Friday, 23 December 2011

More UA: Curl of the Burl

Well, when I was trawling the net for all manner of unsavoury things, I came across a video for Mastadon's new single, Curl of the Burl.

It's some mighty fucked-up stuff. Watching a man get so high he turns into Paul Bunyan is... an experience.

Troy Sanders, bassist extraordinaire, explains:

"The burl is the knot that’s found in various treesit’s almost like a cancer of trees. Within that burl are unique swirls or curls. A lot of people will cut those down and sell them to wood-makers, wood sculptors, and furniture makers because it’s got a unique design to it. And this is a true story which happens in the Pacific Northwest — a lot of people go out in the woods with chainsaws, they find these burls, they cut them down, they load their pickup trucks with these burls, take them in to town sell them to various wood-makers, take the money from that, purchase more meth, go back in the woods and continue that circle of insanity. So it’s based on a true story. People will steal your cars, steal copper…and people will go out there in the woods and steal burls."

As a plus, I have a new concept for an NPC for Unknown Armies! The Birchman will get a writeup soon...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Delraith: New Takes on Old Races

So, as part of preparations for the Kobold Ascension Fight campaign, I'm looking at the races which would mostly be present in the setting (the Land of Delraith).

I'm not a huge fan of the "change something for the sake of it" feel that a lot of settings go for, so I'll keep some races as they "normally" are, and switch a few about where it suits.

Kobolds I have already covered - they're not the most populous, or the most powerful race in the setting - but they have the potential for power beyond the dreams of most. Aside from the whole Ascension thing, they're pretty standard Kobolds - sneaky, organised, love trap-making, follow Dragons, etc. About the only difference would be that they almost exclusively serve Dragons - there are no Kobold cities/encampments which don't have a Draconic leader. Those who lose their leader (through exile, the Dragon's death, etc.) will be picked up by other Dragons to serve - mostly so they can convince them to spill the beans on their previous employers. There might be the odd camp of Kobolds who voluntarily left the service of their Masters, but they are very rare - and most are hunted down to prevent them from telling too much to rival Dragons.

In Player Character terms, PC groups should be made up of Kobolds who serve the same Master (the suggested one is Anathraxiis). There can be Kobolds from other Dragons included, but remember - they'd be traitors to their old families, hunted down, and most likely killed if spotted fraternising with other Kobolds. Or, the PCs could be Masterless Kobolds, grouped together for safety - but then you lack a lot of the driving force not to murder each other at any given chance.

Humans are, well, Humans. Enough said. The tend to be somewhat more advanced, as far as magic and technology goes, and I imagine they'd be doing a lot of mixing of the two. Think Eberron's "Magitech" feel and you're not that far off - magic is a part of daily life, and permeates through both official business channels (divinations, magically binding contracts, healing, etc) and criminal aspects (illusions for fraud, escaping detection, etc).

Elves are a little less... majestic, if you like. Nicking a bit from 4e's default cosmology, Elves are the descendants of once-powerful Fae who were exiled to the mortal realm - losing their immortality, but retaining some amount of power. By this point, though, they've bred themselves out to a stable equilibrium - slightly magical humanoids, and nothing more. Sort of like Tieflings/Aasimar, but with Fae in the bloodline instead of Angels and Demons. Of course, they try and protect that secret, to give themselves some measure of "power", but most of the civilised peoples of the land know the truth. So, they're kinda creepy, long-lived but not immortal, and talented with magic.

Drow aren't all backstabbing crazy people. Don't get me wrong, there'll still be a contingent who live in great city-states in foreign lands, descendants of those Elves exiled for worshipping forbidden Gods - but they tend to keep themselves to themselves. The ones you're most likely to see are pirates, explorers, and adventurers. Not that they're nice, but they won't be the Always Chaotic Evil of other settings.

Dwarves... I dunno. I like the idea that they're rare, hardly seen at all outside of their mountain fortresses, almost mythological craftsmen of the Gods themselves. Some few Kings of old had Dwarf-made weapons and armour, and some are now heirlooms to the Kings of the present - though forged centuries ago, each sword holds just as much sharpness, shields and armour barely scratched through hundreds of battles, buildings which might outlast races. That kind of thing. If you see a Dwarf, it'll either be for the rarest of trade excursions, or because you've trespassed in their domain. If it's the second one, I advise running. Wielding arcane weapons and terrifying mechanical contraptions, clad in the toughest armour around, they're like miniature juggernauts of "fuck you up".

Orcs and Goblinoids are pretty standard - tribal societies, raiding other civilised peoples, etc. I do see them as having their own agriculture, spiritual beliefs that extend past "MURDERDEATHKILL", and a decent attempt at magic use, however.

Orcs are your standard "savage humanoids". They raid, they kill, they're the boogeymen of many a city-dweller's bedtime stories. They are capable survivalists, trackers, etc, and no small amount of them have managed to become part of wider society - especially in areas such as Valerian's Reach. They mostly come as "dumb" muscle and wilderness guides. Half-Orcs, however, are well accepted into Human lands - their brawn and reliability is legendary. Many become guardsmen, private bodyguards, and soldiers.
Hobgoblins are especially prevalent - they run their own cities, based very loosely on Spartan ideals. Everyone is a warrior, and if you can't fight, you teach combat and warfare. Hobs will also trade and maintain decent relations with other races, so they aren't as "warlike" as normal. Just... don't mess with them, or the toll will be worse than you could imagine. Their use of magic tends towards the more practical - straightforward offensive magic, occasional defensive and tactical uses, and healing.

Goblins are somewhat more integrated into "normal" society - taking roles as traders, with a shrewd eye for a deal, menial workers, thieves, and generally "lower class" occupations. Sort of like angry Gnomes.

Gnolls are somewhat rare, but still enough of a problem to be known and feared throughout the land. Some have made attempts to integrate themselves into society, taking roles as hunters and tamers of beasts. The rest are nomadic, originating from a desert-continent some way away, where they live as tribal hunter-gatherers, worshipping Old Gods who are seen as somewhat... barbaric (and might be a front for/the original version of current Demon Lords).

Changelings are rare - as in, one or two to a city, if that. Most people see them as monsters, instinctively untrustworthy, and they will most often find themselves at the end of a noose or tip of a sword if found out. Most sell their services to more powerful individuals, like Noble Houses or Dragons, in return for safety.

These are just a few quick notes - I'll get more up when I'm off for Xmas.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Getting a New Group Together

So, I've been itching to try running something new, and have cast my net into a freind's gaming circle to find some fresh blood to play with.

Currently, my "pitches" are:

Edge of the Knife: Shadowrun 4e/Anniversary Edition
As a group of mercenary "Shadowrunners" in cyberpunk-lite Seattle, you're out to find fame, fortune, and power. But there are others who want it all, just as bad, if not worse. Starting as a street level gang, the right choices could propel you to heights unimagined - but the wrong ones could leave you dead. High-action, espionage, tactics and betrayal await!

The Sacred Art of Stealing: Unknown Armies
As a loosely-affiliated group of Adepts/Avatars/normal people drawn in too deep, cutting out a name for yourselves is a challenge/consequence/bad thing. But you've just heard about the possibility of a fairly powerful artifact floating its way through the Occult Underground... what will you be willing to do to have it? Is it even the Real Deal? Is it worth the sacrifice?

Baaneloth Calls: OSRIC/Microlite20
So, you all meet in a tavern...
Classic Megadungeon-style play, with puzzles of the most fiendish sort, diplomacising the dungeon denziens, totally uncalled-for monster-bashing and high weirdness abounds!

Something Something Dark Side: WoD
... I'm honestly unsure what to run here, but I've never run any of the old World of Darkness games, and apparently a lot of the group do like them. So, maybe a classic "Furry Eco-Terrorist" game of Werewolf, a game of Hunter: The Vigil, or maybe even Orpheus (astral projectors/ghosts doing undercover missions for rich people, while fending off other spirits).

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Rogue Trader: A Coda: What Krawkin Did Next

So, having followed Lord-Captain Claudia Black to the Hive World of Piscinius IV, Krawkin managed to miss her by this much with a directed lance-strike, and scored a direct hit to the planet's ocean covering. As the Vegas dropped into the Warp, Krawkin had no leads and a very angry and confused Hive Governor to deal with. Negotiations with Quint made heavy reference to the accidental bombardment, and how it would be a shame for His Unconquerable Will to miss her target again. Cowed into peace through superior firepower, Governor Quint allowed a small landing party, including Krawkin, down to the surface to discuss the actions of Lady Black.

As per usual, the phrase "small landing party" was lost on the Captain, and he brought forth several shuttles, filled with the most ridiculously heavily-armed men he could muster. Heavy stubbers, plasma guns, even one with a missile launcher flowed from the holds and set up a perimeter around Krawkin. Quint knew, sadly, that Krawkin had him over a barrel with a gun to his head - and the Hive's. He offered as much help as he could, fearing retribution of the most powerful kind. He talked the Lord Captain through the events of Claudia's stay, Krawkin pushing for more and more detail. Eventually, he seemed to let up, and told Quint his version of the truth - Captain Black and her crew were, in fact, renegades from the Imperium, pirates and brigands, who would raid planets to steal their natural resources. Only Quint's superior cunning and paranoia had saved him from watching as the "Rogue" Rogue Trader strip-mined his planet for all it was worth.

Quint, who had suspected that Claudia was up to something, was both shocked and vilified - and redoubled his efforts to help Krawkin bring the Rebel Captain to justice, preferably at the end of a macrocannon shell. He even personally piloted Krawkin down to the spot they had visited - the psychoactive coral reef.

Krawkin took his own personal guard and away party - a Tech-Magos of some repute, several battle servitors, and a psyker. As they approached the coral, the psyker could feel its odd properties - leaving the sub fully suited up, Krawking and the psyker closed into the perfect sphere missing from the centre of the coral. As if in a trance, the psyker stripped off one of the suit's gauntlets, and touched his bare flesh to the coral, muttering a few invocations to the Warp and The Emperor. Krawkin watched in amazement as the coral formed shapes, faces, and limbs, before finally settling on the face of his quarry - Lord-Captain Black.

