A few nights ago, I woke up early/late, and typed the following note into my phone:
Knights of Hypertime:
This strange device resembles a series of square chambers of varying sizes, festooned with vents, gears, latches and other mechanical extravagances, attached to a haft suitable for wielding in two hands. Despite its irregular shape and fragile appearance, it proves a sturdy weapon in the right hands (treat as a two handed maul, warhammer or equivalent).
The maul itself has d6 usable chambers (roll when found or any time all chambers are exhausted), and into each of these can be placed a gemstone – dependent on the value and colour of the gemstones, the user can invoke a spell once per round by pressing a series of confusing levers, buttons and switches on the weapon (roll under intelligence statistic on 1d20 or appropriate INT check). In addition, whenever the wielder rolls maximum damage whilst using the weapon in combat, a random chamber is fired, effecting both the user and the target with whatever spell was stored within. The gem contained in a chamber that is fired under any circumstances is destroyed, leaving a fine powder worth 1d10% of the original’s value.
These are on top of just watching it, what with it being a surprisingly competent and enjoyable fantasy movie with reassuringly strong performances from just about everyone. Yes, including K-Stu, who does a lot more acting in this than anything I’ve seen her in (including the uber-dreary Adventureland) and pulls off something that I think is basically the Gold Standard for popcorn movie actresses, the “Not Totally Embarrassing Rousing Pre-Battle Speech”.
1. In 2012, a major Hollywood production is basically a re-make of Hawk the Slayer, with Charlize Theron as Jack Palance
2. For the more 90s rpg literate amongst you, this is basically the movie of the Aylse part of TORG.
(in case you were wondering ***1/2 stars out of 5)
The above image is a rough collage (this you can see, I guess) of D&D, D&D like or fantasy RPG settings, placed into the same position as their closest analogues in the real world, and roughly at the same size.
- I’ve gone with the idea that Greyhawk is North America, with the somewhat cheap fringe benefit of putting the chillier Blackmoor above it as Canada and the module Shrine of Tomoachan (which is already Greyhawk) as South America
- That little blob representing the UK is Pendragon. Though WFRP is spiritually very English, the setting itself is much more Germany, so there it goes.
- Beneath another module, Castle Amber as France, is an RPG called Zenobia, set in ancient Rome. The game looks interesting, but I was surprised to find so few Italy/Rome based RPGS. Same goes for Spain, represented here by the “who-knew?” Captain Alatriste RPG.
- The Cluster of WFRP, Ravenloft and Vornheim I find rather pleasing. Above Vornheim is a generic Google Image Search result for “Chaos Wastes” which seems to be the most widely used Deep-Russia/Poles setting. Just across is another module, the Baba-Yaga one for AD&D, which is another canonical Greyhawk adventure. I believe there was a 3.5 Russia-like setting too, Red-Sails maybe?
- Here I’m drawing the distinction between Oriental Adventures as China and Bushido as Japan. I considered Mu-Pan, Weapons of the Gods and Qin here, but these seemed less core/OSRy/well-known.
- Australian is the cover to The Dragon Volume III, Issue 5, which had an article on Australian mythos in D&D, closest I could find to an Australasia setting.
It’s actually from the 1988 PC-98 game Atlantia, which interestingly enough is set in the world of Japan’s D&D equivalent, Sword World. I know, right?
1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
I’m new at the DIYing in this sense – I have an anime plot complication table coming up that I think is pretty flavor-country.
2. When was the last time you GMed?
Via Google+, just before Christmas.
3. When was the last time you played?
In person (including video) about 4 years ago, sadly. I’m playing a play by post game ran by NOD Stater now.
4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven’t run but would like to.
Group of 1st level or 0 level guys find the magic item laden corpse of a 20th level Type 3 Demigod type. Whatever killed him is headed toward their village.
5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
In slow/exploration situations, purple-prose it up with more details about what is going on; in combat or dangerous situations, have something fun but not fatal happen to someone.
6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Two of my players always have big cookies, so next time I’m totally getting one. Sugary things.
7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Yes, and mentally, but in the “totally wired and can’t sleep afterwards” way.
8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
It’s been a long while. Oh wait, I played a rock guy who was incapable of swimming (Earthdawn), we spent a lot of time working out how to improvise a snorkel/diving bell in order for him to explore a submerged cave dungeon entrance with the more able (but less rock) party members. It felt really dangerous but awesomely adventure!
9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
I find that letting the level of serious remain extremely protean gives the best balance of seriousness when required/desired and fun table lols. I think Joss Whedon said something like “you don’t have to be sombre to be serious”.
10. What do you do with goblins?
On the surface, very much like you do – Labyrinth. In the background, all of my goblinoid races are experiments by the dark-primordial-bad-gods to recreate humanity, but lack the ability to understand particular social concepts; in the case of Goblins, it’s orderly society, so goblins betray each-other, abandon settlements, have no laws except cunning/force-of-arms and projects and mutate themselves to keep expanding their society, with no idea of consequence.
