sabato 22 aprile 2023

Longtailed Ironbeak - Creatures of Aurora - Riding Beasts

Known as “The Kicker”, this flightless bird is one of the most common means

of transportation in Aurora. It’s fast and rather unpredictable but comes cheap.

The Kicker is not one to shy away from battle and its legs can deal grueling



domenica 21 novembre 2021

Helveczia Role Playing Game

So: I've been absent for a loooong time from this blog, with the effect that it DOEd just after its birth. Never been good at keeping up projects.

Today I was taking a look at old posts, mostly idling, and I thought: I have to write something about Gabor's new game. A game I'm currently playing with Gabor as a gamemaster, which is not only a privilege but an incredible lesson in superb gamemastering. Gabor, even within the limitations of online rolld20 gaming, brings new meaning to the "old school" experience. But this post is not about his skills as a narrator, it's about his new game: Helveczia.

Helveczia is a fantastical take on Europe, and in particular Switzerland, in the late XVII century, driven by an OD&D-inspired rule system which is tailored on the setting. Easy, fun, deadly and absolutely different from everything else on the market.

Why different? Have you ever wanted to play picaresque adventures where Munchausen-like braggadocio meets Grimm-like macabre fairytales? Where you can actually play cards with the Devil or randomly quote the Bible to obtain in-game benefits? Where your virtue may be so high as to give you saving throw bonuses or so low as to help you in sinful violence? If you have this is your game.

First you choose your nationality (every nation comes with pros and cons), then your class: vagabond, military, priest (with miracles,) or student (with access to magic). Then you can plunge in one of densest hexcrawls in memory, fully detailed in the supplement that comes with the boxed set. And what a boxed set! Hardcover manual, regional supplement, a deck of Hungarian cards, maps galore, screen, sheets, calendar and some more.

This is an incomparable resource for playing any pseudo-historical campaign, high on folklore and adventure, with plenty of striking and grotesque situations which can turn funny or horrific, depending on your tastes.

In our ongoing campaign I already lost two characters: a wildly mischievious italian vagabond and german priest who started as coward but ultimately became an heroic devil hunter. I'm already thinking at how good it could be to set the game in Southern Italy or Venice: with its canals and masked intrigue. Possibilities are endless and easily attainable, thanks to the vault of advice that Gabor writes in the second part of the book. Advice that doubles as a must-read OSR guide on gaming. 

You can find it through the Beyond Fomalhaut blog and related store. Miss it at your own risk. 

martedì 26 maggio 2020

The Temple of Pulchra Morte

I've been absent from this Blog for a very long time and a lot of stuff happened: I lost my father and the World was struck by a Pandemic. I never stopped playing, luckily, even if I had to migrate my group to Rolld20, not as bad as it sounds, when all's said and done, especially if you're running an OSR campaign.

This is my first little contribution to world of dungeon making. It's free for you to download and sorely needs more playtesting. The Temple its a three-sector dungeon, every sector has about 20 rooms. It can be placed in any setting with minimal stress. Don't want to spoiler it, in case you're a player.

Enjoy and waiting for feedbacks!

giovedì 4 aprile 2019

Putting "Role" back into "Role-Playing"

"We play dungeons, not characters". I read this slogan and found it quite funny and smart. It says a lot about the need many of us felt to go back to our roots, before games became too verbose and complicated. I fear, though, that some may take it too literally.

If you start this hobby thinking you're going to play some kind of tactical skirmish game set inside a fantasy dungeon, with added gestional elements, you might want to grab a copy of Heroquest, or one of his too many spawns. Think about it: you're into something that is called "Role-Playing". I guess "Role" must play a pretty important part in the show ... say: at least 50%?

I've been into a heavy storytelling for a long time and I'm the first to admit that it can get very frustrating and emotionally stressing. It's difficult for the gamemaster to prepare, relies on a generous dose of wild improvisation and suffers from a lack of real decision making for the players, because, you know ... if the story is so important usually it must go in a precise direction, whatever the players do. That is called "railroading" and if everyone agrees about its necessary evil it can be fun. We had fun with it. We played characters, not dungeons. We staged entire fictional lives.

