Friday, October 31, 2008

Classic Traveller: Map of Terra Delta



The New Hope Sector, Hardscrabble Subsector, and the planet of Terra Delta were first settled by Terrans in numbers during the Third Disapora that followed the founding of the Translunar Empire and the consolidation of the Old Core Worlds (ca. 2700s CE). By the time Terra Delta was surveyed the existence of so-called "Parallel Earths" was no surprise; there are many such worlds, with the Terra Delta of Hardscrabble Subsector being merely one of four so named in Human Space (there being no central repository of planetary names, many were re-used in disparate parts of the galaxy). Terra Delta was in fact the second Parallel found in New Hope Sector, Terra Gamma being surveyed and settled first. In the massive wave of colonization, with no orderly structure to settlements or claims, as with many worlds, Terra Delta was claimed by many settler groups, and thus has a wide variety of Terran-based cultures, as well as a native Anunaki presence. It being a Parallel Earth, most colonists settled in regions that would be familiar and preferred, and so as with most Parallels, the settlement pattern followed in many ways that of Old Earth.

The continent of Ansonia was settled primarily by American, Aztexican, and Spanglish colonists. Here the Anunaki native tribes were either extirpated, assimilated, or pushed onto reserves.

The continent of Valvidia was settled primarily by Spanglish colonists, with Anunaki tribes being assimilated or pushed onto reserves.

The continent of Sarpedonia was settled primarily by Hansa, with smaller colonies of Americans, Kalaberesh, Spanglish, and Romaslavona settlers. Here the Anunaki got the worst of it, and were generally extirpated.

The continent of Matay was the dominion of the Siningo. Anunaki were either assimilated or pushed onto reserves.

The vast steppes and forests of the central lands between Sarpedonia and Matay were settled by the Rustsche, while the southern mountains, wastes, and plains were settled by Neo-Persians. Anunaki were extiurpated, assimilated, or in the south, enslaved.

The continent of Nova Membe was divided between the Tamashek in the north and the Mozambicanos in the south. Anunaki were assimilated or pushed into less desireable regions.

Finally, the large islands of the southeastern seas were settled by Ozzeans on Moomba and Maaritamils on Maarilanare. Many of the smaller island chains were left to the local Anunaki, and many Anunaki tribes live in the backwoods of the larger sub-continental isles.

Since then settlement patterns remained fairly steady, though when the colonies grew into states there was always fighting on the borders. During the Age of Lost Hope (3566 to 3752) following the Robotic Rebellion and the Second Great Sector War Terra Delta fell into semi-barbarism, and the tech level height regressed from the then-extant E (14) to a low of 9; many states fell even further, some into neo-medieval barbarism (TL 1). During the two centuries of the Age of Lost Hope there were many migrations, invasions, conquests, and collapses. Eventually a status quo developed again as populations stabilized and technology progressed.

The Kingdom of Brun was at the forefront, it being the only state that survived the dark age mostly intact and with space flight (though only system boats, not starships). They were the first to benefit from the resurgence in interstellar trade in the subsector when the merchant ships from Tennyson (today 666-6-666) arrived in the Terra Deltan system in 3752, and continued to enjoy the lions-share of benefits for centuries due to common culture as well as stable political structure and technological base.

But the near-Imperial status once enjoyed by the kings and queens of Brun faded as the other states of Terra Delta caught up, especially once the Western Alliance formed on Ansonia with assistance from the Northern States Alliance of Moldvay. The peoples of the NSA, like the Ansonian Heartland, were Galanglish speakers primarily of Anglamic (Anglo-American) descent, and over the centuries had developed a philosophy and society dedicated to "racial purity, cultural integrity, and political superiority" known as Malkeenism after the ancient American philosopher who first propounded the philosophy. From the first the Malkeenist Party dominated the Western Alliance, and from the Heartland moved first into the states to the south, where backward and poor if relatively "pure" Anglamic folk lived in backward, petty states. They then swept north into the less-populated northlands, a mix of civilized city-states separated by vast areas of plains crossed by Anglamic-Hansa semi-nomadic ranchers (the Hansa having moved into the vast northern wilds of Ansonia during the early decades of the Age of Lost Hope).

At the same time, as the Western Alliance grew, Brunish hold over the eastern lands of Ansonia began to weaken, while to the west, across the wastelands known as the Sea of Dust and over the Sierra Barrera, the Spanglish Unión del Estado Sureño (Union of Southern States) of Moldvay were also meddling in Terra Delta affairs, providing technological and financial assistance to the Spanglish city-states along the Mar Bajo (Shallow Sea). Joaquin, San Rafaela, Los Reyes, and other city-states and statelets were, like the Western Alliance, brought together in union, but unlike the racist aristocraticy founded by the NSA, the techno-meritocratic UES built a meritocracy... primarily by Espanglesh, but the various non-Espanglish were far more welcome to work with rather than for the Union del Mar Bajo (as Joaquin was then called).

To be continued...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

CT Campaign: Languages of the Hardscrabble Subsector

This should also give some clue as to the cultures of the subsector...

Algonkeen: Native tongue of Algonquian Amerindian-descended peoples of Goodness. No written form.

Alhazredic: This is a unique dialect of Old Arabic spoken by the natives of Alhazred. It is also spoken by Alhazredi-descended slaves of the DSPA (few slavers take slaves from Alhazred today, as the people have been found to be… odd… and make difficult if not dangerous slaves). It is written using the Old Arabic script.

Anunaki: Anunaki is the only non-Terran language common in the Hardscrabble Subsector. Most worlds of the subsector had Anunaki natives, generally primitive Stone Age cultures, when the Terrans arrived 1200 years ago; most of these populations were extirpated or assimilated quickly. Only in the area Trailing Rimwise were there Anunaki civilizations advanced enough to avoid extinction. These were still conquered, however, and now form a lower-class sub-stratum of Najaffan society (peasantry and urban working poor). Small populations are also found on Alhazred, Araucania, Ardneh, Chaco, Goodness, Meduseld, Palmas, and Tarna IV. There is one advanced Anunaki state in the subsector: Darishe Damhara on Terra Delta, where also small tribal groups of Anunaki can be found on reservations, particularly on the southern continents. Anunaki is written using a cuneiform-style logographic script, though only the Damharans are literate today.

Arabic: Old Arabic is the liturgical tongue of the Shi’a Catholic Church based on Najaffa. On the worlds of the DSPA it is used only among the clergy and nobles on a regular basis, as the common folk speak Neo-Persian, Anunaki, or Spanglish. Dialects of Arabic are spoken as the native tongue of the peoples of Alhazred and Serai, though neither is intelligible with each other or Old Arabic. Old Arabic is written using the Neo-Persian alphabet with additions for sounds not native to Neo-Persian.

Athapaskee: Native tongue of Athabasca Amerindian-descended peoples of Goodness. No written form.

Aztexican: Descended from a mix of Nahuatl and Spanglish, Aztexican is spoken on Terra Delta in Iztlam, the Iztlamnic Isles, Moribo, and the Iztlamnic Colonies on Nova Memba. It is also spoken by native peoples of Goodness, and purportedly by some savages of Tarna IV and Terra Gamma. On Terra Delta it is written using the Galanglish alphabet, while on Goodness it is written using the ancient pictographs of the Old Aztecs.

French: French is a dead language of Old Earth. It has been “resurrected” in recent centuries by Galanglish-speaking nobles Trailing Coreward of Old Earth, especially in DOOP and nearby subsectors, as a mark of nobility; it is also intended as a way of being able to “speak with one’s peers without the help understanding,” as it is only taught by nobles to nobles. As such, it is remarkably regarded as an even snootier and more highfalutin tongue in modern times than it was on Old Earth. It is not in use in the Domain of the Space Pope or the Interstellar Dragon Empire, and its use is considered gauche by Hang Seng nobility of the Union of Allied Planets (though this does not stop the nobles of Bourse from using it when not in the presence of their Sinonjin peers).

Galanglish: This language is the lingua franca of the space lanes, and the official language of the Democratic Order of Planets, the Terran Hegemony, and the distant United Federation of Planets, as well as many other interstellar states Spinward Rimwise. Descended from American English, it absorbed numerous terms from a dozen different languages over the last two millennia and evolved many of its own, such that it is almost unrecognizable from Old American. Galanglish is the majority native tongue on Alfred, Ardneh, Arkham, Carter, Howard, Moldvay, Money Pit, New Jericho, Riddick, Stirling, Tarna IV, Terra Gamma, and the Western Alliance and the Kingdom of Brun on Terra Delta. It is also spoken by many colonists on Goodness. As it is the lingua franca of the nearest multi-sector power, merchants on most worlds in the subsector, even those inimical to DOOP and American-descended peoples, also learn Galanglish. All dialects are mutually-intelligible, though the dialects on the Red Zone worlds are quite archaic. Galanglish script is almost identical to the Old Earth Latin script used in the 20th century, though unfortunately the Comic Sans font seems to have been the base for the modern derivation of the script.

Gaelic: A direct descendant of the language of the Highland Scots, this tongue is spoken on Inverness and Sheldrake in the Scottish March; on Terra Delta on the Isle of Brun, specifically in the Moray District in the north; and on Meduseld and Riddick. It is written using the Galanglish alphabet.

