Thursday, July 31, 2014

Magical Item: Jewel of Whispers/The Dream Thief

The following is an "item" I wrote up for a contest James Raggi was having about a year ago. It wouldn't have seen the light of day, but today is Awesome Gamer Day and I want to share some stuff I've made.

Appearing as a large uncut ruby (150 sp), the artifact known as the Jewel of Whispers actually a creature that steals from those poor souls in its proximity by invading their dreams and removing from reality something related to the dream. However, the Jewel of Whispers does not simply steal from its victims. It also imparts ancient occult knowledge and prophecies to those who can listen.

The Jewel of Whispers will begin to affect the sleep of anyone who looks into the ruby in such a way that his shadow falls upon the stone. From that point on, the character’s dreams will be haunted by the jewel any time he sleeps within one mile of the artifact.

If struck with a silver weapon, the ruby will become fleshy and will be cut or crushed like a simple piece of meat. This artifact is in all actuality an ancient creature known as the Dream Thief. It is unknown if there is only one Dream Thief or if there is an entire race.

Any individuals under the spell of the Jewel of Whispers will have the same dream and suffer the same effect as dictated by the table below.

Nightmare and Effect Table


A vampire drains the blood of the dreamer as they lay paralyzed in bed. Upon waking, the dreamers will find that they have lost all blood from their body and will promptly die.
Opening a small chest, dreamers find their most valued childhood possession broken. Upon waking, the dreamers find their most valuable piece of jewelry or gemstone missing.
Dreaming of a great feast of their favorite foods, the dreamers find the beetles and maggots have infested every plate. Upon waking, the dreamers will find all food within a mile of the Jewel rotten.
Crows peck and gore at the eyes of the restrained dreamers. Upon waking the dreamers will find their eyes to be missing from their sockets.
Wandering in the wilderness, the dreamers watch in horror as insects blot out the sun. Upon waking, the dreamers find that all torches, lanterns and other sources of light will not take a flame.
Running from a shadowy creature, the dreamers finds that their legs are slow and sluggish. Upon waking, the dreamers find that their footwear is missing.
The dreamers see themselves as great steeds in a herd of wild horses. The herd is attacked and slaughtered by a pack of wolves. Upon waking, the dreamers will find all mounts missing.
Wandering through a vast desert, the dreamers come across an oasis. As they try  to drink from the pool, the water turns to sand in their mouths. Upon waking, the dreamers find that all drinking water within a mile has evaporated.
The dreamers suffer in agony as a legion of spiders hatch and pour from each ear. Upon waking, they find that they have been struck deaf as their eardrums are now missing.
At a great feast, the dreamers’ teeth begin to fall out as they eat and drink. Upon waking the dreamers’ teeth will be missing.
In a dream that seems to last an eternity, the dreamers plant tree after tree, only to have each one wither and die. Upon waking, all objects made of paper or wood are rotten. This includes spell books.
Finding themselves hideously deformed, the dreamers are shunned by friends and family. Children throw rocks at them and women flee from their sight. Upon waking, they will find any and all retainers missing.

Magic-Users under the spell of the Jewel of Whispers will learn a random spell each night of the Spell Level indicated by the following table. The spell learned is up to the Referee’s discretion. Each individual Magic-User roll for his own result.

Magic-User Spell Teaching Table

Spell Learned in Slumber
Random Level 9 Spell
Random Level 7 Spell
Random Level 5 Spell
Random Level 3 Spell
Random Level 1 Spell
Random Level 2 Spell
Random Level 4 Spell
Random Level 6 Spell
Random Level 8 Spell

Each Cleric under the spell of the Jewel will receive a prophecy from an avatar of their god during the dream. There is a 50% chance that the prophecy will be true, although the execution of the prophecy is up to the Referee’s discretion. Each individual Cleric rolls for his own result.

