Thursday, 24 December 2009

[Rogue Trader] Xanator Gant

Xanator Gant

Former Ordinate-General of the Adeptus Terra

Current Departmental Prelate and Sole Member of the Census and Tithing Departmento of the Koronus Expanse

The scion of a long and proud dynasty of Departmental Prefects, Xanator Gant was born to be a Administrator. Attending the elite scholariums of the Administratum in his youth, he excelled in every regard - from the history of accounting to the practice of ritual auditing. His early career in the Adeptus Terra was as full of achievements as any Gant that had come before - as an adjunct to the Munitorum, he challenged corruption in the ranks that had seen entire regiments worth of weaponry sold off to the highest bidder, as a Sanitation Ordinate he helped redesign the sewage systems of the hive world of Fecunditis, and in the dusty stacks of the Librarium Administratum, he oversaw a threefold reduction in the amount of late fines not paid. Xanator was marked for success, and so the rivals of the Gant dynasty, the ancient Vorsian administration clan, marked him for death.

The vendetta between the two great Administratum dynasties had continued for centuries. At times, it had erupted into open battle, staining the tape that held the Adeptus Terra together red with blood. This time, the Vorsians took more subtle action. Favors were called in and strings were pulled to have young Xanator re-assigned as Departmental Prelate of the Census and Tithing Departmento in the Koronus Expanse - a region that hadn't answered to Imperial rule in seven millenia. Accompanied only by a faithful servo-skull, Xanator was placed aboard an Administratum frigate bound for the waystation of Port Maw.

It turned out that he wouldn't even reach the Expanse before being struck down by those outside Imperial rule. In the Calixis Sector, the frigate Penstroke of the Emperor came under attack by pirates - paid off handsomely by the Vorsians. As they boarded and looted the heart of the Penstroke, Xanator drew on his experience as a Sanitation Ordinate to hide himself deep within the sewage units of the ship. When the pirates abandoned the ship to drift in the Oort cloud of a nearby system, he was ready to escape aboard the ship's one remaining cargo pod. The journey to the nearest habitable world would take thirteen months, during which Xanator survived mostly on lettuce he'd found growing in the Penstroke's waste units, and developed an entirely new form of inventory management for paperclips.

The nearby world of Anderlund was no civilized imperial world, ready to welcome a decorated Adminstratum ordinate with open arms. Anderlund had been lost to Imperial rule for six millenia, thanks to a cartographic error by a Navis Nobilite scribe, and was firmly stuck in a medieval morass of warfare and poverty. Xanator landed on the planet's primary continent, in the middle of a major war that had engulfed seven nations and millions of people. After nearly being eaten by a tigon, enslaved by mercenaries, and having his head cut off for heresy, he was able to integrate himself into the court of a nearby King as a "court magician", with the aid of his servo skull and court pistol. Within two years, he had introduced double-entry accounting, created the planet's first stock exchange, and built a trading and banking system that tied together three continents and two major island groups.

When the Indomitable Fury pulled into orbit a few years later, they were expecting to make a killing by trading trinkets to the natives for vast and valuable resources. What they did not expect to encounter was a planet in the throes of a desperate Industrial Renaissance, funded by the most effective financial system in the sector and managed by none other than Xanator Gant, Deparmental Prelate. In a few futile trades, they found themselves out-negotiated by bankers and industrialists who had been wielding wooden spears and wearing loincloths a decade ago. Seemingly conned out of their cargo by primitives, they prepared to lay waste to the world from orbit until Xanator himself stepped in. In a masterful negotiation, Xanator was able to save the Anderlunders from unsanctioned Exterminatus in return for his services as Seneschal to the Rogue Trader, Holt Macharius. Horrified at Macharius' woeful financial management, he set himself the challenge of returning the Macharius dynasty to profitability and to the service of the Imperium.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

I Am Not A Gamer

Roleplaying Games, Cultural Artifacts, and Self-Identity

I am not a gamer.

This may seem a strange claim to make for someone who spends a large portion of his free time on various game-based pursuits, writes a blog devoted to roleplaying games, and owns a huge collection of dice, so let me explain.

Roleplaying has built up a massive associated subculture over the years, built around shared humor, shared histories, and shared mythologies. In the public consciousness, roleplaying and gamer culture are virtually indistinguishable - the stereotypical image of a gamer is of a full-blown participant in this gamer culture, albeit an oddly twisted and negative one. It is a distinct grouping that somewhat celebrates its separation from the mainstream of society and revels in building its own traditions and social structures, has its own meeting places, and its own heroes. Knights of the Dinner Table, gamer t-shirts, The Gamers, Baby's First Dice, Penny Arcade - these are all clearly artifacts of a subculture in full and mature bloom. For many, roleplaying games are more than a fun way to spend the afternoon - they're a lifestyle.

