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  1. Okay, this blog entry takes a look at a book which comes with a bit of a back story. Sit down. I'll begin. Way back in 2021, Aeon Games set up a Kickstarter for one of their books. An author, John Michael Greer, had created a roleplaying game based around the seven book series he'd published, Weird if Hali. Bad news - it failed to reach the funding goal, so the hardback was scrapped. Good news, though - the publishers released the roleplaying game anyway. So, let's take the plunge. John Michael Greer Greer has his own Wikipedia entry. John Michael Greer (born 1962) is an American author and druid who writes on ecology, politics, appropriate technology, oil depletion and the occult. Greer has written a seven-book series, Weird of Hali, which has a unique take on the Cthulhu Mythos. The seven books are titled after landmark locations in Lovecraft's stories. Here are the blurbs to his seven books. The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth: There Are Two Sides To Every Story Like every other grad student at Miskatonic University, Owen Merrill knows about the Great Old Ones, the nightmare beings out of ancient legend that H.P. Lovecraft unearthed from archaic texts and turned into icons of modern fantasy fiction. Then a chance discovery—a lost letter written by Lovecraft to fellow Weird Tales author Robert Blake—offers a glimpse into the frightful reality behind the legends, and sends Owen on a desperate quest for answers that shatters his familiar world forever. As he flees across the witch-haunted Massachusetts landscape toward the mysterious seaside town of Innsmouth, Owen finds himself caught up in a secret war between the servants of the Great Old Ones and their ancient enemies, a war in which yesterday’s friend may be tomorrow’s foe and nothing is as it seems. The history of the world is not what he has been taught—and the tentacles reaching out for him from the shadows of a forbidden past may hold not only his one chance of escape from the terrifying forces closing around him, but the last hope of life on Earth ... The Weird of Hali: Kingsport: As The Old Gods Awakem ... Like other students at Miskatonic University, Jenny Parrish worries mostly about passing her finals and getting a graduate assistantship. Then an unexpected letter arrives from her great-aunt Sylvia, inviting her to spend the holidays and celebrate a mysterious Festival at the family mansion in the old port city of Kingsport, where Jenny has never been—the home her mother fled at the age of eighteen, never to return.Once she reaches the ancient mansion, Jenny finds herself in the midst of a tangled web of archaic secrets, eldritch lore, and hidden struggles that pit the servants of the Great Old Ones, the ancient gods and goddesses of Earth, against a terrifying and relentless foe. At the center the web stands the treasure Jenny's family has guarded for centuries, a talisman of supreme power forged in the lost land of Hyperborea: the Ring of Ebon. But the Ring is lost—and the quest to find it and keep it out of the hands of the enemies of the Great Old Ones will send Jenny on a journey beyond the borders of the world to dread Carcosa, the city of the King in Yellow ... The Weird of Hali: Chorazin: Something Sleeps Within The Hill... A last desperate hope brings Justin Martense to the little town of Dunwich in the Massachusetts hills. Justin’s family lies under an ancient curse brought down on them by an ancestor’s terrible deed. Once in each generation, one of the descendants of Gerrit Martense is summoned in dreams to Elk Hill, near the town of Chorazin in western New York, never to return. Now Justin has received the summons; a cryptic message from Nyarlathotep, the messenger of the Great Old Ones, sends him to Owen Merrill, who might be able to solve the riddle of the Martense curse soon enough to save Justin’s life.As the two of them travel to Chorazin and begin to trace tangled clues reaching deep into the region’s colonial past, strange forces gather, and so do the enemies of the Great Old Ones. Far below the brooding stone circle that crowns Elk Hill, one of the forgotten powers of the ancient world turns in restless sleep—and before they can unravel the secret of Chorazin, Owen and Justin will have to face archaic sorceries, monstrous beings, and the supreme nightmare chronicled centuries before in Ludvig Prinn’s The Mysteries of the Worm ... The Weird of Hali: Dreamlands To a Country of Dreams...For five and a half years, since the mysterious disappearance of two of her graduate students, Professor Miriam Akeley of Miskatonic University has pursued her own covert researches into the forbidden lore underlying the seemingly fantastic tales of H.P. Lovecraft. The clues she has gathered all point to the shocking reality behind those tales, but it takes an unexpected encounter with a creature out of ancient legend and the discovery of a cryptic letter by Lovecraft’s cousin and fellow author Randolph Carter to lead her to the answers she hoped and feared to find—and thrust her out of the reality she knows into the impossible world that Lovecraft and Carter called the Dreamlands.She is not the only one to pass through that forgotten portal, however. The ancient war between the Great Old Ones and their enemies has spilled over into the lands of Dream, and an agent of the Radiance now seeks the Temple of the Singing Flame in the far west. Guided by the oracle of Nodens, Lord of the Great Deep, Miriam and Randolph Carter must stop him—for he carries the Blade of Uoht, one of the three sorcerous treasures of drowned Poseidonis, and if he reaches the Temple and extinguishes the Flame, the Dreamlands and all within them will cease to exist forever... The Weird of Hali: Providence In a Handful of Dust... As the ancient war between the old gods of Earth and their bitter enemies rises toward a final confrontation, Owen Merrill sets out from his new home in Arkham to Rhode Island, seeking the ultimate weapon in that war—the spells that might succeed in calling Great Cthulhu from his temple-tomb in drowned R’lyeh to fulfill the terrible prophecy of the Weird of Hali. The threads of evidence he and Jenny Chaudronnier have traced through years of hard work all lead to a young man named Charles Dexter Ward, who lived in Providence a century earlier and may have received copies of the rituals from the elderly scholar George Gammell Angell. As he plunges into the mysteries surrounding Ward and the rituals, he finds himself entangled in a web of peril reaching far beyond the urban landscape of Providence. The Starry Wisdom Church there is racked by rivalries no member will discuss, and the Radiance and the Fellowship of the Yellow Sign are closing in. Owen’s one hope lies with a young woman named Hannah Ward—Charles Dexter Ward’s great-granddaughter—who is in Providence on a mission of her own. She has learned the same terrible secrets of alchemy her great-grandfather mastered, and plans on using them to revive the one person on Earth who might know the location of the rituals Owen needs so badly: Charles Dexter Ward himself... The Weird of Hali: Red Hook Beneath Brooklyn’s Sidewalks... The last thing Justin Martense wants to do is fling himself back into the ancient war between the Great Old Ones and their relentless enemies. Now that his family’s inherited illness has shown up, he wants nothing more than to wrap up eleven years of farming in the Catskill town of Lefferts Corners and figure out what to do with the rest of his life. Suddenly a letter from his old friend Owen Merrill shatters those plans—for Owen is in terrible danger in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, and the letter carries a cryptic call for help. With his friends Arthur and Rose Wheeler, he hurries south through a half-ruined landscape to try to answer the call. But more waits beneath the crumbling sidewalks of the decaying Red Hook neighborhood than Justin can imagine: a half-human sorceress with strange powers, shapeless horrors from the deeps of time, and a colossal device left buried in the living rock by the serpent folk of ancient Valusia, which may hold the key to the fulfillment of the Weird of Hali. The enemies of the Great Old Ones are in Red Hook as well, searching for the device, for Owen—and for Justin. Before he can overcome the dangers that surround him, Justin must gather the clues from a century-old mystery, journey through time into the forgotten past of New York City, obtain a key of silver from a long-dead witch, bring that back to his own time, and then take it into the deep places under Brooklyn—down a stair that no living person can descend ... The Weird of Hali: Arkham The Stars Are Right At Last ... Twenty years have passed since the ancient war between the Great Old Ones and their bitter enemies swept Owen Merrill away from the world he thought he inhabited. As a seventh-degree initiate in the Starry Wisdom Church, he knows that the time is close when Great Cthulhu will awaken in his temple-tomb in drowned R’lyeh and end that war once and for all. Neither he nor any of the servants of the Great Old Ones is prepared, however, for the last desperate counterstroke of the Radiance—the unleashing of the Color out of Space, an alien form of matter that can end all life on Earth. As the final conflict looms, Owen flings himself on a last desperate quest to stop the descent of the Color out of Space. His journey will take him from the ruins of a New Jersey college town to a long-forgotten stair descending into a Virginia graveyard, and then to the Dreamlands and beyond. Helping him are a renegade Radiance negation team commander, a sorcerer out of archaic legend, the youngest of the Great Old Ones, and his own witch-daughter Asenath, but against him stands the massed might of the Radiance, a being of the outer voids summoned by the enemies of the Great Old Ones, and the Color out of Space itself ... The Roleplaying Game Weird of Hali is a slender 193-page book, packed with useful rules and details on Greer's setting. The book makes this note on the meaning of the word eldritch:- El•dritch /’el-drich/ adj. [perh. fr. (assumed) ME elfriche fairyland, fr. ME elf + riche kingdom, fr. OE ríce—more at rich] (1508): weird, eerie —from Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1986 Here's what the introduction has to say. The Cthulhu mythos—the sprawling universe he and his fellow Weird Tales authors created, full of bizarre gods, strange creatures, and books full of secrets humanity was not meant to know—was one of the first great shared worlds of modern imaginative fiction, a cosmos so vivid that it has been an inspiration to writers ever since his day ... In the world of The Weird of Hali, the Great Old Ones—Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Tsathoggua, Nyarlathotep, and the rest of the pantheon Lovecraft and his friends created—are not powers of evil, though propaganda incessantly spread through every human society paints them in that role. The secretive, multiracial cults that still revere the Great Old Ones despite bitter centuries of prejudice and persecution are innocent of the charges of human sacrifice leveled against them, as those same charges have been leveled against so many other religious dissidents down through the years. In the novels, as in this game, the Great Old Ones are the gods of nature, their worshipers preserve a wisdom older than the human race, and those who stumble across long-suppressed clues dealing with that ancient wisdom may find themselves drawn into a larger and stranger world, full of mysterious powers and dreadful dangers. That is, in a nutshell, what this game book is about. Your characters can come from all corners of the world. You worship Nature and the Great Old Ones and Outer Gods. The bad guys are Greyfaces. So, then, what do the rules look like? Vital Differences Weird of Hali uses a modified version of the Mythras core rules. The main differences are ... - The universal life force is called Voor here, and characters use Voorish points when using sorcery. - There are three sets of skills - Standard Skills, Professional Skills ... and Eldritch Skills, used with sorcery. - Characters have Rationality Points to represent personal commitment to conventional wisdom of modern culture. - Sorcery, as a general rule, does not affect physical matter directly, only the minds and nervous systems of living creatures. - The sorcerous disciplines available in Weird of Hali are Witchcraft, Initiation, and Conjuration. Access to magic is unthinkably rare. Characters don't start with any Eldritch skills or access to magic. A Glimpse From The Other Side The history of the world is not what you have been taught ... There were human civilizations long before the ones named in the history books ... You need to know about that, now that you’ve glimpsed a few of the things hidden behind what you were taught. You need to know it, if you want to survive. The basic story behind this game is that characters begin play knowing very little about the rteal world. It's prosaic and ordinary to them, until they realise that the world is far stranger and occult than they could have imagined, and hello isn't there a game called Hunter: the Reckoning which is all about ordinary Joes and Janes who have the scales ripped off their eyes? And some other game called Call of Cthulhu? There are some basic premises behind this game. We are not alone. We have bever been alone. Nor is this the only universe: there are myriads of parallels out there, in all eight directions. up, dow, East, West, North, South, Ulth and Anth. Pages 1 through 7 are a must-read. They cover the geography and history of our Earth, the Greater Earths and Lesser Earths. There is a guide to pronunciation, and some familiar names and terms. Page 12 covers the topic of hybrids of human and eldritch stock - human / Deep One, human / Voormi. Even human / Great Old One. There's an origin table which lists the strange possibilities for a character's inhuman ancestry. Your character's weird ancestry gives you certain bonuses, and some disadvantages - if your character is descended from some entity types, or is possessed by a Yithian being, or you're a Serpent Person in human guise, your Rationality Points begin at 0, for instance. Backgrounds, Cultures, skill generation, all take directly from Mythras. You have four Backgrounds to choose from - Rural, Urban, Suburban, and Privileged. You can choose your character's concept, career, skills, Combat Styles and so on, more or less the same as the Mythras Core Rulebook. Professional SKills include Espionage, Forgery, Investigation, Mountaineering, Pilot, Politics, Research, and Spelunking - skills you won't find in Mythras. Eldritch Skills are also new. They are:- Awareness (INT+POW) - sense and shape voor, the life force; detect sorcery; sense tomes and sorcerous objects; identify and follow moon paths; and detect living things by their voorish aura when they are out of sight — for example, behind a closed door or in a room on the far side of a wall. Binding (POW+CHA) - exert your will over uncanny forces and beings, banish harmful energies and hostile entities, and control what has been summoned. Contemplation (POW+CON) - The voorush name for Mysticism skill. Enchantment (INT+CHA) - to bind voor into material objects and substances. Witchcraft practitioners use this on herbs, weapons, even machines. Meditation (INT+CON) - used to recover Voorish Points, and also with voorish Mysticism skill. Spellcasting (INT x2) - perform Witchcraft spells. Summoning (POW x2) - call upon the Eldritch powers, or in some cases call Mum over the phone for a quick intervention. Chapter 2 covers what are described as Spot Rules in Mythras - effects such as fatigue, blood loss, acid damage, fire damage, and so on. Page 42 covers a specific set of rules unique to Weird of Hali - where your character loses their physical humanity, and becomes a representative of their inhuman ancestry as their genes assert themselves. Sections on Science and Sorcery, and Sanity, are also covered. Chapter 3 is Combat. Chapter 4, page 65, covers Vehicles and Chases, for those times when your characters have to run from some mountainous Thing that's chasing them down the corridors like Doctor Who. Chapter 5 begins on page 77 and covers Sorcery - the three basic methods, namely Conjuration, Initiation, and Witchcraft. This chapter also covers Moon Paths, aka ley lines. Greer's vocation comes through here: he is an accomplished Druid and geomancer in real life (I have one of his books, a brilliant tome on real world geomancy). This is powerful sorcery which draws upon the land's mobile voor currents, standing stones, and so on. The book next describes the Tomes - some old favourites, if you're a long time fan of the Mythos. Everything from the Necronomicon and the Pnakotic Manuscripts, and so on, to the lesser tomes such as Thaumaturgical Prodigies in The New-English Canaan. What then follows are the three main Disciplines of Witchcraft, Initiation, and Conjuration, in that order. Witchcraft is, in effect, Folk Magic. Initiation is essentially Mysticism, with a heavy emphasis on initiation degrees, and a long list of different initiatory cults from around the world. FInally, Conjuration covers the art of summoning and binding Great Old Ones, making pacts with them, and receiving benefits which extend to permament changes and advantages, as well as to benefits to invoke certain powerful spells. The review continues from page 103 next week.
