Friday, December 2, 2016

Monster Manuals, No. Appearing: 2

I recently picked up both Volo's Guide to Monsters and the Tome of Beasts. Both I think are going to be useful monster books for my 5e game, but in different ways.

Volo's Guide is slimmer (just 223 pages). Its pure monster stat page count is even slimmer as it spends quite a view pages on other stuff. Part of that other stuff is new races, which is great, though I don't know how many of them I will use in my Land of Azurth game. Still, more examples to model DIY races is always good. The other part is Monster Lore--expanded info on previously published classic monsters, including lair maps and what not. I could see this being really useful and their are some good ideas here, but my current campaign uses some pretty variant interpretations of a lot of these monsters so it's of less utility for me.

The actually monsters include a lot of variants of existing creatures. Most of these don't excite me too much, The appendix of additional nonplayer characters will probably be the thing I use most in play.

The Tome of Beasts is beefier (426 pages), all of it traditional monster stats. Some of these feel like their not quite ready for primetime--but in someways that gives ToB a more daring feel compared to the "safer" Volo's Guide.  A bit like Fiend Folio vs. Monster Manual II, ToB also gives higher crit level monsters. I provides some much needed bosses compared to all the mooks and lackeys of the the official monster manuals. Though most of these monsters don't cry out to be immediately used in my campaign but their are a few (the Boreas and some of the Fey Lords and Ladies) I definitely want to play some adventures around.

While not indispensable, both of these bestiaries would be very useful for a 5e game. If you could only by one, I would say it depends on what you're looking to do. If you need more races or want to really flesh out certain "classic" D&D monsters (like the Mind Flayer, Beholders, or Giants), you probably want Volo's Guide. If you just need monsters and lots of them to stock your adventures, Tome of Beasts in probably though one you want.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

More Baroque Space Backgrounds

More backgrounds for Daniel Sell's Troika! system:

Your dead eyes have beheld things no man was meant to see. Adrift in the Tartarean reach beyond Saturn, you bore witness to the protean horrors of the Titans of Chaos, stared in cold wonder at legion ruined Gamorrahs of the rebellious Nephilim, and suffered at the peril of your immortal soul the sirens’ allure of alien Atlantean heathenry. You returned alive, but not unchanged.

Vials of soporific
A locked box 6 inches square, 8 deep, whose contents you frequently examine, but show no one
Brace of Pistols
strange tattoos

2 Astrology
1 Healing
2 Pilot
2 Pistol Fighting
2 Second Sight

You are a Vermin Disposal Expert, though they often diminish your work, naming you merely "rat-catcher." But who among them has seen what strange vermin arise from the putrefaction of wastes of scores of space crews mingling in the cesspits of an asteroid? Much less hunted and captured those foul things? You have.

One-eyed terrier, inured to space travel
d4 animal traps
d4 specimen collection jars, at least one contains a slime of some sort

2 Awareness
1 Blunderbuss Fighting
2 Club Fighting
2 Tracking
3 Trapping
3 Tunnel Fighting

Gangs of half-feral children like yourself prowl the lower levels of cities and congregate in crude suburban camps. Many are eventually snared and sent to houses of correction for aggressive humoral adjustment, but a few incorrigibles such as yourself manage to elude that fate.

A cheap Eidolon image of a beautiful woman you claim to be your mother to elicit sympathy

2 Climb
3 Sneak
2 Run
2 Sap Fighting
2 Knife Fighting

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: City of the Damned

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: City of the Damned (1982) (part 5)
(Dutch: Stad der Verdoemden)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Kelvin Gosnell

Storm and Ember take the winged horse to the ancient, ceremonial gate at the bottom of the city, which they believe will lead them to Gor's lair. They're right, and the green-skinned psychic watches them on a viewscreen--and waits.

