Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Unknown Armies: The Birchman

"Hey, guys, you remember we found that deer a few months back? All torn up and shit? Police caught the guy who did it - some raggedy junkie motherfucker, all covered in shit and blood. He'd been living in the woods for years, man!"

Samuel Hardman had started life as your average college dropout.

He studied Buisness Management for two years. Of that time, around one month was spent earnestly studying - then he started droppping classes. He drifted through the rest of the year on failing grades and pot-smoke, slowly becoming more and more withdrawn from the world as the internet and video games provided more and more of his entertainment. By the end of his second year, he barely left his tiny apartment - food was delivered, entertainment kept pouring in, and he even sorted out a wonderful drug delivery service.

However, what started with weed had taken a somewhat harder turn - to keep up with his competitors online, he would drop a few lines of coke every now and then. This turned into some wild experimentation, on his own, with anything he could lay his hands on. It was during a massively isolated acid trip that his mind finally fractured under the pressure, the stress of isolation, and his mounting debts, and left him somewhat... damaged. The drugs had taken hold, and he knew that drugs had broke him - and so they would fix him. But they had to be just right... nothing he took made him feel any better. He had to make them himself - some primal creative urge had held him, and he began mixing drugs with strange components and new cocktails. He splurged out on a chemistry set, downloaded all the Anarchist's Cookbooks he could, and began creating.

When he took his own stuff, he felt more... alive. He was charged with purpose, something... more. However, he felt that the drugs needed new ingredients, to help him fully heal himself - a walking alchemical laboratory, mixing and measuring to finally piece himself back to a coherent whole. He ended up selling off everything he owned, and bought himself a caravan, enough chemical supplies to start a terrorist attack, and tools. He set up shop in the woods, clad in rags and protective gear, and went finding.

He started small - unusual flowers and mushrooms, odd bits and end he found, all added, mixed, and snorted, smoked, injected - anything to fix himself. Slowly but surely, he's been adding in things to improve himself as well - a bear's heart, the light bones of a bird, to try and make himself better than he was before. Whether or not these work is anybody's guess, but he sure does creep around those woods quitely, and he's a tough son of a bitch too...

To supplement his meagre income selling drugs, he also hunts out burls - knots and shapes that appear in older trees, unique to the stresses and strains each tree has went through. Carpenters and artists will pay a pretty penny for these burls, and each and every pretty penny goes right back to buying and producing drugs, which in turn fuel him to find more burls, and so, the cycle continues.

Now, people who go into the woods are wary of "The Birchman" - a ragged figure, eyes burning like fire, who kills and snorts his victims. They say you don't hear him till the roar of his chainsaw is right behind you...

"The Birchman"
Minor Narco-Alchemist Weirdo

Body 55
Lumberjacking 40%, Struggle 40%, Shrug Off Pain 20%

Speed 55
Sneaking 45%, Video gaming 30%

Mind 30
Notice 25%, Botany 30%
Soul 60
Narco-Alchemy 60%*, Lying 30%

*As with all Adepts, Narco-Alchemy is The Birchamn's Obsession Skill, and can flip-flop his rolls when using the skill.

He knows all the Minor Narqui formulae, and might even know a few unique ones if the GM decides they would make him more interesting. He prefers ones which enhance his physical prowess, however.

Possessions: Chainsaw (+3 big, +3 heavy, +3 sharp), protective gear for lumbering, caravan with a full Alchemist's Kit in the back, a couple of home-made pipe bombs.

House Varran-Delin - A Rival Rogue Trader Dynasty

As I like posting up my plans for bad guys/NPCs for upcoming games, here's a pair for a Rogue Trader game - the brothers Tiberius and Agamemnon Varran-Delin, Twin Scions of the Varran-Delin Dynasty.

A man with the temperament of a Fenksworld Pit Thing (and a face to match), Tiberius was a military man before the Warrant of Trade came to him. His father, Galanius, had sent him to serve with the Imperial Guard (where his status and wealth drew him no end of criticism and veiled threats). However, Tiberius proved himself to be a resourceful soldier, a powerful combatant, and in time a great leader of men, becoming a General in but a few short years (many suggest he obtained a few "field promotions" in his time in the warzone). Numerous engagements fought, battles won, and accolades received later, he got word that Galanius had passed away, and left his considerable fortune (and Warrant of Trade) to his son.

After finishing his final campaign (prying a small patch of the Expanse from the Traitor 46th Allanian), he returned to Port Wander to claim his Warrant of Trade, only to find a usurper in his place - Agamemnon.

Where Tiberius was strong, cautious, and violent, Agamemnon was effete, proud, and hedonistic. Raised as a merchant on a Noble World, Agamemnon already had a fair fortune under his belt - but the Warrant would provide chances for more riches than even he could spend. When the news came of Galanius' death, one of his Adepts found a link to the dynasty within the hour - and within a second hour, Agamemnon was on his way to Port Wander to claim his title as Scion of the Dynasty.

Turns out, Galanius had played away from home a fair bit - and, due to several quirks in the wording of his will (possibly intentional), both men had an equal claim to the Warrant. After many weeks of deliberation, legal wrangling from both sides, and more than a few threats of violence, both men decided to share the Warrant - each a full Scion, and possessor of half the total wealth of the Dynasty (Agamemnon is still bitter that he had to pool his assets with the Dynasty, feeling that Tiberius had infinitely less to offer).

Both compliment each other incredibly (though neither will admit it) - Agamemnon providing a "face" to the operation, dealing with the trade, barter, and political side of running a dynasty, while Tiberius is the man for battles, planning expeditions and campaigns, and acting as the personal intimidation that a Rogue Trader requires. This synergy of skills makes the two a dangerous combination of brawn and brains - but there are ways to drive a wedge between them...