  2. DIADOCHI WARLORDS Campaign Here you will find the continuing story of four adventurers in Hellenistic Greece https://chrisbrann.wordpress.com/role-playing-games/diadochi-warlords-campaign/ Hope you enjoy it
  3. So, where were we? Ah, yes, here we go. We were exploring the first 100 or so pages of Weird of Hali. So far, the game has felt pretty much like any other Mythos game, with one exception - the player characters are on the other side, working with the Great Old Ones and possibly calling some of them family, displaying odd traits which become more pronounced as the alien side of the family gradually wins out over the human blood. And let me point out that, in Weird of Hali, this is a good thing. We had just come to the end of the magic chapter, but I feel obliged to bring you back up to speed here. Sorcery is a way of manipulating the universal life force, known as voor, to produce mostly mental and perceptual effects, with some physical effects. Characters spend Voorish points rather than Magic Points to cast spells. And there are three main branches of magic, which every character can eventually access (nobody knows any magic at the start) - Witchcraft (Folk Magic), Initiation (Mysticism), and Conjuration (summoning / binding / commanding / banishing Mythos entities). Characters may learn from Mythos tomes, Greater and Lesser, and buy do those tomes shake their Sanity - and this is also a good thing, because this game is about discovering that the rational, mundane world is just a veneer over something far deeper, richer, and more rewarding than you can imagine. Right. Page 103. Forbidden Sciences. Gamesmasters of Odd Soot - this chapter is perfect for that game from Frostbyte Books. I kid you not. The chapter presents a series of tables, which effectively describe the scientist's chosen field of study, along with the blasphemous and obscene tools and methods by which they pursue their field of study. Think of Dee, Gabriel Shelley, and Professor Lang in Bryan Talbot's Heart of Empire (aka Luther Arkwright Book 2). Dee dabbled is Kabbalah, alchemy, and haruspicy (divination by entrails); Gabriel Shelley experimented with hallucinogenic fungi; and Lang built a nuke to use in a fireworks display in the middle of one of the Londons. Now back from the worlds of Luther Arkwright and Odd Soot to Weird of Hali. The rest of this chapter lists, along other things, random sorcerous objects, secret devices, forbidden devices, consumables (I am tired of the use of the term "potions" to describe anything liquid which your Adventurers drink; call them what they are - poisons and/or drugs) and dangerous named occult artefacts, namedropping characters like Herbert West. The "reanimation serum" is basically the glowy green serum from the movie Herbert West: Reanimator featuring Jeffrey Combs in his breakout role before he went on to play every single alien in Star Trek. The Tillinghast Resonator is a shocking device used by the Radiance bad guys, which basically hits the targets like a sort of weaponised LSD field - it creates an EM field which triggers what look like hallucinations, but which are in fact glimpses beyond the veneer of mundanity into the real world beyond. This chapter is an exciting, often terrifying, read. All the things listed could be just dropped into the game to be either discovered by, invented by, coveted by, or used to destroy, the Adventurers. Not one part of this chapter is dull. Your inner fiend may well cackle like a Bond villain, if it is anything like mine. What follows next are the bread and butter of Mythos games. All the creatures. "All the single creatures All the single creatures All the single creatures All the single creatures ..." The chapter starts with the Great Old Ones - the heavy hitters like Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, and Shub-Ne'Hurrath, and the lesser (yet still potent) beings such as Nodens, Yig, and Phauz / Bastet. If you've run Mythos-based games from Sandy Petersen's iconic Call of Cthulhu, you'll be closely familiar with these Great Old Ones, and greet them here like old friends. To many of the Characters in this game, they probably are - and to some, they could even be referred to as family. There then follow the Elder Races, starting with the Deep Ones. The chapter moves on to describe flying polyps, ghouls, Mi-Go, night-gaunts, serpentfolk (my favourite species), shoggoths, and voormis. The book has left out some Mythos creatures such as Brian Lumley's Chthonians and Ramsey Campbell's Y'Golonac, and the Elder Things themselves are not statted up here since they have long been rendered extinct by the time of Weird of Hali, along with the Great Race of Yith which sent their minds forwards in time hundreds of millions of years to avoid the flying polyps. The chapter moves on to Eldritch Beings - Behinders, Nyarlathotep's Black Dogs, Coloured Gases, Culverins, Dark Young, Flats, Floating Globes, Formless Spawn, Generic Tentacle Monsters to trot out when running a Mad Scientist's Laboratory scenario, and no, stop that, you're not bringing the H word in here. Those who know tentacle monsters respond instead to the probing tentacle by patting it, talking to the monster in a soothing voice, and perhaps giving it something to eat, upon which it will usually crawl back into its lair. ... Moving on! Gnophkehs, check. Hounds of TIndalos, check. Krakens, check. Kyrrmis ... am I pronouncing the name right because I sound like Miss Piggy calling for her green batrachian ex-husband ... moving on, Lake Monsters and Sea Serpents - cool, I am so stealing these for Fioracitta ... Mammoths ... okay, who reanimated these hairy buggers? ... Dancers With The Stars, no sorry, misread that, Shamblers From The Stars ... er, Shantaks, Skims ... oh, that's what happened to the Yith ... Giant Spiders, Tollers, Xin, and the mysterious Yag-Kothaun. Next, a bunch of ordinary animals, such as alligators, bears, boars, big cats, domestic cats, dogs, swarming critters, and dogs. This is followed by the worst, most dangerous, most rapacious and hostile life forms ever to be encountered within the setting. Humans. The most common sentient species on the lesser Earth at present, humans are not as intelligent or as magically talented as most other races, but make up for those limitations with the brashness and energy of a young species. Curious, clever, and prone to sudden violence, they baffle most of the elder races, though serpent folk find their simple-mindedness oddly endearing, Deep Ones think of them as children badly in need of instruction, and the smaller breeds of shoggoths (who are only about as intelligent as humans) get on with them surprisingly well. This is probably the most important section of the creatures chapter, because of all the monsters your characters are likely to encounter, these are by far the commonest, most numerous, and most hostile of all of them. Initiates, Fellowship of The Yellow Sign, Mad Scientists, Offspring of Great Old Ones, Poseidonian Families, Revenants, Shonokins, Tcho-Tchos, Turanians, Witches, and Yithian Hosts round off the section on humans and, indeed, the entire Creatures chapter. There then follows the section devoted to the Big Bad - The Radiance, basically supremacists, bent on imposing their fascistic view of reality on the human race, and exterminating deviancy. Think of the Puritans, and White Wolf's Order of Reason and Technocratic Union. You get the gist. The Radiance are Delta Green and Charles Stross' The Laundry Files, with perhaps a callout to the human protagonists of The Esoterrorists, misguided into thinking that the Player Characters are the bad guys from that game. Negation Teams are ... well, I called it. Delta Green. These chumps are Delta Green. They are cops. They are the bad guys. Hells, if you're braiding in Luther Arkwright, these are Disruptors, and if you eventually find yourselves running Department M, the Radiance will have swallowed up that Agency - and their Agents and Operatives would be working against your Characters. Remember - the baddies in the above pic are the yotzes in fatigues. The dead Thing in the middle could well have been your Dad. Human scum. *spits* Remember, folks - variable number of Hit Locations good, two legs bad. Don't play humans, kids. Just Say No. So now we're coming to the end of the book. The next section is for Gamesmasters, and it's about how to run Weird of Hali. I recommend you track down John Michael Greer's books and just devour them. Well, not literally, mind you. Just steep yourself in their lore. Then, for contrast, track down Charlie Stross' Laundry FIles, all twelve books, to get a read on The Radiance. Know Thy Enemy. These are UNIT and Torchwood as baddies. Human scum. *spits again* This part of Weird of Hali covers how to run entities, combat, magic, the Radiance, and narrative hooks in your game. Investigations get given the Mythras treatment - clues, infodumping, the role of criticals and fumbles, and so on. Next is where everything gets thrown into the mixer. Weird of Hali can be combined with Mythras core, and in particular with Luther Arkwright. This particular game is called out here, because what we all want to see is Bryan Talbot working with John Michael Greer to produce something awesome. And you, as Gamesmaster, get to run the crossover. Might I also recommend a possible crossover between Weird of Hali ... and Odd Soot? What's next? Page 159, The Tablet of Sarkomand, a mini adventure for Weird of Hali which runs to page 176. No spoilers. Have fun playing this adventure. That brings the book to an end. The next page is the Index, and one final blank page in the PDF. And that's it. My last thoughts, as I put away Weird of Hali, are that this book is really enjoyable. It's a look at the Mythos, from the point of view of the entities and those who dwell within the murky shadow world beneath the veneer of mundanity. Your characters can be diverse, intelligent, compassionate, strange, and humane. In contrast, the Radiance is everything that is wrong with humanity. They may be fighting the entities and targeting the Characters - but trust me, these fascist putzes should not be considered to be the good guys by any stretch. The world of Weird of Hali is highly recommended. It can be genteel, beautiful, intense, intimate, warming, or harrowing - often all in one session, rather like British weather. It's a game which allows you to explore what it means to be people, and to stretch your definition of whom you include under the word "family" and the pronoun "we."
  4. I'm taking a hiatus this week. I really want to take a look at two books which slightly deviate from Mythras products, but which have strong ties to Mythras. One is The Weird of Hali; the other is Casting The Runes. The next book review will be next week.
  5. The timing of this blog turned out to be prescient. Perceforest has been listed on DriveThruRPG for the first time, this week. For anyone who's just picked up their copy from DriveThruRPG, and want to know what is between the covers, here's Part 1 for you to start with. We'll be here when you're ready. On that happy note, let's get on with the rest of the book. We left the book with a tantalising glimpse of what was to follow on page 69. Aside from the College of Arms, there is a box text with some new magical Gifts. These are Cantrip, a new way of casting Folk Magic; Forest Pact, a trick which allows the character to be ignored by any creatures of The Forest; and Luiton Servant, which made me marvel at the thought that wizards in this setting can get free designer handbags, at least till I found out what a Luiton was. See below. Then there is the material on the College of Arms, and these are the civilising force which keeps humans from degenerating into barbarism by upholding the ideals of chivalry. The College acts as the Courts Major and Minor. It is a place of learning. And it is also the major force coordinating the attack against The Forest. The Heralds are held to the highest possible standard of propriety. In contrast, the next factions described are sorcerers; Les Lignaiges Sorcieres - the Faee or Fairies, the Mauvaise Lignaige, and the House of Glat. These are often broken into minor groupings, cults mainly, and there are Lignaiges outside of the Twin Kingdoms left for the Gamesmaster to develop ... so you could bring in a Sahajiya, an Order of Hermes mage from House Bjornaer, a Chakravanti, a lost Shek-Pvar travelling betwen P-worlds, or an artificer from the Order of Reason if you wish. Nothing's stopping you bringing in the properties of Harnworld, Ars Magica, Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade, or even After The Vampire Wars. Theism follows, with the various churches of the Seven Gods being given their turn to shine under the spotlights. Each group has its unique rites, restrictions, customs, and of course Gifts. These churches wrap up Chapter Four. Chapter Five covers Rules; all the basic crunchy stuff. The first table covers the rough competency levels of NPCs. It is the Perceforest version of The Most Important Table In Mythras. That is followed immediately by Reputation tules. Reputations are measured as a percentage, and the character has two of them - Gallant, and Knavish. Reputation is gained through deeds which reinforce one quality or another, a process known as Renown rolls, which are somewhat like Experience rolls. Next, Nameless characters are described, along with the special rules which apply to characters whose Reputations are, by definition, unknown. These are heroes hidden behind masks and secret identities, and hello ... Rules follow covering Jousting, Hunting, and Magic, allowing you to run sessions based around jousts at tourneys, the challenge of hunting, and of course the unique rules for magic use in Perceforest - magic point recovery, Divine Intervention, a new Folk Magic spell (Stain), and Wonders, a new kind of Shaping component for sorcery. The Wonders shaping component allows sorcerers to do things with their spells which are above and beyond the rules from the Core Rulebook such as giving Intuition the power to read surface thoughts as well as emotions and motives. The next sections focus on Enchantments, then Magic Items - which use modified Mysticism rules from Mythras. The list of Magic Items brings Chapter Five to a close. Chapter Six opens on The Vill, which contains rules for creating and running settlements for Perceforest. There aren't that many games which have subgames like this incorporated into a core rulebook or core sourcebook. HarnManor for Harnworld is a full sized supplement, but not a core set of rules. In Perceforest, the Vill represents the characters' home base and shelter. This chapter sets up creating and running a vill with rules akin to character generation. The vill is a kind of player character, in its way. It has characteristics like player characters (STR, CON, SIZ, DEX, INT, POW, and CHA). Vills also have Attributes, Features, Passions, Reputations, Advantages, Disadvantages, even Hit Locations. There is also vill-level combat, when two neighbouring vills have at it with one another. After the section on vill-level combat, attention shifts to Forest Spirits, the entitites dwelling within The Forest which cause so much consternation to the human characters. Spirits are listed in order of Intensity, and each Intensity has one Nature Spirit and one pernicious Regional Spirit. Spirits are meant to be engaged in vill-level combat, the whole vill participating in driving out the malign influence from within its bounds. And here endeth the sixth chapter. Chapter Seven, Perilous Stories, is all about the Gamesmaster's role here, which is about setting the scene and telling the stories, while letting the players surprise themselves and each other, and the Gamesmaster. The five main themes of Perceforest are reinforced here - High Chivalry, Wonder, the Menace of The Forest, Colonialism, and Sacred Kingship. Each theme is outlined in greater detail in this chapter, and the whole chapter begins with a page full of adventure hooks. Adventure hooks are listed for each virtue, along with a mini-adventure for each. The terrifying Forest feature Taint (chaos features) is described under the Forest section. There is a box text on mediaeval woodland terminology which is a must-read. Come on, Mark did some research here. Every author puts little bits into their books to show off what they heav learned, and this is among the many little Easter eggs in this book. The adventure included for the Sacred Kingship section ties in with the main story of Perceforest, as it describes events taking place in the mediaeval tome. After the Themes, the book moves on to Creatures. These are period specific and thematic. Plant-based creatures such as Charduns (which spread thistles everywhere), Charlocks (which are created by Briarlords and sent into human settlements like living gas bombs spreading Taint), and Briarlords (manifestations of The Forest, not even remotely humanin appearance) as well as warped fauns from boars to dwarfs and giants, to luiton (it turns out, they aren't designer handbags after all, but a type of spirit. Who knew?) to spikenards, all the way to The Yelp ReviewerYelping Beast, which is a chimerical animal of sundry animal parts, with a neck that glows and entrances those who look at it. Oh, and it sounds like a hundred hounds. And before you know it, you're near the end of the book, in the Appendices. The first Appendix is the TImeline of Perceforest condensing a million words into about 2.15 pages total, sparing you having to spend fifteen years of your life to go through the Cliffs Notes version of the original book. Honestly, you can thank The Design Mechanism later. The final Appendix has character sheets for vills and horses. And then you're at the index, and closing the book. Perceforest is a perfect setting for High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy. It comes into its element with its portrayal of a pseudo-mediaeval setting populated by knights in shining armour, jousting, questing, and days of high adventure, a generation before the time of King Arthur and Merlin. The ancestors of the protagonists of The Once and Future King, La Morte D'Arthur, Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, Prince Valiant (and even Robin Hood if you like) live in the pages of the novel Perceforest; and Perceforest brings that setting to life in a packed sourcebook full of memorable encounters, adventures, and storytelling.
