The new and improved defender of RPGs!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Classic Rant: I Might Never Use the D&D XP System Again

Yeah, it sounds like a pretty radical statement, I know. But frankly, it's been coming a long time.

Those of you who bought my first ever RPG, "Forward... to Adventure!" way back when (or recently, I'm still making money from it!) would note that I there made use of a very straightforward xp system where you gained a point for every adventure completed, and went up in level after a progressively increasing number of points.

After several years, and after writing a couple of games that were not D&D-based, I had another opportunity to re-examine the issue with Arrows of Indra. Once again, I could choose to present a different way of handling XP, and make an even more radical statement in what was an OSR game.

I chickened out. I admit it. I had considered doing it, but in the end I decided to just cave and do an xp system that is pretty much the D&D-standard. I thought I was being sufficiently bold by using only an single XP table rather than making one for each class. Or at least, that's what I told myself.

I think I chickened out for a couple of reasons: first, it's the OSR. I was writing a game that was already unusual just for not being western fantasy, for having a strong real-world cultural parallel, for being a bit more "brainy" of a game setting than a lot of the OSR settings, for having a lot of weird names. I figured AoI wouldn't need another hit against it.

Second, as much as I already felt, at the time of writing AoI a few years back, that the XP system of standard D&D was suboptimal for a lot of cases, I wasn't really profoundly opposed to it yet. I mean, I was, at the very same time I was playtesting AoI, running a game of my Albion setting using the LotFP rules which includes the standard XP rules. I had at that time just come off running a forgotten realms campaign, and my Legion of Superheroes campaign which used the D20 system, ALL of which were using the standard XP rules. So even if I had written in different XP rules to Arrows, I wouldn't have exactly been practicing what I preached.

So what changed?

Well, first, the Albion game. We're still playing it. Only now the PCs are averaging around level 10, and while it was always sort of a little absurd that the PCs be looking around desperately for gold pieces in that kind of game in that kind of setting, it becomes increasingly absurd in a game where they're now all knights and lords and whatnot, and trying to scramble for thousands of gp in order to try to slowly work their way up to next level.
Even if the XP system was more turned toward giving xp-for-combat it wouldn't necessarily work well with the high-level Albion/Rose War setting. It has emphasized for me the pointlessness of that whole system.

Second, Dungeon Crawl Classics. They had the guts to drop the standard XP system and instead invent a system of xp-awards for navigating dangerous encounters. Applied liberally, this doesn't even necessarily mean defeating dangerous monsters. It can, if the GM so wishes, be applied to a much wider scope.

(and come on, you can't say this isn't good Old-School play, even without xp-for-gold; plus, somehow for some crazy reason my players still all want to get as many gp as they can lay their hands on)

OK, so that wasn't a tremendous revelation, but playing a lengthy DCC campaign (still ongoing) has served to show me just how much better it is this way. The thing is, the gold/monsters-for-xp setup works well for a number of D&D settings; it works perfectly for a couple, even. But there's going to be a lot of other stuff you can do with the D&D rules, a lot of other settings and campaigns, where having that system would be a hindrance. In a highly politicized campaign, where there's likely to be a lot of intrigue but relatively less combat or treasure-hunting, you can't really work with those rules in an effective way. In a travel-based campaign, you maybe can, but it means the PCs are only ever travelling from one source-of-xp to the next.
In short, in any game where money (or more specifically, the acquisition of treasure through combat) isn't the top priority for the PCs, the XP system runs into trouble. And even in a lot where it is a goal, but not the top goal.

The thing is, money and treasure and magic items is a reward in itself. Killing monsters is too, to a certain extent, in that it leads to treasure and likely to other rewards in-setting.
It's OK to pile on XP as a further reward on top of that, but there's no particular reason it has to be that way. So the thing about using a more generic system of XP reward means that it will work in any situation: It can still work for a campaign that's all about going into the dungeon in search of treasure, and it can work in the campaign which is all about fighting in a war, or protecting the Prince at court, or flying to the outer spheres, or whatever it is you're doing.