There's nothing wrong with having a gamer subculture, and I'd hate to see anyone brutally stereotype it and dismiss it. Like any subculture, it's a diverse collection of individuals who range along a wide spectrum. It includes soldiers and doctors as well as computer programmers and comic book writers, and it's produced a massive weight of cultural material that is enjoyed by millions around the world. Gamer culture sits behind more "mainstream" cultural artifacts than most people would realize.

I question, however, the close association between gaming as a lifestyle and gaming as an activity. It seems to me that the weight of gamer culture makes roleplaying seem more intimidating, more off-kilter, and less accessible to the general public. For people who'll happily sit down for an afternoon to play Halo, chess, or Monopoly, the idea of playing a simple roleplaying game is unthinkably nerdy. Those other activities are no less complicated than roleplaying - and importantly, they all have their own subcultures associated with them. The key is, they aren't inherently seen as being associated with that subculture, and thus people can play them without feeling like they have to buy into a whole new cultural matrix. If roleplaying were more separated from its subcultural context, I believe it would be a vastly more popular activity. And why not? It's fun, creative, and exciting, and can be played in the course of a few hours. I'm truly convinced that the idea of sitting down and building a story together with friends is an immensely attractive concept to many people who wouldn't buy in to the traditional gamer mythos.

I don't consider myself to be a gamer because I don't particularly feel a close association with the artifacts and traditions of gamer culture. While I can certainly appreciate gamer comedy like Order of the Stick or Penny Arcade, it's not what I seek out and not what I enjoy most - the comedy I appreciate most tends to be more along the lines of The Office or How I Met Your Mother, which probably says a lot about my own self-identity. For me, roleplaying is not a way of life, it's just a way of having fun.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Croaking Demons of Chaos!

I bought, and truly love, Jeff Rient's Miscellaneum of Cinder, and I've always liked his idea of the Frog Gods of Chaos (and think it would make a great name for a band). Now, when I saw an off-hand reference to Croaking Demons in the Miscellaneum, I immediately thought: "Awesome, frog god minions. They need stats! But how to make them sufficiently chaotic..."

So, I made a way to make Croaking demons with just a handful of dice.

(actually, while finding the links for this article, I discovered that Croaking Demons are actually part of a hierarchy, and probably shouldn't have quite so variable or impressive stats, but I'll come back to that another day. When I do, the creatures detailed here will be considered to be the more powerful Slime Frogs or something)

Grab 2d2, 2d4, 2d6, 2d8, and 2d10. Also, get your mutation chart of choice (from any vaguely compatible product. I suggest the chart from the Miscellaneum, or from the old Polyhedron Omega World article, if you have access to those), and two of whatever kind of dice that chart needs.

  • The higher d10 result is the demon's number of hit dice.
  • The lower d10 result is how much less damage the demon takes from energy attacks and nonmagical weapons (except Cold, which croaking demons take normal damage from, and Acid, which they're immune to)
  • The higher d8 is the bonus to the demon's AC (also add half its hit dice if you're using a 3.x or later version of D&D)
  • The lower d8 is the bonus to demon's hit points (applied once for old-school games, applied per hit dice for 3.x and later games)
  • The higher d6 is the demon's strength bonus to damage rolls (if your game uses that sort of thing)
  • The lower d6 is added to the demon's hit dice to get its attack bonus (if your game uses that sort of thing)
  • The higher d4, multiplied by 2, is the maximum result of the dice rolled for the demon's secondary attacks (see below). Example: rolled a 3 x2 = 6. The demon uses 1d6 for secondary attack damage.
  • Both d4's together, multiplied by 2, is the maximum result of the dice rolled for the demon's primary attacks (see below). Example: rolled a 3 and a 2 x2 = 10. The demon uses 1d10 for primary attack damage.
  • The 2d2, added together, are how many attacks the demon gets (usually claws, bites, or tongue-whips). If it has one or two attacks, both are primary. If it has three or four attacks, one is primary, the others are secondary. (and get -5 to attack for 3.x and later games).
  • Now roll twice on that mutation chart you found for yourself, and apply both the mutations to the freshly minted croaking demon, and you're done!

Monday, 21 December 2009

'Twas the night before Axemas

'Twas the Night before Axemas,
and all through the wood
The goblins were stirring
They were up to no good.

