Archive for June, 2008

Dungeon Jam 7: Among the Barrowkind

June 27, 2008

To recap:
1: The Dwarven Underground
2: The Elven Watchtowers
3: Break on Through
4: Into the Forgotten Subaqueducts
5: Ghosts in the Great Machine
6: The Skymind Redeemers

The Skymind Redeemers in the group will most likely push for avoiding the forgotten aqueducts altogether and taking the more direct route to Svartálfaheim. After all, they say, it’s not like traveling through the tombs of our ancestors is going to be a problem. Riiiiiiight. What they’re really after is the Vaettirsverd, the blade with which the Skymind cut open the portal that allowed the 147th Grandchilde of Vecna to enter this world.

The Vaettirsverd was a ritual tool used in Svartálfar ceremonies since way back before any of the survivors can remember. In the chaos of Svartálfaheim’s fall, it was taken from the site of the Grandchilde’s entrance and placed somewhere in the extensive burial chamers of the First King of Svartálfaheim, who was buried along with all of his children (to keep them from usurping the throne from his chosen heir, a niece) and several other extended relatives (brothers, sons-in-law, etc.).

The true name of the First King has been lost to history, since construction on Svartálfaheim began before the dwarves developed a written language, so some investigation and wandering may be necessary before his burial chambers can be tracked down. Even then, it’s not certain where the Vaettirsverd actually is, but the tomb of the First King definitely leads down into Svartálfaheim proper, being attached by a long tunnel to the Royal Temple of Moradin, where the rulers of the city once paid allegiance to the crafting god who later proved so false.

Oh yeah, and of course this is a barrow, a burial mound from preliterate archaic times, right, not a nice Egyptian-style stone tomb. It’s a glorified cave with passages that may be partially collapsed and wild animals who’ve nested in it and ancient ceremonial artifacts all over it that date from the dawn of dwarven civilization.

And, due to the Grandchilde, the dead do not sleep so soundly. The barrowkind have the Vaettirsverd in their possession and they would rather stick it through your nice little hearts and not part with it at all. And they know you’re coming.

Agonia Sketches

June 26, 2008

Still Crooked

June 25, 2008

Crooked Still is currently the greatest acoustic band in the United States. They are astounding. Sure, their new ‘cello player isn’t quite as amazing as Rushad Eggleston, their previous one, but they made up for it by adding a violin player who is just insane. Such tone! Makes you want to cry.

Their third album, Still Crooked, just came out. You should purchase and listen to it immediately, as it is a feast for the ears equal to their first two albums. I can’t give a full review now, at 11:30 at night, but here are some samples:

The fourth track, Tell Her to Come Back Home, is a radio single in any just world, but this is progressive bluegrass, so it’ll never happen. It just jumps in your face and makes you want to get up and dance, while remaining slightly sad and mournful in all the mirth, being about a husband whose lost his wife.

Oh Agamemnon (what a title!) is a relatively traditional fiddle tune with a fairly funky rhythm and vocal line, which they milk to great effect. Very nice.

Oh man, Pharaoh is an African spiritual, or at least hails from that tradition, and is mercilessly slow, really grabbing you right in the gut and never letting go. Let my gut go, Pharaoh!

Florance is pretty close to being my favorite, just because it shows off the power of early church hymn structure. Most of these old hymns were originally Celtic ballads before they were brought to the New World and preserved up in the hills of Appalachia. They reemerged in 50s rock music of all things — remember “Where Oh Where Can My Baby Be?”-style teen car accident death ballads? yup! — but this has a bit of that doo-wop vibe while reaching back to something older.

So… Did You Sleep Well edged out to be my current favorite, after two listens. It’s got that classic murder ballad structure, but the thumping banjo in the background and the way the various lines of the chorus hang a bit before continuing (a Crooked Still trademark arrangement trick) is just delicious. Also, check out the slapping rhythm you can get out of upright acoustic basses! So good.

Go get it!