11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
I’m making an issue of a Japanese mobile phone gaming magazine into what I call a “J-Pop” D&D setting over at my blog now. I do a lot of this – I have some notes for a setting based on the Blue Planet BBC nature documentaries hanging around for example.
12. What’s the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
In my last game, one of the players decided he’d be a halfling, and wanted a name recalling Bilbo Baggins. He went for “Ango Vaggins”, with seemingly no idea that it might recall the great and noble vagina to others around the table. At least not until he introduced his character. During the game, one of the PCs shared the Frazetta pic of Bilbo fighting a wolf (Ango was doing this at the time in-game) with an added thought bubble coming from the wolf that said “I got me a taste for vaggins”.
13. What was the last game book you looked at–aside from things you referenced in a game–why were you looking at it?
If we’re assuming “aside from things referenced in a game” doesn’t include preparation for later games, it was Isle of the Unknowm, which will be a place my PCs can reach from inside my current campaign should they choose.
14. Who’s your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
As a young man I enjoyed the muscular vignettey work of Ron Simmons. I like diagrammatic stuff these days – someone should get this lady working on a gamebook: http://hchom.com/2011/11/05/skyrim-week-2/
15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
I don’t think so. It makes them genuinely other things, but I think afraid is hard. Especially if you’re discounting things like Spider Monster vs. Arachnophobe, which is kind of cheap.
16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn’t write? (If ever)
The Sphinx scene from White Plume Mountain, in which the players basically fell in love with the bedraggled moggie and conspired with her to “Please Kill Master” was good times. The beginning of Age of Worms (the second Paizo adventure path) is great too, particularly the first adventure (the Whispering Cairn).
17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
The same country as your players.
18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
I like Dogs in the Vineyard (and some stuff like it) and the Mayfair James Bond RPG.
19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
Secret Wars and The Shepherd’s Calendar?
20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
I like players who invest in the basic goals and freedoms of the game. Players who want to risk their lives for treasure in D&D, or do heroic things whilst soap-opera-ing in Marvel – players who only do one thing regardless of it being contrary to the game everyone else is playing are dull. I can put up with a lot for a player who will lead the group in a pro-active sort of direction.
21. What’s a real life experience you’ve translated into game terms?
In my salad (slaad) days I once populated an entire Vampire city with loose analogues of people I went to school with, it made the politics surprisingly rich. Please note: I was no longer in school at the time.
22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn’t?
Something that can scan a pdf for hex descriptions and keywords and then dump the data out into a rogue-like video game.
23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn’t play? How do those conversations go?
I work in video game development, and there’s a lot of crossover of ideas and idea generation – however, most people glaze-over when I try to explain that the only appeal of World of Warcraft is to make me want to play a tabletop RPG.
Index (hyperlinks to be added as pages appear):
2 – The Lonely Kingdom of Mouse the Magician
Mouse the Magician lives in an empty land in the center of Creation, along with the other supernatural creatures and talking animals given life by the god LAWT in the beginning times (Some believe that LAWT created the animals, then made them talk and think after his brother, TEZ, created the first man). His land is full of portals that lead throughout Creation and farther afield. It is said that all known spells in Creation can be found in this land, and Mouse can be met searching the kingdom for them. Parts of this region include an inland sea dotted with shifting tropical islands, a strange futuristic city and a vast castle where kidnapped princesses from throughout Creation dwell. The castle is surrounded by a dense primeval forest ruled over by a talking bear – somewhere in the forest is a portal to Dungeonland (D1 & 2). Four warlords, self-styled Queens, raise trouble for Mouse and pay great attention to visitors: Queen Heart and her army search the Kingdom for the entrance to Dungeonland; Queen Witch who battles Bear for control of the forest; Queen Serpent (a medusa) who attempts to infiltrate the castle and end the royal lines of the imprisoned princesses; and Queen Squid, whose pirates roam the inland sea.
3 – Bucolic Valleys of the Cat People
The lush hills and valleys of this area are the territories of industrious cat people and huge monsters. The cat people are known for their use of gunpowder explosives and magical drumming techniques. They are generous and adventurous traders and craftsmen, and pay well for human mercenaries and soldiery.
4 – Warrens of the Boxer Lords
This area is the ruins of what once was a huge, densely packed urban area. The young humans of this area form tribes and gangs and continually battle one-another for renown and territory. Various shrines around the area accept coins in exchange for magic items (mainly producing low powered or obscure/trivial items); destroying one of these shrines is considered sacrilege, but the only way to truly conquer an enemy clan. A permanent mist hangs in this area, causing a perpetual twilight – the magical properties of the mist are poisonous to anyone over thirty and increase the randomness of all spell-casting results.