As Claudia found out at a later date, the coral "copies" small portions of the consciousness of those who enter - some small part of the Lord-Captain was still within the coral reef.

That small part managed to stick out a cheeky, coral "tongue" before Krawkin could crush it with his fresh prosthetic - a metal hand, of the finest craftsmanship money could buy, with a few built-in surprises. Working for many days, the psyker managed to find a way to follow the traces of Claudia as she traversed the Warp, much more reliably than their previous attempts - and set off, looking for a desert planet. Krawkin, heart full of faith and mind full of rage, swore he would get his revenge...

I let the players in on this little touch of OOC knowledge to show them that Krawkin was a proper stubborn bastard. They'll encounter the other rival Traders soon enough, but what started as a simple rivalry has become a full-blown vendetta on his part - and he'll stop at nothing to get his revenge.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Black Crusade: First Impressions

So, I managed to get a copy of the latest Warhammer 40k Roleplay book, Black Crusade. And so far, I kind love it.

Unlike the other games in the WH40kRP line, you are not servants of the Imperium of Man - instead, you are renegades, worshippers of the Ruinous Powers, determined to eke out a living in The Screaming Vortex - a huge Warp Storm, filled with worlds untouched by the lies of the Imperium for centuries (or in some cases, millenia). If they manage to achieve infamy, gain the loyalty of cities, worlds, perhaps even whole solar systems, they might just be able to pull off what many have tried, and most have failed - a Black Crusade, a torrent of Chaos to throw off the oppressive shackles under which humankind toils.

In other words, you play the bad guys - and apparently, have a lot of fun doing it.

The first thing that strikes me as I read it is the tone - the entire book is written from the point of view that the Imperium is objectively wrong, and paints the Heretics in the best light it can - misunderstood visionaries, freedom fighters, etc. It's pretty cool - they even manage to salvage a lot of reasonable-sounding quotes from some of the biggest villains in the setting! But, try as they might, it is pretty obvious that what you are doing is, well, evil - misguided evil, in some cases, but generally evil. It's a very cool way to show that, while they might have best intentions at heart, Chaos is not simply a tool to use to further your own agenda - it becomes your agenda in next to no time. It's also interesting to note that, while the other books are very forgiving of some of the Imperium's more extremist behaviours, Black Crusade lays them all out, and talks more about why they're so strict.

Character creation is a little different from previous games - whereas before you had a set Career Path, with its own place within society and its own rules and expectations, BC has an almost completely freeform advancement system. You start with an Archetype - like Psyker, Renegade (a freedom fighter, with the emphasis on "Fighter"), Apostate (the charming herald of the Ruinous Powers), providing starting skills and Talents, and after that, you can pick and choose what Talents and Skills you wish to take. However, some are linked to certain Chaos Gods - taking talents that improve your fighting skill, for example, will lead you down the path of Khorne. This, in turn, makes it easier to buy other Khorne-related talents and skills - but makes ones from the opposing Gods (Tzeench and Nurgle is a little bump, but Slannesh, being directly opposed, costs a lot more). The more talents you buy, the more you follow a certain path - and the more likely you are to attract the attention and Gifts (however unwanted) of your patron. It helps to secure a "path", but doesn't lock you in - you can still buy those opposing skills, just at a much higher XP cost. It's a nifty little system, and no mistake. (You could just stay Unaligned, and reap the benefits of all the paths - but it'll be much harder to balance, and it'll cost you in the long run...)

Another interesting factor is your choice of "Race" - whether Human or Chaos Space Marine. I was awfully unsure about mixing both these character types within the same range of XP, and the system used to do so is a little bit iffy - CSMs start with free Traits (like all their Astartes Implants, and the ability to use fuckhuge weapons), whereas Humans start with a lot more Skills and other random Talents. This should, in theory, balance out, but in practice it seems to mean Humans are more versatile and useful, while CSMs are pretty much just combat monsters. This is entirely keeping with the fluff of course, (Space Marines are made for battle, and for a human to survive in the Screaming Vortex, they have to be pretty hardcore) but there you go. It seems most people recommend running games with either Humans or CSMs, but I guess having one CSM in an all-Human group (or vice-versa) would help keep things a little bit more balanced.

As with most of the books, the armoury is pretty swish - a lot of very flavourful weapons, perfect for everyone from powerful Chaos Space Marine Warbands, down to the least-equipped cultist. Also, each has its own little bits of cool description and plot hooks within the description, so GMs can really think about why their enemies are armed as they are. Personal favourite - the Chain Halberd. Why? It's dumb as fuck, but also strangely well thought out (it's for fighting in the tight corridors of Hives, where reach is pretty important!)

There's a lot of notes on how to draw characters from the other gamelines into the game, or from here into the others - which leads to a lot of potential awesomeness (so, any other gameline, the characters might fall to Chaos, but in particular, the Dark Heresy stuff is great for small-scale cat-and-mouse cultist games, and the idea of crossing Rogue Trader into the mix really helps set the epic scale at which one should be running a game where the players pull of a Black Crusade). This info also helps GMs to use the opponents and fluff here to make some very memorable encounters and villains.

The book also contains a lot of re-jiggered rules from the older games - most are for the best, to cut down on some of the more ridiculous excesses of previous games (Unnatural Characteristics, for one, replacing the multiplication with a static bonus - less bookkeeping, less hassle all round), and some which help to balance out other problems. They're pretty well done, and it's something that is also pretty easy to port back into the older games.

It also marks the first proper appearance of both Dark Eldar and Necrons into the 40kRP line - puzzlingly, however, they stuck with the old "Terminators in Space" feel of the old Necrons, with only the briefest mention of the tendencies for diplomacy and individual thought shown in the brand new codex. Whether this is simply due to bad timing, or contractual stuff, I don't know - but if I ever use Necrons, they're gonna follow the "Opposed Feudal Warlords Who Happen To Be Immortal Skeleton Robots in Space" angle.

All in all, it's a pretty good book. Even if you can't stomach the idea of running a campaign with it (and I'll admit, I have my doubts that it won't turn into some kind of gross-out, rape everything in sight then try and murder and sacrifice it to my Heathen God kinda thing), it's a great resource for building antagonists, with new Psychic Powers, Techniques, enemies (the Daemon Prince suggested in the book is awesome, though a couple of decently-equipped Deathwatch Marines could probably skullfuck it in seconds), equipment, and even motivations and possibilities - and don't forget those rules updates. They're delicious.

Well worth a look, at least.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Bodyguard of Fire: Another Risus Adventure Idea

So, yet another little idea for a one-shot game using Risus - this time, one steeped with the Planescape setting.

You are the bodyguard of Rhas Al Birel - a lesser Efreeti within the City of Brass. You have been kidnapped/sold from your previous life, and are bound to indentured servitude for a few years. Perhaps you were criminals on your home Plane, forced into slavework as punishment, or maybe you even volunteered to work for the Djinn as a step-up into the world of Planar trade.

Regardless, you are his personal escort as he heads out into the Outlands with his trade caravan, flogging his wares - slaves, magical trinkets, and rare and valuable materials. But you will face problems getting there, nevermind what awaits you when you start trading...


Player characters should preferably be of some Elemental origin - see my posts on Genasi (Elemental, Para-Elemental and Quasi-Elemental). Mephits are also a cool idea - while you won't be as physically powerful as the others, you'll have a lot of crafty tricks up your sleeve (your elemental nature is far more ingrained, so you have more control over it, as well as better/far worse standing with some races). Elementals, or other Planetouched, such as Tieflings and Aasimar, are also possibilities.

Or they could just be Planars of any stripe, taken at the Djinn's whim or fancy. Play around with party composition to make the most interesting combo of characters!

While you are "bodyguards", this can mean many things - whether you're a sneaky scout, the fast-talking "face" for the group, a mage brought along to help with the more unusual problems, or even a merchant/accountant, there are planty of "retainer" roles you can take without having to just make a Fighter. And, with the joys of Risus, a Fast-Talking Tiefling Accountant could be better in a fight than a simple Barbarian!

  • Before your caravan can even leave the City of Brass, you are harrassed by the Salamander gate guards - and trust me, you don't want to try and fight your way out. Maybe they are just being nosy, or does one of your group have a criminal past that's about to catch up with him at the tip of a sword?Magical trickery, some smooth talking, maybe even a bribe - what will you do to leave?
  • As you travel the Outlands, you are hit by thieves - a band of Khaasta, known as mercenaries and warriors who take what they think is rightfully theirs, normally by force. How will you get your goods back? Even Rhas is somewhat iffy about taking them on in a straight fight...
  • As you investigate your cargo, you discover that most of it is counterfeit. Has Rhas planned to pull a fast one? Has one of his rivals swapped the cargo to cause trouble? Will you still try and flog the dodgy goods to earn a little jink?
  • Once you do find the Rilmani trading post, there could be any number of troubles, including Lower-Planar cross-traders travelling along, pickpockets and thieves, proxies of Powers of Batlle warring near the Spire, determined to show their true skill without resorting to Divine intervention, weird customs, or possibly other adventure hooks to turn the caravan into a travelling adventuring group!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Benedict Harvey - Occult Investigator

Again, an idea for UA pops into my head (as they do every so often), this time inspired by The Frighteners - Peter Jackson's awesome little ghostly romp from before he made it big with little people. The main character (a psychic conman) is pursued by an unusual FBI agent, Milton Dammers, played by the wonderfully hammy Jeffery Cooms. The character has stuck in my mind since, and when I read Unknown Armies I knew this dude had a place somewhere in it.

Benedict Harvey started his life as a student of the esoteric - something about the occult traditions of the world drew his eye as a child, and he continued his research into adulthood, studying Anthropology, Mythology and Occultism, along with a degree in Psychology.

Alongside this, he studied the Geminatria, Kaballah, The Bible - anything that might offer some glimpse into the esoteric truth of the world.

After several years working as a private investigator (originally to pay the bills), he finally got his big shot when he was hired by the FBI as a specialist for a case of possible Satanic Ritual killings. When he cracked the case within a few days, and managed to secure the arrest, trial and incarceration of the murderers within a few short months, he was offered a chance to apply as an agent - a job he took with relish.