Dungeon Jam 5: Ghosts in the Great Machine

June 24, 2008

To recap:
1: The Dwarven Underground
2: The Elven Watchtowers
3: Break on Through
4: Into the Forgotten Subaqueducts

Emerging from the aqueducts, our travelers find themselves next to at least a hundred waterwheels, many still being turned by the current flowing in from above. While some are part of a series of mills once used to grind grain, others transfer their torque through an endless pattern of gears to other mysterious devices throughout Svartálfaheim. Welcome to the bowels of the Great Machine.

Unfortunately, over one hundred and forty-seven years, the machinery has decayed or been jammed by flotsam (and/or jetsam). Even where the gears are turning perfectly, various components have been left spinning in the air, disengaged from one another. Still, despite all this, it seems like it’s not going to take much to get a large swath of the Great Machine running again. There are diagrams carved into the walls, which are helpful in knowing what needs to be done. Some sections are definitely irreparable, at least for now, with the tools at your disposal, but the rest…

And you have to admit, you’re all quite curious to see just what it can do.

However, before you get too excited, remember that you are now in Svartálfaheim itself, home to thousands upon thousands of your dead dwarven kinsmen. There are quite literally ghosts in these machines. Indeed, to stop their life’s work from falling into the hands of the 147th Grandchilde of Vecna, many of the dwarven craftsmen who built the Great Machine threw themselves into its bowels, fouling the gears up with their own messy remains and dying curses. Having used their last breaths to ensure that the Great Machine would never run again… they may not be too happy with anyone who tries to fix it. Beware of realigning gears that are stained black with dried dwarven blood.

Agonia Combat

June 23, 2008

Here’s the slightly hacked combat rules I’m floating for Agonia. Hopefully John Harper and Eric can help me figure out if they’re completely broken.

The Battle abilities in Agonia are: Melee, Ranged, Mounted, and Evade. Melee includes one-handed weapons you hit or stab people with (maces, powerfists, spears, chainaxes, flaming swords), shields, and one-handed guns (flintlock pistols, hand flamers). Ranged includes two-handed weapons that you use to hit people from far away: bolt rifles, bows, crossbows, rocket launchers, etc. Mounted is used when riding war horses, driving attack bikes, piloting land speeders, steering skelter bats, etc. Evade is used to avoid attacks, whether melee, ranged, or mounted.

In combat your dice go into one of three pools: Right Hand, Left Hand, or Defense. The dice from either or both of the Right and Left Hands can move over into Defense at any time, as long as they haven’t already been rolled to attack.

To start out, all pools are empty. Say I’m a farmer with no Battle abilities except a d4 in Evade, wielding a d4 pitchfork in both hands. The pitchfork’s a Melee weapon, but I have no Melee ability (less than d4= 0) , so I’ll have to substitute something else and impair it, just like brining in another ability in Agon. “Toil” is the most likely, since I’m using a farming tool as a weapon. Let’s pretend I’m God’s gift to farming and have a d8 Toil, plus +2 for wielding the pitchfork in both hands. So that gives me 1d8 + 1d4 + 2 total offense, not all that bad. As for Defense, I haven’t used my one Battle ability for this round, since I had to bring in Toil and impair it, so I can use my pitiful d4 Evade.

Okay, well, say I’m getting attacked by a mercenary minion dual-wielding swords in both hands. All I have to do is hit him once and he’s dead (being a minion), but my Toil gets impaired every time I use it to fight with, so I’m not long for this world if I can’t hurt him early. Unfortunately, he gets to attack first, since he got a better positioning roll. However, he’s chosen to roll his Sword skill, which means he can’t bring in Evade or another ability without impairing it and currently has no dice assigned to Defense. A risky tactic? We shall see.

He attacks, rolling a 5. I can’t beat that with my d4 evade, but I roll anyway, getting a 2. So… that’s a level 3 Wound I have to take (since I have no armor). But not just yet! I could choose to use my pitchfork to try to block the blow, dropping the dice from both my Right and Left Hands into my Defense pool. That might not be a bad idea since, with another sword in his other hand, he’s probably going to make another, off-hand attack. However, that would mean I would lose the chance to attack myself and that’s not the best choice for me here. So I take the 3 Wound, which gives me a -2 to my next roll. Being smart, he decides to not attack with his off-hand. My turn.