That's why in my upcoming Dark Albion: the Rose War book, my "Appendix P" house rules will include an xp system very similar to the one I started with in FtA!; one based on experience being granted by experiences, not treasure. So that if you save the kingdom and fight in several battles and get noticed by the High Pontifex, you aren't going to get less xp than if you'd broken into a bank or raided a merchant caravan. You can liberate your OSR game from any risk of metagaming, of players acting out of type for their character and ending up with money-grubbing knights or monks with vows of poverty scooping up every coin they can lay hands on just because their players know they need that to level up. WHATEVER are the priorities of your game, whatever your characters' experiences are, that's what they'll get experience points for.


(Originally Posted March 4, 2015)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

On the Nature of Genuine Class-A Dumbfuck Stupidity

You know, I've met stupid people of all stripes over my many decades living on this planet. All races, all levels of education, all social classes; there's stupidity in all varieties and levels of human society.

But there's mostly only one group of people so utterly dumbfuck stupid AND so totally determined to REMAIN stupid that they will close their eyes and shout 'no no no' and refuse to even look at written truth that could free them from their dumbfuck ignorance: religious nuts.

Not just any religious person either; most religious people, even mainstream or even fundamentalist, even devout religious people of any religion usually are still willing to at least LOOK at something that contradicts what they desperately want to believe.

No, to be the kind that says "I won't even read that there thing you showeded me cause it's from the devil and it got the devil in it!!" you need to be a Bible/Quran/Gita-Thumping hooting hollering True Believer.
It takes absolute pigshit-ignorance to be that level of religious fanatic.

And that's what we increasingly see from certain breeds of online Leftists.  I've had several debates on G+ with a certain leftist who has repeatedly humiliated himself in discussions by not just being wrong, but outright refusing to read material, even firsthand-source proof of what we're talking about, if it doesn't come from the list of what he considers "orthodox" Establishment-news Media.  Material that immediately makes it obvious that he's wrong, and why and how he's wrong, to the point that he becomes a laughing stock to anyone following the conversation.

This guy claims to be an atheist, but he's really a religious fanatic. If you're so determined to cling to his dumbfuck leftist fairy tales that you're scared to even look at anything that could provide evidence to the contrary or that you're wrong, you're obviously not clinging to a rational set of conclusions about the world, it's not even a strongly-held conviction. You're a fanatical religious fundamentalist clinging to what your priesthood has told you. You're Boko Haram.


Currently Smoking: Missouri Meerschaum + Stockebbye's Bull's Eye Flake

Monday, 29 May 2017

New DCC Artifact: The Cyber-Ass of Morris

Those of you keeping track of my DCC campaign will know that Morris the Creep, at present both the second-most-powerful and the second-most-despised party member (in both cases, second to Bill the Elf), had foolishly allowed himself to be probed by the dalek-like Guardian Robots, and implanted with an explosive device.

As of our last adventure, Morris awoke from the Techno-Walrus surgical procedure to "deprobe" him, only to find that while they had successfully removed the huge explosive without triggering it, the operation had lost 47% of Morris' ass.  Fortunately, the Techno-walruses had managed to devise a new Cybernetic Ass to replace the almost-half of Morris' natural ass that he'd lost.  This cyber-ass went on to demonstrate a significant number of interesting qualities in the last session.

So, in answer to what absolutely no one demanded, I now present to you all, the statistics for Morris' Ass!:

The Cyber-ASS of Morris

Init: +0

Atk: none, when attached to organic host, except that it is capable of electrocuting its organic host at will or on command from its programmer. If it does so the host must make a DC15 FORT save or fall unconscious for 1d12 hours. The ass can only attempt to electrocute its host 3 times in a day, after which it must spend 12 hours in "sleep mode" to restore its power reserves.
When detached to its organic host, the cyber-ASS is capable of producing and attacking with (at +2 melee) a retractable vibro-blade that does 1d4+1 damage. This vibroblade could retract while attached to the ass' host but it would retract INTO the host, causing the host 1d4+1 damage to the host each round the blade remained extended.