Now, he is mainly used as a psychological profiler, but has frequently been used in those cases too... weird for public consumption. People found with their body parts cleanly removed - not cut, hacked, or otherwise mutilated, just off. Or the drug-running ring, whose substances are far beyond what the average line of coke could do to you. Or the bizarre murders committed by some kind of sex-magick cult, over a videotape.

Such a line of work has its dangers, however - stare too long into the abyss, and it starts into you also. Once a quiet man, full of wonder and a macabre fascination, he is practically silent, asking only the questions which matter to him. Having pierced the Occult Mainstream and finally found the Occult Underground, he has began collecting "rituals" in private, to assist both with finding more about the OU, and to help him in his detective work.

Harvey appears to be a quiet, nervous man. His skin is sallow, stretched thin over his bones; his hair cropped short, a heavy dark black with the odd hint of grey at the temples; his suit is impeccably pressed, and always lightly pinstriped; never wearing more than a day's worth of stubble, he presents a very professional air.

But underneath his clean-cut, nebbish exterior, Benedict Harvey has many, many body modifications. His body is a road map of the Occult, with tattoos, brands and scarifications of everything from the Seals of Solomon, to figures from ancient alchemical formulae, to symbols even he doesn't recognise, etched by Adepts and weirdos of every stripe. Ritualised piercings and jewellery adorn every spare inch. The man believes his body is a living ward against everything the occult can throw at him, but he's only just scratched the surface of the Occult Underground - and he'll find out soon enough that all the charms and gewgaws in the world won't stop a bullet.

Benedict Harvey, Authentic Thaumaturge FBI Agent

Body 50 (Not as Weedy As He Looks)
Krav Maga 35%, Rolling With The Punches 20%

Mind 70 (Highly-Focused Genius)
Occult Knowledge (Obsession) 55%, Psychology 40%

Soul 70 (Creepily Intuitive)
Authentic Thaumaturgy 40%*, Deception 40%

Speed 40 (Uncoordinated)
Light Pistols 35%, Drive 25%

Gear: Well-Pressed suit, several Occult charms of varying potency, well-kept Browning 9mm, average unmarked car with a toolkit, several
 *He knows the Back Monkey, Abominable Servant (though he's never used it - yet) and Harmonious Alignment rituals (with a few others up to the GM), as well as a decent knowledge of Tilts (enough to get a minor or significant one off the ground). He also has a small library full of other rituals and spells that he can't quite work out - it's up to the GM whether they're duds, willfully misinterpreted "real" rituals, or things he can't quite handle without further breaking his mind.

As with most of the NPCs I post here, Harvey could be an enemy or an ally - it's up to you. Imagine having an FBI agent as a friend - especially one who thirsts for more occult knowledge, who can be kept on a short leash with a few scarce promises of hints and clues, and the threat of a lack of such.

Or, imagine a man who is utterly dedicated to hunting you down, who will use any methods at his disposal to secure you, and if possible, extract what little fragments of occult lore he can.

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part Five: 'ERE WE GO, 'ERE WE GO, 'ERE WE GOOOO...

Seeing Captain Krawkins ship pull out from the Warp is not a reassuring sight. Bristling with macrocannon batteries, lances, and weapons Claudia had never even seen before, His Unconquerable Will is a ship designed to bring death to the enemies of The Imperium. Turns out, it's a dab hand at taking on the enemies of The Captain as well.

After some terse chit-chat, Claudia demanded the ship prepped for Warp travel. Krawkin demanded she shut her engines down, or he would open fire. And, true to his word, as the good ship Vegas (we finally got a name!) started to drop into the Empyrean, Krawkin let loose a single Lance-strike, aiming to disable the ship. It was, however, too late - the shot missed, and gouged a huge tear into the surface of the water-planet. The seas boiled under the heat, and in some parts, evaporated (and even caught fire) as the lance dragged its way across the surface. Luckily, none of the Hives were in the way - though the planet would face years of ecological problems as a result.

Celebrating their escape, the ship set off for a few different trade ports, to help confuse Krawkin and mask their trail, and the Lord-Captain had a chance to investigate and research the Eldar relic the had recovered. It was a semicircle of wraithbone, about 5 metres in diameter - inscribed with eldritch markings and unknowable runes. In the centre, another smooth curve denoted a smaller disk missing from the starmap. Over the next few days, as they bounced from port to port, Claudia found herself drawn to investigate the map more and more - it was only when she noticed that her usual route through the ship, no matter what way she went, would always deviate to the holding room that she decided it was becoming an obsession. She ordered her guards to keep an eye on her behaviour, reporting anything suspicious to both her and her Seneschal, "Bobby". They were also instructed to plan routes which would keep her occupied and away from the holding cell. When she slept, she still received visions of her true destination - the planet with gemstone beaches and something terrible hiding somewhere on it. What started as a vague feeling of seeing through someone else's eyes became more and more like a memory, and even began to take on elements of lucidity - controlling her path through the dream. A few doses of an obscura-based sleeping aid, and stimms while she was awake, seemed to help repress the dreams somewhat.

As the days drew on, she also noticed a few coincidences - she would think of people moments before they voxed her, she would make very lucky guesses, and recieved "hunches" that were too accurate to be chance. She confided in Allesaunder, who believed that perhaps all the contact with Eldar technology and psychic materials of late had awoken some tiny spark of psychic ability. While she would never be a full-blown psyker, she might find her mind becoming not her own over the next few months. The Captain's resolve to avoid excessive contact with the artifact was redoubled - yet also short-lived.

While sorting out some of the other Eldar items recovered from the jungle planet, she located an Eldar Shuriken pistol. The gun's smooth curves called out to her, and she could feel the wraithbone sing in her hand when she held it. She practised with it where possible, and has taken to carrying it on her person.

As they finished making their cold trail, Allesaunder noticed an anomaly in the readings - making so many short Warp jumps in such a small amount of time seemed to have done something to the local Warp current, and they had arrived back to about 4 ship-hours before they arrived at the Waterworld of Piscinius. Not wanting to waste such a valuable lead, Claudia ordered them straight to their next location - a desert planet several days Warp travel from where they currently sat.

After all the stress and work of the past few days, the Captain was looking forward to a relaxing journey - but sadly, it was not to come. One of the Hospitaller Sisters approached her, asking her to come to the Medicae bays immediately.

Astropath Sands (last seen taking on a minor Daemon of Tzeench) had been in a bad way since the encounter. The touch of The Changer of Ways was upon him - a mutation. As she approached his bay (sealed off behind inch-thick quarantine glass), she saw him lying on the steel flooring, weeping openly. Tears of dark black blood flowed from under his blindfold, and made ichorous pools under his head. As he heard the footsteps of the Captain, he crawled fully into view.

Where his legs had been, he now sported a great serpentine tail - hints of previous musculature and bones were still visible, signs the mutation was recent. Still weeping, he explained that he had been too proud and overzealous, that he did not have the willpower to battle such a creature, and that the horrific changes wrought upon him were his punishment - the Emperor's judgement of unworthiness. Still crying, he pleaded for his chance to prove himself worthy to serve the Imperium once more. The Lord-Captain left without a word.

She consulted the Chief Medicae and Magos Biologis, both of whom said he was in a stable condition and showing no further sign of mutation or physical corruption. The Missionary had already placed in a request with the Captain for the man to be shot, burnt, blessed and spilled to the Void. Allesaunder, after a brief investigation, claimed that there is no malignancy in his soul, simply regret and pain. As far as he was concerned, Sands was "safe" to continue duty. After some time and reflection, Clauida decided to allow Sands to stay on the ship, and once more take his place in the Astropathic Choir - under the watchful eye of Blind Mag, and at least one armed guard, at least for the time being. He was removed from his bay, and taken back to his quarters under cover of "night" to recuperate before taking his second chance. With tears flowing once more from his wasted eyes, Sands thanked the Captain, and vowed to show more fortitude in all future endeavours.

Finally, the Vegas arrived at their next location - Hectari-Prime, previously a human settlement, now a dead world. Or so they thought - auspexing revealed movement, life-signs and even explosions and gunfire on the surface of the planet. As they picked up a signal for audio transmission only (the pict wouldn't have good enough resolution at their current range), they caught a bizarre chant that sent shivers down Corbec's spine;


Orks. I fuckin' love 'em.

Also, my player finally got around to spending her collected XP, and picked up Exotic Weapon (Shuriken Pistol), and I remembered the looted items from their trip... (she had tried to sell them on Piscinius, but the buyer was a right nasty piece of work, and she refused).

I'm figuring out that, while she's a lot less ruthless and GRIMDARK than most 40k fans, the Captain's player still wants to be put in situations where she is forced to make tough decisions - like with Sands. Here's hoping that her generosity isn't taken for granted...

And, after consulting with her, she's happy to take Psyniscience as an elite advance, to represent her new found abilities - again, this can only be bad news...

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part Four: Daemons, Mutants, and Hivers, Oh My!

The soldier dropped to the floor, writhing in agony, screaming blasphemies in ancient tongues.

Corbec had his men point every available gun at him, while the Lord-Captain appeared on the scene, demanding the man not be killed for fear of releasing the demon within. As the screams grew louder, more intense, more high-pitched and demoralising, Corbec had an idea to disable the soldier without killing him (yet) - and commanded his men to shoot the soldier's joints. Knees, elbows, shoulders, each collapsed with a "pop" under the targeted lasfire. At least he wouldn't be going anywhere...

With a huge shudder, and more ancient knowledge screamed from babbling lips, the crewman slammed himself off the hard metal flooring. The horrendous, heretical chants were silenced - and in its place more screaming. Not high-pitched, not blasphemous - just the cries of a horribly wounded man. Again, the Ecclisiarchy appeared, and dragged the soldier from the room. Jayne, head of security, followed, and put the poor man out of his misery - the hard report of the bolt-pistol echoing through the barracks. Finally, the psyker arrived - a young Lesser Astropath by the name of Sands. He elected to trail the beast as it escaped, and led the Lord-Captain, Jayne, and Corbec and his men down to one of the plasma drives, in the bowels of the ship.

