Thursday, 29 September 2011

Monte Cook Drops The Ball

So, Monte Cook - a man generally regarded as a pretty fine gentleman. For those of you who don't know him (and can't be arsed reading the Wikipedia link), he was responsible for quite a bit of the ideas and design for the Planescape campaign setting, was one of the main writers for 3rd Edition D&D, and is the guy behind Ptolus, one of the best-regarded fantasy city books around.

He's just been announced as coming on to work on D&D4e for Wizards of The Coast, presumably to help shore up flagging sales by bringing older players back into the fray through nostalgia and name recognition.

And he's just posted his first article up on the WotC site, regarding an idea for a new mechanic for 4e he calls "passive perception" - as an example, your perception is ranked, and certain objects/obstacles (like secret doors) are similarly ranked - if your Passive Perception is a higher rank than the door, you automatically succeed at finding it (if you choose to look).


Those of you who've ever played 4e will know, this is not new - it's in fact part of the core rules. It's even called your "Passive Perception Score". Rules which came out 4 years ago. Which he's here to "fix", and apparently hasn't even read through, or if he has, hasn't payed any attention to whatsoever.

Hoooooo boy, this is gonna be a long winter...

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Quasi-Elemental Genasi Part II: This Time It's Personal

So, now we get to some of my favourites - the Negative Quasi-Elemental Planes. All of them are touched by entropy, darkness or death - thus making them perfect fodder for inexperienced adventurers!

"Oooh, the Plane of Ash sounds exotic... uuuurgh*hackcoughsplutterdead*"

Speaking of Ash, the Scions of the Dying Embers (as they call themselves) are a quiet, solitary race. Where possible, they carve out their own little lives on Ash, away from everyone (or rarely, in small groups). Those rare few who head to the Planes do so to really get away from everyone - mostly hermits, or lone farmers. Not particularly conductive to long-term PC play, but good as very rare NPCs.

Dust Genasi are my favourite. On Dust, everything fades - buildings crumble, people desiccate, and items rust. Nothing lasts bar memories and history - and those are a Dust Genasi's bread and butter. Many who take to wandering the Planes do so to hunt out interesting histories - whether its magic items (their creation, ownership, uses in certain battles, etc.), places (many choose a nice ruin or other ancient structure and spend their time researching, investigating, and generally spending a few years settled down into the task), or even people (immortal races and individual creatures can be a fountain of interesting information). Many will travel with other adventurers, and can even be quite social (if a little somber).

Salt Genasi are explorers of rivers and great lakes. While many Planes have their own bodies of water (or, are made of water), they actually prefer the Prime worlds - there, rivers are more changeable, they interact more with their settings, and they can look at the cultures that each river supports - all in all, they're more interesting. As they are quite likely to be visiting a Prime at any given point, they make a great way to introduce players on single-world settings to the wonders of the Multiverse. Kinda dull for PC use, but great if you want to do a specific concept.

And, finally, Vacuum Genasi - Air, with all the life (and everything else) sucked out. While you might expect this to make them dull nihilists (as D&D4e made the "Voidsoul" Genasi), they are in fact simply ridiculously naive about how the universe works. After all, when you come from a Plane where literally nothing happens, you're just as likely to stand in fear of a swooping dragon as you are to marvel at the wonders of a dog peeing in the street. I mean, you thought the Clueless were bad? They've got nothing on these guys. Weirdly, a very handy race to hand to a first-time player - just give them the direction "Everything is new" and watch them go! Also make for interesting NPCs, but only in small doses (and part of the fun is watching them "learn" about the rest of the Multiverse, one experience at a time.

So - final thoughts time. There's a lot of Genasi, and other Planetouched and for the most part? They're pretty cool. They add a lot of flavour and consistency to a campaign, but be careful not to overuse them - after all, a dude made of pure elemental Salt is pretty awesome, but when every other character is Planetouched, it starts to lose some of its effect. Of course, you can use this to really hammer a point home about just how weird the Planes are when players head home (if they ever do) - after all, most people will be the usual races, and it might seem drab and boring to see so many baseline humans all in one place. Just be careful with their use, and Genasi can add a lot to your game.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Quasi-Elemental Planetouched Part 1 - Bwah?