  6. And so it's time to crack open Perceforest and take a look at this book which has been sitting on my bookshelf, unopened, gathering dust since 2020. Seriously, this is the first time I have actually opened this book, so this will be charting unknown territory for me. Perceforest The original Perceforest is one of the great fantasy epics, a million-word story over six volumes. Which Hollywood has not yet touched, or reduced to three feature-length movies. Catch up with the Wikipedia entry on the story Perceforest, The Game Book Perceforest is an Aeon Games book - not available from DriveThruRPG. As such, when you buy Perceforest from Aeon Games, you are buying a hardcover book with a free PDF. From this point forward, any reference to Perceforest in italics refers to the game. Perceforest in bold type refers to the 1340 romance. Aeon Games Perceforest is set in "a Land of High Chivalry and Wonder." Penned by Mark Shirley, Perceforest allows Players to create knightly, noble characters from an early feudal age. The setting is "fictional world of high chivalry set against the forces of the primal wild." The themes are High Chivalry, Wonder, Existential Menace, Colonialism, and Sacred Kingship. The Characters are meant to be chivalrous Knights, defending Civilisation - the Twin Kingdoms - against the evil that is The Forest. Civilisation in Perceforest is Early Feudal. A generation before the setting, Bretaigné was in the thrall of the native enchanter-knights, until the two Brother Kings invaded and and either drove them out or exterminated them. The gentle culture now permeating much a Bretaigne society was brought to the land, marked by a massive land clearance which removed The Forest from the face of the land, and confined it to small enclaves of primal wild. Sources include Perceforest: the Prehistory of King Arthur’s Britain by Nigel Bryant (trans.), 2011, Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, the only modern English translation of the complete Perceforest corpus; A Perceforest Reader by Nigel Bryant, The Romance of Reynard the Fox, The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, The Dictionary of Medieval Knighthood and Chivalry, The Hunting Book, Boutell’s Heraldry, Uprooted by Naomi Novic, Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, and The Red Knight by Miles Cameron. Chapter Two, The World, features the history of Bretaigné, daily life In Bretaigné, the Kings’ Law, politics, heraldry, The Forest, and mythology. Alexander The Great is namedropped here as Alexaunder - could this make Perceforest the first crossover title? - and it describes the formation of the Twin Kingdoms and the anointing of the Brother Kings to drive back the Mauvaise Lignaige and hem in The Forest. The Kings, Betis and Gadifer, fought many battles, but it was the Battle against Darnant deep in The Forest which earned Betis the title of "Perceforest" due to his having pierced the Forest to slay the most evil of the Mauvaise Lignaige. This chapter describes how civilisation is centered around vills (the progenitor term for "village," "ville," and "villain"), spread out in concentric circles of settlement, with cities and other centres dotting the terrain. The days of the week have names such as Crone's Day, Kings' Day, and so on - something to get used to in this setting - and similarly, the year is divided into seasons. Page 8 has the Agricultural Year as a table. So far, so Ars Magica. The chapter describes the lives of the simplefolk (peasantry) - their foods, clothing, and pastimes. Similarly, the gentlefolk are also described, along with their clothing, foodstuffs, drink, and pastimes - mostly jousting and hunting, by the looks of it. Gentlefolk titles and terms of address are listed, along with the polytheistic religion, the cashless feudal economy, and life stages from birth, reception, and marriage, through to death and funerals. The Law follows. Both Kings have agreed to a single body of law, applying across both the Twin Kingdoms. Read The Court of Arms on page 14. It describes how the gentlefolk are punished by admonishments, abatements (a visible punishment applied to a coat of arms) and debasement for the seven Crown Crimes of "rape, treason, refusing succour, breaking an oath, murder of innocents, brigandage, and swearing a false oath." This is taking chivalry seriously. Characters are expected to give their word and honour it. Incidentally, the table on page 15 gives a possible explanation of where the term "Poindexter" comes from. What follows next is a look at the politics of the Houses Major and Minor - the alliances, petty bickering, outright rivalries and bitter enemies which make up the million factions of gentlefolk in the Twin Kingdoms. So far, so Harnworld. There is a brief, but tantalising introduction to Heraldry. All that "per fesse bendy argent" stuff you might have seen, and wanted to know about. It really barely scratches the surface, but it does allow you to understand what they are on about when describing someone's Emblazon. The Forest is described next. If you haven't read Mythago Wood or its sequels, go and find a copy and read it. This is about how the humans look upon Nature as a wild, bewildering force, which must be beaten back constantly. The Mythology section is Perceforest's mythos, with The Forest standing in for Chaos. Chapter Three, The Twin Kingdoms, is the geography chapter. It begins with The Kingdom of Loegria, comprising Belerion, The Black Island, Borre, Cambenic, Hurtemer, Listinoise, and Norgales; then The Kingdom Of Albanie, comprising Basgorre, Garloth, Hautgorre, Orcanie, Pedrac, Royalville, Sorelois, The Wild Lands, and Coriney; and other places. Locations are listed with a paragraph describing each place (Castle Darnant is literally carved out of a vast oak tree, for instance, with two boughs shaped like a ram's horn). There are some box texts describing adventures taking place at Castle Darnant and within Darnant Forest, and other box texts in this chapter describing adventures taking place at other selected locations. The major characters of Loegria are then listed, including King Perceforest - who has been afflicted with a curse, a backlash bit of revenge from The Forest. Each county or Duchy is listed, with principal towns or locations, followed by key people living there. Important magical locations have a Magical Strength % rating: Darnant's Forest and the Forest of Wonders have ratings as high as 100%. Locations with a Magical Strength contain weird stuff. And these feel like Regio from Ars Magica. Chapter Four brings in the chargen rules. Here, you have rules for cultures, careers, Passions, Reputations, Paths, and the factions available to join. Options include Gentlefolk, Simplefolk, and Talking Animals. The rest is what you expect from chargen: Characteristics, Attributes, Skills, Passions. The various species from Fioracitta - Bestia, Longane, Ophidians, and even Monacielli - would fit in nicely. Just a hint, folks. Oh, another nice piece of terminology. You know the old phrase "Have at ye, varlet!" ... well, you get to find out that it isn't a domesticated animal that hunts rabbits, after all. Those are ferrets. Varlets are scumbags in your own Kingdom, but useful spies when they're lurking on some other person's land. Good to know. Passions are not to be overlooked. Nor are Reputations. You get three Passions. One must be you at your best; one, you at your worst. Talking Beasts get a free Passion, The Call of The Beast. Tied to them, yet separate, are Reputation. You get two: Gallant, and Knavish. You decide which of those two Reputations scores higher. The next part is about naming your characters. There's a table. Have fun with this. It is just crying out to be turned into an Excel spreadsheet to allow random generation of useful passwords. The next bit is Equipment, and this goes into detail about what your characters can expect to wear, carry, and drag around. Paths are next. Your character chooses a Path to follow, such as the Path of Franchise, or the Path of Justice, or the Path of Mercy. Each Path has oaths to swear. Paths more or less replace Cults and Brotherhoods. We're picking up from page 69, the College of Arms, next time.
  7. And once again, I have to take another hiatus. I do apologise for this. I'll be finishing A Look At ... Perceforest next week.
  8. There are two supplements for Monster Island - the Monster Island Companion and the adventure, A Bird In The Hand. Monster Island Companion The biggest feature of this book is the A2-scaled map of The Island. The PDF comes with layers, so you can turn different aspects of the map on or off. The second part is a list of statistics for the non-player characters who feature in Monster Island. And the third section covers the Encounter Tables from the main sourcebook. And that's it. It's a handy book to have for the map, the encounter charts and of course the Non Player Character stats. All the essentials you need to refer to during play, really. A Bird In The Hand A Bird In The Hand (ABITH) is an adventure set on The Island. There is a bonus for players and Gamesmasters towards the end of the book, but we'll come to that in a minute. The premise of the story is simple. The plot revolves around an unusually smart bird. The Adventure begins with the Adventurers being hired to alleviate a merchant of the burden of ownership of a particularly unusual bird. This is a heist story, basically - they have to boost this bird somehow, using misdirection, deceit, breaking & entering, every skill but swordplay, really. There is a cast of Non Player Characters, who will interact with the Playsrs in various ways - from friendship to hostility. There is some digging around, and nobody's ever seen or heard of a bird with the abilities this creature has. The adventure addresses the heist itself. What results turn up if the Adventurers are canny enough to actually ask questions / do the research / conduct surveillance, and so on. A map of the heist venue and surrounding businesses. Local Non Player Characters, and so on. There are stats on page 11 for shops and shopkeepers, followed by lists of stats for various kinds of body armour, and some shopkeepers. There is a section outlining the patterns and routines of the mark, including a cameo by The Chuckle Brothers as night soil collectors ... if you're British, you'll get the reference ... Some of the hazards include drawing down the attention of the guards, nosy neighbours, bad weather, and the local equivalent of organised crime. There's a box text on page 15, listing various things people are doing in the town, ranging from offering tarot readings to selling their bodies, or begging. Real slice of life stuff. Next Phase And then they get the bird, and everything gets turned over. Okay, spoilers here - the bird is really smart, and it tries to get the Adventurers to take it out into the jungle. Assuming they do, they trek through the jungle to a village called An Dai Ai, where a remarkable transformation ensues. This story shifts from being a heist to being an expedition. They must travel to the Oodaki village, possibly being pursued by one or more miscreants from the previous heist story. When they get there, the secret of this smart bird becomes clear. It turns out that The Adventurers are roped into bringing down a corrupting entity. This leads to part 3, Ruin By The Falls, which takes place at the end of Gushing Crack. Legal team, I did not name this geographic feature. Do not ride me. Thank you. The Adventurers have to help the locals to penetrate the ruins, and to fight off Iz's minions and guards, until it can be bound into a crystal geode forever. On this quest, the Adventurers must contend with the dreams of the corrupting being known as Iz, which afflict their sanity - effects which grow worse, the lower they go, until they are faced with a direct confrontation with Iz itself. This whole section feels like a somewhat standard dungeon crawl, to be honest. An inverted Wizard's Tower where, instead of going up, the characters playing Bruce Lee travel down through the levels to play the Game of Death, and yes I just went there. At each turn, they face twisted and corrupted forms of beings, ranging from insects to the warped body of the person who sent them off on their first quest, a bird collector called Coynrad who ends up a physical birdman himself. There's an opportunity to gather treasures, including items which can be of use in the final level ... and then they face Iz on the next level. So confronting Iz is the boss level fight scene of the whole adventure. The Adventurers must confront Iz morally and philosophically as much as physically. I've got some bad news for anyone who hates the Social Conflict rules on page 14 of Mythras Companion ... this part of the adventure requires use of those rules. Don't shoot the messenger. A mighty boss level fight ensues. What happens is ultimately up to the Players, but regardless of whether or not they succeed in helping the Kahuna Mele to bind Iz, the Ruins begin to fall into the sea, forcing the Adventurers to have to flee back up towards the surface. You know, the usual self-destructing villain hideout schtick. Anyhoo, the adventure is then pretty much over at that point. They will have carved a new legend onto the cliff faces of The Island, they will have made lifelong friends and enemies, they will be the talk of the town, and the story might even keep them in hot dinners and a soft bed for a few weeks. After The Adventure The next few pages offer stats for the major Non-Player Characters of this adventure, from Coynrad Lorrnz - the Patron who gets them involved - and Fat Boyd, the first chapter's Big Bad, through to Iz and the Guardian Spirit at the end. Personal note ... I don't like the term used for Fat Boyd's retinue of muscle, "Guys and Gals." That used to be one of the catchphrases used by that loathesome reptile Jimmy Savile in real life. Inspector Ludstrud is a combination of Inspectors Lestrade and Japp, and Lieutenant Columbo with his "One more thing ...". Iz looks like this. Lastly, the adventure lists stats for the monster corrupted bugs which are encountered first, and the Guardian Serpent which is native to this ruin, but has been dominated by Iz. If it can be released from Iz' dominance, it can become a powerful ally in the fight against the extraplanar spirit. Bonus Material The last bit in this book is a section devoted to hexcrawl rules. Players and Gamesmasters can make use of these rules to go exploring the face of The Island, and enjoy the various encounters along the way. Here is where the encounter tables from Monster Island or from the Companion can come into their own. Everything is considered here. Fatigue, supplies, even good and bad luck and the minor annoyances or blessings which might happen along the way. Finally, the book ends with a map of Monster Island. One last, loving look at this land which has been the backdrop for so much adventure. Final Words This is the last blog post to visit Monster Island, at least unless someone produces another adventure for the place. The Island is one of the richest fantasy island settings on the market, only rivalled by Harnworld. All you really need is Mythras, Monster Island, the Companion and the hexcrawl rules from ABITH, and you can be running Mythras adventures just on this island for years. It is true to say that you can never run out of adventures on Monster Island. Thanks for following this long series focusing on Monster Island. Next week it's the turn of Perceforest, and after that I think I'll start looking at the few Mythic Earth books which I currently own.