As they entered, they saw few signs of problems - until Sands pointed out one of the crewmen, at which point he stopped his duties and stood, stock still, in front of one of the plasma conduits. Sands said he would force the daemon to become corporeal, and that they were to shoot both the crewman and Sands if he was not successful. Corbec gladly held his lasgun to the nape of Sands' neck as he worked, drawing the energies of the Warp into both himself and the now possessed crewman.

After a few seconds, a terrible change was wrought upon the engineer. He began to babble in tongues, and his form started to... destabilise. Odd shapes seemed to flicker through his body, until one fully formed - a feathered tentacle in place of an arm. Sands' face spoke of desperation and being overwhelmed, but still he persisted. More changes came and went, until the crewman resembled nothing more than a tumorous growth, still sporting the smiling face of the crewman. Even that finally gave way, splitting down its length to show a beak and an unnaturally long, rubbery neck, dotted with feathers down its length. As waves of fear, dread knowledge, and... hope overcame the crew, Sands did all he could to signal to the guards - he bashed his head into the floor, screamed, and raised a quivering hand. That was enough for Claudia - she commanded all present (Jayne, the Guardsmen, Corbec, herself, and the other engineers) to open fire upon the thing which now writhed on the floor.

It was over in a few short seconds - what they now faced was nothing more than a few blasted lumps of protoplasmic flesh. As they were unceremoniously dumped into the plasma drive, to be burnt into nothingness, she called for any available Ecclesiarchy members to report to the Enginarium and begin the process of cleansing it as best they could (preferably, without killing any more crew members). The Chief Missionary on board, a small man with a large tattoo of the Aquila across his face, took to the job with great relish.

Scant hours later, the ship had dropped back into Realspace, to enter orbit around the world of Piscinius IV - a world almost entirely covered in water. Large Hives, supported by stilts, sat atop the world-sea, dotted all over the planet almost at random. With Allesaunder's help, they located the one nearest the artifact they sought, and began the intricacies of diplomacy. Scans of the ocean to find the starmap were passed off as "sensor recalibrations", and they claimed they were there for a mix of business opportunities and sightseeing.

The Govenor of the Hive, Quint Mularius, invited them down with open arms when they mentioned the opportunities for trade that the ship presented. After a few good hours of unloading (and a few good rolls), the Lord-Captain had made a fair bit of Throne selling essentials and trading in rare materials. To celebrate their arrival, Quint threw a lavish party for the Spire locals, to allow the Lord-Captain to mingle, and to try and present a few of the Spire Nobles the business opportunities they sorely needed. Amongst the chinless nobles, one figure, resplendent in golden armour bearing huge mechanical wings, caught the Lord-Captain's eye. She was informed that he was something of a local celebrity - Jaka Corvus, the "Yeld" (aerial-support) of one of the most popular Spyre-Hunter teams on the planet. The Spyrers go into the Underhive, kill as many human targets as they are allocated, then attempt to return, without getting caught or killed themselves. It is said Corvus has thousands of kills under his belt. Claudia was terribly unimpressed with both the man and the "sport", decrying both as barbaric and implying Jaka might be "compensating" with all that armour.

After some time, Claudia attempted to get an idea about how she would go about retrieving the item she sought from its underwater grave - and she convinced Quint to grant her permission to go on a dive (under the pretence of "catching fish" for her private quarters).

Many more drinks and a few dances later, she invited Quint to her ship (he'd never left the Hive, let alone the planet) in order to talk more about their trip... and in the morning, a combination of hangover, strange surroundings, and paranoia led him to leave the ship under inauspicious circumstances. While he had intended to go with the Lord-Captain, he figured it "more trouble than it's worth". So, Claudia, Corbec, Jayne, Allesaunder, and a few more guards were taken into the briny depths by Yakob, their pilot.

Their submersible might be somewhat armed, but apparently, it wasn't much of a match for the local wildlife - some giant aquatic predator was pursuing the sub, with the possible intent of lunch. Shooting it with the ship's in-built las-mechadendrites prove futile. At the Lord-Captain's request, Yakob pulled the ship into a very quick dive - while Jayne, Claudia, and the pilot were unaffected, Allesaunder simply smiled as he felt the pressure build at his temples, the guardsmen variously yelled and threw up, and Corbec passed out (despite his insistence he simply fell asleep). As they pulled closer to their destination, they caught sight of a large coral reef, covered in weird shapes - closer inspection proved them to be somewhat biological, resembling limbs, torsos, and other body parts. Claudia fancied she could see them moving, though the thought disturbed her more than she let on.

Pulling in closer, they realised they needed to ditch the ship to get inside - so Claudia, Allesaunder, Corbec and Jayne got themselves suited into their aquatic "powered armour" (one-man submersibles, really) and set off. Each suit had a weapon slot - Corbec and Allesaunder took standard lasguns, The Lord-Captain took a flamer (promethium is hot enough to burn underwater, after all...) and Jayne took a backpack-mounted lascannon.

As they entered the structure, the shapes in the coral started to become clearer - faces, the odd fully formed body, some in agony, some perfectly serene. Further inside, they found a large, cleared space, an almost perfect sphere of missing coral. The shapes here started to take a more... alien bent, forming limbs of bizarre proportions and a few faces of strange beauty. As Allesaunder felt a sudden surge of psychic activity, he pushed ahead of the group - only to be knocked from sight by a huge tentacle.

Lurking inside was a beast the size of a shuttle, resembling a seastar with far too many extra tentacles. The deep-sea beastie, threatening as it was, proved no match for the combined fire of the group (even though a solid hit from Jayne split the beast into two independant creatures). After the brief tussle, Allesaunder reached the bottom of the cave, and began digging through the coral. With each fistful he pulled free, the group felt waves of nausea and sorrow, culminating in a deep, harrowing feeling within their souls. As Allesaunder had thought, the coral was some kind of psychoactive creature - further digging would probably send them catatonic.

Claudia had a problem - by the looks of it, the chunk of starmap they had found was pretty big. There were few ways to remove it without causing significant fuss. The crew all thought of the teleportarium... except they didn't have a beacon to use it. With a little bit of quick thinking, however, Corbec sorted that problem - he suggested it be torpedoed down to them, fired inside a macrocannon shell. As you might imagine, a starship opening fire upon a planet caused a certain amount of problems - and even the Lord-Captain's insistence that it was an "unplanned weapons test" wouldn't deter Quint (already highly suspicious). He dispatched the best ordinance he could to combat the starship - a few modified aerial fighters, barely space capable. While they plinked ineffectually at the metres-thick void-shielding around the ship, the Lord-Captain had a thought. They would need the submersible to retrieve the beacon, and the pilot would most likely balk at the thought of assisting the crew that just opened fire on their planet. So, she decided to appeal to his baser instincts - greed.

"Yakob, what are you paid at the moment? You fancy doubling it?"

A quick haggle later, and the Lord-Captain had a new personal pilot, and a stolen submersible for her troubles. As the beacon was put in place, the submersible's vox and pict systems went into an override - and the face of Govenor Quint appeared, enraged and screaming. The Lord-Captain's attempts to calm him down simply made him more annoyed, until she tired of his tone and had Jayne fix the override the Catachan way - a lasbolt.

The ship was eventually teleported back on board. As they readjusted to the pressure (the sub had a built-in pressure room), they could hear a great, thunderous sound outside, like a great storm. When they finally exited the ship, they realised why - to get them and the stone (along with a fair chunk of coral), the Enginseers had to take a solid sphere of matter - including about a ton of water. Luckily, the ship was designed with such things in mind - vents and channels redirected most of it, and no major damage was done to the ancient archaeotech of the Teleportarium - but they did leave many a Tech-Priest in soaked robes, screaming invectives and prayers to the Omnissiah, apoplectic with rage. The ship sat upon the chunk of coral containing the stone - and the Lord-Captain, knowing that such coral could be very valuable, ordered one of the cargo bays void-sealed and converted into a pool of sorts, using their recently-acquired water.

As they prepared to leave orbit, however, a huge crackle of lightning spread itself across the void, and a familiar voice poured from the lips of the Astropath. Deep, booming, and altogether full of itself...

"Lord Captain Black... it's been a long time. You owe me a hand, dear..."

Captain Krawkin's flagship, His Unconquerable Will, was pulling out of the Warp not but a few hundred kilometres in front of them.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Selene's Den: A Different Kind of Shop...

So, having read a few humorous threads, and (sadly) had a flick through the old Book of Erotic Fantasy for D&D 3.5, I began to think about sexuality as a theme in games.

Not in the way of erotic roleplay - if there's an image we don't need, it's you average tabletop gaming nerd pretending to be a virginal Elven maiden... or his friend playing the ravishing Half-Orc Sex-Barbarian.

(Sex-Barbarian is a Prestige Class. Requirements: BAB+3, Weapon Focus: Genitals, and the Rapey Demeanour Feat.)

But more like as a campaign theme - it could be a motivation, a plot point, or even just an overarching theme. Everyone (well, almost everyone) does it, so why ignore it? And in a fantasy setting, well, the sky's the limit for the weird and wonderful...

Or even the mundane. People have attempted birth control for centuries - from the Egyptians using crocodile dung pessaries, to the first sheep-intestine condoms, all are appropriate in a fantasy setting. Even other fantasy (but still non-magical) things like certain teas and herbs (Pathfinder even has Gentleman's Snuff - not only a quality idea, but a bona-fide male contraceptive!) could be used (and Gentleman's Snuff is totally getting stolen!).

And there are records of sex toys being made as far back as 2,500 years ago (those randy bloody Egyptians again). Just imagine the looks on your players face when they recover an ancient, amazingly well-crafted piece of art from a dragon's treasure hoard, only to find out it's a dildo? Materials like lacquered wood, stone, and glass have all been seen, and I imagine in a fantasy setting, the easy availability of things like gold, silver, and more unusual materials like jade, obsidian, or maybe some thing like D&D's Ironwood (stop that sniggering!) would make perfect materials for the rich and powerful Sorceress who can't get laid!