Business Interests
The Varran-Delin dynasty has several businesses up and running, and a few more on the backburner when the PCs encounter them. The "own" a small agri-world, Cassas III, on a backwater Warp Route in the Expanse, where they export food, livestock and materials to several nearby Hive and Forge Worlds, making a tidy profit as the only agricultural planet in the system. Agamemnon is also known to sponsor gangs on one of the system's Hives (Hive Belarius), in order to run another small profit from drugs and weapons smuggling. While he is not yet "the man behind the throne" on Belarius, it's certainly enough to give him considerable control of the populace. They also have several successful trade routes dotted through the Expanse.

By which I mean, what they can pull from their back pocket at a moment's notice.

Agamemnon's Hive world links mean he has a steady supply of smugglers, unmarked and hard-to-trace assassins, and even the odd starship at his beck and call. He also has a few more unusual contacts, including a mysterious Eldar Corsair who seems to owe him a favour or two.

Tiberius, on the other hand, can call upon his previous rank and standing, gaining access to military hardware, manpower, and in a few rare cases, detachments of Space Marines and other highly-regarded members of the Imperium.

I might have set these two up as antagonists, but they're most certainly not villains - they are simply rivals to your Rogue Trader line. They could become somewhat terse allies (for example, you are both racing to reach a certain planet, when you are besieged by Orks/Eldar/Chaos, or even another Rogue Trader), or you could figure a way to destroy their dynasty from within (remember, Tiberius thinks Agamemnon has no real right to the Warrant, and Agamemnon is pissed about having to share his money with his "brother") - old rivalries could be forced to come to a head, all with a well-placed word or a diversionary attack - I imagine less scrupulous Captains might order an assassination attempt on one or both of them, and try and pin them on the other brother.

Agamemnon might also turn traitor - after all, he's just a few dick-tentacles away from being a Slannesi cultist, what with the hedonistic attitude and "unusual" tastes. Would you be willing to team up with your rival to take on his own brother? Would handing him over to the Inquisition ruin Tiberius's reputation?

Even Tiberius could be your villain - Agamemnon fears that he's becoming too brutal with his methods, and wants you to help take him down. Problem being, Agamemnon cannot be seen to be interfering - the fallout from the two brothers openly warring could be disastrous for their House. This works best if the PCs are a small, foundling dynasty - were they more powerful, they might simply allow the battle to run its course, watch as Agamemnon or Tiberius fell, and the other left in disgrace, and move in and clean up, sweeping trade routes and interests right out from under them. Of course, that could be just the plot you wanted to run...


Play Tiberius as a straight-up warrior - what you see is what you get, and what you get is murder. His plans rarely involve subterfuge (unless directed by his brother), favouring superior firepower and intimidation. He should cast a frightening figure - a giant of a man, clad in carapace armour painted with the colours of his Dynasty (and frequently helmeted), well-versed in tactics and the lore of wars past.

Characters to reference - King Leonidas (300), any cowboy played by Clint Eastwood, any generic "Badass Leader" type.

For game stats, make him a proper physical challenge - a powerhouse in a fight, with high WS, BS, and Ag, possibly to the detriment of his Fellowship. Intelligence should be decent, and his Willpower should be near-legendary.
Agamemnon is somewhat more flamboyant than his brother - but don't let his foppish exterior fool you. He should be played as a calculating, cruel man, and should never find himself in a physical fight (he has bodyguards to do that for him). Dressed in silken robes and ornamented with lavish jewellery (some clearly Xenos in origin), he's normally found lounging in his private quarters - but when no-one is around, he's a bustle of activity, plotting and planning his next money-making scheme.
Characters to reference - Littlefinger (ASoIaF, Game of Thrones), Lucifer (Sandman/Lucifer), Xilius (Dungeons and Dragons: The Abominat... I mean, Movie), any "Magnificent Bastard" character.

In-game, he should be a character defined by Fellowship skills, like Charm, Deceive, Barter, etc. In a straight fight, he will fall - though he always has a few dirty tricks up his sleeve, and a personal guard equipped with the best money can buy.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Lead Legion Painting Services

So, I just want to give some free publicity to my good friend Brian, and his new buisness venture Lead Legion Painting Services, which will hopefully get me a freely painted mini.

Follow the link or check out his blog, where he shows off a few more of his personal colleciton of fantastically painted and built miniatures. As I've seen a lot of them in real life, I am obviously biased - minis always look better in real life than in photos. But, looking at the quality of his work in the photos (as taken by his lovely wife), those will be some sexy models to behold in person...

DM Questionnaire

So, finally getting around to this...

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
Captain Krawkin. A combination of several real people's annoying habits, along with a few traditional "villainous" characteristics, has lead to a character that the players are actively paranoid of. That's players, not characters - for some reason, he's got right under their skin, despite originally being a one-use bad guy. My girlfriend actually gets angry when she talks about him to other gamers.

That's got to be worth something, man.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
Yesterday morning, while we had breakfast.

3. When was the last time you played?
Ooooft, a good few months ago now. There was a somewhat-muddled oneshot that a friend tried to run, but properly played last in Dangerous Brian's Edarnia Campaign.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

We were somewhere around Junktown, on the edge of the Ashlands, outside Hive Primus, when the drugs began to take hold.

Nothing would make me happier than running a game of Black Crusade based on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Listen. I like to remain flexible and keep my plots pretty fluid, and more often than not, you can spot the way that players want a plot to go by listening to how they plan their way around it - crappy plots get barrelled through, interesting ones get double-planned, backups made, etc.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Frequently, fruit. Grapes, raspberries, anyhting bite-sized. When running for large groups, it's sweets, crisps, dip, and an alcoholic/caffinated beverage.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
No. I can find it stressful, depending on who I'm running for, but never exhausting.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Arresting another PC. It was the first time I'd played a properly "Good" character, and I'd just witnessed said PC steal from another PC (and get headbutted into submission for his troubles). So, the perfectly average teenage guardsman, stranded on some god-forsaken island after a shipwreck, confronted with an Elf, feared and hated in setting, decided to slap manacles on the son of a bitch.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
Man, I run 40k. Playing it serious is nowhere near as much fun as making it ridiculous. However, I have thrown a few serious moments into the game, and they've been taken very well. By the same extension, I treat other people's settings as something I can learn from - so, when someone runs their homebrew, I try to take it seriously, reading through all the available setting material. Although, I can run a light-hearted character in such games - I just like to make sure they fit the setting.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Depends on the game. In Delraith, Goblins are the repressed underclass of Humanoids - they're not dumb, just weak, and act as traders, adventurers, and intermediaries with the more "barbaric" savage humanoids.