  9. Right, so we're back on Monster Island this week, and we're going to finish off the book by going through the final chapters, beginning with Magic. The characteristics of magic on The Island are:- Workings take time and great effort. Magic is ritualised, so you can't exactly do a powerful sorcery spell of the wrist. Magic is culturally demarcated - some tribes do one type of magic, and other tribes do another type, and so on; and magical energies replenish very slowly, forcing magicians to use their spells only reluctantly, and never frivolously. Not only is magic also jealously guarded; there are only two Disciplines of magic, namely Animism and Sorcery. Animism is practiced by the lowland Savages, and I'm using the term here as a collective noun rather than as an epithet. The High Folk exclusively practice Sorcery. And Theism is kind of extinct, though temple ruins (bearing ancient blood stains) indicate that it was once practiced fairly vigorously. Until, presumably, the gods they summoned actually showed up. More about that later. Magic is actually risky and time consuming. Page 129 has a table which shows the increased risks of Something Going Bad if a working is rushed. This slows down casting. A sorcerer is unlikely to want to be in the thick of a pitched melee battle, unless they happen to have formidable natural fighting skills and all their exits blocked. There are no modifications to Animism - use the Trance Preparation Table on page 131 of Mythras. The next thing to note about magic on The Island is that Animism and Sorcery are orchestrated. Mass gatherings are common for large scale effects, and for bindings of powerful spirits into their colossal fetishes. Each participant, who must be at least at Follower rank, contributes +1% to the Invocation, Trance, or Binding skills of the kahuna. Nobody knows how to do this for Theism. The colonials of Grimsand certainly have no idea, and it's only the sleeping gods of Kapala who might have a clue. Though, seriously, it's not worth waking them up to ask. See below. Bad Things Happen The Casting Miscarriage Table on page 130 presents a list of the horrible things which could happen if a working of any sort is rushed, botched - or even works perfectly. Sources of Magic The Island has a variety of sources of magical energies. Internal Magic Points recover slowly. Characters can also commit acts of sacrifice to release Magic Points from the spilling of blood - including their own. There is the, er, "self medicating" route which involves consuming psychoactive / poisonous plants Legal Department here. Don't Try This At Home, Kids - Just Say No! and then there is the process of Veneration, which involves sacrificing Devotional Magic Points to ancestral spirits and deities in the form of ancestral tikis. Then, of course, there are the Geomantic Nodes, locations on or in the earth where these magical energies gather and pool. Here is where you are likely to encounter some of those plants mentioned above, as well as dangerous guardian spirits, magically-active plants and mutated beasts, and even a slumbering deity, all depending on the whims of your Gamesmaster. Cultural Aspects Magic is an essential part of Island culture. Members of Savage tribes belong to individual animist cults. Their kahunas venerate (and bind) their deities, conduct politics and diplomacy, and act as judges and priests. Ancestor worship is a deep vein of power among the tribes, and everyone deep down desires to become an Ancestor Spirit to the next generation and generations to come, so culturally they uphold their tribes' values in their behaviour, hoping to become a revered Kahuna and eventually Ancestor Spirit themselves. Spirit Fetishes are as jealously-hoarded as workings. Dowager-Matriarchs hold on to Fetishes, and distribute them only as needed. A character with a Fetish may only have it for as long as required to fulfil the task; then they must return the spirit and Fetish to the Dowager who gave it to them. On The Island, progression in an animist cult involves a trial by ordeal. The candidate Shaman must find their Fetch, and that requires them to gad about The Island learning what they can, until they pass out from starvation. There, they discorporate into the Spirit World and meet Aata, the Ancestor Spirit which introduced animism to the Savages. The candidate must answer three ethical questions relating to the past, present, and future - and then they must face their final foe, which turns out to be ... well, spoilers, but if you ever watched the second Star Wars movie or read Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, you may already have an inkling. There are higher ranks - High Shamans, who overlook their tribes, and the Spirit Lord - of which there can only be one at any one time on The Island. The next section covers the tribes, the beings they venerate and bind, their friendly and neutral spirits, and of course each tribe's secret Gift. The list of tribes begins on page 138. Pay attention to each tribe's totem god. See below. The last bit describes random spirit encounters. And then we move on to the sorcery of the High Folk. Politically, High Folk sorcerers are the dominant caste, hoarding their knowledge. There are over a dozen sorcery schools, each with their individual spell lists, ordeals, rank progressions, Gifts, and so on. The list of colleges begins on page 142. Fancy Names In what could be described as a deep nod to the late Jack Vance, the sorcery spells listed in this chapter have been given pompous, fancy names. "Defy Eidolon" for Spirit Resistance, Obliterate Conjury for Neutralise Magic, and so on. Page 147 covers unique new sorcery spells, as well as listing sorcery spells whose effects have been modified from the original sorcery spells listed in Mythras. Here's where there seems to be an omission. The Cache Might spell is not listed. It's Store Manna by another name, and so I can only presume that its effects are exactly as listed in the Core Rulebook, without changes. There is a Dedicate Might spell, which is a slightly modified version of Enchant - which allows the sorcerer to attach the enchantment to a Geomantic Node to draw upon the enchantment indefinitely. There are new Gifts following the sorcery spell list. These Gifts are immensely powerful - look at the example given by Horde, where a necromancer can raise an unlimited number of corpses within a given radius, effectively setting the Targets factor at infinity. Many of these Gifts require weeks of study to activate them (to claim them) and they include Aggrandize (create a monstrous illusion), Change Reality (turn an illusion into a real thing), Horde (Targets factor set to infinity within the Range of the spell), Dimensional Portal (you can imagine what Project VALHALLA would give to learn this Gift), Lichdom (does what it says on the tin), Matrix (creating another power source for an enchantment other than binding the Magic Points of the caster into the item - oh, and enchanters can learn this Gift multiple times to create different types of magic item, as well as create blueprints for their items), and many others. After the Sorcery Gifts comes the Theism of the Colonists. And here come the humans. Theism has been modified here. Most Theism is propitiation, either through the devotion of Magic Points by the faithful to keep their dark gods hungry, or offering to leave the people alone. The Extension Miracle is unknown. There is no Divine Intervention. There is no pantheon - everyone brings their own gods with them, and when they leave, so too do their gods. There then follows a list of the different deities one may encounter, or believe in. This begins on page 155. Each religion is listed along with a short epithet (e.g. Judge of dooms, bringer of catastrophe), a brief description of the deity, and then sections listing the cult's Organisation, Cult Membership, Superstitions, Taboos, Skills, Miracles, and the benefits of Propitiation. And Then There Are Those Deities Oh yeah. There are some real gods lying about in, or under, The Island. I did mention I'd come to them. You might find Ubbozathla and Tzathogghua familiar if you ever read any Mythos fiction written by Clark Ashton Smith, whose works are frequently referenced within the book on the first pages of each of the chapters. FInally, and wrapping up the Chapter, there is a list of new Theist Miracles, some of which are incredibly potent, such as a Miracle that transforms a person permanently into a glyph on a wall. Seriously, a spell which turns your target into living graffiti. So, then, moving on to Chapter 7, Items and Substances. This is all about the things. Produce, Narcotics, Perfumes, Poisons, Diseases, Weapons, Treasures, and Artefacts. You name it, it's listed here, along with costs for trade, and so on. Poisons, Diseases, Weapons, Treasures, and Artefacts are all given their own sections. Many of the poisons and diseases are horrific. Some are truly obnoxious and horrifying. Kahuna's Bane, for instance, is feared and loathed by the lowland Savages, because it is a drug which blocks access to the Spirit World. Eidolonosis is basically zombie disease - once you are bitten, this is what turns your character into a zombie. Better hope you get infected by Fire Scale first, and spontaneously combust into ashes before that happens. Weapons follow, and this is just a list of the items commonly used by the inhabitants of The Island. Treasures just lists shiny, valuable things, and allows the Gamesmaster to randomly generate desirable trinkets and baubles to be found by Adventurers who stumble across such caches while raiding tombs. There then follows Enchanted Artefacts - Fetishes, Matrices (a lot of Matrices), and a short text box explaining that iron is a cursed metal and rusts easily. I wonder if someone brought along pure iron, forged without carbon, like that imperishable iron pillar in India IRL which has stood untouched by the passage of time for centuries ... Flora and Fauna This is the thing most people come to see when they open Monster Island. Players want to see the stats of the monsters they are there to hunt; and Gamesmasters want to see what they can bedevil the Adventurers with. First is a list of new creature abilities. Next, the creatures themselves, starting with the Shark People (the Adaro) and followed by a host of insanely lethal creatures, including the Alan ... okay, are there creatures called Steve or Henry? ... and including some dinosaurs. Yes, you too can enjoy riding into battle on the back of some tamed dinosaur. Aw hells, there are Aswang here. And bouda, bunyips, wendigo ... yeah, a whole lot of creepy horrors. Giant clams to trap the ankles of unwary divers - there's a trope I haven't seen for years - and horros plants ranging from the carnivorous plant from Little Shop of Horrors - "FEED ME!" to actual triffids. Yes, triffids. Those Smoking Mirrors have been busy. Page 218 is very handy for the Gamesmaster, since it lists a bunch of different kinds of critters one would expect to attack in swarms or shoals, from bats to piranhas. Oh, there's a box text on jellyfish venom on page 219. Can you imagine the looks on the faces of waiters and customers if they catch you reading this book in a cafe? Oh, look. Girl Genius' Slaver Wasps. They're called Jempulex, but these are The Other's slaver wasps all right. This whole chapter is just chock full of all the beasties and dangerous plants which they didn't have space for in the Creatures chapter of Mythras, really. You can use these critters to plague your Adventurers in any setting you like, really. Your Luther Arkwright Agents could stumble across a parallel where dinosaurs still live; or your modern story can turn into an enactment of The Day of The Triffids. This chapter is extensive. This article cannot do it justice - it's a long list and honestly you could spend hours just browsing them. Imagine your Adventurers being tasked with bringing back a live Ankylosaurus, or looking for Yeti in the high mountains. And after that, the Appendices list generic encounters, as well as provide examples of pregenerated Lizardfolk non-player characters for your Adventurers to encounter and interact with. By the way, there are descriptions of Lizardfolk and Ophidians within the previous creatures chapter, on pages 240 and 269. Now turn to page 288 for the stars of the show. The Gods That Walk. The kaiju. This shows you the stats of the kaiju. You can play as a kaiju. You can enjoy looking at the list of these behemoths, and identify their movie counterparts. They saved Gojira for last. Godzilla's right at the end. After this, the index seems anticlimactic. But there it is, and it wraps up the book. Conclusions Practically every Gamesmaster will eventually need to get Monster Island, if only for the lists of creatures and deadly flora, diseases and exotic poisons. There really is something for everyone here - Players and Gamesmasters alike. You could delve into Monster Island for years and never run out of stories, or monsters and hazards to transplant into your own settings and adventures. At the very least, it's an expansion of Mythras Core Rulebook's Magic and Creatures Chapters. At most, it can be the setting for some of the most exciting and bizarre adventures you can find in any fantasy roleplaying game or venue. Next time, this blog wraps up its coverage of Monster Island with a look at the two main supplements - Monster Island Companion, and A Bird In The Hand.
  10. I have to take another hiatus for this week. Catching up with The Spiral Room. Part 3 of my look at Monster Island is going to be next week.
  11. Last week, we began a look at Monster Island. Part 1 covered Chapters 1 through 4, covering the geography and geology of the island, its cultures, its hot nightclub scene, the hotel swimming pools and spas, the tourist spots, the bronze, four-armed, animated, female, Ray Harryhausen statues (you think I'm kidding? Check out page 112) and all the fun athletic activities you can get up to (climbing, running, more running, self-defence classes, Zumba, even more running ...). The Rough Guide to Monster Island does not hold back. Lots of fun for everyone. So now, this part covers the second half of the book, beginning with Campaigns, and specifically how to handle sandbox campaigns. Playing In The Sandbox Monster Island is designed for sandbox play. The chapter highlights elements of sandbox play:- Not Everything Is Meant To Be Killed - The Adventurers can engage in diplomacy, trade, espionage, and so on/ There Is No Game Balance - Not everything on The Island can be beaten, or is meant to be beaten. Your use of Wrack against Gojira will do you about as much good as a barrage of US Army artillery - IOW, it will have no effect on it at all. Take what prizes you can gather and run. Every Action Has A Consequence - It's a small island, not a continent. There is no place on The Island where the Adventurers can hide, if they have committed a crime. Some Places Are Deliberately Left Blank - They are provided for you to create your own myths and legends, your own horrors and monsters. Also, the Players won't know what's there, so you can horrifysurprise them. Yes, I just watched that episode of the new Star Trek series where they had that awful twist ending. Yes, you can put Ursula K LeGuin's City of Omelas here if you likeHi. Legal team here. You can drop this paragraph. Thanks. Provide Options and Objectives - Give the Players goals to achieve, and let them roam around until you decide to place suitable resources in their path to allow them to achieve those objectives. Until then, let them enjoy wandering around in floral print shirts and shorts, taking selfies on cliff edges, collecting souvenirs and hitting the clubs. Genre Aspects of Sword & Sorcery The book lists the elements of what makes the seords & sorcery genre what it is. Living for the Day - No grand schemes here. No long term plans. Your Adventurers are likely to be in it for the loot. In other words, just like every regular character most of them have ever played. No Black and White Morality - This was the first genre to introduce the concept of the flawed antihero. Healing is Hard - This is deliberate, to stop Players from just trying to have their characters scythe through all the opposition with impunity. Corrupting Power of Magic - Magic is viewed through an early Twentieth Century lens. Outsiders view magic as something dark, grim, corrupting and tempting. To be clear, it is the innate malice of its practitioners which drives the darkness and corruption - magic is just their servant, not their master. Horror of the Unknown - The Island just teems with cosmic horrors. Anthropocentric and Xenophobic - This book makes no bones about it: the Adventurers (and a lot of the protagonists) are meant to be drawn from Human stock. The local cultures are not meant to be playable - not without a lot of modification. Having said that, you can try to run Adventurers who are Lizard Folk and/or Ophidians, as beings who have lived apart from their High Folk or Savage families for too long and have found their own way through life. Xenophobia is another term for racism and bigotry, so this is one time when I'm inviting you to ignore the book here, tread lightly, play responsibly, and don't be a griefer. Gamesmasters - you're calling the shots here. The same notation applies to you. If aspects of the game are a bit too early Twentieth Century, too reminiscent of the hideous cultural biases of Lovecraft, Gernsback, Jack Williamson, and Robert E Howard for your liking, and if the term Savage gets your hackles up, too, feel free to go through the book with a sharpie. Remember: Healing Is Hard. Chapter Five continues with Scenario Seeds, little story hooks to get the Adventurers involved. They can range from Search and Rescue missions to mapping parties, jungle clearance, patrols, and Specimen Gathering. That last one is the theme of A Bird In The Hand, an Adventure for Mythras which will be described in a later blog post. Unique Tasks include the hunt for some warlord who's been tormenting the locals. Name begins with T, ends with Zan. Lord Greystokne wants the Adventurers to investigate. There's an adventure called ******************** Legal team here. The title is "Bridge Over The Little Piddle." Stop it. I have to point out that one of the Adventures involves a one-eyed T-Rex. Pete, you've read 2000 AD. That one came right out of Pat Mills' Flesh, by way of Judge Dredd. I see what you've done there. There are other Adventures there. Gamesmasters, check them out. They are fun. And now, pointcrawls and hexcrawls. Pages 119 through 127, the entire rest of this chapter, are devoted to various encounter types, tables, and listings of Special Events. Again, this entire section is just one rich, deep vein of adventures, thrills and fun for all the Adventurers, taking them to and through some of the most dangerous places on their world. That's Chapter Five, with enough material for Gamesmasters to set adventures on Monster Island for years. I still haven't got to the rest of this book, let alone the Companion and the Adventure. You'll have to wait to see the Magic Chapter, then. Tune in next week.