AC:16 (if the host is wearing butt-covering armor with an AC higher than 16, use that instead)

HD: 30 hit points  (the ASS requires at least a "cyberpunk-level" tech workshop to repair damage)
If the ASS is attached to a live host and reaches 0 hit points, the host will begin to die from organ failure. He will lose 1 (temporary) CON every two hours until he dies or until the ASS is repaired or some substitute for it is acquired.

MV: none while attached. If detached from its host, the cyber-ASS can extend six spider-like legs and move on its own at a rate of 30' per round.

Act: 1d20

Special: Can attach itself to a human or other humanoid organic that has lost 47% of their ass, or has it removed for the purpose of symbiosis with the ASS.  Once attached, the ASS could not be detached without killing the host (unless highly advanced medical-tech or magical-healing facilities were involved in the process).
The ASS can speak in any language known to the Techno-Walri of Lol (which includes all standard languages of the world of the Last Sun). It is also equipped with sensors that allow it to detect life forms in a 30-mile radius around it and identify them by general type (eg. "human", "red mutant", "scotsman", "ocelot", "giant ocelot", "ocelot with top hat", etc.).
The Ass is also programmed with a wide variety of knowledge skills important to the Techno-Walrus culture, including flying and navigating skyships, mechanical and electrical repairs, operating computers (the ass is also equipped with an extension-cord attachment for connecting directly to standard ancienttech-descended computer systems and has a +6 hacking bonus), or heavy weapons targeting. It also has a GPS tracking system.
However, the ASS is an artificial intelligence and is not required to obey orders from its host (unless its host is also its original programmer), and will only be as helpful as it chooses to be depending on its judgment of its host's intelligence and personality and based on reactions to the interactions between the ASS and its host.
While attached to a host, the ASS will be required to "calibrate" once every 1d6 hours. When it is doing so, it will loudly proclaim "ASS Calibrating!", even if at an inconvenient moment. It is not actually required to make said declaration but it will usually do so unless there is an extremely good reason not to (for example, if making the announcement out loud would be immediately dangerous to the ASS itself).
The ASS can operate independently of a host body but it will require either access to a plug-in energy source or to attach to a new host within 3d24 hours, or it will run out of power and become inoperative until recharged or attached.  While attached to a host it does not require any separate power supply.

Saves:  Fort +4   Ref:n/a if attached, +1 if operating independently  Will:+6

AL: Neutral Freak

That's it for today! Let me know if in the future you want more such glimpses into the details of my crazy DCC Last Sun setting.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake

Sunday, 28 May 2017

DCC Campaign Update: This Has Become a Very Ass-Focused Adventure

In our last session, the PCs had managed to break up a massive counterfeiting/child-trafficking/cannibalism ring in Highbay.  As such, Chief City Officer Swanlee agreed to provide the party an escort to get to the Azure Tower, where they hoped the Azure wizards would help them to get back to the high-orbit floating city of Lol.


-A new masochist/player has joined! His 0-level dudes: a green mutant pageboy, a human weed farmer (with a chicken), and a weird domino mutant who's half black and half-white like those aliens from the original star trek... except he has huge claws for hands.

-"Does G.O.D. accept drugs for sacrifices?"
"Well, he doesn't accept rations, so... no."

-Tonut is trying to sell a valuable bracelet he has on him, to get some smaller denominations of cash to use as sacrifice to lower his disapproval.
"I'll give you 1200 smithplium pieces for it."
"I won't take less than 1750."
"ok, how about 1000 smithplium that aren't counterfeit?"

-"I'm giving you an escort formed from the best conscript guards that could be randomly selected by lottery."

-Aside from the three newbies, who are conscript guards, plus the chicken, the escort also includes a joking sergeant, and a sullen captain.
"Hey you guys, ask the Captain his last name!"
"Shut up, sergeant!"
"Seriously, you guys, ask him!"
"Ok, now we have to know."
"What's that? We couldn't hear you?"
"It's Richard."
"Ask him his last name!"
"It's Obvious, alright?! I'm Captain Richard Obvious!"
"Haha, he's Captain Obvious!"

