domenica 4 novembre 2018

Insect - Abilities Old and New

(If you're at a miss on what Insect is, read the introduction here.)

The first tweak I'm doing to Knave is to rename and rethink the classic Abilities in order to make them feel more like those of System Shock 2.

"Your flesh is an insult to the perfection of the digital."

Before I begin I will just say that, since Knave has been released under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (thank you Ben!), I will just quote bits from the manual whenever I need them, and if I don't explicitly say so, I will leave them untouched in the Insect manual.
Still, go get the original game because it's worth it!

Cyberpunk soldier by NeoWorm

"Each ability has two related values: a defense and a bonus. When creating a PC, roll 3d6 for each of their abilities, in order. The lowest of the three dice on each roll is that ability’s bonus. Add 10 to find its defense."
~ Knave, page 1

I will keep six abilities: the first three will basically be the same as the classic ones, while of the remaining two are directly taken from SS2 and one is added to compensate the elimination of Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma.
While in other games these three had a sense, in the universe of Insect I think they are out of place and redundant, and one (and a half, as you will see) is sufficient to the task.
  • Strength: Used for melee attacks and saves requiring physical power, like lifting gates, bending bars, moving crates etc.
  • Agility: Used for ranged attacks and saves requiring poise, speed, and reflexes, like dodging, climbing, sneaking, moving in microgravity etc.
  • Endurance: Used for saves to resist toxins, radiations, hard vacuum, sudden decompression etc. The Endurance bonus is added to healing rolls. A PC’s number of item slots is always equal to their Endurance defense.
  • Cybernetic Affinity: Used for saves concerning cybernetic ware, resisting cybernetic attacks, tinkering with machines and electronics, using computers and interfaces, hacking etc. The number of Cybernetic Implants that a PC can simultaneously use is always equal to their Cybernetic Ability bonus.
  • Psi Ability: Used for saves requiring concentration, perception and intuition, such as using psionic powers and resisting psionic effects, recalling knowledge and lore, navigation, research etc. The number of Psionic Implants that a PC can simultaneously use is always equal to their Psi Ability bonus.
  • Humanity: Used for saves to persuade, deceive, interrogate, intimidate, charm, provoke, and in general to interact with other fellow humans. A PC may lead a squad of followers equal to their Charisma bonus.

Your followers, ready to... die?

I think the Abilities are pretty self explanatory so I'll just say a word about Implants: they work more or less in the same way as spellbooks in Knave.
Both Cybernetic and Psionic Implants will give special skills and powers, and while those given by the first will be usually more static ones (night vision, increased strength, etc.) the latter will be basically "spells in space".
You will be able to swap Implants but only when you are in your home base or a similar place or using certain... Implant swapping devices that you will hopefully find around.
That's the basic idea at least.

More on Implants on the future dedicated post!

sabato 13 ottobre 2018

OSR Guide For The Perplexed Questionnaire (answered)

UPDATE: This piece mentions Zak S and has links to his blog, but since I wrote this post, this happened (CW: sexual and psychological abuse). Because of this, I am no longer promoting his work, but I will keep the post unchanged because it is part of this blog's (and my) history nevertheless.

So Zak made a questionnaire to answer about the DIY/OSR movement which is very well done and useful and I'm going to fill it.
Here's the original post, you should fill it too and share it.

Here are my replies:

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:
That's the most difficult. I'll go with Gygaxian Democracy.
It quickly became a staple of the DIY/OSR movement.

2. My favourite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark:
You should interact with the world and its inhabitants as if they were really existing and should expect consequences accordingly to this.

3. Best OSR module/supplement:
Better than Any Man as a sandbox campaign (NSFW and gory -you have been warned)
Tomb of the Serpent Kings as an introductory OSR dungeon for both GMs and players.
Vorheim: The Complete City Kit as a toolbox.

4. My favourite house rule (by someone else):
Funerals for the Fallen by James Young
Shields Shall Be Splintered! by Trollsmyth

5. How I found out about the OSR:
When I begun playing RPGs 8-9 years ago I was supposed to be a GM, and I didn't like the complexity of D&D 3.5 (the most popular RPG in Italy at the time) and the fact that characters were more like superheroes than adventurers.
Searching in the net I ended up reading A Quick Primer for Old School Playing by Matt Finch and I started playing Dungeonslayers (a nice old school inspired German RPG) and shortly after I discovered the actual OSR movement and got sucked by it.

6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy:
All the apps of Save vs Total Party Kill by Ramanan S to quickly generate characters for different games
The (incomplete) list of stuff it can generate is here:
The Troika! character generator is not listed but it's there.
Other stuff like here like a random dugeon generator.

Principia Apocrypha: Principles of Old School is the best primer ever for the Old School style of play.

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:
It is (for now) Google Plus with its vibrant communities like OSR.
I dunno now what will happen but a lot of people is migrating on MeWe right now (search for "OSR" in the groups section).

In Italy the best place is the Facebook group OSR D&D Italia.

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games:
UPDATE: I misread the question: it is about where else I can be found rambling about games, not other places where to ramble about games.
Here's the new reply, but I'll leave the other 'cause it's still useful:

- Google Plus: (for now at least)
- MeWe is the new GPlus apparently:
- Twitter:
- Facebook page:
- Facebook account:

Where else to ramble:
Facebook has some nice groups like Vintage Role Playing Games, Old School Roleplaying or Old School Gaming Rocks!

The best Italian group for GMs (non OSR specific) is GMI - Game Master Italia followed by Fantasika! (non GM specific).

