Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mandela Effect, A Spell for LotFP Modern

Magic-User Level 1
Duration: 1 Hour/level
Range: Global
By casting this spell the magic-user is able to change one inconsequential detail about the world. For the duration of the spell this change will have always been true and no evidence to the contrary exists.  The caster will know the truth of the matter, as will any persons aware of the spell being cast and the intended effect. Any other characters will make a saving throw against magic. Success of this throw means that character has retained all memories of the original reality and will not be able to fully accept the new "truth," although they can be convinced of having misremembered the details.

The change in reality must be minuscule and cannot effect any past events although the change will be made throughout time. Once the duration of the spell is over, reality will snap back to its original state, erasing any evidence of the change. Examples of acceptable changes would be altering the spelling of the Berenstain Bears name, removing Curious George's tail, and changing a line in Disney's Cinderella.

See the below video to watch this spell in action.

How Did My 2015 RPG Predictions Pan Out?

- Roleplaying games will become more popular. I've got no real way of knowing this, but it does seem that the hype of D&D 5e has settled down. I haven't seen D&D penetrating other pop culture like movies or TV, but maybe I'm just missing it.

- Wizards of the Coast will announce the sale of 5e PDFs late in the year. There was the free PDF player's guide to Princes of the Apocalypse, but none of the 5e print products have been released in PDF.

- WotC won't release very many new D&D books but there will be a new Forgotten Realms setting book and it will be praised for being the best version of the Realms yet. There were very few releases from WotC this year, but one of them was a Forgotten Realms setting book. However, this book has been panned by anyone I've seen actually read it.

- No official D&D electronic tools. Really? I whole fucking year without a character builder? I wanted to be wrong about this one. They've outsourced the virtual tabletop to Fantasy Grounds, but I don't think that counts.

- Likewise, Project Morningstar will non-existent by the end of the year. The Kickstarter campaign failed and I can't find any actual news about the project, so I think it's safe to call it dead.

- There will be a lot of A Red & Pleasant Land hacks, but the best one will be A Red & Pleasant World. To be honest, I'm a little let down at how little has been done with R&PL. I'm also at fault here, having read only 50 or so pages in before being distracted by something else shiny. I was hoping that I would put together A Red and Perfect World, but I fell out of love with the Apocalypse Engine some time in the spring.

- Lamentations of the Flame Princess will release (almost) all of the many miscellaneous adventures from all those crowd-funding projects. Probably all at once along with the Referee Book. I was very wrong about this. I think there was one or two PDF releases. Here's hoping the best for next year!

- The RPG clique war will be quiet for most of the year. There won't be any major controversies. More and more people learn to co-exist. It really was mostly quiet. Drama would flair up when events provoked the most volatile characters, like Zak laying waste to the Ennie awards, but people didn't just start shit for the sake of being fuckards and I liked that.

- The line between storygames and D&D will blur to the point of irrelevance. Eh. Not really? I was expecting a lot of weird experimental D&D stuff this year and I don't think it really happened.

- Fantasy Flight announces a new Warhammer Fantasy Role Play edition that will marry the older editions with the current 40k RPGs. Nope and now I don't think it will ever happen.

- Troll Lord will run eight different Kickstarter campaigns. Troll Lord had a total of five Kickstarter campaigns launched in 2015, which is way more than I was honestly expecting. I was being sarcastic with this prediction but Troll Lord loved them some crowdfunding. I think it's worth noting that the final campaign was canceled due to slow funding. It seems to me that Troll Lord has been loosing a lot of steam due to their reliance on crowdfunding and the number of projects they promote through it. Kickstarter has basically become their business model. While I think that Troll Lord does a decent enough job with their products, their big Castles and Crusades campaign from 2014 is still not completely fulfilled and in the time from the launch of the campaign until now, C&C has gone from my favorite version of D&D to a game that has completely lost my interest.

- The inevitable Unknown Armies 3e Kickstarter will be a huge success. Things get really crazy while post-modern conspiracy and chaos magick becomes the flavor of the month. No kickstarter and really not much word on this project for a while. I've heard some of names associated with the third edition and now I really could not care less if this ever comes out.