-"So what's your name, Sergeant?"
"Yeah, but your given name?"
"No, that's it. I'm Sergeant Sargent"
"That's it? That's all he gets?!"

-Meanwhile, up in the city of Lol, Morris has finally regained consciousness!
"We have good news and bad news for you."
"Well, the good news is that we managed to remove the explosive probe the Guardian Robots implanted you with."
"And the bad news?"
"Well, we could only save 53% of your ass."
"Well, it's not so bad! We've managed to replace the 47% you'd lost with a Cyborg Ass."

-"What happened to the Viking Wizard?"
"My best friend, the Viking Wizard!"
"Do you mean Vladik? He's on the council now."
"My best friend is on the council??"
"Funny, he's never mentioned you."

-"Wow.. my best friend is on the High Council of Wizards!"
"He's not your best friend you imbecile, he charmed you!"

-Roman puts Morris on a shuttlecraft, with orders to investigate a barren asteroid called Gebo, which was the last known location of the Hippomagus, and later to go down to the surface to see if he can find the rest of the PCs, who never returned from their last mission.
"So how do I fly this thing?"
"According to this, sir, your ass is a fully licensed shuttle pilot."

-As expected, when he gets into the pilot seat, his ass starts to talk, giving him instructions on how to fly.
"He's literally flying off his ass!"

-"So um.. ass.. can you.."
"*Wait! ASS Calibrating!*"

-"*Attention! ASS Sensors detecting two lifeforms on the asteroid!*"

-The two lifeforms are of course Yarr the Halfling and Bill the Elf.  Bill is still a Sezrekhan Zombie, and for the past week he's been slowly chasing Yarr around the asteroid while she evades him and has managed to survive by eating her large supply of packaged peanuts.
"The thing about this campaign is that eventually, you will look back at the time you were trapped on this abandoned asteroid with fondness."

-"So is Morris' ass our new BOLT-0?"

-Yarr sees Morris' shuttle land and rushes toward it.
"Come with me if you want to live!"

-On the advice of Morris' ass, Yarr and Morris rush out of there, rather than face the zombie-Bill. They fly down toward the surface, as Morris' ass follows a tracking device that Roman had secretly planted on one of the other PCs. As they're heading down, the shuttle is suddenly hit by a lightning bolt, presumably from a nearby group of Halconlords.

-The PCs along with Captain Obvious and his guards see the shuttle going down. Tonut flies up to the shuttle and rescue Yarr and Morris before it crashes.
"Whoever shot down that vessel will be coming soon."
"Well, obviously, captain!"

-"I had been sent by these dinosaur guys to Gebo, where Bill was there. He killed the cat-wizard."
"Wait... do you mean Bill the Elf?"
"Ok, maybe."

-"*ASS Calibrating!*"
"Morris..did your pants just talk to us?"
"Oh yeah, look at this guys!"
"Why is he exposing himself to us?"
"He does that sometimes."

-To avoid fighting the Halconlords, the party turns south, near the edge of the Badlands. As they're marching, a few of them (making a perception check) notice they're about to be ambushed by a group of small humanoids.
"They could be kobolds, or goblins, or halflings.."
"That's racist!"
"Actually, your people are famous for ambushing people, Yarr."

-The ambushers turned out to be goblins; after beating them off, they decide to keep marching into the night, worried that the Halconlords might still be on their tail. Finally, very late into the night, they stop to rest.
"Someone should keep watch."
"Not me, my disapproval is huge and I need my G.O.D.-forgiveness rest."
"I need to heal."
"I've been chased by zombie-Bill for a week!"

-"Can I sleep with my jetpack on?"
"No. Well, yes.. but you'd probably fly into a mountain or something."

-"*ASS Calibrating!*"
"Damn it, it's the middle of the night!"
"Ass, can you just keep guard for us? You know, ass-guard?"

-"What are you calibrating, anyways??"
"*That information is classified!*"

-"At the next rest-stop, Morris takes a crap. Is it normal?"
"More or less. There's a 'ping' noise at the end, and your turd is a perfect cube."