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough:
You can enjoy killing your player's characters (by chance -not by purpose!) and at the same time be their fan.

10. My favorite non-OSR RPG:
Risus: The Anything RPG - a generic minimalist game
Traveller - generic sci-fi
On Mighty Thews - a pulp sword & sorcery rpg/storygame

11. Why I like OSR stuff:
Because it's "player skills not character abilities" so there's a real opportunity and need for players to overcome problems with ingenuity, and concrete risk of character death even at high levels is one the stakes.

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:
Most of OSR games (specifically D&D retroclones) are very similar therefore you can take adventures, monsters and supplements published for nearly all OSR D&D-like systems an use them without or with minimal conversion.

Another benefit of these games being very similar is that you can mix and match pieces of them to make your own frankenstein OSR RPG because they are also very modular and simple.
And you can also house-rule them very easily. Customisation is a must.

A third for my Italian fellow players: you can like OSR games and be neither old nor nostalgic (a common cliché around here).

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be: without the "Zak Wars" posts (because things like these should not happen and are very sad).

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is:
Random Complete Equipment Generator for LotFP and other fantasy games to generate the whole equipment list for a character with a single die roll.

15. I'm currently running/playing:
A couple of Lamentation of the Flame Princess campaigns on Discord as player after 8 years of being a full-time GM.
Eight years ago I started playing role-playing games by the way.

16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because
you can always say "armour as chain" instead of using numbers and I'll convert it to my preferred system.
And if I were playing I'd have the to-hit values on my sheet, and the math is not difficult anyway.

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice:

Treasure for the survivors, by David A. Trampier

Again, here's the original post, you should fill it too and share it!

giovedì 11 ottobre 2018

Insect - a System Shock 2 hack of Knave

Preview of the possible cover

I will keep it simple: I love Knave, it's a simple and elegant system, quick to play and easy to master, with a very cool classless concept: you are your equipment.
This concept is actually not new in videogames (I'm not sure about tabletop rpgs though), therefore I decided to try my own hand in a hack inspired by one of the best "old school" games out there: System Shock 2.

SS2 (from now on) is a horror science-fiction First Person Shooter where you are a cybernetically enhanced soldier with the mission to navigate a huge megadungeon starship facing mutated crew, cyborgs and robots in order to destroy The Many, a alien hive mind which is controlling the place.
If all of this is not cool enough, SS2 has also some RPG features, like abilities, skills, magic psionic powers and cybernetic implants. And all of this fits well in Knave.


Citadel Station, System Shock 3 conept art

An adaptation

"How can you challenge a perfect, immortal machine?"

Insect will not be a faithful adaptation of the videogame. It will be neither as deep nor as complex as SS2 is, and it's fine like this. I want this game to have more or less the same complexity as Knave, and therefore a lot of simplifications will be made, but I also want Insect to convey as much as I can the same experience as the videogame with the rules I'm using.
It will be difficult, it will be not completely successful, but it will be fun and I hope you will enjoy the final result.


Shodan by JimHatama
Shodan by JimHatama

Why the name?

"Welcome to my world, insect."

The main antagonist of the System Shock series is SHODAN, an incredibly powerful and intelligent AI with a god-complex. She sees herself as divinity, and everyone else is, of course, below her. Insects, nothing more.
And "insect" you are called very often by SHODAN in both games.

So, as in Knave you are a knave, in Insect you are an "insect".


System Shock: Hiding in the Shadowsby Jason Burhans

What will be Insect about

"The Many has grown to a massive size. It has wrapped itself around these two ships, preventing their separation."

In Insect you are a cybernetically enhanced individual who will face horrors and perils in claustrophobic spaceships, labyrinthine space stations and hazardous planets.
The cosmos is inhabited by nightmares, be these natural or artificial, man-made or coming from the depths of space.

You may be part of a crew of a battered spaceship trying to keep flying, exploring derelicts and seemingly abandoned bases trying to savage supplies and spare parts.
You may be a mercenary, hired by companies who want to save what they can from a space station controlled by a murderous AI --or destroy compromising data.
You may be one the few survivors of an infection that mutated the rest of the crew of the space freighter you were working on into terrible monstrosities.

But in the end, you are just an insect in front of the grandiosity of the universe. And what lurks in the darkness.


The UNN Von Braun really is a megadungeon

Starmap of the project

"I re-examine my priorities, and draw new conclusions."

These are the things I will tweak and do (and some that I'd like to do) in order to adapt Knave to System Shock 2. They are presented in no particular order.

  • Abilities: renamed to reflect those in SS2, some changes in their uses
  • Armor and weapons: most of them will be ranged and with a sci-fi feel
  • Equipment: specialized and mundane items from the far future
  • Implants: cybernetic and psionic implants that will give bonuses and powers
  • Psionic powers: the magic of the future
  • Upgrades as advancement: no experience points will be used, upgrades (=levels) will be bought with currency and installed
  • Random traits: these are mostly ok as they are in Knave, maybe I will add some touches
  • Random missions and locales: tables to generate missions, hooks and places
  • Horrors of the cosmos and the cyberspace: monstrosities both natural and artificial to throw at our sweating insects
  • Introductory adventure: to give the feel of the game
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess: this project was actually born as a conversion for LotFP, and I will continue it after I'll finish with Insect and it will be more complex and detailed
A Cyborg Midwife, the creepiest enemy of SS2
"Little Ones need lots of meat to grow big and strong"

martedì 18 settembre 2018

Knave e Blood in the Chocolate - Recensione giocata

Ho provato Knave, l'ultima creazione di Ben Milton (Questing Beast Games), già autore di Maze Rats.

