing both of them in flame. There was a loud hiss, and a cloud of steam exploded outward. When it cleared they could see that while the objects were on fire, they were still moving towards them, seemingly unaware of the flame.

The fire made it more difficult to see what they were, but once one got close enough and lunged at him Locum they figured it out: zombie alligators.

He tried to move out of it's way, but not only was it surprisingly quick, the water hindered his own movement. It clamped it's jaws around his torso, tearing into his flesh and knocking him into the water. As he struggled to pry it's jaws open, Felicia drove her rapier through an empty eye socket and into it's skull: it twitched for a bit, and then it's jaws relaxed as it stopped moving.

Felicia helped Locum to his feet while Kyr readied himself for the unscathed zombie-gator's attack. Before it could strike Snake-Mim exploded from the water and coiled around it, causing it to flail about wildly as it attempted to shake her off. It was much stronger than she expected, but she was able to keep it restrained long enough for Kyr to strike, slicing off part of it's jaw and fortunately only nicking her.

Given that the only offensive spell he had prepared was fireball and everyone was clustered together, Gamamyr drew his knife and started wading towards it. He was still waiting for an opening when something emerged from the water behind him and dragged him underneath.

Kyr's eyes were able to detect heat, allowing him to see Gamamyr's struggling form even underwater. Whatever had him was radiating no heat, which meant that it was probably undead. He dove after him and Locum, having just finished off the other charred zombie-gator, followed. Kyr's body flared brightly, providing some much-needed illumination, and they could both see that it was the same creature that had attacked Gamamyr back at the crossroads.

Gamamyr was surprised to see Kyr swimming towards him, and since the creature briefly stopped biting him he assumed that it was, too. Knife in hand, he desperately stabbed over his shoulder and felt some resistance. The creature released him, and he kicked away as Kyr and Locum swam past, blades drawn. He surfaced just in time to see Felicia finishing off the last zombie-gator, and Kyr and Locum followed soon after, the latter of whom was carrying the creature's jaw.

With everyone only somewhat scraped up and plenty of time left until the sun set, they decided to keep pressing on. Snake-Mim changed back to her old self—in a similar manner as before—and consulted her runes. They didn't always give detailed information, but they could hopefully narrow down the direction they needed to go. Surprisingly, they indicated that they should go east.

They were fairly certain that they had explored most of the western region, so with nothing else to go off of started in the other direction.

After another cold, wet, miserable hour a pillar appeared out of the mist. When they approached it they saw more, and realized that they looked like they might have at one point flanked a path. They were made of stacked stone cylinders, some toppled, all covered in vines, moss, and strange glyphs depicting creatures like snakes, spiders, and other, more abstract shapes that were more difficult to identify.

Mim again checked her runestones, and after discovering that this was a place of power Gamamyr began lamenting about his lost book, the Abridged History and Geography of Barovia. Felicia produced it from a bag, claiming that he had dropped it during the zombie attack and she had just forgotten about it. Gamamyr's surprise changed to confusion, then to anger, and then they were tossing accusations, insults, and even some veiled threats back and forth.

Fortunately their argument was abruptly cut off when a voice like dry reeds spoke from somewhere within the mist.

"By all means, kill yourselves: it will make things so much easier."

It sounded familiar, almost like Madam Eva, but something was just slightly off about it... Kyr demanded that whoever was speaking show herself, but she told them that she was the least of their worries: her children were hungry. Kyr looked where he thought the voice was coming from, but couldn't see any signs of life. He then quickly whirled around to look behind th— Huh, still nothing. He wondered if her "children" were undead, or maybe they were somehow cloaked from his si—

Then he looked up.

Ah.

Winding down the pillars were a pair of massive, worm-like creatures. He shouted out a warning, and when they slithered into view everyone could see that their bodies were a deep red and covered in veins. There were no eyes, and their mouths were circular and filled with needle-like teeth. Locum had encountered these before: they drank blood and were blind, which somehow made them all the creepier, but hunted by sensing vibrations. This made it difficult to hide from or ambush them, but they could be disoriented by loud noises.

Before they reached the ground Kyr rushed over to one of the pillars. He pushed against it, willing fire into his hands. It heated the stone, softening it just enough for him to push it over. It smashed into another pillar, knocking the worm free. The impact didn't seem to hurt it much, and as it writhed about trying to orient itself Felicia dashed over and began viciously stabbing it.

The worm recovered and snapped at her, but she managed to dodge it and scamper onto it's back. She continued stabbing at it, and while she was able to easily avoid it's mouth forgot about the tail: it snatched her up and swiftly coiled about her. Unable to slip free, it brought her to it's mouth and sunk it's teeth in. Her body was wracked with agony as it began draining her blood, and to make matters worse she could see that it's wounds were slowly knitting close.

Locum was rifling through his bag for some kind of explosive, when the other worm simply dropped off the pillar. It didn't land on him, but around him, and before he could react wrapped him up in it's coils. As it brought him to it's mouth, he managed to wrest an arm free, draw his sword and plunge it through two mouth flaps, effectively pinning it's mouth shut.

