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.

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A House Rule for The Call of Cthulhu

I was listening to The Miscatonic University Podcast today and a throw away comment gave me some blog material, in the form of a house rule. In The Call of Cthulhu you have almost no control over advancing your character. While this is a great curb to power gaming, it does mean that a professor of linguistics who doesn’t get a chance to use his academic skills during the adventure will not get better at his chosen profession. So I thought of this as a house rule:

After each adventure, a character can choose one of their profession skills to gain a free checkmark in, that they may attempt to raise as if they had successfully used the skill during the adventure.

This represents the fact they have been working at their chosen career when not on camera, and means that the player has some direction over their advancement, if not much. Now, I’d extend this further, and allow the player to pick any skill they’ve consistently worked on outside of the adventure. I was thinking of this as a replacement for things such as the Gun Club rules in H. P. Lovecraft’s Arkham: Unveiling the Legend-Haunted City. It would be easy to replace them with “If you are a member of the gun club, and attend regularly, you may check a skill related to a weapon you have been practising with after any adventure, as if you had succeeded on an attack roll with it during the adventure”. This could either be in addition to the profession skill, or as an alternative. I’m sure you can think of other ways the player could raise their skill through out of game practice.

One thing I do is give the players a few months between adventures to recover and work on their own goals. This would work as a great addition to that: each month they can check one skill or go into therapy, or study tomes, etc.

I hope you have fun with this, and I’ll try to get back into doing weekly posts. Until next time, stay geeky

–Canageek

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

Writing a Roguelike?

First some news: Provided I don’t fail either of the classes I’m in right now (highly, highly unlikely) I will be finishing my undergraduate degree within the next 2 weeks. Also, I should be getting an acceptance letter to go to graduate school shortly, based on what the professor who has hired me tells me. However, due to my brother being sick I’ve asked to delay officially starting graduate school until May, the start of the summer semester, so that I can be here if he needs me. This leaves me with a lot of spare time, as it isn’t quite long enough to get a job, and if my brother gets better I’ll see about moving up my start date. I’m going to try to fill my time with some colloquium, possibly auditing a class or two, and reviewing older classes before starting grad school, but I’m thinking I might want to start a project to fill my time.

On that note, I’ve been listening to the Roguelike Radio podcast as of late, and it is bringing an idea I’ve had a while back to mind. I’ve wanted to work on my programming skills for a while, and I’ve wanted to write an RPG system for a while. I am thinking that I might want to code a simple Roguelike to teach myself Object Oriented programming, or at least improve the programming I do know. My background in programming is a bit weak; I learned QBASIC in high school, took a class on C in first year, and a class on C++ last year. I’ve also taken a bunch of theoretical classes on algorithms and such, and used simple programming and scripting at a few of my jobs. However, I’ve never gotten into the more advanced features of any language, and only touched Object Oriented code once. I’d like to learn it, because it seems powerful, but I get turned off reading about it, as it is always held up as the “One true way of programming” and tells you to do things without any explanation, or draws all the reasons why it is better from working with a large team, whereas I would never be working with a large team. Anyway, I was writing up my emails to send to a friend, and thought I might as well post them here and see what people thought of them.

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Published in: on December 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm  Comments (17)  
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Tatters of the King: The Game Thread is Up!

Since some people have told me that they are having trouble with WordPress commenting, I decided to make a thread on DnDorks and do all character preparation there. This will let me have everything in once place, and will (hopefully) be more friendly to my phone then WordPress. Not much else to say, except that I can’t wait to hear what characters you are interested in.

Character Creation for My Tatters of the King Play By Post

Alright, here are some more details for my summer game.

I’ll be running it at http://forums.dndorks.com/ since I know the tools there, they have a dice roller, character sheets and DM tools, built in and they don’t mind me using multiple threads, PMs, or whatever for my game.

I’ll be using the Call of Cthulhu rules system, nominally from the gold book edition, but with Cthulhu specific rules taken from the CoC 6th edition book or various supplements. Don’t worry too much; The rules from just about any edition are compatible; I’ve run games with half the players using characters from 6th ed and half gold book without any troubles.

Don’t worry if you’ve not used any of these rules before; I’m willing to teach as I go, which is how I normally run CoC anyway. Character creation rules are available from DriveThroughRPG or The Chaosium webpage (Account required) with changes noted below:

You get 100 points to spread among your stats. I strongly advise not having an intelligence under 13 or Education under 14. Education must be 21 or less, all other skills must be 18 or less. No stat can be under 6, since anyone that crippled is really not fit for adventure.