For they knew Father Axebeard
would fly overhead
and they wanted his shinies
and a pike through his head

They'd stolen a crossbow
a big one. Five feet.
and an incendiary arrow
to roast Axebeard's meat.

They set it up on a hill,
and aimed at the sky
Ready and waiting
for their prey to come by

Then through the night,
Noise made their ears prick.
The jingle of sleigh bells,
And the space hamsters’ “squick”

They swung ‘round the crossbow
And let the bolt fly
It stuck in a runner
And started to fry

The space hamsters panicked
Axebeard was in shock
Into a hillside, the sleigh
It went “thwock”

It hit the ground hard,
Cracked open, then sank
For underneath was a dungeon
Old, dark and dank.

But as luck would have it
This debacle was seen
By some wandering heroes
Well-armed and keen

So off through the woods
they started to race
Hoping to beat
The goblins’ quick pace

If the goblins got Axebeard
They’d hack him to pieces
And there’d be no more presents
For their nephews and nieces.

Thus they entered the dungeon
Through the back of a cave
Lamps lit and swords ready
They’d an old dwarf to save...

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Old-School-Ish Random Treasure

Over the last couple of years, I've become increasingly irked by the concept of wealth by level, and treasure by challenge rating existent in 3.x and later editions of D&D. I mean, sure, it might be good game balance, but it leads to situations where the average goblin is walking around with more wealth then a dozen peasants.

Which is why, when I first saw it, I was quite enamored with the Basic/OD&D idea of giving each monster a rated treasure type, dependent on who likely it was to actually collect loot. You would look up the type on a table, and roll to see whether it had any of a variety of things. Sometimes you got nothing, sometimes you got a huge horde. Of course, this was back before you could, let alone needed to buy magic items, so a heap of coin wasn't quite as useful, and it wasn't such a huge deal if a bunch of 1st-level characters found 15,000 gold coins in a goblin den.
Of course, after a while, I started to find some drawbacks to the system - the rating was per lair of monsters, which meant getting treasure for smaller bands was fiddly, and the whole thing required tables to be looked up. I wanted something simpler.

So, here I present a compromise. It's a sort of homogenized version of all the assorted treasure types collected by most humanoid (or humanoid-ish) critters in basic D&D, and comes out pretty close on an average-value-per-hit-dice-of-monster comparison.

For every 13 hit dice (give or take) of monsters in a dungeon, roll once for each category. The % numbers are the likelyhood that type of treasure will be found. The number after that is how much/many of that treasure type will be found.

(click for larger view)

Special treasures are things that don't fall into the other categories, like expensive wines, stockpiles of armour, rare books, etc. I may do a post about my own personal special treasure tables at some point.

Draft Language Map (D&D)

The above is a little graph I whipped up to show an idea of how I might handle languages in my next D&D campaign. Tick each language you know. You can work out the general gist of a short conversation of a few passages of text of a language connected to one you know with a little time and a DC 20 Knowledge check. Languages represented by a star are weird, arcane and difficult, and require a DC 25 check to work out if you're not fluent, and a DC 15 check even if you are. The good news is, the Read Magic spell allows easy translation of writing in both Magic Script and Eldrich Tongue. Thieves' Cant and Elvish Cat are pretty obscure, so unless you actively learn them, you've got no hope to work them out.

Each character knows Common, plus their native tongue (Elvish for Elves, Dwarvish for Dwarfs, Gobble for Goblins and Orcs), plus any languages that fit their class (Magic Script for mages/illusionists, Druidic for Druids, Thieves' Cant for rogues. Possibly Imperial for good Clerics and Eldrich for evil ones), plus an additional language per point of Mind bonus.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Patriarch of Tanis

The Patriarch of Tanis

Ramses-pattern star freighter

Bow-to-Stern: 4.2 km
Abreast: 0.5 km
18 megatonnes
Commissioned: M37.560
Origin: Hephasteon IX

The Patriarch of Tanis is an ancient, timeworn star freighter. It was born as the Aphlexus in the long-lost shipyards of Hephasteon IV, a Naval cargo ship hauling bulk goods and supplies to the front of the Tathorian Crusade. At the conclusion of the hundred-year struggle, the hauler was repurposed by the Ecclesiarchy as a pilgrim vessel, and renamed after the Ecclesiarchal ruler of the shrine world of Tanis. Its massive cargo holds became home to teeming hordes of faithful for years on end as they braved the warp in search of redemption and salvation.