  12. This blog post takes a look at Monster Island (MI). Monster Island Companion (MIC), and A Bird In The Hand (ABITH) will be covered in a separate post. First things first. There is a beautiful, loving dedication on the title page, which sets the tone for this document, and provides the biggest reason for you to buy this much-loved supplement. There are some things you can read, but you can't really point to specific words or phrases. How can you pojnt to a turn of phrase which shows fear, or anger ... or love? In this case, MI is a labour of love, and you can see it in every word. Monster Island is a sandbox setting. You can place the island in any maritime setting in your fantasy world, though it is recommended that the Island should be located in a subtropical or tropical setting. The map is reproduced below. Monster Island is a tribute to every kind of Lost World, Kaiju, or "jungle lord" comic and movie ever made. If you want to run an adventure based on Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, or a fantasy equivalent of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, or Edgar Rice Burroughs' (or William S Burroughs') Tarzan or similar (e..g Sheena, Queen of The Jungle), then this setting is great. If you want kaiju in your setting, this island is the place where you will find them. The Introduction makes useful suggestions. They are pretty inspirational, to be honest - Lemuria, Mu, Nehwon, Skull Island. Lost temples overrun by jungle, atavistic civilisations, non-human cultures, MI can stand in for any of these. Monster Island The main book introduces the Island: its environments, its cultures, and its dangers. MI is a huge bestiary for creatures and plants not found in the Mythras Core Rulebook. Poisons and diseases are also covered, along with expansions to the Core Rulebook's magic systems, and powerful new antagonists to pit your Adventurers against. Contents Monster Island was written by Pete Nash, with additional material supplied by Lawrence Whitaker and John Hutchinson. The art, by Pablo Castilla, Jon Hodgson, Russ Nicholson, and Outland Entertainments' Tim Hibbetts and Giovanni Valletta, is richly evocative. Each chapter of MI describes an aspect of the Island in detail: The Island (Chapter 1) describes its geography and topology, weather, mountains, coastline, jungles, ecology and hazards, from heat stroke and dehydration to diseases and poisons, not to mention the risk of being stomped into a stain. Here's what you'll find in the pages of Monster Island. Chapter 1 is titled The Island. Chapter 2 is titled History and Cultures. Chapter 3 is Settlements. Chapter 4 is about Places of Interest. Chapter 5 focuses on Campaigns. Chapter 6 is the Magic chapter. Chapter 7 looks at Items and Substances. Lastly, Chapter 8 lists Flora and Fauna. Chapter 1 strives to cram in as much geology, biology, and culture into a small island with a tiny volcanic isle just off its southern cape. As monster islands go, it has a little more intensity than Columbia Games' equally famous island of Harn - but Monster Island does have something Harn does not. Kaiju. The island rises over three kilometres between the Southern coast and the rugged Northern peaks. Black volcanic sand predominates, and the fertile volcanic soil is rich in nutrients. As a result, jungles sprawl across most of the island, only terminated by altitude and decreasing temperatures. The terrain types are coastal (black volcanic sand), cliffs, jungles, cloud forests, a plateau, and high mountains.This ia an island of steep ravines, towering peaks, and dense, primal forests and jungles, and stark contrasts between the highlands and lowlands. Chapter 2 highlights and describes the cultures and tribes present on The Island. Magic is integral to life here. Sorcery just ruled this island, and visitors can come from anywhere, stepping through the Smoking Mirrors - interdimensional portals, which VALHALLA would kill for. This is a place where histories have come and gone. By definition, since ruins abound here and ruins are the skeletons of dead empires. Reptilians: Although the default species of High Folk and Savages are Reptilians - Ophidians versus Lizard Folk - you can make the base civilisations Human, or Bestia, or Acephali, or even Monacielli if you like. However, the default beings living on Monster Island are themselves reptile folk. The hierarchy of the tribes of the lower reaches of The Island is ... complicated.There are clear demarcations of tasks. Who is in charge depends on location - whether one is inside the villages, as compared who outside or between the villages. This whole section needs to be studied. Societies on Montser Island are complicated, fluid, and often vicious. Two neighbouring villages might conduct amicable trade with one another one day, and savage warfare the next, seemingly on a whim or a change of wind direction. Chapter 3 moves on to describe the major settlements and notable personalities. Locations such as the Savage capital, Puuiki, and a High Folk citadel called Akakor - all basalt, obsidian, and brass - are described in vivid detail. The Avenue of Delights is a sculpted, landscapred garden in Akakor, where strange plants emit soporific and narcotic scents which induce various weird, druglike effects such as amnesia, euphoria, or synaesthesia. Animism rules in the Savage lowlands, but sorcery rules among the High Folk. And then there is Port Grimsand, the human enclave. It has all of the charm of a typical human fantasy settlement, but the feel is definitely Colonial. They may have much to offer the Adventurers, but they are definitely unwelcome among the lizard folk, who probably keep a wary eye out for the primates' antics. By the way ... Lord Greystone. Yes, it is one letter away from the ER Burroughs character. His son could be all grown up and swinging on vines in the jungle to this day, clad only in a loincloth and bellowing into the woods to summon his animal friends. Chapter 4 moves on to Places of Interest on The Island - locations where adventures take place. The Causeway of The Nightmarchers is a literally haunted road. Warrior ghosts decapitate the unwary and the foolish. The Cliff Face Dancers are immense bas reliefs carved into the Western cliff face in ancient times. Each of these figures is a representative of a Savage tribe, and they move. They are fetishes for gnomes (Earth elementals) and they are venerated by the lizard folk tribes. The Fane of The Black God introduces a little bit of cosmic horror, and another species dwelling on The Island - ghouls. Other locations include The Hanging VIllage, Harojama's Tower (yes, it is an evil wizard's tower), and The Heads of Anak Krakatau, and oh gods they're all Vaal from the Star Trek TOS episode "The Apple." The Obsidian Rift is next, and adventures set in this location involve stories about plundering the riches of the Earth, and how the Earth strikes back. There is a particularly insidious curse attached to the gold mined here. The Petrified Forest is reminiscent of a somewhat grim J G Ballard story, The Crystal World, which posits a world where Nature can catch a disease like humans' Hansen's Disease (leprosy), draining away the life force from a region of The Island and leaving behind a glittering, crystallised, barren, silent forest. Of course, in addition to the back story, there is also a gorgon somewhere in this region. Then there is Screeching Mountain ... and the Iqari, of course. And why not throw in harpies just for fun? No harpies. But they do have ancient battle armour ... apparently designed by Tony Stark. Next is The Sepulchre of Soleks ... and it looks like someone's created the Mythras answer to Tomb of Horrors. Straightforward dungeon delve, avoiding traps and fighting off monsters. There are more locations - Smoking Mirrors, The Temple of Yhounkehd, the Valley of Ivory Doom, and many others. This entire chapter is just chock full of them. This, then, is the first half of Monster Island. It is a whole campaign setting, a land of treachery and brutality, a land of mystery and intrigue, and a place of wonders and horrors. This whole article has focused on the who, what, and where. Next week's part will look at the rest of the sourcebook, beginning with Campaigns - ideas for Gamesmasters on how to use Monster Island.
  13. There's a holdup in tonight's blog. It'll be coming out tomorrow.
  14. Enter a fantastic world unlike any other you may have encountered before. A world of larger-than-life characters and situations. A world of pomp and beauty. A world written with love, where passions can often accomplish more than weapons. Welcome to The Elder Isles; the Ten Kingdoms. Welcome to Lyonesse. Loving Tribute The late Jack Vance (1916-08-28 - 2013-05-26) was an author of fantasy, science fiction, and mystery stories. Born John Holbrook Vance, he created numerous settings which have become well-loved among their fans, notably the Lyonesse and Dying Earth settings. Vance's Dying Earth setting was an inspiration for many of the magic systems found in tabletop fantasy roleplaying games. Spells with evocative titles such as Whimsy's Marvellous Bloviation, which expunge their formulae from the mind once cast, originated from the pen of this American author. The fantastic wonders known as IOUN Stones also originated with Vance's Dying Earth. And then there are the three books of Lyonesse - Suldrun’s Garden, The Green Pearl, and Madouc. This epic tale is a rolling story of ambition, and passion, and exploration. The unique setting is quirky, larger than life, and colourful. Pageantry and ceremony abound. Protagonists are heroic. Antagonists are narcissistic and cynical. And despite terrible trials and tribulations, ultimately the noble and heroic protagonists prevail. Roleplaying In Lyonesse The Mythras sourcebook Lyonesse, by Dominic Mooney, Dave Morris, Pete Nash, Mark Shirley and Lawrence Whitaker, with Viktor Haag, presents the setting of Lyonesse as a venue for tabletop roleplaying. Players take on the role of Adventurers in the Elder Isles, in the time period where the ambitious King Casmir is hatching his schemes. This book, which weighs in at more than 500 pages, covers the following sections: an Introduction, which goes over a basic introduction of how tabletop roleplaying games work and the basic things you need to pley (you know, dice, pen, paper, and so on); a summary of each book of The Lyonesse Saga and the main characters; a history of the archipelago known as the Elder Isles; a chapter which details the Ten Kingdoms important to the Lyonesse saga - geography, history, people, politics, and culture. The book then describes the societies & religion in more detail, illustrating peculiarities of each of the Kingdoms, their cultures and religions. The next chapter, Chapter 6, focuses on character creation, and this is the first part of the book which covers explicit game mechanics. The crunchy matter continues in Skills (Chapter 7); Passions, Oaths, & Luck (Chapter 8), and Economics. Chapter 10, Towns, Villages, and Feasts, allows the creation of unique and quirky towns and villages. This chapter also boasts one of the greatest rules sets to be found in any roleplaying game - The Vancian Meal Generator, emulating Jack Vance's passion for describing the most sumptuous feasts found in any fantasy setting, and a subgame in its own right. Seriously, you could use this Meal Generator to create descriptions for banquets fit for gods, and forget about all that mucking about with swords. The book returns to crunch with a look at the game system (Chapter 11), and combat (Chapter 12). These rules cover circumstances such as damage sustained by defenestration, jousting, and crossing swords with brigands and ogres. Next is Chapter 13, dedicated to Lyonesse's magic systems. Magic is either Faerie Magic or Sandestin Magic. These are equivalent to Folk Magic and Sorcery, and Sandestin Magic requires the intercession of extraplanar entities called sandestins. Chapter 14 is a bestiary, and Chapter 15 covers other worlds and parallels, allowing characters to visit and explore those unique realms. The last two chapters list the series' Heroes and Villains, and cover notes for the Games Master on how to create, organise, and run adventures and campaigns set in the Elder Isles. Why Should You Play This Game? Lyonesse presents a world of sweeping, epic adventures, set in a carefully-crafted, lovingly-described realm. Your characters can have bizarre origins - they can be the creations of sorcery, or have faerie blood, for instance. Adventures could range from the characters attempting to find out who their birth parents were, to seeking justice or righteous vengeance, to exploring dangerous regions and battling ogres, to overcoming familial curses, or to preparing sumptuous feasts for visiting dignitaries renowned for their many appetites. Support For The Line Lyonesse has a couple of supplements, sold separately, to allow you to enter this world of wonders. Coddifut's Stipule and In High Dudgeon serve as introductions as to how the realm (and the rules) work. Coddifut's Stipule emerged before Lyonesse, and served as a taster for the main book. In High Dudgeon is a full adventure, which involves the Adventurers being plunged into the midst of a long-standing feud between two villages, High Dudgeon and Low Dudgeon. Both adventures have mysteries to solve. Coddifut's Stipule has enough information to allow it to be played with just the Mythras Core Rulebook, and it not only serves as a good introduction to Lyonesse, but to Mythras and to roleplaying. Fantastic Adventure This setting is truly fantastical. Adventuring in Lyonesse is lighthearted, yet at the same time deadly serious. The Elder Isles encourage the Passions, taunt the senses, and stretch the Gamesmaster's descriptive vocabulary to its limit. Don't use plain language where florid, fancy language will do. Capitalise Every Word, If You Have To. Lyonesse is opera, high comedy, romance, poetry, and above all epic adventure. The setting is not a time for characters to be timid. Boldness is the key to winning the adventures. You will either succeed with a flourish, and your praises sung throughout the Ten Kingdoms; or you will fail magnificently, and your fall be the talk of generations as generals and leaders take the lessons of your hilarious failures to heart. Above all, Lyonesse rewards magnificence and magniloquence. Stand proud; stride boldly; and hold grand, sweeping visions in your mind as you enthrall people with your plans. Then sit down and feast until your belly is practically bursting. Always be graceful; never be vulgar. Act like the world of Lyonesse is yours for the taking, and you might just hear chuckling from far up above; Jack Vance looking down approvingly at your attempts to keep the spirit of his ornate, over-the-top legacy alive.
  15. Worlds United is The Design Mechanism's venture into the world of the pulp adventure genre. Imagine that the Solar System had turned out exactly the way Twentieth Century science fiction authors had imagined it. Venus as a humid jungle planet, Mars as the home of a dying civilisation, and rocket ships routinely travelling between these worlds and the Earth. Even a Moonbase or two, if you like. Now imagine a world where a cataclysmic event had caused humanity to take to the stars - something which convulsed the entire Solar System, but which forced the acceleration of every species in our system. War. Specifically, the invasion of Earth by the Martians, as chronicled by H G Wells in The War of The Worlds. Now bring the timeline forwards half a century ... or more, if you like. Welcome to Worlds United. A Sequel, Of Sorts Worlds United imagines a Solar System where humans and Martians have clashed, not once, but twice - a war which first took place on Earth, and later on Mars as well. Another sourcebook written by John Snead, Worlds United is a love letter to the pulp genre of science fiction from the turn of the century. In this era, writers such as Olaf Stapledon and Edgar Rice Burroughs imagined life on other worlds, Chesney Bonestell imagined extraterrestrial landscapes in glorious detail, and scientists imagined what life would be like on these different worlds, sometimes with scary results. History Humans and Martians have clashed twice in cataclysmic Worlds Wars - the first being during Victoria's reign on Earth, where Martians landed cylinders and deployed War Machines to annihilate human society, and to consume and enslave humans; where cannon fire was met with Heat Rays and Black Smoke. We know the outcome of that First Worlds War - the Martians fell to diseases for which they had had no immunity, which had begun attacking them the moment they landed on Earth. And so humans rebuilt their world ... and learned to use the Martians' technology, and developed flight and rocketry practically simultaneously. Gods, yes, Johnny, you can have Zeppelins in this world, if you want. So many different parallels have airships, and this world would not be complete without them either. Then in 1938, the octopoid Martians invaded again, and this time they'd had their shots, so they stuck around - but humans had had time to prepare, so they took the fight back to Mars, and this time they had nukes. Flash forward to the 1950s, now. Prop planes, jets, airships with helium rather than hydrogen, helicopters. A world where they designed big flying wings, maybe with a ballroom in one wing and a swimming pool in the other ... and skipped straight past that, to flying cars and interplanetary travel in the form of the silver locust ships of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Earth and Mars Mars is important to the setting. In this world, the Martians somehow had human slaves with them, some of which had come to Earth. With the death of the first wave of Martians, these free slaves now turned to the Terrans, offering their knowledge of how to use Martian technology - and also, to the Terrans' surprise, working psychic powers. So then, humans took to space, and found that Venus supported life ... don't laugh, this is a parallel, not our universe. Just ask those nice VALHALLA chaps in Zero-Zero next door. They'll give you a briefing. And Venus has snake people. And jungles. And dinosaurs. And I'm sounding like an eight-year-old. So there are friendly Martian-born humans, and friendly Venusian humans, and both species reveal that people from Earth had been transplanted to these worlds aeons ago by some unknown third party (Odd Soot's Luminarians? Traveller's Yaskoydray?) and everybody could interbreed, so fun. Plus Ophidians. Riding on dinosaurs. So you can make them look like Doctor Who's Silurians and Sea Devils (love those frilly collars) or imagine them however you like. The Setting Adventures What do the Adventurers do in this world? Exploration Your characters can be explorers. You can delve into the past of Earth, Mars, and Venus, trying to find what brought humans from Earth to the other two worlds, and to what purpose, and where they went. Discovery The Adventurers' job is to seek out new life, and perhaps they find it. And perhaps they find that they need Octopoids and Ophidians at their side to face this new life, these new civilisations. Diplomacy Your characters know that the Octopoid Martians still live in their submartian bunkers, regrouping, awaiting their opportunity to reach out and conquer again. Perhaps it is time for humans to adopt a different approach, and to reach out to the Octopoids with the hand of peace, to extend their psychic thoughts past the Octopoids' xenophobia and supremacism to touch the deep-seated fear beneath, and to show them a universe where humans and Octopoids can work together to build a new and better Mars where nobody gets left behind. War Stories It is 1960, and the Martians are at it again. The war is scattered across three worlds, and the Adventurers and their ship become the key to the salvation of humanity, or its doom. Alternate Setting: Ultra-Modern The 1950s and 1960s are far back in the past. The year is 2022. Some of the old Adventurers from those days are still around, impossibly young thanks to Venusian anti-aging treatments; and they are joined by modern day humans from Earth, Mars and Venus (as well as people who can claim ancestry back to all three worlds), as well as Octopoid and Ophidian Adventurers born on Earth. This would be a world shaped by the internet, mobile phones, and a communications network which is truly interplanetary in scope. The ships and vehicles have evolved out of gleaming steel cigars into wondrous, streamlined shapes. The Solar System is open for exploration, and every world can see what the Adventurers stumble across, streaming live across the cosmos. Alternate Setting: Children Of The Lens The Gifted have become a patrol force, policing the spaces between the worlds. Organised crime has risen to become a dangerous threat to human, Venusian, and Martian societies alike. Even the Octopoids have fallen victim to criminals from among their own kind. To fight these criminals, the Gifted receive special training, and access to the Lens: a psychic device worn on the wrist or around the neck; a device which enhances their psychic powers, and also acts as a badge of authority. Alternate Setting: Quatermass World Imagine The War of The Worlds, as imagined by author Nigel Kneale. Anyone familiar with British TV will recognise that name as the brains behind The Quatermass Experiment (a British space launch goes horribly wrong, and something is brought back from space), Quatermass And The Pit (construction workers discover a Martian vessel millions of years old, buried beneath London - "We're the Martians now.") and The Stone Tape (what we think of as "ghosts" are electrical recordings of intense emotions imprinted into the crystalline structures of stones and played out like recordings when they interact with the Kirlian auras of living beings). Alternate Setting: DOOM The year is 1995. UAC have set up a base on Mars. One day, all contact with Mars is lost. Worse: Phobos has disappared. You're the only humans on the surface of Mars. You hear hideous sounds coming from within the hangar. Here's a chainsaw. Good hunting. Themes The themes of Worlds United are Heroism and Optimism. Your Adventurers can be thrust into the heart of the adventure, armed with little more than gumption and wits; often, that is enough. Elements within this setting include:- Psychic Powers - Octopoids, Venusians, and some Terran humans have psychic abilities. These are important in this setting. Advanced Tech- Well, advanced here is "pulp era". Everything is silver or silver lame. The music of the spheres is played on a Theremin. Dirigibles and flying cars. Another Earth - Look at Africa in this setting. Your Adventurers can come from there. They are building a beanstalk space elevator on Mount Kenya. This is the plot of Arthur C Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise, set in the most beautiful parts of Africa. Diplomacy - Half of exploration is discovery; the other half is learning. Your Adventurers must be more smart than strong. They can do more with words and intelligent action than with fists or guns. Talking with alien beings is often more effective than shooting at them. Strangeness - Of course there have to be threats. Those threats can come from, say, Octopoids - which can be run as presented in the book: irredeemable, cold, vicious, xenophobic, regarding the worlds of Earth and Venus with envious eyes, slowly and surely still drawing their plans against us ... Or you could bring in an outside threat which wipes the floor with the Martians, if you like. Disruptors, maybe ...? Intelligence - Your Adventurers can lead the way as scientists. To quote The Doctor:- Crossover Potential I recommend enjoying Worlds United as a base setting. This is Science Fiction at its zenith in the Twentieth Century. Get to love the setting. But Worlds United can also work with other settings, even if only as a cameo. Luther Arkwright: Roleplaying Across The Parallels is the most obvious answer to this, but you can have your characters stumble into Worlds United by other means - Destined heroes accidentally wandering in through a Portal power activated during a period of intense solar activity, or maybe Doctor Distorto hit them with a dimension beam; or your Seers from After The Vampire Wars could astrally project into this 'verse by accident, finding themselves occupying real bodies, using real powers, and having to chase down real enemies from their world who have taken refuge physically somehow. You can even create crossover potential with the more ephemeral world of FIoracitta, as the Avventurieri make a shocking discovery that the lifesaving herb ticho not only grows in abundance in Worlds United's Venus, but that the gods of the Ophidians and Longane all dwell in the hidden depths of that fertile world. Last, and this is a major selling point for diehard Mythras fans ... Venus, in Worlds United, is a planet-sized Monster Island. You can bring in everything from Monster Island and have them set up home here. Even the Kaiju, if you like. A New World Awaits You In The Off-World Colonies Worlds United presents you with a very optimistic science fiction setting. The "Golden Land of Opportunity and Adventure" is a glittering solarpunk universe which can offer temptations and terrors alike. Worlds United is a world where the following words from another optimistic science fiction TV series ring true. Come and play in the universe of Worlds United. You won't need any weapons more powerful than a teaspoon and an open mind.
