Sunday, February 22, 2009

Haranshire Five : The Gleaming Glade

Micha is leaving the group and moving back to SLO. David is nearly impossible to game with, so I think the group is a bust.

As such, today's post about last week's game should go quickly.

The group advanced through the Hardlow Wood, north, avoiding every detail I placed before them. Tracks. Noises. Worgs following them.It's as though, a totally new group showed up and decided not to get into trouble.

Aaron (the Druid) decided to hold back and investigate the worgs (thinking them dire wolves). He in turn, spoke Sylvan with the worgs and then cast speak with animals. Despite the fact that they are magical beasts, I allowed it. Aaron learned a great deal about the infighting going on in the wood and about the gleaming glade, which the worgs offered to escort him to, if he promised to do something about the orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls fighting for territory in the world.

Pretty cool scene, actually.

After two more days of travel (described in detail by yours truly), the PCs arrived in an obviously blasted and dying portion of the forest. The worgs said they would go no further and told the PCs to follow the gouge of earth until it reached the glade.

Fast forward to the PCs ignoring the strange lights at midnight which were obviously the gleaming glade, the next evening proved to be more interesting as the impending doom/fear/evil of the region began to resonate. Aaron and David failed their Will saves, fleeing from the area, while Micha's dwarf stayed to watch over the two remaining pilgrims who studied the land. Eventually, the second pilgrim also fled, leaving Miritz and Eithana to guard watch the glade.

In a style befitting Kubrick, a strange obelisk/cenotaph appeared, gleaming and glowing with an evil white light. From a mile away, the other PCs watched. Unable to see any shapes, other than the light, the two were allowed to begin racing back to the stone (giving them 20 rounds to get there — I was generous).

Eithana touched the stone and immediately her form began to disolve away, leaving a wight where a woman once stood. A long and deadly fight later, Miritz was nearly dead and too stupid to run away, while Tsool and Evo ran as fast as they could, still a few rounds from reaching the clearing.

Miritz died from Con drain (I don't do negative energy levels, those suck) and five rounds later stood up to fight, but by this point the wight was engaged with the druid and mage who used ineffectual tactics to fight the beast. Now. Granted, I gave it a lot of hit points, some anti-paladin levels, and a 16-point touch attack smite that worked different from its drain, making it very very very tough to fight. But the PCs, did fight it for a long time, failing many rolls and doing over 90 points of damage to it (it was a 8HD, 96hp wight).

However, the wight had other objectives and I didn't have it fight the PCs every round.

Sadly, Miritz was in the fight now and soon Irmalak would be dead, also returning as a wight. Yes. At one point, two PCs fought against three wights.

I'd never seen anything like it before.

And instead of running, they continued to put themselves in harm's way.

The fight ended with the larger of the wight's getting away and the smaller two dying at the hand's of the PCs. Technically, Evo should have died, but since I was being generous all around, I let it go.

Although, it did give me a great idea of an undead campaign.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

OrcCon 2009 Report

I'm back from OrcCon and below are my notes about the con. I've edited out some playtest stuff that I don't want out on the net, yet.

Playtest
Isle of Doctor Necreaux. We got in four playtests of this game. Everyone liked it for the most part. One person complained about not being effective and another was confused about what was going on. In each instance, I made someone else read the rules and explain the game and I merely participated.

It was generally agreed that NINJA needed to be fixed, pending items needed clarification, a final round rule needed to be written to stop people from choosing a SPEED of 20, and some terminology in the rulebook needed to be depersonalized as it referred to TURNS (it's a TEAM TURN, after all). The card titles also needed to be distinguished from the text a little more clearly. It won't take more than a day to implement all of these changes. I intend to talk with Jon Letisko one more time about the game and then we're done.

XXXX. This is a small prototype game that I made that I played in my hotel room with two close friends who I trust and I got some GREAT feedback. I should have a new prototype ready for the end of the week. We played it twice and everyone agreed they didn't know what game it felt like.

New Games
Agricola. I finally played this game and I understand why this is #1 on BGG. Wow. Amazing resource management game with enough random elements to make replay value 100 times greater than Puerto Rico. Great game. If you can find the rules, read them. Really, really, really good. And very expensive to produce. I can't believe it's only $60.

Battlestar Galactica. This game was not made for the EURO crowd, but for the FFG Experience-style board gamers. It is not fun. It is work. It is exactly how you turn a cooperative-based ACTION POINT game into work. I'm sure people love the replay value because of the CRISIS cards, but this was not a rewarding game experience for me or anyone else at the table.