As the worm tried pulling the sword free, Mim cursed it so that it would be more sensitive to the sound that it relied on, and then started screaming at it. Kyr took a cue, drawing his other sword and banging them together. The worm convulsed with what they assumed was pain, but Locum was still unable to free himself.

Gamamyr again drew his knife. He wasn't terribly skilled with a blade, but he hoped to maybe distract it long enough for Locum to escape. He didn't want to risk hitting Locum, so slowly approached it, only throwing the knife when he was a yard or two away. His dagger grazed the beast and it released Locum. Unfortunately, it did so by throwing him at Gamamyr, and they both went sprawling into the water.

With Locum finally free, Kyr stopped banging his swords and went on the offensive, but with it no longer distracted by the noise the worm managed to pull Locum's sword free just in time to snatch up Kyr with it's jaws and start feeding. Kyr's hands began to glow bright red, and he grabbed onto the worm's head. There was a loud hissing noise as it's flesh began to bubble, and it quickly released him.

Locum and Gamamyr both regained their feet. Seeing Kyr staggering about in search of his sword, Locum quickly scaled one of the pillars, drew his silver kukri, and leaped onto the worm. Since he wasn't touching the ground it couldn't sense his presence, and he literally got the drop on it. The force of the impact drove his blade deep into what he thought was the beast's head, killing it.

Biting back the pain, Felicia managed to get one of her arms free and stab the worm in one of it's mouth flaps. It flailed about and shrieked in pain, which when combined with some of her blood allowed her to slip free. Bloody and dagger in hand, she was still considering her next course of action when there was a bright flash behind her, followed by a second, blinding flash and blistering heat.

The next thing she knew she was on the ground. Much of her exposed skin burned, and she wasn't sure if she still had any eyebrows. When she collected herself, she saw that the worm had been reduced to cinders that reeked of burnt meat. Locum was busy carving something out of the other one, while Gamamyr was walking towards her.

Then the voice again spoke. It was a mixture of anger and sorrow, and told them that they would pay for murdering her children. Skeletal arms burst forth from the water, grabbing Gamamyr and pulling him under. Kyr got to his hands and knees and searched the water, but couldn't find him. Even his sight couldn't detect him.

Assuming that whoever was speaking had taken him, they set off in the direction of the voice. Mim used her magic to conjure a storm that blew the mists away, and Kyr shone brightly as he lead them forward. They moved between the pillars, and after a few minutes saw who—or maybe what would have been a more accurate term—had been speaking to them.

She stood before a ruined, overgrown ziggurat. Her hair and robes were both grey, ragged, and filthy, though the latter was a somewhat darker shade. Her eyes looked like empty sockets, and her skin was pale and wrinkled, like old parchment that barely clung to her bones. One hand held a metal knife in the shape of a long, slender fang that she was sharpening on her teeth with smooth, practiced motions. The teeth looked to be made of stone, and the knife sparked and made loud scratching noises until she finished, after which she licked the blade clean with a long, snake-like tongue.

Before her was a squat, stone alter, clearly stained with blood and surrounded by the bones of numerous humanoid victims. Gamamyr was tightly bound to it with thorny vines, and the party could see that they were biting into his wrists. He craned his head to see them, with Kyr shining at the forefront, but when he opened his mouth to speak vines quickly snapped over it, muffling him completely.

The ancient crone placed two bony, clawed fingers over his mouth and said, "Shh...it'll be over soon."

Behind the Scenes
Again, I want to thank both Christon Suess (who is playing in the campaign as Locum) and Bay Chang for their generous Extra Life donations that Melissa, Adam, and myself are gradually working off (nine hours, now, though if I counted my Shadows of Mordor playtime we'd have been done by now several times over).

I like actually playing through this as I convert it, as it gives me more stuff to cram in the document once it's good and ready to go. Take the zombie gators and tremor worms: if we hadn't actually played it I might not have thought to include either of them.

Zombie Alligator Group, Stealthy
Bite (d8+2 damage, 1 piercing) 10 HP 1 Armor
Close, Messy
Special Qualities: Crushing jaws
Just as strong as when they were alive, and their hunger can never be sated. Instinct: To drown and tear apart prey
  • Drift about unnoticed
  • Suddenly spring from the water
  • Tear something apart with it's jaws

Tremor Worm Large, Group
Bite (d8+1 damage) 10 HP 1 Armor
Close, Reach
Special Qualities: Sense vibrations, drain blood
These blood-red worms were created by the Drowned Lady to protect her from any who enter her dominion. Their ability to drain blood is makes them especially effective against vampires. Instinct: To drain blood.
  • Track someone without seeing them
  • Wrap someone in their coils
  • Heal by draining blood

Also? I might have not described the Drowned Lady the way I did. Dunno why I thought of it, but I just liked the idea of her sharpening a knife on her teeth. I think she's supposed to be the craziest of the three hag sisters.