(As a side note, most campaigns with dragons will already have sexuality as a theme - after all, the Half-Dragon template can be added to literally anything. And as most of them can polymorph themselves into other forms, dragons are some of the biggest shaggers in your campaign setting. Bear this in mind when making up their treasure hoards in future!)

When you add magic into the equation, things get... weird. From the obvious (a Million and One Uses For Mage Hand...) to the weird and icky - technically, a Bind Planar Ally makes them do most whatever you ask... but is it rape? I mean, using something like Dominate or Charm Person to make someone sleep with you? That's a horrendous act. So using a spell like Summon Monster to do the same should be just as bad, right? But what if you summon a Succubus? These sort of weird questions rarely come up in the games I play, but hey, you never know...

There's also one issue that pops up from mechanics, which has sadly stuck in my head: D&D3.5's Lichloved feat. It grants you certain bonuses, and is a requirement for some weird prestige classes... but it requires you to have sex with an undead creature. Now, Vampires are technically undead, and that could be worse, but a Lich? Zombie? Ghoul? The possibilities are (sadly) endless. And exactly how do you present this to a DM?

"Yeah, I found this feat, it gives me what I need for my prestige class prerequisites. So, I go down to the graveyard..."

Of course, the problems of player maturity will always raise their head - after all, most people game for laughs, not for an in-depth look at the sociopolitics of sexuality in the Middle Ages. But, with just a few sprinkles here and there, one can add a layer of vermilisitude to your campaign by adding sexuality as a theme.

So I'm digging out an idea I had for an old campaign. Selene is a Tiefling Sensate who runs a curiosity shop (and will continually correct you if you try to call it anything else - she sells curiosities and novelty items) in the Market Ward of Sigil. Here, a canny buyer can find nearly anything he wants to help with his marital needs - for the right price, of course.

She's a Sorceress, who specialises in illusions - she can grant you a night straight from your deepest, darkest fantasies, for the price of material components and time and labour. From the simplest visual illusions (she is known to have the "cheap seats", where she projects images to large groups for a much reduced fee - perfect for stag-dos and Lad's Nights Out), to full-sensory experiences (let's just say she's really good with that Unseen Servant/Mage Hand combo...), she is more than willing to provide such a service to the wide and varied clientele of The Cage.

She also sells more "mundane" solutions - from Cold Iron/Silver sex toys, for the masochistic Fiend, to finely-crafted whips from the Drow (highly spun Phase-spider silk). If she can collect it from the Planes and find a... use for it, it's in the shop.

Selene frequently interacts with adventurers of all stripes - whether they are receiving or providing her business. After all, she has to run the shop, so someone has to go collect these oddities from all across the Great Ring. A few sample adventures...

  • One of her regular clientele, Boagris (Bauriar Sensate Barbarian) has a very specific request for her - to be whipped with Razorvine while a Halfling watches. Razorvine is so common as to be a pest around Sigil - but how the hell are you going to transport a plant so sharp it'll cut through any bag you try and put it in? And exactly where are you going to find a willing Halfling?
  • A shipment of unusual woodcuts is coming to Sigil from a Prime world, but the Guvnors are interested in keeping them out. Will you use stealth, diplomacy and cunning to smuggle the goods through, or simply batter hell out of the Hardheads till you can get through?
  • One of Selene's rivals is taking things a step too far - they are using Planar Binding spells to take creatures from other layers of existance for their own nefarious purposes. She wants you to put a stop to it - if she goes herself, the Hardheads will be very interested in investigating her shop...
  • As a follow on to the last adventure, when they break the Summoning Sex ring, they find a much darker side - kindnapping Primes to be sold off into slavery to the rich and powerful perverts of the Planes. Now, it's time to get the Law on your side.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part Three: Trade Harder

So, we left our PC with a dilemma on her hands - an amnesiac mutineer. Her first instinct was to think of that little fluctuation in the Gellar field they experienced a few days before, and called for any available psykers (she got the Chief Astropath, Blind Mag, who happened to be passing by).

Mag saw that there had been some... presence within the crewman, not too long ago, though it had fled when confronted by the Captain. working with Allesaunder, they worked to track it down, to no avail. The crewman was taken by the Ecclesiarchy contingent on board, for "ritual exorcism and purification", most like at the end of a Flame Pistol.

Shaken by this turn of events (the Captain had had some small dealings with Creatures of the Warp in her past, and knew the trouble they could cause), Claudia set up squads of crewmen (consisting of a Psyker, a Priest, Chaplain or other Ecclesiarchial member, and a squad of armed guards, in case the Psyker got possessed or otherwise incapacitated) to scour the ship, hunting for any trace of the thing before they made planetfall. Sadly, this was not to be - they arrived at their destination, and all the Psykers could come up with were false leads and contradicting trails.

As they exited the Warp, the first thing they saw was a recently-hulked trade ship - fires still flaring from rapidly depressurising compartments. The Lord-Captain ordered as many of those on board saved as could be managed (around 100 extra souls), and scanners showed another ship in distress - this time, an Imperial Cruiser, bristling with weaponry and gauche ornamentation. It was seemingly under attack, but the ship's auspex couldn't pick up from what.

As seen from the ship, the world was an overgrown jungle - it might take months to search it fully. A nifty bit of work from Allesaunder narrowed their search area down to around a square mile - and apparently, they weren't the only ones who got that kind of estimate.

As they landed, the sensors reported activity elsewhere - a small army (around 300, with plenty of vehicles and footsloggers) about half an hour away and closing, a much smaller group (50 or so) just entering their square mile, and another group a fair bit away.

Visual confirmation showed a collection of spires within the overgrown jungle - many metres in height, and composed of a pure, pearly white substance. The Lord-Captain, having quite a few of her mother's Eldar relics in stasis on board the ship, believed the towers to be Wraithbone. Of the three spires, one stood fully, while the other two were ruined and battle-scarred. Some tiny psychic ping told Claudia the one still standing was the ticket. As they arrived (in their Land Raider, the team comprising of the Lord-Captain, Jayne, Mag the Astorpath, a Tech-Priest, and a small contingent of armed guards, followed by several squads of armsmen in buggies), they were informed that the smaller group was closing to one of the other towers, with surprising speed. One of the guards (Argun Corbec, a PC who dropped in for the session, and maybe a few more later) suggested taking his band (ten men, all in an attack buggy) to intercept. With the Lord-Captain's approval, they shot off into the forest to secure an ambush.

Corbec and his men found a well-hidden spot, directly in front of the group. At their head, the familiar crimson power armour of Captain Krawkin, leading his 50 men (each lightly armoured and heavily armed - lascannons, heavy stubbers, the works). They were making slow progress now they had hit some dense foliage - apparently, Krawkin hadn't expected heavy stubbers to be so restricting.

With a sniper in the trees, each man with a lasgun, and a heavy lascannon all set (along with a few explosive charges), even the 50 men didn't stand a chance. The ambush, combined with the charges, took out nearly half the men in one fell swoop - only a reflector shield managed to save Krawkin from being shot in the head (it's what he gets for not wearing a helmet...) by the treeline sniper. A second barrage reduced them to 10, plus Krawkin himself - though he also suffered the loss of his hand after being felled by a direct lascannon strike. After they turned tail and ran, without letting off a shot, the Black dynasty guards collected the spoils of war (a few of Krawkin's fingers, still encased in armour, and as many heavy weapons as they could) and returned to find the Captain sprinting out.

While this had been going on, the Lord Captain had made her way into the structure, and found an old Eldar engraving - dotted with incredibly durable stones, surrounded by runes, which caused her an odd "static-y" feeling when she looked at it. Blind Mag fiddled around with the stones and runes for a few minutes, until some byzantine condition had been met, and the device activate. With a crackle of soulfire and an eerie glow, the central section rose up as a pillar - with a small stone inside. Shining with its own light, the blue stone called out to the Captain, and she knew that this was her objective. Grabbing it (and almost blacking out from the sensory overload), she decided to leave a marker of her success for her rivals, in indelible marker-spray, on the walls of the ancient structure.

Trust a Trader of the Black Dynasty to inscribe "EAT PUSSY" in 5-foot letters on an ancient Xeno artifact.


As they left, the larger force came into view - a veritable horde of heavily armoured vehicles (Land Raiders, a few tanks, and a few Landspeeders too), with a recognisable figure atop the leading vehicle - one of the well-presented Kroot, a retainer of Madame Charlabelle, surveying the landscape with a pair of magnoculars. With a swift vulgar gesture, the Lord Captain and her retinue were swept from the planet's surface by the ship's Teleportarium, and commanded the ship dropped into the Empyrean as soon as they were on board.

Another session with Allesaunder gave up more information - a vision, more like a memory, stored within the stone. A memory of walking on beaches that glittered with the light of a thousand types of precious stone, seeing great mountains and beautiful plants, a feeling of great reverence and peace... but also foreboding, dread, some powerful force, new, yet ancient, waiting under those mountains... and of a stone tablet, much like the one the stone was retrieved from - an ancient Eldar starmap. As she watched it, the feeling of foreboding grew, until, with a great crack, it was split into three, and cast far and wide into the Warp...

As she returned to reality, the Lord Captain knew what had to be done - the Witches received a masked signal, and the true location of the Pearl rested within that star map. If the Eldar were so afraid, why hadn't they destroyed it? She wouldn't know for some time, but she set Allesaunder to find the pieces any way he could - but sadly, it would take a few days to piece together the residues and fight the Eldar's psychic static.

With her job done for the day, Claudia called dinner, to celebrate her retrieval of the stone and to commend the heroic actions of her new Guard Captain, Argun. As well as his promotion, he received Krawkin's power sword as a gift (the Lord-Captain far preferred her trusty chainsword, styled to resemble a rapier more than the standard pattern).

Stories were shared, especially those of Claudia's late mother (who claimed to have out-played an Eldar at mah-jong, and apparently once slept with a Space Marine of the Salamanders Chapter), drinks were had, and the celebrations seemed to go off without a hitch. Until Corbec returned to his barracks (refusing new quarters as part of his promotion, preferring to stay with his men), a few cheekily-appropriated bottles of wine in tow. After but a few sips, one of his men began looking a little ill, then zoned out from the conversation. Corbec, a paranoid man, called for one of the psyker squads and the Lord-Captain herself.