In other games, they're the "comic relief" ala Pathfinder - tiny, cannibalistic pissheads, who loot, pillage and generally be dicks because it's what they do.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
Several layouts of modern office buildings for a Shadowrun one-shot I've been planning. I'll get them posted up here at some point...

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
During a friend's campaign, we had utterly, utterly screwed the pooch during a Shadowrun-style criminal venture. We probably owed our "boss" several million by the time we finished, and we needed a plan. The GM described the horrible torture we faced as his pet NPC began knocking us unconscious with a single blow. I had two grenades left from the run. This guy was (literally) built with vehicle armour. I tried to pull the pins on my grenades, scream "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!", and make him eat them.

I rolled a natural 1 on my attack roll.

The GM ruled I swallowed the grenades, and blew the entire top half of my torso off.

Good times, man, good times.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
Labyrinth Lord. I wanted some inspiration to actually get around to running the Kobold Ascension Campaign, as I now seem to have players who want to play as Kobolds!

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
Tony DiTerlizzi. This guy drew some of the most inspirational Monster Manual entries I've ever seen, and single-handedly defined how most people see the entire Planescape setting. Plus,even his non-gaming stuff is ripe for filching ideas from, and he's also a pretty swell guy.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
Yep. I have figured out how to make them jumpy when I need them to be...

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
I tend to run my own. The last time I did was at the start of our Rogue Trader campaign, and I ditched it pretty quickly in.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
... again, depends on the game. For RT, it's in bed on a Saturday morning with the missus. 
For D&D, it'd be a huuuuuuge table with as much Hirst Arts scenery as I could make, and minis sculpted to each player's expectations. Preferably from the guys at Reaper Minis - they might be expensive, but damn, they're pretty.

For Risus-Planescape? The pub. Any pub. It's how it has to go down. Preferably Waxy O'Connors on a quite night.

For Necromunda, well, it's this crazy motherfucking thing.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Old-School D&D and Unknown Armies. From Generic Euro-Fantasy Throwaway Fun to PostModern esoteric craziness.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
Pulp Action Serials and Transhuman Sci-Fi, like Alastair Reynolds, end up informing my 40k games all too much.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
People who are more interested in having fun than making the perfect character build. Who want to make a good story, rather than murder everyone in sight. Who want to spend time with their friends, rather than play a wargame. Roleplayers, not rollplayers.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
My knowledge of science, writing, and transhumanism translate well into 40k terms. My abuse of tropes and story elements is... near legendary. For a direct real-life experience, it would have to be using an angry and abusive customer's mannerisms into an odious NPC. Even with a new context, everyone thoguht this guy was a dick.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
Setting-neutral Planescape books. But, I'm working on them myself, so...

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
A few people in work. They look relatively interested, and it's becoming apparent that they are interested, just not actively playing.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Rogue Trader: Ork Zzzap Gunz

-Last words of Big Mek Gobstompa

Orks are known for their ramshackle technology - though behind layers of rust, gubbins, and assorted blades, they can be surprisingly effective - like the Zzzap Gun. Normally crewed by Gretchin (though an Ork might use it in a pinch, or if it's in a particularly killy mood), these huge weapons fire bolts of weird green lightning, and can tear through infantry, armour, and vehicles with terrifying ease...

If the Grot at the trigger has the guts to use it right.

Zzzap Gun
Exotic (Ork) Heavy Weapon (requires a tripod or vehicle mount)
Range: Special (see below)
Rate of Fire: Single/-/-
Damage: Special (see below)
"Clip": 25 charges
Reload: 2 Full Rounds
Qualities: Special (see below), Inaccurate, Unreliable to non-Orks,
Weight: 90 kgs (note that this varies from Zzzap Gun to Zzzap Gun, no two are made the same!)

Roll 1d5 each time the weapon is fired. This determines how many rounds the brave (or cowardly) Grot is willing to charge the weapon.

1- The Grot simply taps or squeezes the trigger, producing a weak shock that can still stop a man in his tracks. This setting uses 1 Charge.

Range: 30m Damage: 1d10 Special Qualities: Shocking

2- A longer squeeze of the trigger produces a blast that may prove lethal. Uses 2 charges.

Range: 60m Damage: 1d10+5 AP: 1 Special Qualities: None

3- This blast can easily kill a man, and might dent smaller vehicles. 3 charges.

Range: 60m Damage: 1d10+10 AP: 2 Special Qualities: Blast (1)

4- Now we're talking. A great green bolt of energy flies from the gun, capable of killing even a heavily-armoured target. 5 charges.

Range: 200m Damage: 2d10+10 AP: 4 Special Qualities: Blast (3), Felling (1)

5- This Grot has some stones, or is too stupid to know better. The charge produced here is enormous - easily capable of taking out tanks and fortified positions. However, the blast produced comes with a great backlash - if a Grot is operating the weapon, they are killed outright, much to the amusement of the surrounding Orks. If it's an Ork (or other humanoid crazy enough to use a Zzzap Gun), they take the same damage as the target, ignoring Armour. Few could hope to shrug off such a blow, but Orks are stupid tough. And stupid, too. 10 charges are used every time the weapon operates in this capacity.

Range: 300m Damage: 5d10+10 AP: 6 Special Qualities: Rending, Shocking, Blast (4), Felling (2), Overheats (Special - see above)

If there are not enough charges for the weapon to operate at the rolled level, simply use the highest level of charge available (so, rolling a 5 when you only had three charges left would result in a "modified" roll of three). Use the highest possible charge first (so, with 4 charges left, you would use a 3 charge blast, then a 1 charge shock).