Cleric Prophecy Table

The dead will rise in the east.
The woman in white shall usher forth end.
A black cat will reveal the hidden truth.
The hermit will tell only lies, his mind clouded by the chattering of insects.
The whore will birth the queen. The queen with birth the sun.
Blood will be spilled upon the altar of the lost god.
Only the blind and the lame will see the final majesty.
Death await behind the fifth door.
A plague with rise in the west.
All great houses fall before the glory of the throne.
A blue man will bring great fortune and great sickness.
A dwarf will become king. A minstrel will become Pope.

The Order of Locusts

The following is a "monster" I wrote up for a contest James Raggi was having about a year ago. It wouldn't have seen the light of day, but today is Awesome Gamer Day and I want to share some stuff I've made.

Many believe the Order of the Locust to be boogymen dreamt up by academics who have lost their grip on reality after years of combing through volumes upon volumes of apocalyptic prophecy. It is said that the Order of the Locust is a mysterious cult that seeks out any works or artifacts pertaining to the end of the world. In order to collect works of prophecy and revelation, the Order of the Locust will use any means necessary, including murder.

Those who have recorded their encounters with this cult have corroborated the following facts. Only one member of the cult ever appears at one time, whether they are assassinating the holder of an eschatological work or attempting to steal it quietly. The cultists come from all walks of life, from simple farmers to skilled soldiers to members of the clergy. The one common trait between cultists is the three fresh puncture wounds on the back of the neck.

The name of the Order was coined three centuries ago by a prominent eschatologist. Although he could not ascertain the motivation of the Order, the apocalyptic nature of the cult was clear, thus it was named after an insect that plays a prominent role in many end world prophecies.

The Order of the Locust has taken interest in apocalyptic works from various cultures and religions, although it does not appear to have much interest in the popular narrative of the Book of Revelations or the works of the Gnostic Christians. It also appears that the Order takes some interest in works of occult science that pose a threat to the world itself.

The Truth of the Order

There is no such thing as the Order of Locusts. The people who appear to do its work are not part of a shadow society, but rather are under the possession of a single demonic entity.

This entity is compelled to collect and physically consume eschatological works and artifacts. Books are read and then torn to shreds before being eaten by the host. Statues and stone tablets are crushed and ground into dust so that they may be poured down the gullet of the possessed. Metal statues are to be melted down for easier consumption. Individuals who have expert knowledge in apocalyptic studies will find they brains to be a suitable meal for the demon.

The demonic entity has no identity of its own and does not seek out apocalyptic works for any precise reason. When asked for a reason, the entity will reply that it collects prophecies “to prepare.” It cannot go into more detail as there is no other motivation. While the entity has little concept of itself, it has an excellent memory and will engage in conversation with any individual that it encounters more than once.

Although the entity has no sense of identity, exorcisms will be more powerful if the cleric names the demon “Murmur.” Also, killing a host using silver or blessed weapons will leave the entity too weak to possess another host for 2d6 weeks.

The Deal with Zak S

Horrifying likeness by Matthew Adams
Zak S is not homophobic. He is not transphobic. He is not ableist. He is not racist. He is not a misogynist. He can be aggressive and occasionally immature with that aggression. Any claims that he is anything other than the occasional jerk are unsubstantiated and in some cases completely fabricated. No evidence has arisen of Zak's bigotry. These claims or libelous, hateful and petty.

And here's the real deal: Zak S has no power over you, your life or your enjoyment of the gaming hobby. 

Zak has been a controversial figure in the RPG world for a long as I can remember. He's passionate about the RPG hobby and has formed strong opinions that he will defend with the white-hot heat of Hell. He's the sort of guy who believes in universal truths in gaming and will call you out if you disagree with his universal truths. I found this out when I once +1'd a statement about level drain that he didn't like.

He also defends against any attacks to his friends and loved ones. Be an asshole to these people and he will likely call you a pigfucker. He will be relentless and will sometimes go a far as tag your Google Plus account to a post.

Because of this behavior, Zak has hurt plenty of people's feeling, but it needs to be stressed that these attacks on feelings have had nothing to do with sexuality, gender, race, ability or anything else other than opinions of games and personal attacks. Some of the people that Zak have made uncomfortable have been minorities, but that is irrelevant to whatever Zak may have said. Insulting someone who is transsexual is not the same as insulting someone for being transsexual. The distinction needs to be made.

