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- 07/05/17--14:45: _Bill The Elf Has a ...
- 07/06/17--15:20: _What Can You Do in ...
- 07/07/17--17:21: _Classic Rant: Arro...
- 07/08/17--12:17: _Will I Make a Setti...
- 07/09/17--16:21: _Lion & Dragon Updat...
- 07/10/17--02:11: _DCC Campaign Update...
- 07/11/17--08:07: _Sorry but There's n...
- 07/12/17--15:44: _Classic Rant: RPGPu...
- 07/13/17--19:37: _Pictures From Urugu...
- 07/14/17--19:33: _Actually, There may...
- 07/15/17--13:00: _What I'm Working on...
- 07/16/17--00:32: _Wild West Campaign ...
- 07/17/17--01:25: _Classic Rant: Blue ...
- 07/18/17--15:24: _I Was Wrong! There ...
- 07/18/17--22:54: _RPGPundit Reviews: ...
- 07/20/17--18:06: _It's Irrelevant Tha...
- 07/21/17--15:02: _Here's Someone Else...
- 07/22/17--13:22: _Classic Rant: Handl...
- 07/05/17--14:45: Bill The Elf Has a New Familiar
- 07/06/17--15:20: What Can You Do in Lords of Olympus?
- 07/07/17--17:21: Classic Rant: Arrows of Indra: The Indian Atlantis
- 07/08/17--12:17: Will I Make a Setting Book for my Last Sun Campaign?
- 07/11/17--08:07: Sorry but There's no "4th Wave OSR" (yet)
- 07/12/17--15:44: Classic Rant: RPGPundit's Random Fantasy Drinks Table
- 07/13/17--19:37: Pictures From Uruguay: the Pundit's Cats
- 07/15/17--13:00: What I'm Working on Right Now...
- 07/16/17--00:32: Wild West Campaign Update: Chief Joseph
- 07/17/17--01:25: Classic Rant: Blue Rose and Just Who the Heroes Are
- 07/18/17--15:24: I Was Wrong! There IS More Than One Way to Play Blue Rose.
- 07/18/17--22:54: RPGPundit Reviews: These Stars are Ours!
- 07/21/17--15:02: Here's Someone Else's Blog About Dark Albion!
- 07/22/17--13:22: Classic Rant: Handling History in Dark Albion
So today I was going to post something totally different, but last night I went over to the home of Bill the Elf's player. We were watching the season finale of Doctor Who (which was frankly almost ideal in every imaginable way), and eating one of his amazing meals.
But I also got to meet this guy:
That's Bill's new puppy, Benito!
He's pretty freaking adorable, though the tiny french bulldog moves around so much it was hard for me to get a clear shot.
That's Bill's other dog, Igor, who has been extremely jealous of all the attention the cuter younger version of himself is getting.
By the end of the evening Benito was all tuckered out, having fallen asleep under the couch just beneath my feet; he was enjoying biting at my shoes, being at that stage in dog-life where he wants to eat all the footwear he can manage. Though he especially likes Mrs.Bill-the-elf's slippers.
Anyways, that's it. And this probably qualifies as the most adorable blog entry I ever made. I'll have to be especially mean to someone next time, just to make up for it.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Chestnut
In a recent top-notch comparative review of Amber, Lords of Olympus, and Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, which I had commented about here, one of the readers of that excellent assessment claimed that they felt they had no idea what you could actually do with a campaign of any of these games.
Others have written volumes about what to do with Amber, and I'm sure someone's done the same for LoGaS, but here's what I explained as what type of campaign you can make with Lords of Olympus:
There are several different types of campaigns suggested in Lords of Olympus. You can do a "percy jackson" type of thing that starts with the PCs as thinking they're mortals only to learn that they are the children of greek gods. You can do a campaign where the PCs are all working together, agents of one major god. You can have the most classic "Amber" scenario, where the PCs actually fight amongst themselves; each having different divine parents, they get caught up in the conflicts and fights between their larger family, and have to decide if they want to escape the family dysfunction or chase after power, and if they will throw in their lot loyally behind their parent, ally with the enemies of their parent because of daddy/mommy issues, or seek to make their own place in the multiverse with their own alliances.
There's also a number of 'external events' that could be incorporated into a game: First, there's the Titans. They were defeated, but most of them still live, trapped in the underworld. If they escaped, there would be another war.
Second, there's the Hera/Zeus thing. Hera basically wants to murder any child Zeus has that wasn't hers too. That has all kinds of possibilities.
Third, the prophecy of the future: Dionysus is destined to overthrow Zeus. Only a tiny handful of people know this. Dionysus himself seems dangerous and crazy. He seems to want to create nothing but a world of chaos and debauchery. But others see him as a liberator. There could be a whole new war in heaven, this time of the Olympians against the Dionysians. Which side would the young god PCs be on?
Finally, some outside force: primordials gone insane threatening to destroy the universe, some mortals who have somehow gained great power (magic or technological) to the point that they threaten the status quo, a whole different pantheon from another multiverse (say, the Romans, or the Norse gods, or the Aztecs) break through into this one and shit happens, etc.
In my case, when I run it, it actually turns out to be lots of scenic roleplay and talking and arguing and intrigues, highlighted with sharp short intense moments of crazy action. It feels a little bit like a Wes Anderson movie in terms of style.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Chestnut
What all this means is that almost all the Kingdoms and City-states that I detail in Arrows of Indra are actual places, that actually existed. They didn't ever quite look exactly like they do in the Bharata Kingdoms of the setting, not exactly at least, but they were all real places.
All except one. The Island Kingdom of Dwaraka, found far to the south of the rest of the Bharata kingdoms, off the coast of the main landmass, was never a real place (as far as we know). It is, rather, the Indian version of the story of Atlantis. Of course, Hindu fundamentalists have gone to great lengths in their efforts to try to "prove" that the place really existed, mounting under-water 'archeological expeditions' that are reminiscent of the poor Mormons' expeditions to central america desperately trying to find any scrap of evidence of the lost tribes of Israel in mesoamerica; the Hindu version usually finds some underwater rock formations that everyone agrees are geological except the fundamentalists (who claim it's "proof" of some sunken city).
In any case, in game terms, Dwaraka is a pretty cool part of the setting. Here's what we know: Dwaraka means "city of many gates", and in the setting it would be the richest kingdom in the entire world. Its buildings were decorated with gems. The buildings are covered in gold, and built as high as the clouds. It features spectacular temples.
The volcanic island the city is built upon is rich and lush in agriculture. The Dwarakans are masters of sailing ships and navigate all over the world, going to distant lands (like the Golden lands far to the east) and bringing back goods and curiosities. They also exploit all the coastal area around them which is largely uninhabited. The city is protected, both in the sense of favorable climate and spiritual protection, by the mountain Govardhana, which is also a god. The local population engage in a great annual festival to the mountain-god that is unlike anything else in the world.
Ancient legend holds that Dwaraka was raised up from the ocean, and the city was built along perfect and orderly lines in a single day by the Engineer-god Vishwakarma. What few people know, however, is that the island is doomed by prophecy to sink back into the sea at the end of the Third Age, when the great Avatara of the age (eventually revealed to be Krishna) finally dies in his mortal form. The wise and Holy-aligned sages of the island accept and prepare for this eventuality; some of them may seek to try to prolong the age for Dwaraka's sake. But there are a few who may also be too fond of Dwaraka and its opulence and may try to find a way to sabotage this prophecy, even if it means turning against the will of the Gods.
At the default start point of the Arrows of Indra campaign, the city of Dwaraka is governed by a council, as a kind of republic, ruled by the brahmin nobility who are generally wise and good rulers. Later on in the chronology of the setting, Krishna will evacuate his home city of Mathura in the face of the great invasion of the emperor Jarasandha, who is set upon conquering the entire world. The nobles of Dwaraka invite Krishna to bring his people there, and to rule over the island as its King.