Hansa: Also known as Space Dutch, Hansa is properly a mix of Dutch, German, British English, French, and Swedish. It first evolved as a result of mixing along the North Sea Coast after WWIII, and developed as a trading tongue about 1500 years ago in what was then known as the Dutch Arm of space, Spinward Rimwise toward Old Earth. Following the establishment of the Translunar Empire, the peoples of the planets of the Dutch Arm were greatly oppressed, and many fled into deep space to found new colonies; others took up the nomadic life of the Free Traders, where they remain today. Hansa is the native tongue of Bourse; the native language of Aesreik, Bergenland, Vanland, and Vreiland on Terra Delta; and is spoken on Hang Seng, Meduseld, New Jericho, and Wallawa. Of course, most merchants also speak at least a smattering of Hansa. It is written using the Galanglish alphabet.

Kalaberesh: Kalaberesh evolved from Calabrese, Sicilian, Arbëresh, Griko, Italian, French, and Spanish following WWIII, when most Italians, French, and Spanish died in the plagues that followed the nuclear exchange. The southern Italians moved into the north and west of Europe, founding their own states and eventually an empire based on the principles of the ‘Ndrangheta and Cosa Nostra. The tyrannical state of Calabria Magna provided many immigrants during the First and Second Diasporas; most were peasants seeking a better life, but no few were gangsters, and their lifestyle and language followed. Kalaberesh is the native tongue of Nuovo Borghia on Terra Delta and is found in many urban areas of Terra Delta where Borghese have settled (and invariably brought with them the Family Business). Kalaberesh is the lingua franca of the underworld throughout Human Space. It is written using the Galanglish alphabet.

Maaritamil: Descended from Old Tamil, this language is spoken by the natives of the sub-continent of Maarilanare on Terra Delta and the continent of Mankulam on Chaco. There was once a Tamil colony on Ardneh, so it might well still be spoken there. It is written using the ancient Tamil script.

Neo-Persian (a.k.a. Najaffan): This is the native tongue of the peoples of Darab, Irab, Isfahan, Jandaq, Najaffa, Rustam; a number of DSPA worlds in the Avalon and Pathenia subsectors; and the peoples of the Terra Delta states of Charsadda, Jharom, Shahrezan, Zanjanistan, as well as bordering regions in Mongoria, the UASS, and Zhaangche (the Terra Delta Neo-Persian dialect is known as Shahrezi rather than Najaffan). It is descended from the Persian spoken in Old Iran of Old Earth, with an admixture of Arabic, Hebrew, and Italian and a few loan words from Anunaki and Spanglish; it notably avoids borrowing words from Galanglish. The Neo-Persian script is identical to the classical Nastaleeq script of Old Persia.

Ozarkee: Native tongue spoken by Anglo-American-descended native peoples of Goodness. It is descended from Old American, but only a scholar who speaks Galanglish, Old American, and Ozarkee could tell. No written form.

Ozzean: Evolved from English spoken in Australian and New Zealand with elements of Maori and many borrowings from Chinese and various Southeast Asian tongues, after almost 20 centuries and untold light years of differentiation Ozzean is a distinct language from Galanglish and the two are not mutually intelligible. Ozzean is the majority language spoken by natives of New Kulgera, Stirling, Wagawaga, and Wallawa; it is also spoken by minorities on Alfred, Goodness, Machanga, Moldvay, New Jericho, and Sheldrake, as well as by natives of the continent of Moomba on Terra Delta. The neo-medieval Dunedin peoples of Meduseld speak an archaic dialect of Ozzean. Ozzean is written using the Galanglish alphabet.

Portuguesa (a.k.a. Mozambicano or Machangano): The Old Portuguese tongue was taken to the stars by the Brazilian Star Empire, and spread far and wide throughout space. The founders of the world of Machanga were primarily from the Viceroyalty of Greater Mozambique, and as it is their descendents who settled on other planets in the subsector, Portuguesa spoken in the subsector is of the Mozambicano dialect. Portuguesa is still spoken on Machanga and by small populations on Alfred, New Kulgera, Stirling, and Terra Delta (where it is the native language of most natives of the southern states of Nova Memba). It is written using a variant of the Galanglish alphabet.

Remulaki: Spoken by Remulakis, this language is descended from an artificial language of Old Earth known as Klingon, with the addition of many new technical terms dealing with science and technology, and loaded with strange words developed in ancient archaic sub-cultures on Old Earth. It is unrelated to any other language in Human Space since the days of the Remulaki-Klingon War and the extinction of the Klingon peoples. In the Hardscrabble Subsector it is spoken by Remulakis native to Ardneh, Loqnar, Money Pit, Nimoy III, Remm II, Tarna IV, and Terra Gamma, and is spoken by Remulaki colonists on Goodness. It is written using two alphabets, Klinzhai and Plaqad; Klinzhai is used to transliterate non-Remulaki words, while Plaqad is used only for Remulaki words.

Romaslavona: Romaslavona is descended from a mix of Romanian, Bulgarian, and other southern Slavic languages. It is spoken by the native population of Severinia on Terra Delta and the southern hemisphere of Niska VII in the Moldvay System. It is written using a variant of the Galanglish alphabet.

Rustsche: Descended from an ungodly bastardization of Russian, Polish, and German that developed following WWIII, today Rustsche is regarded as one of the most mellifluous and poetical of tongues (by its native speakers if by no one else). It is spoken by the natives of the Union of Allied Sovereign States and Oleksandriya on Terra Delta and by natives of the northern hemisphere of Niska VII in the Moldvay System. It is written using a unique derivative of Old Cyrillic.

Seraiac: This language is descended from Old Arabic with a strong admixture of Old Hebrew. It is only spoken by the natives of Serai, and is written using a unique form of the Old Arabic script.

Sinongo: Sinongo is descended primarily from Chinese and Japanese, with loan words from virtually every other East and Southeast Asian language. It originated in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity-Sphere that ruled most of East Asia after WWIII. Though ruled by a resurgent and imperialistic Japan, the language is mostly Chinese in structure. It is the native tongue of the peoples of the Interstellar Dragon Empire (including in Hardscrabble Subsector the planets Lilung, Panlung, Shenlung, and Yulung), Kowloon, and Hang Seng. It is the primary official language of the Union of Allied Planets and is spoken by officials and minorities on Bourse, New Jericho, and Wallawa. It is the primary language spoken by the native peoples of the continent of Matay on Terra Delta, and large minorities in Joaquin on the continent of Ansonia and Jamarca on the continent of Valvidia. There is a large colony of Sinonjin on Goodness, and before the Second Great Subsector War there were major Sinonjin states on Tarna IV and Terra Gamma, so theoretically there are still Sinongo speakers there. As Sinonjin are found throughout Human Space, Sinongo is spoken in small enclaves on most other planets that are tied into the Greater Galactic Civilization. Of all languages in Human Space, Sinongo is most prone to fracturing into many dialects, dependent upon the original mix of settlers on a planet; when in doubt, Sinonjin communicate by writing though use of the Old Hanji script, as all dialects are moot when using the one script. Sinongo is written using no less than a dozen different logographic and even more alphabetic scripts, though all Sinonjin cultures strive to continue to use Old Hanji and keep it pure.

Spanglish: This tongue is descended from an admixture of Spanish and American English, developed in the Spanish-speaking South American Alliance after WWIII. It is spoken by the majority of peoples of Chaco, Araucania, and Palmas, by many slaves in the DSPA, and on Terra Delta by the peoples of Anguire, Iztlam, Joaquin, the continent of Valvidia, Zamura, and former Anguiran and Zamuran colonies on Nova Membe. Small populations of Spanglish speakers are also found on Ardneh, Meduseld, Moldvay, New Jericho, Riddick, Tarna IV, and Terra Gamma. Spanglish is written using the Galanglish alphabet.

Suomish: Spoken by the natives of Lahti and in several “sovereign” states of the UASS on Terra Delta, this language is descended directly from Old Finnish, with a dash of Swedish and Russian. It is written with the Galanglish alphabet.

Tamashek: When the North African Arab states collapsed after WWIII, the Tuareg and related Berber peoples came into power. Allied with the Brazilian Star Empire (usually as laborers and mercenaries), the Tuareg went to the stars in great numbers in the First and Second Diasporas. While they served anywhere gladly for pay, they were choosier in their long-term settlement, preferring deserts and plains like those of their homeland on Old Earth. In the Hardscrabble Subsector they settled on Alhazred, Ardneh, Chaco, Darab, Machanga, Meduseld, Moldvay, Riddick, Tarna IV, and on northern Nova Memba on Terra Delta. Tamashek is also spoken in the DSPA, where many Tamashek are held as slaves (and have been for hundreds of years, since the conquest of Darab after the Second Great Subsector War). Tamashek is written using Tifinagh, an alphabetic script unique to Tamashek.

Zyuuan: Native tongue of Siouan Amerindian-descended peoples of Goodness. No written form.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CT Campaign: Character Rules and Characters Rule

Yesterday's Classic Traveller session went very well, though it was only character generation. I had thought at least one of the other players had played CT, but was wrong; all others were newbies, including the fourth player who joined us (and will also be joining the Gary's Greyhawk AD&D 1E game on opposite Tuesdays).