Similarly, it's nice seeing how another player runs with the living star. Adam's doing a great job asking questions and coming up with some creative uses that we hadn't anticipated (like igniting his hands while grabbed). We haven't yet seen whether our tweak to blinding flash is still too good or bad (originally on a 10+ it let you blind everyone around you: it now only lets you blind one target that can see you, and on a 7-9 the GM chooses someone else to be blinded), but so far everything else seems pretty solid.

I ended up cracking open 10+ Treasures for the loot roll. I was trying to think what they could fish out of the tremor worms when someone—I think Chris, maybe Adam—said something along the lines of "If only there were a couple of books filled with pre-fabbed magic items". I flipped a few pages in, saw the chameleon ring, and figured it would make a lot of sense: it makes it harder to see you, but the worms don't hunt by sight, so there ya go. Here it is straight out of the book:


Now that we've played with the witch some more, we've decided to change the storm-brewer move so that it doesn't take several minutes, but just a few moments. The damage for a witch is as low as it can be (d4), so storm-brewer is a great way to give her some ranged damage. I think that the fact that it's an advanced move and you really can't use it underground or inside most dungeons is going to "balance" it out.

Speaking of which (witch?), Ben is a regular reader here, and a while back emailed me with some questions about The Witch playbook. We started talking back and forth, and he decided to not only run his own Expedition to Castle Ravenloft one-shot, but even wrote up a play report for it.

Give it a read: the names are kind of silly, but it sounded like they had a blast (which is frankly the most important part). I especially love the part where the pirate character tried staking someone with her peg leg. Never would have thought of that.

Fiiinally, if you want you can follow me on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter!

Image Dump
Over ten drawers for minis: you'd think I'd have some snakes in there. >_>

Class Warfare Review

Class Warfare is a third-party Dungeon World book that is intended to help you make new classes. It does this by categorizing "specialties" like caver, devoted, blue mage, poisoner, and arsenal into a number of archetypes: the adventurer, disciple, magician, rogue, and warrior. You make a new class by choosing an archetype, 2-3 specialties, then maybe do a bunch of tweaking until at a glance it looks good.

And I don't like it.

Taking it from the top, the layout is very minimalist (basically the same quality as Dungeon World), with everything being divided using various headers, but no colors, boxes, lines, etc. The art is also very inconsistent in terms of style and quality, sometimes even time period (I'm pretty sure everything but the cover is Creative Commons stuff).

In other words, probably what you've grown to expect from the "indie scene".

While there's a lot of moves, some are printed twice, some do very similar things, some are culled from other sources like Dungeon World and Grim World, and some are just really vague. Take the engineer's Mother of Invention: there's no mention of how long it takes to make the machine or what the limitations are; it just takes however long the GM thinks to build, and on a 10+ it just does...whatever the hell you designed it to do.

Even worse, there's no information on how to make your own moves, which would have been much, much more useful. This is why in both volumes of 10+ Treasures I put in an entire section on how to make your own magic items from scratch: it's one thing to sell people a big book of moves, but it would have been so, sooo much better if there were guidelines on how to approach and ultimately structure a move on your own.

There are a number of specialties that I couldn't see anyone using, especially in a typical Dungeon World game, like the fool, pilgrim, luminary, merchant, landed gentry, and shopkeeper. I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to roll+WIS to see if you have an item in stock? Fuck going into a dungeon, managing a store is where it's at! Hell, once you hit 6th-level you can even pick a move that lets you check your store for stuff that you shouldn't have.

Not sure why anyone would actually do this, and I have no idea why anyone would even choose this move, as in most cases it just puts you in some sort of nebulous trouble.

Earlier in the book he walks you through the process of creating a class, with the dust eater as an example. At the end he states that it "may not be the most clever, original, or cliche-busting class ever written", and that it "might have a little too much in common with the paladin".

This is a problem for two reasons. The first is that he really should be showcasing what this book can feasibly do. Opening with a somewhat re-skinned paladin doesn't really sell me on this book, but that also leads me to the second point: I can already tweak and do move swaps with ease. Why buy this book when I could just take the paladin and either shuffle the moves about, and tweak or write a few new ones until the paladin does what I want?

Case in point, my first Dungeon World character was a halfling fighter. After the first session the GM said fuck halflings and changed them to kobolds, so I became a kobold fighter. We were using Dungeons & Dragons kobolds, which meant that I had a kind of draconic ancestry. I decided that I would have hailed from red dragons, so had red scales, red dragon horns, and an affinity for fire. When I leveled up, I asked the GM if I could have some kind of ranged fire attack: we took the volley move, changed it to CHA, and put in an option to take -1 ongoing instead of losing ammo.

Simple and effective, and that was for second-session Dungeon World-ers.

Don't get me wrong: I'm sure there are some gems scattered about, and maybe it's just more useful for the typical player, rather than someone who spends a good deal of time designing classes and moves from scratch. That's a good way to sum this up: it's not for me. I don't see myself ever using it, not even as a source of inspiration, but with the $16 price tag I can't even recommend it for the casual player who might want to try something new that just barely extends beyond swapping and tweaking moves that you can find in the Dungeon World book (or even online).