In this service, the Patriarch performed faithfully for many centuries. During the baleful years of the 11th Black Crusade, the Patriarch was rapidly pushed into duty as a ship of the line, outfitted with weapons batteries and a massive Tsar-pattern bombardment cannon. It participated in many of the great and desperate defense of the Tathor Sector, and conducted the Holy Exterminatus of Tol Dumath, but it did not survive the war unscathed. In the closing year of the Crusade, it was swept away by a colossal warp storm that ravaged the entire sector and nearly brought defeat to the Imperium. All hands were lost and the ship was not seen for another four hundred years.

In the 38th millenium, Captain Toran veBarro, master of the Sword-class frigate Hand of Righteousness, discovered the drifting hull of the Patriarch in the Koprulu Sector. He himself was the descendant of one of the pilgrims who had traveled aboard her, and he refused to let it be claimed by the warp beasts who infested it. Through a dangerous and deadly struggle that claimed the lives of most of his crew, he was able to defeat the demons, cleanse the vessel, and reclaim it for the Imperium. For his efforts in salvaging the vessel and preserving it for the Imperium, he was granted a Warrant of Trade by the Ecclesiarchy, the first to be granted in many centuries.

Under the command of the ve Barro clan, the Patriarch has traveled the breadth of the Segmentum. It has played host to Inquisitors and xenos princes, dueled with Squat raiders and Orkish pirates, and transported fabulously rare creatures and goods from across the Segmentum.

Key Components:

Jobe XI-Pattern Cogitator System
Machine Spirit

The Machine Spirit of the Patriarch is an ancient and demanding beast, wizened and battered by the vessel's long history. Its cognition circuits are perhaps the only remaining example of their particular pattern in the galaxy, and no living soul truly understands their workings. The spirits is sometimes rebellious, slow to accept commands, or resistant to change, but its toughened ancient cogitator system grants it great resilience under fire and in battle. It is unique in its incredible resistance to warp corruption and blasphemous machine code attacks.

The Tangle + Vitae-pattern Life Sustainer
Life Sustainer

Infesting the fore cargo hold of the Patriarch is a riotous jungle, an entire ecosystem erupting in the most unlikely of places. Accidentally birthed centuries ago by malfunctioning genesis engines, the Tangle, as it is known, regularly spills out into the more ordered regions of the ship. Most captain would never tolerate such a chaotic mess, and would have had the Tangle vented into space long ago. The veBarros, however, have integrated the Tangle into the life sustenance systems of the Patriarch, and as a result enjoys a quality of air and water known to very few Imperial vessels.

In the past three centuries, the Pakhor, a tribe of mercenary Kroot, have inhabited and commanded the Tangle. Brought aboard ship for a long forgotten engagement, they have integrated themselves into the Patriarch's command and security structure. Successive Rogue Traders have overlooked their tendency towards the consumption of human flesh, and the disappearance of the odd lower-deck crewman, due to the strength they have shown in battle again and again. Today, the Warshaper Pakhor Ruhl sits on the Officer's Council, and his advice is well heeded by the reigning captain, much to the dismay of the Void Bishop and the interest of the Ordo Xenos.

Lathe IV-pattern Plasma Drive
Plasma drive

Mark 108.r Void Auger
Void array

Command bridge and dynastic palace

The opulent castellum of the Patriarch is fortified with adamantium bulkheads, with only two entrances linking it to the rest of the ship. Within its adamant walls are the palatial quarters of the senior officers and members of the veBarro dynasty. Prominent members are commemorated with tapestries and small shrines within the broad halls of the castellum. At the heart of the castellum is the Patriarch's bridge, vast and well-equipped.

St. Lothar's Cathedral
Void cathedral and imperial war-shrine

Tanis Autodrome
Automotor track and machine-shrine

veBarro Promenade
Market and crew recreation deck

Shipboard adminstratum
and librarium

The Vats
Nutrition system


Archimedes-pattern sunlance

The Archimedes-pattern is a sunlance design that had been lost to the Adeptus Mechanicus for three millennia, before it was discovered on a drifting, half-eaten warp hulk by Cobus ve Barro in 38,750. The discovery was acclaimed by the Machine Cult as a wondrous miracle, and the original sunlance discovered on the hulk was installed into the Patriarch's prow as payment. The lance is deadly against enemy ships, ignoring armor and tearing directly into the heart of enemy ships. Unfortunately, the ancient weapon refuses to commune with the Patriarch's Machine Spirit. Firing and targeting must be undertaken manually, at the cost of much time and effort. Still, the weapon is a source of pride for the ve Barros and the ship's tech-priests.

