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About VonKatzen

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    Advanced Member


  • RPG Biography
    I've been playing RPGs on-and-off for around twenty-five years. Most of my experience is with some version of Dungeons & Dragons. More recently (as in, the past ~12 years) I have been getting into GURPs, BRP, Stormbringer!, RuneQuest and Burning Wheel.
  • Current games
    AD&D, OSRs; looking to get into a Mythras or Burning Wheel game.
  • Location
    Avondale, AZ
  • Blurb
    Loc'd out gangster, set trippin' banger.

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  1. In actual game terms, magic is technology. It has repeatable, predictable effects and can be employed by sufficient resources, wealth and intellectual merit. It's basically an imaginary form of technology. And, in fact, I think that's how magic was conceived of by many ancients, i.e. a means-ends relation based on conceptual rather than mechanical relationships. The idea of magic as non-rational is really a modern invention, to distinguish it from science and engineering. Likewise, alchemy was philosophy and fake chemistry, not theosophical mystery religion. Magic was false science, not anti-science. And in game words, it is real science, because it has statistics and calculable ratios. Whether or not that's what's intended, that's the case. The whole idea of magic as a non-rational force is completely useless in a game with rules, even if it's in the fluff, it's objectively not true. If your players have any kind of ability to plan and strategize, they will treat it exactly like science, too. Means/ends cannot be eliminated. Talking about 'non-rational worlds' is literally meaningless, in that it's not just 'unexplained', it is instead a non-sentence with zero content. Whether anyone likes it or not coherence is a property of everything that exists, and if fictional worlds deny that they're just wrong, even on their own terms. Even chaos has rules. I can show you the chart. All this talk of anti-reason/non-reason/formlessness is just aesthetic gibberish, not actual sentences with meaning or import. The supernatural, defined as something undelimited and without causal relationships, is a non-definition, a non-concept, a non-statement. I don't regard such utterances as being anything other than the sort of meaningless noise that comes out of an air conditioner. Anything which is not logical, in the strict sense, does not exist, and it doesn't matter what you call it or how it works. If it works at all, if it exists at all, it is logical and therefor a science and a technology. I reject the premises of supernaturalism, which is not a premise, but gum-flapping disguised as speech. If magic exists, in reality or in fiction, it is logical and it is technical. I basically refuse to not take things literally.
  2. I don't necessarily disagree, but Praxians are far worse at summoning eldritch demons and shooting white hot fire, which is a much bigger advantage in a set-piece battle. Praxian magic is focused on stuff civilized people compensate for with for with organization and technology. The Lunars don't need to - they have organization and technology - so their magic is used for stuff that is impossible without magic. Camouflage and tracking magic is really useful as a barbarian, but in an open battle the Crimson Bat trumps every time. Civilized people have a huge edge IRL, because although they lack a lot of skills barbarians have they don't usually need them; and they can instead focus on how to shoot people from half a mile away with a ballista. What's true of technology and personal skills is also true of magical skills. Barbarians might do better on their own, in the ass-end of nowhere, but since civilized people will just bring in an army of artisans and baggage it doesn't really matter. The Romans were not as good as Gauls at scavenging and herblore, probably, but they didn't need it. Meanwhile, the Gauls knew jack-all about siege warfare and formation fighting. Contrary to Robert E. Howard (one of my favorite authors) civilization is a trump card in conflicts. Every barbarian that's ever managed to defeat a decadent civilized empire has been conquered by his conquest. In literal, economic terms stuff like organization, trade, rationalization is objectively superior in almost all circumstances. Instinct is a garbage guide created by evolutionary mishaps, and usually falters against even very stupid plans guided by reason and technique. All societies are not created equal.
  3. Magic can of course turn a baby into a battle monster with the right spells. But since everyone uses magic, and civilized people are better at it, it washes out at best, and is more realistically overpowered by the sorcery of the Lunar Empire or even the rather more sophisticated 'barbarians' like the Orlanthi. In the case of someone who is sub-100lbs, v. people who average at least 50% more, a huge difference. It would be like me (6', 190lbs) fighting an 11yo boy. Yeah, he could kill me, but chances are it would go the other way. And if we're fighting in groups of roughly equally skilled men the sheer inertia of the heavier/stronger group would allow them to break the ranks of the enemy force, not to mention the larger ones could strike outside the range of their enemies. This is something that I've discussed in other contexts regarding a Makedonian phalanx v. medieval knights, despite the huge reach of the phalanx the massive weight and body armor of an unmounted knight would allow them to wade into the phalanx and push it back, assuming roughly equal numbers, in a way that an ancient army facing the phalangites simply couldn't. The same would be true of primitive, very small warriors fighting heavily equipped iron-age armies; in fact the impetus of the charge and splitting enemy ranks was one of the main tactics of Roman infantry, and their sheer amount of body armor (for the time) was very useful in this. These ostrichriders fighting anyone who isn't a Prax nomad or the like are going to be facing much bigger, stronger, faster opponents with better equipment and more of it. Again, they could make it work - with organization, mercenary help to fill roles, but even so I think they would be inferior missile cavalry to perfectly normal missile cavalry. As far as ranged weapons these ostrichriders should use crossbows to compensate for their physical weakness. But they almost certainly lack the metallurgy and mechanical prowess to produce them, so they'd have to import them in mass - a very expensive prospect for dirt-poor primitives.