- There will be another huge Reaper Kickstarter. It's a massive success but somehow puts Reaper out of business. No one gets their Bones 2 packages as a result. Reapers Bones III. My sarcastic conditions of Reaper going out of business and people not getting their packages didn't pan out

DC Heroes will see a resurgence in popularity. Not sure what I was thinking with this one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Submit your RPG wish to Secret Santicore. I might even fulfill it!

It's that time of year again. Time to beg the malevolent elder god Santicore for your RPG content desires. Want something for your game that doesn't seem to exist yet, ask Santicore! All you have to do is write or draw something someone else in exchange.

I haven't written anything on this blog for months because I've been in a general funk and complete block when it comes to games. I've made my request to Santicore and look forward to whatever terrible task he has in store for me, in hopes that it will kickstart my gamey juices.

You only have until this Friday to submit your request, so do it quick!

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Charm Monster ENnies Voting Guide 2015 Edition

The Judges

For the most part, the voting in of ENnies judges is like a popularity contest, except I'm sure more of us don't know who the fuck most of these people are.  Allow me to help and point out who should be popular and why:
  • Kiel Cheiner runs the awesome blog Dungeons and Donuts and has already proven he's good at reviewing and discerning excellent material. 
  • Harald Wagener is someone I've seen around on G+ and seems like a generally cool guy.
One thing you might want to keep in mind is who the incumbent judges are. This is good in case you want more controversies about unlicensed fan hacks becoming Product of the Year. The incumbents are:
  • Jakub Nowosad
  • Kayra Keri Kupcu
  • Stacy Muth
  • Kurt Wiegel
  • Honorable Mention: Hooper, who had been a judge until 2014. 
Seriously, if you want the ENnies to regain some dignity, don't re-elect these people.

Onto the fun stuff! Here are my picks for products in the various categories. 
  • Best Adventure: Red and Pleasant Land. Hands down the best product to come out this year. It should win every category it was nominated for and also some it wasn't. 
  • Best Aid/Accessory: DungeonMorph Dice: Explorer Set. These dice are a super cool way to make random dungeons.
  • Best Art, Interior: Interface Zero or D&D Monster Manual. 
  • Best Art, Cover: Mutant: Year Zero. Look them all up yourself, but I think that Mutant is a step above the rest. 
  • Best Blog: Contessa. An excellent blog about women in gaming.
  • Best Cartography: Ninth World Guidebook. I'm a bit ignorant on this category, but I have seen samples from Ninth World Guidebook and they were gorgious. 
  • Best Electronic Book: Basic Rules for D&D. Could use some more art, but the content of the text (the best new game for free) makes up for that.
  • Best Family Game: Doctor Who Adventures in Space and Time. This game needs more love. It's a solid game and would be accessible for younger gamers.
  • Best Free Product: Basic Rules for D&D. See above.
  • Best Game: D&D Player's Handbook. It might seem strange voting for the big name over the underdogs, but D&D 5e is a seriously good game. The best I've seen published this year.
  • Best Miniature: Pathfinder Pawns. I like cardboard minis like this. We should encourage their creation.
  • Best Monster/Adversary: D&D Monster Manual. Great art, great selection of monsters and the format of the entries are all excellent. 
  • Best Podcast: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff. It's Kenneth Hite and Robin Laws talking about stuff, usually interesting stuff. Obviously the best podcast possible.
  • Best Production Values: Red and Pleasant Land, but since it wasn't nominated, Horror on the Orient Express is a good alternative. 
  • Best RPG Related Product: Chicks Dig Gaming.
  • Best Rules: D&D Player's Handbook. See above.
  • Best Setting: Red and Pleasant Land. See above.
  • Best Supplement: D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. The best DMG I've seen for D&D yet. 
  • Best Software: Fuck if I know. I live in the distant past. 
  • Best Writing: Red and Pleasant Land. See above.
  • Best Website: Age of Ravens. Lowell's histories of RPGs are the bomb. 
  • Fans’ Choice for Best Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Goodman Games both had amazing years.
  • Product of the Year: Red and Pleasant Land. Without a doubt, this is the defining product of 2015. It should become the gold standard of RPG books. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

An Unlicensed Fan-Hack Has Been Nominated for Three ENnies.