Storm and Ember descend into the depths of the caverns beneath the city, thinking they'll find Gor at the lowest level. The walls to a passage way grow arms out of them and try to stop them:

Next they fight bat-creatures and pass precariously over flows of lava until they reach Gor's sanctum:

They easily disarmed Pulg, the dwarfish head of Gor's personal guard, but Gor himself proves tougher. He disarms Ember easily them brags about the extent of his power. Storm suggests there's one thing he can't do: travel through time.

Gor admits that is true, but counters he'll soon have control over the computer in the city. Not all time machines are big and unwieldy. Storm throws the time machine belt at Gor, a belt with only enough power for a one way trip! Gor is gone to the end of time.

Back in the city, the war is over. Gor's troops have stopped fighting. Both groups can work together to rebuild.

Storm still has his one request to make of the central computer, Terminal One. Storm argues that computers should serve humans, not control:

Storm and Ember leave the people of their city to chart there own future without the computer.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hubris Arrives

I was going to title this post "The Hubris of Mike Evans," but that would be a title for a negative review--and this ain't one of those. On the heels of the successful Kickstarter, I mentioned some cool highlights from my read-through of the early backers copy, but I figured with it available to everyone, I figured it was a good time to do another walkthrough.

Mike subtitles his work "a world of visceral adventure" and everything in here works to support that tone. It is, after all, a world made from the "fetid corpse of a dead god." Mike uses the Dungeon Crawl Classics ruleset which (to my mind) is sort of blacklight poster/70s comic sword & sorcery. It's a good fit, but Mike twists it into a "90s comic by Danzig with art by Simon Bisley" sort of direction. Mike's world-building is aided and abetted in this regard by the art work which includes stuff by Jeremy Duncan and Doug Kovacs, among several other worthies. This group knows how to draw weird shit and monsters.

So the tone is consistent, but what do we actually get? There are nine new classes and races; things like a Blood Witch (a bit like Last Airbender's blood benders but way more EVIL!) and the Murder Machine (Warforged but with the Metal turned to 11). There are new magic items and new spells, all table-ready and (in case of the spells) detailed in full DCC style.

A big section is the "Territories of Hubris" chapter. This is the sort of thing that bogs down a lot of setting books, but Hubris focuses on the interesting bits, so little wordage is wasted and it is surprisingly usable with little prep.

There is a grab-bag of tools and generators, some of the them sort of random (you know what I mean), but great utilities with some flavorful results. This section shows the influence of products like Vornheim.

Finally, there is not one but two short adventures, one of which is a zero level funnel. This is really useful in making the setting come to life because it shows how the writer does it. It's the sort of thing a lot of single-author setting books would do well to emulate.

If any of that sounds cool to you, you should really check Hubris out. On sale now!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Baroque Space Troika! Style

Reading over Daniel Sell's rules for Troika! Basic, and I am utterly charmed. I wrote up some backgrounds for Baroque Space using the ruleset. It's a great way to get really setting-appropriately flavored characters easy:

You are a squat, muscular savage, belligerent and possibly anthropophagous, with a face on your torso.

War club
Filed teeth (damage as knife)
Fetish or Talisman

6 Language (their own savage tongue)
2 Awareness
3 Club Fighting
2 Strength
1 Tracking
2 Wrestling

You are a buccaneer of that rebel society of the asteroids, who find fraternity among thieves adhering to a simple code: No member may  rob or cheat another, loot must be apportioned by established rules, and no captain may command without being elected by the crew.

Mechanical eye, hidden mostly behind a patch, but capable of scuttling ambulation on unfolding limbs. It can record what it seems for 15 minutes and relay it upon reinsertion.
breathing-dress (counts as modest armor)

2 Astrology
3 Climbing
2 Pilot
2 Sword Fighting
2 Pistol Fighting

You are an inveterate gambler, late of the Jovial gaming houses.