So, to further expand on the Planes and their inhabitants, I bring you the Quasi-Elemental Genasi.

Quasi-Elemental Planes exist where the Elemental Planes meet the Positive and Negative Energy Planes (go check out the map in the last post). These are the Light and Dark sides of the relatively Neutral Elements - let's start with the Positives (mainly because the Negatives are far more interesting).

The Radiance Genasi are what happens when Fire gets Positively charged - bright, happy, shiny people. Their Plane is a place of colour and beauty, and they tend to find the Multiverse... a little underwhelming. Many take to the arts in an attempt to bring some of the brilliance of their home to the rest of the Planes - but when you are used to unlimited shades and colours that don't even exist outside of Radiance, it's kinda hard. Being very positive in their outlook, few are deterred by this.

Mineral is Positive/Earth - The Earth takes on qualities of beauty and radiance, becoming precious gemstones. The Mineral Genasi are kind, generous people, who just so happen to be huge, walking collections of gemstones and crystals. Pretty cool NPCs, especially as traders, salesmen and maybe hireable miners or appraisers (who would know gemstones better than a gemstone?). They are also known for their generous nature -  when you live amongst gemstones, they lose some of their value, and money holds little appeal to them. You might see one working in a free clinic, healing the less fortunate, or otherwise helping the needy.

Steam are described as "The Lanterns in The Mists" - and are a race determined to get to the bottom of things. Skilled in deductive reasoning and grunt work, they make for perfect private eyes. I feel that this is too focused for a race - a single character, fine, but a whole race of detectives? Meh.

Lightning Genasi come from a Plane of storms, static and energy. When Air gets supercharged with energy, it starts sparking - and Lightning comes with it. For a cool twist, Lightning Genasi are obsessed with a particular facet of the Multiverse - Gods and Powers. The reasoning being, well, your Gods of Water love to go for a swim, Gods of Fire enjoy an inferno, but Powers of Thunder, Storms, and Lightning tend to really revel in the joys of a good storm - so why not go visit The Storm? Many Lightning Genasi have encountered a Power on the Plane, and they find them fascinating. Many who then go on to become Planewalkers will then spend their time investigating other religions, mythologies, and Powers to see what they do. Many even simply travel from temple to temple, learning as much as they can about Gods of all stripes. Make good Clerics, obviously, but I can also see a cool "Religious polymath" - one who knows a million and one little prayers or holy symbols to help out in a specific situation. Picture the party being faced with some very specific Undead: the Gensasi holding up holy symbol after holy symbol, reciting words of Power, hymns and litanies, until finding just the right one to dispatch the terror. Very cool.

Next, The Negative Quasi-Elemental Genasi. Confused yet? I am.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Saanar's Miscellany - Expanded

As you walk through the ancient, faded door, the first thing that hits you is the smoke.

 Thick, choking clouds float through out from the shop, above which a distressed sign reads;

Saanar's Miscellany
Curiosities and Oddities
of The Great Wheel

The mixed scents of cinnamon, camphor and mint are... pleasing, even through the smoke. Not acrid or hot, just scented. As your eyes begin to adjust to the slight stinging sensation, you see a darkened figure sitting on a cushion, shisha pipe between his lips. His skin is dark, almost pearlescent, and his clothes speak of the finer things in life.

Though his features are too dark to see it you can hear the smile in his voice.

"Heh, welcome, stranger."

Saanar's Miscellany is one of the many shops sprung up on the Merchant Quarter of Sigil. What makes it different is its owner - Saanar himself. A Smoke Genasi, Saanar is happiest when surrounded by people and the bustle of the city - so where better to come to see people of all stripes, and to feel naught but bustle all day and night?

Originally, he decided to see the Planes, possessed with the usual Genasi wanderlust. Now, he's decided to settle down and begin selling off the wonderful things he's located and sourced on his travels. Even if you're not trading, Saanar's naturally chatty disposition makes him a great contact, full of interesting tid-bits about the Planes, and will happily share some information for a story in return.