For PCs (or intelligent NPCs) operating the gun, it's their choice how long they want to charge the gun - any result that would lead to a Jam, however, is resolved as though they were using the gun on its highest setting (i.e. the user takes damage equal to that which would have been taken on a successful hit).

While these are usually stand-alone artillery pieces, many Ork vehicles can take a Zzzap Gun - mostly Buggies and Trukks. They are also commonly seen as light weapons on the mighty Squiggoths... though you wouldn't be so cruel as th throw one of those at your players... right?

There is a chance that Ork Freeboota or Mekboy PCs (especially Mekboyz) might want to get their hands on one of these - if so, it cannot be used with the Bulging Biceps talent (even for an Ork, it's too cumbersome to use without a mounting). It also might seem powerful, but remember - at the point they can blow up small buildings with it, they take the same damage. It's a risky trade-off, but one that any Ork would be willing to take to get his hands on so much DAKKA.

Rogue Trader One-on-One: Part Six: Peace Through Superior Firepower

As the Captain scanned and analysied the now Ork-infested planet, she had a plan brewing at the back of her mind.

She commanded her Tech-Priests to alter the armour of her personal guard, adding spikes, stripes, and generally "Orkifications". The same was done with her personal Power Armour - somewhat reluctantly, it has to be said, with the Tech-Priests ensuring that all of the near-heretical modifications to the sacred Template be easily removeable.

Speaking to the crew, she found those who had experience with Orks - including Corbec. She asked for as much information as she could get, and even studied the Ork language (or at least the rudiments thereof) to help communicate with the Orks. She picked her biggest men, and equipped them with the deadliest, most impractical weapons she could find.

Then, with a little technical jiggery-pokerey, the Tech-Priests sent a message to whatever crude radio recievers the Orks might have had, asking them to get to a point she would mark with "Great Dakka", by sunrise the next day, and shelled the crap out of an area near a valley.

As the dust settled on the fresh macrocannon craters, Orks were already making there way, from across the entire continent, or so it seemed. By sunrise, the crater, and most of the surrounding area (equivalent to a small city) was a sea of green. Orks filled every open space, howling, fighting, drinking, and occasionally doing all three at the same time (it's amazing how well an Ork can balance his drink while jumping on someone's head).

She descended on her shuttle, and was amazed at how easily Yacob managed to dodge the various shells and armaments fired indiscriminately into the air. As they unloaded, her men began performing what can best be described as the "Imperial Hakka", dancing, shouting, screaming, and firing weapons in the air to gain the attention of the assorted Orks. Most continued what they were doing, but some turned to view the odd spectacle.

Claudia began announcing her presence, and her request - to bring them a good fight. Not with her, of course, but with a mutual enemy. A certain 'Umie in red power armour... she had prepared a large canvas, painted with the likeness of Captain Krawkin, and described how heavily-armed his cruiser was.

As she spoke, she felt a tingling sensation at the nape of her neck. Tiny bolts of red lightning jumped from her armour, spike to spike, and as the tingling built, she started to feel them running between her teeth...

In a flash of red light, a figure appeared before her. At least nine feet in height, with armour and ornamentaiton taking him above that, stood an Ork, easily the largest one there. His face was coated in light-green scars, and one of his eyes (and a chunk of his skull) were replaced with crude augmetics. With a simple grunt of "WOT D'YOU WANT?", in heavily accented Low Gothic, she was introduced to Warboss Kragza. The sheer fact that he seemed to know enough Low Gothic to hold even a simple conversation was enough to set the Lord-Captain on edge - and to remind her that while Orks were simple, they weren't stupid.

She explained her situation, and made a show of being the biggest and strongest of her men (the power armour helped, as did the lifts installed in her shoes). Though a combination of wits, charm and intimidation, she managed to win the Warboss over - in exchange for some of the ship's weapons, they would fight Krawkin and his men when the arrived.

And they would - Claudia had set two extra teams to the other side of the planet, to enact two different plans. The first was a crack team led by Corbec and his men - to extract the Eldar relic from its place of burial (several dozen feet underground). While they dug, they had to fend off Ork war parties, a few light vehicles, and what appeared to be a second Warboss, from another tribe. All were easily despatched, through a combination of tactics, sharpshooting, and heavy macrocannon shelling.

The second team had taken several items - a vox, set to brodcast as one of the Vegas's shuttles, a lump of the psychoactive coral, and a few stray scraps of wraithbone - if Krawkin's psyker was as powerful as he seemed, he'd find the bait no bother. Attached was a short video clip of the Captain, explaining that they were long gone, no doubt rich beyond his wildest dreams, and that the Greenskin cavalry would arrive shortly, followed by several rude gestures.

Once negotiations were settled, however, the Auspex teams and the Astropaths began reporting strange readings around the captain - she turned just in time to see a new player enter the field - a team of mysterious figures, dressed in ornate armour (which she immediately guessed as being Eldar in origin), tearing their way through reality itself, teleporting their way across the battlefield in short jumps, leaving a trail of destruction wherever they went.

The Orks had went at least half an hour with no more than a brief punch-up, and were more than happy to get themselves stuck in to the new opponents. But they moved too quickly to be easily despatched - dissapearing, only to reappear momentarily a fet dozen feet away, light, ornate blades ready to cleave through flesh with little apparent effort. Some unleashed even greater armament - a launcher, attached to their waist (and seemingly under mental control), which unleashed a shimmering cloud that reduced men and Orks to a fine red mist in seconds. Closer inspection led Claudia to believe it to be monowire - molecularly thin and razor sharp. As she bolted to the shuttles, entorage in tow, she was face with one of the Eldar as he appear but a few feet in front of her, and unleashed a spool of monowire in her direction - but quick reflexes and heavy armour saved her from dismemberment. A single bolt shell from Jayne, the Lord-Captian's Security Officer and personal bodyguard, forced the Eldar to teleport once again, allowing Claudia safe egress onto the shuttle.