Note that the Education stat represents both formal and informal education; A carpenter whom never finished high school, but has twenty years of experience would still have quite a good education stat.

We will be using the optional Education (EDU) statistic. As a result skill points are calculated differently:

Pick 6 skills that your character would use in their day to day job (Or previous job, if they have changed professions recently). You get 20 times your EDU stat to put into these skills. You can then put 10 times your intelligence stat into any skill you think your character should possess based on their past.  Also, since characters are normal humans, no skill can be over 99%.

All character concepts should be a mostly normal human living in the 1920s. The campaign is nominally set in the UK, however I’m examining how integral that is to the plot, as I don’t know much about 1920s Britain while I’ve read a few books set in the 1920s and 1930s in the US. Also note, that the wealth rules assume you are wealthy enough to afford any reasonable purchase on a short notice without tracking each purchase. If you buy cars or pay out hundred dollar bribes on a regular basis, I will inform you that your wallet is starting to feel a bit light.

Characters that are capable of interacting well with a group and the general public would be appreciated, as I’ve had bad experiences with characters who viewed murder as an acceptable means of informing a clerk that they were upset he wouldn’t give them a judges home address.

Feel free to express interest in joining in the comments below, along with any questions.

Oh, and I need one player with a medicine or psychotherapy skill of at least 50% whom has been published in the field of mental health. If that kind of character interests you then let me know.

Character Concepts in The Call of Cthulhu

I’d like to expand on my Tatters of the King Call of Cthulhu campaign. I’ll be using mostly a cut down version of the BRP Goldbook rules; Basically I’ll be taking all the wound tables out, as the last time I used them the party was maimed and crippled after the first adventure.

The hard part of making a character for the Call of Cthulhu is it doesn’t work if you don’t make a character that obeys genre conventions. Simply put: there is no sane reason why people would ever participate in a CoC adventure. A common complaint is that people make sceptics or other individuals who have no reason to seek out the things which lie beyond the world, then complain when they can’t get their characters involved. So I will put it bluntly; You need to make a character that has a reason to get involved in the adventure. Lovecraft was writing in the 1920s and wasn’t writing modern conflicted heroes. His characters were either thrust into the adventure, too curious for their own good, or obsessively driven to solve a mystery. Don’t rely on the first one; it works sometimes, but often it backfires and leaves a character emotionally uninvolved in the adventure, as they have no real reason for their character not to have simply gone home and had a nice stiff drink and forgotten about the whole mess. Even Lovecraft often had these characters trapped in a situation to force them to resolve the mystery, a situation that only works once.

Some examples of good characters;

  • A Mafia thug who witnessed one of his friends abducted from the docs in his youth; has believed in things beyond his understanding since.
  • An archeologist whom has for years been wondering at the strange trends he has seen across the art of several widely dispersed cultures.
  • An occultist, bent on proving he is right
  • A private detective, who can’t stand by when he sees people in danger.

Basically; Don’t create a shy college student that has no reason to get involved with the adventure. Also don’t create someone only motivated by money; it gets really repetitive having to pay you each time, as CoC assumes characters are already members of the wealthy upper class.

In specific for this adventure I need at least one of the characters to have at least 60% in Psychotherapy or Medicine, preferably both. Additionally, all members must begin the game in London, going to a rather avant-garde play; They can be members of the upper crust of society, going to the allure of the supposedly quite risqué play, or an art critic, or anyone else who would happen to be attending a performance. Once I have some players I’ll write up the rules for character creation.

My Next Summer Game

Salutations all.

I am fully aware of how long it has been since my blog, but some personal things have kept my attention from fixating fully on roleplaying games. In fact, I’ve only DMed two games since September, and have done rather little playing. That said, I am trying to get back into the swing of things with some online playing. I’ve signed up for a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Play-By-Post game on RPG.net, and am looking to DM a game of my own. I know my plans last summer never really came to fruition, so I’m trying to get something started a bit earlier this year. I’ve also totally changed ideas, based on my current interests.