In a standard Arrows of Indra campaign, the city-state/island of Dwaraka doesn't itself offer tremendous opportunities for conflict, except maybe when the emperor Jarasandha lays siege to it. But if you have Dwaraka as a home-base for the campaign, you could have sea-faring adventures that would allow the PCs to travel to all kinds of unusual places: the depths of the Dandaka jungle, strange kingdoms to the south and west, magical islands of all sorts, and even to the distant lands far to the east of Bharata (potentially allowing you to incorporate material from other OSR products, like Red Tide or Qelong, or for that matter Oriental Adventures, depending on just how weird you wanted to get).
Dwaraka could also allow you to play at a whole other power-level from a more standard third-age Arrows of Indra campaign. Its clearly implied that Dwaraka is a vastly more advanced civilization than the other Bharata Kingdoms, retaining many of the qualities of the Second Age; it would not be by any means a stretch to suppose that magic and magic items, even of epic level, are far more common there than elsewhere. Superweapons and flying Vimana chariots would not be as rare in Dwaraka (whereas in the rest of the Bharata kingdoms they are truly rare artifacts, uncommon remnants of the previous age).
If you really wanted to go wild, Dwaraka would even be the obvious place to incorporate 'super-science' to your AoI campaign, bringing in material from sci-fi OSR products. Its the sort of thing that has been dealt with in Grant Morrison's "18 days", for example:
In any case, if you want to weird-up your AoI game, Dwaraka is a great place to go.
Currently Smoking: Gigi bent Billiard + Image Perique
(Originally posted June 4, 2015)
So, a lot of you are big fans of my DCC campaign, based on my crazy and gonzo DCC campaign updates. On many occasions, I've been asked when I'm going to write up a setting book for the crazy and detailed world readers have only gotten tiniest glimpses of through those campaign updates.
Well, you're going to get one. And you're going to get a setting book very much in the style of my DCC campaign: half-assed and at a snail's pace!
You may remember I'm working on a project of a series of very short RPG products, mostly supplemental material for use in OSR games, which I'm calling "The Pundit Presents:". Well, it has for some time now been part of my plan to make part of that series a specially-labelled sub-series of explicit setting-material for my DCC "Last Sun" world.
And the very first of them is already done. Not long from now (well, if my Publisher gets into gear), you'll be able to have the very first Last Sun book: "The Hipster Elves".
Gradually, I'll be releasing a whole series of these, until the whole Last Sun campaign world is presented (in a process that may take years).
So stay tuned! And stay tuned shortly for more information about upcoming Pundit Presents products, and the reveal of who my publisher is!
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H Chestnut
So, behind the scenes, I hadn't spoken to Dominique Crouzet, my publisher (from DOM publications) for Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos and upcoming publisher of Lion & Dragon, for over two weeks. I hadn't thought much of it, being distracted already writing my next project, but then when I sent him an email to find out what was up, I heard nothing from him.
And I continued to hear nothing the next several days. I was starting to fear the worst, that something had happened to him and I got to wondering how the fuck I was even going to find out?
But then finally he responded, and it turned out he'd been without internet for almost two weeks (sounds like French telecom is twice as bad as Uruguayan telecom!). Anyways, today he sent me the first 25 pages or so of Lion & Dragon.
Holy shit is it beautiful. They layout is great. The art is great. It will be reminiscent and yet not exactly like Dark Albion.
This may not yet be definitive, but the book will probably be about 160 pages. We're currently deciding what size we want to do it: small like the LotFP books, standard-size like the 5e books, or a size in between the two (which is what I'm leaning toward at the moment). Let us know what you think.
Dom has also shown me six or so different possible covers. There's three we agree are better than the others, and I expect soon we'll be doing a cover contest.
So, just so y'all know, here's the sum up: Crouzet's not dead, the book is moving up, it's going to be at least as pretty as Albion, and French internet apparently sucks.
Stay tuned for more news, coming soon!
Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia
In the last adventure, the PCs had found their way into an Ancients' Complex (ruined, of course) in the hopes of somehow discovering a living ancient somewhere within. Thus far they'd had no luck at that, only running into some dark elves and some very creepy orcs who were missing large parts of their brains. They had holed up in a room to rest for the night.
-Morris, Mu, and Publio all go out to keep watch at the entrance, and promptly disappear (on account of all three of their players not being able to make it this session).
-"Lots of us are still injured from that last battle."
"Ok, let the healing begin!"
-In the night, the PCs are ambushed by a small squad of feral halflings!
"Heidi, your turn."
"Ok. I'm going to use one halfling as a weapon to hit another halfling with."
-"Oh, damn, I forgot I was a pacifist!"
"You went on a violent rampage as a reflex, Heidi. You were still half-asleep."
"Yeah, Heidi gets very pissy when he's woken up."
"I thought I was having a nightmare!"
"Maybe his dream is not to be a pacifist."
"We knew you were a psycho like the rest of us!"
-"We burn the halfling corpses."
"Yeah. In a dungeon it's important to be environmentally conscious and clean up your mess."
-"My map of this dungeon is all fucked up."
"That's just what we want to hear when we're deep in the bowels of an ancients complex..."
-The PCs figure out their direction, and promptly run into a Servant of the Dark Ones... a Brain-Eater!
-Fighting with their usual level of ability, the PCs don't manage to stop the Brain-Eater before it launches its terrible psychic blast. Tonut the Cleric's brain explodes.
-Roman manages to get into some kind of psychic battle with the Brain-Eater; and while he's not able to destroy it, he manages to scare it away, complete with strange glowing multicolored lights coming out of Roman's eyes.
Kumar very bravely or very stupidly (or both) chases after the Brain-Eater, but it turns ethereal and walks away from him.
-"I can't believe Tonut died."
"Yes, it's a tragedy."
"We loot the fuck out of the body."
-"Say, friends, do you think I can take his pants? My own pants have been soiled for over a day."
"Sure, why not?"
"Do you think he'd want to be buried with my pants?"
"No, let's leave him some dignity."
-Heidi takes Tonut's super Power-Armor. Chris, in addition to taking Tonut's pants, inherits Heidi's old plate mail.
"I'll always remember our stalwart friend Tonut when I wear these pants. Hopefully I won't dishonor them like I did my last pair!"
-"Man, that brain-eater sure got us a lot of loot!"
-"Tonut also had this bag of unlabeled white powder.."
"I'll take that!"
-Around that time, a trio of zero-level newbs arrive. It turns out they were all slaves or employees of one of the bands of dark elves, who left them behind when they deserted the complex. The trio include a human prostitute, a Cold Mutant butcher, and a Fishman Fisherman (again).
-"You're all my friends."
"I'm not your friend."
"You're my friend, pal!"
"I'm not your pal."
"You're my pal, buddy!"
"I'm not your buddy."
"You're my buddy, chum!"
-"You guys have no absolute proof, but yet somehow you know that dark elves mostly like pegging."
"The hooker left her strap-on behind."
-"Are these people even worth keeping?"
-"Why does that dead cleric not have any pants?"
"Because I'm wearing his pants now, friend!"
"Why don't you give him your old pants, then?"
"We don't want to desecrate his corpse."
"Yes, especially after his sacrifice. Tonut died so that I might have pants!"
-"Do you have any food?"
"We have peanuts."
"She can't have any of my peanuts!"
-"Get your mind out of the gutter, Roman."
"You're mistaken, madam. I'm not interested. I know where you've been."