Gioco molto bello, creazione dei personaggi rapidissima, regolamento davvero semplice e, proprio come dichiara l'autore, assolutamente compatibile con qualsiasi modulo OSR/Old School (al contrario di Maze Rats, che per quanto bello richiedeva un po' di conversione).

Ovviamente non ha una profondità eguagliabile ad altri GdR più strutturati e completi, Knave è un regolamento minimale ma per quello che si propone di fare funziona molto bene.

Per la sessione Knave si è dimostrata un'ottima scelta sia per la sua semplicità -i giocatori non avevano mai giocato un OSR- che adattabilità alle meccaniche OSR dell'avventura che hanno affrontato.
Ero inizialmente indeciso se usare Lamentations of the Flame Princess (il regolamento di riferimento dell'avventura) ma poi ho deciso di semplificare la parte meccanica in favore di qualcosa di più scorrevole -oltre al fatto che volevo provarlo- ed è stata una decisione vincente.

Tre caratteristiche interessanti di Knave:

✦ Punteggi di caratteristica e Armatura
Le caratteristiche, che mantengono i nomi classici, si tirano con i soliti 3d6 in ordine, ma due differenze:
  - il modificatore (chiamato "bonus") è uguale al risultato più basso dei tre dadi
  - il valore di caratteristica (chiamato "difesa" poiché utilizzato per i Tiri Salvezza) è uguale al modificatore +10
es.: se tiro 2, 5, 6 la "difesa" della caratteristica sarà 12 e il bonus sarà +2

In Knave l'equivalente della Classe Armatura (chiamata anch'essa "Difesa" ma con la maiuscola) funziona alla stessa maniera: l'armatura effettivamente indossata indica il valore di Difesa, e il bonus corrisponde a questo valore -10.
es.: il Gambeson ha come valore di difesa 12 e ha un un bonus di +1

Questo meccanismo dei bonus, oltre ad essere forse più intuitivo rispetto ai classici modificatori, permette una meccanica ancora più interessante di cui ne parlo al punto seguente:

✦ Tiri di dado
Come altri giochi come Numenera o Symbaroum, Knave permette di far tirare i dadi solo ai giocatori o solo al Master, lasciando la possibilità di scelta.

Questo lo ottiene con una meccanica molto semplice: non importa chi tira il dado, per avere successo contro l'avversario basta che il risultato del tiro del d20 + bonus della caratteristica utilizzata superi il valore di difesa della caratteristica dell'avversario.

es. l'orco (Forza 12, bonus +2) sta attaccando la guerriera (Difesa 14, bonus +4);
- se tirasse l'orco con il suo d20+2 dovrebbe superare il 14 della guerriera
- se tirasse la guerriera con il d20+4 dovrebbe superare il 12 dell'orco
Chiunque tirasse, le probabilità di riuscita sarebbero comunque identiche.

✦ Equipaggiamento ed assenza di classi
Non ci sono classi: il personaggio è il suo equipaggiamento.
Inizialmente questo viene tirato casualmente alla creazione del personaggio, per un totale di quattro oggetti più un'arma a scelta e armatura anch'essa casuale.
Andando avanti nel gioco però con una più ampia scelta di equipaggiamento e oggetti è possibile personalizzare più a fondo il proprio personaggio scegliendo quello che si porta dietro; questo permette anche di poter cambiare lo stile del proprio avatar anche dopo varie avventure, ad esempio passando dall'essere un mago ad essere un guerriero, o un misto tra i due.
Ogni personaggio può trasportare tanti oggetti quanto il suo valore di Costituzione, quindi alla creazione tra 11 e 16, fino ad un massimo di 20 grazie all'avanzamento.

✦ Magia ed incantesimi
L'importanza della gestione dell'equipaggiamento vale anche per gli aspiranti maghi: ad ogni incantesimo corrisponde infatti un libro diverso su cui questo è scritto, ed ognuno dei volumi equivale ad un oggetto nell'inventario.
Questo significa che se si vuole fare il mago bisogna portarsi dietro un libro per ogni incantesimo, togliendo ovviamente spazio ad altro equipaggiamento (o avere qualcuno che porti la tua biblioteca al posto tuo).
I libri ovviamente non vengono consumati, ma ognuno di essi può essere usato una sola volta al giorno per lanciare l'incantesimo che custodisce.

Anche in questo aspetto Knave rimane altamente compatibile con il sistema di magia dei più comuni giochi di elfi e draghi, ma in fondo al manuale è comunque presentato un elenco di 100 incantesimi a cui non è associato nessun livello sempre nell'ottica della semplificazione.

Sneaking Up on Goblins by William McAusland

In definitiva Knave mi piace un sacco.
Grazie alla sua semplicità è anche facile da modificare e stavo infatti già pensando di fare un "hack" in tema System Shock 2 -- hack che in realtà stavo già progettando da tempo per LotFP ma che forse ritarderò in favore di quello per Knave.

E stavo quasi dimenticando: Knave è stato rilasciato sotto licenza internazionale Creative Commons 4.0: questo significa che può essere condiviso, adattato e pure utilizzato per scopi commerciali fintantoché venga data l'attribuzione all'autore.
Non male, eh?

Link utili

Voto finale: 5 / 5 Punti Ferita


Blood in the Chocolate - micro recensione con spoiler

L'avventura a cui abbiamo giocato, di Kiel Chenier (Dungeons & Donuts) per Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
Chiaramente ispirata alla Fabbrica di Cioccolato di Willy Wonka, è un'avventura molto colorata e sopra le righe ma con il solito body horror che caratterizza LotFP.