If you are genuinely interested in making classes, compendium classes, or moves, I would pass on this and spend the time actually designing your own stuff. Get feedback from people and keep challenging yourself: you'll only get better over time, and you'll be able to crank out quality stuff a lot quicker (all told The Vampire only took about a week). Honestly I think that if anything this book is more of a crutch, and hope that people passionate about writing and designing don't just resort to slapping a bunch of moves together and calling it a class.
November 13, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dead Tree Treasures!

Since Drivethrurpg now allows publishers to bundle up print books, you can get physical (and digital) copies of both 10+ Treasures and 10+ Treasures: Volume II!

Quick note: the reason why it shows doubles is that when I created the bundle it only let me choose between a pdf and softcover, and normally if you buy them individually you can opt to get the book and pdf for the same price.

I figured it should be the same for this, too, so just to be on the safe side and make sure you also get the pdfs I added them to the bundle separately.

Of course if you just want pdfs, you can always get the digital treasure trove.
November 12, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

10+ Treasures Volume I & II Reviews

I was tagged a couple times in a post on the Dungeon World Tavern a while back—which was the only reason I noticed it, as I'm not a member of that community—concerning a third-party Dungeon World product.

Basically someone was curious about it, but since there weren't any ratings or reviews they had no idea what to expect quality-wise, and didn't want to risk the asking price (which was ten or so bucks).

Of course, given that not all product reviews are necessarily an honest indication of content and/or quality, at that price I'm not sure I would pick it up even if there were any.

I briefly joined so that I could clarify a few things and pitch in my two coins, stating that this was why I'd previously brought up the matter of ratings and reviews: the more people that leave them, the more likely that a somewhat accurate picture will start to form.

That, and I think that honest reviews are a great way for an actually receptive creator to improve on their work.

In any case I was pleasantly surprised to wake up—several days ago as of this writing—and find myself tagged in a post by one Sophia Brandt, author of the blog space beyond reality: she was kind enough to not just merely rate 10+ Treasures and 10+ Treasures: Volume II, but write an entire review for both of them on her blog.

What I like about it is that it comes across as very honest and neutral. She likes both products, but still makes legitimate criticisms. It's almost as if she *gasp* understands that you can still speak favorably about something despite it's flaws, that it's "okay" to like something that is less than perfect (which ends up being basically everything I have ever read/watched/played).

In the end she even recommends them without making exaggerated statements like "it deserves your money".

This is the kind of stuff that we need to see more of. I fully believe that most gamers are already hesitant to buy indie products, and why wouldn't they be? Despite featuring poor organization, writing, and/or production quality, plenty of them end up with 5, maybe 4 stars, and/or blatantly dishonest blurbs proclaiming that it's amazing, deep, or even "has at least as much content as a $40 release from a big publisher".

Yeah, a book might only be a couple bucks, but if the product sucks that still means you've wasted a couple bucks: how many times do you think you're going to sucker someone before they stop gambling their money altogether? If you want to better support the indie scene, then when you buy something at least rate it, and rate it honestly.

Even if it's a friend (or a friend-of-a-friend, or a guy that did you a favor that one time), just tell them like it is: in the long run you'll be doing both parties a huge favor.
November 10, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Fright Night: The Lost Child

Actors
Casey and Rena, stars of a new paranormal investigation show

Extras
  • Sam, landowner
  • Zeke, caretaker
  • Stacy, reporter
  • Joey, camera boy

Establishing Shot
We start with an overhead shot of the crumbling, abandoned estate that was once the Longsview Asylum for the Mentally Disturbed. Night is falling, and the long driveway to the large iron gate is illuminated only by the piercing headlights of a van.

Scene 1: Extra Attack/Environment
The van stops, the front doors open in unison and out step CASEY and RENA. They are the sort of pair that makes for good TV: Casey a man’s man with fists hard as rock and a brain to match, Rena a witty woman who is likable, if only a little jumpy.

They approach the gate, where SAM, the estate’s owner, stands waiting. He is glad they've come, as there have been strange things happening around the estate. They were highly recommended after their last case in Amityville. It is at this point that he was planning to turn them over to the elderly ZEKE, but though the caretaker promised to meet them at the gate as well, he was nowhere to be seen when Sam arrived. The businessman then leaves them to their work and begins the walk down the drive.

The investigators, along with their young assistant/cameraman JOEY, begin unloading the van of their equipment. Upon getting everything out, however, they realized that Sam has forgotten to give them the key to the gate, which is closed with a heavy padlock. They aren’t about to let this stop them, though, and Casey easily scales the wrought-iron and drops to the other side. (C: Brawn Success) 

The other two pass the equipment through the bars and he helps them up, over, and onto the grounds. (R: Brawn Success)

The two fire up their small cameras and record some opening remarks about the place before they push the front door open with a creeeak and step inside. After setting up their gadgets they split up to explore the twin wings of the old building.

Scene Notes: For this game, to keep things mysterious and spooky, I decided to shy away from gory on-screen deaths. I originally planned to actually have Zeke show them around the grounds, but when I rolled Extra Attack I figured he was expendable enough to disappear. The environmental result I also kept simple, making them have to find a way inside the gate.