Death of Tol Dumath
pattern bombardment cannon

The Death of Tol Dumath is a cannon the size of a small ship, designed specifically to destroy planetary population centres. It is sanctified by the Ecclesiarchy for its role in the destruction of the Chaos-tainted world of Tol Dumath during the 11th Black Crusade, and for this reason it falls not under the command of the Rogue Trader, but under the dominion of the Void Bishop, Paddeus Obachai, who represents the Ecclesiarch aboard the Patriarch of Tanis. A small monastery is built directly above the cannon, and ensures that it remains loaded and primed for firing at all times. A solitary Sister of Battle is assigned guardian duty over the Death of Tol Dumath at all times, remaining in meditation for years on end unless the cannon itself is threatened.

Main Batteries
Starboard and port

The twelve main cannon, missile, and plasma batteries of the Patriarch are each commanded by a hereditary family of cannon-masters, who oversee the weapons' loading, firing, targeting, and maintenance. The twelves families feud amongst one another for honor, standing, resources, and above all, the position of ship's Tacticus. The most prominent families are:
  • Haephont (Port branch) - Rulers of the largest port missile battery, the Haephont Port clan currently holds the position of Tacticus, in the person of Eqira Haephont, who seized it from the starboard branch through an arranged marriage to her infant cousin in the starboard Haephont branch and the suspicious death of the previous Tacticus.
  • Haephont (Starboard branch) - The starboard branch of the Haephont is no more. The death of their patriarch and Tacticus, Gullivan Haephont, has left the family's hereditary title to fall to their cousin, Eqira.
  • Kun - Rulers of the main starboard battery, the Kun have more often than not held the position of Tacticus. They have a reputation for cruelty above and beyond that which is expected of cannon-masters, often slaying entire weapon crews to provide an example to the rest of their serfs.
  • ve Zarrn - The ve Zarrns are masters of the ship's primary turret array. Shadowy and manipulative, the ve Zarrn family is known to have close ties with the Warshaper of the Pakhor Kroot tribe, who inhabit the fore cargo bay, and the criminal underworld of the ship.
(to be continued)

Metal and Gaming

Hi, Altharis, or Zorro to my friends, here.
This is my first post to the blog my friends, The Lone Amigo and Jarrah, set up; and have since been pestering me about making a contribution.

I'm not going to give you tables, game reports, or setting thoughts; just a small thought that crossed my head about why so many metalheads are gamers, and vice versa.

Being the player of Pöwër Mürdërfäcë during Jarrah's last game, which you can read about below and above, and being an ex-Dabbler in the Metal Arts (Now turned to the indie side. Sorry metal fans, but the call of the acoustic has won me over.) who thinks about games more than is healthy, I felt compelled to pop my online cherry, and blog this.

Good quality metal, the kind with intelligent fans, doesn't take itself too seriously. And, refreshingly enough, it's fans don't take it too seriously either.

Same with gaming.

At it's core, to me at least, metal is, about being awesome, over the top, realising those dark desires and releasing that negative energy in a fun and constructive way, and rocking out with friends.

So is gaming.

Hell, the best analogy I've ever heard for gaming is Ron Edwards' (I decline to comment on some of the stories surrounding this man) band analogy, where he likens gaming to jamming in a band. You all get together, and you each bring your particular style of gaming/your own instrument to the table. Sometimes you all play in harmony, sometimes one person gets a solo, but every time you play, you bring your own gaming style to the table, and try to merge it with others. A bad gaming group is like a bad band, everybody playing different, incompatible tunes, trying to block out all the others.
This entire analogy is the perfect bridge for gaming and metal, and it partially explains why so many of my gamer friends have a taste for metal.

Just a little something to think about,

Gatables - Microlite20 monster

Microlite 20 stats: HD 2d8+8 (17 hp), AC 15, Gate-touch +3 (2d12+3, phys+Str DC 14 for half)

Gatables are lanky blue humanoids with six beady eyes and no nose. Their origins are a mystery, and as a species they are very secretive, and very paranoid. They only ever fight in self defense, but their rampant paranoia means that they tend to interpret totally innocent things as a prelude to an attack. They usually retreat once either they or their opponent has taken damage, but often return to harass their enemies at a later date.

Gatables can pull open gates through the fabric of reality. Opening a gate to anywhere is a standard action. Once a Gatable has walked through the gate, it remains open until the Gatable's next turn, or until somebody else tries to jump through it. Somebody triying to jump through a gatable gate must succeed a DC 20 Phys + Dex check, or else end up flat on their face as the gate closed before he got there. Whether the character succeeded in passing through the gate or not, it then closes. Gatables can also use this power as an attack, pushing parts of a target through small gates to random places.

