Archive for May, 2010

Savage Fading Suns: Wyrd Bennies And Occult Paths

Posted in Space Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2010 by Kullervo

I have been thinking a bit about the way I think Fading Suns’s occult powers should work in Savage Worlds, and I think I have come to two conclusions:

1. I am going to have Bennies fuel powers instead of power points, probably on a one-for-one basis. I realize that this sort of radically changes the way Bennies will be used in a game, and I think I am okay with it. I think it better captures how Wyrd works in Fading Suns. It will involve the creation of some ancillary Edges I think to promote a faster flow of Bennies for occult characters, and maybe some guidelines or a sub-system for new ways to get Bennies. Maybe just like a list of mandatory ways to get them–explicitly the player’s responsibility to claim them in those circumstances?–to supplement the usual GM-discretionary Bennie awards. I also realize that this probably means occult characters will not be using their powers all that often. I’m okay with that. I don’t think that Fading Suns is a setting where it makes sense for occult characters to throw around their powers like a 9th-level D&D wizard anyway.

2. I like the idea of grouping powers into paths, and I am going to stick with that. The “New Path” edge will come with the first power form the path for free, but it will only be able to be taken once per rank. Further powers in a path you already have can be taken as often as you have an edge to spend on them. Although some powers and/or entire paths may have minimum rank requirements.

On Shoggoths

Posted in Eldritch Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2010 by Kullervo

“At The Mountains Of Madness” just might be my favorite Lovecraft story, period. To me it is perfect: the haunting eerieness of the alien city in the middle of the desolate Antarctic waste is something out of a nightmare. And what I love about it most is that it’s an adventure story without being an action story: most of the narrative is purely about exploring and studying the place, and the deepening horror that it evokes in the characters.

In “Madness” we get our best and fullest helping of shoggoths, and they are truly horrific. And I love it. When a shoggoth shows up at the end of the story and chases th explorers, the tension has already been strung so thin through the novella that it just bursts open, like a freight train (or a shoggoth!) barreling down a tunnel right at you.

The problem with shoggoths–and all Mythos creatures–is that they have been absorbed into geek/nerd culture and by that process have lost all the horror. They’re a pop culture reference, made more often than not by people who have probably never even read “Madness.” Parody musicals and webcomics about shoggoths may be hilarious and delightful, but they are antithetical to the original concept. Taken out of context, shoggoths are just another goofy monster. In context, the idea of shoggoths even existing should be enough to fill you with dread.

Granted, I think it is hideously cute when my little kids say that their gummi vitamins are “Shoggoth, and his friend, Moggoth,” and I’m not about to start lecturing them on the horror of Lovecraft. But sometimes I wonder if we have ruined a perfectly good piece of horror by turning it into just another pop culture trivia reference.

Turning to gaming, how do you run a roleplaying game involving something Lovecraftian like a shoggoth, and keep it from just being a ho-hum mosnter of the week? How do you evoke the opppressive dread of “At The Mountains Of Madness” in a hobby where typically, monsters are just walking bags of XP for the killin’ and takin’? Could you run an RPG that was more like “At The Mountains Of Madness” than a D&D dungeon crawl–all atmosphere and mystery and horror and no treasure or combat–and more importantly, would it actually be fun? How well does something like that actually translate?

Note: I want to add, just for the foul, unholy shoggoth record, that it irritates me that Chaosium grabbed the description of shoggoths from Robert Bloch’s “Notebook Found In A Deserted House”–the scariest fucking story ever written–and used it to describe the “Dark Young Of Shub-Niggurath” in the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. Just a pet peeve. That’s one horrible monster of a scary story, and I think it is better with shoggoths anyway. But then again, as great of an RPG as Call of Cthulhu is, sometimes I think statting up the creatures and Old Ones of the Mythos like they are D&D monsters is just the wrong tack to take altogether. Even if they do make your character lose sanity points.

The Black Priest: An Adventure Idea

Posted in Swords & Sorcery with tags , , , , on May 18, 2010 by Kullervo

The other day, my brother asked me for an idea for an adventure he could run for new players to D&D, and this is what I came up with, more or less on the fly.

The players are drinking and carousing in a tavern when one of the bar wenches tells them that the hooded man in the corner has bought them a drink and would like them to join him.  He turns out to be Marco Oloterbo, a prominent, wealthy merchant in the city.
 
He explains to them that like the players, his son was a young student of the dark arts, interested in treasure and adventure, but he disappeared a month ago, when he went out to search an old ruin, one of the structures reclaimed by the swamp during the last cataclysm.  His son had a family heirloom, a talisman, that Oloterbo wants returned.  He will pay the players handsomely to go out to the ruin and return the talisman.  He has done his research, and can provide a map to the ruin.
 
If the players ask around, they can find out that the ruin is reputed to be haunted: it housed a reliquary of some kind, and dark rumors of dark pacts hold that the priest charged with keeping the reliquary never left.
 
So the players set out into the treacherous swamp.  Along the way they are ambushed by brigands, wolf’s heads and cutthroats who hide out in the swamp.  If the players subdue and question one of them, he knows nothing about Oloterbo’s son, but he does know about the cursed ruin, and he says the outlaws avoid it because of the dreaded Black Priest who haunts it.
 
The ruin is a small chapel, with three rooms, stacked on top of each other.  The ground floor is a tiny chapel with an alter. Everything is befouled.  Up a rickety ladder is an attic/small belltower, home to a massive and deadly constricting snake, typical of the swamp but grown large and bloated with the malevolent energy that inundates the ruin.  A hidden hatch from the ground floor leads down a cold and foul stone staircase, into a wet tunnel, with roots hanging.  Partway down the tunnel is a trap–a scything blade or a skewering spear trap.
 
At the end of the tunnel is a locked stone door with holy symbols carved into it.  The door leads to a small crypt with a saint’s sarcophagus and several dark apses.  The ground is flooded with muddy water, maybe ankle-deep.  The rotting body of Oloterbo’s son is sprawled out by the sarcophagus.  The talisman is still around his neck.  As the players move in and investigate the room, they hear sloshing footsteps from one of the apses.  The Black Priest, now a foul monster, an undead being with only the barest semblance of life, shuffles out and attacks the players.  If they defeat him, he does not die–he just retreats into the apse, and disappears into shadow.
 
Oloterbo’s son has some equipment, including an occult tome written in an ancient language.  The sarcophagus has long been plundered: all that remains are the saint’s bones.

Welcome To Asura Star

Posted in Meta with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2010 by Kullervo

This is my brand-new blog for science fiction, swords-and-sorcery and adventure gaming.  I plan to use it as a sort of public online notebook full of adventure ideas, character ideas, game rule ideas, whatever pops out of my head and seems like either a good idea to save for later or a good idea someone else might want to use even though I probably won’t.

In real life I am a busy, boring estate planning lawyer, and I don’t have much time to actually do much gaming.  I’m not even sure how sad I am about that.  But I have done a lot of gaming in the past and so I still have a lot of ideas and interests floating around in my mind.

My tastes in readin run to pulp: I mostly read Howard and Lovecraft and their ilk.  My tastes in gaming tend to be simple and adventure-oriented.  I’m honestly not that much of a world-builder; I would rather get right to the action.  I like swords and sorcery.  I can’t stand epic fantasy or high fantasy.  I like hard sci-fi in theory but rarely in actuality.  I like space opera and space fantasy, but am not really a Star Wars fan by any measure.  I like Savage Worlds and Fading Suns, and I like most of Games Workshop’s stuff.  I like old-school retro-gaming (Traveller, OD&D).  I like Norse and Greek Mythology.

So expect to see that kind of stuff here.  See you around.