The Cosmonomicon: Spelljammer + Dragonstar + 5th Edition D&D

Another post on some cool Spelljammer stuff I found the web a while ago. Jordan Short over at The Mox Boarding House has written up a cool mashup of Spelljammer with Dragonstar, and given advice on how to run it in 5th edition. It strips down a lot of the stuff blogging down both Spelljammer and Dragonstar, mostly edition-specific rules that neither are really enhanced by, and makes a pretty cool setting out of it, known as The Cosmonomicon.

For those that don’t know:

Spelljammer was a 1st and 2nd edition AD&D setting that took D&D into space, and let you fly ships from one campaign setting to the next using magically enchanted boats. It never really caught on, due to how strange it was, and, likely, due to a lot of rules and bookkeeping related to the flying ships and spellcasting in space. Mostly though, I think it was how strange it was, an odd mashup of swashbuckling, D&D and planar travel. There was also a Shadows of the Spider Moon article in Polyhedron magazine that attempted to update things to 3rd edition with a new setting.

Dragonstar was one of the setting that came out in the rush of 3rd party products after the OGL came out and was mostly lost in the rush (The company killing Living Dragonstar didn’t help.) It added a lot of Science Fiction elements to D&D, and made the players trying to exist on the edges of the Draconic Empire, right after a red dragon took the throne and has begun sending out his orc legions and drow secret police. This gives a very Star Wars + D&D type vibe that I find really cool.

The Cosmonomicon takes the Dragon Empire from Dragonstar, some setting bits from Shadows of the Spider Moon, removes the technology from Dragonstar and replaces it with Spelljammer’s flying ships. It doesn’t have all the details from Spelljammer (no crystal spheres or such), but I think that enhances things and removes a lot of the unnecessary complications. He also gives some useful details for playing in the setting in 5th edition.

I encourage you to check this setting out and enjoy: I think I’ll be borrowing some of this if I ever run a Spelljammer game. As a note to my readers: these posts on Spelljammer material are being shared to Wildspace: The Spelljammer Fanzine, which is something you should check out.

Until next time, stay geeky
–Canageek

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RPG Blog Carnival: Weapons of Legend: Ahab’s Crosshairs

The Logo of the RPG Blog Carnival.Hi! I’m Canageek’s girlfriend DialMforMara. I write for the I Like Homestuck Project on Tumblr; this entry in the RPG Blog Carnival is an adaptation of a post that will appear there next Saturday, on the theme of Legendary Weapons. Come check us out if you’re interested in Homestuck, or just want to find out what all the fuss is about. Warning: spoilers abound.

dualscar

Ahab’s Crosshairs is a powerful laser rifle from the webcomic Homestuck. It was created by the trolls of Alternia and used by the Orphaner Dualscar, a notorious highblood (noble) pirate. Centuries after the Orphaner’s death, it was found in the wreckage of his ship by his aristocratic descendant Eridan Ampora, who used it to murder countless lowbloods (commoners) and their animal guardians, as was his birthright. When Eridan left Alternia to play the universe-building game SGRUB, he took Ahab’s Crosshairs with him and used it on anything that stood in his way, up to and including the angels that inhabited his base planet, which took at least a minute of sustained fire to kill (possibly because he wasn’t supposed to kill them, as other players point out. [Canageek’s note: Sounds like a player character me me])
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The strength of Ahab’s Crosshairs may vary with its wielder’s belief that it works. The structure of SGRUB (and the human version, SBURB) gives each player powers based on the role the game has assigned them. Eridan is a Prince of Hope, which to make a long story short means that he uses belief in destructive ways–like, maybe, to power his weapons. Other Homestuck characters don’t think Ahab’s Crosshairs is nearly so powerful: SBURB player Jade Harley, who has extensive experience with rifles, takes one look at the gun and calls it a “legendary piece of shit.” She can’t believe it’s as powerful as Eridan claims it is. And maybe, for her, it isn’t.Screenshot 2015-07-25 14.47.44

Adding belief-based weaponry like the Crosshairs to a campaign opens up a couple of interesting mechanics. A DM can track which player characters believe the legends about a weapon, and then make the weapon more powerful for them–or less powerful for those who don’t believe. Dividing up loot becomes much easier if half your players believe some of it is worthless. They open up new narrative possibilities as well: a quest-giving NPC can hype up a belief-based weapon to make it stronger and worth more, or downplay its importance to trick the players into handing it over, or even claim they have a defense against it, to make the players think it won’t work on them. Belief-based legendary weapons give their players exciting new ways to mess with their players.