Scene 2: Environment/Actor Attack
Rena takes a flashlight and Joey and starts down the hallway through the non-violent wing. The first large room she passes is the children’s area. The idea of mentally disturbed children creeps her out and she begins to walk faster, but as she does her flashlight flickers and dies. This along with her already taut nerves causes her to drop it, and it clangs to the floor before rolling into the children’s ward. (R: Cool Failure)

Joey activates the small light on the top of his camera and the two slowly enter the large room. Using the soft glow their eyes sweep across scattered toys and games, before spotting the missing flashlight under a crib. (R: Wits Success) 

Rena bends and reaches her arm underneath, straining to reach the metal cylinder. She is so focused she almost doesn’t hear the squeak of wheels rolling across the floorboards. She turns her head to see a large hobbyhorse bearing down on her! (R: Speed Defense)

It slams into her, and she falls to the floor, twisting her ankle as she hits. Joey grabs the flashlight, helps her to her feet and she leans on him as she begins to hobble back to the van to patch her up.

Scene Notes: Another environment roll; this one allowed me to mess with the lighting and plunge them into darkness. It also made Rena go into the playroom (she had decided to skip it). This fit perfectly well with my monster, as I got to establish a pattern of playthings as weapons. The hobbyhorse coming out of the darkness of its own accord seemed a nice touch.

Scene 3: Extra Attack/Director’s Choice (Information)
Casey is in the violent offender’s wing, and his first stop is the padded cell of one of the worst. A serial killer and cannibal was kept in this room, strapped to his cot and sedated. Casey thinks this might be a good place to start looking for unhappy spirits. As he opens the door and shines his light inside, his heart freezes as he sees a figure lying on the bed. (C: Cool Failure) 

On closer inspection, however, he finds that this is nothing more than a rather effective scarecrow. It seems that the dangerous man caged here had a wicked sense of humor, and had left a stuffed uniform to surprise any prying eyes before they moved and ultimately executed him.

The investigator begins by recording an introduction to the room and its famous occupant. He calls to the spirits to reveal themselves to him, and starts banging on the walls, hoping to rattle them into making themselves known. He makes his way around the room, finally finding himself tapping on the metal frame of the room’s only furniture, a cot bolted to the wall. No ghosts pop up, but as the vibrations of his pounding pass through the metal, the mattress is dislodged and reveals writing on the wall.

It seems that the isolation and medication had taken its toll on this once charismatic psychopath, as what Casey finds are ramblings scrawled in blood. He is unable to make sense of the long, stream-of-consciousness-style sentences, but words and phrases stand out to him. Things like “experiments”, “cutting my brain”, “they’re in my head” … (C: Brains Failure)

Casey, disappointed not to have found anything especially exciting, moves on.

Scene Notes:  I got a choice for the plot roll this time, so I decided it was time to drop some information about some of the stuff that had occurred in the asylum’s past. Bloody scrawlings made the crazy even crazier. As Casey made a rather unintelligent character and failed his brain roll I only gave him snatches of what was written, but enough to get them thinking. And again, the extra attack happened off-screen, which ended up setting the next scene up perfectly...

Scene 4: Extra Attack/Body Found
Rena and Joey exit the asylum, and the boy helps her over the fence. Upon further examination, they decide that she will be fine, apart from a slight limp for the next few days. As they turn to go back in there is a shout from behind them. Up runs STACY, an eager reporter who had followed them up and then waited for them to show their faces.

She convinces them to let her accompany them and help them search for clues, as long as she gets to publish the scoop. She is confused as the other two begin to scale the fence, and points to the gate, where the padlock hangs open. She pushes the gate open, switches on her flashlight, and they all walk inside.

Joey, who is holds the other flashlight, is getting more and more nervous. He is erratically jerking the flashlight toward the smallest sound or movement. Rena grabs his arm to steady it as his beam illuminates a shape lying behind one of the bushes by the wall. (R: Wits Success) 

The three head that direction, Stacy in the lead, Rena behind her, and Joey tiptoeing in the rear. As they round the bush, Stacy’s light settles on the prone form of Sam. Rena’s eyes narrow as she takes in the details of the scene. (R: Cool Success) 

Stacy gasps beside her. And Joey lets out a high-pitched scream.

Scene Notes:  I decided they should stumble upon the body of the owner for this one, as I had killed him in my head last scene. Since they didn’t know he had come back/died, the open padlock added a new mystery for a bit.

Scene 5: Jump Scare/Object
Meanwhile, Casey has made his way to the other end of the wing, to where residents were “cured”.  This process included injections, waterboarding, and electric shock therapy, among other questionable practices.

He turns his camera on and describes the horrors that had once been perpetrated in this room, running his fingers along sharp implements and cold restraints. He even flips the lever that controlled the electric currents. When he does a shower of sparks rains down from above, causing a frantic lunge to the lever and some nervous laughter. (C: Cool Success)

Still filming, he begins an encore of his ghost call, rattling chains and banging on pipes. He grows tired of this as he reaches the far end of the room and finds a bookcase full of bound volumes. He pulls a few out, thumbing the pages. He laments the lack of pictures, and grabs a few more, tossing them aside as they one by one fail to hold his interest.