For Planescape buffs: no Gatable has ever been seen in Sigil. Some think that the race once worshipped Aoskar, god of portals, and thus fear the retribution of the Lady of Pain if they venture into the city, while most believe that the Gatables are just reluctant to travel anywhere their gating power won't allow them to escape from.

Bridge to Destruction – A Bridge Two Far. Part 4

After recovering slightly from their ordeal with the prismatic hallway of doom (which I really must outline the rules for in a future post), Pöwër, Macbeth, Tobi, Wifi and Vincent (momentarily) mourned their fallen comrade, Robblesteinberg, wished he hadn't been carrying the rubies they'd found in the wight's tomb, and soldiered on.

Some exploration of the forest they found themselves in quickly led them to the elven township of Broken Glade*. They met with the leader of the town, Elrond Template-Barer, who explained that he knew of their quest, and had already sent for a passenger Roc to pick them up and ferry them to Rothaven. As the Roc would take a week to arrive, the party set out to entertain themselves. Pöwër, Macbeth and Vincent used some of their loot to take advantage of Jeff Rients' awesome carousing rules. Vincent failed his save, and we determined that he had falln in love with his latest dalliance. As Wifi's played is Vincent's player's girlfriend, it seemd logical that he fall for her. Of course, the rules also technically state that there's a 75% chance that the target of the character's attraction is already married. This turned out to be the case. This gave me a fun idea for later. Macbeth rolled a 20, and we determined that he had been so awesome, there was a 10% chance from now on that any elf he met had heard about him. During this mother of all parties, they met John Lenin, communist male prostitute/fighter, who had himself been questing for Serj Tankian's Beard, and who was determined to follow them to Rothaven, just as soon as he'd been paid by the elf ladies who had hired him (thus handily replacing the Beetle-nommed Robble).

*a lame pun that none of the players spotted.

Wifi and Tobi, having been absent for the part of the adventure where there was looting going on couldn't take part in the carousing, so they asked around for any quests to get more cash. As it turned out, a mad, chaos-mutated fungus Ent had been terrorizing the forest, and had a bounty on its cap, so the two girls went looking for it. After several days searching the forest, they found nothing, and returned back to Broken Glade just in time to see the thing attacking the town tavern. Everybody quickly joined in on fighting it, some more hung over than others. Vincent and Pöwër both tried to jump on the creature and attack it, but only Vincent succeeded. Pöwër got walked on and reduced to 0 hit points. Wifi tried to trip the fungus ent with her spiked chain, but ended up thrown into a bush for her troubles, while John Lenin and Vincent pelted the it with burning oil until it exploded. Tobi repeatedly failed to hit it with her crossbow.

(a group-rendered illustration of the mushroom ent. Don't ask me why)

The next day, when the transport Roc finally arrived, Macbeth and Tobi decided to stay on in Broken Glade, and wished their companions farewell. Pöwër then spent the journey teaching to the Roc how to rock.

As they flew over Rothaven, the group discovered they were nearly too late. The armies of Chaos were besieging the city, and a horde of assorted goblinoids, and a troll were trying to batter down the gates. The Roc pilot dropped them off on the gatetower, and epic battle was joined.

Pöwër finally donned Serj Tankian's beard, which glowed with holy rock power, and granted every one of the defenders a +1 on rolls and an extra 14 hit points. This proved to be invaluable, as numerous of the infantry on the city walls would have fallen without such aid. Many glorious actions were performed, but some highlights included:
  • Vincent and Pöwër leaping from the gatetower onto the troll that was weilding a battering ram single-handed (if you don't count the 6 kobolds that were holding on to it for dear life),
  • Vincent and Pöwër then attempting to stuff the troll's mouth with flasks of burning oil and acid... Vincent rolling a 1, and allowing the troll to make a bite attack on him... the troll then rolling a 1, and thus causing maximum damage as it's head exploded, and the dwarf and half orc raking it's back as they lept to safety. the smoldering corpse then tumbled into the moat.
  • the defenders, bolstered by Serj Tankian's Beard, slaying hobgoblins left and right with volleys of crossbow bolts.
  • Wifi leaping from the tower, and slaying 3 hobgoblins in one stroke of her chain
  • John Lenin leaping from the tower... botching his roll, and landing face first between two bugbears.
  • Vincent tripping over, being attacked from all sides and never once being hit from it.
Finally, sick of his minions being shredded, the orcish chaos warlord appeared to face the heroes: the dark lord Wayne... who turned out to be Wifi's husband. All four PC took him on, and it was only with the aid of Robble's force ghost (who revived Vincent from unconsciousness and gave him a flask of oil) that they finally defeated him. The armies of chaos were routed, everybody had one last Carousing roll, and we called it a game.