Race for the Galaxy. I finally played this game as well and I hated it as much as I thought I would. It is the predecessor to DOMINION and part of the wave of CCG to Board Games that are coming out now. Race's poor graphics, complicated ICONOGRAPHY, and poor graphics (did I mention that twice) really hurt the fun of this game. It could be fun, but it's again, more work than it is play experience. I like some elements of the game, but this was ruined by the game's inability to figure out what it wanted to be (literally, the mechanic is tacked to some random theme about space exploration). Like Dominion, it felt like a rough draft for a game idea, but was far from "ready for prime time."

More Games
Shadows over Camelot. We played this twice. Once without the Merlin expansion and once with. The traitor mechanic for this game really sets it apart from other games. The Battlestar CYLON mechanic is pretty good, but no better than the Shadows one.

Lifeboat. A well-established INDIE card game by Jeff Siadek. This game is meaner and more cutthroat than lunch-money. Really. It took 30 minutes to play and there was certainly a desire to play again amongst our group. Jeff Siadek also showed off a new card game he's doing in the style of APPLES TO APPLES. Really hilarious. Should sell well to gamers at first. I suspect it'll be out for GENCON.

In a Wicked Age. This is an RPG, but an amazing one. It's part of the indie movement. I cannot express enough how great this game is and that I really should steal some of these ideas for COIL. Even if I don't, this game just moved to the front of the line for great fantasy RPG.

This was a good show, overall and would have been better if I didn't force myself to learn some bad games.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blood Bowl Video Game

I think I just crapped myself.

At least I hope that was me.

The Blood Bowl video game is coming. Sweet merciful crap.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Adventure Trilogy Idea : Fates Warning

Inspired by some of Fates Warning's older tracks and albums, the following is a pitch I made to a publisher that was ONLY turned down because I don't want to learn 4th Edition (and frankly writing an adventure this short would bore me).

Part One: Witch Meadow Run
PCs must stop a druidic ceremony and/or witch coven that intend to summon a great treant or earth elemental to wreak havoc on the civilized world (they put nature first etc). Lots of intrique and timing. All about finding out what's going on and where. No as much combat, I suspect, as normal. And no direct line to the ending.

Part Two: Giant's Lore
The PCs having thwarted the witches, have a bigger problem now. A giant, living under the earth, has been roused by the start of the ceremony. Having been asleep for centuries, he is angry, and hungry. Playing upon the traditional fairy-tale giants, he is merciless and has no allegiance to anyone — killing orcs and elves alike.

The adventure is much different than the first act. In this one, opportunists and victims abound as the PCs wade through the dark forest, in an attempt to stop the rampaging giant. Every turn is another unexpected encounter with someone who has either suffered because of the giant or a jerk who intends to take advantage of the chaos (orc warlord who expands his territory, dark elf commander who kills his brother, druids who try to direct the giant toward the cities, etc.)

Eventually, the PCs come face to face with the giant, unsure of what, if anything they can do to stop this juggernaut (it is beyond their power level, purposely). The interesting conclusion here is that the PCs must fail (maybe even die). If you know anything about the three-act structure, this is exactly what's supposed to happen. Which is fine, because in the third act…

Part Three: Awaken the Guardian
… the PCs must complete the very ritual they tried to stop, summoning the earth elemental, this time to destroy the giant... If necessary, they must go to another plane of existence altogether (especially if they died).

However, the elemental cannot do it alone and the PCs must complete other tasks, all the while, while the armageddon clock ticks down (metaphorically).

The structure of the three adventures plays upon the themes CHAOS/NEUTRALITY/LAW. In the first part, druids and/or witches work in consort (good and evil) to destroy a city (law), a very chaotic, but not necessarily an evil act.

In part two, the giant is neither good nor evil, lawful or chaotic. He serves himself, almost like a force of nature. Those encountered, come from every walk of life (in fact, eight key encounters to illustrate this point wouldn't hurt).

Finally, in the third part, the PCs must restore law and order (they could ignore everything I guess), by destroying the giant using the mindless earth elemental to do their bidding.

I do not think I've seen this adventure done before and it certainly toys with players pre-conceived notions of structure.

Ultimate Toolbox (in hand)


Suck it, Ibach.

ORCCON 2009 Weekend

I'll be at the show from Friday at around 3pm to Monday around Noon.

I'll be playtesting a number of cool games and also getting in some Power Grid, Ra, Kingsburg, just to name a few.

I'll post an update when I return and I hope someone stops by to game with us… well… unless you're a jerk.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Haranshire Four : Misc

The campaign continued. Evo, Tsul, and Miritz stayed two evenings in the Keep of Count Huntly. Being visited at midnight by Issyk on the first night, and Irlamak on the second night. Issyk made it clear to the group that Count Huntly was "showing them the door" and not allowing them to stay in the shire and help people. Irmalak pointed out that a sick child in Thurmaster required their attention. In both cases, the PCs would be violating their contract with the Count.