The store itself is halfway between a market stall and an opium den - throws and cushions decorate the floor, there's always incense burning or a hookah waiting to be fired up, and most of the "stock" is casually displayed on racks and tables. From ornate ceremonial weapons, to charms and amulets, to odd sculptures and weird reagents, Saanar has a wide variety of goods for perusal. Mostly, it's stuff he finds interesting - and will offer over the odds for unique and interesting items to sell or admire. If you can find something to his tastes, you might even sell it for his private collection...

A few of the items available for perusal;

Nowhere near as impressive as it sounds, the dagger Godslayer was forged by an Athar for use in a failed political assassination against one of Moradrin's proxies. Pure Abyssal steel, its dark, greasy surface never seems to catch the light at all. When used against anyone wielding the power of the Divine, it can cut off their connection to their Power for a few seconds at a time - useful when fighting Clerics! Problem was, even without the power of the Dwarf God, the proxy was still a Dwarven warriorsmith of great renown, and promptly headbutted the poor Athar to death.

A set of armour, allegedly the stripped and tanned skin of a Troll, that seems to grow over any wounds made in it - self-repairing, if you will. Makes you pretty tough, and is very useful on long-hauls without an armourer nearby. However, if a blow should pierce the armour and break the skin of the wearer, it will grow into the wound, permanently bonding itself to the poor sod inside. You don't want to know how they got it off the last cutter to wear it...

A perfectly cylindrical rod, with a handle and pommel much like a sword. While most people would see it used as a perfectly functional bludgeon, give it to a Modron and see what it really is - a blade, forged on Mechanus by the Moigno - sentient equations and formulae, who exist to help keep the Big Cog turning. One of the Moigno represented a formula for pure sharpness - and bonded that formula into this bar. When wielded by a Modron (or any succificently Lawful cutter), this pole can cut through adamantine like it was butter. Very useful, but quite specific. Now, if you can convince one of those Cans to fight for you, well...

A Slaad Feather. While most of the Slaad take reptilian and frog-like forms, their sheer chaotic nature means they can sport some... odd variences. This Feather was allegedly taken from a Death Slaad - it's pure black, in such a way that it seems to suck in light around it. Could be used in any number of Chaotic, Death or Darkness-related spells. Saanar likes this one, so it'd take a lot for him to part with it.

Numerous "lucky charms" - like cogs from a Modron, blessed body parts allegedly from famous Paladins, etc. Each of these can provide a small boost to an action that it relates to - so, those cogs would be good when fighting Chaotic creatures, or sorting something into order, or working out a puzzle, while the Paladin Bits are good when dealing with Undead, blessing something/someone, or dealing with a specific enemy the Paladin had in life. Mechanically, it's a one-use Lucky Shot/Questing Dice - when the charm would seem appropriate, you can use it up for a single extra die. Both the player and the GM need to agree the item is appropriate, or one simply has to shout louder than the other.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

More Planetouched: The Weird and Wonderful Genasi

The Inner Planes are the basic forces of the Multiverse - primal building blocks of Fire, Earth, Water and Air. You also have the Positive and Negative Energy Planes - the forces of Creation and Destruction, Life and Entropy, etc.

Each Elemental Plane is technically infinite, but there are some conterminous points - sections where they touch. But not all of them - it's like a 4-part ring arrangement. It's... pretty fucking complicated, truth be told. Look:

...yeah, something like that...

You can probably make out the touching points - like between Earth and Fire, you have Magma, or Dust between Earth and Negative.

Each of these Para-Elemental (between the elements) or Quasi-Elemental (between the elements and Positive/Negative planes) Planes has its own inhabitants - including more Genasi! I'll stick with the Para-Elementals for now - 4 in all.

Again, some are pretty cool, some are kinda weak. Smoke are pretty cool - Air meets Fire, passion and though combining into a cultured appreciation of all things, and a love of enclosed spaces. Due to the fact that beings from both Air and Fire can easily live here, it's a pretty busy place - in fact, when they come to the Prime Material, they tend towards bustling cities, and are a fairly common sight in Sigil. Very cool as NPCs - the hacking, continually raspy voiced merchant, selling curios and oddities from his back-room, continually giving off the scent of burnt cinnamon and opium...