... and I'll leave this one hanging till next time!

So, our intrepid Captain's flatmate was about, and fancied trying the game out - he seemed to really enjoy it (he's pretty big on 40k literature and lore, which helps). The idea to split the real objective did come from the book, but really, I didn't like the way the rest of the adventure panned out. So, I'm now freeballing my way through the Expanse. Woohoo!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part the Second: The Plot Thickens...

So, to continue...

As Lord-Captain Black and Arkady approached the ancient Courthouse, the first of her rivals made an apperance.

At the door stood a man, fully clad in blood-red powered armour (with hints of gold strewn here and there), helmet and all. Even from a distance, it was obvious he was arguing with the door clerk. As it turns out, he had arrived to the auction with a small army in tow - twenty guards, armed with plasma guns and the odd heavy stubber. Despite insisting that they were essential for his continued protection, the clerk refused them entry - until the man backed down, sent the most heavily-armed ones home, and got the rest to check their weapons at the door (though they were allowed to keep a sidearm, as a formality). By contrast, Claudia's ten bodyguards, in their (still highly practical) ceremonial dress, coloured to match the Lord-Captain's outfit (she claims to have sets of armour to match each of her favourite frocks), and only armed with lasguns and ceremonial swords, were waved through with little hassle.

As they sat and eyed up the competition, Claudia spotted a few familiar faces: Lady Charlabelle, a ruthless trader with a penchant for Xeno retainers, sat with her bodyguard of Kroot (each still barbaric, but looking a damn sight better presented than those previously encountered); the power-armoured gent (later known as Captain Krawkin); the desperate Lady Sun Lee, last of her failing line, wearing fashions years out of style and with a few badly-maintained augmetics; and others she would know by their crests or faces, but not by name.

With the sound of servos and pistons, the Intercessor appeared to start the auction - sitting on a mobile throne, carried by four stout legs and belching smoke as it went. He explained the rules of the auction, adding that 10 bids would be accepted. The first few offers were made - Thrones, gold, and precious materials. Each bidder was denied, after which, they were swiftly escorted from the premises by armed toughs.

Around an hour into the proceedings, the real bids started in earnest. From artifacts (such as the Daemonette's toenail from Madam Charlabelle), to places (the co-ordinates of a lost colony, given by an Admiral of the Imperial Navy), to more esoteric offers (a thousand blind slaves from Krawkin), many more were denied their chance, but a few were accepted. Claudia saw she had but a small window to make her bid - to early, and she'd be rejected out of course, too late and she might miss her chance. Claudia entered her piece (the Ear of St Drusus) with a (quickly prepared) speech, and managed to secure herself a place at The Foretelling.

As the auction rounded off, the ten were chosen - Claudia, Krawkin, Charlabelle, the Admiral, a young, charming-looking Rogue Trader (think a young Johnny Depp in a greatcoat), and a few others she did not recognise. Lady Sun Lee was tearfully removed from the premises after her offer (a 50-year old bottle of Brain Leaf essence) was denied. Their retinues and hangers on disposed of, the ten were led from the auction house to a back room, wherein they found the Sisters.

A grotesque amalgam of seven forms, the Warp had touched the Sisters (possibly, inappropriately), and left them barely human. But with this change, they were granted no small amount of psychic potential - which led them to divine the location of The Pearl. They showed the collected winners via a mass hallucination/vision - of a stone, of alien worlds, dark threats and mystical portents. Most of the people present did not take to the vision well - Krawkin even doffing his helmet to vomit on the floor shortly after. While regaining her balance, Claudia saw him belt for his ship - and knew that they chase was on. Making her way to her own ship (voxing in to get the ship ready the second she gets on board), she, her crew, Arkady, and the two hundred able-bodied men he had promised set off to find their fortune.

However, it would not be as simple as following a map - the information was somewhere in her soul, and needed to be extracted before it could be used. Enter Allesaunder.

A Navigator of House Parth (locked into an exclusivity contract with the Black Dynasty), Allesaunder is tall, unnaturally thin and almost totally bald, with dim grey skin and a mouth full of razor-sharp, needle-like teeth. Combined with eyes so dark as to appear black, he resembles nothing so much as a bipedal, robed shark. The Navigator put the Lord-Captain into a sort of trance, allowing him to draw the information from her mind. He talked her through his vision of the Warp -

...a vast ocean, with yourself as a minnow. Below, you can feel great, terrible horrors lurking, ancient and undisturbed. Feel them shake the ocean with each brief movement, changing currents and unleashing new depths... All around you, the hungry eyes of predators watch, waiting for their moment to strike. Hear them growl and whisper blasphemous secrets, sense their hunger, feel them sense you. And far above, the tiniest pinprick of the sun - The Astronomican, the God-Emperor's light shining from Holy Terra to guide his faithful. Feel its warmth, distant and unreachable, but take a tiny piece of it inside you - feel His indomitable will fill you, and know you are safe under His watchful eye.

As Claudia let the vision fill her mind, she felt another presence. One of the predators was brushing close to her, some great beast waiting to snap up her soul. Luckily, Allesaunder pulled them both from the vision just in time - and he had managed to extract the information needed to locate the first part of the puzzle.

It would take roughly 50 days of Warp travel to reach the location, despite her efforts to convince Allesaunder to find a shorter course and to encourage the Tech-Priests to fully appease the engine's machine-spirits. The journey was uneventful, barring a tiny fluctuation in the Gellar field - not enough to allow egress to any Warp entities, or so the Captain thought...

At around the half-way point of the journey, Claudia felt that crew morale was low - so she decided to leave a skeleton staff on board and allow everyone a "night off", for celebration, merrymaking and general fun. The crew responded in different ways - as she did a round of the ship, she met with the Astropaths, holed up in quiet contemplation and conversation; the Navigators, who shared a small amasec and poured over old starcharts; the Tech Priest, led by the ship's Explorators, engaged in a battle of logic puzzles and willpower, The Ritual of Back and Forth (represented by a game of Pong); down to the gunnery crews, who used the time to dance, sing, and in some cases, set up pit fights. Instead of stopping or interfering, the Lord-Captain stayed a while and watched (even bet on!) the fights, which happened to include her Security Officer and Master-At-Arms, Jayne.

About six and a half feet tall, with the build of a professional soldier, dark black hair and a tan that could double as camouflage, the Catachanian was well-respected on board, and singularly feared in the ring. In the pit fights, she remains unbeaten (even though she fought 10 men one after another, then a group of three, then a Battle Servitor) - needless to say, the Captain cleaned up with her bets on Jayne, despite the low odds.

While heading down to the Enginarium, however, the Lord-Captain overheard conspiratorial whispers coming from a nearby cargo hold. Getting into position, she was just in time to hear one of the crew lambasting her ability to run the ship, and stirring the others present (about 60) into mutiny. She scrabbled to find her security staff, and had to call upon anyone who could attend from nearby decks - she gathered a motley band of 50 or so men, variously armed with clubs, knives, and the odd autopistol. A few minutes later, Jayne herself appeared, coated head to toe in carapace armour and wielding a shotgun.

After commenting on her being "overdressed", the group stormed the hold and arrested those present, to be taken to the brig for questioning: around 20 were of the men Arkady brought on board (his suggestion to simply try them as mutineers and chuck them out an airlock did not go down too well), the rest previously loyal members of the Captain's crew.

Interviews showed that most were "in the wrong place at the wrong time", or so they claimed, and a few even claimed to be spying to report back to the Lord-Captain (a likely story). Most disconcerting of all, the rabble-rouser himself claimed no memory of the act, the events leading up to it, or even his own name.

Things would soon be getting worse for Claudia and her crew...

The NPCs from LotE were... uninspiring to me. I stole a few bits and pieces here and there, but dramatically changed others - such as Lady Sun Lee. I think she's meant to be set up as a potential ally, but there's nothing to motivate the players to join with her. So, I made her desperate enough to weep, to show what might happen should their endeavours fail. It also gives a good reason to have her attempt to join with the Lord-Captain, to regain her lineage's wealth and status. Knowing Rogue Trader, she'll be used as a distraction, then betrayed in due course. Fine by me...

Also, Cannonball Run IN SPACE, FUCK YEAH!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Rogue Trader One-On-One: Part The First

So, while I whittle away at those rules for Tau, I decided to run (in a spur-of-the-moment kinda deal) a one-on-one game of Rogue Trader for a friend.

Due to the assumptions of the game, Rogue Trader seems almost tailor-made for Duet gaming - with the player taking the role of the Rogue Trader, carrying a Warrant of Trade (otherwise know as the "Do Whatever The Fuck You Want Pass"), with a crew of tens of thousands behind them, and as many specialists as they need for a particular operation (whether on-board, or easily hired with the vast fortunes you have/will acquire).

Our tale begins with Lord-Captain Claudia Black, previously a mercenary who inherited her Warrant and a starship when her mother, Marie, died in unusual (and as yet unreported) circumstances. After setting a few last pieces of business in order (informing contacts and trade links of her mother's passing, and her succession, reinforcing old bonds and striking a few new ones), she headed to Port Wander to look for new opportunities for wealth to help get the dynasty back on its feet.

Port Wander was once a simple space station - a port for those far from home, to resupply and catch up on the news of the rest of the Imperium. After many years of expansion, rebuilding, and the introduction of no small criminal element, Port Wander has become something of a Free Port in the old, euphemistic sense. People flaunt the minor laws and rules of the Imperium with surprising regularity, and the sheer number of Xenos present is a show that it's not just the little laws that are being broken.