In the middle of the second night, Tsul is spotted "standing guard" outside the room by Kedrith (the go-fer) who invites the druid for some midnight tea. A servant is waken up to make the tea and while the stove is warmed, the water drawn, and the tea steeped… the two sit across from one another… gauging the other. Many sense motive rolls later, the two leave unsure of the other's intentions. Kedrith wonders if Tsul can be trusted and Tsul wonders if Kedrith suspects anything.

Hamiliton (the guard who took them to the Keep) escorts the PCs back to Thurmaster. Along the way, a plan develops to get the pilgrims away from Hamilton, so they can visit the sick child in the hamlet. After too many "cappers" to list, it finally dawns on the PCs to just bribe Hamilton to shut up. Which works, giving Irlamak the window he needs to travel the 30 minutes to the farm south of Thurmaster.

And this is when things go horribly wrong…

Instead of everyone going with the pilgrims, only Evo is sent, leaving Tsul and Miritz to watch the well-drinking Hamilton. Upon reaching the farm, Evo and the pilgrims kind a mother and daughter working the land (no husband was to be found) and the sick child inside. After MUCH explanation, the pilgrims are allowed to see the child, who is covered in blankets, and dying from some kind of wasting disease — much worse than anyone could have expected.

Irmalak, the "healer" of the group, lays his hands on the child in an attempt to extract the illness from the boy only to have the energy back-fire on him. Whatever the disease is, it's alive, pushing its way into the pilgrim's body and turning his hand to ash in a few seconds. Then the disease, slowly spreading up his arm, turns Irmalak's skin gray, as it withers from the wrist to the elbow… almost like a desicated mummy.

Screaming and flailing, Irmalak runs for the door as Evo swipes at the arm with his rapier, but fails to hit. Irmalak makes it outside, where his screams and missing hand grab the attention of everyone else. The mother and daughter back away, while Eithana and Issyk try to understand what is happening. Evo catches up with him again, and swings for the arm, missing a second time. Tripping, Irmalak, the team tries to hold him down so Evo can cut the arm off (with a rapier?). Cutting into the flesh does not remove the arm, but the shock does cause Irmalak to pass out.

Evo fetches a hatchet from the farm, returns and severs the limb before the disease can spread further. Issyk uses what limited magic he has to heal the wound and Eithana watches on in horror.

Realizing the he won't be waking anytime soon and that they can't carry him, the pilgrims watch over Irmalak while Evo goes back to Thurmaster for help. Now two hours overdue to get on the barge that's waiting to take them upstream, the team rests in the Hound and Tails tavern waiting for the "news." This time, Evo and Miritz go (the same player tag-team that blew up the tavern in Milbourne).

Miritiz, a dwarf, pushes his way into the house where the mother and daughter are sitting with the dying boy (Athen). Shocked to see a dwarf in their home, the scene does not go pleasantly. Jumping ahead of the very awkward drama (wow… yeah… should have been there), Miritiz beheads the dying boy.

No kidding.

The mother and daughter flee outside, screaming.

Inside, the head begins to speak in a voice that a child would not have, warning Miritiz of a coming doom (stealing some poetry from Yeats)… the center cannot hold. While the dwarf acts concerned for a while, he returns outside with his usual swagger. The terrified mother gives him a piece of her mind, slaps him, and spits in his face. Miritz throws her a gold piece (for the burial) and the team leaves.

Issyk and his companions are shocked beyond belief at what has transpired. The five walk back to Thurmaster, in silence, to find a bare-chested man (Jacques, the bargemaster) boxing with a local farmer in the center of the hamlet, while a dozen or so onlookers cheer for the farmer (Cooke). Too late to place a bet, the group meets up with Tsul and learn a little about the Count, only no one listens to what Tsul says, so the information goes to waste.

Gathering their belongings and heading to the barge, the PCs finally begin their escort work.

Within the first mile of casting off from the dock, a bribe is offered to Jacques to allow the pilgrims and the team off the barge near the Hardlow Wood. Some words are exchanged, but 25gp later, Jacques and his crew are sufficiently convinced to let them off and not say anything. Leaping from the barge, the PCs find themselves late in the evening staring at a long trek to the woods, and Kuiper's farm just a mere few miles from their location.

The choice is easy and the PCs spend the night in Kuiper's empty farmhouse (Kuiper was out patrolling the Rock Dale). While everyone slept, Tsul double-timed it overland to Milbourne (he's a druid and made good time) where at midnight he woke Konrad in the temple and told him of the dead boy AND the vagabond pilgrims. Konrad, sensing Tsul's sincerity, agrees to help on both counts. With a small bribe for a few locals and an even smaller tithe to the church, Konrad rounds up three people looking for work to dress as pilgrims to be putting back on the barge. Konrad also agrees to look in on the family of Athen.