Now I’m rolling 1d8 + 1d4 to attack, with the Wound penalty cancelling out the bonus for using both my hands on one weapon. I get a 6! The mercenary, having no dice in Defense, blocks with his sword by dropping his Left Hand dice into that pool. Does he succeed? Do I get him? I’ll leave you in suspense.

Here’s some complications to this scheme.

1. Ranged weapons and all guns (including handguns which count as Melee), cannot be blocked by Melee weapons; they can be Evaded or, if you have a Shield, you can roll that hand’s dice along with anything else you have in Defense (Evade, most likely).

2. Guns (of the one or two-handed variety) do lots of damage, but, at least if they’re the blackpowder variety, it takes a while to reload them. Reloading consumes both of your hands for the entirety of the next round or whichever later round you dedicate to reloading. You can still Evade or roll any other Defense dice, however. Setting up firing lines should actually work pretty well, here. You could fight in a Civil War or Napoleonic fashion, the line in back firing while the line in front spends the round reloading.

3. Also, handguns cannot be used to block, period. Two-handed guns can only be used to block if you have a bayonet or other such implement on them and, as with other weapons, have no attacked with it this round. Even then, any melee actions with a bayonet (attacking, blocking) have a -2 penalty, since that’s not what rifles are really meant for. Remember that before you order a bayonet charge.

Thoughts? Potential problems?

Agonia Heraldry

June 23, 2008

Character Creation in Agonia (2)

June 23, 2008

The character sheet reads like…

[Name], [Lineage] [Lineage Type] (Choose: Birth, Labor, Action, Battle) [Name Die]
Vassal of [Master] [Master’s Name Die]
[Class] [Class Bonuses] [Special Maneuvers]
[And Forgive Us Our Debts] [As We Forgive Our Debtors]
[Archangel] (Choose: Micha’el/Michael/Mikha’il, Gavri’el/Gabriel/Jibra’il, Rafa’el/Raphael/Rafa’il, Ezra’el/Azrael/Azra’il) [Favored Abilities] [Divine Favor]
[Vanities] (Glory-based Keys, basically) [Glory] [Unspent Advances]
[Corruption Track] (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12) [Corruption Die] [Afflictions]
Birth Abilities: [Insight] [Grace] [Might] [Spirit]
Labor Abilities: [Toil] [Craft] [Heal] [Lore]
Action Abilities: [Athletics] [Cunning] [Hunt] [Horse]
Battle Abilities: [Close] [Medium] [Ranged] [Defense]
Protective Gear: [Shield] [Armor] X X X
[Melee Weapons] (Chosen by Player)
[Ranged Weapons] (Chosen by Player)
[Wounds]

Dungeon Jam 3: Break On Through

June 23, 2008

To recap:
Dungeon Jam 1: The Dwarven Underground (jaywalt)
Dungeon Jam 2: The Elven Watchtowers (dev)

The first part of the mission to liberate Svartálfaheim was supposed to be easy: get out of town without the elvish watchmen knowing what you’re up to. If the Queen is alerted, well, that sword of hers is pretty harsh and if Svartálfaheim was going to be liberated by dead dwarves, surely they would have done so by now. With that in mind, the crew has recruited a few of the younger elves to the Underground’s cause, many of whom have parents or kinsmen (older siblings, uncles) who serve in the Queen’s Watch. They know when the watch rotation happens and have even gotten a few guards to agree to allow you all to sneak quietly past.

However… nothing ever goes according to plan. One member of the Underground was late to the midnight rendezvous (decide who and why). When they finally arrive, the bulk of the Queen’s Watch is fast on their tail (decide how they know). Time to leave, and fast!

Now, unfortunately, the Watch are alerted to your plans. On the way to the Svartálfar barrows that mark the outskirts of Svartálfaheim, the largest and most strictly guarded of the Queen’s towers stands, blocking the Road of Return to prevent escapades of exactly this nature. If you’re caught, you’re all dead, even the elvish youth, because the Queen doesn’t mess around with defying her laws or her Watch.