In these days, playing AD&D 1st edition, in its Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea incarnation, I'm looking at simplicity and fun. This doesn't mean that I renounced playing NPCs or that my players have blank stereotypes instead of PCs. Things can be done with measure. Balance is the mother of success (and good fun). 

Too often I see groups playing like many of us did at the very start of the hobby: using only the third person. So, here's my dime on how to put the role back into role-playing, with little or no effort:

  1. Use the first person and have your players use it. No: I ask the barkeeper for some beer. Yes: "Hey you! Bring us some beer!". Just that. It hasn't to be acting. Remove the third person filter: it can be very very liberating. 
  2. Promote 1 by having the group joined by a couple of NPCs who interact with them in the first person and have very distinct personalities. They can be your active voice in the game, which is useful too. 
  3. Lights out. Play by candle light. Visual distractions have to be removed. You don't want your players commenting your book collection while you try to set a mood. Only the table has to be visible. 
  4. Use music. Once I had a lot of spare time and noted single songs for every scene. Now I don't and use mostly background music. In the Spotify era this is much simpler than it was in the 90's. You need artist's names? Just write me. 
The best hing? We can have dungeons and characters and be very happy about them all. 

martedì 26 marzo 2019

Thoughts on (#1): Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition

I played Warhammer 1st edition for many years. I loved everything about it: the setting, the amazing artwork, the simple rules, the euro-renaissance look, Chaos, the chance to have players start as common folk (rat catchers!), the funny and terse writing. Middenhein is one of the best city systems ever. Power Behind the Throne, in my humble opinion, the best city adventure ever.

I bought the second edition and played some years more. I was glad to have new material. Didn't care much for the new rules and magic system. Didn't care either for most of the new artwork. You know: Warhammer RPG identified so strongly with its illustrations ... John Blanche, Dave Adrews, Will Rees, Ian Miller, etc. They pushed you inside a very different vision of Fantasy: mangy individuals dressed in rags, cities where roofs touched each other, rivers that looked like sewers, demons that were more nightmares than hulking threats ...

Adrian Smith - Realms of Chaos

All these good things, this atmosphere, was already going away through the 2nd edition. But it was still tolerable, even if many books were just too long while saying too little (filler, filler, filler) and the new adventures almost amateurish.

I skipped the 3rd edition entirely. Don't really care for RPG-boardgame hybrids.

Had the chance to skim through a physical copy of the fourth the other day, at my local store. I felt a little like vomiting. Cubicle 7 has this power of using the same style of artwork for all of his games: you have Tolkien and Lone Wolf looking the same (no Gary Chalk? That's murder!). Now you have Warhammer in the exact same palette but with a disreputable amount of D&D 3 - 4 - 5 thrown in. You know ... those things that sell ...
Everyone has big muscles. There are no more commoners. You're a rat catcher? You're probably a hulk too. Everything is kind of greyish, greenish, maroonish and absolutely devoid of magic, dynamism or atmosphere. Monsters are unrecognazible (just use the 3.5 Monster Manual).

idontknowwho - WFRP 4th edition

I don't think, as many say, that this is the effect of Fantasy Battle ichoring its venom on the RPG. It's more of a cultural thing. It's just massification. Let's print products with little personality, so they're going to be good for most of the people. It's like Disney - Marvel - Lucasfilm.

Sometimes I eat at fast-foods. I just don't want to dwell there for a three-years campaign. My fault. We'll se what they do with the Enemy Whithin Reloaded. I probably won't be there to know. 

lunedì 25 marzo 2019

The Vermin Menagerie #2: the Cobbleroach

It took millennia for the Cobbleroach to adapt to the city environment. And adapt he did, to the point of becoming virtually invisible to the eyes of his predators.
Covered by a cubic mass of chitinous exoskeleton (which opens to let it use its wings) capable of being stepped-on by foot, hoof or cartwheel, the Cobbleroach mimics cobblestones, positioning himself to rest where one is missing or displaced. Streets in particular disrepair may attract a multitude of the creatures, spending the day in disguise and moving during the night in search of prey.