Tsul spends the night on a cot in a temple and heads back overland in the morning to catch the PCs, which he is able to do easily. By nightfall, everyone had made camp (twice) and sensing that a hunting party is out here had the dwarf and druid take turns on watch, giving the rogue/wizard a chance to rest (although he only has one spell at his disposal).

Just before dawn, the goblins attacked. Ten in all, plus their hobgoblin leader, the group seemed brutish, hungry, and unafraid. The fight was extremely even, although my tactics had to be pulled back because the PCs couldn't hit anything — for instance, six rounds in a row, both Miritz and the goblin he fought missed each other. Evo took the hobgoblin down with color spray and then killed the unconscious foe. Irmalak and Eithana ran into the woods, while the PCs dispatched the rest in what I think was a 12-round fight.

In all, the PCs fared well, but were unable to save Issyk from a braining by two extremely energetic goblins.

And that's where the session ended… so far the best one.

Hinduism III of III

Despite the poor organization of my two previous posts, I hope to rectify that here.

How exactly does a GM or PC use any of this?

Well. Let's break it down.

Purusharthas (human purpose)
I've said this before. It makes no sense to me that only priests are religious in D&D. Lame. Just lame. That said, dharma, kharma, moksha, and samsāra should be important to all PCs.
The ātman should also be important, as all people are therefore divine and concerned about the afterlife. GMs pursuing a campaign world based on Hinduism need to work out some of these particulars with the PCs beforehand. Make sure they understand the importance of faith.

Vedic teachings vs. Non-Vedic teachings
Does the GM want peace between the two schools of thought? Open war? With so many interpretations, even on the Vedic side of the equation, how can one religion ever be consistent. This is ideal story-fodder for a gaming environment. And if PCs want to write up some Vedic scriptures, let them go nuts.

Principles and Commandments
Excellent debate material. And a great foundation to aid roleplayers. Remember, priests aren't just healing batteries.

The World is an Illusion
GMs and PCs looking to explore the space beyond the ephemeral, have all the tools they need now. Anything can be explained. Even magic. This also gives strength to zealot priests who preach of less permanence in the world around them (druids).

Caste System
Western gamers are sure to hate this. Which is hilarious, because what is a class-based gaming system, but just another caste system. Nope. Only wizards can do that. Why not make the PCs work in a specific caste? Could it really hurt for one campaign?

Evil
Hindu notions of evil conflict greatly with "alignment" systems, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view. I really can't address this one for you. Sorry.

Hinduism is so diverse, it defies easy categorization.
Hinduism has no real begining.
Henotheism.
Could a GM ask for anything more?

God (lower and upper case)
Really?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Hinduism II of III

Making it Personal
A Hindu accepts the Vedic (one who accepts the Veda teachings) scriptures as his or her religious guidance. Anyone can certainly gain benefit from the wisdom of the Hindu tradition. It does not demand religious affiliation. However, the benefit of the church is a long-standing tradition (it is the world's oldest religion) that benefits a community as a whole. Harmony exists in those communities where Avaidika schools are specifically non-Hindu (while geographically Indian) — Buddhism, Jainism and the atheistic Charvaka school. None of these schools accept the Veda.
All those traditions and all those disreputable systems of philosophy that are not based on the Veda produce no positive result after death; for they are declared to be founded on darkness. All those doctrines differing from the Veda that spring up and soon perish are ineffectual and misleading, because they are of modern date.
This interpretation of Veda and non-Veda seems contrary to the position of an "accepting" religion. After all, there's no confusion that Hindus and Muslims do not get along.

Overview
Hinduism considers the world we live a projection of God. It is unreal (an illusion). It is unreal because it is unstable, unreliable, impermanent, and illusory. It is unreal because it hides the truth and shows us things that lead to Ajnana (ignorance). It is unreal because it changes every moment. What is now is not what is next.

Hindu believe it unwise to base our lives around such an unstable world. If you spend your precious life for the sake of impermanent and unreliable things, you are bound to regret in the end having wasted your life in the pursuit of emptiness. The real world lies beyond our ordinary senses where our existence would be eternal and where things would not change the way they do in this plane.

This particular Hindu philosophy is very simple, but enormously difficult to pursue. After all, what is illusion? Does it mislead you into wrong thinking and wrong actions, which conversely leads to wickedness. This world precisely does that. Is that the illusion? The world also offers happiness. But this too is an illusion. Happiness and want lead to suffering (no Yoda jokes). Did the ancient yogi know something about the transparent nature of "getting what you want."

Principles and Commandments
Hinduism can be distilled into five principles and ten commandments and these form the foundation of the Sanatana Dharma.