Ice Genasi are surprisingly sensitive and emotional - a far cry from Ice's usual "cold and uncaring" demeanor. While the other inhabitants of Ice are somewhat "muted", the human side of Ice Genasi yearns for some show of emotion - and those who get themselves out onto the Planes are eager to make up for lost time. Quite cool as PCs - their emotional "edginess" leads them to be prime adventuring material.

Magma Genasi are explorers at heart - very curious about the Planes, and mostly travel to see the Multiverse. A bit weak (all Para-Elemental Genasi share the curiosity angle), but cool for their looks and the possibility of combining the solid, unshakable nature of Earth with the wild, passionate fury of Fire. Would make for a pretty good PC race, maybe a bit too generic as NPCs.

Ooze are the rejects of the pile. Being between Water and Earth, they're pretty much Mud Elementals. Not very well received, all things considered. But they're eager to shrug off this disrespect by being the best they can be - super-competitive, friendly to everyone they can be, the works. They're also commonly found
as Paladins and protectors, attempting to "out-hero" everyone else. Quite cool, good as a pretty much pre-built PC backstory, or good as an NPC/Cohort or Hireling.

As you might guess, "opposing" elements don't touch - so no Fire/Water plane, or Earth/Air. Which is a good thing, really - some of the concepts are stretched thin as is, and I can't imagine much about them beyond "conflicted and confused".

Next, the Quasi-Elementals - beings formed of the union of an Element and Positive or Negative Energy.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Planetouched Races - Some Awesome, Some Not So Much

One of the main elements of the Planescape setting is (funnily enough) the Planes. It's also well known that they can influence people, and change them in unexpected ways, or otherwise suffuse their substance into a living being. These beings are referred to as the Planetouched, and are a fairly common sight on the streets of Sigil.


Touched (possibly innapropriately) by the Inner Planes, the Genasi have the power of raw elements flowing through their blood.

Fire Genasi are your bog-standard "man with a flaming head". Fairly uninspiring, I feel. They're quick to anger, passionate, etc. So why not mix it up a little and have one who is more about cold fury and rage, less a naked flame and more a blue-hot flamethrower? They also have some minor fire-based abilities (like fire-affecting, or even a version of the Burning Hands spell) - in Risus, you can stretch these to be as varied as you want (say, you can affect fires, or shoot fire, or walk unharmed through an inferno) - whatever you and the GM agree is appropriate (no, there isn't a "Nuclear Holocaust" setting on your personal flamethrower!). Good for hot-blooded Warrior characters, and can make some very thematically-focused Fire Wizards (though something like Sorcerer, with the whole "magic in the blood" feel might be more appropriate

Water Genasi are also a bit hard to pin down - appropriately enough, for an element which flows and adapts. Not much exciting here, sadly. I tend to see them as just as passionate as Fire, slightly tempered by a nicer nature. But when the chips are down, you could face a torrent of pain. "Flexible" would be a good word for them - in fact, in the standard D&D race lineup, where Dwarves are Earth-like, Elves are Air, etc. I see humanity as closest to Water - not just adaptable and mutable, but prone to quick change, and never safe to predict. Awesome Monks, fair warriors, might make an interesting Wizard...

Air are a personal favourite - they are flighty, artistic, philosophical... another recurring NPC of mine is Sadia Windstrider, a warrior-poet with an acrobatic combat style. Most of the cliches you would use for Elves are a great fit for the Wind Dukes. Good as more skill-based characters, rather than straight up Warriors - thieves, Bards, maybe the odd Cleric.

Earth Genasi are big, ponderous, and stoic. Again, pretty much normal-height Dwarves - they make good Warriors and Defenders, being tough as nails and strong as oxen. They would also make for interesting lawyers - a well-thought defense, which might take hours to formulate, and an unshakeable nature make them surprisingly handy in planned-out social situations.

The Good, The Bad, and The Not-So Ugly
Then you have Tieflings and Aasimar - descendants of Devils/Demons and Angels, respectively. They are very generic in their stance - Aasimar are happy, beautiful, shiny people, and Tieflings are sullen, cloven-footed and horned folk. I think I'd keep these generic models as distant relatives of other Celestial/Fiendish entities - so, a Half-Fiends great great grandson, for example. I'd much rather see some variety based on the particular Planar Being in the bloodline - so, you have Planetar Aasimar, with a slight greenish hue and a warrior bent, or an Ice Devil Tiefling, with blueish skin and odd, insectoid features. Of course, each of these would require a lot of conversoin work and balancing to be done in D&D - but one of the joys of Risus is that they would be as useful as you wanted (having Planetar Aasimar as a cliche might give you an advantage when talking to Celestials or superstitious common folk, make you a kind and gentle person or a righteous holy warrior, give you a commonly-attributed ability of Planetars - but for the love of the Gods, not Gate).