RPG Blog Carnival: Weapons of Legend: Gretzky’s Staff

The Logo of the RPG Blog Carnival.When Gretzky was a child his parents discovered that he had a natural aptitude for magic that often manifested in destructive ways. To avoid having their chesterfield lit on fire (again) they enrolled him in a magic academy. As the years went by, he learned that while he loved magic, he had little in common with his fellow classmates who tended to be bookish and nonathletic. While of reasonable intelligence, Gretzky preferred more athletic and violent pursuits in his spare time, often enrolling in the extracurricular activities of the fighters’ school across town. His favourite sport was hockey, for its combination of speed, skill and violence.

When it was time to craft his staff, he refused a traditional oaken or ebony rod, instead using a hockey stick that he had outgrown. He kept this staff for many years, and added to its original enchantments over time. In addition to storing several spells and the traditional enchantments for durability he placed an unusual level of enchantment on it enhancing its melee combat ability, figuring that few people expected a wizard to run up and cross-check them. At one point he even added a flaming enchantment more commonly found on warriors swords to the stick’s blade. One enchantment he did not place on the staff is cold resistance; it was commonly thought that the staff bore such a dweomer due to Gretzky’s habit of going coatless in the winter. This habit came from Gretzky’s growing up in the north and simply being much more used to cold then the natives of the southerly region he eventually built his abode in.

While Gretzky’s Staff is usually thought to be a single item, usually as described above, over the course of his career he made a number of staves as he grew more skilled, or as he needed sets of spells or protections for specific tasks. This has confused descriptions of the staff and its powers over the years, as his later ones were often made from full-length hockey sticks, rather then the child’s stick he used originally.

This is a post for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, hosted at of Dice and Dragons. I’m not a rules guy so I’m not going to try and stat this up. I got the idea as I am thinking of running a play-by-post game in an X-Crawl-like world. I know, I know, I’m finally giving the setting I’ve been talking about since the start of the blog a try. I’m  hoping not to let this blog sit idle for years and years this time. Anyway, until next time, stay geeky.

–Canageek

Have some true cyberpunk

A while back I ranted about punk and how it should be darker and more nihilistic, but didn’t really give any modern examples of the genre. Well, here you go. Some nudity, drugs, totally not depressing, dark and horrible. Trigger warnings? Lets just go with ‘all of them’.

Well, how was that? Get what I’m saying now? Remember: High tech, low life or your genre’s equivalent.

Until I find some more things worth saying or sharing, Stay Geeky and burn the world.
–Canageek

Published in: on September 23, 2013 at 8:43 am  Comments (7)  
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Occupypunk

I’m going to start this post off with a disclaimer: This is about a roleplaying setting, and I do not categorically endorse real world violent rebellion against the police. This would generally be a bad idea and get you arrested, and there are probably a small number of bad apples giving the rest of the police a bad name.

Right, now, take all that real world restraint and lock it away. Put on some angry music; punk would be best, but anything will work; some old NWA (911 is a Joke, for example) would also work if you are into rap, or Hammers in my Head by A Miracle of Sound if you want something more modern, if a bit less angry then would be ideal.

You’ve got your music on? Good, now lets do some inspirational reading. Lets start with something I got off Reddit’s News of the Weird. Now look up some things on Adam Nobody. Heck, just go on youtube and watch police brutality videos for a bit. Then imagine this was Standard Operating Procedure; if you have trouble with this Transmetropolitan is a great comic series. Now take all of these bad, horrible things and turn them up to 11, at least in the cities; place a Bradburian dystopia in the suburbs. Now that we’ve set the stage, I give you:

Occupypunk, (Alternate Title: Yippiepunk)