Five Principles
1. God Exists.
There is one absolute OM.
There is one Trinity — Brahma, Maheshwara (Shiva), Vishnu
Several divine forms
2. All human beings are divine.
3. Unity of existence through love.
4. Religious harmony.
5. Knowledge of the three Gs.
Ganga (sacred river), Gita (sacred script), Gayatri (sacred mantra)

Ten Commandments/Disciplines
1. Satya (Truth)
2. Ahimsa (Non-violence)
3. Brahmacharya (Celibacy, non-adultery)
4. Asteya (No desire to possess or steal)
5. Aparighara (Non-corrupt)
6. Shaucha (Cleanliness)
7. Santosh (Contentment)
8. Swadhyaya (Reading of scriptures)
9. Tapas (Austerity, perseverance, penance)
10. Ishwarpranidhan (Regular prayers)

Caste System
The caste system was abolished by Indian law in 1949. Older people and those still living in rural India, still respect this very non-Western tradition.

Each Hindu belongs to one of four Varna (social castes), plus a fifth group called the "untouchables." They also are born into a Jãtis. One's Jat determines much. It tells him what work he can take on, who he may associate with, and even whether or not he can marry someone. The system is so rigid, a person is born into the Jat and Varna of their family, marries into it, and dies within it, with no possibility of upward mobility.

In decreasing status, the Varna:

Brahmins (the priests and academics)
Kshatriyas (rulers, military)
Vaishyas (farmers, landlords, and merchants)
Sudras (peasants, servants, and workers in non-polluting jobs).

The Dalit are considered outcasts, outside the caste system. Sometimes called Harijan (children of God), they are the polluted… the untouchables. Some believe that even contact with the shadow of a Dalit polluts ones soul. Check out Slumdog Millionaire for more of this.

Despite the government's attempts to outlaw the practice, the caste system still keeps the Dalit down. Considering it a form a slavery, many Dalit have converted to Buddhism and Christianity, angering Hindu radicals who have turned to violence and murder as a way of shuning proselytizing religions.

And while this is abhorrent, it's important to note that Hindu culture still (to this day) does not value women. The rates of infanticides of children is rampant. Ironic, given the sheer volume of babies born in India. Whether this comes into play in your games… well… let's hope it doesn't.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Hinduism I of III

Hinduism is an easy way for Westerners to pronounce Sanatana Dharma (Way of the Universe) and Vaidika Dharma (True Religion). More of a religious tradition than a religion itself, Hinduism is made up of a numerous faiths and innumerable gods. The system can best be described as not Buddhism and not Jainism. Borrowing from Buddhism, Hindu follow certain purusharthas (human purpose). These purusharthas are the four aims of Hinduism, which define the aims of a human life. Since many beliefs include dharma (duties and/or ethics), kharma, moksha (liberation from "reincarnation," similar to the Buddhist bardo), samsāra (a continuous cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth), and the various yogas (paths or practices), it shares much with the former two belief systems, but is in and of itself, extremely complex. For the purposes of this essay, I am addressing the main "Branch" of Hinduism.

NOTE: Urban Hindu follow either Vaishnavaism (Vishnu as the ultimate deity) or Shivaism (Shiva as the ultimate deity). As you will see, neither of these concepts really matter in the scope of HINDUISM. Rural Hindu worship their own village goddess. Think of a Thai village where villagers might worship a manifestation of Buddha known as Ong-Bak. In terms of gaming, this is an incredible interpretation of god that GMs and players can use to great effect.

Hinduism supports the belief of numerous gods, sometimes called henotheism, but names only a few (respectively of the 36 trillion manifestations of Ganesh). Most Hindus believe in the ātman (eternal soul) — the true "self" of every person, which is difficult to distinguish from the Braham, the supreme spirit (based on ancient traditions of Vedic mythology). This concept is similar to Buddhist enlightenment, perhaps stealing from one another over the centuries, as an individual attempts to bring his ātman and Braham into alignment, so he might "ascend" (cf. moksha)

Hindu believe in avatars and deva, which fits well with D&D pathos. Like Catholics turning to the Saints for blessings, Hindu seek blessings from Deva. Since they also seek the awareness of God in everything around them (more on this later), one is always contemplating divinity "in the midst of everyday life."

Iconography
When using Hinduism in an RPG, it's important to note that symbolism and iconography are rampant in the culture/religion, lending to blessing (Om, for instance) everywhere you turn. Using this concept (but not these exact symbols) works well with how gamers perceive their character's religious convictions. Chanting, meditation, and yoga are also fundamental ways of channeling praise/prayers and put Hindu on the course of spiritual "rightness."