The only time I can recall Zak making a questionable statement regarding transsexualism is when he called himself a "Grognard morphodite" in a Something Awful thread. He didn't know what the word "morphodite" meant and was using context cues from the film Stand By Me. The word sounds like a weird sort of monster, like a troglodyte, but turns out it is a dated derogatory synonym for "hermaphrodite." A transsexual member of the SA forum took offense and Zak defended his use of the word before eventually apologizing (repeatedly) for his ignorance and any offense. The apology was accepted. I stress that Zak not only admitted he was wrong but that the slur was directed to himself, not another person.

This is the only instance I've seen of Zak being insensitive to non-cisgendered people.If you know of a specific instance of any other offense, please let me know and provide a link or screenshot to the evidence. Thus far no one else has been able to.

Without being able to point to specific evidence of his bigotry, Zak's enemies have resorted to mental acrobatics to accuse him of toxicity. Below is an exchange Zak had on Twitter in which he is accused of forcing people to never play RPGs again because he did not publicly come out against the douchebaggery of unnamed others.
Click to make readable.

You cannot accuse someone of endorsing a behavior because they do not publicly denounce it. If that were the case, we would all be guilty of endorsing the most heinous acts because we don't actively say "No, sir, I don't like it."

All of this has come to a head because Zak is a credited consultant on the newest edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Mike Mearls, the big boss of D&D, publicly asked for any evidence of the bigotry of any of the consultants. None was found. The only complaints were of hurt feelings and vague accusations of harassment. As a result, Mearls has taken no action to publicly denounce his choice in consultants.

Ironically, the best source I know of regarding Mearl's reaction to the Zak controversy is in an anti-Zak post on the site Fail Forward. This article performs the incredible task of attacking Zak while offering no evidence and acknowledging that there is no evidence. This is not how you form an argument. It is, however, how you spread lies.

There must be proof if any accusation is to taken seriously. This is the basis of any legitimate legal system and it applies to petty matters in roleplaying games.

I am writing this, not to the people to hate or support Zak, but to the people who don't know who Zak Smith is but have heard some weird things and want to investigate. Thank you for reading this far and I hope you now understand that you don't need to worry about that Zak guy who's name appears in your copy of D&D. I hope that this has calmed any concerns you have and I hope you come to this simple conclusion regarding your enjoyment of roleplaying:


Zak, nor any other abrasive personality on the internet, cannot keep you from loving roleplaying games. He can't "force you out of the hobby." He cannot influence the way you play your game. Not unless you let him. If his words ever hurt your feelings, rest assured that your feelings will heal and you can move on. This applies to any other person on the internet, on either side of any position, anonymous or named. The only person who has any real power over how you have fun is you.

I'd like to end this by saying that I like Zak. I think he's a brilliant DM and I'm so glad he shares his creations on his blog. I cannot think of any other blogger who has influenced the way I run D&D and I'm glad for it. One time I posted on G+ about how the guy playing Superman in a convention game of DC Heroes was a jerk and sullied my fun. Zak was the only person who talked to me about it and I honestly felt better afterwards, talking about it like to grown-up gamemasters. He's a cool guy.

Zak earned his spot on the list of D&D consultants. He may be a jerk now and then, but who isn't? It doesn't even matter because D&D 5e edition is awesome and we can all have a lot of fun with it.

Let's just have fun.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Uninformed Opinion on the 2014 Ennie Award Nominees.

The nominees for the 2014 ENnies awards have been posted and I don't know what 90% of this stuff is. Was I completely out of the loop in 2013? I feel like that was probably my most attentive year regarding mainstream RPGs. Looking over the lists, I'd think I was in a coma for the entire year if it weren't for the release of Shadowrun 5e and Razor Coast.

However, having a pathetically inadequate knowledge of something has never prevented me from forming an opinion about it. Here are my picks for the 2014 Ennies.

Best Adventure: Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies. Haven't read it. Could have if the ToC Bundle of Holding was more successful. I'm still bitter about that. Regardless, it's a campaign for Trail of Cthulhu, which makes it pretty awesome.