The most likely idea I will run is the Tatters of the King Call of Cthulhu adventure series from Chaosonium. I picked it up from another gamer recently, and have been starting to read through it. I’m not done reading even the first adventure, but I’ve had very good luck with Call of Cthulhu over the past five years, and I can always switch to a number of adventures that I know are good and have run before if it turns out to not be as good as I expect.
I’m thinking of running this game as a Play-By-Post game on dndorks, due to the built in forum features (Map tool, dice roller, character sheets, character management and DM tools). I don’t really know my schedule yet, so PBP seems easier, doubly so with the issues I had running an IRC game last summer created by time zones.

The other idea I had is to take a selection of the old, free and assorted RPGs I have acquired over the years and play them on skype. We could run through the included scenarios for either a session or an adventure, depending on the enjoyment we get out of it, then podcast the results. This was just an idea I had, based on the fact I am never going to get around to playing these and now have a decent microphone and webcam. However, I suspect setting up a podcast to record from Skype is harder than it sounds, and it would be a lot of work learning a new game each week, making new characters via skype and then running an adventure in a new genre. I see this working best with either lighter games, or something like World of Synnibar which we could mock the whole way along.

Anyway, I’m going to start recruiting for the PBP, and if anyone has experience recording or podcasting games like that, drop me a line and let me know how hard it is.

Now, I’m hoping not to turn this blog into just a platform for me talking about my games, which it seems to have been for the last two summers, but I need to get back into gaming to really get my ideas flowing again.

Until next time, stay geeky.
–Canageek

Published in: on May 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Summon Invisible Servant

A while back my Call of Cthulhu players found a tome (Or rather, stole it from Miskatonic Library in a daring armed raid). It contains a number of poorly labelled spells, so I thought I’d make handouts for my players describing what each ones does. However, this being Lovecraftian horror and all, I’m using the description from the book with all the rules information cut out.

For example: Summon Invisible Servant
What do you think? Would you want to cast it?

That file was produced using code written in LaTeX by a group of awesome people on the TeX Stackexchange. You’ll also need the background image from http://www.alfredom.com/art/free-6.htm

I modified the code they listed to work with the default packages included in TeXLive as follows:

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Published in: on September 28, 2011 at 11:47 pm  Comments (8)  
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A Tangential Universe

The universe is composed of many dimensions. The simplest view of these is as cables in a bundle. At the centre of the bundle is baseline, (0,0), the parties’s home. Each universe out from that diverges slightly at some point in the past.

First come historical changes: Japan invades Russia during WWII, preventing them from using Siberian troops against the Germans; WWII never happens as Hitler died in 1929, The Roman Republic managed civic reforms that prevented it from becoming an Imperial state; China discovered America and gains access to its natural resources during the middle ages; The Egyptian Empire avoids cultural and technological stagnation and still stands in the 22nd century. In a cable this is the thin strands of copper at the center.

Further out from that in the bundle metaphor lie worlds that diverged far enough back in time so as to have biological changes: Empires of Cat-people, dog-people, Civilizations of dolphins, lands where dinosaurs roam the earth. While there are many more of these dimensions then there are of the Historical dimensions there is much less known about them due to the fact they have been far less heavily explored.  This would be the strands of rubber insulation around the copper.

Then you have the rubber coating of the cable: These are realms where things diverged back when the solar system or universe was forming. Earths locked in ice ages; earths backing in the sun; earths with CO2 atmospheres and whatnot all exist here. Very little is known about this region as exploring it is very dangerous for obvious reasons.

Beyond that lies Terra Incognita, the land unknown. This is the strange region that no one really understands. Almost no travellers have returned from here, and those that do report wildly varying laws of physics, worlds full of magic, worlds with psionic and stranger things. Most expeditions to this region have not returned, and it is thought this is because they traveled into areas in which dimensional travelling technology does not work, or areas where the laws of physics do not support the existence of human life. This is normally described as the area beyond the cable.

This is the basic outline of the universe my next campaign will take place in. I’ve given some of the ideas I am working off of before, but what with running this campaign very soon I thought it would help with the adventure to set things down on digital paper. I will freely admit that most of this is taken directly from Tangents, which is the backdrop of my campaign, but with my own ideas mixed in. I’ve started out with tangents as the base, which I’ve posted a summary of below, and then will spend latter posts documenting my divergence from this idea, including  the problems with the cable model, the fuzzy nature of individual strands, tears in the universe and how to travel using them and what the Z-coordinate means.

Until Next TIme, Stay Geeky

–Canageek