-"Ass, can you calibrate on mute?"
"*I could, but why would I?*"

-"While you're all discussing Morris' ass, do a perception check."

-It turns out the PCs perceive that they're about to get attacked by a bunch of giant bees!

-"Captain Obvious is being pretty heroic."
"Those bees will likely sting us!"
"..still obvious, though."
"They will sting like that curry I ate yesterday!"

-"You bunch of children! An ass starts to talk and all of a sudden you're all immature."
"It was your idea!"
"Oh sure, blame the GM for all this!"

-"After beating those bees, the newbies are just 7xp away from one of them being actually relevant!"

-"I wonder if 'Ass' is his name, or some kind of an acronym?"

-"Ass... status report?"
"*ASS is fully operational, other than being attached to an imbecile*"

-That night, while Mu and Yarr are keeping watch, an Owlbear jumps down from a tree right on Mu!
"You all wake up from the screams; mainly Mu's, but also the Owlbear."

-They manage to kill off the owlbear, but Mu probably won't ever look at trees the same way.

-Kumar decides to make the owlbear remains into a delicious curry.

-"There are still Halconlord patrols in this area of the forest, be careful."
"I have an idea! What if we burn down the forest to get rid of the patrols?"
"We're IN the forest, dude."

-Next night, an Ogre sneaks to the camp, takes down the weed farmer and starts putting him into a sack. The other PCs notice.
"Me only want this one!"
"That's almost reasonable."

-They decide to fight the ogre anyways, and Publio the pageboy manages to stab the ogre to death, right through the ass.
"*warning! Alert mode activated! Ass-stabbing occurring in proximity!*"
"man, this has become a very ass-focused adventure."

-A night later, the PCs are attacked at night again, stealthily, by huge blood-sucking bugs. They manage to get onto Captain Obvious and Sergeant Sargent, already starting to drain their blood before the PCs finally notice.
Morris accidentally kills Sergeant Sargent, while trying to shoot the bug off him.
"Damn it, Morris! I really liked the Sergeant!"
"*The Sergeant was 70% more likable than Morris!*"
"Et tu, Ass?"

-Everyone is sad about the Sergeant's death, except for Captain Obvious.
"well, I hated him."
"Yes, that was obvious."

-"Our humor here is always so offensive."
"Captain Obvious points out that non-offensive humor is usually boring."

-Finally, the PCs make it to the Azure Tower! The Azure Wizards are not very interested in anything the PCs have to say.. until Yarr mentions offhand that she knows where the Sunstaff is.

-"My ass is awesome!"

-"So captain, will you join our party now?"
"I've come to see that it's obvious that whatever you're planning to do is very dangerous, so I will not be joining you."
"We never plan to do anything!"

-A slip of the tongue almost gets the group in trouble with the Azure Wizards.
"Are you misgendering the halfling?"
"Oh... no, it's ok, I'm gender-fluid."
"Oh, alright then."

-In spite of having previously mocked the Azure Order for having been a group of gender-indeterminate wizards, Mu now claims he's gender-indeterminate in order to get access to their library to finish studying magic missile. In his defense, one of his spells does make him flip gender when cast.

-"After you have finished your studies, Mu, you should strongly consider joining the order. There are many benefits to being an Azure Wizard!"
"Wait... Mu's a wizard??"

To finish off the session, the Azure Order has agreed to help the PCs, but they have yet another side-quest for them: it turns out there's a large zombie-plague attacking Coolland, and they just got a distress message from Queen Zoey. So if the PCs want a lift back to Lol and help with the Sunstaff-retrieval issue, they'll need to head to Coolland first.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia

Friday, 26 May 2017

Classic Rant: Alternate Palladium System Skill Rules

I like the Palladium system. Overall, I have little beef with it. It's mostly very good at what it does; it's fast, it's not particularly complex, it runs smoothly, and it gives you that fast-and-loose kind of feeling.