The nominees for the 2015 ENnies Awards have been posted and I can't say that I'm surprised by many of the names appearing. D&D 5e appears in several categories and will likely win all of them. Zak Smith's A Red and Pleasant Land has four nominations and should win all of them.

But one very surprising nominee is the Mass Effect FATE game. "What Mass Effect game?" you might ask, not recalling the release of a game using such a hugely popular property. You wouldn't have remembered this huge release because it didn't happen. The Mass Effect game that hold three ENnies nominations is an unlicensed fan hack. 

I have no problems with people taking one cool thing and finding a way to make it work at the game table. I especially like it when they make it nice and polished and then give it away for free. (And of course they have to give it away because they don't own the property.) This DIY spirit is what makes RPGs such a fun hobby. But one of the most prestigious awards in the industry is not the place for fan hacks, even the best of them. 

The Mass Effect FATE RPG has been nominated for Best Free Product, Best Electronic Product, and (in what can only be seen as a slap in the face to anyone working with original IP) Product of the Year. For every one of those nominations, a wholly original or officially licenced game was excluded.

This is a low point for the ENnies. My past gripes with the award have been that the nominated products have been boring or substandard, but this is something else altogether. Nominating the hack for an award legitimizes it as a "real RPG product," which it certainly is not. It should never have been submitted for consideration and the judges should definitely have removed it from the running. But there it is, possibly about to become the defining RPG product of 2015. 

Best case scenario, the hack will go unnoticed by the voting public and the ENnies will enact stricter submission guidelines. Worst case, the creator of the hack will get a C&D letter from Electronic Arts and the ENnies will loose all credibility from here on out.

UPDATE: The ENnies have done the right thing and disqualified the Mass Effect game. The game has also been removed from its own site, which make me think that the author is either having a tantrum or has been contacted by owners of the Mass Effect IP.

Friday, April 10, 2015

On Tieflings and Their Horns

In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox. With them he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth. Deuteronomy 33:17

It is no mystery that at the tiefling race is born from the unholy union of man and demon, although the specific nature of that union may never be uncovered by mortal scholars. Just as the race of man manifests itself in a multitude of skin tones, so does the tiefling race find diversity in the many shapes and characteristic of their horns. Just as legions of different demons bring pestilence to the earth, so are there differences in the physical features of this infernal race. 

Parentage has no bearing on the type of horns that a tiefling will grow. If anything influences the growth of these horns, it is the stars or the flippant will of dark gods. 

Each type of horn imbues a different set of abilities upon the tiefling in the form of its Infernal Legacy spells. The spells on the following tables replace those that appear in the Players Handbook.

Horn Manifestation
Infernal Legacy Spells
Short and blunt, like that of a young goat.
First level: Thaumaturgy cantrip. third level: Hellish Rebuke; fifth level: Darkness
Large, long and sharp, like that of a great steer.
First level: Prestidigitation cantrip. third level: Protection from Evil and Good; fifth level: Hold Person
Thick and curving backwards, like that of a ram.
First level: Guidance cantrip. third level: Longstrider; fifth level: Beast Sense
Tall, many-pronged antlers, like that of an elk.
First level: Druidcraft cantrip. third level: Speak with Animals; fifth level: Pass without Trace
Long and tall, spiraling widely like that of an antelope.
First level: Dancing Lights cantrip. third level: Color Spray; fifth level: Mirror Image
Smooth, stout and sharp, like that of a bull.
First level: Blade Ward cantrip. third level: Armor of Agathys; fifth level: Hold Person
Long and tightly ridged, like that of a gazelle.
First level: True Strike cantrip. third level: Expeditious Retreat; Fifth level: Blur
Thick at the skull, swooping downwards and up again, like that of the musk ox.
First level: Thaumaturgy cantrip. third level: Sanctuary; fifth level: Zone of Truth
Large, pointing forward with deadly sharp points, like that of the auroch.
First level: Spare the Dying cantrip. third level: Command; fifth level: Silence
Spiraling wildly and at uneven lengths, like that of the chimera and the monstrous.
First level: Eldritch Blast cantrip. third level: Hex; fifth level: Crown of Madness
Long and rough, curling in on themselves many times over, like that of the Sun Goat.
First level: Thaumaturgy cantrip. third level: Cure Wounds; fifth level: Spiritual Weapon
Made of gnarly ironwood, like the branches of a cursed tree.
First level: Mage Hand cantrip. third level: Unseen Servant; fifth level: Spider Climb