Bridge to Destruction – A Bridge Two Far. Part 3

Having hacked David Bowie zombie apart, fished Robble out of the sewers, looted the treasure chest that they found in the corner, and used some more oil to cremate all the ex-zombies, the party decided they needed to settle down and sleep for the night. After a long rest and some regained hit points, they heard noises from the sewer tunnels that led off from the chamber. Fearing more monsters, they were pleasantly surprised to encounter two lady adventurers who had been exploring the sewers: Tobi the elf druid, and Wifi the Half-orc Rogue. They were just through introducing themselves when there was a weird ripping sound and two lanky, blue, six-eyed humanoids pulled holes in the fabric of reality, and stepped into the chamber. Pöwër rolled high on his knowledge check, and correctly identified them as Gatables, highly paranoid beings from the outer planes that wander the worlds (see my next post for stats and some further background). The Gatables, automatically assuming that anybody in such a secluded spot was there to ambush them, attacked, but the fight only lasted one round before Pöwër charmed them with the awesomeness of his rock music.

There was some further negotiation with the now charmed Gatables, until they agreed to open a gate to where Serj Tankian's Beard was hidden. The Gatables explained that they wouldn't be able to open a gate back out again, but the party said they could get themselves out with no trouble. Thus, hands were shaken, and the Gatables sent the group on their way.

The gate delivered the party into a small chamber with a single metal door (which features lots of holes for some reason), vast piles of gold coins, and the most holy Beard floating in a glass case in the center. Angels could be heard singing and throwing the horns as Pöwër reverently threw the case aside and the party stood in awe.

Except Macbeth, who was kind of curious as to why he could hear the coins shifting ever so slightly. Turns out they were, in fact, small vicious flesh eating beetles that just happened to look like coins. As they took flight and began savaging Macbeth and Robble, Pöwër grabbed the Beard, and the whole party fled through the doors.

The hallway beyond stretched off out of sight around a bend, and featured beams of prismatic energy flashing across it in a complex sequence. Thus starts one of the most climactic scenes of the whole game, with the party fleeing down the hallway, chased by the horde beetle swarm, desperately trying to avoid being set on fire, poisoned, confused, slowed, or any of the other effects that the prismatic beams could deal out.

(an actual photo of the game, featuring the hallway, the party's meeples, Robble's character sheet, and the dog Robble's player made out of my kneedable eraser. Eraser Dog now has his own facebook page)

Tobi and Wifi got out nearly unscathed, but the boys had no such luck. Robble was overtaken by the beetles and slowly eaten alive, and Pöwër, Vincent and Macbeth constantly had to pull each other along as them got slowed or confused. The three, a mere 15 feet ahead of the beetles who were rapidly catching up, were down to less than 4 hit points each when they flung themselves through the door at the end of the prismatic corridor and Tobi and Wifi slammed it shut. The sound of thousands of horde beetles angrily but futility slamming against the door reverberated through the secluded forest valley they found themselves in as they collapsed and passed out.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Bridge to Destruction – A Bridge Two Far. Part 2

Exploring the corridor the grate had led to, the party found the source of the skeletons: a tomb. Most of the stone coffins within were empty, their contents having been butchered, burnt and blasted to hell and back along with the cellar. For this reason, the party was rather surprised by the Wight that they discovered as they proceeded to loot the place (Macbeth inquired whether, being somewhat dead himself, grave robbery was less bad for him. Nobody could decide). Robblesteinberg promptly took shelter in another coffin after he rolled a 1 and the Wight took his battleaxe. Macbeth failed to hit it with his crossbow at point blank range, and Vincent waited to see whether he would need to expend one of his turn undead uses.

Pöwër Mürdërfäcë lived up to his name and sliced it in half with his greatxe/bass guitar.

The group then returned to their looting, finding a large pile of coins under the wight, and a pair of rubies in the coffin that Robble had taken shelter in.

the group broke up for the night, and I began planning the next few rooms with Zorro's help. I carefully drew them out and got the meeples we use for miniatures ready.

When they came back the next day, they continued to explore. The next room was a vast chamber, featuring a number of balconies, a stream feeding out of the sewers and a bridge. Oh, and a horde of zombies: ten brown meeples and a red meeple to represent the obligatory Micheal Jackson reference.
The party used quite impressive tactics to fight the zombies, placing burning oil in their paths of approach, and making sure they rarely had the opportunity to even make an attack on the group, thanks to their slow movement. Well, mostly, anyway. Vincent got himself bailed up in a corner and was taken down to 2 hit points before he could heal himself and hurriedly scramble up onto a balcony above, and Robble's primary contribution to the fight (before he tried and failed to jump over the sewer, and spent the rest of the fight trying to climb out) was to use his illusion magic to mask himself and then turn Micheal Jackson zombie into David Bowie zombie.