  4. That would solve the draw length problem, but not the strength problem. The poundage of normal human bows would be too much for them to fully draw, even a short little Hunnic bow. I would agree with you if we were talking dwarves - who are little bodybuilder tree stumps, and could make excellent use of extremely heavy composite bows to compensate for a short draw. But in the case of a very small human that's just not true. From what I have read and based on the size of their mass we're talking about jockeys here, people who would almost be considered midgets (or whatever the PC term is for people with congenital growth limits) rather than simply small people. Yes, Romans were smaller than Germans on average, but Romans were not jockeys. Jockeys often weight under 100lbs and are very short. This would be necessary to ride very light animals like ostriches over long distances without hurting the animal, and matches the illustrations I've seen. A typical Roman soldier, on the other hand, would be around 5' and a few inches, maybe 140lbs or so with an additional 20+lbs of kit and armor. That is much less of a difference compared to your average north European. Also, Romans were technologically and militarily sophisticated in the extreme for their time, and used tons and tons of armor compared to their competition; ostrich riders are dirt-poor primitives who barely wear body armor and have almost no organized social structure. If the Ostrich riders had large numbers and had the social and technical sophistication to train and equip a variety of troops (or hire mercenaries) to complement their light cavalry role I don't deny that they could be effective in battlefield conditions. But alone, without cataphracted charge cavalry, infantry, etc. to back them up? They could annoy people, but any organized fighting force would probably do to them what Caesar did to Gaul. Only here, the Gauls are 4' tall and have mounts that are slower than an ordinary horse (Gauls used full size horses just like the Romans, and loved cavalry just as much as the ostrichriders do). As I mentioned above, actually successful, historical steppe nomads and their kin (Huns, Gothic horsemen, Sarmatians, Turco-Mongols) used not only light harassment cavalry but fully armored shock cavalry. They also made use of infantry whenever they gained control of sedentary regions. Also while Mongols might seem rather small to an Englishman of the 13th century they were not jockey-sized or midgets. They were simply ordinary sized for people from east-Asia, comparable to the Romans and maybe a little bit lighter. In the other cases - Goths, Sarmatians, Parthians, some parts of the Hunnic coalition - these people are in fact described as tall and well-built, and were bigger than most of the people they were fighting. In fact one of the awesome things about horses is that you can take a very large man, cover him in metal and he'll still have as much stamina as light infantry thanks to his strong, sturdy mount while being even more mobile. Harassment cavalry by itself is not very effective in battlefield conditions, and because these people are even smaller and weaker than normal humans and can't move as fast or as far as a full sized horse they're in a worse position vis-a-vis enemy cavalry than the light archers of Hungary. Also, note that the Magyars (after conquering the Hungarian basin) immediately started mass-importing European-style heavy cavalry to compliment their own elite (which remained light cavalry). Now they may remain unsubdued, as many poor 'barbarian' societies did for long periods, simply because conquering them would be too much of a hassle and not enough return. But if they actually did have a standup fight against even ordinary light cavalry they would just plain lose, barring tactical genius, etc. The lance would be a good choice in melee for them, because it allows them to use momentum rather than physical strength. Problem? The mount and the rider are both very light and have much less armor on than typical charge cavalry. This means they won't hit nearly as hard. Which means you could take a direct hit in good armor and still be OK, whereas a similar charge by Sarmatian heavy cavalry would quite possibly punch through plate armor. And because any enemy lancer can more easily use a longer lance than them the enemy could charge them head on and would still hit them first, thus 'winning' the collision without even being touched by the enemy's lances. Being that tiny and that primitive basically makes them very poorly suited to fight any kind of troop of normal sized humans, much less something like a Gloranthan Ogre which can already tear a powerful human apart with their bare hands. Methinks the Ostrichriders would very quickly find themselves under the yoke of foreigners. On the upside the forced crossbreeding might turn them into more reasonably sized people, in which case they could learn to ride real horses and shoot composite bows effectively. Everything I said here would be just as true for D&D halflings, or Gloranthan Ducks, although Tolkien's hobbits are explicitly described as preternaturally tough and nimble, they are not merely small humans but are, for their size, actually much sturdier than humans.