Guess it’s time to fight. Let’s just try not to kill any of your buddies relatives, yeah?

Character Creation in Agonia (1)

June 22, 2008

So I think this hack’s just called Agonia. First, it’s a Latin word from the same root as the Greek ἀγων, where Agon takes it’s name. Second, it means “agony,” specifically in reference to the Agonia Iesu in hortu Gethsemanie, the legendary suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before his trial and crucifixion, part of the Passion narrative. Third, I think the Church, in this particular setting, views the current period of Pestilence as Agonia Mundi, a time of righteous suffering for the entire world that precedes the Resurrection of the Dead (which may already be happening, with zombies and such), the Second Coming, and all that.

Character Creation, Part 1

Heritage

Where are you from? This is a specific community, not just a general geographic region, but the larger region determines what bonuses you get. You can also be from a community between two regions or have a mixed heritage. Maybe your family’s related to the Moorish knights of Cordoba, but your father was actually a merchant in Italy. In such a case, you select one bonus from each Homeland instead of two from one. Example regions (which include any on this map with a proximity to Europe):

The Caliphate of Cordoba
The Kingdom of Leon & Castille
The Holy Roman Empire
The Papal States
The Fatamid Caliphate
The Kingdom of Hungary
The Byzantine Empire
Rum (Suljuq Turkey)
The Kingdom of Damascus
The Kingdom of Jerusalem

Fealty

Who is your lord, your direct superior? Who do you serve? You get additional bonuses based on who they are, but not their rank. Serving a clergyman is the same as serving The Pope. Examples:

A Man/Lady of Wealth
A Man/Lady of God
A Man/Lady of Birth
A Man/Lady of Deeds
I Serve No One But God
I Serve Myself Alone

Aptitudes & Failings

Raising and lowering your base ability dice is done by describing Aptitudes and Failings. You are gifted at one thing, but generally less capable at something else. You start with up to four of each, with Aptitudes raising the base d6 to d8 and Failings lowering it to d4. You must take a Failing for each Aptitude, and vice-versa.

Battle Abilities & Weapons

Your initial Battle abilities and Weapons are determined by your Heritage. For example, the Muslim lands of Cordoba are renowned for their fine Andalusian horses and excellent steel swords, so a Cordoban’s primary Battle abilities would be Sword and Horse.

The Agony

June 21, 2008

These are notes for a crusaderpunk Agon hack inspired by Wormwood, Engel, and Dark Heresy.

Classes

Each class has a special ability unique to them and a number of other special abilities that they can purchase at character creation or with advances.

  • Presbyteri, “Clergy,” start with Shaping, which allows them to manipulate the surrounding environment by invoking prayers and commands. In combat, they can roll Spirit + Cunning, instead of their attack dice, and choose to move up to 3 Beast, Mortal, or Monster characters whose positioning roll they beat, including allies and themselves. Further advances can increase the number that can be moved to 5 or unlimited.
  • Machinae, “Machines” start with Armor of God, which gives them a d6 Armor die that can never be impaired further, and two levels of Armor (d8, d10) above that. With additional advances, the level of armor that cannot be impaired can be increased to d8 or d10.
  • Fratres Hospitalarii, the “Knights Hospitaller,” start with Healing Touch, which allow them to roll Spirit + Heal vs. a target’s Corruption + highest Wound level, with success healing the highest wound. Advances can allow them to heal the highest two wounds or all wounds.
  • Fratres Templarii, the “Knights Templar,” start with Dark Magicks, which allows them to roll Lore + Corruption vs. a target’s Spirit + Lore, with success giving them a penetrating wound that ignores armor. Advances allow these attacks to also increase a target’s Corruption.
  • Fratres Paenitentii, the “Knights Penitent” who have been redeemed from corruption, start with Inspire Terror, which operates similar to “Fear” in Agon, allowing them to roll Name + Spirit against opponents, with victory giving others a -2 to attack rolls against them. Advances can raise the penalty to -3 or -4.
  • Hostias Angelii, the “Angelic Hosts,” start with the Agon ability Swift, allowing them to move one space whenever they like. Advances can up this to 2 or 3 spaces per round.
  • Mercenares, “Mercenaries,” start with nothing but what they gain through Corruption.