L'avventura dovrebbe essere la meno mortale di tutti i supplementi pubblicati -ma non per questo meno caratteristica di LotFP- e adatta sia a one-shot che ad avventure un po' più lunghe se il gruppo tende a pianificare in dettaglio il da farsi e valutare tutte le possibilità di azione.

In soldoni, l'avventura consiste nell'infiltrarsi nella fabbrica di cioccolato della misteriosa, amorale e spietata ultracapitalista indo-spagnola Lucia de Castillo e svelare i segreti dei suoi dolci richiesti oramai da tutta la nobiltà europea.
Tra misteriosi "pigmei" dalla testa a forma di fava di cacao, un gigantesco albero di cacao magico, un fiume e una cascata di cioccolato (che i miei giocatori non hanno visto) e strani effetti magici chiaramente ispirati al famoso libro e film c'è da divertirsi.

Il manuale è strutturato molto bene ed è molto semplice da giocare anche dopo una sola lettura, le varie pagine sono colorate per distinguere le varie sezioni (gli effetti del cioccolato, Lucia de Castillo, la fabbrica vera e propria, etc.).

L'avventura è adatta a personaggi di livello 1 che molto probabilmente sopravviveranno quasi tutti... in una forma o nell'altra. Consigliata!

Link Utili

Voto finale: 5 / 5 Tartufi di Cioccolato

giovedì 30 agosto 2018

Vieja Escuela - la recensione

Oggi vi presento Vieja Escuela, un neoclone OSR gratuito di origine spagnola che è molto semplice e molto bello.

È stato da pochissimo tradotto in inglese e pertanto questa versione può essere più papabili a noi italiani rispetto a quella originale, già che pur avendo in media una relazione molto difficile con la lingua d'Albione sicuramente è più rosea che con quella iberica (soprattutto tra noi giocatori di ruolo!).
Prima le banalità: essendo un neoclone (o retroclone che dir si voglia) riprende in maniera abbastanza ravvicinata le meccaniche e molti concetti di D&D classico (come la famigerata Scatola Rossa) pur discostandosene un poco e semplificando molto.
Il risultato è un regolamento molto asciutto ed elegante che non cade nel solito clone ma che aggiunge un tocco di originalità e modernità senza perdere affatto lo stile della Vecchia Scuola (letteralmente la Vieja Escuela del nome).

Invece di descrivere approfonditamente le meccaniche, già che il regolamento è contenuto in sole 13 pagine, evidenzierò le tre caratteristiche che mi sono piaciute di più di questo piccolo gioiellino iberico e che si discostano di più dai regolamenti dai quali deriva:

✦ Le Classi e le Razze (qui separate) sono caratterizzate da Talenti che forniscono caratteristiche particolari o bonus a certe azioni ad esempio "Mira Letale" (+1 agli attacchi a distanza), "Abilità Magica" (necessaria per lanciare incantesimi ed esclusiva dei maghi), "Attacchi Multipli" (duh) etc. Questo fa sì che sia molto facile e veloce creare classi e razze nuove scegliendo i vari Talenti in nuove combinazioni o creandoli ad hoc. Al sesto livello inoltre i personaggi acquisiranno un nuovo talento legato alla Classe scelta, come "Servitore Animale" per il Mago.

Non c'è un elenco di magie tra i quali scegliere: il giocatore al momento del lancio di un incantesimo deve "dargli forma" attraverso un nome (gli esempi sono piuttosto classici come "amicizia", "curare ferite" o "rallentare caduta") e negoziare con il Master i suoi effetti e il suo costo in Punti Magia, solitamente 1 per ogni 1d6 danni causati, curati o livelli colpiti.
Se si vuole che l'incantesimo sia particolarmente potente il Master può addirittura chiedere un sacrificio ulteriore sotto forma di oro, punti ferita o punti caratteristica. I maghi iniziano con 1 Punto Magia, che aumentano di 1 o 2 al salire di livello.

Ogni personaggio ha una riga di Background che indica chi fosse prima di sentire il richiamo dell'avventura che può fornire vantaggi nel caso ci siano sfide relazionate con questo. Alcuni esempi sono "Soldato sul fronte nord", "Custode alla Grande Libreria Porpora", "Pirata della Costa di Landar" e così via.
Questi vantaggi possono fornire un bonus di +2 ai tiri per svolgere azioni o, se la relazione tra l'azione e Background è particolarmente stretta, far tirare con Vantaggio con la medesima meccanica di D&D 5ed.
In maniera simile ai Talenti, all'undicesimo livello i personaggi guadagneranno un nuovo Background relazionato alle loro imprese poiché si considera la possibilità che abbiamo ottenuto una certa fama e magari un titolo e possedimenti. Alcuni esempi sono infatti cose come "Lord Protettore di Blackwater", "Maestro della Gilda dei Ladri di Newport" o "Arcimago della Torre di Farinoa".
Una nota interessante: è chiaramente specificato che questo nuovo Background possa portare, oltre ai normali benefici meccanici, anche eventuali ulteriori benefici, doveri, vassalli, apprendisti, tasse e costi di mantenimento a discrezione del Master.