-The PCs decide to retreat, for rest and healing, to the ruined tower complex, negotiating a truce with the three Dark Elves still hiding out there. Sammi the hooker mentions to Heidi that the elves have a chest that she strongly suspects (from her prior experiences with them) holds the Dark Elves' treasure. Heidi, however, feels bound by the truce. So she tells Roman instead, and he immediately agrees to murder the Dark Elves in the night.
-"So, I'll take the 2nd watch tonight, with the hooker."
"I prefer 'Lady of the Night'."
"And Hillbilly Giants prefer to be called 'Tall Sons of the Soil', but that's not happening either."
-Roman and Sammi's plan is that they'll pump Heidi full of healing sedative, and then she'll seduce the one elf that's on guard, leading him away, while Roman murders the two who are sleeping. Unfortunately, they run into a problem.
"Sorry miss, I'm asexual."
-They wait until the third watch, getting the other two newbies in on the action. And while they dispatch the two sleeping dark elves, the guard who had been led away by Sammi comes back too soon, and manages to murder both the Cold Mutant and the Fishman before they can finish him off.
-The elven loot turns out to be mostly magic items! An endless waterskin, some unlabeled potions, a scroll of levitation, and a +1 sword.
"If Morris' ASS was here, it could probably identify those potions."
-Since Heidi still needs more of the medi-drugs to get close to his full HP, the party rests for another day. For security purposes, Kumar props up the corpses of the elves and the dead party members to appear to be lookouts.
-The party finally starts to move deeper into the complex again. There, they get to a large flooded area, that's been made crossable by some rickety wooden bridges, in the middle of which is a small island of dry ground with huge piles of garbage on it. In that Island the PCs spot a group of degenerated feral dwarves who appear to have gone insane. Heidi flies over them, and sets fire to the nearest garbage pile.
-In the distance, at the entrance of a flooded room, the PCs hear a dark elf screaming for help.
"I'm terribly injured but alive! Please someone help me! Both my legs are broken!"
They ignore him.
-Flying over the flaming garbage island, the PCs move over to another area, a huge promenade with signs that there were successive periods of habitation with a variety of architecture. The original Ancients construction was built over with brick, then with wood, then with scraps of metal or any garbage that could be found. The place seems mostly abandoned. But the dwarves who fled the flaming garbage were waiting there in ambush and they rush forward to attack!
-After a couple of rounds of combat, the Dwarves run like hell, scattering in various directions. One of the dwarves fled through some kind of sewer grate that was hidden behind a pile of junk.
"We should go down this man-hole."
"And here I thought my days of going down man-holes was over."
-The Party makes there way down into a sewer area, which is mostly dry though it has several inches of a greenish-black gunk on most of the ground.
"I expected this man-hole would be deeper."
-"There's two possibilities: Either the Brain-Eaters don't come down here, or they might all be down here!"
-The party doesn't run into a brain-eater, but they do run into a giant sewer snake! Sammi attacks it with her dark elf scimitar but it snaps.
"Piece of shit dark elven scimitars! They're just made to look cool."
-Chris hits the snake!
"I think I'm doing well, chums!"
One round later, the snake bites his head clean off.
-"Oh shit! Well, can we heal him?"
"He's been decapitated!"
-After slaying the snake, the PCs continue on along the empty sewer.
"In the distance, you hear the sound of a dwarf dying horribly."
"That sounds promising."
-They proceed forward and find a large chamber, containing ten cryo-stasis tubes! It also contains a very dead dwarf, who seemed to have the very life sucked out of him and a frozen look of terror on his face.
"Let's go in!"
"Wait, don't you think it might be dangerous?"
-All the tubes are flashing some kind of alert in Ancient. As it happens, Kumar reads ancient.
"I'll fly you in through the man-hole"
"You've been in too many man-holes, bro."
-The alert indicates that all ten tubes have been 'corrupted'. Heidi flies Roman in to activate the auto-destruct on the tubes. As the countdown begins, spectral beings float out of the tube, causing damage to everyone from sheer horror.
"What the fuck are they?"
"Ghosts? Who are we going to call??"
-The party runs like hell down the sewer, as the self-destruct blows the entire chamber to bits.
-They keep going, and make their way to the armory!
"It looks like it was raided at some point, but there's still a bunch of stuff in there."
"It could also still have defenses."
"I could cast Cantrip to see if anything reacts.."
"Don't do that."
"Why not, sir?"
"Isn't Cantrip the spell that makes you open a bridge to the Outer Void as a mercurial effect?"
"Yes, that is right.."
"We're in a complex full of servants of the Dark Ones. What do you think that will do?"
"Oh. Yes on second thought I had better not cast Cantrip."
-Kuman casts force-manipulation instead, which causes a pair of defense drones to activate and start firing.
-"What do we do now?"
"We charge at the drones, on the count of three!"
"You won't just all stay here and leave me to charge in alone, will you?"
-"If you let me go in there alone, I swear you guys are all screwed!"
"You nearly punched me to death!"
"That was an accident!"
-"I dive in and get behind cover."
"You'd have to be prone for that."
"Given her former profession..."
"Yeah, I don't mind."
-"I continue to stay under cover."
"So you mean she's lying there like a dead hooker."
-Roman uses his sonic tool to destroy the drones.
-They find the armory has a number of quite useful items. There's carbon-fiber armor, which is very light.
"You should wear that, Kumar!"
"Will it have a spellcasting penalty?"
"A small one. But hey, it's not like you've been casting anything useful anyways."
-This exchange triggers a moderately lengthy conversation on whether clerics or wizards are more useless.
-"Hey, we found a medi-bot!"
"Oh, does it have more of those drugs?"
"Great, now Heidi's a healing-sedative junkie."
So I've been meaning to get around to responding to this here, but other posts had taken up my attention until now. In response to my recent repost of a classic blog entry on the 3rd Wave of the OSR, maverick RPG-designer and Priest of Cthulhu (yes, that's a thing, somehow) Venger Satanis posted his own blog entry claiming that there is now a "4th Wave" in the OSR.
What does Venger think this 4th Wave consists of? Basically, products that in some way have some vague sense of 'old school feel' but do not have to actually follow any of the design rules of the OSR. That is, the systems they use are new-school rather than being derivations of the original D&D rule-sets.
Now, maybe someday there will be some kind of 4th wave of the OSR, one that no one has envisioned yet that injects some new kind of creativity into the OSR framework; but sorry, Venger's definition is not it.
What Venger is describing is neither a movement nor a part of the OSR at all. It's just a way for people to try to shoehorn non-OSR products into the OSR.
It fails as a classification because all you're claiming is that it's "stuff that seems old-schoolish but with totally unrelated systems". That means that those products that could fall under this don't have anything in common even with each other. Aside, that is, from a desire to benefit from the current popularity of OSR products. You can almost claim that as a category, its commonality would be in trying to trick people into thinking they're getting an OSR product when they're not.
Take, for example, Dungeon World and Alpha Blue: two totally different systems. Two totally different settings. One is a storygame, the other a rules-light regular game. The only thing they have in common is that they're trying to worm their way into the OSR without being actual OSR games.
That doesn't make for a classification.
In what way can Alpha Blue claim to be OSR that Maid the RPG or My Life With Master or the latest Star Wars FFG boardgame/rpg could not claim to be so?
Because Venger said so? What would stop Luke Crane from claiming his latest Storygame about homosexual victorian-era latin professors discussing their mortality is OSR because he said so?
Venger might claim that the difference is that Alpha Blue tries to make claim to an old-school feel, but really the main way Alpha Blue has an 'old school feel' is that it is appealing to old-school sci-fi, being based as it is on a (smuttier) version of 1970s sci-fi. But again, by that logic something like Starblazer Adventures would be "OSR" in spite of being based on FATE.