Pretty much pick an interesting Celestial or Fiend, and run through what you want out of the deal with the GM. Simple.

Lawful, Neutral, And Chaotic Planetouched
So, here you have the Zenthyri (beings descended from pure Law), who are surprisingly interesting - they are Lawful to a tee, and might seem aloof and uninterested to most. But they are simply very good at controlling their emotions, to the point that, when faced in battle, they maintain a "tranquil fury" that is terrifying. They also give some great roleplay options - while they are a natural fit as Guvnors, imagine a Zenthyri Sensate - wanting to experience everything, and recording and studying each sensation, making notes and comparisons.

"Well, that Burning Hands spell did hurt, but it was nothing like the Fireball last week... I'd say a 3.8 pain rating, as opposed to the 7.9 Fireball..."

You ever wanted to play a blue Vulcan, they're your guys.

Chaonds are those poor sods touched by Chaos - misshapen, dour, and altogether mad. Very useful as NPCs, they make for great not-evil bad guys, or as suspicious characters who turn out to be not as evil as they seem... as characters, they sadly have a tendancy to be picked by what the internet terms as the "lolrandom" player - the guy who takes Chaotic Neutral as an alignment, then makes a character who could kiss you or punch your baby - you'll never know till it's too late. Can be good, but I'd keep an eye on it...

But then, we have the Rilmani. Those touched by Neutrality.

Sadly, yes, they look pretty much like these guys - faces like runny cheese, no specific tone of voice or action... Seriously, why bother? Again, much better as NPCs, maybe as perfectly neutral judges in contests or, in the rare case of a Lawful Neutral one, a perfect Guvnor to track down your player's resident lawbreakers. Really, dull enough that they kinda slip into the background (and as such, perfect NPCs!).

Next, the Para- and Quasi-Elemental Genasi - Obscure and Weird, here we come!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Unknown Armies: Help The Sheep-Shagger

Inspired by this video (NSFW, kinda).

"I swear to God, dude, she was a chick before!"

A close personal friend has been caught in a... compromising situation with a sheep. He protests that he remembers finding a beautiful young woman in a field, being seduced by her beauty and charm, and making love to her out under the stars.

Security footage from the farm shows a very different story...

In the UA-niverse, lycanthropy is... weird. There are people who turn into animals, yes - but it's not a curse or a natural mutation. It's caused by demons - free-floating, evil spirits who like to possess the living to interact with the world once more.

Should a demon, through choice, accident, or the design of some weirdo Adept possess an animal, it has to lose a few things to "fit" inside its mind. Things like higher mental functions. Should it then possess a human, you have a person who, most of the time, is a person - but, when the possessing demon comes to the fore, they become an animal, like the shape-shifters of myth and legend.

Now, reality doesn't like these lycanthropes - so much so, it selectively re-writes itself to cover their existence. So, when the possessed is a human, they are and always have been a human - and no-ones gonna debate that, that would be stupid. When they're an animal, same deal - they are and always have been an animal. Until they change back, then it's time for another reality-overwrite.

This can lead to such moments as seeing a seagull fly over head, then, a few hours later, wonder why the fuck some guy was flying naked over you when you went to the shops. Until he's a seagull again, by which point you may rest easy and forget all about it.

Your friend has been caught out by one of these lycanthropes - a woman, desperate for some real human affection, who sadly only your friend remembers as a woman (hey, reality can't catch all the problems).