5 – The Warring States of the Thousand Roads
This area is littered with walled towns and castles, each an independent city-state nestled within woodland containing fierce monsters and humanoid tribes. The roads are the only safe means of travel, and intact, kept roads between towns indicate allegiances between families – rival families attempt to destroy or block roads, closing off trade routes to their enemies. Recently, a young warlord has risen to power through political marriages, daring and ambition. The wandering samurai who protect outlying villages suspect him of nefarious dealings with devils or monsters, but equally as many are tempted to his side by his vow to end the areas constant unrest.
6 – The Labyrinth of the Frog Idol
Beneath a constant magical lightning storm is a labyrinth of densely packed rooms that were once home to a human-like civilization that seemingly disappeared over-night. An order of mute monks who wear sacks adorned with occult symbols over their heads roam the labyrinth, collecting seemingly random offerings to be placed at the feet of a massive frog idol – the only structure on the surface unharmed by the tumult above.
7 – The City Besieged by Heaven
The silver spires of this city are surrounded by the hosts of Celestia. Inside, the dysfunctional and rumored to be incestuous royal family police their territory with the aid of three bound demon princes. Amongst the most prosperous cities of the realm, the Heavenly army is duty bound not to attack since the citizenry are not evil, not oppressed by their rulers and not worshiping the demons. It is unknown why the Celestial army cannot return to heaven.
8 – The Tripartite Kingdom of the Elementalists
This area is split into three rival kingdoms, each ruled by a wizard-king or queen and their family. The realms of the Green King, The Red Queen and the Blue King contain many enormous mounds and hills, marked by a stone head, a porcelain cat or a red-iron treasure chest. Beneath these landmarks are dungeons filled with traps and monsters empowered by the corresponding element; conquering these dungeons and aligning the shrines inside to a family’s elemental power increases the effectiveness of this kind of magic throughout the region. The rival families frequently hire foreign adventurers to them enter and explore these dungeons.
9 – Domain of the Wizrobes
An ancient curse transformed the people of this area into magically animated (and empty) suits of clothing (whatever they were wearing when the curse occurred). The survivors hunt the ruined foothills of their old empire, searching for the magical thread that can be used to sew a new wizrobe. They have become a warrior people, fighting against the race of evil devil-worshiping duck-men that claim the hills for themselves.
10 – The Island Above the Abyssal Rift
Thought to have been created by the same magical calamity that birthed the Wizrobes, this island is held aloft by magical forces, hanging above a massive crater-like rift, rumored to extend downward into the Abyss itself. Three families vie for power on the island, though outright hostility is avoided due to a baroque catalogue of etiquette and vendetta laws.
All three families maintain armies of shadows as part of their ancestral heritage. It has recently been discovered these otherwise incorporeal undead can wear disenchanted (dead) Wizrobes as clothing or armour to enhance their abilities. Magic thread can be found in the abyssal walls, but each family is considering an attack on the Valley of the Wizrobes should they require a strong advantage against their rivals.
The seemingly immortal child princess of the Adventurers’ Guild wields great power, founded on her being the only known creature able to navigate the dimension-spanning doors of the Guild Palace. The Palace is a pandimensionally transcendental megadungeon, with only its battlements and spires in fixed positions. The Adventurerss’ Guild holds several of the towers under the princesses auspices, and prospective members must find their way unaided to the spire in order to join the guild. Many famous adventurers later admit to being aided by the princess on their first ascent. The Adventurer’s Guild also holds the castle’s heavily fortified battlements, making their support invaluable for holding the nearby border.
13 – Vale of the Beholden
This peaceful bucolic is farmed by cat and bear shaped fabric golems, rabbit-people and ducks. It is policed by talking, horned direwolves and an odd breed of lawful, eyestalk-less beholders. The “Beholden” as they call themselves, choose a human child to rule them. The area is periodically terrorised by a red dragon, and rumours tell of a school of wizardry hidden somewhere in the hills here.
14 – Diverse Smaller Locations
Appendix1. Rules and Resources
On Saturday I ran, via Google+, what will hopefully be the first of many sessions of my Lost Gulluvia (built around the wilderness map from the Jean Wells version of the module) Labyrinth Lord campaign. Some observations:
- The players, who had varying levels of exposure to Oldie D&D, rolled up characters using 3D6 in order with almost zero prompting. Even several runts didn’t deter them.
- OSR Things that take some getting used to 1: The players had 4 henchmen, and it’s difficult to remember that the group is theoretically twice as large as the row of G+ video windows. It became easier once one of the players “assumed command”; I shall try to emphasise that these guys are there, just not very autonomous in future.
- OSR Things that take some getting used to 2: I ran my first rpg session bout (gulp) 22 years ago, but I’ve sure never done a hex crawl. I hadn’t even considered that, since the average distance-to-horizon at sea level is about 3 miles, you can’t see into the next 6-mile hex unless you are high up.
- They’re picking up the plot and embracing the go-anywhere player agency with gusto. I hope to get some real adventure going next session.