  16. The world around you is not what it seems. If you look out of the corner of your eye, you might catch a glimpse of something lurking in the shadows. Sometimes, whatever is lurking in the shadows turns its attention towards you. Good luck. The premise of John Snead's After The Vampire Wars is a world transformed by the discovery that the supernatural creatures of myth and legend, vampires in particular, have been living among you humans all this time, and you never knew. Until now. Back Page Blurb Here's the description on the back page. That says more than I can about the game. After The Vampire Wars is basically the answer to the question "What if the Masquerade from Vampire: the Masquerade or Vampire: the Requiem had been broken?" This is The Design Mechanism's foray into the urban fantasy genre. John Snead, the author and developer, spins a lavish and detailed history of an alternate Earth where all kinds of supernatural creatures have dwelt among humans for centuries, and the aftermath of a bloody war when the humans collectively saw through the veils drawn around their supernatural counterparts for the first time, early in this century (the 21st). The Setting When AtVW first came out, the year was 2017. The date of your game can remain in the modern age (2022, at the time of writing) or set in the future or distant past. Nothing prevents you from setting AtVW in 1917 if you like, with the Vampire War taking place against the background of The Great War, or even setting it in the 1980s in the dying days of The Cold War. In the sourcebook, however, the year is 2017. AtVW outlines a history of the world from 2008. In a story harking to the TV series Person of Interest, the US government began using modern street surveillance technology to identify vampires, with the ultimate agenda of exterminating the post-life species. The backlash from the vampire communities was devastating. Nukes came into play. A number of nuclear weapons were spirited away, including an entire US Navy nuclear submarine. The war dragged on for two years. The sourcebook mentions Russia and Ukraine, and the Eastern response to the outing of vampires. This is an alternate timeline, after all. The World of AtVW The modern, post-War, world of 2017 (or 2022, if you want to advance things to the present) is one where supernatural beings live more or less openly alongside people. They remain more or less separate from most people thanks to the supernatural effects of Shadowing (a phenomenon of supernaturally-imposed psychological denial imposed on people by the presence of the supernatural, similar to The Mists and Lunacy from Ony Path's Changeling and Werewolf settings). There are laws in place, and many supernaturals have limited human rights. Vampires have fewer rights than other species - something which rankles some vampire community activists. Seers Seers are humans who develop some form of supernatural powers. There are plenty of those in AtVW; shifters, vampires, the Fae and so on all have access to various powers, but only Seers can develop supernatural abilities (other than becoming a supernatural being, such as rising from the dead as a vampire). Seers are humans who regularly interact with the supernatural beings of the world. This makes them conduits to the human world, ambassadors, and go-betweens. Human seers can also be private investigators delving into the supernatural world on behalf of human clients, or working with supernatural clients to investigate human involvement in their world. Laws AtVW focuses on the conflicts - conflicts between the vampire and human communities; between vampires and other species such as half-fae, lycanthropes, shifters, and Seers; and political conflicts, when the agendas of one species, usually humans, comes up against the rights of other beings. Vampires have few rights. In some parts of the world, they have no rights whatsoever. Supernatural communities form pressure groups to fight for recognition and parity with humans. The Otherworld Sometimes, adventures take place beyond the confines of the physical world, in a place called The Otherworld; a land of "imagination, creativity, and memory" with ties to the half-fae, but also to dreamers, artists and others. And yes, sometimes The Otherworld has its own agenda, and individuals within The Otherworld have designs on the physical realm. Power Levels After The Vampire Wars introduced the concept of power levels, three tiers of character development and three levels of play. Street level, a default middle, and an epic scale where protagonists and antagonists possess incredible powers. Outlay Of The Book After The Vampire Wars is organised into chapters, beginning with Shadowing (there's a typo - it's spelled "Shawdowing" on page 7), which describes what it is, how it's triggered and its effects on human minds. It moves on to History, which outlines the development of the setting right up to current events. Chapters 3-5 are the crunch section - character generation, skills, and powers. Chapter Six moves on to cover The Otherworld, while Chapter Seven takes on Supernatural Society, and the various cultures present in the world and how they interact with humans, and with one another. Chapter Eight covers the supernatural species themselves, and Chapter Nine rounds off with Storytelling (rather than Gamesmastering), and how to run After The Vampire Wars for your players. Inspirations are listed on page 8, but there are a lot more modern inspirations, beside the obvious Anne Rice stuff - Poppy Z Brite's and Nancy Collins' books, for example. Inspirations which never made it to the list include more mundane books, shows, and TV series. Consider a modern cozy murder mystery show along the lines of Midsomer Murders where the victim is a supernatural being living uneasily with the human locals in Badger's Drift, or a grim and gritty setting such as The Bridge (Bron / Broen) with Saga Noren (Landskrim Malmo) as a Detective / Seer with autism and a very loose connection to the idea of conversational boundaries. Storytelling Please pay attention to this chapter. Page 134 outlines the major themes of AtVW. It is urban fantasy noir, which means secrets, loyalties tested, the past catching up to people, and betrayal. The lines between right and wrong are blurred, but justice is still clear, even if it does sometimes fall on the wrong side of the divide. It is about ethics, and cynicism versus idealism, and not so much about living with ethics, but with clinging on to what few ethics you have which haven't yet been eroded away by bitter experience. You can tell stories of faith tested, faith broken, and faith renewed. There is even room for romance in the shadows. AtVW does bring up the topic of romance - covered on pages 140 and 141. You have license to create such dark romances as you would find in Buffy or in Anita Blake (before the latter series went right off the rails). And yes ... if you want to, you can even create a slice of life setting like Being Human, or even What We Do In The Shadows. Final Word ... For Now After The Vampire Wars is currently just a single title, begging for product support. The setting can be tied to Luther Arkwright, Destined, or the rules and mechanics tied to any modern Mythras setting you like. AtVW can be used to support your homebrew world where the supernatural forces are present but still hidden, sucessfully concealed by very potent Shadowing; or you could run AtVW in Gemelos City, and have your half-fae characters stand alongside costumed masks such as Spiral, The Thaumaturgist, and Miss Destiny to fend off invasions of spirits from The Otherworld in a blending of the supernatural and the Godstrand. At the lowest level, AtVW can even be sneaked into an otherwise mundane setting such as Department M, and have your Seer characters help out trained superspies to ferret out some mad spy ring which has taken captive of a circle of vampires in an attempt to create supersoldiers from their blood. I recommend giving AtVW a go, if you want to run an urban fantasy which doesn't force you to trawl through volumes of back history and metaplot, and I'm looking at the World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness lines here.
  17. Following from the last blog post, which looked at the newest Mythras setting, Destined, we're going to take a look at another Mythras setting, Luther Arkwright: Roleplaying Across The Parallels. Luther Arkwright is The Design Mechanism's foray into a genre known as Steampunk. This genre of science fiction is characterised by strange, baroque steam-driven inventons, vehicles, devices and weapons. The Difference Engine by Wiliam Gibson and Bruce Sterling more or less made Steampunk mainstream, but the UK broached the genre first with the Bryan Talbot graphic novels The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire. Eternal Champions Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius was one incarnation of The Eternal Champion - a mortal being who exists in some form in every universe within a vast multiverse of parallels. This may have been inspired by Joseph Campbell's non-fiction philosophical work The Hero With A Thousand Faces, which may itself have roots in older heroes such as Beowulf and Legal team here. Stop it. Anyway, there you go. Bryan Talbot's eponymous Luther Arkwright was his answer to that other guy. The multiverse of Bryan Talbot is similar to that of Moorcock, but unlike Moorcock's setting which had a different Eternal Champion in each parallel, there was only one Luther Arkwright, unique across every parallel. Luther was gifted with the ability to plane shift on his own, trvelling from parallel to parallel as easily as ordinary people would wander into an adjacent room. In the graphic novels, there is a cosmic conflict going on, as an alien force known as The Disruptors destabilise individual parallels as part of a long-running master plan. The Big Picture is described in the Luther Arkwright sourcebook. This sourcebook also describes the protagonist force set up to combat these Disruptors, Project VALHALLA and the parallel known as Zero-Zero. This is where Luther Arkwright: Roleplaying Across The Universe comes in, because the player characters are Agents of Project VALHALLA, taking orders from the AI W.O.T.A.N. and travelling between parallels in a steampunk dimension ship to thwart the Disruptors wherever they turn up. Sourcebook Contents Player characters are VALHALLA Agents, wanderers between parallels. If you've never encountered this kind of setting before, think of it as like the TV series Sliders. The sourcebook has all you need to run adventures in the Talbotverse, but you'll still need the Mythras Core Rulebook for the basic game engine. The Arkwright Multiverse - Background information, the Grand Metaplot, and where the characters come in. Character Creation - The basic information on how to create your characters. Traits, Passions & Dependencies - Characters have special Traits, Passions, and flaws known as Dependencies. These set them above the run of the mill people, but also tint their heroic powers with downsides and weakness which serve to humanise them. Madness & Other Colours - A hard chapter to read through, this covers Tenacity, psychological conditions and the mechanical consequences of exposure to the horrors of the Talbotverse. Mind Games - This is missing from the blurb on page 5, but it covers Psionics and Mysticism. In addition to possessing his unique multidimensional talent, Luther is a master of psionics and mysticism. Your characters may not have Luther's singular existence and there may be parallel versions of them in a bunch of 'verses, but at least you can have someone who is a master of both Mysticism and Psionics, too. Technology - Here's where the Steampunk comes in. Weapons, armour, tools, equipment, and various sundry paraphernalia, all given a modern Steampunk twist, including using tech from different parallels. Firearms & Combat - Basically, everything from Mythras Firearms began its story here. This was probably the first Mythras supplement to cover firearms combat, and this sourcebook includes science fiction weapons such as vibro beamers. Vehicles - This is about how people get around both within and between 'verses. There are airships. W.O.T.A.N & The Disruptors - Here's the dirt on W.O.T.A.N., VALHALLA, and the Disruptors. Parallels - Information on landmark parallels, and how to create your own. Games Master Resources - Advice to Gamesmasters on running Arkwright adventures and campaigns, and stats on the major characters. On Thin Ice - An ice age grips Parallel 13.16.94, and the Disruptors are planning something bad. In this adventure, your Agents must go in, find out what they are doing, and stop them. The Arkwright Saga - The Grand Metaplot was explained in the Introduction, but here is where the book summarises both of Bryan Talbot's books. No substitute for reading the originals, mind you, but if you cannot find The Adventures of Luther Arkwright or Heart of Empire, these will have to do. Steampunk The fashions, and the mores, may be more Nineteen Seventies than Eighteen Seventies, but Luther Arkwright is proudly Steampunk in the manner of Jules Verne and H G Wells. Your characters might be content with driving around the English coast in Minis and making phone calls from iconic red telephone booths, and wearing late Seventies and early Eighties styles ... a fashion nightmare ... and the tech level available to the Agents effectively allows them access to modern conveniences though with a steampunk twist. Page 22 lists the different technological eras, ranging from the pre-industrial (roughly the late 1700s / early 1800s) through to the Nanotechnology and Spacefaring. The parallels which are of interest to the Disruptors would seem to be those which have a developed industrial base of some kind, often with a distinct reliance on steam. Superspies This setting is not for the faint of heart. The multiverse is not forgiving, and the price of failure is usually a bullet in the head. With stakes as high as the fate of entire parallels, the characters have to enter each battlefield world with circumspection. Luther Arkwright is as much a game of tradecraft (espionage) and intrigue (shifting loyalties, betrayal, treachery, mysteries, string pulling, suspense) as it is a science fiction steampunk romp. A Very British Adventure Luther Arkwright: Roleplaying Across The Parallels is as quintessentially British as Doctor Who, fish & chips, and spelling colour with a u. Bryan's incredibly-detailed graphic novels draw an unmistakably British filter over the world. This sourcebook honours this by setting many of the adventures in some parallel or other of London, but you don't have to stick to London to set your adventures. It does, however, make for some truly bizarre imagery to see Union flags flying over Government buildings in Cleveland, Ohio, or Tokyo, and all the locals stopping at 4pm local time for tea. This is by design. A Very Different Adventure This book is available from The Design Mechanism's new store, in both PDF and hardcover. The game has been available for many years - it was originally a RuneQuest title and bore the RQ imprint - and in light of news that Luther Arkwright had been optioned in '21 for a TV series, as well as the next Luther Arkwright graphic novel set to be issued on 14 July 2022, this sourcebook - and its adventure supplement Parallel Lines - deserve to be revisited.
  18. I'm typing this from my tablet. The laptop from which I have posted all of my articles here to date went and died last Sunday. Worse, I got sold a lemon - and the replacement laptop lasted just 48 hours before it, too, was brown bread. Posts will resume as and when I can get crowdfunded for a new one. ALso, wish me luck because I have found a halfway competent tech guy who might be able to fix my old laptop. We'll meet for the first time on Tuesday.