In the end I decided to go with the full-on CT chargen complete with Mercenary, High Guard, Merchant Prince, and Scouts. It took longer, but the characters are VERY well fleshed out. Only one character died during character generation; considering how dangerous some missions and battles were for the Navy and Scout characters, that was pure luck.

I went with a variant rule on Survival. Instead of failure meaning Instant Death, I determined that a failure on Survival meant the potential for death or massive wounding. When a Survival roll failed, the character was dealt a number of dice of damage equal to the number by which the roll failed. This was applied to one of the physical characteristics randomly. If the total damage was equal to or less than the characteristic, the characteristic lost 1 point. If it was greater than the characteristic, it lost the amount by which it was greater. If it was double the characteristic or more, the character died.

Example: Bo Grant, a 2nd Term Rogue and Capo Regime of the Baritono Crime Family, rolls snake eyes, and fails his Survival check by 4. He suffers 4d6 damage applied (randomly) to his Dexterity of 6. Fortunately, he only rolls 10 points, so he is not killed outright, merely suffering a crippling wound of 4 points of Dexterity, which goes down to 2. Though the goombahs from the Gamborax Crime Family broke both his legs, he decides to struggle on and seek revenge...

The process only killed one character (a drafted Scout with an End 3, of course), and wounded two characters, the Army/Rogue man and the second Scout (wounded twice in the line of duty).

The characters are:

Bo Grant (2 term Army/4 term Rogue, age 42, UPP 5056A5-060000): After fairly distinguished service in the Joaquin Army, Bo was a victim of cutbacks when peace broke out between Joaquin and the Western Alliance. Down on his luck and with no where else to turn, he joined the Baritono Crime Family as a simple mook in the city of San Rafaela. He quickly rose up the ranks to Capo Sotto, primarily working with smugglers and rebels from the Western Alliance (and associated interplanetary domains). Unfortunately he ended up on the wrong side of a coup in the Family and had to flee, settling in New Manhattan City in the Western Alliance. Bo had both legs broken by the Gamborax Crime Family 11 years ago, and age increased the infirmity until he was confined to a wheelchair, though this did little to stop his machinations. Fortunately he made off with a big chunk of change when the SHTF, and was able to afford expensive neural implants that provide him with simple mobility. Some day he'd like to get revenge on the New Baritono Family and settle his old score with the Gamborax, but for now he just wants to rebuild his wealth and build a firm base in New Manhattan. As was his way in San Rafaela, Bo "set up shop" in a booth at Mamma Maureen's, a dive bar and gentleman's club near the New Manhattan Star Port; while not at all as popular as the fancy, shiny, and extensive star port at Cape Repose on the Isle of Flowers, it was a location much more likely to be visited by his kind of people...

Dextor McGreggor (5 terms Brun Star Navy/1 year College, age 39, UPP 6799B8-000000): Dextor was born and raised in Moray, the rugged cold highlands in the north of the island-kingdom of Brun. He dreamed of being a star pilot, never realizing that his lack of social connections and graces would condemn him to the navigator's seat. He drowned his sorrows deep in stout at whatever taverns happened to be near whatever base his shore leave dropped him, and there found his gift for gab and easy influence. Service above and beyond saving a noble scion during an unfortunate siege in his last term (an international and interplanetary snafu with the Western Alliance Navy) earned him a Medal for Conspicuous Gallantry and, upon mustering out, membership in the Traveller's Aid Society from a grateful noble father. After spending some time home in the Highlands, he fled the cold, lonely, boring isle for the more cosmopolitan Western Alliance, where he tried a stint in New Manhattan City University. Old habits die hard, however, and he washed out in a pool of stout after only one year; fortunately he made a fast friend in Tiberius Grimm, a former Gunnery Master Chief in the Western Alliance Navy who had tried, also, to make a new life in academia and failed (for much the same reason). He and Tiberius eventually gravitated to Mamma Maureen's, a seedy bar and gentleman's club from which, through the skylight, they could watch starships taking off and landing, and dream of their true home...

Jared Sheperd (4 terms Interplanetary Scout Service, age 34, UPP 67A597-000000): During his 16 years in the ISS, Jared saw it all, or most of it. He even spent several years on Gamma Terra, trying to determine the viability of re-settlement (the indigens made no bones about disagreeing with any such idea, and a brush with radiation poisoning put home the point). A later "routine" mission on Goodness gave him further respect for "primitive" weaponry when he took a stone arrow in the meaty part of his right arm. After several years at Goodness he was quite happy when his transfer came through, and was disappointed to discover that working in Ops was peaceful, yet dreadfully boring. He was almost relieved when they cashiered him for political reasons he never really understood. He was granted the use of his old Scout Ship, Darkstar, as no other scout ever seemed to be able to get it to work right after he was assigned to fly a desk. With the ability to go where he wished, he decided to check out civilization, which he'd had little enough of in the last 16 years. The first place he saw off the ship that piqued his interest was a quaint little tavern by the name Mamma Maureen's...

Tiberius Grimm (7 terms Western Alliance Navy/1 year College, age 47, UPP 69E7C9-000000): Tiberius was a simple youth who loved simple things: shooting big damn guns. And as the biggest were in the Navy on the great starships, well, he joined up! And for 28 years he enjoyed traveling through the Black firing off the big guns whenever opportunity permitted. He also spent his free time keeping himself fit, fighting the beer belly that would otherwise result from his forays to narby bars and gentleman's clubs while on shore duty. While there are few who know a ship's laser guns as he does, he otherwise had an undistinguished career, save for showing cool nerves during the Moldvay Outer Archipelago Incident of 3908; his still hair-trigger finger and control thereof kept the bad international/interplanetary incident from going much, much worse. But even such ability did not spare him from retirement at age 46. After mustering out he found he had no idea of what to do; there is little call for big gun experts in the civilian world and his 8000 Domacred pension would hardly pay the bills. While sitting alone quietly pondering his future in his new apartment in New Manhattan he answered a knock at the door. There stood a smartly-dressed courier with a package; the package contained a letter from the Duke of New Brae (Brunish ruler of a wide swath of Barsoom Gamma and the local asteroid belt) thanking him for his coolness under fire and for "not shooting down my son's yacht" during the Moldvay Incident, along with a black plastic card... membership in the Traveller's Aid Society. Eager to improve his skills and find something useful to do, with the proceeds from selling several of his first High Passages Tiberius went to college at New Manhattan City University. Unfortunately, the enforced discipline of the High Guard is distinctly absent at such ivory towers, and he washed out in a tidal wave of beer and lusty co-eds (who were all amazed at the "old man's" endurance). He also met and discovered the common history he had with Dextor McGreggor, who became a fast and solid friend. Together they while away the days at Mamma Maureen's, a cheap bar and club in the shadow of the New Manhattan Star Port. Together he and Dex figure they can turn their lives around if they can jsut get back into the Black. All they need is a ship...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Classic Traveller Campaign: Hardscrabble Subsector


This is the subsector for the new Classic Traveller Campaign I start tomorrow night. The campaign begins on Terra Delta, a TL 12 balkanized world not unlike Earth as described in Robert Heinlein's Friday. Most of the planets in the subsector are independent and many of these are balkanized. There are four Great Powers with a presence in Hardscrabble Subsector:

Dominion of the Space Pope (Red in bottom right): This realm is a theocracy ruled by the Space Pope, the galactic ruler of Shi'a Catholicism. Planets are ruled by Shahs under the guidance of Bishops, though many hinterland regions are controlled by independent-minded Ayatollahs who broke from the Space Pope during the Third Reformation.

Interstellar Dragon Empire (Red in top right): This region of space and most of the sectors Coreward were settled long ago by mixed Japanese/Chinese/Korean colonists. The Empire is in its Fifth Dynasty, in a decadent stage in the interior of the Empire while the rim-world Mandarins scrabble to become the founder of the Sixth Dynasty (often with loot garnered from raiding nearby worlds). Space Ninjas? Yeah, we got 'em.

Union of Allied Planets (Yellow in center right): Once a loose republic, now an oligarchy ruled by the Oligarchs of Hang Seng and, to a lesser extent, Bourse. Locals of Wallawa, New Jericho, and other ruled worlds want their freedoms back. New Jericho was recently "taught a lesson" with several well-placed nukes.

Democratic Order of Planets (Purple on left top and bottom): A loose union of planets that takes up several subsectors Spinward, with the capital on Terra Beta two subsectors west. Not expansive, usually, but often meddling. The two-system dominion on the tip of the bottom left extent is the Scottish March, a semi-independent buffer between DOOP and the Space Pope. The Scots of Inverness are well-known as mercenaries with advanced battle armor.

Terra Gamma, Tarna IV, Ardneh, and Riddick were all nuked during the Second Great Sector War several centuries ago. Today they are home to mutants, pirates, and crazed colonists. Alhazred, Arkham, and Meduseld are primitive, backward planets where psionics are all-too common. 666-6-666 is a shattered world, destroyed when the Star Gate System crashed 10 years ago; no one who has gone to this system since The Crash has returned.