God (lower and upper case)
When considering GOD in Hinduism, it is important to note that dependent upon the manner in which he/she is evokes, determines the name he/she is given. This is extremely difficult for westerners and students of traditional mythologies. Names such as Advaita, Bhagavan, Parameshwara, Brahma, Ganesh, Ganesha, Ishvara, Ishwar, Krishna, Rama, Shiv, Shiva, Shakti, and Vishnu can all be used by various sects to define god and the various manifestation he may project. Add to this that there are ten avatars of Vishnu, and nine Navagrahams (manifestations of Bhagavan connected to the planets and the days of the week) the head begins to swim.

Bible
The main Hindu bible (and there are many) is called the Bhagvadgita (I've read parts of it, but man…). Here, I'll let someone else explain it.
For those who do not know the long and the short of it in Mahabharata -it is the before and after of an epic war between the Pandavas (or children who took Pandu's name though born out of the gods), and Kauravas - the evil ones try to usurp other's property by foul means. In the end there is a major war, which leaves millions dead, but Pandavas emerge victorious.
But beyond this key tome lies the Shruti and Smritis (that which is heard, that which is known, respectively). The Shruti are four Vedas (and those are all named), the earliest Hindu scriptures. The Smritis are epics (of which there are many, though two key ones). The Bhagvadgita is one of these epics. Confused yet?

Evil
In Hinduism there is no concept of evil, which means that demons and the like don't really fit into the paradigm. There is a hell, however, named Naraka. Rules by Dharma Raja (literally King of Dharma) who rules as the god of righteousness (another manifestation). However, one does not suffer in hell forever, but rather waits to enter heaven (Swarga). Additionally, if the soul must atone for Kharma and has not reached Moksha (salvation), then it returns to continue the cycle.

Every being is good, according to Hinduism. Made this way by Brahma. But sometimes people adopt bad ways. This may or may not be under their control. But the Kharmic wheel assures that this cannot last forever.

The Big One
Hinduism has no real begining. No one can say for sure when it started, where it began. It has no founder and no core doctrine. [Yes, there's Smriti that teach values and beliefs, but this bible does not offer answers or resolutions to disputes.] It does not require dogmatic adherence. It is cultural, not creedal. The Absolute “Brahman” cannot be equated with “God” in the Western sense of religion. This concept is exclusive to Hinduism (if we accept that Buddhism is not a religion, but a way of life).

Hinduism is so diverse, it defies easy categorization. Hinduism accommodates perspectives other than its own. It is characterized by a tapestry of ideals, concepts, variations, and practices resulting in an amalgam known as Hinduism. Essentially, it is an umbrella religion, holding many independent ideals.

Hinduism is also highly tolerant of other religions.

Ekam Sataha Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti
"The truth is One, but different Sages call it by Different Names"

The Last Starfighter

My wife was not born in this country and so there's certain things she doesn't know about.

She never saw the abyssmal Battle Beyond the Stars. Didn't know what the Transformers were until the night the movie came out. Doesn't understand why I turn into a 12-year old kid when the mention of GI Joe comes up. And she's never heard of the Last Starfighter.

I have told her the plot and she got excited.

And I did mention that when she's hanging around nerds, she can fit in just fine by asking about this movie… and she's sure to get more information than she could have hoped for.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Beastmaster Jr.

You can thank Louis Porter, Jr. for this one. Found it on his blog.

Gamer Car

Do I need to say anything?

Warlord RPG : Greatest Idea Never Stolen

Because we were idiots and because I really couldn't come up with a better name than Race/Class abilities, the cross-referenced, 36-page, brilliantly conceived (ahem) concept of abilities that only certain races and classes get when "mixed" together, was never really clearly understood by the game community at large.

It didn't help that the game was four years late and monumentally out-moded in every other way when it finally released.

But, let me be very clear here. The 18 Classes and 7 Race (with three abilities for each combo) meant that Richard Faresse and I devised 378 new abilities for Warlord of the Accordland players.

378.

This is a monumental undertaking.

[Okay, Zinser helped.]

But it also turned a corner in 3.x "blandedness." It made sure that Dwarf fighters were a lot more different than Human fighters in more ways they just movement rates, Con bonuses, and Fort saves. And it also helped to FINALLY make a priest of one religion a lot more distinct than just "I cast an additional death spell each day, what do you cast?"

Nearly 10 pages of the book are devoted just to the Blessings that various clerics receive from their respective faiths. Couple this with the d20 Secrets book [where Clerics get different abilities based on alignment] and you have the makings of extremely divergent class ideas. In fact, you could possibly make a party of all Clerics and you'd be doing well and see very little overlap (except perhaps in saving throw scores).