Cobbleroaches hunt in swarms of 5-50 (5d10) individuals and are carnivorous, their diet being composed of lizards, rats, cats, small dogs and, occasionally, drunkards sleeping in secluded alleys.

What is left looks like the victim of a Piranha attack but Cobbleroaches are way slower to chew their prey, so it must be relatively small or utterly helpless. If the sleeping homeless wakes up and proves to have a fight in him the roaches reaction very much depends on their number. But beware: their clicking call can summon 5 - 50 other fellow chewers in 1d12 rounds.  Desperate yelping or meowing at night might mean some stray or pet is being chased and eaten alive.

Cobbleroaches are quite helpless during the day, their predators are mainly cats and dogs, able to sniff them and use their paws to dislocate the insect and overturn it.

Cobblepickers are industrious individuals who roam the city armed with 4 feet long batons that end with some homemade iron point, they patiently test loose or suspicious cobblestones and, if they turn out to be vermin, skewer them. City authorities pay 25cp per insect killed and use their exoskeletons to manifacture inserts for leather armor.

Cobbleroach: HP 1 - AC 4 (exoskeleton) - bite, damage: 1 (single) - 1d4 (2 to 10) - 1d6 (10 to 20) - 1d8 (20 to 30) - 1d10 (30 to 40) - 1d12 (40 to 50) - 1d20 (50 +). Swarm attacks as single creature - If PC hits roll normal damage -2 to see how many are killed. XP: 20 each

sabato 23 marzo 2019

The Vermin Menagerie #1: the Roofer or Stinging Spider Dog

Possibly the result of some magic experiment gone wrong, the Roofers, or Stinging Spider Dogs, live in the city since time immemorial. Authorities loathe them and offer 1 gold crown per fresh carcass. You'll soon discover why.

These vermins' heads remind of those of giant fruit bats, furry and cute. Their body looks like that of a small dog, with four conventional legs and eight huge spider-like extra legs protruding from their belly. The tail is that of a scorpion, ending with a sting that constantly drips a dense, dark ichor. 

Roofer are nocturnal animals and live in family groups of 4 to 12 individuals. They are omnivorous, hunting for small rodents, birds, insects and scavenging for fruit, seeds and other human-related imports. Thy're filthy, mangy creatures, impervious to disease but ideal as disease carries. 

Thy can run on their dog legs or crawl with the spider ones, climbing any kind of surface. When the spider appendages are not in use they are retracted under the belly in a dark, hairy cluster that makes them seem even more pot-bellied than they naturally are. 

Their name comes from the fact that they tend to hide under roofs, inide attics or under gutters, sleeping through the daylight hours in tight, furry groups. 

Roofers are not aggressive towards humans, on the contrary: they'd be perfect pets. The problem is: when they're happy they have an innatural compulsion to sting their benefactors. Their venom causes severe drowsiness for 1d4 hours, not unlike a generous dose of liquor, followed by vomit and uncontrollable shivering for 1d2 hours. 

In the slums of the city, the poorest and most deperate citizens use their venom as a free alternative to drugs and spirits. Some breed Roofers (who are extremely happy to comply), coming to live very short lives in a state of perpetual stupor. This is why the city authorities pay good money for their extermination. 

Their call sounds like that of hungry kittens, but they use it rarely, having adapted at being hunted. They're clever and see perfectly in the dark. 

Roofer: 1HD, AC6 (fast), 2 attacks: bite (1d3 - 35% of contracting some disease) and sting (save vs. poison or see above, starting in 1d4 minutes), experience 50, treasure none, saves as small animal (dog). 

New Class: Roofer Hunter - progression as thief - HD 1d6 - climb as thief - move silently as thief - hide as thief - resistance to poison (-5 to saving throws vs. poison) - immunity to disease - follows tracks in urban environment on a INT test - at 5th lvl gains 2 apprentices - at 9th lvl an office.
Trappings: small uber-faithful, smart, ferocious dog - sack - 10 feet pole ending with rusty hook.