Best Aid/Accessory: Noteboard. The only accessory on the list that looks actually usable for most GMs. 

For all that is holy, please don't vote for the Fate Eldritch Dice. They are just fudge dice and they don't even have the best color scheme of all the dice set that Evil Hat made.

Best Art, Interior: Numenera. I don't know much about this game, but I've been consistently impressed with all the artwork associated with it. Shadows of Esteren is a close second.

Best Art, Cover: Razor Coast. Honestly, none of these are great covers. Busy art with a million characters throwing magic missiles does not impress me. That shark guy is probably the only cool thing in this category.

Best Blog: Illuminerdy. The only nominated blog I remember visiting in the past year. I don't remember what brought me there but I enjoyed the stay. 

Best Cartography: Qelong. I don't know shit about the maps in any of the nominated books. I do know what Jez Gordon was robbed for his amazing work in Qelong.

Best Electronic Book: Faerie Tales from Unlit Shores: Prince Charming, Reanimator. This is the only book on this list that I even recognize. As such, I assume it's the only one that made any impression on games as a whole. 

Best Family Game: Camp Myth: The RPG. It takes place at a summer camp for mythological beings. From what I've heard from podcasts, the system is pretty dandy too.

Best Free Product: Super Powers Companion Villain Supplement. It's about 15 pages of stats and write ups for generic supervillains for Savage Worlds. It doesn't attempt to sell you anything. Is pure function. (By the way, quickstart rules should be banned.)

Best Game: Pass. The only one I have read on this list is Fate Core. Consider this a unvote for Fate.

Best Miniatures Products: Whisper & Venom Collector's Set. This must have been a rough year for minis or mini producers just don't care about the Ennies. Still, the minis in the Whisper & Venom set are very cool and instantly made me regret not getting in on the Kickstarter.

Best Monster/Adversary: Creature Decks. I saw these at Gen Con and had a hard time passing them up. Monsters are made to be on cards.

Best Podcast: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff. I can't believe I was so slow to actually listen to this podcast. It's Ken Hite and Robin Laws talking about various things that are always relevant to my interests. What more can you ask for?

Best Production Values: Whisper & Venom Collector's Set. Seriously impressive for an independent publisher.

Best RPG-Related Product: Strange Tales of the Century. Seems to be the only usable product in this list. I don't understand RPG soundtracks as they seem like more trouble than they are worth at the table. And that card game definitely shouldn't have counted. 

Best Rules: Pass. Like "Best Game," I didn't read most of these books. The only one I did read is Fate Core. While they seem like pretty good rules on the surface, most of the chatter I hear about the game is people not understanding how to actually run the game. That's not the sign of a good rule set.

Best Setting: Numenera. Sci-fi high fantasy is something we needed this last year. 

Best Supplement: M&M: Power Profiles. Seems like many of the books in this category are companion pieces to very recently published games. Sort of seems like the stuff that should be included in the core books. The Power Profile books isn't that, so that's why I like it more than the others.

Best Software: Old School Monsters Database. There needs to be more good RPG apps for Android and this seems like a step in the right direction. 

I did kickstart Wild Card Creator and the software shows a lot of promise. Unfortunately, the last time I used the program it was buggy and missed key features that prevented it from being at all usable. It's an ambitious piece of software that is maintained by just one guy.

Best Writing: Doctor Who RPG: The Third Doctor Sourcebook. Haven't read it, but if it stands up to the standards of the other Doctor Who game books, this it a good one.

Best Website: See Page XX. Why are most of these sites so fucking ugly? See Page XX has tolerable design and is usable at the table. Tabletop Audio seems cool for people who use music at the table.

Product of the Year: Fuck if I know. My hunch tells me that Fate Core will get it as they made a huge splash with it and people are still riding the high that comes with vague, theoretically malleable rules. I suppose I'm rooting for tremulus, which appears to be the dark horse candidate.

By the way, I've nominated myself as a judge for the 2015 ENnie Awards. Please vote for me. I can't make promises, but I would do my best to keep a card game from getting nominated for anything.