Clothed in far more practical gear than a Rogue Trader should be, and accompanied by 10 of her best armsmen/bodyguards (dressed, in her own words, in "black, highlighted with black"), she took to the streets, specifically hunting out some of her mother's old contacts in the hope of getting some leads. While heading towards The Emperor's Lament, hangout of several old contacts of the Dynasty, Claudia was approached by a group of Xenos - tall, lithe, and dark-skinned, with huge quills adorning their heads (and smaller ones on their bodies), and short beak-like faces. While the Captain didn't recognise the Kroot, she quickly got to the bottom of their approach - they were offering their services as mercenaries, to anyone who would take them. Declining politely, they moved on to the next well-dressed and important-looking person to walk their way.

Suitably confused as to the brashness of the Xenos on Imperial grounds, Claudia continued on to the Emperor's Lament. Here, she found Arkady Lemenshan, leader of several of Port Wander's smaller gangs and protection racquets, and an old friend of her mother's. Arkady had helped the Black dynasty out with several "under the table" endeavours previously, and was deeply upset about her passing.

Not that you could tell - the man has a permanent stony face, emphasised by the shaved head and heady collection on augmentations. After dealing with hisusual gang Captains, Arkady set aside some time to pick Claudia's brains, and slowly but surely an ulterior motive surfaced (helped along by a couple of 50-year vintage Amasec, taken as a shot by Arkady and politely sipped by Clauida) - there was an auction that night. The Seven Witches, a nearly mythical group of psykers, had received a vision of how to locate The Pearl - known by most as a fairytale world, lost somewhere in the Expanse, where the beaches are precious gems, the water is the clearest imaginable, and untold archaeotech riches await those who might plunder its depths.

However, the Witches don't need coin - they want something interesting. And Arkady needed the clout of the Black Family Dynasty to even get an invite, let alone make a decent bid. After agreeing to provide as much help as he can (he's surely a far more resourceful man than Claudia, with contacts she could only dream of), and a small cut of the profits, the pair decided to attend the auction together.

Searching the ship's private vaults and stasis containers, the Lord-Captain found the perfect item to offer - the Ear of St Drusus, with full paperwork to certify its authenticity (as investigated and authorised by an Inquisitor, no less).

Offer in hand, the two approached the old Courthouse where the auction would take place (Arkady dressed in his finest leathers, while Claudia picked an ornate deep-green dress and cloak combo, topped off with a ceremonial rapier). But things wouldn't be as easy as they seemed...

I'm running the game as a modified version of the Lure of The Expanse book - dropping some of the "optional" bits to speed the game up to the meaty task of exploration and fast-pitched space battles. A lot of the encounters seem to be padding - each could (and in some cases, should) take up an enitre session, despite not advancing the plot at all! Plus, after the "introduction" part, control is handed over to the players to proceed as they like, and that's what I wanted to emphasise - the free-roaming, sandbox nature of both the setting and the game.
 It's going pretty well so far, and the second session (conducted via Skype) will get written up shortly...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Rogue Trader: Rules For Tau PCs

So, one of the guys in our gaming group has suggested running a "Kill Team" style game, using a hybridised combo of Deathwatch and Inquisitor. The current plan is to make our characters "in a vacuum" - we can make anything we like, from Space Marines to Abhumans to Hive Gangers, and this guy plans on working some manner of balance into the game. While the system sounds to me like what we call a "shitemare", the idea sounds like a lot of fun.

And, in a flash of oddness (considering I didn't know she knew anything about the 40k setting), one of the girls asked if she could play an Air Caste Tau. Not just a Tau, but one of a specific Caste and everything.

And it got me thinking - why the Hell would an Air Caste Tau be with an Imperial Kill Team? Unless they were with a Radical Inquisitor (a pretty fucking Radical one at that), or maybe a Rogue Trader...

Then it hit me - while the timeline makes them unlikely to be present in the Koronus Expanse, it's not impossible (I read the bit about them being in the Jericho Reach, and RTs going to the edges of the Reach in search of profits they can scrape from warzones). It struck me that Air Caste Tau who'd shown their skills would make a great addition to any Rogue Trader's retinue, especially those who had (for whatever reason) turned their back on "The Greater Good", or went outside the area of the Ethereal Caste's supposed "control".

So, I wanted to work out both the Tau Race (with Caste as a choice, much like Kindred for Kroot) and the Air Caste Pilot Career (based pretty heavily on the Void Master Career), mainly as a starting point to work out some more options for players wanting to fight for The Greater Good.

Next post - Tau Racial Traits, and after that, the first part of the Air Caste Pilot Career!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Bards: Another Risus Adventure

In the style of Roadies, here's another one-shot Risus adventure (which you may expand into a full campaign, should you wish).

You are the Entertainer's Guild of (Insert Fantasy Locale Here) - a travelling troupe of Bards, Musicians, Magicians and Storytellers, banding together to help make some coin and gain fame (or notoriety) across the land. You've been invited into the lands of Baron Farken, an ex-adventurer turned ruler, to help celebrate the marriage of his daughter into another Noble family.

But, not everything is as it seems - and as the only ones with near-unlimited access (and a keen eye for adventure and intrigue), it's up to you to help sort what is wrong with the celebrations.

The Plotlines

  • The Baron's daughter is not who she says she is - she is in fact a plant, a Changeling who has "gone native", after the real deal was kidnapped years ago. She would hate to dissapoint her newly-adopted father by letting him know... The real Baron's daughter was taken by an Evil Wizard, to be used as a bargaining chip at times like the marriage - but the Changeling has stopped communicating with him, and is unwilling to show herself to prove the plot to the Baron. Do you help the daughter, or the Changeling?
  • Should you choose to help the Changeling, turns out the daughter has escaped her prison, picked up a few travelling compainons (around a hundred warriors), and a few levels in Barbarian along the way - how will you react when the real Daughter Farken kicks the door in halfway through the ceremony, warriors in tow, to depose the fake?
  • The Noble family she is marrying into is in fact a sinister Star-God cult - and they plan to use the Baron's Daughter as a sacrifice on her wedding night! Can you uncover the plot and stop the cult without incurring the Baron's wrath?
  • The Baron's wife has taken a shine to one of your party - and will stop at nothing until she's had her turn. Can you avoid her lecherous advances, all the while not alerting the Baron?
  • The wedding dress has been kidnapped by a local Orc tribe, so they can use it in their own wedding ceremony - is their a tailor amongst you who can take up the challenge to fit a dress for Thraka-Tholl, the Chieftain's six-foot, 200lb wife-to-be? And to make matters worse, she's a real Bridezilla...
  • As a practical joke, one of the Baron's sons has stashed a Goblin stripper in the wedding cake. Problem is, it's a male stripper (you ever tried to sex a goblin? Uh, don't... don't answer that). Can you prevent the party-goers from getting a face full of little green wang?
  • The Noble's stag party has taken a turn for the weird - you find him on the morning of his wedding cursed into the form of a small lizard (possibly through a baleful polymorph spell), only capable of communicating telepathically. Can you help to break the curse in time for him to read his nuptials?
Really, you can run it as a semi-serious game (the first couple of plots) or a comedy of errors (the last few), or somewhere in between (cause let's face it, the point where the real Baron's Daughter kicks the door in is an awesome time to have a naked Goblin jump out the cake). You don't need to use all the plots - two should be fine for a short game, and three would make a perfect full-day game. If you wanted, you could split each up into sub-plots - take the Cult option.

  • Discovering the cult could be a full session, all the intrigue and socialising working up to the reveal that something is wrong within the Noble family.
  • Talking to the Baron would be the next challenge - working out proof, avoiding execution (and the schemeing of the Noble Cult) and a plan of attack.
  • Third session could be taking on the cult - whether on your own, to secure the proof you need to convince the Baron (and rescue his daughter, don't forget about that), or with the military might of the Baron's forces behind you. Either way, you're going from investigation and diplomacy and right into kicking ass and taking names, Bard style!

All the characters should be performers of some sort - whether fully fledged "magical music men" Bards, jesters, storytellers, or true magicians (Wizards would be cheating). Of course, you could just play the Caravan Guard - but I'd recommend taking an entertainer cliche, like 6' Hard Ass With A Knack For Juggling. Combat cliches aren't as vital here (depending on your choice of plots), but it might still pay to have Showy Part-Time Duelist, Dirty Trickster Street Magician, or Acrobatic Master of The Arts of The Body to help out in the few combat-type bits.

As Bards, you might be expected to take part in wordgames, punnery, and socialisation - which does not play well to some poeple's tastes. Either load up your group with improvisers/good roleplayers, or allow some exchanges to take place as Combats (a debate/seduction could be an Extended Combat, while thinking of the perfect putdown could be a single Target Number roll). Gague it according to player preference (though, even with good roleplayers, Risus is made for Combats That Aren't Combat).

A specific note to characters wishing to play "magicians" - this is High Fantasy. People aren't easily impressed by "magic". High-faluting socialites are impressed when they can see it's a trick, know you didn't use magic, and still can't figure out how the Hells you did it. Using real magic is cheating - and no-ones going to bat an eyelid if you made their favourite watch actually disappear. Sleight of hand and psychology are your mainstays, not fancy conjuring. Bear this in mind.

Sample Characters
Some pregens, both serious and not so (to flesh out):

Shara, Stonespeaker of the Raintop Tribes

A Goliath Stonespeaker (or Wise Woman), Shara has taken a sacred vow to travel the land looking for a particular item - The Helm of Kaavaki. Legends tell of its passage from the great Goliath demigod hero, down through less worthy successors - she plans to bring it back to her tribe, so their latest Chief can be recrowned to lead them into a new age of prosperity and power over the neighbouring tribes.

Old Witch-Woman Storyteller [4]
A Firebrand, In Her Youth (3)
One Mean Grand-Mother (2)
Used to Be a Looker (1)

Finkin, Gnome Bard of Ill-Repute

Known locally for his dirty limericks and his... interesting seduction techniques, Finkin is a true Scoundrel - and wouldn't have it any other way. He joined the Guild so he could meet more beautiful women, drink more wine, and write his magnum opus - a song of the beauty of Elhonna, Goddess of Passion, Love, and Dirty Little Bastard Gnomes.