They killed my Charlotte. Sweet innocent girl, just trying to make the world a better place, protesting and going to sit-ins and crap. Then the pigs beat her to death, and left me for dead. Too bad for them I didn’t die, and remembered their faces. I waited outside police stations for days, waited until I saw one I recognized, followed him home, out to the nice, safe, surveillance-free suburbs. Then I beat him to death, just like he did my Charlotte. The next one I just shot; after the first they were more careful. I had to get help with the next few; they knew my face by then, but luckily with all the shootings and beatings the pigs do, it wasn’t hard to find help. Once the government let them off their leashes, they’ve been running rampant, and there are a lot of people who’ve lost loved ones, limbs, friends, and bedmates to them. Only deal I had to promise them was that once we finish the ones who killed Charlotte, I’d help them with the ones who hurt them. You know, if I’m still alive. It isn’t like pighunting is conductive to a long and healthy life. One day they’ll catch me, like they caught Joe. Sent an entire SWAT team after him. Too bad for them someone got word to Joe that they were coming, and he had time to take so many uppers and dreck that he forgot how to die, for a little while anyway. Jumped them with a couple hatchets. They had to take him and a whole buncha the cops out in a bag, cus they couldn’t figure out what bits belonged to who. They’ll never get the blood out of that apartment, I live there now. Rent is really cheap, and the splatter is kinda artistic, if you’re into that kinda thing. Anyway, I don’t expect to have a long life, but hell, the courts ain’t administering justice, so someone has to.

I can’t think of much to add to this: It is probably the most straightforward of my settings, just channelling that helpless rage we feel when we watch the news these days into something constructive. Also, ripping off part of Steal This Book.

Anyway, I have some ideas on how you could do this setting in a game, to reward self-destructive punk gameplay. I’ll try and write them up later, until then, stay geeky.

–Canageek

Edit: I forgot to link the original RPG.net thread.

Abolitionpunk

Over on RPG.net there is a very inserting thread about ideas for -punk settings. Now, punk in this context is descended both from the musical/social movement, and cyberpunk. Steampunk also, but only true steampunk, none of that atheistic top-hat foppery. Therefore it should be dark, gritty, ugly, and the characters should be self-destructive and nihilistic. Not something I’d like to play in or even read, but great fun to muse about and design.

wapa created a setting called Anebellumpunk:

In the South they’re breedin’ men like they was animals. Worse than animals; they’re treatin’ them like they was tools – breedin’ them up, strappin’ them into moulds and feedin’ them up on quack formulae from birth so you’d barely know they was men, and what them rich folk are doin’ to their own kids only looks prettier on the outside. North ain’t much better – they’re fixin’ to replace men with clocks and steam engines, where they ain’t just ruled by ’em. Ain’t none of it Godly. But some folk, decent, churchgoing folk are out to abolish all that in the name of the Lord – and in the meantime just get on by. We’re all God’s children, whether we got a clock for a heart or grown eight times the proper size, and God’s children gotta look out for each other.

I like the idea, but thought it was too clean and optimistic, and thus I created Abolitionpunk:

A man can only see so much, you know? For me, I broke when I saw an innocent young, slip of a girl being torn apart by dogs. I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I set the dogs on her asshole of a master, and shot the overseers. Then me an’ some buddies, and a couple of the now-free slaves armed up, and decided to take out all the goddamn slavers in one go. We waited till Sunday, rolled a big carriage up to the doors of the church, then burned all them bastards inside, womenfolk and all. Not like they don’t order slaves beaten even more then the men. Then we headed out of town, pointing the way north to the slaves, and taking off before the army shows up. Now we live like bandits, killing and murdering slavers all across the south, staying one step ahead of the law. Sure, they’ll catch us eventually, but damn if we haven’t brought justice to a hell of a lot of bad, bad men on our way. Sides, you ever seen one of those big plantation houses burn down? Its a pretty, pretty sight. Even better when we get our hands on some dynamite and can blow it up.

Yeah, that would be a hell of a dark campaign. Characters would include abolitionists sick of a lack of action, washed up cowboys, defrocked priests, brutal norther agents, ex-slaves and so on.