Maid and My Life With Master obviously don't try to appeal to some kind of Old-School feel, but games like Dungeonworld or Torchbearer were made by the Storygame crowd to try to look as much as possible like OSR games while actually (deceptively, I would argue) fooling purchasers into getting a game that is almost the exact opposite of Old-school in terms of mechanics.
Alpha Blue's system is not as such Anti-OSR the way those storygamer-products are, but it is still not an old-school system.
The fundamental design framework of the OSR, system-wise, is starting with an old-school system and then heavily modifying it. That's a bit different than just making up a rules-system and calling it OSR.
One of the things that defines the OSR is that it is a Design Movement. It says you have to play within a framework, of certain rules, of the old-school mechanics. And then playing around with that to create totally new and different stuff. That's what's interesting and exciting about the OSR, and with 2nd and 3rd wave OSR products it results in games that, rather than being less creative somehow, are in fact challenged to produce something more creative yet highly playable, by testing it's designers to make something new and awesome while still painting within certain broad lines.
The point of the OSR is that it's all about innovation and creativity while following certain parameters.
That's why it's so interesting and so successful, because the restrictions on the design system oblige you not to go the lazy route of just making something up, but rather you have to figure out really creative ways of doing new things with old mechanics. When you do that purely with system, that's 2nd wave. When you do it with setting, that's 3rd wave. When you just don't do it at all, it's not OSR.
Otherwise, if you get to just say that your thing is OSR, you get to the point where you're just diluting the definition into non-existence so that everyone can cash in on the bandwagon whether they have anything to do with it or not.
It's like claiming Blink 182 are Punk Rock.
Hell, it's like claiming One Direction are Punk Rock.
Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent Apple + Gawith's Commonwealth
This should technically be a sort of classic rant, since it was something I had posted to my blog, about 10 years ago in fact. But that archive seems to have been lost to history, so instead I'm posting it anew.
Here is my once-famous table of random alcoholic beverages with silly names:
New Alcoholic Beverages
In addition to Ale and Wine, the average tavern or store is likely to have some particular “strong beverage” of house or local make; these specially crafted liquors have unusual names and often pack a very particular punch. Their cost will vary from 4sp-20gp per bottle depending on the strength and fame of the beverage.
Random Drink Names Table
(roll a D6; on a 1-2 roll on table A, 3-4 on Table B, 5-6 on Table C; you can roll again for each name element, or roll all the name elements from the same table)
Element 1 Element 2 Element 3 Element 4
1. Captain/admiral - Bernard - Golden - Ale
2. Doctor - Clara - Prancing - Piss-up
3. Bishop/archdeacon - Partridge - Menacing - Concoction
4. Count/duke - Bellows - Total - Recipe
5. Prince - Abelard - Shocking - Cocktail
6. Seargent - Chunder - Bellicose - Formula
Element 1 Element 2 Element 3 Element 4
1. Friar/father - Anselm - blue/green* - Mixture
2. Uncle - Pete/Jeb - Questionable - Spirit
3. Master - Roland - Outrageous - Cleanser
4. Lord - Melchard - Excellent - Paint-thinner
5. Madame - McPlop - Saucy - Industrial Blender
6. Crazy/mad - Kasimir - Bowelbashing - Orgy
*substitute any other colour of your choice
Element 1 Element 2 Element 3 Element 4
1. Professor - Edmund - Brutish - Liquid
2. Rabbi - Loretta - Bitter - Boozerama
3. Aunt - Percy - Erotic - Broth
4. Wee/Big - Doncaster - Elderberry* - Selection
5. Ugly - Wu - (un)reliable - Incendiary
6. Three-fingered - Gerald - Delightful - Skullsmasher
*or substitute any other flavour/ingredient (orange/liver/milk/gunpowder/honey/etc)
So with this table you can generate amusingly named alcoholic drinks such as “Father Abelard’s Total Pissup”, “Three-fingered Anselm’s Golden Recipe”, “Rabbi Roland’s Menacing Liquid”, or “Master Edmund’s Outrageous Selection”.
Obviously, saving throws against getting totally hammered are typically called for.
This table, and many other tables of truly impressive variety and wildly disparate levels of seriousness, can be found in the "Forward... to Adventure! Gamemasters Notebook!" (or "FtA!GN!"), which was one of my earliest RPG products. A lot of the material there could be usable in any number of old-school or fantasy RPGs.
Currently Drinking: Madame Partridge's Questionable Incendiary
(Originally Posted July 4, 2015)
Last time I ended up featuring the new puppy the player for Bill the Elf got himself. I figured this is pretty unfair to my own cats. So, here's some images of them, in what ties for the most adorable thing I ever posted and is somewhere up there high on the list of laziest postings ever.
Here's the two of them together: Albondiga on the left, and Cletus on the right. They're twins, and yet astoundingly different. Albondiga is the most intelligent cat I ever owned, also extremely athletic and energetic. Cletus is by a long shot the dumbest cat I've ever owned (I seriously believe she suffers from some sort of cat-retardation), as well as being lazy and obese.
This is a closeup of Albondiga. She sometimes jumps from that window she's lying on over to the desk behind her which is something like 7-8ft away. If she were to screw it up, there would be a 10ft fall for her. She's never screwed it up.
Here's Cletus, lying on her fat ass.
So instead she jumps onto a very low-lying table, from there to a bookshelf, then walks all the way across the balcony and hops onto my computer desk.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + Gawith's Commonwealth
Infrequent or first-time readers might not have any idea about what the title of this blog refers to. But you loyal frequent readers already know it's going to have to do with my earlier blog of a few days back, where I presented a rebuttal to Venger Satanis' claim that there was a "4th Wave of the OSR", and that this 'wave' consisted basically of people who made any game they liked and called it OSR.
That's obvious nonsense, but then something got me thinking. And that something is the book I'm currently working on a review for: "These Stars are Ours!", a setting book for something called the "Cepheus Engine".
If you weren't aware, the Cepheus Engine is basically a retro-clone of Traveller.
While D&D fanatics have been generating all kinds of amazing OSR stuff, there's been a whole movement of making new versions of various other games, or new settings for other games.
So maybe there's been a 4th Wave OSR for a while now: made up of games that do for other old-school games what the rest of the OSR does for D&D.
At least, that's certainly a better claim than any other attempted definition.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Chestnut
So, the Pundit Project proceeds.
Currently, I'm writing a little book called "10 Crazy Wizards".
Also, I don't know if I mentioned the previous work, "Quick & Easy High Tech Weapons for Gonzo Campaigns".
Stay tuned for more information!
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Horn + Argento Latakia
Today's session featured a couple of different major events, as usual.
For starters, the town was visited by a very nervous Army Captain escorting a small group of Nez Perce Indians, with their great leader Chief Joseph.
Chief Joseph was being sent to Washington DC to testify before congress, and meet with President Hayes. Unfortunately, he had won himself a very awful reputation for his victories against the Army a couple of years earlier. He was known as the "Red Napoleon".
So naturally, their guide was worried that when getting into Dodge, the locals would try to form a mob and kill the great Chief.
At the same time, the town was visited by the famous lawman Seth Bullock, wearing a US Marshall's badge, and sent to arrest none other than Marshall Jeff Young for murder.
Bullock had been ordered to bring Young in because Wyatt Earp, the Marshall usually preferred in the region, was thought to be too likely to be friendly to Young. Of course, the accusation was false. Young had recently gone south to the area around Ashland to intervene on behalf of some homesteaders who were being threatened out of their farms by a local ranch boss. Young suspected that the ranch boss in question had murdered the tinker that Young stood accused of killing, and had a farmer named Green testify that Young had dropped the body across state lines; all to teach a lesson to both the farmers and the Ford County lawmen that they were not to mess with the rancher's power.