Most systems have multiple habitable planets; the planet shown on the map is merely the most populous/advanced. Terraforming was all the rage a thousand years ago, and most terraformed worlds remain quite livable, though the technology for that was lost with the Fall of the Translunar Empire. There is also much evidence of Old One (dinosauroid) and Ancient work in this region of space, even so far out from Old Earth.

There are few non-human species in the subsector, and none are native. The Slyin'nn Serpentoids are common in Dragon Space (natch) and rare elsewhere in the subsector (said to be all-too common on Alhazred), while almost any Spinward races can be found on DOOP planets. All PCs will be human.

Robots are nearly unknown due to the Robotic Rebellion that led to the Second Great Sector War. This is also why computers are kept primitive and dumb, lest artificial intelligences turn on their fleshy creators. Such things, however, can still be found in the subsector on the ruined and unreclaimed worlds, and from time to time in the wilds of lesser populated planets.

I must note that I have unabashedly yoinked some ideas straight from the mind of Jeff Rients, especially his wonderful Asteroid 1618 module for Encounter Critical. While I want some oddness in the campaign, EC was just a heaping helping more than I really needed...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

And the name of the game is... Traveller 1E!

So in addition to a fun and exciting Greyhawk adventure yesterday, we put our heads together and decided what we would play on opposite weeks from the Greyhawk 1E AD&D game.

I had decided earlier in the day that, if I was going to get all stompy (in a nice way) over playing 4E D&D, I should at least be the one to "fall on the grenade," so to speak, and offer alternatives that I would be willing to run. And so, for the first time in years, I looked over my game collection and put together a comprehensive list of the games I own...

Fantasy RPGs
Adventures in Fantasy
Artesia: Adventures in the Known World
Chivalry & Sorcery 1E
Conan (TSR)
D&D 1E: Original D&D (“Gygax/Arneson”)
D&D 2E: Basic D&D (“Holmes”)
D&D 3E: Advanced D&D 1E (“Gygax”)
D&D 4E: B/X D&D (“Moldvay/Cook”)
D&D 5E: BECMI D&D (“Mentzer”)
D&D 6E: Advanced D&D 2E (“Cook”)
D&D 7E: Cyclopedia D&D (“Allston”)
D&D 8E: D&D 3E (“Tweet/Cook/Williams”)
D&D 9E: HackMaster (“Blackburn/Jelke/Johansson/Kenzer”)
D&D 10E: D&D 4E (“Heinsoo/Collins/Wyatt”)
d20: Castles & Crusades
d20: Pathfinder
Dangerous Journeys: Mythus
Empire of the Petal Throne 1E
Labyrinth Lord (B/X D&D Clone)
Lejendary Adventure
Middle-Earth Role-Play 2E
Palladium Fantasy 2E
Powers & Perils
RoleMaster 1E
RuneQuest 1E
RuneQuest 2E

Fantasy Campaign Settings
A Mighty Fortress (Elizabethan Age) [Historical Fantasy]
Aerth [Historical Fantasy]
Age of Heroes (Heroic Greece) [Historical Fantasy]
Artellia [Homebrew High Fantasy]
Blackmoor 1E (First Fantasy Campaign) [Weird Fantasy]
Blackmoor 2E (Mystara) [Weird Fantasy]
Carcosa [Sword & Sorcery/Horror]
Celts (Ancient Celts) [Historical Fantasy]
Changed Earth [Homebrew High Fantasy]
Charlemagne’s Paladins [Historical Fantasy]
Crusades [Historical Fantasy]
Dragonlance [High Fantasy]
Forgotten Realms: Al-Qadim [Arabian Fantasy]
Forgotten Realms: Faerun [Modern Fantasy]
Forgotten Realms: Kara-Tur [Oriental Fantasy]
Golarion [Modern Fantasy]
Greyhawk [High Fantasy]
Griffon Island [Sword & Sorcery]
Harn/Ivinia [Historical Fantasy]
Kingdoms of Kalamar [Modern Fantasy]
Known Realms (Dungeon Crawl World) [High Fantasy]
Known World (Artesia) [High Fantasy]
Lankhmar [Sword & Sorcery]
Lejendary Earth [Modern Fantasy]
Middle Earth [High Fantasy]
Mystara: Alphatian Empire [High Fantasy]
Mystara: Hollow World [High Fantasy]
Mystara: Known World [High Fantasy]
Mystara: Red Steel [High Fantasy]
Neo-Medieval America [Homebrew Sword & Sorcery]
Old Young Lands (SnarfQuest) [Weird Fantasy]
Ravenloft [Gothic Horror Fantasy]
Sanctuary (Thieves’ World) [Sword & Sorcery]
Spelljammer [Weird Fantasy]
Tekumel [Sword & Sorcery]
Vikings (Dark Ages) [Historical Fantasy]
Wilderlands of High Adventure [Sword & Sorcery]
Wilderlands of High Fantasy [Sword & Sorcery]

Post-Apocalypse RPGs
After the Bomb
Aftermath
Afterwars
Gamma World 1E
Gamma World 2E
Gamma World 3E
Gamma World 4E
Hawkmoon
Jericho [Homebrew T2K]
Metamorphosis Alpha 1E
Mutant Future
Planet of the Apes [Homebrew T2K]
Price of Freedom
Rifts
Systems Failure
The End
Twilight 2000 1E
Zombie World [Homebrew T2K]

Other RPGs
Aces & Eights [Western]
Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined) [Sci-Fi]
Beyond the Supernatural [Horror]
Boot Hill 2E [Western]
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century [Sci-Fi]
Dark Conspiracy 1E [Horror/Sci-Fi]
Gangbusters [Gangsters of the Roaring ’20s]
Ghostbusters 1E [Humor]
Heroes Unlimited [Super-Heroes]
James Bond [Espionage]
Judge Dredd [Sci-Fi]
Lords of Creation [Science-Fantasy]
Marvel Super-Heroes 1E [Super-Hero]
Ninjas & Superspies [Espionage/Sci-Fi]
Paranoia 1E [Humor]
Ringworld [Sci-Fi]
Serenity [Sci-Fi]
Star Frontiers [Sci-Fi]
Star Trek 1E (FASA) [Sci-Fi]
Star Wars 2ER [Space Opera]
Star Wars 4E (Saga Edition) [Space Opera]
StarSiege [Sci-Fi]
Top Secret 1E [Espionage]
Top Secret 2E [Espionage]
Traveller 1E [Sci-Fi]

There are other minor bits that I did not list, such as the Town of Baldemar or Haven: The Free City, or the Role Aids products from Mayfair Games, etc., and others that were not really complete games or settings unto themselves, but this is otherwise a complete list of the lines I have. Over the years at various "choke points" I've had to sell off large sections of my game collection (and especially of late, which is why there are almost no d20 games listed), so this is merely a portion of what I actually have owned and played.

It was easier than I thought it would be to get everyone on board to switch to something other than 4E D&D, and was a given once we realized that, due to other's work schedules and untoward events, we would be down to only four members of our group for some months to come (this mercifully made 4E D&D LiFR impossible, as they require a minimum of four players and a DM each session). I also emphasized that while I would be happy to run something in fantasy, I kind of wanted something different...

Rifts and Ninjas & Superspies led the debate for a while, then everyone noticed Traveller 1E at the very end of the list. It had been forever and a day since anyone played it, but we all agreed it would be fun to have a go at a classic Traveller campaign. And so next week we will kick off our new adventures.

For this campaign I'm sticking to the classic "Keep It Simple, Stupid" ideals. I'm not going to use the careers from Mercenary, High Guard, or Merchant Prince, as there's a bit of power creep in there (hah, understatement!); to allow variation, I'll include the additional careers from Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium. I haven't decided what to do for robots, if anything at all; I might use the Robots book or maybe the old article from Dragon Magazine. I'll not be using the default Third Imperium setting; instead I'm going to take advantage of the Sandbox quality of the game to develop my own setting and my own subsectors, inspired by elements of the Future History of Heinlein as a general backdrop (along with other bits from Heinlein from close parallels, such as his Citizen of the Galaxy setting and the Moon is a Harsh Mistress/Friday/Cat Who Walks Through Walls timeline). I've already decided that the local Bad Guys are going to be something like the Sargonid Star Empire from Citizen (though with psionic-capable secret agents, kind of like the Zhodani of the mainline Traveller universe). Rob Conley had some interesting advice on putting together your own Traveller setting the other day; I'll have to check it out in depth.

While I'll be designing the setting for my own gaming pleasure, I'll also be looking at developing it as a product someday... so never fear, the AGP Empire rolls ever on!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gary's Greyhawk Campaign: Session 6

After resting and recuperating at the Inn of the Welcome Wench for a night, Adamond and Tarnish were joined by Marcus, the Lieutenant of the Hommlet Guard, and four of his warriors: Shield, Kick, Helm, and Axe, plus the stable boy to watch after the horses. They set out early for the Moathouse, confident (overly so, indeed) that they would soon rescue their compatriots.

So confident were they that they strode, bold as brass, into the bailey of the Moathouse, without so much as a cursory scouting action! Unfortunately, Lareth the Beautiful had his remaining forces in wait, notably four bugbears in the ruined tower and the ogre and two more bugbears just inside the main hall. The bugbears in the tower quietly filed out from the tower even as the ogre and his companions strode forth from the Moathouse...