  5. Giants would also have better eyesight, because of their large eyes. And it depends on your giants. D&D Fire Giants clearly wear full plate, use missile and heavy melee weapons, in addition to giant scale siege weapons and fight in disciplined regiments. They're martial professionals to a man. They also crush humans like bugs unless they're faced by high sorcery, as they quite properly ought to. Only their preference for living in volcanoes (lack of conflict) and small numbers (lack of need to expand) has prevented them from basically overrunning the human lands and becoming at least its martial aristocracy, if not annihilating them altogether.
  6. But they would also suck at missile combat. Shorter limbs, less physical strength, less draw length on bows, less leverage for swinging a sling (a sling is a flail that comes apart on command), lighter arrows, shorter arrows, etc. By the same token giant archers and slingers would annihilate humans long before the humans were in range, and do far more damage per shot. Mongols were also an extremely organized and professional fighting force using a wide variety of tactics and troop types, siege equipment, etc. They were not bronze age simple nomads, they were highly sophisticated warriors from a culture with thousands of years experience fighting with and conquering everything around them. The Liao Dynasty in China itself was a Mongol empire, before Chinggiz Khan was ever born. They had silk and steel body armor, cataphracted charge cavalry using large normal horses at a 4/10 ratio of their Turco-Mongol troops. Mongols were not harassment cavalry, they were both light and shock cavalry. Without that shock component and the aggression it allowed in their tactics (Mongols hit hard and won battles very quickly) they could not have done what they did. Genghis Khan himself fought as a heavy lancer. If Praxian warfare is not organized they are very shortly going to become a province of the Lunar Empire or someone else who is organized. Technology and civilization has clearly steamrolled or converted all competition, and has basically done so since day one. Even when the 'barbarians' invade Rome they're sophisticated border cultures which copy the civilized people and adopt their methods when they take over.
  7. Nah, I don't buy it, they would get plastered in melee. Also, smaller mounts may be more nimble but they're also slower and have less power as impact cavalry, compounding the problem of an already weak and tiny rider with tiny, short weapons. In fact, a tiny version of a normal animal could well be slower than a normal human on foot, due to stride length. Humans can easily outrun most small animals traveling in a straight line, and a giant plateau (where these nomads live) is not exactly good terrain for avoiding direct, heavy cavalry/infantry. Mongols had this problem: their horses would be easily outrun if they got too close to enemy cavalry with European or near Eastern style war mounts. And the mongols and their ponies are only short compared to their opponents in this case, not tiny child-men. Being half the size of your opponent (all other things being equal) is pretty close to a death sentence in organized warfare. Being a smaller target is basically a non-issue, too. A decent archer can easily hit their mount, if not the rider, and a dismounted midget would be stomped into the dirt by a warhorse without the input of its rider at all. And given that good armor stops direct hits from arrows most of the time (especially the fairly crappy simple bows used by the ancient world) and that these mounted midgets would have even weaker bows than their opponents and weaker arms to draw them with and shorter limbs to draw them along they would be at a huge disadvantage in range and penetration when it comes to missile combat. I do not believe there is any way a tiny human being could realistically compete in an actual running battle with normal people, any more than a normal person could sword-fight or out-shoot a giant. You basically have to introduce powers like faeries (flight, supernatural maneuverability, magical powers) or dwarves (superhuman strength and toughness, plus being the same mass if not height as their opponents) to get something that can fight back. Otherwise it's basically like fighting little kids. It's a big disadvantage in individual melee, in mass melee it would get you ground like hamburger. The enemy would literally kick you to death if they had sabattons on. Skill and nimbleness only go so far - if you'll notice basically every warrior in history has preferred heavier armor and weapons if available over this Hollywood ninja-fencing BS, with the exception of specialty troops and the post-gunpowder era. That is because size and mass are basically the best simple physical advantages you can have when you are trying to kill people with your hands.