† † †

Vieja Escuela pur avendo qualche novità e discostandosi dai retrocloni più puri ed i D&D dai quali deriva è assolutamente un gioco prettamente Old School.
Lo è sia nel regolamento, che negli intenti che nello spirito: in molti punti dà espressamente libertà al Master di decidere a propria discrezione molti aspetti del gioco, e si spinge addirittura a dichiarare proprio all'inizio del capitolo Regole del Gioco che la regola più importante è il buon senso e che sarà sempre il Master a decidere quando i risultati delle azioni di un personaggio avranno successo a seconda della sua classe e della spiegazione e descrizione del giocatore o se sia necessario un tiro.
Old School allo stato puro insomma.

Una parola sul manuale in sé: il gioco arriva a malapena alle 18 pagine e solo includendo copertina anteriore e posteriore, crediti e indice, scheda del personaggio e licenza OGL obbligatoria.
Senza di queste si ferma a sole 14 pagine da un layout funzionale e ben curato: titoli grandi in carattere gotico ad effetto stampa medievale, testo ben leggibile suddiviso in due colonne dalla scrittura concisa e dritta al punto, senza fronzoli e giri di parole.

Sia le copertine che le illustrazioni (alcune delle quali visibili in questo post) interne sono ottime, entrambe atte a dare un aspetto mistico e medievaleggiante: le prime fanno apparire il manuale una specie di grimorio prezioso, le seconde derivano probabilmente direttamente da testi e manoscritti originali dell'Epoca Buia. Tutte sono state scelte molto accuratamente e tutte sono di dominio pubblico.
Davvero un bel lavoro.

† † †

Vieja Escuela nasce dall'omonimo fanzine OSR spagnolo che viene pubblicato sia gratuitamente sotto forma di .pdf, sia stampato a prezzi irrisori.

Da questo gioco inoltre, anch'esso disponibile gratis in digitale o in stampa sempre al prezzo di costo sullo stesso sito (appoggiandosi su Lulu) sono derivati vari altri titoli chiamati "Vieja Escuela Cyberpunk", "Vieja Escuela Pulp" e "Vieja Escuela Salvaje Oeste" (Selvaggio West) che purtroppo al momento sono solo in spagnolo.

Curiosità: Vieja Escuela è già stato tradotto oltre che in inglese, pure in catalano, galiziano ed euskera (e dovrebbe essere il primo GdR in questa lingua).

L'ultimo arrivato in casa Vieja Escuela

† † †

Link Utili

Voto finale: 5/5 Punti Ferita

venerdì 24 agosto 2018

Mars is shining tonight

Mars is shining tonight.
It is burning, a flaming torch against the veil of the night that covers these ancient lands.
A piercing vision, a hot red hole puncturing the night sky.
An omen, the wise men would say.

Then they would look the endless sky, burn incense, laudanum, sage, and after inhaling the fumes they would tell you their prophecy:

1The God of War, forgotten by mortal men, has his hand on your sword hilts. Tonight your opponents will shiver in front of your blades, and your blood will boil at the sight of such lesser creatures, and the God of War will move your limbs and your swords, and they will be crushed and blood will be spilled. And nothing will stop this.
2The Flaming Eye is watching you. You can feel it burning a hole in your neck if you turn your back on it. The Enemy learned an important piece of information about you, and no one knows what the consequences are going to be.
3Mars is stained of the colours of flames and the death it caused. A neighbourhood, a village, a colony, a place dear to you has burned to ashes. It wasn't an accident.
4The Crimson Ruby is powerful, but dangerous. Its influence can give power, but it can also burn who meets its path. The next gem you will encounter will be a ruby, red as blood, and will bring you wealth and misfortune both.
5As embers can light back exhausted flames, your deeds reawakened old grudges. Watch your backs from the fire that never completely died.
6The stars are small cracks shining light from far away worlds, and Mars is a half-closed door leading to Those Who Sleep. Tonight this door is open wide, and they awoke and opened their eyes: and they saw that our world is rich and alive, and worth to live in. And, maybe, worth to be conquered.

giovedì 9 agosto 2018

What's hidden in the permafrost?

The characters should be careful when they go poking around with their sticks and torches in ancient frozen dungeons.
Because when the permafrost starts melting away, strange things may be found in the ice...

1. You, but dressed and equipped as one would have one thousand years ago. You, the other you of course, is not dead. He is (you are?) just slumbering in an endless sleep that can be interrupted only by powerful lost magic. Or, if you, the actual you, die. In that case the other you will awake from his quasi-eternal sleep to take your place. The new you may be of any class (but this must be chosen in advance when first seeing yourself in the ice or before) but you will be of the same race and have the same abilities of the deceased you. You will have no memories of the deceased you, but you may have memories of your life in the past (at Referee's discretion). Who's you of all the characters in the party is left at Referee's discretion.

2. A black box, smooth to the touch, with a dark mirror embedded one side. If you turn the wheel next to it the mirror will show, in full motion and bleak colors, people dressed in strange ways talking and laughing in places eerily resembling houses, but too cluttered and too polished to be real. You will see known and unknown animals mating, fighting, preying on each other both on land and under the sea and on air. You will see rigid bird-like vehicles, man manned, dropping balls from the sky that will explode like volcano eruptions. You will see a sphere, floating in a black void, shining green, brown, white and, above all, a startling blue.

3. An Ice Jellyfish, but as soon as you start recognizing its shape in the ice, it has already started melting. If you manage to stop the melting of the Ice Jellyfish, freeing it from the permafrost, it will revive and will show itself friendly and grateful (in its jellyfishy way) to be free. It knows the caves/dungeon where you found it, and will reveal 1d4 facts about it. Unfortunately the change in climate and atmosphere of the planet occurred in the millenia since the Ice Jellyfishes roamed the Earth will make the party's new friend eventually die and melt in 10 minutes.