Keep an eye on the tape - if you time it just right, you can watch it and see her as a woman... but do you really want to have to watch a tape of a dude shagging a sheep a couple of times a day to try and prove his story? Of course you do, otherwise you wouldn't be playing Unknown Armies...
Can you get to the bottom of the mystery, and get your friend off from his beastiality charges?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

PaperMunda: I Am Too Poor To Afford Minis

So, I've been eyeing up Games Workshop's Necromunda - a skirmish game, where players take charge of rival gangs in a Hive City (equal parts Tokyo, Mogadishu, and BioDome) - a huge, contained city, with the top layers inhabited by the rich and powerful, the middle layers by the common man, and the Underhive inherited by the gangs and criminals, where there is little to no law, save that passed down by blade and bullet. Under that, there's the very dregs of society - mutants, xenos, and heretics.

Instead of having a set army list, like other GW games, your gang can grow, learn new skills, and become better fighters - so, with enough battles survived, you can take a wet-behind-the-ears teenager with a stick and turn him into a heavily armed professional warrior, or even the Leader of your gang - like I said, assuming he survives.

It also makes for faster games than your average wargame - no huge armies, little paperwork and equipment-swapping, and rules designed to keep gangs to a maximum of about 10-12 models. While it's designed as a campaign game, gaining experience over multiple battles and improving your gang, it's just as easy to set a credits limit, maybe add a set amount of advances (those extra skills you earn) for each model to bump things up a little, and run a quick one-off game for fun.

But, like a lot of GW games, it requires miniatures - and as the originals are hard to find/expensive, I had been looking at proxies that I could use instead. Then something else hit me - I have no time to build, paint, and customise minis, and I have a severe dislike of small, fiddly things - which minis are, mostly.

Then I lucked out and found some cool post-apocalyptic paper miniatures from One Monk Miniatures - they're nice, flavourful, and easily modified (even in GIMP!).

But, they're just not quite right - and try as I might, I can't find cool minis to sub in for a lot of the factions without some big modifications, and I guess I want minis that can be changed to fit equipment layouts, etc.
So I've decided to sketch up a couple of my own.

I want to have a few unique units for each gang - maybe 3 Juves, 3 Gangers, 2 Heavies, and 2 Leaders for each. Between weapon swaps and simple recolours, it should be easy enough to have a unique-looking gang. I also want a run of modular weapons - one to add to any figure, with a small amount of skill in MSPaint. Keeps thing easy, makes it quick and fun to do. I'll make sure I have a Ganger posed for Pistols, Close-Combat, and two-handed weapons - and a similar layout for Leaders. Heavies will be continually armed with two-handed Heavy weapons (what, you give yours a pistol?).

After some time, I'll probably work on some Bounty Hunters - but then again, One Monk's got some awesome unique characters who would fit just nice.

I've taken a lot of the weapon patterns/designs from the Rogue Trader Core Rulebook (the armoury section is just fantastic), having stats for all the Necromunda weapons, and technical sketches for most of them. The Weapons Reference sheet will be the first thing up (once I have a scanner!).

Another thing that makes Necromunda a bit different is the focus on terrain - whereas in large-scale battles, fiddly terrain is a nuisance, and gets in the way of engagements, in Necromunda terrain is expected to have multiple levels, places to hide, things to climb - in part to add a lot of tactical depth to a small-scale game, and also to remove some of the winning power of firearms. Wide open areas make excellent shooting ranges, so the gang with the longest range guns will win - not that much fun. Whereas with terrain to duck behind, cover to fire from, etc. you can really add a new dimension to the game, and also keep hand-to-hand combat a viable strategy (and, of course, meaning you can punt folk off tall buildings - always fun!). So, while still in the planning stages, I'm looking at cheap and easy to store paper terrain. I'd love something like this, but I've never tried building it before...

Current plan is unpainted terrain, all cardboard and sticky-back plastic - Blue Peter style!

Or, of course, there's always (always) Army Men. And Pringles tubes.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Valerian's Reach - A City To Be Used

So, inspired by reading through Dyson Logos' amazing maps and geomoprhs, I want to create a city. I've wanted to run a "Thieves Guild" game for a while, and I almost got one going before real-life interjected. So I wanted a city that could handle (Non-Modern) Urban Fantasy, for a game more focused on politics, inter-faction battles and the occasional bit of cat-burglary. I also want something I can easily drop into any number of campaigns with very little tweaking (I know, I don't ask for much). I'll start with a brief overview of the main groups within the city, and build it up from there.