Except the skills. The skills fail at all of the above. Skills are not fast, and they are complex.  They are the single biggest drag in the character creation process, the one thing that stops one from being able to say that the Palladium system would really be a great introductory or "pick-up" sort of game. Imagine Palladium, but where it only took you five or ten minutes to make a character, instead of having to spend a half hour poring back and forth from your OCC to the Skills section trying to look up the percentages (and progressions) of every single fucking skill, because they're all different. 

It doesn't run smoothly; the percentile mechanic is easy enough, but what happens when you level? This skill goes up 5%, that one 4%, that other one 2%! Once more, you are forced to look up everything (or at least, if you were smart enough to jot all the progressions down in the first place, you still have to take more time than you should have to double checking that you brought each skill up its required amount).

Finally, it's not "fast-and-loose" at all. It doesn't much fit with the rest of the system. In Combat you don't have twenty thousand different maneuvers; you just have "strike", "dodge", "parry", etc. But with the skills you, have "Radio operator: basic"; "radio operator: expert", "radio operator: superexpert"; "radio operator: jamming", "radio operator: techno-wizard radios", "radio operator: DJ", "radio operator: Ham"; "radio operator: shock jock", "radio operator: semi-intermediate that-kind-of-stage-where-you're-halfway-to-expert", "radio operator: ninja", and of course "radio operator: Fred".

It's idiotic.

So in any case, we were talking quite a bit about Palladium's skills a little while back on theRPGsite, and I hadn't forgotten about it. I had asked a few people what their solutions were, but none of them seemed quite radical enough. So here's what I came up with:

You know how all the skills are divided up into very broad categories? Make THOSE categories the skills!
So the new Palladium game system skill list would be:

Pilot Related

Plus the weapon proficiencies, that we'd keep as it is. There you go, twenty million skills pruned down to 14.

Now, every skill would begin with a base 30% + 4%/ level progression.

But beyond that, if you wanted to make it slightly more sophisticated, you could say that the old skills were just skill "specialties", that a given class would get a bonus for when rolling their skill as relates to that specialty. You would now have the skill specialties be automatically determined based on his OCC skills and related skills (and wherever his OCC related skills indicated a bonus to an entire skill-set, that would apply as an overall bonus to that skill including to any specializations; if an OCC related skill set indicated "none", that would mean that excepting any specializations already given under the OCC skills, the character has a value of 0 in the skill). 

Physical skills that gave you actual bonuses to attributes could only be taken if they were one of your OCC skills, otherwise they don't exist. For hand-to-hand skills, you could assume that if the option is given in the OCC to take a "higher" grade of hand-to-hand combat, you will have that higher grade. In other words, every PC will start out with the highest hand-to-hand type permitted by their OCC skills, unless the player himself wants to have inferior combat skills for some reason of character.

So for example, let's take the RIFTS "City Rat". It has for its OCC skills the following: streetwise (+20), pilot motorcycle (+15), pilot automobile (+10), math: basic (+10), running, wp of choice (1), hand to hand:basic. It also notes that the city rat could optionally have hand to hand: martial arts (or assassin if evil-aligned) if they use up one "other" skill.

So first of all, we assume that the City Rat will indeed have Martial Arts (or Assassin). Then we factor in the various specializations to end up with a skill set like this:

-motorcycle +15
-automobile +10
Pilot Related
-streetwise +20
math: basic +10

He also gets to pick one weapon proficiency, and takes running, which gives him +1 to P.E., +4d4 to speed, and +1d6 to sdc.

Now we look at "other" skills. Here is where we will determine the actual values of the skill. In the case of the City Rat, the "Other" skills are listed by category as: Communications: any (+10 to radio:basic and surveillance), domestic: any (+5), Electrical: basic only (+5), Espionage: none, Mechanical: automotive only (+10), Medical: first aid or paramedic (+10) only, military: any, Physical: any (+5), pilot: any ground vehicles, jet pack, robot basic combat (+10) only, pilot related: any, rogue: any (+15), science: math:advanced and chemistry only, Technical: any (+10), wilderness: none.