Caught alone and in the fore on the stairs, Adamond quickly advanced to the rear at sight of the ogre, only then noticing that he and his companions were caught between a rock and a hard place. Combat then joined. Kick and Shield quickly fell to the bugbears as Tarnish charged the ogre [yes, 1st level and 3 hp Tarnish the Geoffite, now Tarnish the Brave]!

Bardiche and broad sword clashed upon the stairs as the bugbears flanking the ogre watched on, amazed that the ogre had not squished his opponent at the first! While steel clanged upon the stairs, blood flowed in the lee of the tower, as next Helm then Axe fell to the bugbears. Marcus fought valiantly, and he and his men even wounded two, but all four then closed on Marcus, and it was merely a matter of time before their terrible blades brought him low...

Meanwhile, ere the bugbears flanking the ogre could attack Tarnish, Adamond found courage and closed with one, pinking it with his small sword. Two swift strikes from the bugbear laid the valiant halfling low, even as Tarnish struck a mighty blow upon the ogre. Hefting its bardiche to strike at the foolish warrior, the great weapon slid from the ogre's grasp and flew back into the darkness of the Moathouse. Perhaps seeing some flash of madness in Tarnish's eyes that others missed, the ogre decided discretion was the better part of valor and fled back toward its lair [I use B/X morale, and the ogre failed with boxcars]!

Surprised at the cowardice of their brutish companion, the bugbears closed on Tarnish, to no avail. He struck both down with single blows, one slice taking off a bugbear's head clean, blood spurting like a fountain from its vacant neck. This mere moments after Marcus fell to the blades of the other four bugbears, who, upon turning and seeing a maddened Tarnish drenched in the blood of their companions, howling Geoffite war-cries, wavered in their determination. Two, already bleeding from wound served by the guardsmen, fled out the gate and over the drawbridge. The other two snarled defiance as Tarnish closed with them, but all his rage availed him not, and a solid blow took down the savage warrior into dark oblivion...

Adamond and Tarnish awoke to the cool pulse of divine energies flowing into their wounds... from the hand of the grinning, mad Lareth the Beautiful! "Do not thank me," he told them, "I only wish that you be hale and full in health when your torment begins..."

Cast into dank, dark cells in the dungeons of the Moathouse, they took stock of the situation. In the northernmost cell was Friar Pudge, much abused and tormented the prior day; being a cleric of a goodly god, Lareth of course found his screams and moans to be most delectable. In the next cell, Adamond and Twidoreck; Adamond at first concerned for his sanity at being locked up with the garrulous gnome, but then overjoyed when he discovered that the guards had overlooked Twidoreck's small dagger and set of thieves' picks... Next Kor and Elyas, then in the fourth Tarnish alone, and in the last, Mort and Orid, both chained to the wall, both gagged, and both with their hands and fingers tightly bound, to prevent against magical mischief.

Their guards... zombies, brethren to those they had slain earlier in their adventures, one per cell, staring in through the small barred window in the door. But the cunning and overly confident Lareth had made a simple mistake; his orders to the zombies were to "Guard the doors and let none come through!" Adamond quickly surmised that, were they to pass through the walls, the zombies would not do anything! And with the dagger they tested the theory, carving quickly through the crumbly mortar of the walls between his and Twidoreck's and Kor and Elyas' cell. After an hour he had cleared away enough stone and mortar for a man to crawl through, and the zombies did not so much as blink. Lareth, unfortunately perhaps, was too engrossed in his "play" with the poor cleric, whose screams of pain and horror resounded throughout the dungeons...

And so it passed for another four hours, as Adamond and Elyas sliced and chipped away the mortar and stones between the cells, worried that at any time a living guard might pass by, or that Lareth would finish off or tire of Friar Pudge. But neither came to pass. When they entered Tarnish's cell they found him on the ground, writhing and moaning as though asleep in nightmare [upon hearing Friar Pudge's screams, Tarnish failed a save, had all the surpressed memories of his own torture flood his mind, and passed out into fevered nightmare]. When Elyas and Adamond broke through to the cell holding the magic-users, only Elyas noticed the small golden topaz that fell from behind a loose stone, pocketing it without comment. Unfortunately, the thieves' arts failed them on Mort's bindings, thus Orid attempted a novel use of the magic missile spell upon the device; it functioned, but the force of the spell also overwhelmed Mort, who passed out from the pain [2 hp magic-users can be such wussies]!

All weakened and starveling from their duress, none could carry both Mort and Tarnish, so great effort was made to waken the Geoffite; he was slapped around several times to no avail, until Elyas suggested dousing him with water. When asked "Where would we find water in these cells?" the practical if uncouth assassin dropped his breeks and let loose upon the veteran with his own water! This, fortunately, worked, and Tarnish awoke sputtering, stinking, and most displeased! But time was of the essence, and so all quickly worked at the wall to Pudge's empty cell, and from there to the last wall to the north...

Finally enough stone was cleared for the whole party to escape. They quickly filed through the hole in the wall, the zombies staring stupidly at the doors, while Lareth's silky-smooth voice muttered at them from the east, promising an end to Pudge's pain and suffering if only he would "see the truth, turn from his false god, and join with him in reverence of the Elder Elemental God..."

Unsure how many other guards Lareth had with him in the torture chamber, the party could only slink away, up the stairs and out the Moathouse. No guards they saw, save for the sightless eyes of Marcus and the Hommlet guards, the heads upon spears mounted between the flags of the bailey. They took with them Marcus' head, having not the containers nor strength left for the other four. Up the hill they went and beyond, to the copse where the stable boy and the horses were hidden, and they made good on their lucky escape. It was not until an hour after they were gone, in fact, that Lareth gleefully and victoriously peeked in on his other prisoners and found them gone...

After dark the party stumbled into Hommlet, stopping at the tower of Burne and Rufus to report their failure and the loss of Marcus, Shield, Kick, Helm, and Axe. Rufus lamented at sending "mere adventurers when heroes were required," but he fed them and summoned a cleric to heal their wounds. Dejected at their losses (material and otherwise, for much treasure and all their weapons and armor were taken by Lareth's guards) and horrified at what fate fell upon Friar Pudge, the party settled in at their (fortunately pre-paid) suite at the Wench. After disappearing briefly, Twidoreck re-appeared and announced to the group that the experiences of the last few weeks had convinced him that a simple life in the village was, perhaps, not undesireable, and that he would not be traveling with the party any more; in fact, he would travel west, to the gnome settlements in the Lortmils with visiting gnomes, and perhaps there seek out a livelihood of more peaceable sort. As a parting gift he gave Adamond his thieves' tools, for Adamond's own had been found and taken by the bugbears.

And so the party turned in for the night, uncertain at what the future would hold, for Lareth and an unknown number of allies was still at large and, even in the village, they knew not who to trust, as Rannos Davl seemed to have set them up for the brigand ambush of two nights before...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gary's Greyhawk Campaign Returns

Tomorrow night is the first session in my Gary's Greyhawk Campaign since, hmmm... June, I think.

We left off with all but two of the eight characters as prisoners of Lareth the Beautiful, locked away in the cells wherein the zombies formerly were kept. Adamond Bigtoe and Tarnish the Geoffite are the only remaining members of the party at large; both met with Rufus, Burne, and Jaroo, and it was determined that the party would have the assistance of the Lieutenant of the Mercenaries and such of the mercenaries as could be spared, in their effort to rescue their friends and put an end to the bandit gang in the Moathouse.

[Originally Rufus and Jaroo were going to assist, but as one of the players has had to bow out, we only need one NPC to be a temp PC, and after some consideration I decided that Rufus and Jaroo would not assist personally... too much an FR-style Deus Ex Machina for my tastes.]

So on the morrow Adamond, Tarnish, the Lieutenant, and a small band of mercenaries will engage it what might be known as the Second Battle of the Moathouse... or simply the Disaster that Finished the Party, we shall see. They have no idea what resources remain to Lareth in the form of followers, monsters, and magic, though they have slain many bandits and no few zombies...

Once the adventures at the Moathouse are complete, and all the fallout occurs therefrom (the party members are now greatly suspicious of the traders in Hommlet, as they seem to have set them up to be captured), we shall see where we go from there with the Greyhawk campaign. I really love running 1E, and it has been a good game so far. With 4E being run on opposite weeks, however, combined with the economy the way it is, I'm not so sure about continued gaming on a regular basis. Sure, gas prices are down (way down), but so are my AGP sales (way, way down). Combined with refunds on cancelled subscriptions (not as many as I'd worried, but still more than I'd like), cash flow is going to be reaaaal tight for some time. Likely, if the group is still good for playing 1E Greyhawk, I will just go to playing every other week.