As he flips through one more he discovers that sections of this book are highlighted and underlined. The words are long, and he doesn’t understand much of being discussed, but this one does have a few diagrams. (C: Brains Failure) 

The section seems to be detailing portions of the brain that are not activated in the normal human, and theorizing as to what their purpose might be. After turning the book this way and that, Casey tosses it too and decides to head back to the lobby to see if the others have had any more luck than he.

Scene Notes: This scene occurred in a pretty isolated area, and I didn’t want to tip my hand with the monster just yet, so the shower of sparks worked as a jump scare. And since Casey was still poking around, I gave him some more clues in the form of a book. His character was still too thick to glean a lot from it, but again, the snatches he did get added to our understanding of the asylum.

Scene 6: Actor Attack/Director’s Choice (Body Found)
Rena stoops to examine the body of the now-deceased property owner. The flashlight’s glow catches a glint of metal clutched in his hand, and she extracts the key to the gate. (R: Wits Success) 

It seems the man had realized his mistake and returned to give them the key, when he was attacked before he reached the steps. She also discovers the instrument of Sam’s demise: a bloody baseball that had struck him in the back of the head before rolling under the bush.

She checks to see if Joey is filming this, to find that his camera and light are lying on the ground.  She and Stacy look left, then right, and finally up. What they see unnerves them further. The young camera operator’s scream had apparently not been because of the body. His body is slumped over a branch that is sticking through his chest. The really odd thing, however, is that the branch he was skewered on is several yards up the tree…

Rena has had just about enough. She instructs the reporter to call for help, and returns to the dark interior of the asylum to look for her partner. As she passes the booth that had once been used to greet visitors something long and black shoots out of the darkness at her. (R: Brawn Defense) 

She is unable to bat away the pen that sticks itself in her shoulder, causing a trickle of blood to ooze down her arm. She yanks it free and runs down the hallway to where Casey is just emerging from his wing. After filling each other in they realize that there is one portion of this place that they have yet to explore: the basement.

Scene Notes: I’ll admit, I forgot to kill someone in Rena’s last scene. But Joey’s rather girly scream was ambiguous to be open to interpretation, so I went with it. I brought in the levitation to do him in, tossing him into the high limbs. And having them turn around to find the body made sense, so I used my director’s choice to toss that in.

End Phase
As they descend the stairs, their lights illuminate a large open space surrounded by cobwebs and various groundskeeping tools. Sitting in the center of the dusty floor is a figure sitting cross-legged, back to the stairs. As the paranormal pair watch, this figure slowly begins to rise into the air and turn to face them. Suspended before them is a man, but the grin spread across his face is that of a child. He looks at them and says, in a singsong voice, “Did you come to play with me?”

Casey cautiously steps forward, unsure if this is the spectre he has been seeking. He grabs a rake and slowly reaches its end out to poke the figure. The solid flesh tells him that this is definitely a live body, but the man he is prodding flinches away. Smile turns to pout as he screams, “You’re just like all the others!  Poking and prodding… I don’t like you at all!”

A mass in his temple begins to pulse, and Casey feels himself being hoisted into the air by an unseen force, and before he can react he is thrown against the wall. (C: Brawn Defense) 

The monstrous boy of a man floats toward him, his mounting rage fueling a power unleashed by meddling hands so many years ago. As he advances on Casey, Rena runs in from the side, brandishing her flashlight. She swings it and catches her foe square in the chest. (R: Brawn Attack)

This brings a howl from his lips, and he rises higher, glaring at them from the rafters.

From the ground Casey looks around for something he can use against the angry man-child. He reaches out, grabs a hoe, and comes up swinging. The man is too far up, however, and he ends up just swinging wildly. (C: Brawn Attack) 

As he retreats back to his partner, a pitchfork rises up and flies toward them, piercing their flesh. (Both: Speed Defense)

This final injury gets Rena’s adrenaline pumping, and she wrenches the tool free and hurls it back at her enemy. Her aim is true and one of the prongs passes through the man’s side. (R: Brawn Attack)

Yelping in pain, he crashes to the ground and begins backing toward the stairs.

Casey is already moving toward him. He brings his flashlight down on the pulsing lump poking from the prone man’s head with a satisfying THUNK. (C: Brawn Attack) 

A snarl contorts the crazed inmate’s face, and his eyes dart around before settling on a sharp tilling implement. He raises his hand to harness it, but to his shock it does not move. He tries several times, becoming more agitated until, with a frustrated scream, he collapses with a grunt and a pout. Like a punished child, he scowls at the pair who have ruined his fun.

Rena picks up a shovel and raises it above her head. The man before her turns his head and sticks out his tongue, a final defiant gesture. With a form that would have made any golfer proud, she swings the shovel and brings an end to the last resident of Longsview Asylum. (R: Brawn Attack)

Casey and Rena drag the body up and out to the lawn and lay it out with the other victims, the large man narrating to his camera the whole way. Lying on the grass he discovers one more body: that of the ace reporter. He hoists the camera high and assures the viewers that they will be back next week to see if they can rouse her spirit too!