An avatar of the Sun Goat.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

They Know!

Whenever a character partakes in a psychoactive intoxicant for recreational purposes within civilized space, roll a d12. The is a one in twelve chance that the character will be consumed by an overwhelming sense of dread and paranoia. They will believe that a mysterious but malevolent authority is now aware of their activity. There is a one in twelve chance that the player is correct.

The mind-killers are a race of psychic creatures that feed of a cocktail of hormones and narcotic residue within the adrenal medulla. To find their prey, the mind-killers make use of a psychic network that connects most civilized worlds. A person partaking in a illicit substance is like a beacon to the mind-killers. A bell signalling lunch. 

In order to properly marinate their victim, the mind-killers will transmit a signal to the of extreme paranoia while the creature's semi-physical bodies travel to their prey. This may take a matter of hours in major megalopolises but can take several weeks if space travel is required. Once the mind-killers find the victim, their campaign of terror will escalate. They will use their ability to shapeshift to pose as the local authority figures in order to harass their target. They will also appear as horrifying visions when their victim is alone, attempting to drive their meal to the brink of insanity. Once the character has completely lost themselves to fear the mind-killers will strike.

Mind-killers usually travel in packs of 1d4. They are able to take any form they so please although they cannot correctly replicate matter denser than hard leather. They are also able to phase through matter, become invisible and travel at close-to-light speeds. They are psychic in nature and can detect any sentient life within 10 miles. The creatures are able to flood any sentient mind with fear if the will of the victim is not strong enough. Mind killers can be killed if any part of their body is severed while they are in a physical form. While in physical form they have the states of a generic 2HD creature but can turn incorporeal in an instant if they are aware of an attack. Strong psychic or magical attacks can harm the creatures regardless of their form. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Magic Item: The Shewstone of John Dee

This shewstone, also known as a crystal ball, was once owned by the famous occultist John Dee. It appears to be a perfect sphere of clear, polished crystal, and in the center of the crystal is presumably a fragment of curved stone, brown and rough in texture, resembling the carapace of a great spider. The shewstone is always cold to the touch. It was with this stone that Dee and his scryer Edward Kelly famously made contact with celestial entities and received messages from beyond this world.

The shewstone is essential useless without a copy of Dee’s grimoire entitled “A Treatise on the First Language of God-Christ,” which serves as a dictionary and guide to the grammar of the Enochian language, the tongue spoken by the celestials. Copies of this grimoire are excessively rare but may be purchased from shady book dealers, or found in the libraries of wealthy magic-users or collectors of the unusual. Magic-Users with an Intelligence score of 15 or more can make a Language skill check to already be fluent in Enochian.

To use the shewstone scryer must stare intently into the stone and make a saving throw against Magic Devices. If this saving throw is a failure, the scryer will experience nothing, but if it is a success the scryer will enter a trance and receive a message from the extra-dimensional entities. A second party must be present to record the Enochian words uttered by the scryer has he will have no memory of the message upon leaving the trance. The meaning of the utterances must then be translated from Enochian into an understood language.

The nature of the message is dictated by the scryer making saving throws against Magic Devices. These saving throws must be made by the Referee in secret. Each word requires a separate saving throw against Magic Devices and the number of words received is limited to the scryer’s level + Wisdom modifier. The scryer must state how many words they wish to receive before using the shewstone.

A successful saving throw will provide the scryer with a single useful word related to their current situation. This word can a simple clue or nudge towards treasure or survival. A failed save will result in a random word or a deliberately deceitful word that will put the party in danger or contradict the most reasonable course of action. Rolling a 1 on the saving throw will result in the permanent loss of 2d4 points from the scryer’s Intelligence score.