Bat Masterson quickly realized that Young would likely be killed no matter what if he was taken to Ashland as a prisoner: either a mob would get him or the local judge would be firmly in the rancher's pocket. So he made a deal with Bullock: he was bound as a US Marshall to get his prisoner there, but once there, he would work for Masterson. Bullock agreed. They also took the Two Millers with them as extra muscle in case of serious trouble.
In the meantime Chief Joseph had got to town and Wyatt Earp had forced the Dodge House hotel to put the Chief and his men up in rooms. News of this quickly spread through town and the locals were none too happy. Kid Taylor was put in charge of trying to keep the Alhambra crowd from rising up in a mob, and Dirty Dave Rudabaugh was asked to help too. But Dirty Dave, as is his style, sold them out at first opportunity, and the mob, being led by none less than town Mayor "Dog" Kelley was ready to go hang the Indian Chief. Not even Paddy the Bear could stop Dog Kelley's intentions.
By the time they got to the Hotel, the town lawmen (Bat, Kid Taylor, Bill Tilghman, Wyatt Earp and Jim Masterson) were all there, as well as Hale the Mormon ex-gambler. Bat appealed to the men to not risk bloodshed, and made a solemn promise that the chief would be out on the first train. For the moment, the mob abated.
(Bat Masterson, 1879)
Unfortunately for the lawmen, that night was one of the worst snowstorms in many years. By the time they woke up there was several feet of snow on the ground, and it turned out that the Santa Fe Railroad line was out for the day.
Meanwhile Bullock and Young got to Ashland and decided to visit this farmer named Green first. Green was scared out of his wits, and moreso after Bullock threatened him and his family some. He finally admitted that he was both forced by the Rancher to make the false accusation, and rewarded by the promise (probably false) that his farm would be spared.
Bullock and Young decided that they'd need to capture or kill the rancher, and take farmer Green back with them to Dodge to testify. To this end, they sent the two Millers into town to confirm the rancher was there. They did one better, posing as shootists to not only get to meet the rancher but get themselves hired to kill farmers.
In Dodge, Kid Taylor was given the task of keeping Mayor Kelley distracted enough to stop him from raising another mob now that Chief Joseph was still in town. Kid Taylor decided he'd try to overdose Kelley with laudanum. He actually ended up giving the mayor enough laudanum to kill a normal man, but Dog Kelley was a lifelong heavy drinker and made of sterner stuff. He didn't even pass out, though he was fairly useless for several hours. Under the pretense of getting him vital medical attention, the Mormon gambler had the town Doc distract Kelley for as long as possible. Meanwhile, Bat Masterson was working on some secret plan.
In Ashland, Bullock and Young decided to make a night raid on the apartments where the rancher was staying (ironically, because he was waiting for Bullock to arrive and hand Young over to him). They managed to get in, quickly overpower the rancher's guards, and take the rancher and his son captive, all without firing a shot (at least in part thanks to Seth Bullock being intimidating as all fuck). They rode off quickly with them back toward Dodge.
Over in Dodge, Dog Kelley was finally back into a coherent state, and extremely fucking angry. He raised up his mob again demanding that the lawmen hand over Chief Joseph to be hung. Bat played for time, and had Kid Taylor sneak out of the hotel and over to the telegraph station to see if what he'd asked for had arrived. Indeed it had, and Kid brought back a telegram, personally addressed to Mayor Kelley, from President Hayes himself! It was thanking the mayor for all he was doing to personally assure the security of Chief Joseph, and that the nation would know of his great service.
Bat had figured out that nothing would stop Kelley except flattery, and true to his bet, Kelley immediately switched sides and got his mob to disperse. This in spite of not 12 hours earlier having cursed Hayes as a damn-Yankee son of a bitch. But the personal attention did it for him.
The PCs were left asking themselves if this was some kind of clever trick by Bat, or if it really was a telegram from the president himself. Bat, as usual, kept his tricks to himself.
So that was it for the adventure: today, the PCs got to see the styles of two very different lawmen. Both solved their problems without firing a shot, but one did so by negotiation, diplomacy and possibly trickery (Bat) while the other did it through aggression and brutal intimidation (Bullock).
Young thanked Bullock in the end, admitting that he'd learned a great deal of tricks from him in their short time together.
Currently Smoking: Missouri Meerschaum + Gawith's Virginia Flake
So the Blue Rose kickstarter has launched, and there's no question that it's going to fund, being paid for by dozens or perhaps hundreds of people who will never actually play the game, but will pay good money to feel superior to others for supporting something that is 'making a difference' in no actually discernible way, but in the sense that it has all the right APPEARANCES of giving pseudo-activist street cred to anyone who says they 'support' it.
I thought it was interesting that one of the first questions asked, in a G+ thread where Green Ronin announced the kickstarter was "just what would you actually do in a setting like this? Who would the heroes even be?" (The question may have come from someone with no prior experience with Blue Rose)
Steve Kenson responded "the adventurers are most likely members of the Sovereign's Finest, chosen defenders of Aldis and agents of its crown".
See, Blue Rose is really all about pseudo-activist utopian visions. How they imagine that an 'ideal' world would be like (if all those evil patriarchies and imperialisms and whatever didn't get in the way), and just who they would like to see themselves as. After all, most RPG play is wish-fulfillment of some variety; but while most D&D players might like to imagine themselves a hero or a wizard, the Blue Rose writers (and fans) want to imagine themselves in a world where THEY are the enforcers who get to decide what is best for everyone else.
So it's obvious when you think about it: in the default game of Blue Rose you are meant to play the Thought Police. Steve Kenson boldly admits it. That's the pseudo-activist dream: that they could have the authority to actually get to go around and impose their ideas on everyone else whether they like it or not. Naturally they see the world that would result from that kind of fascism to be a utopia, but so did every other fascist ever.
Ironically, this make Blue Rose pretty much the exact OPPOSITE of the kind of lesson-giving game on real social justice that you might want to see.
In Aldis as written, you cannot play a plucky young heroine who is trying to make her way in the world and accomplish her dream while facing terrible cultural-based Institutional Discrimination, because there is no such discrimination in the setting-as-written, and the setting-as-written is not just 'absent of evidence' but is explicit in stating that the setting-as-written has no Institutional discrimination (except by the Blue Rose Scepter and Hart, against Individualists).
The lessons of civil rights or social justice are actually entirely ABSENT from the world of Blue Rose, and instead we get the lesson that the ideal world would be one where a special chosen elite rule by fiat and their lackeys get to use armed power to stop anyone who would resist the structure of that order.
Let me put the problem in language a typical progressive might just understand: in Blue Rose's basic campaign, you're not meant to play the Ferguson protesters, fighting the power, you're meant to play the Ferguson Cops, brutally enforcing the world as they want to see it.
The hippies are turning in their graves.
And if you read that previous paragraph again, you would see that this 'lesson' ultimately is amoral: the "Order of things" is naturally what 'the right people' think 'is for the best for everyone', but that idea could just as easily be Nazism as it could be social-welfare. As soon as you put the Collective over the Individual, you lose all moral foundation for anything other than saying "obey because we tell you to". Claims that "we're different because we're the NICE guys" is meaningless because Stalinists and Neo-Nazis think they're the nice guys too. Anyone who decides that the right society is one where the State gets to impose its rules on individuals who have no rights to oppose it, and that the definition of 'heroism' is the armed fanatics that enforce Conformity to that status quo and brutally repress opposition are not the 'nice guys'.
If that's your definition of 'hero', then you've become the very thing you think you fight against.
I'm sure Blue Rose will be a very profitable kickstarter for Green Ronin, and everyone who backed it will get to feel smug about how they've shown what rebellious freedom-fighters for social-justice they are by backing a game where the heroes are the setting's equivalent of the Stasi or the Gestapo, so I guess more power to GR for being such clever capitalists and shamelessly milking bucks like parasites off of legitimate causes (albeit from preening idiots who would likely never have made any meaningful contributions to those causes anyways).