Bridge to Destruction – A Bridge Two Far. Part 1

Every year, myself and some friend go to place called Lake Jubilee, hire some cabins there, and hang out for 4 days. In that time, we usually do quite a bit of gaming. Last year we played Microlite20, with me running an adventure I made up as we went. It was a train-wreck of a game, but we all had great fun. You can find (somewhat misspelled) write-ups of that game here and here.

So, this year, we played the sequel.

Three players returned from last year. I’d long since misplaced their old character sheets, so we re-built their characters – Vincent the Dwarven cleric of Urinor, Robble Steinberg the Halfling Illusionist, and Macbeth the elf rogue. In the process of re-rolling everybody’s stats, Macbeth ended up with a far lower Mind score than last year, and a far higher Strength. As he’d ended the last game on the gallows for grand arson, we decided he had in fact been hung, and later brought back as a semi-zombie thing. Brains.

The first of the new players (my good friend Zorro, who often goes by the handle Altharis) to join in rolled up a Bard with low Dexterity and high Strength. As a result, he decided to be Pöwër Mürdërfäcë*, the half-orc bass player.

*it actually had more umlauts in it, on some of the consonants as well, but there aren’t symbols for that.

The game proper began in a inn called the Bridge and Chasm, which just happened to be next to a bridge over a chasm. The high wizard Gandelmindorlin had called the four heroes here (or in Macbeth’s case, reanimated and dragged him here) to tell them of a prophesy they must fulfil. I went around the table to ask for suggestions for this epic quest. Many ideas were given, but only one was truly worthy – that the adventurers must seek out Serj Tankian’s Beard, and use it to help defeat the armies laying siege to the city of Rothaven.

The group enthusiastically agreed (as if they had a choice. It was a prophesy after all), and Gandelmindorlin cast a teleportation spell on them, to send them where they needed to go.

…apparently where they needed to go was a small alley next to the Death of Rats Tavern in Rothaven. I described Rothaven as a hive of scum and villainy, and everybody hummed the requisite bit of Bith Jazz. Pöwër then determined to assault the jazz-playing busker that must be the source of the Jazz. Having done so, and stolen the hapless saxophonist’s hat full of coins, the party was approached by the barman from the tavern. He congratulated them on seeing off the annoying busker, and asked if they could deal with some monsters in his basement.

“Oh gods, giant rats” groans half the party.

“Mountain lions” laughs the other half, who’ve all played Oblivion.

“Actually, skeletons” says me, just to prove the rat-claimers wrong.
The party agreed to rid the Death of Rats tavern of skeletons in exchange for all they could drink. They quickly advanced into the tavern’s cellar, and meet the skeletons in battle.

The battle would have been a lot easier if Robblestienberg hadn’t set light to half the cellar with a mis-placed flask of burning oil. Realizing the cinematically-explosive alcohol in the burning barrels would soon be the end of them, and the barman would probably take a dim view of their actions even if he survived, the party quickly jumped down the grating in the floor that the skeletons had presumable entered through.

Robblestienberg, of course, waited to the very last second, so that he could be backlit by the explosion as he jumped.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Ultramarine 50,000: Adventures in the Fifty First Millenium

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only rubble.

For a hundred centuries the empire of Man has been ravaged by its foes. A million worlds lie burnt in the wake of the myriad enemies of man. The Emperor of Man has been torn from his Golden Throne, and the Astronomicon no longer guides battle fleets through the daemon-infested miasma that is the Warp. Throughout the galaxy, a new and lasting dark age has fallen.

To be a man in such times is to be amongst untold millions. It is to live under the cruelest and most savage of alien lords and daemonic princes. It is to toil and slave at the behest of inhuman masters, craven in their desires and their wills. Whether they be ethereal Tau or bitter Eldar, sallow Orks or daemonic sorcerers, all are in some way twisted by the Warp and its miasmic embrace

On a ravaged world far from the centres of galactic power, a few still cling to their faith in the Emperor and the dying ways of a distant era. They are the last of an ancient order of noble and faithful warriors, fabled for their might and righteousness. Bearing sword and bolter, the last Space Marines roam wide and far across the galaxy, sowing hope amonst the children of the Emperor and fear amonst his murderers.