Deck of Marked Cards
Dueling Pistol of overly elaborate design 
Jovian Dice (d6, in various kaleidoscopic Neoplatonic solids)
Non-Euclidean Laputan Habiliments

2 Awareness
2 Etiquette
1 Evaluate
1 Sleight of Hand
2 Pistol Fighting
3 Secret Signs - Tells

You have been recently rescued from the silvery Lunar wastes where you were long marooned.

Antique Musket
Fantastical yet rustic clothing
Journal and writing implement
Semi-transparent body owing to long subsistence on Lunar fruit

3 Awareness 
2 Language - Selenite telepathy
1 Musket Fighting
2 Run
2 Tracking

What is there in life for you now that you have been compelled to flee the shining court of His Heliocephaliac Majesty, Helios XXIII, Emperor of Mercury? The other worlds are so cold! Still you persevere. 

Mercurian Court Fashion: powdered whig, cache-sexe, corset, jabot or a doublet, pantaloons, stockings, and heels --and a mantled cloak.
Mercurian shaded lens on a stick OR goggles
Light-blocking ointment
Muff Pistol

3 Etiquette
2 Gambling
3 Language - Mercurian
1 Knife Fighting
2 Pistol Fighting

You are a Mechanical android. Glimpses of variegated lights blinking through the crack in your brazen skull tell the tale: You are malfunctioning and masterless, certainly, but also possibly possessed of radical political views.

2 in a weapon or improvised weapon of choice
3 in a skill related to your primary function (Etiquette, Mathmology, Evaluate, Craft Skill, etc.)
2 in a Language of choice
1 Strength
1 Run

Repair kit
Weapon or improvised weapon of choice

Mechanicals do not heal like natural folk, but must spend an evening in repair. For each hour of rest with access to repair tools regain 3 Stamina.
You always have the equivalent of light armor.

You are a veteran of many voyages and an essential member of any astronef crew. It is often no mean feat to wring something edible from the bounty of the spontaneous generation vats, and occasionally, you succeed.

Bottle of rotgut
Vials of salt and various exotic spices
Venerian Jabbering Monkey 

1 Awareness
2 Cooking
1 Strength
2 Axe (Cleaver) Fighting
2 Pistol Fighting
2 Fist Fighting

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Cosmic Tales

Storm will resume next week, after the holiday. Today, I want to point you (again) to a webcomic done by Mike "Aos" Gibbons: Cosmic Tales. It's got a Bronze Age charm that you will dig if you dig Bronze Age comics, and if you don't you haven't been paying attention to my comics posts over the years. Check it out.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Weird Life Cycle of Elves

What humans mistake as different tribes or clades of elves are actually different stages in their millennia long, perhap endless, lives.

Wood elves are elven adolescents. They rebel against their parents and go to live in bands of others of their age. They throw racuous parties in the woods and experiment with intoxicants. They are capricious, emotional, and cliqueish. Their tribes run the gamut between Woodstock and Lord of the Flies.

High elves are elven adults. They interact most with other species and are responsible for the maintenance of elven civilization. It is in this age cohort that the immortality of elves begans to take its toll, however. Elven brains are not structurally that different from humans. They do not have the capacity to hold countless centuries of memories. Their initial compensatory mechanism is monomania. Elves develop a strong interest that narrows the array of factual information they must recall and provides constant reinforcement for the things they find important. Some become swordsmasters, some master artists or craftsmen, some archmages.

For some elves this is enough, and they grow more skilled, more focused, and stranger, until they become almost demigods in their chosen vocation. These are the Gray.

Others, though, are not able to maintain such focus. Something akin to dementia sets in. They become forgetful, and paranoid. As they begin to lose their past--lose themselves--they find only intense or traumatic memories linger long. These are the dark elves.

Dark because of the darkness that consumes their minds; dark for the deeds they commit to hold on to self and not slip into mindless reverie. They go to live in the dungeons of their kind to pursue intense pleasures and horrors or simply howl or cackle in the darkness. These elders are feared by other elves. They avoid them and will not speak of them to nonelves.