  19. This week, instead of looking at Mythras, we look at the latest core rulebook to emerge from The Design Mechanism. Enter a world of four colour Spandex action, where brightly-clad warriors for justice chase sneering bad guys across rooftops, and fight pitched battles in the grimy streets; where larger-than-life people stride through life like Colossi and dare to call themselves heroes. Put on your costume, take to the streets and rooftops, and stand beneath the silver light of the Moon, looking down upon the city, lord of all you survey. Welcome to Destined. Four Colour Fun Destined celebrates the four-colour comics which first appeared almost a century ago in the United States, which brought thrilling adventure and heroism to the jaded people of the United States of America. The 1930s were a time of desperation and despair. America had its Stock Market Crash, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl driving people away from their rural environments into the increasingly-crowded cities. The Great Experiment which was Prohibition had utterly failed - and worse, it had created an underclass of organised crime which enforced its own law with fists and knives and Thompson submachine guns. America was suffering from internal intolerance and racism, and living in denial of the wounds it had inflicted upon itself since the turn of the 20th century; but in Europe, an even greater wound was still sore and bleeding, as it began to settle from the convulsions of four brutal years between 1914 and 1918, combined with a virulent strain of influenza which had killed more people than The Great War. The world had suffered insanity, and people wondered whether anything would ever go back to normal. And then people like Bob Kane and Bill Finger, and Siegel and Schuster, brought sunshine into people's lives. Sunshine, and adventure, and hope. And now, almost a hundred years on, as the successors of the original comic book authors pick up the stylus and the keyboard and script new stories of those original heroes, and actors portray them in increasingly-spectacular tentpole movies, the battles of superheroes are set to be enacted around the gaming table. Time To Be The Hero So, Destined. From the front cover, which depicts two superheroes about to join in pitched battle on some city rooftop, the book makes it plain and crystal clear what to expect. Daring fights, deeds of derring do, and daredevils duking it out against double dealing and dastardly, er, deviltry. I hope I haven't run out of Ds for the rest of this blog post. Written by Mike Larrimore and Brian Pivik, Destined is the spiritual successor to the late Steve Perrin's Superworld. Indeed, Steve Perrin had been working on a revival of Superworld when he passed. Destined first arrived on The Design Mechanism's new web store on Easter Sunday, 2022. It arrived on DriveThruRPG on 2022-04-23. The Core Rulebook is available in Print On Demand and PDF formats. The description on the TDM website asks Who are you destined to be? From the description on the site:- Saviours and Scoundrels There is plenty for Players and Gamesmasters between the covers of this book. I know everybody has their favourite section - a lot of the readers are likely to turn to the Powers and Combat sections - so here is what you can expect. First up is the Introduction, which has the sections What Makes a Superhero?, How the Game Works, Overview of the Contents, Game Conventions, and Anatomy of a Hero. All of this is just a preamble, but take a look through it - the authors and artists capture the spirit of the source material:- Therein lies the appeal of Destined - the opportunity to play someone who comes in and saves the day. The main sections of the rest of the book cover Hero Creation, Skills, Powers, Tools Of The Trade (gadgets), Combat, Spot Rules (challenges and Perils), The Life Of A Hero (what your characters do in and out of their costumes), Creating Your Comic (the Gamesmaster's section), Welcome To Gemelos City (the main setting for the book, though you are under no obligation to set your game there - it's designed to be flexible enough that you can set it anywhere on Earth, even in our real world), and finally The Righteous and The Irredeemable (the major heroes, villains, and other players in Gemelos City). How To Build A Hero Character creation goes through a sequence familiar to Mythras players - Power Level (Street, Epic, or Paragon); Hero Concept; Origin; Characteristics; Attributes; Standard Skills; Culture; Career; Bonus Skill Points; Powers; Allotments and Gear; and Final Details, such as friends and family, rivals and enemies, events pertaining to their Origin, and the things that drive your heroes. Power level determines what kinds of adventures your characters have, whether they are at the level of something like The Question, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Agent May, Fitz / Simmons, Nite Owl, or Rorschach; Epic level, such as Spider-Man, Batman, Quake, Ghost Rider, Iron Man and so on; or Paragon level, the level of Storm, Colossus, Loki, Magneto and Squirrel Girl. Your Hero Concept could be drawn from any of the comics. Or you could create one of your own. The setting assumes that the superheroes of your setting grew up with a different lot of comics, or no comics at all. You could even be the first costumed heroes of your world, or there could have been a long-standing tradition of costumed heroics dating back many decades. The Gemelos City setting mentions an early 1800s hero, The Coachman. The default Gemelos City setting assumes that the powered heroes, the Doctor Manhattans of the world (Epic and Paragon) began emerging "fifteen years ago," and although it states that Destined takes place in the modern day (meaning that the Godstrand gene began Awakening in 2007, as of 2022), there are alternative settings available paralleling the Great Ages of comics, from its Golden and Silver Ages, to its Bronze Age where the tone began to get a little darker (the eras of Zenith, Watchmen, Transmetropolitan, and The Invisibles), to its Iron Age (epitomised by The Punisher) as well as the Modern Age, which takes elements from all the previous Ages). Crunchy Bits Once you get to the Powers section, you'll see that there is a rather interesting mechanic. The biggest concern about supers games like Superworld was that heroes would run out of gas in mid flight halfway between skyscrapers, or somehow underestimate the drain on their internal energies through extensive use of their powers, and suddenly they'd find themselve as weak and helpless as the baseline mortals they had been trying to protect. In Destined, your Heroes do not need to roll to activate their powers. You do not need to spend Power Points, either. There is a section on Automatic Successes. It's more or less the same kind of section you have in Mythras but it warrants looking at. A recent book which came out at the same time, DoubleZero by Lightspress Media, pointed out that your character can go through an entire adventure without rolling a single die. Destined is a game where such things are possible, even feasible - your hero will never end up watching their power beams fizzle and sputter just because they rolled a 98 on their activation check for example. Destined powers have Boosts, which extend the range, scope, or impact of these Powers. On their own, a Blast can take out a well-armed opponent, but adding Power Points to that Blast can do more, such as a Salvo which takes down multiple opponents simultaneously. The form the Blast takes is up to you. If you want eye beams or intense cold, radiation, fire, or ultrasonic waves, the stats are the same. There are Hero Templates to help you to design your character's concept, should you want your superhero to be a genius, a bruiser, an agile weaponsmith, an intimidating detective who works at night, or a Champion who stands on rooftops with the Sun behind them to reassure the citizens that All Will Be Well ... Origins are a big feature, and Destined has plenty of options for background events, Connections, and so on. It's not just about the hero's Origin story, but those of the people around them. Who knows about their secret identity? Who needs to be kept quiet about the Hero's double life? There is a quick cheat sheet on page 50 to allow you to get through the process of Hero generation very rapidly, followed by the Skills Pyramids (which have become a common theme of Mythras character generation). Background Events Tables Destined has multiple background events tables, most of which are tied to some sort of Origin or another. These Origins include Created (your Hero is a Construct like Vision), Experimentation (Captain America, Wolverine), Inherent (Zenith, Wonder Woman), Mutation (The X-Men), Mystical (Doctor Strange, The Invisibles, John Constantine, Zatanna), Technology (Iron Man, Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkeye), Training (Iron Man, Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkeye), and one extra-large table for general background events not tied to any particular Origin. Scary People ... And Then There Are The Villains There is so much to go through in this core rulebook. A novice gamer might find it a little daunting to go through, but rest assured - Destined is easy to read, and has a nifty guide to help you to go through the process of creating a character, assigning their Allotments (the gadgets and other resources they'll need for the adventure), Connections, Passions, and other details (such as secret identities). Gamesmasters are not left short, either. Organisations allow a Gamesmaster to create groups ranging from concerned citizens against costumed vigilantism, to police units, to specialised response units developed by the likes of Gemelos City to take down masks. Gamemasters are taken through the different Ages of comics, highlighting the main features of each era (Silver Age's black and white morality, the Iron Age's unnecessary brutality and Nineties ironic edgelordiness), and Gamesmasters are given a long look at such topics as duality (what the person's life is like without the mask, versus with the mask), how to create the atmosphere of your hero comic, movie, TV show and so on, how to run games (such as moving the spotlight around, putting fun first and rules second, collaboration with the Players to build your world), and so on. Towards the back of the book, the main setting is introduced. Gemelos City, a setting I fell in love with. A fictional West Coast version of Gotham or Metropolis, this gleaming city is a kind of hybrid between LA, San Fran and a huge helping of San Diego. The Twin City is split in two by The Divide, a river which forms a boundary layer between the rich Crown to the North, and the Ossuary and Brigadier Bay to the South where all the gang crime and poverty is. The major features of both halves are listed, from City Hall to Asphodel Park. History, important people, cops, celebs ... this book has it all. Destined also has villains. There is a definite theme to the villains. It is not for nothing that they all seem to come out of the books of Greek mythology. It ties in with a metaplot theme in Destined that the old Gods and Monsters are coming back in some form or another. Back then, the mighty heroes wore togas and loin cloths. Nowadays, it's form fitting Spandex and combat vests with lots of pockets. Either way, the Heroes are cut from the same Olympian cloth as their Classical ancestors, as if the stage were being set for Gods and Mortals to fight, with the Demigods and Monsters being the pawns in a renewed Manichaean chess match. Comparisons There are so many different superhero roleplaying games out there on the market. Ascendant and Aberrant are two very bright lights - with Aberrant making a comeback after a period of absence. Not to mention Mutants & Masterminds, Superworld and City of Mists and all the others. Both Ascendant and Aberrant begin with long intros, showcasing how the heroes began. Presented in comic book style, they're really just fluff pieces. In contrast, Destined rolls up its sleeves and goes right into the process of making the game about the Players. The villains and monsters are there for the Gamesmaster to drop in if they haven't got an idea of which villain is pulling off that bank heist. As Gamesmaster, you can create all of your own Rogues' Gallery, and make them the major players in your Gemelos City, or whatever other crime-riddled conurbation you happen to set your stories in. And you don't have to play superheroes, either. Going Off Script Destined is designed to allow your characters to run heroes. It doesn't matter if they don't wear Spandex. There's enough information in the core rulebook to allow your characters to play even as normal people - cops, first responders, firefighters, journalists, ordinary vigilantes ... even "Real Life Superheroes" armed with nothing more than a video camera and 100,000 Twitter followers. The book is designed to allow your characters to be anyone and anything they like. To tell the stories you like, whether it be superagents who now work for a special Major Crimes police task force, or a time travelling alien who stole his or her time machine, which looks bigger on the inside. End Notes This has just been a first read of Destined. Mike and Brian have poured an enormous amount of detail into this book, and it is designed to be the only book you'll need to play. You can bring in the Mythras Core Rulebook, but all of the main rules are listed here in Destined so even if you only had this one book with you, you could run the game. There is enough setting material, furthermore, to ensure that you can never run out of stories to run in Gemelos City, at the very least. If you've not played a superhero game before, I recommend Destined to be your first. If you've played superhero games in the past, I'd recommend Destined to be your next. This is a game which focuses on the heroes, not the powers: on the adventure, not just the combat; and on the heroic fight for justice, not just random battle scenes. Time to take a stand. What's your catchphrase?
  20. Next week, for one week only, this blog will be celebrating the launch of Mike Larrimore's book Destined. Join us on April 23rd for some Mythras superhero roleplaying.
  21. And so your adventure leads the Characters up to a vast bank of primal trees. They look at the pitch darkness beyond their sight, take a look at you, and decide to go around the trees. And you probably can't blame them. Line of sight reduced to a few yards; light levels practically at pitch blackness; and every sound they make probably carries for kilometres as if to tell every hungry predatory beast exactly where they are. You don't need to make a forest haunted or demonic to make the environment terrifying. Mundane animals, humans, and natural features alone can pose challenges for the staunchest Adventurer, without bringing in weird magical monsters. Terrain Depending on how dense the woods are in the area (hex, if you're navigating through a woodland map hexcrawl), line of sight, visibility, light level, terrain hindrance, and cover might be affected. The only places where you are likely to encounter roads and paths, other than desire paths marked out by animals, are in Cultivated, Light, and Medium forested areas. Terrain Hazards Getting Lost - A major hazard of travelling through unfamiliar territory is getting lost and losing your way. Before GPS apps on mobile phones, before even compasses, characters who get lost in the woods are likely to be doomed unless they can make those Navigation checks. If your Adventurer spots a landmark they are familiar with, the Navigation check becomes a lot easier; otherwise, it remains Difficult. Unstable or Treacherous Terrain - Gopher holes, exposed tree roots, loose stones, and similar hazards can trip up moving Adventurers, damage the legs of steeds, and so on. The ground can be slippery, particularly after heavy rainfall. Wet clay soil provides problems with traction, reducing Speed considerably. Other Hazards Biological Hazards - Pollen may trigger allergies. Poisonous plants from nettles to poison ivy, poison oak and so on can also geerate adverse reactions (treat as an infection). Likewise, insect or other creature bites can have an adverse effect - depending on the creature, they may range from irritation to bloodloss, to more serious diseases such as malaria, or even just kill your Adventurers outright such as snake bites or black widow spider venom. Falling Hazards - Tree branches breaking and falling, or even whole trees, can injure an Adventurer unwise enough to be walking underneath them. Temperature Extremes - Temperatures in the forest can range from one extreme on the weather table to the other in the course of a single day. Use the Mythras Weather Table on page 85 as a guide. Exposure is deadly to the unprepared; and depending on the Adventurers' Locale and Survival skill checks in picking out a suitable spot to build a shelter, those Endurance checks to avoid exposure can range from Easy to Herculean. Water - It is possible to die of thirst in a forest in the middle of a rain storm, if the Adventurer is untrained and incapable of collecting the water. There is also the danger of finding water which is undrinkable due to pollution, parasites, diseases, or even poisons from plants. Fatigue - All that pushing through the undergrowth can leave an Adventurer too fatigued to push on. Infections - A disease does not have to be something like necrotising fasciitis to be a danger. One of the hazards of the Amazon Ultra Marathon is the potential loss of a runner's toes through an infection as simple as trench foot. Untreated, gangrene can kill the Adventurer. Rare Calamities - Limited visibility means that catastrophic events from fluke lightning strikes hitting trees within a few metres of the Adventurer (anything less than 10 metres is enough to stun an Adventurer, even without the risk of a burning, lightning-struck tree falling down on them), to dangerous landslides following heavy rainfalls (deadly whether you are standing on top of the ground as it gives way, and even deadlier if you are passing underneath). Other such rare events could include hail, a tornado cutting through the region or, if your forested area is close to sea level and near a beach, a tsunami. Morale - Forests can be bleak places. Adventurers may need Willpower checks just to press on of a day, ranging from Standard all the way to Formidable. Resources And Equipment Adventurers need at least the following equipment to survive a journey through a forested environment of any length. Water Food Knife Shelter/ Shelter Building Equipment First Aid Kit Weatherproof Clothing / Raincoat Signaling Device - A mirror or lantern can be a lifesaver. Some means of making fire Cordage or Rope Surviving The Wild Wood Life is hard enough for an Adventurer, without having to worry about encountering implausible magical beasts or uncivilised rural people trying to kill them with banjo music. An adventure scenario pitting the Adventurers' Locale, Navigation, Endurance, Brawn, Willpower, Survival, First Aid, and Track skills against the harsh terrain of an unfamiliar woodland area can provide a story as memorable to the party as any dungeon delve.