4. Food, seemingly perfectly preserved and fresh, of a bygone age. It is enough for five people for one week. Whoever eats it must Save vs Poison or be infected by a nasty disease. During the next week thousands of worms will start to grow in the characters' stomachs, and will be expelled by the means of vomit and feces, always partially digested. The characters will not be in need of food for this week, but they will suffer from stomach pain, nausea, vomit, diarrhea and will risk to infect others spreading the disease (save vs Poison if getting in contact with the fluids). Every day of the infection one must save vs Poison or be incapacitated for the next 2d4 hours by the symptoms.

5. A tall statue of dull grey stone, perfectly carved, representing an anthropomorphic creature. It has four eyes, a gaping mouth with no teeth, and a body resembling a big ape half covered in fur, half in snake scales. His four fingered hands and feet have long talons made by actual steel, his groin is covered by a thick fur. The scars that cross the body of the statue are so realistic that you would expect them to spill blood. The statue has a belt made of steel, covered in intricate runes, that softly buzzes if touched. There is a dagger stabbing the statue's hearth, protruding from it. It is a real dagger, the blade finely decorated with carved runes. The leather covering the handle has disappeared ages ago, revealing runes carved also in the metal once hidden by it. Nothing is magic.

6. The corpse of a god. It is the god of the most religious character, and will be immediately recognized as such. The god cannot be revived, not even with magic because, unlike mortals, once a god dies it is absolutely forever. Also, there is no way to communicate to it, for example by the means of Speak with the Dead spells and alike. If not deconsecrated the corpse will stay fresh forever, as if recently killed. This is not a trick, a test for the pious, or a fake. It is the actual corpse of the actual god, frozen in the ice millenia ago. The character most devoted to it will know it. Other characters (be them PCs or NPCs) will not share the same insight, and may think differently.

† † †

I'd say next time they better use lamps instead.

martedì 31 luglio 2018

Thanatos, the Graveyard Planet

Thanatos, the most famous space graveyard, is giant planet ring made by bones, bodies, urns, sarcophagi and coffins that silently float around the dark and foggy planet of the same name.
For thousands and thousands of years star vessels left their dead in this place, where their mortal remains got caught by the planet gravity to remain floating in the darkness of space in their eternal rest.

original art by Bruce Pennington

It is not uncommon for grave-robbers to wander and search in and out this grim place in the hopes to find precious goods left with the dead, ages old or recently entombed.
This, of course, is an extremely forbidden and despised practice, prosecuted by the Ring Guardians and by passing civilian star vessels alike. Usually the punishment is death and destruction.
In fact, remains of the grave robbers are usually found between those of the properly buried.

The dangers of being caught, however, do not discourage the grave robbers, pushed by rumours of rich and important findings between the remains of this grim place. Rumours heard more often than not in the most wretched and infamous dens of the galaxy. Of course, these rumours are usually lies.

Nevertheless, there's who swears to have seen, floating between the furthest remains, the Golden Mermaid. This magnificent funerary ship, the last home for the Great Khan Khubilai, the Nineteenth Emperor of the Mongolian Concordat of Betelgeuse, it is said to be covered in gold and silver plaques and that magnificent treasures are held inside.

No one ever dared to savage it however, knowing very well that a powerful curse have been placed upon it by Queen Khai, sister-wife of the Great Khan, after being betrayed and stabbed by her husband himself.
This, at least, is what grave-robbers will tell you in their grim stories.


For every day spent searching between the bones and the remains of the graveyard ring there's a 1 in 6 possibility to find something interesting:

1) A still intact sarcophagus of...
- 1-2 a rich and powerful noble
- 3-4 a famous captain or warlord
- 5-6 an influential high priest

2) Funerary goods made up by...
- 1-2 precious china, pottery and fabric
- 3-4 documents of great historical, political or religious value
- 5-6 silver and golden jewellery, precious gems and stones

3) Still functioning pieces of technology:
- 1-2 an hibernation capsule. The occupant is: 1-4 dead; 5-6 still alive
- 2-4 a time capsule from (1d6 x 1d6 x 1000) years ago containing mundane items of the defunct
- 5-6 the body of a warrior still wearing: 1-2 his weapons; 3-4 his armour; 5-6 both

4) A mysterious artefact...
- 1-2 of alien origin: it is impossible to understand its purpose
- 3-4 of religious significance: if revealed it could overturn the history of a mayor cult
- 5-6 with magical powers: its capabilities are so incredible there's no explanation to them

5) A group of 1d6 x 1d6...
- 1-2 mummified or stuffed animals from a distant galaxy, possibly extinct since thousands of years
- 3-4 members of a dark and twisted cult. They are: 1-2 hibernated; 3-6 mummified
- 5-6 humans or aliens sacrificed in an horrible way for: 1-2 religious reasons; 3-4 political reasons; 5-6 unknown reasons

6) A funerary star vessel, still in working conditions, containing...
- 1 only bones and dust, all the rest is lost or unusable
- 2 a mysterious starmap leading to an uncharted place located in the charted space
- 3 an ancient horror that should have stayed forgotten
- 4 a beacon calling to a powerful and unknown alien menace
- 5 the result of one of the other tables
- 6 the result of two of the other tables


For each day spent looking for artefacts there's a 1 in 6 possibility to encounter:

1-2) A Ring Guardians patrol who will attack looters on sight
2) A star vessel celebrating a funeral
3) A grand style funerary ceremony attended by 6d6: 1-2 military warships; 4-6 civilian star vessels
4) A passerby star vessel paying its homages to the deceased
5) Other grave-robbers that:
- 1 will ignore the intruders
- 2 will be willing to join forces
- 3 will attack on sight
- 4 are fighting or fleeing from a 1-2 Ring Guardians patrol; 3-4 civilian star vessel; 5-6 other looters' star vessel
- 5 have been destroyed, or are adrift
- 6 found something really interesting (roll on the findings table)

lunedì 16 luglio 2018

Traveller Starter Set: content and mini review

The Traveller Starter Set is finally mine!