Next time I’ll show you my even more violent setting: Occupypunk. Until then, Stay Geeky
–Canageek

Edit: Kris Newton, (@FeedRPG on twitter) liked my concept enough to create a spin off of it, adding vampires, and making it even darker (YouTube). I wouldn’t necessarily play in that game, but it is a really cool take on it and I encourage people to check it out.

Sketching out a character: John Rook

So, I’ve got to make two new characters for the GURPS games I’ve joined, and I’m finding it a bit slow going. So I’ve decided to write down my thoughts and ideas to see what sounds good when I write it down, and see where that takes me. Anyway, here is John Rook, horror writer and self-declared white knight.

The first game is a modern occult horror game set in the 1970s. Everyone is mostly human, but with a bit of magic, something that sets them apart from the normal. I had a character in that game, Dalton, who was able to touch any object and sense the important events in its history; a very useful power for an investigative game. He also ran an antique shop, and had a lot of skills related to appraisal, history and so on, related to his job, not that he needed much help authenticating artifacts. However, in the two years since I was last in this game someone else has taken over the character so I need a new idea.

I was looking over the list of abilities for inspiration (it worked last time) and noticed there are a number of abilities to improve your senses. I’ve been watching a fair bit of castle, and had watched a bit of an Alan Wake Lets Play on Youtube, and had an idea: A writer who investigates paranormal activities and then writes them up as fiction. Now, bits of this character have come to me fairly easily: He is going to be a fairly broad shouldered guy, not huge, but large, and full in the chest (Any resemblance to Nathan Fillon is purely coincidental) with brown hair and blue eyes. Obviously a competent investigator, particularly at finding clues and hidden items, and also a highly skilled writer, with a fair bit of money as a result.

Now, the DM sent me some questions to answer:

1) (and most important!) What happened to this guy that made him realize there was another world out there, with real monsters – and he was akin to the non-humans?

I’ve got a couple versions of this answer turning through my head. The crux of it was that he met, and possibly killed, a occult serial killer. I’m still working on the how. The first thing I thought up was that he was working on a True Crime novel, before he got into fiction, and finding some leads he decides to follow up himself, leading to him discovering that the killer is still active, and unable to find anyone in authority willing to help him he illegally slays the killer himself.

The other idea I had, is that he meets the killer at a much younger age, when he was taken by the killer. However, he was able to escape, and lead the police back to the scene of the crime due to his suddenly uncannily good sight and vision (He can hear every sound in the background of the place he was held, and every individual odour), though not before his older brother was slain by the killer. Additionally, he saw things while captured that gave him a lasting obsession with the occult and supernatural, and he turned to fiction, particularly dark fiction, as an escape, first as a reader, and then as an author.

Huh, writing things down did help, that sounds much better (if just as chliche) as then what I was thinking of.

2) why did he decide to actively oppose them instead of just hiding/running?

Having seen what horrible things are lurking out there at a young age, he was never able to close his eyes to the things most people ignore, the horrific elements around us. As he grew older, he realized that most people couldn’t or wouldn’t stop the things that are dark and abnormal in the world, and that if he didn’t oppose them, who would? In particular he has drawn inspiration from the morality of authors in the past, particularly Tolkien and he keeps two plaques above his desk: One, quoting a Sergei Bondarchuk’s flim adaptation of War and Peace reads “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” and the other “‘How is a man to judge what to do in such times?’ As he has ever judged, Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men.”, adapted from The Lord of the Rings, and a longer version of the second quote opened his first book.

3) what did he do/what were his life plans before all the occult stuff came into his life?

He was introduced to the occult at a very young age, and as such didn’t really have many plans. His desire to protect people led him to apply for the police academy, but he was rejected, and instead went to university, duel majoring in Religious Studies and History, simultaneously working on his first book, a highly fictionalized account of the serial killer that attacked him and killed his brother. While critics found the plot rather lacking, and several wrote it off as an author insertion fantasy (which to be fair, it was), he was praised for the vividness of his descriptions, and his expansive and masterful use of language. Deciding to focus on his writing, he abandoned the history degree, and finished his Religious Studies degree with a thesis on occultism in the early 20th century, and shortly thereafter published his second book, introducing his most popular character: Blake Stone.