  8. The inspiration for this comes from a post over on Facebook about real ostrich riders, where someone mentioned that the Praxian ostrichriders are in fact very small people. I can see where the idea comes from - jockeys - but this is in fact a terrible idea. In fact, very small people in melee combat is almost always a terrible idea, unless they have superhuman powers to offset their obvious size, reach, mass, leverage and power disadvantages. And, in fact, this would actually be reflected somewhat in the rules: they should have a smaller SIZ and realistically STR, and thus should be easier to knock off their horse, do inferior damage, use weaker bows, etc. Depending on how detailed the reach rules being used are, the same is true here: someone with the SIZ of a typical child (as some real people are) would have a terrible native reach and would be forced to use smaller scale weapons, or they simply could not control them. This means they would be at a disadvantage in Strike Ranks, etc. Most games do not bother to deal with this, but the fact is that a weapon must be properly scaled to the limbs, hands and strength of its user or it will not be effective. A shortsword is not a dagger to a giant, it's a toy. A giant's longsword is not a greatsword to a human, it's a novelty Bearing Sword that no human could actually use in serious melee. Thus not only would these ostrichriders have garbage reach in the first place, even their lances would have garbage reach against normal human-sized lances. And a footman with a pike could hit them without being endangered by these pygmies. And the comparison to giants is pretty much spot on. Your typical smaller-scale fantasy giant (~2x human height) has the same ratio of size and mass to me that I do to an aboriginal pygmie. This is not to say a pygmie could not kill me - it does not take a lot of power to stab someone with a sharp spear - but if we were both equally trained and equipped for our size I would be at a massive advantage in every imaginable way except balance, and even then since small humans do not have the super-strength of dwarves even if he knocked me over I could just sit on his chest to win the grapple. Tiny people are a staple of fantasy fiction, but they are realistically pretty much screwed in organized warfare, at least unless they have guns and armored vehicles. The fact that the ostrichriders are primitive nomads makes things even worse. Training, organization and technology can help to offset inferior size and strength, allowing tiny little Roman manlets defeat the 'giant'* Celtic and Germanic people. But if they don't have massive, well-trained, professional armies they are probably going to get stomped all over: it would be as though the Romans were not only massively superior in equipment and professionalism, but also were twice the height of the Gallic people. *i.e., typical among north European men, really not a size that would even be considered noteworthy in America - almost every male I know is over six feet tall, and most of the rest are close
  9. I haven't checked out my RD/C&C books in a while so perhaps there is something like this, but what about a quasi-magical clockwork war engine with a pilot riding it, and a handful of guys with crossbows to keep light soldiers from targeting its weaknesses (like the Howdah of an elephant)? Not so much a tank as I imagine it but like a gigantic version of a cuckoo clock soldier, complete with a thrusting pike and trip warhammers. A whole regiment of oversized mechanical men bound together with a tower-chariot behind them. The Swiss Phalanx!
  10. About a year ago a friend of mine was planning to run an Age of Shadows campaign but he ended up having some health problems and hasn't been able to work on it since. I have the game and a couple supplements for it, and it seems pretty straightforward in terms of the rules. I am wondering if anyone out there has much play experience with it? As a rather Alter-Middle-earth setting how does it compare in feel with other games - actual Middle-earth properties like MERP and TOR - or Burning Wheel? Obviously the rules are way different between all of these, but would you say it gets the Middle-earth vibe better than MERP? What kind of campaigns does it play best to? Standard scenario-based adventuring, more organized campaigns, short games? Or does it, like OpenQuest, lend itself fairly equally to any of these styles?
  11. VonKatzen

    Mythic Greece

    If you think horse archers are effective in warfare they're better in small-group fighting! A man with a bow on a horse can basically annihilate two-legged enemies at will and evade retaliation with ease. A party with an armored archer on a horse would have a big advantage, unless they were underground lol or some similar fantasy setup. Of course this can be done already with the right combat style, but in Mythic Persia you finally have an excuse to have your entire party be nomadic aristocrats with composite bows, lances, sabers and full body mail, who show no respect for authority and loot anything they can carry off. Historical murder hobos.
  12. Just out of curiosity how much work would it take to create a portable version of this? Not necessarily an independent program, but something like a complete web archive that could be used from a jump drive or something?
  13. Of all the campaigns I have pitched so far my Thennla game seems to be getting the most interest on Roll20. Unfortunately I do not have the Taskan militia campaign arc from Age of Treason, as that could be a perfect excuse, but in the current game I intend to tie in to certain military operations taking place in the north of the Taskan Empire. Assuming the players are the 'adventurer' type, what is a good way to get them at least marginally involved in a battle? Being 'adventurers', though essentially small-time mercenaries, means they're probably not interested in spending the next six months in Kitan eating dried mutton and collecting a feeble stipend. What's true of merc life is doubly true of military enlistment! Related to how to bring it into the campaign, what is a good way to set up battles so that players are invested in (rather than mere stuck in the middle of) its outcome? Something that comes to mind would be drawing on their Passions, with some object or objective related to a Passion being threatened either by the opposing force or perhaps being held hostage in order to secure cooperation! I do not intend to run a mercenary or military campaign by any means (that's for my Burning Wheel game set in medieval France) but I do like throwing in elements of martial panoply and formation that have no real role in the small-unit tactics of most adventuring bands.
  14. Interesting. I would love to get those adventures for Mythras when they're released. Summoning would be interesting. As it is Animism is the closest to Stormbringer! magic.
  15. Cyberpunk has become filled with cliche fodder, much like fantasy. It is not written as much by people who were into early internet subculture and 80s overwrought projections of economic disaster; it is instead written by people who played Shadowrun in their teens. Likewise with most fantasy: it's a bad pastiche on Tolkien written by people who don't know or care much about actual ancient or medieval societies, or comparative mythology, or anglo-Saxon lore. It's written by people who read Tolkien.
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