After a lot of time craving for it, I finally got to put my hands on it during a vacation in London.
I've visited Orcs Nest as suggested by many (I've never seen a shop so full of RPG stuff, living in Italy) and found it -it was the last remaining copy!

This introductory box includes:

  • The full rules split in two parts (Book 1: Characters & Combat and Book 2: Spacecrafts & Worlds).
  • A full introductory campaign (Book 3: The Fall of Tinath).
  • Six pregenerated character sheets with a background summary and a description of the notable abilities in the back of each sheet.
  • A giant subsector map ready to be filled with new worlds created by the referee. In the center of it, the Ahtwa subsector where The Fall of Tinath takes place.
  • Two classic b/w dotted d6 dice.

In general I love the Starter Set, everything seems very good although I still had no time to read the campaign.

I read the new edition rules though, and I like them a lot.
They are a lightly streamlined version of the old Mongoose edition (that I own), they are pretty solid and quite easy to learn and remember.
I like the new management of dice modifiers and the mechanic of Boons and Banes (equivalent of the Advantage/Disadvantage of D&D 5th edition but with 3d6 dice drop lowest/highest). It makes things easier for the Referee, and this is always good.

The rulebooks are very evocative with their full color layout and beautiful pictures, a good step forward since the old edition was still very old-schooley with its b/w layout.
The deckplans are gorgeous 3D illustrations, not handy for play but the classic 2D versions are included for free in the digital version of the Starter Set.
Of course if you buy the Starter Set in your friendly brick and mortar store, you can have the digital copy too for free!

The character sheets are fine and useful for quick one-shots or for those who want to start to play real quick, with a good mix of abilities and styles like a true Traveller crew usually is. There are six pregenerated characters, and one empty sheet.

The box is sturdy and the cover is made in a way it is really easy to open it (unlike many of the boxes from other RPGs).
Inside it there's a nice gimmick: a red ribbon very useful to help to get the rulebooks out of the box by lifting them.

The map is a very nice addition. I would really hesitate to use it for the fear of ruining it, but I can see it as a great and useful tool for Referees.
The symbol of the IISS (Imperial Interstellar Scout Service) in color, the map legend and the galactic directions are a nice touch.

The only disappointment were the dice: as a collector I would have preferred some kind of customisation (a more futuristic look, the symbol of the Imperium on one side, or something along these lines) and because the renewed mechanics include the use of boons and banes were a third dice is used, only two seems cheap.

At the bottom line, in my opinion it is a suggested purchase if you'd like to start with this great game or if you want a fresh update of the past rules like I did along with few goodies thrown in.

You can order the boxed set either in the official Mongoose website or the digital version on DriveThruRPG.



lunedì 9 luglio 2018

The Finger of the Leveller and The Incarnation of Death

A cursed artefact and a nightmarish creature, both powerful and incredibly dangerous, bound together in an endless circle of death: the first is obtained by defeating the second, the second is created by overusing the first.

The Finger of the Leveller

A plain skeletal finger, freezing to the touch and with finely carved runes and symbols all over it so thin they are nearly impossible to see with bare eyes.
Among them, the only clearly visible symbol is the ominous Dead Sign of Duvan'Ku, as it is the result of their experiments with life, death, and the Power of the Beyond to take someone's soul and destroy it forever.
The only clue of the Finger of the Leveller true power is the sensation, noticeable within 10' from the Finger and increasing when moving closer, of one's own soul getting sucked out from the body but never leaving it, and a mild nausea.
After 10 minutes one gets accustomed to the Finger effects and the nausea goes away.

The Finger of the Leveller works as a magical wand with infinite charges of the Power Word Kill spell.
Taking a life with the Finger of the Leveller power destroys the soul of the victim, making any form of Resurrection impossible.

As soon as the Finger of the Leveller is used, the caster becomes its master. From that moment no one else can use its power.
The only way to gain its ownership from its master is to willingly kill her and spill her blood over the Finger of the Leveller. The Finger must then be used to take someone else's life.
If the master of the Finger dies for natural causes, accident, or by hand of someone whose intention wasn't to intentionally take her life, the Finger of the Leveller becomes masterless.

Using the Finger of the Leveller is not without consequences.
Every time its master kills another creature with the Finger, the caster's soul gets sucked away by it causing a very strong but brief surge of nausea.
Mechanically, this means that the character loses as many Experience Points as the targets' Levels or Hit Dice x 1d6 x 100.
The Referee must never tell about this loss to the player, and must keep track of the character's lost Experience Points by themselves. The character will still level up as per their nominal XPs.

Subtle descriptions of the character's shift in appearance, loss of strength and resistance is encouraged as if to give clues that the use of the wand is not without consequences for its master. It is by the master's own will that her extreme consequences should be reached.