We'll know more tomorrow....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

End of AGP Subscription Program

The following e-mail went out to Adventure Games Journal subscribers yesterday:

Dear Subscriber,

It is with great regret that I must announce the discontinuation of the subscription program of Adventure Games Journal. No new subscriptions will be sold, effective immediately. In its place I offer to those who have already paid for their subscriptions the following credit program:

Those who have already paid for their subscription will receive the following:

* The complete Southern Reaches Gazetteer (which will be finished as soon as possible, though it will not necessarily be the first print product published after this announcement). This includes the 48-page Judges Guide (i.e., the planned subscription Campaign Installment), PLUS as an apology for the delay, the24-page Encounter Guide, 24-page Player’s Booklet, bi-fold full-color cover/map, and 17” x 22” Southern Reaches Campaign Map (yes, another copy I addition to the one you already received) all FREE.

* The full-color 11” x 17” Rhadamanthia Continental Map

* The 16 or 24-page Guide to Western Karak and the attendant 11” x 17” map FREE

In addition, subscribers will receive the following based on the term of their subscription:

Six-Issue Subscription: 480 pages of forthcoming Castles & Crusades Wilderlands of High Adventure products (equivalent to 10x 48-page books) auto-shipped to you, all postage-paid, plus two free copies (or one extra copy, if a map is included in a product) of all maps published until your credit period ends. There will be no extensions of subscriptions beyond this.

Three-Issue Subscription: 192 pages of forthcoming Castles & Crusades Wilderlands of High Adventure products (equivalent to four 48-page books) auto-shipped to you, all postage-paid, plus two free copies (or one extra copy, if a map is included in a product) of all maps published until your credit period ends. Additionally, if you wish to upgrade your subscription credit to the equivalent of a Six-Issue Subscription, arrangements can be made to extend your sub, but not until such a time as 192 pages of additional products have been published and mailed.

Special Subscribers: A number of pages of Castles & Crusades Wilderlands of High Adventure products and free maps dependent upon your current payment status, auto-shipped to you, all postage-paid; if you wish to continue paying unpaid portions of your subscription until you pay through full term of the original agreed subscription period you will receive the full value as outlined per the Six-Issue Subscription, above.

Try-Me! One-Shot Subs: The complete Southern Reaches Gazetteer as above, plus the Rhadamanthia Continental Map, postage paid.

Also, during the period of time in which your credit remains, you will have access to discounts on additional copies of print products (using cash or credit) as well as discounts of 50% on all PDF versions of print products you receive.

Essentially, subscribers will get as many pages of Wilderlands-based content as they had been promised in Adventure Games Journal and Campaign Installment format, as well as extras in the form of free copies of all maps produced during the remaining credit period. Thus, a Six-Issue subscriber might receive four 24-page books, six 32-page books, and four 48-page books, a total of 14 books instead of 10, but the full page count as determined by the original remainder of the subscription (and all products are shipped out when completed, so with the bonus of extra free shipping). Heck, if I release all 16-page products, a Six-Issue Subscriber will receive 30 books, as they are published, all postage-paid!

All products included in the credited subscriptions will be NEW products. All new print products will have full-color cover sheets that are not counted toward the page count (i.e., a 32-page booklet includes only inner pages 1 to 32, not the additional four pages of the cover).

As for Adventure Games Journal itself, it will continue as a highly-irregular publication, a compilation of various Wilderlands articles and bits and pieces that do not fit in a whole product on their own. Sometimes it might be 24-pages, sometimes 32, or even 48-pages, but continue it will.

I am not announcing a product schedule at this time; I may never announce a product schedule again. Ideally, I will release *at least* one print product per month, perhaps more, beginning in October. Some may not be Wilderlands products or even Castles & Crusades products (though no more than one of these in every three or four products). Some will be PDF-to-Print products (such as the planned
Valley of the Dead Queens Sandbox Module
Series
).

However, your subscriber-based credit is specifically for NEW, non-PDF-based Castles & Crusades Wilderlands products. If you ever wish to use your credit for a non-Wilderlands product, or on a PDF-to-Print product, you are more than welcome to do so (including the free shipping), just let me know. You can also use your credit to purchase multiple copies or even existing products, again, all with free shipping.

Finally, if you are ever dissatisfied with a Castles & Crusades Wilderlands product you receive as part of your credit, you are welcome to return it for full credit, provided you do so before you are sent your next product (you will have to pay your own shipping costs for the return of the product). Let me know via e-mail that you are sending the product, and why.

I hope the above offer is satisfactory. If you find the offer above to be insufficient, I will be happy to refund you your remaining subscription. However, at this time my cash flow is such that full refunds may require two or three months to complete, but you *will* receive a refund in full.

I cannot apologize enough for the delays over the last year; I have only explanations, no excuses. Between dealing with the issues of the OGL/GSL, the death of Bob Bledsaw and Gary Gygax, various other personal problems and financial issues, and simple if crushing writer’s block, the last year has been, in a word, terrible. If not for the words of encouragement I have received from many of you, and the amazing support of my fiancé, I would indeed have thrown in the towel, and simply given up on the whole writing gig.

I hope you give me a chance to make it all up to you.

James

P.S.: Note that while subscriptions will no longer be offered in any form (I will never again take anyone’s money before a product is ready to ship to them), I am developing a “Frequent Buyer Program,” in order to enable those who, once their subscription-based credit runs out, wish to continue to buy one of everything to get something for their loyalty. Details on that will be made available when the plan takes final form.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Revised Player's Guide to the Wilderlands Chapter 3 PDF

The Revised Player’s Guide to the Wilderlands of High Fantasy is being released in PDF format in four chapters. Chapter 3: Skills, Feats, and Languages of the Wilderlands, includes the following material:

SKILLS
Native Region and Homeland, Craft (Poisonmaking), Knowledge (Eldritch Arcana, Architecture and Engineering, Art and Literature, Crafts and Craftsmen, Dungeoneering, Fauna, Flora, Geography, History, Local, Military, Nature, Nautical, Nobility and Royalty, Physical Universe, Religion, The Planes, and Knowledge Skill Checks), Read Language, Sail, and Speak Language

FEATS
Amazon Blood, Amazon Sister, Animal Friend, Aquatic Heritage, Arcane Affinity, Arcane Training, Aristocratic Knowledge, Artistic, Blood Arcane, Blood of Fire, Blood of Ice, Blood of the Babau, Blood of the Balor, Blood of the Glabrezu, Blood of the Hezrou, Blood of the Marilith, Blood of the Nalfeshnee, Blood of the Spider, Blood of the Succubus, Blood of the Vrock, Bloodsucker, Cantrips, Cutter, Dark Blessing, Demon of Darkness, Demon of Fire, Demonbrood, Demonic Damage Resistance, Demonic Brute, Demonic Courtesan, Demonic Form, Demonic Resistance, Demonic Shifter, Demonic Spell Resistance, Demonic Telepathy, Demonic Wings, Disciplined, Divine Affinity, Domain Affinity, Dorin, Educated, Experienced Merchant, Extended Monstrous Form, Extremely Poisonous Blood, Fast Talker, Fey Form, Foe Hatred, Forest Affinity, Heart of Pure Evil, Hardy, Hidden Evil, Houri, Literate, Master Telepath, Monstrous Multiform, Mounted Warrior, Poison Immunity, Serious Fangs, Spider Bite, Streetwise, Taint of the Dragon, Thick Skin, True Scion of Chaos, True Scion of the Wastes, Unnatural, Vermin Form, Webspinner, Wicked Claws, World Travel

LANGUAGES
Bonus Languages by Class and by Region, Languages and Alphabets (Alryan, Altanian, Amazon, Antillian, Avalonian, Demonic, Dorin, Dunael, Ghinoran, Gishmesh, Karakhan, Karzulun, Orichalan, Skandik, Tharbrian, Tharbriana, Tlalic, Troll, Viridian, High Viridian), Ancient Languages (Ancient Antillian, Ancient Draconic, Ancient Viridian, Auld Trollish, Elder Tongue, Kelnoran, Logii, Markab, Tlanitlan), plus Bonus Language by Region and Spoken Languages Charts.

Of particular note is this revised chapter is the evolution and expansion of the Demonbrood, Dorin, and Spider-Folk races through an extensive series of racial feats that enable players to create characters in order to begin campaign play at 1st level.

Don’t miss out on 20 pages of revised and expanded material for your Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaign!

Buy it at DriveThruRPG
Buy it at RPGNow

Refining my 4E Stance

I should note that yes, while I regard the Living Forgotten Realms rules add-ons for Dungeons & Dragons 4E to be a massive MCF, and any elements of play associated with said rules to be damaged at best, I've actually found, not a fondness for, but a place in my heart and gaming for 4E.

It's that place that says, "I wanna game, and if this is the game everyone is playing, then so be it." I've played in Hero System/Champions, d20 Modern, and other games where I played because, well, that was the game to play at the time.

So really, 4E falls into the slice of my gaming life titled, "Will play, when needful*." The asterisk pointing to the addendum, "* As long as the really unfortunate rules bits are ignored or glossed over in play." That includes the LiFR stuff; there's just no way I can play in a campaign under those circumstances; that's not a role-playing game, that's a tabletop computer/console game. And I don't play computer games (or console games).

Heck, the last time I played a console game was Romance of the Three Kingdoms (the first from Koei) on the Nintendo (yes, the original Nintendo Entertainment System). I played a bit of Wolfenstein and Doom on the computer when they first came out, and very briefly tried Battlefield 2, even online, at my brother's request. But none of these games ever resounded with me at all; I'm not into role-playing to get the "first-person shooter" experience on the tabletop.