Dungeon Jam 1: The Dwarven Underground

June 17, 2008

Dev and I are having a dungeon jam. This is the kick off post. I’ll link to others as we go.

Svartálfaheim was an ancient underground dwarven city. The Svartálfar generally worshipped Moradin the crafting god, but among them lived a sole starlight warlock who claimed he could glimpse the heavens even through fathoms of stone. This warlock, called the Skymind, was vexed by visions of impending doom that would destroy Svartálfaheim utterly. Being practical people, the dwarves placed their face in their artifice, building impressive fortifications and traps that would withstand any invasion. They were ready.

However, the Skymind, driven insane by visions of the horrors to come, somehow opened a portal to a plane of utter madness, bringing about the doom by his own hand. The 147th Grandchilde of Vecna (itself a demon godling) stepped through the portal and Svartálfaheim instantly became an orgy of chaos and destruction, with star-mad dwarves turning on their family members and themselves before being reborn as undead alien horrors.

The sole survivors of Svartálfaheim’s destruction were a few cautious families that had previously moved to the surface. Ruing the failure of their artifacts and war machines to prevent the disaster, they turned away from the worship of Moradin, honoring the Raven Queen as a conduit to the spirits of all those lost. The remaining Svartálfar were now a people wreathed with the ghosts of their dead. Every child was expected to memorize and recite the names of all the lost dwarven houses.

One hundred and forty-seven years later, the original survivors — still around, thanks to the dwarves’ lengthy lifespans — have instructed their grandchildren in the Svartálfar ways. And this new generation is determined to retake their homeland or die trying.

(Yes, so far, this is basically Gimli and his posse retaking Moria from the orcs and Balrog. Suck it.)

The Ghastly Inversion of Hellmouth Purgatorium

June 16, 2008

Just a campaign concept.

The Hellmouth is an immense crater, spewing fire, opening directly into the Abyss itself.

A lone tower stood within it, huddling close to the northeastern wall. Its base was rooted in Hell but its peak faced the eastern lip of the crater, an emissary sent into the mortal world. Demons built the tower as a passageway between the underworld and our own. They emerged from it, seized whom ever they could find, and dragged them back inside, where unspeakable horrors awaited.

There was also formerly an obsidian bridge, stretching from the top of the eastern slope to the tower’s highest window. Mortal kings would bring criminals and political prisoners to the lip of the Hellmouth, placing them into the hands of the eternally damned for “safe keeping.”

According to a promise made centuries ago to the gods, the demons of Hellmouth were forbidden from permanently claiming the righteous or the indifferent. Only evil souls belonged to them forever. Nevertheless, insufficiently corrupt individuals placed in their care by moral hands could be held for up to a fortnight before the gods demanded that they be released across the bridge. Predictably, the demons did their best to ensure that even a temporary visit to Hellmouth Purgatorium was a worthwhile one.

However, all this changed when the demons failed to uphold their part of the bargain. Lightning fell from the sky and tore through the obsidian bridge, shattering the connection between the Purgatorium and the mortal world. The tower itself up-ended, its point falling like a dagger into the heart of the Abyss. Currently, the Purgatorium still stands, but with it’s infernal foundation wreathed in the clouds and its peak buried in the center of the Hellmouth.

Unfortunately, your fortnight of incarceration, based on the dark whims of a local tyrant, had just begun when the gods rained fire on the bridge. Now, trapped in the peak of an upside-down tower embedded in hell, you and your companions have to fight your way back towards the surface, up towards the levels of the Purgatorium that were formerly closest to hell, where the foulest criminals and most hideous demons dwell. And, then, you have to find some way of getting out.

(Along the way, maybe you can figure out who the demons are holding, such that the gods smote them for their transgression.)