It was only once she rested that she realised she hadn't fully escaped the wire - the bottom half of her left ear had been removed, leaving an almost perfectly cauterised wound behind.

Warp Spiders are a shamefully underused bit of Eldar fluff - shameful, becasue they're awesome. Darting through the Warp, unprotected, to strike at an enemy when the least expect... badass.

The ambush was to put the willies up Claudia's player, and to show her that the Eldar knew she was after their relics. The injury was to remind her that she wasn't invincible (she had avoided most combats till now, using her men and keeping a safe distance at all times). The little shock seems to have worked - she's been a lot more careful in the last few sessions, and is still paranoid about Krawkin now she knows I'm out for blood...

Monday, 23 January 2012

Playstyles in Delraith

So, as I posited in previous posts, there are several "levels" of play that you might wish to run using the Delraith setting. Some of these might need their own system, somewhere down the line, but for now, I'll suggest what I would run them with.

First is the one it was designed for - the Kobold Ascension Campaign. Starting as the lowest of the low, level 1 Kobolds, and sneaking and cheating your way to Godhood while avoiding the attention of the other Dragons. Runs sorta like D&D meets Paranoia. I would suggest Old D&D or GURPS, if you want to run it as a serious, deadly game - or Risus, if you'd rather it be about PvP banter and situational comedy. I see both as equally valid ways to play this one out (and I'd personally lean towards Risus).

Second would be your Standard Fantasy Adventure - there are old civilisations, ancient ruins of bygone eras, terrible Powers and Dark Secrets to be unveiled by those brave enough to look. Runs quite well as your usual D&D-esque Adventure Time, with plenty of stuff to find and things to kill. I'd use something like "new" D&D, Microlite20, maybe Savage Worlds, to maintain a feel of "high adventure". FATE could also be a good suggestion, for less combat-oriented games.

Third, a "middle ground" where the players control powerful Nobles of one of the more auspacious Houses of Valerian's Reach - their hand can be seen across the continent. Runs like a smaller-scale Rogue Trader, and hell, you might be able to alter the system enough to use a lot of it as-is. I'd use FATE, and maybe port over some of the Rogue Trader mechanics, where I could (like Profit Factor - much better than counting every gold piece...). Or Birthright/AD&D, but the system wasn't a good fit (though some of the large-scale rules could be useful). The outlier is REIGN, by Greg Stolze - a lot of people rave about it, but I've never tried it. It's got Company Rules that could be pretty useful...

For a more high-powered game, there are the Dwarven Reclamators - squads of Dwarves, clad in the finest armour, weilding terrifying weapons, on a mission from God Himself to reclaim the ancient relics of their kind, to remove threats to their fortress homes, and to generally be fucking terrifying. Plays out much like a fantasy counterpart to Deathwatch. And, indeed, you could try and hack the DW system to fit, but I'd use something like high-level (and equipment) D&D, or maybe Mutants and Masterminds, to represent the weird technology the Dwarves are using, and to allow a lot of variance in the characters despite a common race.

Finally, Dragons. Any of the Serious Risus hacks would be perfect to represent the god-like power level without ridiculous stat inflation, as would FATE. However, check out the old Council of Wyrms campaign setting for D&D - lots of useful goodies to be nabbed from there (even if you'd be playing high-level dragons...)

I'll post up more about each level as it comes to me.

Another M20 Houserule: Magic Duels

So, I got around to thinking about M20's Magic Attack Bonus. You have Melee, Ranged, and Magic bonuses - Melee for hitting folk, Ranged for shooting folk, and Magic for... what? There's already a way to work out the DCs for your spells, and any Touch spells use Melee Bonus, and ranged ones Ranged Bonus... so what does it do? I know Clerics use it for Turning Undead, but Wizards seem to get the short end of that stick.

Greywulf, M20's creator, suggests a whole bushel of things you could do with it, and briefly mentions the concept of "duelling".

Well, I wanted to expand that a bit. It's something that older D&D made kinda weird (with Counterspelling and Reversible Spells), despite it being a core element of the genre it so slavishly emulates. So, a quick and easy way to run a magical duel!

Magical Duels

The two sorcerers faced off, while the battle raged around them. Kutz first encased himself in a shield of ice, a foot thick - but a deep blue flame from Anakaris' hand left it a puddle on the floor, scorching Kutz in the process. Next, Anakaris performed a weird, twisting gesture, and even those fighting were distracted when three live snakes, each two-headed and several feet in length, flew from his hands, seemingly from nowhere, across the battlefield towards Kutz. Focusing his mind and steeling his soul, he threw a ball of telekinetic force their way - scattering them into the already busy melee around about them. He felt that he might have overexerted himself, but steeled his resolve and prepared his next abjuration.

Kutz realised this was going to be a lot harder than he thought.

By forgoing their action on their turn, a Magic User can engage another Magic User in a Magical Duel.

On each of their turns, both combatants roll a d20 and add their Magic Attack bonus - whoever scores higher wins that round. Each round costs the combatants 1HP, and each round they succeed, the do damage equal to their Magic Attack bonus to their opponent. A draw roll means both opponents take 2HP damage. An opponent can leave a duel at any time, but takes the opponent's Magic Bonus as damage (as though they had scored a successful hit).

Both players and GMs should make their descriptions vivid and entertaining - but appropriate to the level of the combatants. A 1st-level mage and a Kobold Shaman will be throwing sparks and stings at each other, while 20th-level mages and demigod wizards will have battles that look more like Rush album covers.

Example Above: Kutz (5th-level Mage) decides to enter into a Magical Duel with Anakaris (7HD Serpent-God Wizard). He rolls 1d20+Magic Attack Bonus, and rolls a total of 15. He declares his action as a shield of ice, which he will expand to engulf Anakaris. Anakaris rolls a total of 17 - he blasts away the ice with a ball of flame, and Kutz takes 8HP damage.. On Anakaris's turn, he rolls a total of 21, and the GM declares he launches snakes from some otherworldly place at Kutz - but Kutz also manages a roll of 21, and negates it by throwing the snakes away from him with the power of his mind. Both Kutz and Anakaris take 2HP damage, from trying to exert more effort than the other.