I play D&D to play D&D, dammit. And while the designers tried their best to make D&D 4E as non-D&D as possible, they still left it enough slack that it can still be played like older versions of D&D with some changes. So as long as those changes are made, I'm good to game.

Oh, and I guess I should note, this is my 100th post. Go me!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Anonymous Comments Now Open

I am once again allowing anonymous comments.

Play nice.

Monday, October 6, 2008

We've got a Bat in the Attic!

Rob Conley, one of the top writers on the Wilderlands of High Adventure Boxed Set from Necromancer Games and author of Points of Light from Goodman Games, has joined the gaming blogverse at Bat in the Attic. Welcome Rob!

Friday, October 3, 2008

AGP Economic Stabilization Sale!!!

For a limited time only! In order to help stave off (and prepare for) the coming Financiapocalypse, AGP has decided to do its part by offering our PDF products on sale for a limited time. How limited? We don't know... maybe one day, maybe a week, maybe when the road warriors, looters, and zombies cut off our Internet access, whichever may come first. Until then, here are our prices on our currently-available products:

AGP00104 Rhadamanthia Continental Map
$5 Now $3.75 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00107 World of the Wilderlands
$6 Now $4.50 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00108 Imperial Town of Tell Qa
$9 Now $6.75 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00201 Monsters & Treasures of the Wilderlands 1
$4 Now $3.00 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00251 Barbarians of the Wilderlands 1
$4 Now $3 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00253 Aendryth’s Eldritch Compendium
$2.50 Now $2 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP00501 Adventure Games Journal #1
$12 Now $9 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP01251 Judges Campaign Map 18: Southern Reaches
$5 Now $3.75 DTRPG RPGNow

AGP01251 Players Campaign Map 18: Southern Reaches
$1 Now $0.75 DTRPG RPGNow

Buy plenty of our PDFs! We need to keep America's financial systems strong! And buy lots of canned foods, ammo, and dice... ;)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Aendryth's Eldritch Compendium available in PDF

Aendryth's Eldritch Compendium is the title of a thick black tome of spells arcane, unusual formulae, and strange magic items developed and written by a mighty wizard known as Aendryth the Eldritch Wizard, or simply, “The Eldritch,” who knew great renown some decades ago. Hounded by his former arcane master, Aendryth has not been seen in civilized lands for nearly 20 years. Some say he lives today as a hermit, others claim to see him now and again in disguise in far-distant ports. While many have attempted to adapt his works in that time, most have failed to capture the artistry with which he wove these spells. His friends and well-wishers hope that someday he will return.

The tome contains the Eldritch Wizard’s unique spells, as well as formulae for creating magic items and potions using the vitreous humor and other body parts of the prysmal eye, a creature of much interest to the Eldritch Wizard. The tome contains the following spells and formulae:

SPELLS
Aendryth’s Volley (Level 6 wizard)
Blood Childe (Level 6 wizard)
Body and Soul (Level 9 wizard)
Chirurgeon ex Nihilo (Level 7 wizard)
More (Level 4 wizard)
No Time for Pain (Level 2 wizard)
Summon Mother Scarlett (Level 6 wizard)
Swarm of Eyes Arcane (Level 6 wizard)
Temple of Love (Level 8 wizard)
Unseen Archer (Level 2 wizard)
Walk Away (Level 1 wizard)
Wave of Corrosion (Level 3 wizard)

POTIONS & MAGIC ITEMS
Potion of Disjunction
Potion of Enervation
Potion of Foresight
Potion of Harm
Potion of Improved Flight
Potion of Improved Polymorph
Potion of Prismatic Potency
Potion of Telepathy
Potion of Teleportation
Potion of Undead Mastery
Prysmal Armor

Designed and approved for use with Castles & Crusades, Aendryth’s Eldritch Compendium adds a mix of new, interesting, and potent spells to a Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaign or any other campaign setting.

24 spells, potions, and items in 10 pages, all for $2.50. Buy it now at:

DriveThruRPG.com

RPGNow.com

8,154 Words

8,154 words/10 pages/a whole new PDF product in 10 hours and 17 minutes. That's a new personal best.

Thank you for the inspiration, James Raggi!

Provided I am awake early enough, Aendryth's Eldritch Compendium will be handed off to Peter for formatting (and provided he has the time in his Troll-ridden schedule), and it will be posted on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow sometime early this afternoon. 12 pages, 10 pages of content, $2.50 (sorry, no more freebies, this is how I put food on the table and pay the rent...)

Here is the list of spells, potions, and item found within this tome most eldritch:

SPELLS
Aendryth’s Volley (Level 6 wizard)
Blood Childe (Level 6 wizard)
Body and Soul (Level 9 wizard)
Chirurgeon ex Nihilo (Level 7 wizard)
More (Level 4 wizard)
No Time for Pain (Level 2 wizard)
Summon Mother Scarlett (Level 6 wizard)
Swarm of Eyes Arcane (Level 6 wizard)
Temple of Love (Level 8 wizard)
Unseen Archer (Level 2 wizard)
Walk Away (Level 1 wizard)
Wave of Corrosion (Level 3 wizard)

POTIONS & MAGIC ITEMS
Potion of Disjunction
Potion of Enervation
Potion of Foresight
Potion of Harm
Potion of Improved Flight
Potion of Improved Polymorph
Potion of Prismatic Potency
Potion of Telepathy
Potion of Teleportation
Potion of Undead Mastery
Prysmal Armor

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

RPGA Living Forgotten Realms = God Mode D&D

Okay, I have now played my third session of Dungeons & Dragons 4E (plus the first Demo session), and feel like I am nearing the point where I can form a fairly honest opinion on 4E game play. A few more games should do it; when I reach that point, I will comment more in full on 4E itself.

This post, however, is on the travesty that is the RPGA's so-called Living Forgotten Realms organized play system. I want to get this out of my system before it builds into a terrible burden calling down all sorts of crazy, Ahab and the White Whale style.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; can't y'all keep your video games out of my tabletop play? Or at least, find some other important RPG cornerstone to go and muck all up? All the tendencies of 3E to move toward video-game style play, all the soulless number-crunching combat-focused "character-role" building of 4E simply pales by comparison to what goes down in Living Forgotten Realms. Or LiFR, as they call it I guess, as in "please go get a LiFR."

If D&D 4E can be readily compared to "World of Warcraft the Tabletop RPG," then LiFR is most definitely "WoW in God Mode."

Where D&D 4E happened by mere chance to miss the last few rules "fixes" of whingy players, the sort that say that "the world and DM take control out of my hands and the game is no funnnnn..." LiFR more than fills that gap and gives the whingy little players a lollipop, too.

Let's start at the top, with "Creating a Character," shall we?

#1: All Characters Start at 1st Level. With 4E 1st level characters already starting out as true-biatching-ass-whupping-heroes, I guess I should count myself lucky that they don't start at 3rd or even 5th or hell, why not 11th level? So I guess I can't really whine about this...

#2: Ability Scores are Never Rolled. Fine and dandy, there are plenty of games where this happens, and it's been part and parcel of 3E since the beginning, too. Just this... no one who uses point-buy NEVER, EVER has a right to say they "rolled up" their character. You didn't roll 'em, you didn't earn the right. Call it "cherry picking" your character. That's all you deserve.

#3: Starting characters must purchase equipment that is from a player resource. Okay, understandable. No complaints, save that the timetable listing for D&D products that can be used reminds me more of the Magic Block Format listings than anything else.

#4: Character alignments must be unaligned, good, or lawful good. "Bu... bu... but his character PROMISED me he'd pay back his loan, and now he's gone and stabbed me in the baaack..." Wah wah wah. Seriously, is Lorraine Williams now writing rules for Wizards of the Coast? Next thing you know they'll say you can't slaughter orc whelps and, instead, after slaying all their parents you'll have to use the treasure you find in their lair to found the "Vile Rune Memorial Whelp Orphanage" or some such nonsense.

#5: Player resources are legal for character options. More Magic-isms about what is allowable for players use for their characters from Dungeon and Dragon so-called "online magazines." Meh; trying to keep the "tournament rules" all the same across the board was one of the reasons Gary wrote AD&D, so I can't complain about this. Well, except to say that Wizards' won't get dime one from me for their online MCFs, even should they get them to work. Considering the programmers are apparently designing using Trash-80s for products that people are expected to pay real money for, I doubt this will ever be a real issue.

"Ongoing Shared World... Stuff."

#1: Select a character background. Um, these all suck. Not only are the bennies of questionable real value, but there's no more point to them than deciding what color silk to line your casket with. The 4E Forgotten Realms has had all flavor drained from it more efficiently than the flavor of the so-called "salisbury steak" "meat-like product" at my high school. I could just as readily say my character is from Mars or Greyhawk for all the difference it really matters anymore.

#2: Select a sequential number for your character, starting with 1. Why ever worry about having more than one character? You can always re-train this one, and he'll never, ever die. Ever. This is pointless. (See below for full details, if you dare.)

"Special Access Rules"

#1: The 12 character backgrounds listed above. Apparently, if you "play good" and maybe win the "congenial gamer award" of the session, you can get a card that lets you create a character from one of the un-restricted backgrounds. Which I can only presume somehow hopefully suck less, not that that would be terribly difficult.