It should be noted that using the shewstone does not result in a conversation between the scryer and the extra-dimensional entities and so asking the shewstone a specific question will unlikely result in a direct answer, even if the resulting message is somehow helpful. In truth, the scryer is simply overhearing the whispers of these entities as they reverberate through the universe. Using the shewstone multiple times will bring the scryer to the attention of these entities, who can be exceedingly wrathful against any violation of natural order.

If the scryer could remember anything of their celestial vision, it would look a bit like this.
It is vital that all saving throws regarding the shewstone be rolled in secret by the Referee. The resulting words, helpful or not, should be given to the players in random order only after the scrying session is over.

Below is a table of words that can used when selecting random results for failed saving throws. It may also be in the best interest of any Referee to also consult this table for any helpful words in case one of the players should also have a copy of this book.

00-01 Division
02-03 Burn
04-05 Morningstar
06-07 Beauty
08-09 Darkness
10-11 Hellfire
12-13 Banish
14-15 Choke
16-17 Candle
18-19 Venus
20-21 Triumphant
22-23 Paradise
24-25 Transform
26-27 Harlot
28-29 Beast
30-31 Kingdom
32-33 Death
34-35 Attack
36-37 Earth
38-39 Daughter
40-41 Deception
42-43 Light
44-45 Diamond
46-47 Worm
48-49 Guardian
50-51 Obedience
52-53 Silence
54-55 Face
56-57 Air
58-59 Fire
60-61 Mountain
62-63 Ocean
64-65 Skull
66-67 Magus
68-69 Mars
70-71 Gathering
72-73 Judgement
74-75 Sword
76-77 Mercury
78-79 Conqueror
80-81 Aether
82-83 Torch
84-85 Lucifer
86-87 Millstone
88-89 Water
90-91 Babylon
92-93 Remember
94-95 Voice
97-97 Sleep
98-99 Wings

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Harmal Consortium: A Faction for Narcosmos

The Harmal Consortium is the galaxy's leading developer of virtual narcotics. The latest model of their Enhanced Sensory Experience System (ESES) has sold 420 billion units across twenty-three star systems.

The system interfaces with many popular virtual reality devices with neuro-inputs allowing users to safely experience the effects of psychoactive and narcotic substances from across the known universe without any danger to their bodies or minds. The drugs are sold as individual, single-use programs called Drug Immersion Memetic Experiences, or DIMEs, and are priced relative to market demand and the intensity of the program.

The Harmal Consortium is always seeking new and exotic substances from across the galaxy to be added to their catalog and will pay handsomely for samples of any undocumented psychoactive substances. Intergalactic explorers can register with the Consortium to receive a substance testing device, which will match any samples against the company's catalog. The device will only provide a yes or no answer regarding the Consortium's willingness to pay for the sample. It will not identify the sample or provide any information about the chemical make-up. It should be noted that the contract signed to receive this device stipulates that any sample of interest scanned must be turned over to the Consortium. A quantum beacon notifies local Harmal offices of newly discovered substances and any undelivered samples will be collected by force if necessary.

There are whispers of a secret group within the Harmal Consortium who have adopted a religious twist to their profession. The group believes that the ESES is a sacred device and that the perfect substance or combination of substances may allow an ordinary person to transcend to godhood. This group, known internally as the Apotheosis Initiative, is actively experimenting with various substances, programs, subroutines and the hacking of safe-guards to make the ESES into god machines.

Monday, January 5, 2015

James le Crochet, Pirate King of Voivodja

Although the country of Voivodja is surrounded on all sides by jagged mountains and twisted forests, some of her many channels empty out on a misty lagoon, where adventures will discover a settlement of pirates. The shanty village along the coast is unimpressive, especially compared to the immense ship anchored not far from shore. This ship is the size of a palace, complete with towers reaching to the heavens, is the home of James le Crochet, the Pirate King of Voivodja.

le Crochet is a wealthy and charismatic leader of his pirate band, although his face is heavily scared and his eyes seem to bulge from the sockets. He wears only the finest clothing, usually dyed a rich shade of blue, his favorite color. The same applies to his long beard and the deathly sharp hook on his left hand, crafted from blue steel.