Friday, July 11, 2014

East/West Bowl Random Name Generator

Use the following list to provide names for any player too lazy to come up with their own or aren't happy with any of the other perfectly reasonable random names you've given them. Roll a 1d100. Reroll on 96 - 100, or just call them Huka'lakanaka Hakanakaheekalucka'hukahakafaka.

A punctuation guides follow the list.

  1. Saggitariutt Jefferspin
  2. D'Glester Hardunkichud
  3. Swirvithan L'Goodling-Splatt
  4. Quatro Quatro
  5. Ozamataz Buckshank
  6. Beezer Twelve Washingbeard
  7. Shakiraquan T.G.I.F. Carter
  8. X-Wing @Aliciousness
  9. Sequester Grundelplith M.D.
  10. Scoish Velociraptor Maloish
  11. T.J. A.J. R.J. Backslashinfourth V
  12. Eeeee Eeeeeeeee
  13. Donkey Teeth
  14. Torque (Construction Noise) Lewith
  15. The Adventurer Formerly Known as Mousecop
  16. Dan Smith
  17. D'Marcus Williums
  18. T.J. Juckson
  19. T'varisuness King
  20. Tyroil Smoochie-Wallace
  21. D'Squarius Green, Jr.
  22. Ibrahim Moizoos
  23. Jackmerius Tacktheritrix
  24. D'Isiah T. Billings-Clyde
  25. D'Jasper Probincrux III
  26. Leoz Maxwell Jilliumz
  27. Javaris Jamar Javarison-Lamar
  28. Davoin Shower-Handel
  29. Hingle McCringleberry
  30. L'Carpetron Dookmarriot
  31. J'Dinkalage Morgoone
  32. Xmus Jaxon Flaxon-Waxon
  33. Coznesster Smiff
  34. Elipses Corter
  35. Nyquillus Dillwad
  36. Bismo Funyuns
  37. Decatholac Mango
  38. Mergatroid Skittle
  39. Quiznatodd Bidness
  40. D'Pez Poopsie
  41. Quackadilly Blip
  42. Goolius Boozler
  43. Bisquiteen Trisket
  44. Fartrell Cluggins
  45. Blyrone Blashinton
  46. Cartoons Plural
  47. Jammie Jammie-Jammie
  48. Fudge
  49. Equine Ducklings
  50. Dahistorius Lamystorius
  51. Ewokoniad Sigourneth JuniorStein
  52. Eqqsnuizitine Buble-Schwinslow
  53. Huka'lakanaka Hakanakaheekalucka'hukahakafaka
  54. King Prince Chambermaid
  55. Ladennifer Jadaniston
  56. Ladadadaladadadadada Dala-Dadaladaladalada
  57. Harvard University
  58. Morse Code
  59. Wingdings
  60. Firstname Lastname
  61. God
  62. Squeeeeeeeeeeps
  63. Benedict Cumberbatch
  64. A.A. Ron Balakaye
  65. Creme De La Creme
  66. Cosgrove Shumway
  67. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  68. Doink Ahanahue
  69. Legume Duprix
  70. Leger Douzable
  71. Quisperny G'Dunzoid Sr.
  72. Grunky Peep
  73. D'Brickashaw Ferguson
  74. Strunk Flugget
  75. Stumptavian Roboclick
  76. Cornelius 'Tank' Carradine
  77. Vagonius Thicket-Suede
  78. Marmadune Shazbot
  79. Swordless Mimetown
  80. Prince Amukamara
  81. J.R. Junior Juniors Jr.
  82. Faux Doadles
  83. Fozzy Whittaker
  84. Myriad Profiteroles
  85. Busters Brownce
  86. Turdine Cupcake
  87. Rerutweeds Myth
  88. Ishmaa'ily Kitchen
  89. Takittothu' Limit
  90. Snarf Mintz-Plasse
  91. Frostee Rucker
  92. Splendiferous Finch
  93. Triple Parakeet-Shoes
  94. Logjammer D'Baggagecling
  95. A.A. Ron Rodgers