To start, Valerian's Reach was a small port town beside a large ocean. But local Princes granted areas of land around the town to various Nobles and Barons, so a fair amount of trade lines and caravans were set up. Over time, Valerian's Reach grew out from its humble beginnings, eventually enveloping the Noble lands and making them part of the city proper. Now, it's the main trade area of the country, and is always growing.

Due to the influence of a few corrupt Nobles, the city has slowly descended into lawlessness - the black market is so thriving, it practically outpaces normal trade in the area. And while each Noble family ensures that their "lands" are kept pristine and well-guarded, they need someone to do their dirty work within the city - while some have their own street-gangs and mercenary bands, some need other assistance - enter the Thieves.

As with most large cities, Guilds have popped up to ensure fair treatment and a share of resources amongst those in similar professions - the Guilds of Sailors, Merchants, and Smiths are particularly well represented due to connections to various Noble Houses. However, some of the other gangs, sick of the sheer brutality and scheming of the Noble houses, banded together to form an unofficial Guild of Thieves. It's pretty much an open secret - the Guard knows about their existence, and by extension, so does the local government, but they're too valuable to keep down - mainly through their use as tools of the Noble Houses, and for the amount of information they hold on everyone in the city. A few well-placed communications to other cities, and they'd be at under siege for years, for crimes against trade, religion and decency.

The Thieves are mainly after their own goals - mostly, the accumulation of wealth and power, hopefully enough to outpace the Nobles and make the Port their own. Some are even double agents, working for the Guild under the cover of some minor retainer within a Noble House. Any who are found by their employer are often executed, or at least excommunicated and branded as Thieves. Take a note - if you see someone with a Thieves Brand, they're probably not very good at it.

As mentioned, the Black Market of Valerian's Reach pretty much holds the city together - it underpins all transactions, and account for something like 90% of the city's holdings. From slaves to assassins to necromantic ritual components, if it's not welcome in other places, you can buy it here - for the right price, of course.


Unlike most places in Delraith, which are segregated by race/origin, Valerian's Reach is highly mixed and cosmopolitan. Most of the population is human - from areas around the continent, and further afield (like the Southern Reaches, the Western Plains, and even a few who claim to come from somewhere referred to as "The Pole States"). There are few Elves or Dwarves - those who live here are outcasts from their own race, trying to find a place to fit in, frequently dropping to criminal activity as a result. More 'civilised' goblinoids, like Hobgoblins and the less-warlike Orcish tribes, are fairly common - mostly as private guards and mercenaries (House Cassimere is known for having an entire Hobgoblin tribe on retainer). Halflings, cropping up wherever there are humans, are a regular enough sight. Less common, but more noticeable, are the black-skinned Drow - outcast Elves who talk rarely of their past, their origin, or of their kin. Many take the opportunity to become bandits, raiders and pirates - their great dark ships cutting a fair sight on any horizon. There are also a number of individuals from more unusual races - like Thraka, the Half-Ogre guard (used in large battles/riots, more like a walking artillery piece than a true Guard), K'ski'f, Illithid Black Market Merchant/Loanshark (you really don't want to get behind on your payments... or ask where he gets his stuff), and Saris Windstrider, an Air Genasi warrior-poet who resides with House Belladonna.

Noble Houses

House Cassimere (The House of War, The Armourers) are a House built on bloodshed and battle - many of the armies and adventurers of Delraith are supplied from the forges of Cassimere, regardless of allegiance. Those with the greatest coin are friends of the House - indeed, it is relatively easy to get anything made for you in the Iron Citadel so long as your money is right. The Head of House is a position filled democratically (much like the head of any big business), rather than through family lines.

House Belladonna (The Wenches, The Courtesans, The House of Diplomats) are mostly known for their use of politics and subtle manipulations to get what they want. Most of their most prominent members are women, but a small core of men are around for use when dealing with some of the more "traditional" Houses. Many a Bard or entertainer throughout DelraithDrow (and due to their natural enmity, they are careful not to work with each other), Halflings, and a few Goliath Stone-Speakers (storytellers, passing down oral history and great deeds through song). There are a few members who are either kept under wraps or disguised for their own sake (like the changeling Annah, who has several civilian identities, and acts as a spy when necessary, or uses her natural shape shifting gifts to be a very popular handmaiden).