Likewise, I'm sure that this article will be resoundingly condemned like all criticism of the pseudo-activist collective as homophobic or sexist or something like that, even though I've supported diversity in RPGs for my entire career, and even though my vision of the world is one in which every individual has an inherent and inalienable right to their own bodies, identities, and sexuality, while their vision is one where any such rights depend on whether the Collective grants it to you or not.
But hey, every villain thinks they're the hero of their own story, right?
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's Beverwyck
(Originally posted June 22, 2015)
So yesterday I posted a classic rant about Blue Rose, and this led to a few comments. I wasn't honestly expecting anything to come of it, only sometimes it seems people post more comments when a blog is reposted than they did back in the original article. Maybe I'm ahead of my time. Or people have had more time to think of their opinions.
Anyways, someone commented to me that if I'm arguing Aldis (the Blue Rose setting) is a totalitarian state and the new edition of Blue Rose unashamedly presents the default gameplay of the PCs not as individualist adventure-seekers but as agents of that totalitarian state enforcing conformity, then surely I had to have the same condemnation for the Dark Heresy book for WH40K, where you play brutal agents of a totalitarian state repressing any non-conformity. Right?
Well, I certainly have no special love for Dark Heresy. As a specific game, DH RPG is badly done. It reduces the WH40K world into a micro-game.
As to the WH40K world as a whole, the setting in its modern incarnation is ridiculously stupid, infantile, and the sort of thing that is appealing to violence-obsessed adolescents (most adolescent boys like big guns and explosions and killing, it's the hormones), and emotionally-stunted man-children.
That said, I don't really think Games Workshop is pushing an ideology they actually believe in through their setting. The authors of BR are. The authors of Dark Heresy are not, to my knowledge, people who hang around on Fascist websites and call for the deaths of the unbelievers. The authors of Blue Rose are people who self-identify as radical progressives, "activists", members of "the resistance" and who organized a campaign to try to force/shame/intimidate gamers and game designers into signing an "#Gamers4Her" pledge to vote Hillary. They want a world like Aldis.
One more thought, however, about WH40K: it wasn't always like this. The early era, the original Rogue Trader, it was funny. It was obviously written highly tongue-in-cheek. It presented a ridiculous sort of universe, a dystopia of black comedy.
And this made me realize I was wrong about one of my most frequent talking points about Blue Rose.
You see, I'd already stated that I thought the only way to viably run Blue Rose would be as a counter-setting game, where the PCs are heroic individualists fighting against the oppressive thought-control regime. That Blue Rose fails even as a progressivist romantic-fantasy genre setting, because it is too perfect, too propagandistic beyond the wildest dreams of Soviet state artists, so that the standard romantic fantasy trope of "plucky young heroine fights against prejudice, injustice and/or oppression with a rag-tag group of social rejects and save the kingdom while changing people's opinions" is impossible to achieve. The only "plucky young heroes" that could face culturally-approved "prejudice, injustice and/or oppression" in the world of Blue Rose would be a teenage version of Ayn Rand or Milo Yiannopoulos. The only heroic campaign (rather than agents of oppression) that could be played in Blue Rose would be the Heralds of Breitbart campaign.
But now I realize I was wrong. There IS another way to do Blue Rose, as inspired by early WH40K: parody. You could play a Blue Rose Campaign, as the designers suggest, with the PCs playing "agents of the queen's chosen guard", where the PCs are insufferably deluded "Social Justice Warriors" who just don't get how horribly dystopic their world is, or that they're actually fascists.
They run around persecuting micro-aggressions, and ultimately trying to out-virtue-signal each other by reporting on their fellow PCs.
It would be like a new fantasy version of Paranoia. Totalitarian black-comedy zaniness in the name of the Magic Deer.
Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + C&D's Pirate Kake
This is a review of "These Stars are Ours", a setting book for the "Cepheus Engine" rules (which are themselves a kind of retro-clone of the Traveller rules). This is a review of the print edition, which is a hardcover book written by Omer Golan-Joel, Richard Hazlewood, and Josh Peters. It's published by Stellagama Publishing.
The book's full-color cover has a Traveller-esque image of a spaceship, in orbit over an Earth-like planet (possibly Earth, since it's central to the setting), approaching what is either a larger spaceship or a space-station, I can't quite tell which. The interior art is black and white and rather sparse, but includes ship deckplans and star-maps.
I'm pleased with someone making an alternate setting for use with Traveller rules (or second-hand Traveller rules). I don't have any particular dislike for the Imperium. But I've always thought that Traveller as a system really doesn't need to be bound to one setting. Of course, there are other alternative settings, most recently I reviewed Traveller:Mindjammer. We'll see how These Stars Are Ours rates as an alternative.
The basic gist of the setting is that it is the year 2260, shortly after a war between of Terran Liberation against the mighty Reticulan Empire. The Reticulans (who look a lot like the 'grey aliens' of countless abductions from trailer parks) showed up en masse in the late 21st century, with promises of advanced technology, and the spineless world elites quickly handed over absolute power to them. Soon it became obvious that Earth had become a slave-state in the Reticulan empire. After various atrocities and failed rebellions, the Terran Revolution finally took off in the 2230s and gradually, after decades of war and with the help of a couple of other oppressed alien races and an internal rebellion among the Reticulans, the Reticulans were finally forced to sue for peace and give up an important chunk of their empire to the new Terran Republic in 2258.
This led to the United Terran Republic becoming a major interstellar power. The setting is designed for (I quote) a "background of espionage, maneuvering and saber-rattling, and on the new interstellar frontiers the player characters can forge a destiny of heroes or villains of the new United Terran Republic".
The book details an area star-map of 16x10 hexes, with 64 major worlds in that area.
(note: the map in the printed version is in black & white)
We're told that to use the book you need the Cepheus Engine SRD (available through DriveThru) though I suspect you could also just use any Traveller rules.
The chapter starts out with setting material about the United Terran Republic, which frankly I think is a bit of an organizational error. The chapter is very text-heavy, detailing the history of the Republic's rise (for like, 6 pages of pure text), then several more pages of society and government, ideologies, military forces, psionics, terrorism and other stuff. It's a lot to read, and I think it would have been wiser to start out with character creation (which often tells you a lot about the implicit setting) and then leave the heavier stuff for a later chapter.
Anyways, the very broad gist of it is that the Earth just won a war of liberation for itself, along with some alien allies, against a ridiculously older and more powerful species. Now, on the whole, a spirit of optimism, certainty and expansionist thinking dominates the human race. I like that, it's nice to see a sci-fi game where you don't have everything being decadent or everyone being nihilist.
There is still a kind of Cold War going on between Earth and the Reticulans, and there's various major ideological schools of thought about that and and about expansion. Some favor a focus on making peace on the Reticulans and leading them to change their culture through peaceful means. Others are nativists who want to more or less remain isolationist, then there's some who want to keep on a hawkish warlike footing with the Reticulans, and finally there's the 'hawkish nativists' (basically human-supremacist imperialists) who want a Terran Republic where humans dominate over the other species that are now in their territory.
As far as psionics in the game, the Terran Republic's position is generally benevolent but watchful over psychics. They are helped by a government bureaucracy to train their powers, but there are restrictions and laws about what are legal or illegal uses of psionic abilities.
Unlike a ridiculously vast majority of sci-fi settings, Corporations in this setting are not Evil by Default. That's certainly a nice change. Most are just involved in business. One or two have some shady dealings, which makes sense, and one or two are very straight-laced and even 'moral' inasmuch as a corporation concerns itself with morality. What you won't see here is what you get in a lot of other settings where "evil megacorps try to run everything and do evil things because they are evil".