Master of A Biting Wit and Dirty Mind (4)
Three Foot Tall (But Not Where It Counts) (3)
Well-Versed Gnoma Sutra Master [2]
Something of A Historian (1)

Danan, Washed-Up Conjurer

Danan started life as a promising young Sorcerer - but a focus on the ladies drew him to stop his training, and as such the full power of his arcane bloodline has never seen the light of day. Now, he passes as an entertainer, using his natural skill as a magician (combined with a bit of cheating through real magic) to make a living. Hired by one of the caravan members, he's a little more mercenary than the rest, and will only perform when he knows there's a coin to be made.

Mercenary Sleight of Hand Master (4)
A Natural Performer (3)
Ex-Draconically-Blooded Sorcerer (2)
A Born Cheater (1)

Arturus, Caravan Guard/Children's Entertainer

Arturus is a Half-Orc with an unusual talent with children. Despite his menacing 6'6" frame, his mohawk adding a good 6 inches to that (complete with bones, braids and trophies), and muscles that would make a Frost Giant weep, kids flock to Arturus, and he loves few things more than spending time with them, and keeping them entertained. His skills stretch to juggling (occasionally, with children), storytelling, play-fighting and telling stupid jokes (which kids, being kids, love).

Half-Orc Party Clown [4]
Mercenary Warrior Guard (3)
Stupidly Witty/Wittily Stupid (2)
Gentle Giant (1)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Bards: What Are They Good For?

I love Bards. While AD&D had them as the most complicated class to get into (sort of a proto-prestige class, mixed with a logic puzzle/brainfuck), and they were considered the red-headed step child of 3e (you weren't as good at fighting as a Fighter, as good at sneaking as a Rogue, or as good at magic as a Wizard - but you sure could talk the ass off people! Useful in a dungeon crawl game, eh?), they've always captured my imagination as a real "Jack of All Trades" kinda deal - like Renaissance men on steroids (or whatever hormone produces raw animal magnetism). They're the archetypal Scoundrel - charming, dashing swordsmen, as quick with their wit as their blade, dilettantes of magic and stealth, and all round cool as fuck.

In fact, one of my favourite Bard ideas was the Dark Sun version - Bards were still storytellers and historians, travelling to perform for coin and lodging - but they had a much darker side, as the magic was phased out somewhat and swapped in with increased stealth and deadliness. They acted as assassins, due to being popular enough to make their way into anywhere where a story could be told. Poisons, throat-slitting seductions and a rebellious streak were their hallmarks. And they were pretty badass.

And, regardless of mechanics, Bards hold the simple appeal of being archetypal. From the cunning jester, to the smooth-talking gentleman thief, the Bard has popped up in literature of every stripe for decades. And who doesn't want to play James Bond (chat, seduction, subterfuge, and the "magic trick" devices) in a fantasy setting? Or the closest thing you'll get to a Magical Rock Star?

One of my tests of "generic" systems is to see how easily I can build a Bard (whether fantasy, modern, or truly generic/genreless). In most cases, a lack of "points" can make it hard (PROTIP: If there's and disadvantages involving mild substance addiction, nymphomania/satyrisis, or attracting unwanted attention, take them at all costs - you're not a true Bard unless you're turning heads by having several men/women hanging off your arm and snorting everything that gets in your way). I've found that FATE can make brilliant Bards by virtue of the GM letting you away with a simple pair of aspects:

Jack of All Trades...

...Master of None

So, you can cook a meal, cast a spell, pick a lock, or really try your hand at a bit of anything within reason - but you'll never be as good as someone who focuses on that thing. And ...Master of None can reflect a desire to learn more, or allow the GM to Compel you like mad (and GMs love that kinda shit).

So - that is how I Bard. How do you?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Hunter: LGBTQ Chronicle

So, a while back, I had an idea for a Hunter campaign. One of the defining traits of Hunter is "Defending Your Community", and one of the hallmarks of White Wolf games is a (as compared to most other games, and probably one of the reasons for its early "Goth RPG" appeal) very LGBT-friendly atmosphere and themes. From Exalted right through to the World of Darkness, themes of defining yourself and acceptance have ran as a strong undercurrent, counterpointed by openly-gay NPCs as major players within their respective worlds without their sexuality being the be-all and end-all of their characterisation.

So, why not combine the two - the player's Cell has sprung from the local gay community, in response to the threat of both the Supernatural and altogether less exotic threats of prejudice and hatred.

Now, before I go on, I should point out - of the somewhat rotating groups of players I have, something like 40% are "somewhere over the rainbow", myself included. When I posted this idea up on, a lot of people raised concerns over possible stereotyping and offence that might be caused - but this is a LGBT chronicle for people in the community, and as such there shouldn't be too many problems.

I liked the idea because it gives the players a chance to explore the themes of alternate sexuality and society - there are surprisingly few games that support such things, and while you could try it with other systems, it would feel shoehorned in (who cares about who you want to have sex with when there's loot!). Whereas, not only can the players play characters with sexuality as a central part of their backstory/characterisation, but it will actually mean something within the framework of the game.

Note that this doesn't mean "straight" characters or players aren't welcome - I know plenty of people who are merely friends of the community, or have a partner who is part of it. And, really, part of Hunter (which I wanted to explore) is that Hunting is an inclusive activity - it's about the community as a whole, not just your little section of it. People from all walks of life might take up the Vigil, and I wanted to reflect that in the choice of characters - while some might know each other already, you might also have a local police officer, who has spent a lot of time dealing with hate crimes, and wishes to help out, or a gang member who has been accepted into the fold after her own traumatic experience with the Occult. Inclusion and lack of barriers are both big themes that I wanted to explore, and fit perfectly with the setup I had in mind.

But I need to figure out antagonists and threats that aren't just "Homophobic Werewolves and Gaybashing Vampires". So, here goes:
  • A Vampire (or group thereof) who prowl the scene, looking for young gay runaways (preferably from other cities/countries, come to make a new life) to feed from/ghoul into servitude. I like the idea that the Vampire isn't gay, but preys on people who are more vulnerable and lost - and in the city, he finds that these runaways are just perfect. Or maybe he's picked up a taste for them, and does so out of habit more than choice.
  • A team of rival Hunters, based off some of the Westboro Baptist Church's stances (they will reluctantly work with the PCs, but think they are doomed to the same Hell as the rest of the monsters - they Kick Arse For The Lord!). How long will it be before they stop hunting monsters, and start turning on your community?
  • A young pre-op Mage, who is attempting to find a way to deal with her desire to change sex through magic, and running into problems with Paradox.
  • Your classic Neo-Nazi group, with the twist that they are using daemonic rituals to gain a little extra power to commit their crimes - not that they do anything particularly groundbreaking. They're still just your average group of pricks, except with a little extra "oomph". Take it away, and you might break their spirit.
Another enemy I wanted to use for ages was Father Anders. A quiet young preist, Anders was interested in some of the more esoteric mysteries of the faith, and would research them with great fervour. He was known as a great confidant, a highly empathetic man, and something of a pillar of the community. Until he met with Cardinal Thomas.

Thomas had been looking into The Holy Fire - the flame that touched the Disciples, a show of God's power. He researched old forbidden texts, alchemical journals, even heretical books of witchcraft. Finally, he figured out how he could channel this Fire into a living being - to make them a receptacle for the Splendour of God Himself, a walking Fist of God's Rage to use in a battle against Sin.

But, he never quite cottoned on to what was happening. Those who've read Promethean: The Created will draw a lot of parallels between Holy Fire and Azoth - the animating force behind the Prometheans. Cardinal Thomas had found a way to infuse Azoth into a living being, and the results were... not as planned.

Where he was once quiet, he is now silent. Once a small, caring man, he is a veritable juggernaut, full of hatred and vigour. And the Cardinal's been using him to clean the streets of "sinners". Until some small part of the old Anders realised what he had become - a living sin, a walking representation of Wrath. Enraged by the betrayal he felt, he murdered Cardinal Thomas - and now he's loose, still "programmed" to clear the streets of sinners - thieves, murderers, prostitutes and Sodomites will feel his wrath. And it's down to those in the know to put a stop to him.

Problem being, I don't want religion to be a strong factor in the LGBTQ Chronicle - there's enough heavy stuff here without heavy-handedly throwing in some "Religion is EVIL" as well.

I'll look over it, and see how it can be modified for the game, but I'll persevere with the idea for now.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Hunter: The Vigil

So - I'm gonna run a wee couple of sessions of Hunter soon, based in Glasgow. I'm gonna pipe up a few ideas here:

  • Derelict buildings - Glasgow's chock full of them, whether it's tenements, warehouses, or half-finished motorway flyovers. These would make some pretty decent hideouts/lairs for gribblies, maybe even a good base of operations for our band of intrepid hunters.
  • Google Earth - my biggest ally when using real-life places in games, it can be used for street maps, for finding creepy places I never knew existed, or even as an in-universe tool - a good Hunter is a prepared Hunter. Must keep it in mind.
  • Set Pieces - as it's only going to be a couple of sessions while we decide on a system to run a large fantasy campaign, I want a few big pre-planned action sequences to make the game stand out. While I have always wanted to run a creepy, investigative Hunter game, it would work better as a long campaign, finally building up to a huge battle for survival. However, when running a short game, I find it best to let people jump straight into the action - so I need a couple of awesome fights to plan around.
  • Hacks - the nWoD "Hacks" are an awesome idea. While the game is mainly based on investigation and horror, Hacks are extra rules which can take things either down to a gritty, realistic level of fear and suffering, or the other way and out to full-on cinematic awesomeness. I'll take the second option, please!
  • Theme - I like short games to have a coherent theme - it stops it being three "Monster of the Week" sessions, with no over-arcing plot or feeling. I kinda want to go for Humanity, FUCK YEAH! as the theme, and show how the sheer testicular fortitude of people can overcome anything the Supernatural can throw at it.
  • Human Evil - despite the name and focus, Hunter isn't just about monster-slaying. Hunters work for the betterment of their community - and sometimes, that means the monsters aren't supernatural. Gangs, violent criminals, serial killers - the detritus of society can make for an interesting change of pace (especially as a "surprise" villain, where everything points to supernatural influence, but instead turns out to be the work of an altogether human perpetrator).
So, enough to be getting on with!