  22. A personal note before I begin this week's post. Last week's hiatus could not have been more timely. I ended up going through a week from hell. I am not entirely convinced it isn't going to turn out to be a fortnight from Hell, but at least the crises I faced this last week have been resolved. Can't speak for tomorrow's crises, but then again tomorrow doesn't exist yet. Ruination What do you think of, when you think of ruins? There are many types of ruins, but they all have the same ending: places which are no longer being used, for whatever reason. A ruin might have been abandoned due to economic reasons, or due to the death of the person who kept the community together. A place can be brought to ruin by enemy conquest, or by natural disaster. However it happened, a ruin is a place where dreams died, and the past can only serve as a warning to the present. Types of Ruin Here are some ideas as to what sort of ruin the Adventurers can find themselves in. Roll on 1d20 or choose. Age of Ruins Next, look at the age of the ruins. Roll 1d10 or choose. Claim To Fame Some ruins have a claim to fame; a place in the history books. Think of the ruins of Troy and Pompeii, of Sutton Hoo and Derinkuyu. Imagine the Great Library of Alexandria at its height and its nickname, "The Place of The Cure of The Soul." Imagine the now-vanished workshop od Tapputi, the world's first recorded scientist, chemist, perfumer, and the inventor of the distillery. Or your world's oldest amphitheatre, where the most famous historical playwright of your fantasy world once trod the sand and delivered her impassioned monologues, and entertained the crowds with philosophically-charged plays and parables? An abandoned hospital, thousands of years old, on the site of your world's first university, will be charged with a different kind of energy than the wreckage of a deserted psychiatric hospital abandoned due to an outbreak of plague ten years ago. How / Why Did The Ruin Form? Most ruins form from either economically-motivated abandonment, warfare, a natural disaster, disease, famine, conquest, invasion, ideological imposition, or the cessation of some form of resource on which the ruins depended. Economically-motivated abandonment: That's simply money. People stopped coming to the place, perhaps because the location was no longer central to the city and a new place had opened up in the centre of a new, expanded community. Consider a temple sited on a hill. The supporting city builds a new temple in the centre, and people stop coming to the old temple, eventually trigge3ring its abandonment as the priesthood move to the new temple. Warfare: The city of Troy was thought of as a Greek myth, until it was discovered (and then blown to smithereens by explosives. Go figure). Also, the capital of Ancient Corinth deserves a mention here. Corinth is the place where the Corinthians lived, accorsing to the Biblical Letters of Saint Paul. They were also mentioned in the Acts of The Apostles in the same bible. You can thank the Romans for destroying the place, and the sea for claiming the rest of it. Natural disaster: Consider Pompeii, smothered for more than a millennium by Vesuvius. Your ruins could be buried in several hundred feet of volcanic ashes, washed away by a tsunami, or even (in your fantasy world) partly obliterated by a falling rock. A very small falling rock, which made a big mess, like Chelyabinsk in 2013. Disease: A horrific way to go, diseases such as the plague, smallpox and so on can ravage entire regions of the countrydside. In the Harnworld setting, The Red Death (smallpox) claimed millions across Northwestern Lythia, including the island of Harn. The nation of Thonia (which has its own geographic module, published by Kelestia Publications) was all but rendered a barren wasteland. Thonia's thriving, yet isolated, civilisations were all but eradicated by the Red Death. Famine: Famine can also lay waste entire regions. Famine can be caused by a number of factors: war, disease, drought, natural disaster - but also stupidity. Cultivation requires effort, planning, and resources: a crop which fails can turn a paradise island into a Summerisle. Conquest / Invasion: Going back to the ancient city of Troy, and to Alexandria. In both cases, imagine what they would have looked like today, if they had not been scrubbed down to the foundations by some ugly brute invaders. The same goes for ideological imposition: look at all those Abbeys and Monasteries which were ordered shut down by Henry VIII. Cessation: Not exactly famine, as such, or even economic abandonment. Sometimes, a natural resource which drew people to a civic centre just dries up. Water from a natural spring (perhaps blessed by the Gods), or a herb which becomes extinct, or even some technology on which the rest of the region depends, but which becomes obsolete with the advent of a new technology (such as iron in the Bronze Age, or the mouldboard plough, or irrigation). Why Explore These Ruins? What would bring the Adventurers to an abandoned site? As Gamesmaster, you could think of a few reasons, but here are half a dozen ideas to set you off. Rescue: Someone has gone wandering away from the community, off into the wilderness, and they've become stuck somehow amid the ruins on the hill. Perhaps they fell through a sinkhole to an undiscovered complex beneath; or perhaps they might have fallen foul of some bandits who have taken refuge there. Either way, time is of the essence before the missing person is killed or dies of exposure. Reclamation: The ruins have now been bought up by a landowner, who wishes to develop the property. The Adventurers can be tasked with going there to clear out the monsters which have taken residence there, and which occasionally have been making forays into the town during times of famine. They could also venture there in order to find out some reason why they should not build there - perhaps it is credibly haunted, or there is still a trace of lingering plague there, and so on. Shelter: - The Adventurers are passing by, when a storm hits, or snow, or they spot an oncoming invasion, and the ruins provide shelter and concealment. Exploration: - There are rumours of a lost treasure of some kind hidden in the ruins. Don't knock this one: you never know when your clumsy excavations in the floor of an ancient Abbey may reveal a hidden copy of The Qur'an from the 13th Century. Diplomacy: - Circumstances might require a neutral meeting point for meetings intended to bring a war to an end, or to conduct some state of affairs between cultures or nations. What better place than a ruin which nobody can lay claim to, or even a ruin which has cultural significance to both parties (e.g. a ruined Abbey where a treaty had been signed between two warring nations six hundred years before, the first time both nations had gone to war with one another). Trade: - Your Adventurers have someone or something. The other side has someone or something. What better place to arrange the exchange than a place which has excellent sight lines for one or both teams' snipers? Or maybe they could go there with a genuine intent to swap ... Last Word In the end, a ruin can be more than just a place to store random monsters to chop into little pieces. If you think that the abandoned places of the world can be more interesting to explore without bands of wandering monsters, feel free to use the above guidelines to work out some adventures to throw at your Adventurers. Who knows; they could uncover a Derinkuyu in some unexplored part of the world, and build up a population in the tens of thousands livin underground, with themselves as the leaders of an entire community and the complex as their base of operations - or they could content themselves with building an underground home, and building a regional power base with trade coming to them. Just watch out for those ancient ghosts ...
  23. This week's blog post will be delayed one week. I'm unable to finish it, due to a family emergency. I apologise for any inconvenience.
  24. Rural environments lie between the cities and the wilderness. They are a broad liminal area, and as such they attract many kinds of encounters in between one state and the other. This article will look at ways to make rural encounters interesting to the Adventurers. Keeping The Players Motivated Okay, so the Adventurers have just left the city limits behind them, and before they get to the wild part of the world they have to get through all this farmland. This is probably the most boring part of any adventure, and most Games Masters would be all too happy to gloss over this bit to get to the good stuff and the weird encounters out in the wilderness. This part of any trip can actually be the stage for a load of unusual encounters which will keep the Adventurers on their toes. Liminal States The rural environment is a liminal state, and a petri dish for the cultivation of liminal states. The Adventurers are between one state (urban) and another (wilderness), so they are neither here nor there themselves. In this part of the world, they are likely to encounter places and circumstances which are "in between," so these are perfect points at which to place encounters. Liminal Places Places of transition are meeting places for all manner of beings, both mundane and otherworldly. Crossroads - So many cultures mark crossroads as places where the supernatural and the mundane meet. The Adventurers may meet witches conducting their workings here; and at some crossroads, it is said that if you wait until midnight, you may encounter a Dark Lord, or even Death. And sometimes, you may even catch them in a good mood and be able to strike a deal with them ... Bends - Bends and curves in the road, whether horizontal or vertical, are notorious for accidents or encounters with other kinds of otherworldly beings, more interested in abduction than in making deals. Strange lights in the sky are common, as are the occasional arrivals rather than departures ... Borders - Pre-modern worlds generally do not have miles of barbed wire and checkpoints in the roads. Sometimes, the only indication that one has crossed over from one county to the next, or from one country to the next, is a half-buried, moss-covered marker placed there by mutual onsent between long-forgotten nations centuries ago. Gates - Stiles, gates and similar portals can either mark the transition between one part of the land, or one realm, and the next. A natural enclosed arch formed by two trees either side of a road, where the crowns of both trees connect high above, can serve as a natural portal to some otherworld, whether it be a realm of spirits or the Fae Realm. Cliffs - Depending on whether the cliff is approached from the top or the bottom, cliffs mark a form of edge. Cliffs and quarries may have fissures, caves, or other portals leading to Underworlds, even Hells. Shorelines - Lake shores, river banks, and seashores mark the limits of land and water. Encounters here can be with amphibious animals, birds, shapeshifting creatures such as selkies or Longane, water elementals, earth elementals, and even air elementals. Liminal Times Just as there are places which exist between one realm and another, so too are there times which intersect. The Adventurers may encounter these in those quiet moments between one state and the next. Dusk and Dawn - It is generally only modern timekeepers which mark midnight as the start of a new day. Before our societies became mechanised and governed by a craving for punctuality, people measured the day beginning with the dawn or, depending on the culture, sunset. Seasons - The solstices and equinoxes mark the points where the sun is at its highest (Litha) or at its lowest (Yule), and the points where the day and night are the same length (Ostara and Mabon). These are times marked by ritual and ceremony. Similarly, there are traditional times where the new seasons are marked - Imbolc, the beginning of Spring; Beltane, the beginning of Summer; Lughnasadh, the start of Autumn; and Samhain, the commencement of Winter. Eclipses - Both solar and lunar eclipses are times of great import. The Sun seems to disappear from the daytime sky, and night briefly rules the waking world, or the Full Moon vanishes, replaced by a red circle like a baleful eye peering down upon a terrified world. The Quarters - Both the Waxing and Waning Quarters, the Half Moons, are moments of transition, too; temporal portals to take stock. Harvests - In general, rural societies mark three harvests: the harvest of grain, at Lughnasadh; the fruit and vegetable harvest marked by Mabon; and lastly the meat harvest, celebrated at Samhain, where the livestock which will not make it through the coming winter is brought in for its final rest and processing into food, leather and so on. Samhain also marks the point where the loved ones who have passed during the year, and years past, can roam the world one last time, and be celebrated and mourned before they depart for the next world in the morning. Liminal People The people you may encounter in urban areas may also be in some liminal state or other. Fugitives, Outlaws and Parolees - All are involved in some form of criminal activity. Fugitives are fleeing judgment, and are between clear guilt and innocence. Outlaws are marked, and have no home or status; they do not belong. Parolees are between a state of conviction and innocence, where they are in a state of transition between being marked criminals and bring truly free. Dreamers - At night, under the stars, the Adventurers themselves can become liminal characters, as their minds hover on the verge of sleep, or on the verge of dream. In certain circumstances, they may hover between the living realms and the realms of Dream, Spirit, Fae, or Death. Dare they open the portals to those realms in their minds? Stateless People - Any number of people could be encountered on the road, who have no state for themselves. They may be refugees fleeing a war, persecution, or some natural disaster; or they may be immigrants, coming to civilisation to make their way in the world or make a name for themselves. Nomadic People - Distinct from the Stateless are those people whose entire culture is mobile and nomadic. From migratory peoples following the herds they are tending to people from Nomadic tribal cultures, these are a people distinct to themselves, bringing with them experiences of places, lands, times, and peoples from beyond the lived experiences of the locals. Shifters - Some people cannot live in the town and flee into the night to protect their loved ones. Caught between human and beast, these poor souls are a danger to themselves and the people around them when the time is right and the Moon is full. Ghosts and Revenants - Also caught between realms, wandering phantoms see life and death from both sides. From phantom travellers who hitch rides in carriages, only to vanish at dawn, to revenants who claw their way out of shallow graves, bent on avenging their deaths upon their killers, these ghosts, wraiths and shamblers are not to be trifled with. On A Knife Edge The situations encountered by the Adventurers in rural areas can be mundane, quaint, parochial, bucolic, or wild, hallucinogenic, dreamy, even terrifying or horrifying. But if you, as Gamesmaster, treat these encounters as liminal situations, and see the transition points, you can make rural encounters both emotive and memorable - certainly, powerful.
  25. So you and the Players are moving fast. They're on their way to investigate some ruin, or explore some place, and on the road they meet ... someone. Something. Only, the moment you announce the encounter, the Players decide to sidestep the whole thing or to hide until it passes. How do you involve the Adventurers in the encounter without shoehorning them in or railroading them? Bring in elements, such as hooks and shoves, which draw them in or shove them in the direction you want them to go. Roping In The Adventurers The point of presenting an event on the road is to give the Adventurers something to do on the way to, or sometimes from, an adventure. Random encounters which simply present a bunch of monsters for the Adventurers to fight is simply not good enough. Modern gaming requires that encounters should have a point, which is of relevance to the adventure, or to the Adventurers. Note: This article is not about creating tables describing who or what the Adventurers encounter, whether it be a pack of 1d4 kobolds or a bunch of bandits. This is about why the Adventurers should get involved with these beings. Hooks A hook is something which draws in the Adventurers and involves them in the action. The point of a hook is to engage the Adventurers and give them some sort of reward for participating in the scene - which could be an allegory for the Adventurers' real adventure, or foreshadowing, or simply a chance for them to restock on supplies and find out some kind of relevant information. Shoves A shove, on the other hand, gives the Adventurers something to avoid doing, or sends them off in a direction of the Games Master's choosing - which could either be a brief diversion, or the real point of the adventure. The Adventurers must do something to avoid something bad happening - for instance, to avoid being spotted by a band of marauders, or to avoid being struck down by lightning during a heavy storm. Constructing Tables for Encounters Who Is Involved Roll separately on each column on the following table, or choose. Hooks and Shoves The key to any hook or shove is motivation. Something is behind the encounter, which either draws the Adventurers in to become involved, or which drives them to seek a different direction, approach, or even a whole different adventure. Roll on the table below, or just choose. Example: The Adventurers encounter a minor character in the current adventure. They are trading with a third party. The motivation table indicates secrets. Whose secrets are being traded? Canny Adventurers would want to know, particularly if the third party was a Rival of theirs who might use the information traded to beat them to the punch. Example: The Adventurers encounter an Ally, perhaps one they haven't seen for several adventures. The roll indicates that they are trying to rescue a stuck comrade. The Adventurers pitch in to help - but the comrade is one of their Enemies! Worse, the Enemy has vital information about the place they are travelling to! The Twist Table The Twist Table is used to determine whether or not a particular encounter is as it seems. Games Master, only use this table if you want things to be truly random, or if you can't make up your mind whether or not to throw in the unexpected into what might seem to be an ordinary encounter. Note that this is the only time that an encounter could lead to a combat scene. Note how different dice rolled can alter the probability of a given outcome. It is so much harder for something unexpected to occur if you roll on a 1d100, for instance, than on a d4. So choose the die you want to roll, and roll it, and see what result occurs on the Twist Table below. Or just choose the result. Something unexpected The Adventurers are engrossed in some activity, perhaps helping out, when something happens to disrupt the scene and change it completely. Examples: A volcano erupts, threatening to spill a vast pyroclastic cloud upon everyone's heads; an earthquake shakes the ground; the bad weather worsens, and hailstones the size of peaches begin to fall; or a rock falls from the sky and impacts a short distance from the encounter, knocking everybody off their feet from the force of the impact. Even just something as simple as the weather turning is enough to send the adventure spinning off in a completely different direction, as they might be forced to take shelter with a sworn Enemy against a harsh blizzard which would kill them if they tried to venture through it. Nothing is as it seems The Adventurers discover something which turns the encounter on its head. Perhaps they are helping refugees who turn out to be from an enemy nation or worshipping an evil deity. Perhaps they are not refugees at all, but something else. Or maybe it is a trap, and armed bandits are lying in wait nearby, hoping someone would take the bait. Everything is as it seems No surprises. This turns out to be a "what you see is what you get" scene. Variety Always keep referring to tables like these for variety. No two encounters should ever be exactly the same. even if the encounter table indicated "1d4 priests" or "2d6 soldiers" each time. With experience, you could start creating your own, designed for different environments, different settings, and even different circumstances in the same places. Keep them varied. Keep them memorable. Keep the Players guessing.
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