Although he is a ruthless pirate and bootlegger, he is best known for the many wives he has taken, all of which have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. There is an official record of the 300+ wives le Crochet has married and the reasons for their disappearances or deaths, but many suspect that the pirate lord has killed every one for his own nefarious purposes. He has also been blamed for the abductions of countless children from the Orb Loc, including those children kept in wells.

It is true that le Crochet is killing his wives and the children, but few know the details of these atrocities. Each murder is done as a scarifies to Satrune, the crocodile god of tides and time. The monstrous demon-god demands tribute of brides and children, and as such has instilled in le Crochet an insatiable lust for women and an unquenchable hatred for children. As a devoted worshiper of Satrune, le Crochet is a level-5 magic user with an expertise in demonology and diabolism.

His greatest enemy is the one wife who has escaped is grasp, Joan de Pan. In order to flee the sea palace, de Pan removed le Crochet's left hand with a cleaver, resulting in the hook-hand that would become his trademark, She has sworn vengeance on the pirate and has amassed a small army of Lost Men who roam the forests of Voivodja, killing vampires and pirates with extreme prejudice. It is rumored the de Pan has become skilled in shadow magic and has the ability to soar like a raven on the wind. The mere mention of Joan de Pan is enough to send le Crochet into a blood-thirsty rage.
Although he owes no allegiance to either the Heart Queen or the Red King, he will gladly accept mercenary work and trade with either of the warring factions. He would give anything for the opportunity to wed either the Heart Queen or the Colorless Queen in order to sacrifice their vampiric existence to his demon lord. If this means seeking favor from the queens or working underhandedly with the Red King, so be it.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Gaming Resolutions for 2015

This last year, 2014, was a good year for me when it came to reading and talking about RPGs. D&D 5e came out, which got me excited for the future of the hobby. A bunch of creative people put out very creative books and my RPG collection has ballooned. I had many great conversations with people online about games. I even got to meet some of those people in real life once I figured out I practically live down the street from them.

Unfortunately, 2014 wasn't a very good read for actually playing games. I managed to run a few games at home, but way too many of them were clusterfucks with way too many players and not enough focus. I did run my very first convention game at Game Con South Bend and that was an extremely positive experience. Although I missed Gen Con, the small local convention exceeded my expectations and I had a lot of fun.

2015 is going to be a year about playing and running games. My goal is to play in at least 26 games this year, which is roughly one game per two weeks. I think this is a manageable goal, but to be honest, 26 doesn't seem like enough games. I suppose there will never be enough.

I also want to make a big dent in the number of unused books on my bookshelf. Below are the following games I want to run or play in the next year, including the modules and supplements I want to use.

  • Dungeon Crawl Classics
    • The Chained Coffin
    • Peril on the Purple Planet
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess
    • A Red & Pleasant Land
    • No Salvation for Witches
    • Qelong
    • Scenic Dunnsmouth
    • Death Frost Doom (provided anyone who was in my first edition run-though isn't present)
  • Dungeon World
  • Narcosa (probably in Dungeon Crawl Classics)
  • Wild Talents
    • Primogenitor 
  • Monsters and Other Childish Things
  • Unknown Armies
  • Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, Third Edition
  • Into the Odd
  • Our Last Best Hope
  • DC Heroes
  • Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space
Focusing on this long list will also help me focus on my third goal, which is to not spend any of my salary on hobby materials. This still means I can spend some bonus money, gifts and commission cash on games, but it also means I have to be very intentional with my spending. I was a little liberal with my purchases in 2014, and while this did not cause any financial hardship, it did result in a fair amount of frustration and limited mental bandwidth.  

This probably means I won't be going to Gen Con this year, but I think I'll be able to swing some smaller, local cons and hopefully play in this years Anti-Gen Con on Google Plus.

Here's to 2015.  This last year was a great year for tabletop gaming but I'm sure we can make this year even better.