I figured this would give a few advantages - spellcasters can tie up enemies by duelling them, leaving their allies free to focus on other threats or gang up on the enemy spellcaster. However, it also takes you out of your role as a support character in fights - spending your hitpoints keeping others busy, rather than helping your allies. Sometimes, though, it's worth the risk.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Delraith: More Races

The nomadic Goliath tribes are the only beings with whom the Dwarves will trade on anything approaching a regular basis. Huge, powerfully built, and dotted with small, bony growths ("lithoderms", to be precise), they are about as hardy as they come. In wider society, they can gain some notoriety as soldiers and bodyguards, though most see them as "wild men", barbarians, etc. and their general representaion suffers for it. Some of the less tolerant cities lump them together with Orcs as "savages" - and, while there is little emnity between the two races, aside from the occasional scrap over territory and land, the Goliaths are certainly their own group.

Another rare sight on the continent (like Gnolls), Yuan-Ti are seen as savage, cruel warriors, and rarely tolerated for too long in human society. Those who do come to Delraith, however, are on a mission - they serve their God of Knowledge and Secrets, and look to collect as much information about the greater world as they can. Many take on a scholarly caste, but mix their natural strength and prowess in battle to become terrifyingly competent warriors, as well as masterful tacticians and living repositories of knowledge. Voted Race Most Likely To Accidentaly Unleash An Unspeakable Evil Upon The World.

Halflings are pretty much wee Humans - they're adaptable, they live in mostly the same places, and suffer little prejudice from the other races. While they're known to make great thieves, most keep on the right side of the law. Many come from agricultural backgrounds, like farmers or fishermen, and, while they rarely serve in the Guard or other armed forces, the odd few are seen - like Guard-Captain Tanis Dis, known for her shrewd cunning and great organisational skills. There are several myths regarding their origin, but most agree that they're just a smaller breed of human.

No Gnomes. Never liked 'em, and they tend to have a lot of crossover with Dwarves, Halflings, and Elves, depending on their angle. There might be one or two as NPCs, but they'll be servants of the Fey creatures of other worlds, or perhaps advisors to powerful Elves, but nothing more.

Then you have your monster races - not really PC options, but they'll show up.

Half-Dragons are the result of breeding between the god-like Dragons and lesser races. Dragons can reproduce with most creatures (note that they are never the parent who bears the child - Dragons do not breed with each other, and need to take the form of other races and help things along with magic to achieve conception).

The most common Half-Dragons are experiments, and are often malformed - but those who are sucessful can run the gamut from miniature Dragons, to full-blooded members of other races with the ability to shapechange, to those who have some Draconic characteristics (like claws, scales, or wings).

Valkrith, Red Terror of the East, is known to frequently breed with the Kobolds under his command, and most of the military leaders of his warriors are his own Half-Dragon spawn. They stand a full foot taller than most Kobolds, and have a build closer to a human than the spindly form of a Kobold. They possess a variety of traits from him (from wings, full claws, to one or two even being able to breathe fire), though only two have so far inherited his sorcerous ways - K'Lis, his second-in-command, and Va'Krin, his daughter, who has begun amassing her own army to overthrow Valkrith.

Lizardmen (or Scalefolk, as they are known) are a race of nomads and traders. Due to the only-just warm climate of Delraith, those who have come from warmer climes tend to spend their days lazing in the sun, attempting to regulate their body temperature as best they can. During the winter, many enter a state of suspended animation (called The Long Sleep, or the Half-Year Death). A few have been seen to be a lot more active, carrying mysterious stones that provide them with warmth (most often embedded in their chests). Many claim they have some secret link with the mighty Dragons, but so far nothing conclusive has been proven.

Draconic Creatures are the bizarre result of experiments by would-be Dragons (and some of the younger Dragons) into the Draconic Ascension process. They come in many wide and varied forms, with most bearing traits from the Dragon who spawned them. Anathraxiis' experiments are often black, sleek creatures with an affinity for water, while Sheelis, Green Horror of The Dire Woods, tends to spawn lithe, powerful near-human (or demi-human) creatures. A good source for ideas for these creatures is the D&D 3.5 Monster Manual IV, which deals with the "Spawn of Tiamat" - draconic creatures made from the corruption of dragon eggs, with their own particular habitats and tactics. Some are of animal intelligence (such as the Blackspawn Lurker), and some are weak (the Greenspawn Skirmisher), while others are formidible, intelligent foes (the Redspawn Arcaniss). Or, take another creature and add unusual abilities and Draconic traits to season (fire-breathing, magic-shooting, winged T-Rex, anyone?)

Each Draconic Creature should be unique - they are one-of-a-kind bendings of the rules of nature. They make great "minibosses" for dungeons, and it seems like a very Draconic plot to send a crack team of Kobolds out to some God-forsaken dungeon to clean up their Master's mess.

And the usual mess of Devils, Demons, and Undead that populate any good D&D setting. I like the idea that the Undead maybe come from one mythological event - say, an ancient Wizard, whose name was lost to time, who tried to cheat death - not just through ressurection, but by actively killing the God of Death. Well, as you might guess, the paradox inherent in that act led to a small break in reality - the Shattered Veil, or something similar, a overspill of Death into the world, which can result in naturally reanimated creatures. Many are made by evil Magic-Users, of course, but they tend more towards the "construct" feel and theme rather than beings like Vampires and Ghouls.

And there'll always be "edge cases" - a player who wants to play something weird, or a specific subrace of on of the existing races. I'm not a huge fan of 3.5's "We've got an Elf for that" ethos, but I might consider something like allowing Elves to have different stats and such according to their Court (to pluck from every other Fey-based Elf) - like, Summer to sub in for Sun Elves, Winter for Grey/High, Spring for Wood Elves, and Autumn for... something.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Microlite20 - Some House Rules

So, while I batter my way through these Tau rules for Rogue Trader, I want to run some good old-fashioned dungeon crawl goodness.