 We fade out and transition into the show’s credits, a mix of jump cuts, extreme angles and screaming guitar.  After the credits roll we are treated to one last shot from Casey’s camera. “Looks like we need a new cameraman,” he tells us. “We’re taking volunteers…” A predatory smile spreads across his face, as suddenly a dark shadow passes behind him.

FINIS

Final Thoughts
First of all, I want to say thank you to Red Castle Games in Portland for allowing me the opportunity to participate in this year’s fair, as well as to my two unsuspecting victims. The entire evening was a blast. I met a lot of cool people and got to play some brand-new games before starting this one. And I could not have asked for a better pair to play with!

Now, on to the game. The abandoned asylum is always a setting ripe with possibilities for horror, so I was excited to see what I’d be putting our heros up against. I rolled a MAGICAL, MOBILE HUMANOID. Mobile is a fairly new addition to the attribute tables, and one that we took some time thinking about to make sure it worked for all the bases. Since humanoids are already mobile by nature, I decided to give this one a special mode of movement.

I chose levitation, as it fit with the magical trait.  From there a picture formed of a place where mad doctors experimented on patients, trying to access abilities hidden deep in the brain. Their one success before being shut down was a young boy. While they unlocked his telekinetic powers, however, he became developmentally stagnant, and while the rest of the residents had been removed, he had stayed, hidden in the crumbling building.

We had a time constraint on this game, so while I had Casey and Rena roll for the climax after their scenes, we decided to cut to the end phase after a few scenes apiece. So hopefully the above will flesh out what I was thinking a bit more. With more time I would have been able to pepper in more clues and backstory.

That said, I feel that this game went amazingly well. I loved seeing the characters develop. Casey played his as a Steve Irwin-type, only much dumber. He was banging on the walls looking for ghosts and getting information he didn’t understand, as all of the exciting stuff was happening to Rena, who was just trying to survive the experience. The juxtaposition of the scenes bouncing back and forth like that added a bit of levity that, when paired with the dark happenings, really gave the whole experience a fun flavor.

And for those of you who noticed that we never found Zeke, I’ll leave that detail to your imagination… Though if you imagine that I forgot to tie up that loose end, you’re probably right. :)

November 09, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: The Legion's Crucible

Cast
  • Cheveyo (male scion storm shaman)
  • Devona (female deva infernal pact warlock)
  • Diotos (kytheran battlemind w/ mutation)
  • Kivana (female cthon dragon-tongue wizard)
  • Waive (male scion reconstituted nomad)

Summary
The job was simple enough: head to an island and see why the outpost there had stopped responding.

When they arrived they discovered that insect-like machines had slaughtered everyone, and were in the process of strip-mining the island. They managed to destroy the creatures, and were transporting the remains back both as proof of their deed and to sell as scrap.

Then the psychic storm hit.

It swiftly engulfed them, arresting their minds and battering their bodies. The ship was hurled off course, abruptly coming to a halt when it collided with another island. One by one they crawled forth from the wreckage, nursing their physical and mental wounds, and took stock of the situation.

The front of the hull was shattered, but the ship would have still been serviceable had the collidor not been destroyed by the impact. Waive could repair it with the right parts, but from their current vantage the island appeared barren and lifeless: their only option was to start walking and hope for the best.

Cheveyo shifted his sight into the spirit realm, and discovered that the island was the grave of a once mighty spirit: it's serpentine body was coiled protectively in upon itself, and it had suffered many grievous wounds before dying. He drifted up, and high above what he saw confirmed his suspicions: with the island's spirit dead, there would be nothing but rock and dirt to be found.

Then he saw the pit.

It was perfectly circular, with a ledge that gradually spiraled down and out of sight. Cheveyo was wondering who or what could have made it, when he saw three squat, armored creatures emerge and begin making their way towards their crashed ship.

He lowered himself back to the ground and told everyone that they had company. Fortunately the creatures were moving slowly, which gave them ample time to prepare. When they finally came into view Cheveyo realized that they weren't just armored, but made entirely of metal: more insect-like machines, except they were larger and weren't made of copper, but steel.

Otherwise they were similar to the others they had faced: their faces were alien and expressionless, with several sets of crystalline eyes that glowed a dark red and clattering mandibles. Then, after a few moments of simply staring at them, their bodies changed shape to assume somewhat more humanoid forms, with four arms that ended in curved blades.

Well, that was new.

Diotos acted first. He charged forward, blades erupted from his arms and allowing him to easily tear through the plates protecting it's torso. There was a loud grinding noise, and the creature shuddered a bit before retaliating with all four of it's limbs. They sliced and stabbed, and while he was able to shrug off the brunt of the attack it still provided a sufficient enough distraction from the other two.

They didn't make it more than a few steps before being pummeled by blasts of inky shadow, lightning and fire. When the dust cleared the one that Diotos had attacked was completely destroyed, and the other two were heavily damaged. They stood there, apparently calculating their next course of action, but before either could act Waive sliced through the air, bending space so that his sword stroke cleanly beheaded one of them.