Wow, that worked out a lot better then I expected, as I think I’ve answered all the questions I had bouncing around in my head. What do you lot think? I’m going to slide this into my post queue for next Monday and I’ll also (hopefully) write up my other character idea, for a good ‘ol boy lumberjack named Bo and toss it at you. Until then, Stay Geeky.

–Canageek

Obstacles Breed Creativity

Recently I was discussing spells with someone, and if they should be well defined or loosely defined. Interestingly, we both argue our positions based on what will encourage creativity the most. UbAh advocates loosely defined spells so that players can add on their own spins to solve problems outside of combat. I advocate strong definitions so that players can do the same. I think UbAh’s argument, that if you can think up creative things to do with magic, and then can do it, it encourages creativity, is pretty obvious, so I’m going to spend some time stating my own, less obvious argument.

I think challenges and speedbumps are important. The fun in roleplaying games comes from challenges you have to overcome; a game where you walk into the dungeon, find no traps and no monsters is pretty boring, as my players can tell you when I tried to run the sample adventure included in the 2nd edition Traveller book on the fly. Heck, it doesn’t even make a good story. You need challenges to make a good story, a good game and so on.

Think about this: If the players have magic that can do anything they can think of, why don’t they just use magic to bypass your puzzle? I’ll give you an example from one of my favourite Living Greyhawk Ket adventures: There is a monk tied to a chair. The chair is on a platform that is suspended 30 feet or so over a deep pool of water. It is suspended by a long, greased, pole. The monk is able to keep balanced on the platform, but she has been doing it for a while and is getting tired. You need to rescue her.

Now, if you have a spell that can undo her ropes, or levitate her and her chair over to you, the puzzle is trivial, no creativity is needed; you need to unscrew a screw, and are holding a screwdriver. However, if you have magic, but NOT one of those effects, things get more interesting. For example, one solution I’ve thought of is to use reduce person on a gnome or a halfling to make them tiny and just really light, tie their feet to the middle of a rope, then have one PC on each side suspend them where he or she can untie the ropes. Another is to use stoneshape to bend the rock around the pole, so it can no longer rotate freely, things like that. You don’t have the exact spell you want, so you have to use what you are given.

Now, this depends on your spells working the same way each time, or else you can’t be sure if your solution will work in any specific instance. You need enough flexibility in it to allow any pretty much any spell to be used outside of combat, but if you have too much freedom the players can do exactly what they want, which removes the need for them to be creative.

Published in: on February 1, 2013 at 12:15 am  Comments (3)  
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Spelljammer and Clerics

Clerics represent how the desire to limit change to the existing settings and/or establish a distinctive setting identity limited roleplay possibilities.

The settings that SJ connected to have dozens, and in some cases, hundreds of gods. They limited clerics ability to get spells if the sphere they were visiting didn’t contain a following of that god. There are workarounds —You could store spell levels in a portable alter, worship a pantheon or the gods of a plane to increase your chances of finding a god belonging to it in that sphere, or worship Celestian or Ptah, both of which allow clerics to get spells as long as they are not on a planet. Therefore you are going to get lots of clerics of pantheons, planes and Celestian and Ptah, but not much else.

I think this is a great missed opportunity. First off, it makes it much harder to bring groundling clerics into SJ. This makes it harder for players to scoop up groundling NPCs they encounter on the way, or to transition from groundling games to SJ. Secondly it limits the number of religions present in SJ, which I don’t think is a good thing.

You have a culture made from the bits and pieces of a thousand other cultures from a hundred worlds. I think of Lankmar’s Street of Gods, with a selection of constantly changing temples from all over the world, many with only a few followers. Another model would be Lin Carter’s Gondwane Epic with its innumerable religions, cults and heresies from 900 millennia of civilization. Both have the feeling of a mishmash of different things, which I think is what Spelljammer should feel like. Also this would open up religions to more abstract things like the Church of the Silver flame or the Ancestor Worship of the elves in Eberron.

The easiest way to encourage this would be to take a page from Eberron and remove the gods as anthropomorphic entities. None of the faiths can be proven to be correct, so a multitude of conflicting religions exist, coexisting, clashing, getting spells no matter what. This matches the riot of colour I see in my head, which would be more similar to what we see in the first episode of Firefly, the Star Wars cantina scene. Luke, a groundling walks into a wild space bar and is just stunned by the riot of different people and colours. There are many ways to do this, but I think the easiest starting point is religion.