Microlite20 is a personal favourite for such things, so here's a few House Rules I plan on adding to the Basic Set:

"Skills" List

As a player handout, to get them used to the idea of three stats (Strength, Dex and Mind) and four to five Skills (Physical, Subterfuge, Knowledge, Communication, plus Survival from the Advanced Rules), which combine to make most skill tests, here's a list of suggested combos for various actions (using the 3.5 skill list as inspiration), not a be-all-and-end-all:

Balance - DEX+Phys
Bluff - MIND+Sub (or MIND+Comm)
Concentration - straight MIND roll
Diplomacy - MIND+Comm
Escape Artist - DEX+Phys or STR+Phys depending on what you're escaping
Handle Animal/Wrangling - MIND+Surv
Intimidate - STR+Comm (or MIND+Comm if it's more of a subtle threat)
Open Lock/Disable Device - DEX+Sub
Perform (Dance) - DEX+Comm
Ride - DEX+Surv
Sleight of Hand/Pickpocket - DEX+Sub vs. opponent's MIND+Sub
Sneak - DEX+Sub
Use Magic Device - MIND+Sub to cheat it, MIND+Comm to encourage it to work, or for non-Magic Users, a straight MIND check against a set DC

Combat Manuvers

All combat manuvers fall under two categories: Basic and Advanced.

Basic Manuvers are "dirty tricks" that anyone can pull, from throwing sand in an opponents eyes, to kicking them in the crotch (if they possess a crotch), to feinting one way but attacking from another.

These are resolved as normal attacks, at a -3 penalty. Fighters and Rogues can perform these at a -1 penalty.
These attacks only do 1 point of damage, but can place a Condition on an enemy (so, the sand would blind him for a round, the crotch-shot might Stun him for a round, or the feint would drop his Armour Class by 2).

Basic Conditions: Attack or Armour penalty (-2), Stunned, Blinded, or Confused for 1 round.

Advanced Manuvers are a bit more complicated, but provide better results. So, a feint that totally disorients a foe, or leaves them wide open to attack, demoralises them badly, or knocks them out cold.

These are resolved as normal attacks with a -6 penalty. Fighters and Rogues can perform them at a -4 penalty. In addition, the DM call call for a Skill check as part of the attack (so the demoralising might require a MIND+Comm roll, a particularly heavy blow may need STR+Phys to penetrate heavy armour, etc.)

Advanced Conditions: Attack or Armour Penalty (-4), Stunned, Blinded, Confused, or Unconscious for 3 rounds.
I don't know how balanced these will be. I like the idea of giving Fighters more to do in combat, and allowing Rogues to have a few "dirty tricks" up their sleeves, while keeping them open to all classes. I'll be running the game soon, so we'll see how they turn out...

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

New Tau Traits

So, the Tau traits presented were to represent Tau who were still a part of the Greater Good - useful for all-Tau games, but not great for mixing with regular humans. So, here's something that might help...


Note: This Trait replaces the For The Greater Good Trait possessed by other Tau

Not all Tau follow the Greater Good. Those who have found themselves seperated from the Ethereal Caste (most famously, Shas'O Vior'la Shovah Kais Mont'yr, more commonly known as Commander Farsight) find their opinion of the Greater Good waning, and some actively oppose the aggresive expansion and extremism of their own people.

Renegade Tau lose the For The Greater Good Trait, and the associated benefits and penalties. Instead, they gain a -10 penalty to all interations with non-Renegade Tau, but are much more free to interact with other races - gaining no penalties to interactions with them, once their renagade nature is known. (So, a human might have a bad reaction to any Tau, but once they have been seen to reject The Greater Good, and swear their service to The Imperium, they are no longer seen as such a threat).

They may also purchase the Mercenary Trait at character creation, for 100xp. This functions as the Kroot Trait (the character may use the group's Profit Factor instead of their own Willpower to resist Pinning and Fear).

When in the presence of an Ethereal, Renegade Tau must make a Difficult (-10) Willpower test, or succumb to the will of the Ethereal (losing this Trait, and regaining For The Greater Good.)

At the GM's disrection, non-Renegade Tau who have been removed from the Ethereal Caste, and other non-Renegade Tau, may make a Difficult (-10) Willpower Test each day (or at dramatically appropriate points) to resist turning from the Greater Good. Success means they remain loyal, but failure means the lose the For The Greater Good Trait and replace it with the Renegade Trait.

Tau who have turned Renegade after character creation may also buy the Mercenary Trait, but as an Elite Advance, costing 500xp.

D&D 5e - IT COMES...

So, Wizards of The Coast has announced that it is currently working on 5e.

Which is kinda... shitty. Mostly because they made us put up with 3rd edition for, what, 8 years? 4e's only got 3, almost 4 years under its belt, during which it's been revamped (the Essentials line, derisively referred to as "D&D 4.5"). It's suffered from constant updates and errata (some coming scant weeks after the product in question, like they knew it was going to have to be done), a severe lack of third-party content (a consequence of 3.5's Open Game Licence, and the "Torrent of Shite" that followed, and WotC's subsequent tightening of the licence), the poor quality of some products (most of the modules were critically bashed, as were some of the sourcebooks, like Heroes of Shadow and its well-meaning, but ultimately flawed Vampire Class) and being continually compared to its predecessor. All in all, it's not been a great three years.

(Don't let these criticisms fool you into thinking I don't like 4e -  the well-crafted class balance, the interesting fluff for the "Points of Light" setting, the Skill Challenge mechanic, V-shaped stats - they all have their problems, sure, but to my mind, it's a vast improvement on 3rd, and so totally different to older editions that it's not worth comparing them - apples and oranges, so to speak).