The Dead Sign, Laura Jalo

If the master of the Finger reaches 0 Experience Points with the use of its powers, the character effectively becomes the Incarnation of Death.
As her soul gets completely sucked by the Finger of the Leveller , her body will wither as if one thousands years have passed in an instant, leaving only a thin and mummified membrane of a skin over her bones.
All of the belongings, equipment and weapons worn, carried or hold will rot and rust and become dust, leaving only the bare shreds of the character's clothes as a cover.
The Finger will become part of the late caster's hand and can only be retrieved by defeating the Incarnation of Death, which now is actually a creature controlled by the Referee.


The Incarnation of Death

Armor Class 12 (unarmored) - it may wear additional armor
Hit Dice 10 -or- as the Finger master's Level plus 5
Hit Points 45 -or- as the Finger master's plus 5d8
Movement 120'
Morale 8
Alignment is Legal
- One attack with Soul-sucking Claws for 1d6 damage; with a 6 it strangles the victim causing 1d8 damage and draining her soul and 100 x Damage XP every round. Heals for the same amount.
- Can be harmed only by silver or blessed weapons.
- Visible and dangerous only to characters with 3HP or less.
- Has regular undead immunities.

Jez Gordon

This dark and deathly creature has no other motivation or goal but the mad and incessant desire to have a soul once again.
For this reason its only purpose is to kill, and to suck another creature's soul to replace the one it has lost. However, this will not help as its empty shell of a body is too twisted by the Powers of the Beyond to be able to keep any soul.
The Incarnation of Death will therefore roam incessantly in search of a new soul after another to take and to try to hold, forever failing in its only task.

The Incarnation of Death cannot take one creature's soul if this is not already approaching death by its own. The inner power of the soul, together with the strength of the body, is enough to keep the fiendish horror at bay and even to hide it to the eyes of the living.
Only a weakened soul, already to the edge of the eternal sleep, will not be strong enough to repel the Incarnation, and even at that point the fiend's power will not be sufficient to take the soul of the victim without a willing consent.
There is an exception: if the victim got to the verge of death thrice, and if thrice she refused the Incarnation of Death's embrace, this will try to slain the victim no matter what as her soul and body would have finally lost the strength to repel the creature at all.

The Incarnation of Death will only be visible and dangerous to those who are dying, that is characters who have 3 Hit Points or less.
Once seen the Incarnation of Death will slowly walk towards the dying character with open arms and quietly ask, with a soft and sad voice, "Dost thou want eternal rest?".
Every character that sees the creature suffers from extreme sadness, and all the Saving Throws are performed with a penalty of -2.

  • If there are more characters that can see the Incarnation of Death it will approach the character with less Hit Points. If two or more characters have the same amount of Hit Points, the Incarnation of Death will choose randomly.
  • If the character willingly embraces the Incarnation of Death this will walk towards the character, grasp her throat whit its Soul-sucking Claws and will slowly strangle her draining her life and soul. It will then disappear.
  • If the character refuses the embrace the Incarnation of Death disappears, repelled, unless there are more characters that are dying. In this case it will make them the same question.
  • If the same character refuses the embrace for the third time the Incarnation of Death will attack her with its Claws, as the body and soul of the victim would be weak enough to not be able to repel the horror.
  • If the Incarnation of Death is attacked it will defend itself with its Claws. If its Hit Points drop to less than a third, it will disappear until someone else will be dying again.

The Incarnation of Death, by Jennel Jaquays
from The Caverns of Thracia (1979)

The Incarnation of Death attacks with Soul-sucking Claws causing 1d6 damage; with a damage of 6 it also strangles the victim for 1d8 damage every round and will drain the victim's soul and Experience Points of the damage result x 100.
Sucking the victims' soul also heals the horror for the same amount of the inflicted damage.
While strangled, the victim can free herself with a successful Save vs Paralysis (with a cumulative penalty of -1 every round) or attack with a -4 penalty.

Once 0 Experience Points are reached, the character -if still alive- will fall in a catatonic state for 4d6 days. she will not remember anything of what happened, but will now from now on refuse to
Whenever the Incarnation of Death kills a character or creature, her soul will be completely taken away making any kind of Resurrection impossible. Also, the Incarnation of Death's Hit Dice will be increased by the same number of the victim's own, and its Hit Points will also be increased accordingly to the new Hit Dice value.

This creature's alignment is Legal, as death is a law of the Cosmos and but a few are outside its boundaries. Everything ends with death, sooner or later, as no one can escape it forever.

The Incarnation of Death cannot be harmed by mundane weapons unless made of silver or blessed.


Where to place them

This artefact is a powerful one, dangerous both to its holder and her enemies.
If no research is made over its true powers, its master will probably discover too late the price she will pay.
Given these premises, careful thought should be made when placing this artefact into anyone's campaign.
The same stands for the Incarnation of Death, if the Referee decides to have an encounter with the horror instead.

by noistromo

I would place both Finger or the Incarnation in a dark, obscure, forgotten death cult temple or outpost.
If you're playing with Lamentations of the Flame Princess or you're using part of the lore present in its modules the obvious location would be a Duvan'Ku related place.
The Finger of the Leveller could otherwise be in possession of a collector of occult items, unaware or uncaring of its true powers. Maybe the characters will stumble over it during a theft or a heist. Maybe the collector himself will be killed by the Finger (or be consumed by its use) and the characters will need to discover who and how did that -or who did the killings.

Personally, since I've been heavily inspired by the creature of the same name that can be encountered in the old Judges Guild module The Caverns of Thracia, and I've clearly expanded over it, I will place it in the sealed and forgotten death cult temple present in the first level of the dungeon. In my own version of the Caverns, it is actually a Duvan'Ku temple.

Étienne-Louis Boullée