#2: Magic items from all player resources listed on page 2 are allowed in a limited fashion. This bodes not well... more on this below.

#3: You can only create items that you could purchase. Again, with the standardization, this means "no creativity in creating new items," which was always a complaint about the 33rd level paladin/assassin bringing his holy avenger bad-ass sword of assassination to the table in the olden days. So hey, it's needful, especially in an edition of the game where the DM's balls have been hacked off and uncerimoniously fed to fell drakes as players laugh and watch.

Skipping a bunch of paperworky crap...

"Treasure and Rewards"
Hoo-boy. Whoever wrote this section musta had his hand in on the original "bail-out bill" put before Congress...

#1: At the end of the adventure, you can select one magic item or ritual bundle from a list the DM gives you of things you found during play. It’s OK if you and another player select the same item for your character. If you select a weapon or suit of armor, you might have to choose what type it is when you make your selection. Simply write down your choice of item on your adventure log, and you’re all set. However, there’s one very important rule you must observe when selecting a magic item (see below). "Bu... bu... buuut IIIIII waaaanted that item. Me! ME ME ME ME! I waaaanted it! Why does he get it? Waaaaah!" "Dude, you are playing a wizard, why would you want a +2 flaming sword?" Need I elaborate? Okay, yes, as they say, see below...

#2: You can only possess a number of found magic items equal to your character level. In 4th Edition D&D, your character finds about one item every level or so. Therefore, in Living Forgotten Realms, characters cannot possess more found magic items (that is, items acquired at the end of an adventure) than their level. If you sell or discard a magic item you’ve found, it still counts against your total number of found magic items. Y'all have already seen my opinion on the whole "Bundle" treasure system of 4E; this ruling codifies it in such a way that it takes it to truly new levels of stoopid; yes, the kind of stoopid that is so bad it does not deserve to be spelled correctly, lest true stupid be peeved at the comparison. So... not only do we not actually get to loot the bodies of our defeated foes, we are instead handed a "Menu of Heroes" to choose from at the end of the adventure, and from that we get to choose... one item. Of course, in the bizarro "balanced" world of 4E D&D, this kind of makes sense (man, I'm going down the rabbit hole). But then, there can be items on the Menu that were never used by your foes, or that your foes never had, or were not even, perhaps, in the same dungeon, part of the Realms, or even plane of existence at the time. Why? Well... because. I guess there's only so much "magic bandwidth" in LiFR and it is divided in a wonderfully socialist fashion. The guy who sat back all adventure, and huffed and puffed and didn't do a thing? Yeah, he gets a pick. The guy who saved everyone's bacon? Yeah, he gets a pick, one pick, just like Mr. Lame-o. And now they can pick the SAME THING, even though only one ever appeared in the adventure, or even none ever appeared in the adventure. I guess the Dungeon Master — you know, little guy in red robes, long white hair, stupid grin on his face most of the time? — well, I guess he drops by and hands the "young heroes" their latest magic bling, special to order from the Menu of Heroes. And so that nobody feels left out, everybody can choose the same thing if they want... And you know what? The whole list can still suck. But maybe that's because the 4E magic items were all bought at Apu's Suck-o-Rama sale.

#3: You cannot choose a magic item more than 4 levels above your character’s level at the end of the adventure. "Why no, Frodo, this is not the One Ring. It is a simple Ring of Invisibility. Have fun with it, but remember, you can only use it once per day. Wait, you aren't 14th level yet? Well, I'll just buy that from you then, here's 20% of its true value." Of course, Bilbo would never have found a ring of invisibility, anyway, being at best what, maybe 5th level by 4E standards? Wow, I'll bet those gauntlets of the ram came in real handy during the Battle of Five Armies...

#4: You can purchase any magic item that is equal to or less than your level with your gold, as long as you have access to it. Okay, so though you can't win more than one magic item per level based on HEROICS, you can always go down to Sauron's Pawn Shop and BUY more magic items (again, with the level limitation). But how to get enough gold to buy such items? Well, since you are limited to only "finding" one magic item per level, and you can only sell it for 20% of its true worth, and all magic items of the same level cost the same, and gold treasure awards suck (even if you forgo a magic item because they all suck or because you already "found" one), I'm not really sure HOW you are supposed to be able to buy one more than maybe once every three to five levels... Hmmm... more number crunching balancey goodness, I guess.

#5: Get the access you want to items through the advancement tracker. I've read the whole paragraph that follows this doozy of a sentence but... It. Doesn't. Make. Sense. You get to list five more magic items per 10 levels and I guess when you get to a high enough level a magic item you already have is magically transformed into one of these items on "Santa's List"? Does the Magic Item Fairy come visit in the night, changing your ring of uselessness to a sword of paper cuts +3 if it is hidden under your pillow? (And wouldn't that be a coup-de-grace on yourself?) It's just more senseless playing of Balances & Rulesmongering with a healthy dose of flavor text from the Gimme Gimme Gimme Sourcebook.

#6: Magic items that have an enhancement bonus can be upgraded. This means you can pay (FULL price, not 20% of the difference mind) to have your sword of bad-assery +3 "upgraded" to a sword of bad-assery +4, when you are of the appropriate level (and somehow acquired the gold, likely through pawning all your other magic items... I guess in a way you are truly pwned in more ways than one). I guess there are magic sword merchants wandering around that just kinda do this... Apu's Magic Sword Sharpening Service... we deliver in an hour or it's free! (And they do deliver in an hour; the enchant an item ritual only requires an hour per enchantment. And Sauron took how many years to make all those rings? Sucker; he should have waited for the upgrade.)

#7: You can’t receive treasure from another player character. You can pay for expenses as a group (like ritual costs, bribing for information, paying for passage, etc.), but you can’t receive gold, magic items, rituals, or any other treasure from another character. You can lend another character an item for use for the adventure, but it must return to the owner at the end of play. This is just... WTF? This is like taking Player vs. Player to an all-new level of weirdness. Did they simply forget to program the game with a hotkey for "Hand Item to Other Player" and decide on this rule to cover up their mistake? Of course, the problem here is that if Sam loans Bill his 50' hemp rope, and said rope falls over a bottomless cliff, the game gets stuck in a loop as at the finale, Bill can't return the rope to Sam... Now, can unaligned characters roll other characters for their treasure? Hmmm...

#8: Story awards give you interesting hooks to further play. Right. Of course, as the modules will jump all-over-Hell-and-back, most of these story hooks are going to be worth bupkiss. But at least you get a pretty certificate you can hang on your wall. Back when I first joined the RPGA in an earlier incarnation in '82 they sent me only one certificate, a membership certificate, and I had to pay for that with the membership, so I guess this is an improvement somehow...

#9: View your rewards online. And BTW, why don't you check out our premium pay-to-play services on DDI and Dragon and Dungeon. Gleemax? Um, never heard of it... you must be mistaking us for a company that has programmers who know how to code...

"Character Death" or "Highlanders and Dungeons and Dragons, Oh My!"
This must be repeated in full for you to all enjoy the complete insanity of this rule... I'll use quotes instead of bolding, so your screen does not asplode...

"Adventuring can be dangerous business. Your character might succumb to those dangers and die. However, death for your character is usually a temporary situation. If your character dies during the course of the adventure, you and the rest of your group have two options, provided that the groups has access to the Raise Dead ritual (either a PC has it and can use it or the characters return back to civilization), they have access to the body, and it is possible to return your character to life.

#1: Pay the component cost for the ritual. If the group chooses this option, the cost should be divided evenly amongst the group (500 gp for heroic tier, 5,000 gp for paragon tier, and 50,000 gp for epic tier). Using a source outside the group to cast the ritual costs 20% more than the component cost. Total cost when using an outside source is 600 gp for heroic tier, 6,000 gp for paragon tier, and 60,000 gp for epic tier. A PC that dies and chooses this method of return gains full (or half, if the party was defeated) experience points from the encounter in which the character died, but no experience points for any encounters that were missed while the character was dead. If there’s still more of the adventure remaining, the PC continues to earn experience as normal, and receives a normal cut of the rewards at the end of the adventure.

#2: Invoke the Death Charity clause. If the group cannot afford to pay for the ritual (or doesn’t desire to do so), the PC can choose to return back to life at the end of the adventure. Doing so forfeits all rewards (including treasure and story rewards) earned for the adventure except experience points gained prior to the character’s death (the character receives the experience point award for the encounter in which they died). The PC cannot participate in the same adventure a second time."

At what point did the writer of this section somehow write this, "Adventuring can be dangerous business" and yet at the same time, a mere paragraph down, write this, "Invoke the Death Charity clause." There is a small disconnect here. No, small was not the word... WHOPPING disconnect. AMAZING disconnect. We're talking PARSECS of disconnect.

This is a freaking "Get out of Death Free" card.

Not once. Not twice. No, not even three times. But ALWAYS. And FOREVER.

So let's review. Rewards suck. You cannot die. There is no victory, but you cannot be defeated. You cannot win, but you cannot lose.

So... what's the point?

God Mode for D&D, indeed... for wussy gods.