So, along comes 5e, and by this point, most people have stopped caring. What used to be"the D&D fanbase" has become further split, into "Old Schoolers", playing retroclones (or, just... retro), the 3/3.5 adherents, the Pathfinder crowd, and those who play 4e. There's some overlap, sure, but not a lot. So all 5e is going to do is push another group together even smaller than the last, and fill RPG boards with even more pointless Edition Warring.

And the only source we have to go on, regarding what will be present in 5e? Monte Cook's articles on the Wizards site. Yeah, those ones I bitched about last year.

... Things aren't looking up for poor old Wizards, huh?

Monday, 9 January 2012

Orks: Finally Taking the Plunge...

So, after many months mmmmming and ahhhhing, I finally broke and bought a box of Ork Boyz, and have already managed to assemble most of them.

I picked up the standard 10-Boyz-and-a-Nob box straight from Games Workshop, and one of the boxes of four "clip together" Boyz from Static Games (my Friendly Local Gaming Shop).

The standard box is pretty awesome - the sculpts are very cool and characterful, even though they are basic infantry. There's a ton of extra bits and bobs to help make your Boyz unique, and with some clever tinkering, you can make many of the "elite" units from this sprue - though it might take some conversion work.

The "clip together" models are very basic - the only options are for Slugga boys (basic gun-and-knife infantry), and are mostly assembled already. While the product claims they can just be popped together, no glue needed, they're pretty delicate - even with glue, I've found that the arms are prone to moving, no doubt a product of the "pins" used to hold them in place. The bitz are adapted wholesale from the Ork Boy sprue - nothing unique or interesting to them. A few spare bitz, however, will go a long way to customising them past their current "dull" look...

All in all, if you want some Boyz, and fast, it's not a terrible product. It can help bulk out any army (although, with just 4 per box, it feels somewhat... weak). You're way better picking up a full standard box - the options are far more interesting, entertaining, and flexible, and it's (somewhat) better value for money.

I'll post up some WIP pictures as soon as I find a camera...

Friday, 6 January 2012

Rogue Trader: Tau Racial Characteristics

So, I popped the rough draft up on RPG.net, to see if there were any glaring discrepancies/omissions from my statline.

Scarik, RPG.net's resident RT head, helped to shape the statline a bit to make it more in line with the representation of Tau elsewhere. So, as follows, your basic Tau, suited to a Rogue Trader level of play:

Roll 2d10 and add...

BS 25
S 15
T 20
Ag 20
Int 25
Per 20
Wp 20
Fel 20

For the Greater Good
Tau have an overarching belief in "The Greater Good", a concept that all should be equal, and everyone has their place within the Tau Empire.

This sets them at something of a disadvantage when dealing with others - they suffer a -5 penalty to any Fellowship tests against those who hold another strong religious belief (so, Kroot would listen to them, but an Emperor-Fearing Human would be hard pushed to listen to the heathens).

Being "Space Commies", they are also somewhat less concerned with money than most races - meaning that they cause any group they are part of to suffer a -1 to their Profit Factor.

Tau have a very small Warp presence - so much so, they seem to be absolutely naive about the workings of the Warp. Tau can never become Psykers, of any sort. They also suffer a -10 penalty to any Forbidden Lore skill which relates to the Warp (so, Daemonology, The Warp, etc.) However, they are also far less likely to gain the attention of such beasts - they gain a +10 bonus to attempts to resist possession by a Warp entity, and GMs should ensure that the creature has either a specific plan to target the Tau, or no other choice.

Tau and Insanity and Corruption
Tau gain Insanity points and the ensuing complications as normal - after all, the horrors of war and the strangeness of the Warp affect anyone who thinks about them too long.

Corruption is somewhat different - instead of representing their fall to the Ruinous Powers, it represents their removal from The Greater Good. As they lose some of their "innocence" regarding the universe, Tau begin to waver in their faith in the Tau Empire.

A Tau who gains Corruption points does not roll for mutations though malignancies (where appropriate ) should still be used. As they move away from the Greater Good (and the Ethereal Caste in particular), Tau begin to revert to a more "feral" state, becoming quick to anger, prone to infighting, and somewhat more vicious and sadistic in their violence. The presence of an Ethereal can negate some of these effects - when an Ethereal is present, a Tau does not gain Corruption points, and their current Corruption point total is considered to be half its actual value.


Choose your Caste wisely - this will affect your stats, and also limit your choice of Careers:

Air : +10 Ag, -5T, treat any one Pilot skill as a Trained Basic Skill. Gain a choice of 2 of the Catfall, Leap Up, Rapid Reaction, and Weapons Training (Tau Basic). Talents.
Earth: +5 WP, treat any two "occupational" skill (frex, Tech-Use (Tau), Wrangling etc) as Trained Basic skills. Gain a choice of 2 of the Foresight, Iron Jaw, and * Talents.
Fire: +5 BS, gain Weapons Training (Pistol, Basic, and Heavy Tau Weapons). Gain a choice of 2 of the Quick Draw, Combat Formation, Marksman, and Disarm Talents.
Water: +5 Fel, treat Barter and one of Commerce or Charm as Trained Basic Skills. Gain a choice of 2 of the Air of Authority, Polyglot, Total Recall, and Paranoia Talents.

*Gonna fill that in later...

Ethereals aren't the best PC option, so I'm not touching them with a bargepole.

The Caste system replaces the normal Origin Path, hence giving a few more bonuses than usual. Tau PCs may (with GM approval) modify the existing Origin Path, re-naming and replacing certain options as the player and GM see fit, to represent "renegade" Tau, or those who have somehow avoided the speciation of the Caste system.

Careers to come soon! I plan on modifying the Void Master for the Air Caste Pilot, the Arch-Militant for the Fire Warrior, the Senechal for The Water Caste Negociator, and possibly creating something from scratch for the Earth Caste Engineer (maybe based around the Adept from Dark Heresy, with a few steals from the Tech-Priest/Explorator). After that, maybe a few Alternate Career Ranks for each, to represent specialities and divergences (like Pathfinders and Crisis Suit Pilots for the Fire Caste).

I'll also post up a few new Talents for the Careers...