There are some terrorist and criminal organizations in the setting: the more radical nativists have an ultra-radical wing called the "Children of Gaia" who engage in violent crimes against aliens. The "Consortium" is basically like the 23rd century version of the mafia, organized crime families. The "Exalted order of Fomalhaut" are followers of the Reticulan's religion (which was the state religion of Earth during the Reticulan occupation), who were declared illegal as 5th columnists during the war of Terran liberation, and today exist as a shadowy order engaging in espionage and infiltration on behalf of the Reticulans. The "Interstellar Liberation Army" consists of people (many of them "old guard" revolutionaries and military) who seek to restart the war and finish the job of liberating all of local space from the Reticulan Rule.
These are all fairly well-thought-out groups in the context of what the setting is about, and can make very useful sources of enemies or potentially patrons in a campaign.
The chapter on aliens is next, and starts with a detailed breakdown of the Reticulans and their empire. This includes details on their biology, their political groupings, their internal rebels (the Technocrats, who take the rationality of the Reticulan species to the conclusion that the Imperial structure of the empire is an outmoded anachronism to be overthrown), their military, and guidelines for playing a Reticulan character.
The Cicek are humanoid warm-blooded reptiles. They were the closest allies to the humans in the war of liberation. Cicek males are aggressive, anarchic, individualistic, and territorial, obsessed with personal glory. They were barbaric only a few centuries back before their world was conquered, so they still have a lot of relatively 'primitive' cultural features.
The Zhuzzh are an insectoid race. They're traders, scavengers and pirates. They're space nomads, with a shamanistic type of culture. They're pragmatic and opportunists.
Ssesslessians are reptilian snakelike beings. They were liberated by Earth but bear a lot of resentment toward Terrans, because they had failed to successfully plot their own liberation or revenge against their former overlords. The Ssesslessians had long ago been an interstellar power in their own right, but were brutally conquered by the Reticulans after refusing to surrender to their superior power, and their homeworld was rendered uninhabitable. They have a complex polytheist religious system and are governed by their priest caste. They see themselves as tools of their gods and felt it was their divine mission to avenge themselves on the Reticulans (a revenge that the humans thwarted). They are skilled assassins.
The Chiwak are a birdlike species, though more in the "velociraptor" sense than, say, bluejays. They're carnivorous pack hunters. They were not slaves of the Reticulans but rather have their own stellar empire on the other border of the Reticulans from Earth. They used the war of liberation opportunistically to take a great deal of territory.
A couple of other minor species are detailed in shorter segments, as well as the "Precursors". The latter are mysterious aliens (this setting's version of Traveller's "Ancients") who had dominated space something around 15000 years ago, and then disappeared or destroyed themselves in an apocalyptic war. Several species (including the Chiwak and the Reticulans) claim to be descendants or inheritors of the Precursors.
There is also a much older 'lost species' referred to as the Gardeners, that some hypothesize spread relatively-compatible life around the whole area of space some 70 million years ago.
Chapter 3 deals with character creation, at long last. We're now 79 pages in, and while it was all interesting, it feels like a shitload of information before getting to how to make a character. This is probably not as big a deal on account that most people getting the book will already be familiar with Traveller, but even so I think that (as my single big criticism of the book) it would have been wiser from a layout perspective to put character creation first (after maybe a very brief couple of pages of introduction).
The chapter starts out with some details about how to play alien PCs; the default is humans, but modifications and guidelines (as well as several whole careers) are provided if a GM wants to have non-human PCs.
The particulars will be immediately recognizable to anyone who's ever played Traveller. 2d6 for stats, get a homeworld, background, then start a career. All the standard stuff is there: survival, advancement, skills, aging, mustering out etc.
I'll note that it seems the Survival rules doesn't actually let you end up dead in character creation. But if you get an injury you roll and END check (with a penalty) and depending on how it turns out you can go from a range of effects between "cool scar" to "lose both arms, both legs, and blinded". Luckily in the latter case, there's rules on cybernetics. The character creation rules also cover psionic characters.
The Cepheus engine rules include a number of civilian careers which are listed as acceptable for this setting, but there's also a number of new careers which are presented here (16 in all) specific to the setting. This includes various alien careers, the CRC-8/16 (the Terran intelligence unit), CRC-32 (psionic intelligence), Elite (high class characters), Merchant, PRI (psionic, non-military), Scout, Terran Army, Terran Guard (irregulars), Terran Marines, Terran Naval Infantry, Terran Navy, and Terran Police.
There's event tables (as an optional rule), and also a War Events table (for events that the character experienced during the war), and a Civilian Events table. A character can even end up in prison, and there's a table for skills gained while in prison!
Next up is the starship rules. These basically cover the differences for spaceships accounting for setting-technology of the book's setting (as opposed to the Traveller/Cepheus-Engine default).
A number of starships are provided, with floorplans, from different setting races.
The chapter on the Terran Borderlands starts by presenting the changes to the world-creation rules in the standard rules. This includes a table for world temperatures, and some new spectral classes.
An overview is now presented for Terran space, with a standard star-map (Traveller Style), centered on the Terran Republic but featuring the bordering areas of the Reticulans and other races. All the planets in the map are presented with their world profile, and a paragraph or two of descriptions. The whole thing is pretty rationally organized and the setting is (as one would expect) pretty coherent. The border areas and unclaimed worlds in particular provide a lot of rich potential for adventuring.
The final regular chapter presents a dozen patrons, outlined with a description, GM information, and a table of potential complications. It's essentially a small set of options for adventure seeds. I think it is some ways a better choice than trying to provide a more rigid introductory adventure. The patrons vary considerably, everything from generals to celebrities to aliens.
There's a few short appendices. The first one lists some recent news items, five in total. They're all basically adventure seeds in the form of news updates. The next appendix lists inspirations for the setting: literature is largely military sci-fi. There's Heinlein (Starship Troopers, of course), the Man-Kzin wars by Larry Niven, John Scalzi, and Barry Longyear's Enemy Mine, among others. Film inspirations include the Alien series, Enemy Mine (again), Outland, and Serenity. TV has the expected stuff (Andromeda, Babylon 5, Space Above and Beyond; definitely NOT Star Trek). The longest list (with 14 items) is actually Video Games, including Wing Commander, Star Control and Mass Effect.
There's no character sheet, but I suppose that comes with the Cepheus Engine rules.
So, what can we conclude about These Stars Are Ours? Simply put, it's a very well designed 'hard sci-fi' style of setting for Traveller-compatible use.
If you're a Traveller fan, and want an alternative to the Imperium, but not something that goes too far away from the Traveller standards, this is a good way to go. If you want something that moves more toward the trans-human and modern sci-fi, you may want Traveller: Mindjammer instead.
If you like the sound of the setting, even if you haven't played Traveller before, you can always pick up the Cepheus Engine rules and run this setting.
As far as running it with other systems, that's certainly possible, though you might end up having to do quite a bit of conversion to get some of the more worthwhile stuff you get out of the character creation process here.
Currently Smoking: Davidoff 400-series + C&D's Bayou Evening
So, before I throw my hat onto the ring of the commentaries about the fact that Jodie Whittaker has been selected to play the next Doctor, let me first talk about the previous doctor.
Peter Capaldi was magnificent. He was everything the Doctor should be. On some level, I know that David Tennant is still objectively the best Doctor of the new series, Capaldi was my favorite Doctor of the new series. He was brilliant, grumpy, exciting, witty and heroic.
He was also sadly hampered by some fairly poor production and bad schedules. Until this last season. This last season was very close to perfect; the "monster under the Thames" episode being probably the weakest one, and the final two-parter being not just the best of the season, or the best Capaldi episode, but possibly the best of Moffat's whole run.