House Sharn (The Black House, The Merchants of Death) originally started as a cabal of necromancers - but have expanded out to become one of the forefront producers of magic items and spell components in the city. If you need anything magical, or dark, or disgusting, you want an agent of Sharn. While necromancy was their main focus previously, more and more practitioners of other magics flock to their banner, forming something of a Magocracy within the House - those with the most knowledge of the Arcane become the new leaders. While there is no small amount of nepotism in who is chosen, anyone can apply and challenge the current Head of House, so long as they can prove themselves in test of sorcerous might. Due to the leaders having more magic-sense than business-sense, many hire up outcasts from House Nisseer, or pinch them before they can join, to shore up the holes in their business strategy. Rumour has it some of the higher-ups are actually Undead, such as Vampires and Liches (or it could just be that Valin The Charming is really hot, and old Ressigar does look skeletal under the right light...)

House Nisseer (The Traders, The Mercantile House) are a collective of traders, merchants, and craftsmen - they supply the essentials to Valerian's Reach. Many of the black market routes were originally set up by members of this house, even though they are now owned by others (though many still pay some small share back to the House). They hold charge of large swathes of The Docks, tithing those who come to trade to ensure "safe passage and guaranteed peace to trade". Some even claim they have trade links that stretch beyond this world - and having K'Liv, the unnaturally tall, blue-grey tinted trader in their ranks (actually a Mercane) helps to fuel the speculation that they might have some links to the Planes Beyond (what can I say, I like having an option for Planescape!).

Fashions and Customs

There are few temples within the walls of Valerian's Reach - few self-respecting Gods would want anything to do with such a hive of scum and villainy. But, some persist - Addrig, Minor Deity of Thieves, Gamblers and Scoundrels has quite the following, her temple being almost as large as a Nobilite mansion. It's also a favoured meeting place for Thieves Guild members (after all, there they are just parishioners - and the Nobles haven't yet got the power to ban religion). There is also a small temple to Varily, God of Truth and Valour - a missionary place, dedicated to helping those few honest folk who still make their home in The Reach.

Most weeks, there will be a minor celebration - from racial ones (like Winterfast, the Halfling coming-of-age parties where, each winter, those who turn 14 need to abstain from food for a month, barring what they can catch themselves - and should they succeed, the taverns will be full of Halfling families and friends looking to feed them back up), to religious (Addrig's Day, where worshippers play games and engage in acts of daring and games of chance).

While its cosmopolitan nature is shown in the dress sense of its peoples, there is still a standard "Reach look" - normally, darkened leathers or cotton, heavy cloaks (to keep out the worst of the coastal winds), and heavy hoods (to keep out the worst of the Guard's stares). Standard "thief/rogue/bad guy" clothing, if you will. Those of Noble birth are frequently seen wearing ostentatious displays of their wealth - fine silks (a favourite is the Phase Spider silks often touted by Drow merchants, known for its many and varied colours and magically-reactive sheen), jewellery of gold and gems, and the odd magical adornment (for example, many of the House Belladonna girls are seen with items that can create small illusions, such as changing their hair colour or skin tone, to subtly adjust themselves to be most attractive to a given client, and the bizarrely well-kept facial hair of the men of Cassimere is tempered with a combination of depilatory cremes, magically-enhanced razors, and the odd touch of magic). Many Thieves looking to disguise themselves (or to throw off the scent of the Guards) will take on such adornments, pretending to be wealthy eccentric Nobles to distract from their true intentions.

Next up (when I get scanner access) will be a map, a few important NPCs, and some more Noble Houses.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Agents of K.I.C.K. - The Next Generation

Wanky Vampires, Furry Werewolves and other Creatures of Night(club) have banded together and kidnapped the President of the United States.

Are you bad enough dudes/ladies/aliens/Man-Bear-Pigs to rescue him?

Yep, it's that time agin - K.I.C.K. is back in buisness, and we're starting small - saving the US President from the forces of the supernatural.

With any luck, the game will go ahead this Friday - more info when I get a list of players!

Also, is it ManBearPigs or MenBearPigs? Answers on a postcard, please.