Playing 3.x again, I'm reminded of the repetitious nature of the game and how so many things (especially at lower levels) feel the same and/or do the same thing. This is a crutch of the class-system, although some skill-based games aren't much better. Who hasn't taken FIREARMS in GURPS or Alertness in Vampire? It's been 8 years since the realease of 3.0, isn't it time for simplification and not bloat? Shouldn't bard songs (as useless as they are) be a must simpler system, just like picking spells? Does it really make any sense that it's based on skill level?

Sorry. Tangent there.

Anyway. Check it out, if you have a copy of the book. I think it seriously is one of the best ideas I've ever had, even if my execution misses the mark. Certainly a book of "combos" would be a good product… it would just mean finding the right races and classes to combine… with so much 3.x material, that's not an easy task. Maybe just the basics from 3.75?

Hmmm.... Eric Mona are you reading this?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Temple of Elemental Good (?)

I have to give a shout out to my buddy Mike L. who is running the Temple of Elemental Evil for an adventuring party devoid of a single human, elf, or dwarf.

Yep.

You read that right.

Good luck, man.

ASIDE: Just start them at 3rd level in front of the temple, with a knife and fork. Dig in.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Haranshire : The Return

So. Rather than deal with the repercussions of killing innocent people, the group decided to make new characters and try once again to forge across the valley. David is playing Evo (the same character as before, only this time human). Aaron is playing a druid (again) named Tsul — this time he has the far away stare of a Native American shaman. Micha is a ranger this time around… and a dwarf named Miritz. We'll see how this combo works out.

The adventure opened with them in Divers finding a poster for work in Haranshire, specifically with Count Huntly (was Parlfry), who in my story is under the control of the Mind Flayers. We cut ahead the two weeks journey to Milbourne in about 10 minutes as I described the various things they already know about, added an orc working for the Carlston family in Lyrchwood, and a gnoll ambush on the road to Milbourne (that was easily routed because of the hunger and low-morale of the gnolls).

They arrived in Milbourne just in time to see two of the three characters being hung by Goremenn (was Gyrsten or whatever), while the local priest (Konrad) gave a final prayer. After the hanging, their belongings were auctioned to the crowd. Since the PCs didn't bid (and I'm a little confused as to why not), Kresimer and the other adventuring party got about 1,000gp worth of great stuff for 31gp.

Shortly after, the Denfast farm went up for auction as well, but the party decided having a place to live was stupid (rolls eyes) and left, allowing a local farmer to get the entire estate for 28gp. Since Kresimer's party had already been paid by lord Carlston to clear out the mire, the farmer was quick to hunt down the mercenaries and remind them of their contract to the valley.

The PCs played cards and dice with Kresimer, who Miritz knew from Divers (a random roll), and enjoyed a relatively quiet evening in the Baron of Mutton. The headed out the next morning, wasting several days with the Kuiper/Aurelia side story about the werebear (I had the ranger and druid deal with the werebear, while the PCs were ambushed by orcs). They returned to Milbourne to inform Goremenn of the missing boy, Max, but that the family was dead.

The PCs finally made it to Thurmaster, passing the mercenaries who were going the other way on a barge. Once in Thurmaster, they realized what a hole that place is and also encountered a very paranoid and disinterested Tauster (having already dealt with two murderers working for Kressen and now hiring out the mercs for odd jobs, he's thoroughly freaked out that a third adventuring party would arrive in Haranshire within a two-week span). The squire Marsten was kind enough to tax the travellers as well, but for a few extra gold give them a guarded escort up to Count Huntly's keep.

The PCs met Larstyn (the heir to the throne), before meeting the Count (with the dwarf waiting in the wings). The PCs showed grace and diplomacy in the Count's presence and were offered work escorting three pilgrims back to a waiting frigate at the end of the Churnett River, a one-week journey back toward Divers. While they didn't ask about payment, they did agree to the job; afterwards they were housed in a large room inside the keep.

In the middle of the night, one of the pilgrims (Issyk), visited the PCs asking for their aid in escorting them instead to the Hardlow Wood. While no details were given, the pilgrim assured the party he could reward them in some non-monetary manner (the PCs not at first understanding that pilgrim usually means ascetic). The PCs came to realize that Count Huntly was giving the pilgrims the "heave-ho" and that so long as the Hardlow Wood escorting did not endanger their ability to complete the other task, they would consider it.

It will be two days, however, before the pilgrims leave and in the meantime, the PCs will get to meet a few of the locals (many of whom I've made up) — including Hannah, the lady in waiting, Rykon one of the more outstanding guards in the keep, Larstyn, heir to the throne who desperately wants to be an adventurer, Bechir, the keep's seneschal and chamberlain, and finally, Kedrith, a surreptitious little advisor/vizier/go-fer who does a lot of the Count's dirty work.

The next session should finally get this campaign out on the open-road.