It's a pity that Capaldi's leaving, just when he finally had a chance to be great. It's almost (but not quite) a pity that Moffat is leaving, when he finally managed to produce a consistently great season (he had a consistently decent season or two before that).
So that brings us to the next doctor, Jodie Whittaker:
It might surprise you all to hear that I have no specific objection to a woman playing the Doctor. I honestly wasn't expecting it. I had always thought we'd see a darker-skinned male Doctor first, if only because this would be less harmful for the BBC in its foreign markets while still gaining them all the needed praise from the Virtue-Signalling crowd.
But I agree with the fundamental point that, unlike some other characters, the Doctor has regeneration as one of the key elements of his persona. The Doctor could look like anyone, and have a different personality and yet as long as he she or it still had the fundamental qualities every Doctor has, they could still be the Doctor.
So it largely depends on the chops of the actor. I haven't honestly seen enough of Whittaker to judge her suitability to play the Doctor, having only really seen her in a very non-Doctor-like roll in Broadchurch.
But I'm willing to trust that she at least theoretically could be capable of playing the role.
I don't have a problem with a female Doctor in general, or with this female Doctor in particular (until I've seen her in action).
But I DO have a problem with the BBC.
Here's why it will probably go horribly wrong: you can have all the confidence in the world in Jodie Whittaker, but if the production and stories she's given are garbage, her skill as an actor won't matter.
And I have a very strong certainty that what we'll be seeing from the BBC in the next season will be just that, absolute garbage. It will be 12 episodes of BBC Triumphalism about how "The Doctor is a Woman Now" combined with "Isn't That Amazing?", "Isn't She So Much Better Than Any Man Including Male Doctors?", and "Suck It, All You Gross Evil Men (And By Gross Evil Men We Mean 7-12 Year Old Boys Who Are Watching, We Want You To Know For Sure You're Doomed To be Second Class Citizens Now)".
Her character will be "Woman". The plot will be "Woman". The entire premise will be about "Woman". The villains will all be turned into metaphors for misogyny or the patriarchy if not themselves being outright sexists; expect at least 50% of them to make some derogatory comment about the Doctor being a woman, only to have the Doctor show them up with her "powerful female life force". It won't be the least bit surprising if just to make the point clear, she helps to overthrow some obvious stand-in for Donald Trump and helps put an obvious stand-in for Hillary Clinton into power, possibly both in the same episode. Hell, possibly more than one episode.
So here's the tragedy of it:
Jodie Whittaker won't be allowed to be the Doctor, she'll be too busy being a bullet fired by the Identity-Politics Left against their perceived deadly enemies: male nerds, the ephemeral "patriarchy", little boys, women who refuse to be feminist, and a bunch of extremely conservative 'prejudices' no one actually believes in anymore but that the Left insists on still fighting as a strawman.
And while they're heroically pissing all over strawmen and geeky virgin shut-ins and little boys, the Leftist media will sing their praises in articles about how amazing the new female Doctor Who is, just like they did for Ghostbusters, with a hearty dose of vengeful spite thrown in. They've already started, just for good measure.
And any criticism of the new series, any at all, will lead to the social-media Left accusing the perpetrator of such a thought crime of being a Rapist for daring to suggest the new Powerful-Female-Life-Force Doctor isn't utterly perfect in every way and a triumph against evil white men.
All this will mean that, just like before, after some initial large ratings from the sheer curiosity of a female Doctor, the viewers will start to abandon the series.
And just like before, when they do, the BBC and all the Leftist media will not accept any responsibility. Rather, they will use the dismal ratings and viewer-appreciation figures as "Proof" of the "toxic masculinity of nerd culture", going into diatribes about how it's the audience's fault, how it proves that little boys will never accept female doctors and need more indoctrination in schools about how awful they are, that nerds are hateful rapists-in-waiting and all of nerd culture needs to be torn down, how the UN should pass a law imprisoning anyone who says the new female Doctor Who sucks, and how all this means they just need to double-down on the feminism.
Now I really hope I'm wrong. But everything I know of the BBC tells me I'm right, and this is how it's going to go down. The only question is whether it'll end with firings and a regeneration (and if so, into what?), or with the show simply being cancelled, in the ultimate act of "punishment" against those evil rape-culture patriarchal misogynistic nerds (many of them women and girls) who would refuse to keep watching while the BBC turned their show into one long 12-hour Buzzfeed rant.
And again, none of this will have anything to do with Jodie Whittaker as an actress, or the idea of a woman playing the Doctor. In the hands of someone who didn't give a fuck about identity politics, the latter could be pulled off just fine. I just don't think we'll ever get the chance to know.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + H&H's Chestnut
Hey, I don't really have time to write right now. I'm having a massive massive problem with one of my current projects, that I hope can come to a positive resolution. It came out of nowhere and is causing me a great deal of grief.
So, while I am busy trying to fix that, and I hope it can be fixed, I'll just draw your attention to this guy, who had already written a good review of Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos.
He's also now posted a good article covering the third appendix of Dark Albion, and dissecting that appendix. It was written by Dominique Crouzet, and presents a bunch of new classes for his "Fantastic Heroes & Witchery" RPG, for playing in Albion.
Anyways, go check those out if you're itching for something to read.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Chestnut
So Dark Albion is doing quite well, and getting some rave reviews. Included in this is praise for how thorough the historical detail is in the game.
Said detail may in fact be more than some readers guess: obviously the timeline/chronology is historical, the NPCs are also historical; but what some readers might not immediately grasp is that the historical detail doesn't end there. You might pick up that a lot of the information in the gazetteer of Albion and the lands of "the Continent" are full of historical detail, but it may be less obvious that the chapter on Law & Justice is based on real medieval concepts of crime and punishment, that the section on currency and equipment tries to be as accurate as possible based on known price lists of the period (which leads to what seem like some odd choices compared to the standard price lists of D&D equipment), and of course that the section on demonology is based on real ideas on medieval demon-summoning from the grimoires of the period.
Now, some people might be concerned that all this history is a bit of a double-edged sword. In particular, at first glance the lengthy and detailed year-by-year history, and the chapter full of the noble houses and important members of those houses might seem a bit overwhelming, in terms of just how to manage it all as a DM.
(even the crests are are based on real history, and not just greyhawk-style stuff)
So, assuming most of you aren't blessed with a History degree, I'm going to give you a step-by-step set of pointers for how to manage all this without really having to get befuddled with too much historical detail:
1. look over the NPC section. Pay attention to the families with a lot of entries: the Lancasters, Yorks, Nevilles and Percy being the most important ones.
2. If you're playing in a specific region of Albion, read the Gazetteer section, and check out which nobles are important in that region. If you are playing a game where you're travelling around Albion, whenever the PCs go somewhere new, check out the names associated with that area.
3. If you're playing a game that moves along in the chronology, pay attention to the entries in the chronology and look up any names that you weren't already familiar with.
You do NOT need to learn every character from the NPC section, especially since depending on which year you're playing in some of them won't even have been born yet (or will already be dead)!
Just use it as a resource to look up as you go along.
If you're using the PDF, you can also presumably search the PDF by region in the NPC chapter, to catch any extra details.
Remember ultimately the NPCs are there to add flavor, not to get hung up on with their various subplots, unless you're running a campaign where the PCs are constantly hobnobbing with the nobility. Conversely, if you're running a game where the PCs are mostly low-lifes (at least, for now), you won't need to know anything except the royals and the pretenders and your local lord's family.
So there you go, it's pretty simple really: use what you want to use. Don't sweat the rest! Happy Albioning!
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Rhodesian + Argento Latakia
(Originally posted July 24, 2015)