With only one warrior left, and barely standing at that, Diotos again charged, heedless of any danger. The warrior moved with surprising speed, catching him with it's blades and holding him in place just outside of his reach. Once it was certain that Diotos wasn't going anywhere, it extracted two blades and prepared to finish him off.

Cheveyo released his spirit Alistor, a tumultuous hurricane of thunder and lightning. Alistor raced towards the warrior, and just before it struck Waive also appeared behind it; both of their attacks landed simultaneously, and the combined onslaught overloaded it's power source, causing it to explode violently.

Once they'd gathered up the debris, Waive told them that he could now fix the collider, albeit with some arcane assistance from Kivana. Before he started though, he wanted to check the island to see if there were more of the machines, and if so what they were up to. Everyone else agreed, and they began floating up to the pit Cheveyo had discovered.

Once they were above the pit they saw that it descended deep into the island. Smaller, copper workers were scuttling about the walls, busily and tirelessly tearing at it in search of metal. At the bottom, or what they assumed was the bottom, they could see random currents of lightning arcing about a metallic object: Waive extended his sight, and he realized that the object was in fact a face.

None of the workers reacted to their presence as they drifted down, and they deduced that since they weren't attacking they didn't regard them as a threat; presumably they would respond if attacked, but no one dared test the theory. Eventually the stone walls became metal, featuring circular tunnels that that the workers seemingly entered and exited at random as they ferried raw and processed ore about.

They also saw that the face was not just a face, but merely the tip of the ice-island: the machines were in the process of constructing an entire body. It was not as large as the god corpses that they had seen, but was still considerably larger than most ships. The lightning they had seen was dancing between rods protruding both from the construct's head and the catwalk that encircled it; were they trying to charge it up?

Resting on the catwalk were four equidistantly positioned constructs. They looked roughly as bulky as the steel warriors they fought after arriving, but were made of a duller iron. The party hovered above at what they hoped was a safe distance, but as they discussed their next course of action a warrior crawled out of one of the holes. It approached one of the iron machines on the catwalk, and they both started clicking loudly to each other.

Cheveyo didn't know what they were doing, but wasn't about to take any chances. He drifted towards it, and when he was close unleashed a devastating blast of lightning. It seemed to stun it, but the rest of the iron ones began emitting a high-pitched tone; at this the copper ones immediately stopped working, detached from the walls, and started floating towards him.

Ultimately they succeeded in destroying the workers and what they assumed were transmitters (thankfully no other warriors showed up). They wanted to continue exploring the hive, but were all severely wounded and exhausted. Plus there were too many unknown variables: were their more inside? How many? Would the metal giant awaken? What was it capable of?

They opted to instead return to the ship so that they could recuperate and prepare.

Behind the Scenes
So, the original intention was to run this as a one-shot, as one of the players from our Expedition to Castle Ravenloft game couldn't make it due to personal reasons and I didn't want to just cancel our weekly game. I knew a few players were jonesing for some Sundered World, but I didn't expect them to enjoy it so much that canning the Ravenloft game would make it to the table.

The good news is that everyone loved pretty much everything about the game, though the race and class questions, and race moves were especially praised. The only thing that received negative criticism was the Look sections for both race and class (the idea is that you choose whatever you want from either list), but even that was basically a nitpick at worst.

We were running really late, so rather than stop the game mid-combat I resolved the battle with a single move (which is why the last paragraph doesn't go into, well, any detail): I had everyone roll 2d6, and depending on their results had them make one or more choices between hit point loss, losing gear, gaining a debility, and in the case of Devona gaining debt.

Periodically we stopped to suss out some mechanics, like whether the nomad could just spend fold to outright deal damage to nearby things, if the shaman should be able to add it's Might when spending boon to unleash nature's wrath, and whether cthon can be healed by magic. This is one of the reasons I was also keen on giving the material a go: I wanted to see how well it worked out in play, and based on the player feedback most of it seems very solid and works well together.

One thing I'm a bit iffy on—and this could just be my personal preference—is that most of the classes are roll-and-hold (all of them except the invoker do this). The intention is that you can use other classes like fighters and thieves, but I think that there could be a better way to fictionally represent what the new classes do so they don't all rely on the same mechanic.

Here are some things I noodled on while writing this:

  • Have the warlock just gain debt to do things automatically, but keeping the debt cap based on Charisma and using CHA for eldritch blast (so that it still has a "key" stat).
  • Instead of rolling to hold magic, the wizard gains fatigue and rolls to see how well the spell works out. One of the 7-9 options could be to gain more fatigue.
  • Give the shaman a point pool, like our skeleton and sun priest. Not sure if I would base this on Wisdom, or just make it a flat amount (like 10). Fiction-wise it just makes more sense to spend points, representing the spirit becoming exhausted.

What do you think? Again, maybe roll-and-hold is the best way—the players certainly felt that the classes were awesome as hell—and it just sounds bad to me: curious to know what others think.

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