ASIDE: The mire storyline is presently in the hands of the mercs. I'm going to put a timeline on it, that they'll solve it in 15 days (violently), unless the PCs get involved. I'm removing the really lame Druid from the Eelhold, and I'm adding a few side stories as I go: Hobgoblins and Rockdale Orcs going to war; ogres to the south in the Shreikan Mire attack (eventually); people in Thurmaster forever bringing up the dragon and ogres in the Shreikan Mire; eventually the formorian giant in the Shreikan Mire; bandits taking over Krynen's farm in the Thornwood before killing Aureila; traveling performers coming to Milbourne to make a few coin but arriving at the wrong time; the Eelhold dam threatening to burst again; Count Huntly slowly going mad; another band of adventurers entering Haranshire; Frost giants in the Leland Hills above the Howler's Moor (adding it the far end of the map) and based on a great Fates Warning song; along a few other dangling plot threads when the sandbox of the Haranshire starts to really pick up steam.

Looking forward to it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Song Lyric Adventures : Bark at the Moon

We all know what's going on here. And I think just about anyone could write an adventure with these lyrics. Shouldn't even be a werewolf. Should be some kind of undead that's returned from the grave… perhaps buried him alive and his unholy, soulless form has returned as a blight on the land.
Screams break the silence
Waking from the dead of night
Vengence is boiling
He's returned to kill the light
Then when he's found who he's looking for
Listen in awe and you'll hear him

Bark at the moon

Years spent in torment
Buried in a nameless grave
Now he has risen
Miracles would have to save
Those that this beast is looking for
Listen in awe and you'll hear him

Bark at the moon

They cursed and buried him
Along with shame
And thought his timeless soul had gone
In empty burning hell — unholy one
But now he's returned to prove them wrong

Howling in shadows
Living in a lunar spell
He finds his heaven
Spewing from the mouth of hell
And when he finds who he's looking for
Listen in awe and you'll hear him

Bark at the moon

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Haranshire : A few new Handouts

I've decided to make Kreesen (Röker's master) the sage who identifies the ring for Tauster. I've also decided (in order to fix everything) that the box contains one of the potions of domination that Tauster sent recently to Kressen for identification.

This also gives Kreesen an excuse to have sent these three along in the first place and makes them important (once again) the events of Haranshire.

Sadly, Tauster doesn't want any help. Kreesen is his only friend now that he's been ousted from the guild and it's dangerous for him to even send these notes back and forth. The PCs are going to be trouble if he doesn't rein them in. Or outright kill them.

Anyway. Help yourself to the three new handouts, I made (one is for when the ring of water commanding is identified)… the final one is on Carlanis when he attacks the PCs (I've decided to make him more intimately involved with the cult, having sold his farm two years ago).



Monday, February 02, 2009

Eternal Sonata : Opening Narrative

I want to point out that I've never played this game, but it might interest you to know that the following dialog takes over FOUR minutes for the narrator to get through.

That's a slow opening scene.

Just saying.
Now we see various views of the town of Tenuto, an idyllic village that overlooks a bay, blessed with beautiful flowers. A narrator begins the tale.

Narrator: The rippling surface of flowing water transforms the soft light of the morning sun. The beams combine, becoming a spotlight that paints the stage.

The flowers awaiting the curtain's rise display faces of bright red and brilliant yellow. They turn their ears to listen to the performance that is about to begin.

Accompanied by the gentle rhythm of a babbling brook, the birds begin to sing.

Meanwhile, a mischievous sea breeze causes a rustling amidst the leaves of the trees, disrupting the concert.

It is a familiar scene. One that has unfolded every morning since the beginning of time.

And even now, the daily overture continues, its delicate, perfect balance, never faltering, never changing.

In the midst of this joyous orchestration, at the center of the morning's discordant musical performance, lies a small village, nestled deep in the wood.

The name of the village is Tenuto. It sits atop a hill which overlooks the coastline. In fact, the town is only about four miles from the sea.

Tenuto is very lucky in this regard. For the town enjoys a wonderful cool breeze, and a view that is nothing short of amazing.

And then, there are the flowers. They seem to blossom almost everywhere in the town.

They paint the landscape with color as far as the eye can see. And they are the reason Tenuto is also known by another name: the "village of flowers."

There is a harbor town at the foot of a hill, that can be seen from Tenuto. When night falls, the lights from the town shine like diamonds..

And open the hearts of those who gaze upon their illustrious splendor.

Under normal circumstances, one might expect to find a bustling shopping district for tourists in a village as beautiful as this one.

However, no such shops are to be found. Not here.

In fact, the village is quite calm. Almost strangely quiet.

It is a place that exudes a peaceful tranquility. A tranquility that further increases its allure, as well as its mystery.