 THIS is the Spelljammer I want to play in.

 Until Next Time: Stay Geeky.

–Canageek.

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ideas for my online game

As you all probably know, I am planning on running an online game this summer. I am not officially recruiting yet, as I am unsure of my schedule once I start my job, and that seems like an important thing to know. However, I love writing out game ideas, so I thought I would set some down here.

Idea #1: “XSlayers” (Ie Dungeonslayers meets X-Crawl) I’ve blogged about this one a lot before, specifically when I first mentioned my summer game. To recap: The players are sports starts who descend into short, premade dungeons before a live and televised audience. A Master of Ceremonies runs the show,  providing live commentary, flavour and possibly altering the dungeon as the players move through it.

Idea #2: “Megaslayers” This is very similar to idea #1, except that the players move through a large megadungeon. A megadungeon is one of those giant, many levelled complexes with perhaps hundreds of rooms in it, where the players will never truly “clear” it: New monsters will move in, old ones will leave, and monsters may well migrate as the players kill others and create vacuums within the dungeon. This is set in the same world as number 1, but instead of being a short sports event this is a weekly show. Players still are in a modern setting, but instead of being in a small dungeon 1-page dungeon style affair they are in a long megadungeon, and thus can play monsters off against one another, retreat to the surface, will have to rest in the dungeon and conserve resources.

Idea #3: “XSlayers Classic”  This would be like idea #1 except that instead of going through an adaptation of a one-page dungeon or something short that I cook up the part will go through an adaption of a classic adventure. Probably an old TSR adventure, but I can take suggestions provided players promise not to use out of game knowledge to their advantage. This could very well branch into “Megaslayers Classic” if a longer adventure like the Temple of Elemental Evil is chosen to.

Idea #4: Straight up Dungeonslayers: If the modern-reality TV dungeon idea is not popular then I could go with running a traditonal fantasy version of Dungeonslayers.

Idea #5: “Dungeonslayers Classic”: If people like the idea of mixing Dungeonslayers and classic D&D adventures, but do not like the idea of the modern-dungeon crawling then I could do that to.

Idea #6: “Megadungeonslayers” Again, Megadungeon+Dungeonslayers but no modern.

Idea #7: Dimensional Hoppers: Another idea that I have blogged about before, this game would involve the players travelling across dimensions in search of a way home. Each dimension will be part of a slightly different genre and tech level for a highly episodic feel, but with (hopefully) continuing characters. I would be using a variant BRP system.

Idea #8: Dungeonworld/The Sargasso of Dungeons: Really I can’t think of much to add to this, except that I’d probably use Dungeonslayers, or if I can’t get support for that something like Warrior, Rouge & Mage or a retroclone. This one could be modern, fantasy or some combination of the above.

Idea #9: Tangents. I recently found the Tangents book for Alternity and discovered that it has a really cool adventure series in it. I would be willing to run this with the caveat that players either have to make their own characters or use a premade one from the adventure, as I don’t have enough experience to help them with it as I do the other systems.

I think I’m the most interested in running #1,#3 and #7, followed by #4, #5, #8 and #9, but if I get a bunch of enthusiastic players for any of them I think I’d catch the enthusiasm myself pretty quickly. Also it should be noted that while I listed a bunch of megadungeon ideas they all rated pretty low on my list: This is likely because I’ve not run enough dungeons yet to create a good atmosphere in most of them, and have them react organically to events in the dungeon. The Sargasso would be an inherently random place, so I think it might work more easily… That isn’t to say I wouldn’t try, which is why I listed them. Ideas which I really like, but am unsure I could run, like this idea I have for a game set on a Spacehulk/Sargasso of Death setting I haven’t listed, as I am sure I could run it, but can’t think of a system I am comfortable enough with and that has enough creatures for me to stock it with.

So, does anyone have any feedback on these ideas? Would anyone be interested in playing in one of them? Questions on bits of the setting that seem unclear? Just want more details on one or more of them? Please leave a comment!

Until then, or next time, Stay Geeky!

–Canageek