So now the skill list ends up looking like this:

Communications 30
-radio basic 40
-surveillance 40
Domestic 35
Electrical 0
-basic electronics: 35
Espionage 0
Mechanical 0
-automotive mechanics 40
Medical 0
-paramedic 40
Military 30
Physical 35
Pilot 0
-motorcycle 45
-automobile 40
-ground vehicle 40
-jet pack 40
-robot basic 40 (robot basic combat)
Pilot Related 30
Rogue 45
-streetwise 65
Science 0
chemistry 30
math:advanced 30
math: basic 40
Technical 40
Wilderness 0

As you can see there are effectively only 21 skills for the PC to worry about, and all of them will be going up at the same rate. When the time comes to level up, the player will just have to add +4 to each skill.

Next up, to finish rounding the character out, we see how many secondary skills he would have received. In the case of the City Rat, he had 10 secondary skills. In our system, you multiply that amount by five to receive the total amount of extra points you have to put into your skills listed above. You can put those points into any skill that isn't listed as having a rank of "0" (those are skills not available to the class and will never go up), either into the main skill or the specialization, but any points you put into the main skill do NOT end up raising the specialization at this point (this is to avoid the obvious wholesale points-pumping that would otherwise occur). So in the case of the city rat, you'd have 50 points to spread around into your various skills.

Finally, as the PC goes up in level, every three levels (lv. 3, 6, 9, 12, 15) the PC can choose two "adds" to the skill-set. An "add" can be either a bonus of +10 to a skill (general or specialized, there's no difference at that point), or a new weapon proficiency, physical skill, or robot combat technique, if any of these are allowed to the class.

So do let me know what you think about this solution to the problem of Skills in Palladium! I'll certainly be giving it a whirl if I ever get that RIFTS campaign I've been thinking of running going...


(originally posted june 16, 2007)

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Yes, Canadians, You CAN Get Dark Albion on Lulu!

So, I recently had some people complaining about the high cost of shipping US RPG-book products to Canada.  I wasn't aware of this, but apparently these days shipping books to Canada from the US or abroad has become even more ridiculously expensive than ever before.

Meanwhile, Lulu has a production facility IN Canada, and thus avoid those exorbitant fees.

Now someone recently asked me if I could be willing to put Dark Albion for sale on Lulu so that it would be cheaper for Canadian and other non-US customers to buy.

Well, in fact, Dark Albion IS on Lulu.
It's always been on Lulu. It came out on Lulu first.

In fact, the Alternate Cover Edition of Dark Albion is ONLY on Lulu.

And yes, Cults of Chaos is also on Lulu!

So if you are in Canada or one of those other "you get screwed on shipping/import duties/etc" countries, and didn't know you could get Dark Albion, now you have no excuse!  Go get yourself a real "OSR extravaganza" with Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + H&H's Chestnut

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Real Occultism in RPGS: How to Identify Crazy Wizards by Their Occult Team

I haven't done one of these in a long time, but long-time readers may recall I have done a whole series of entries (archived here) that detail how to incorporate elements of real occultism in your modern occult/horror RPGs. Today, I'm looking less at the theory, practices or mechanics of magick, and more at the social side of occultism. Just like in Harry Potter has Gryffindor and Slytherin, modern wizards have their own rival houses that are very different in look, attitude and ideas. They're all nuts, though. I should know, because I am one. So let's take a jesting look at the four major teams of the modern western occult scene, so that you can learn how to correctly interpret them in your occult RPG game!

1. Traditional/Grimoire Ceremonial Magicians

These guys are old-schoolers. They're divided between wizards that think magic should be done the 19th Century way, versus those who think it should be done the 15th Century way (and a couple who want it the 4th Century way). Regardless, they think new stuff is crap, and constantly showboat online about who's doing it the more old-school way. I say online because 99% of them never actually interact with anyone outside a computer screen.

Their magic involves trying to meticulously recreate the complicated tools and methods of Victorian or Medieval magicians, which sometimes involves a ridiculous amount of hand-crafting weird tools.

Some of them ain't got no time for that, so they just buy them. There's a whole Etsy industry catering to these guys.

It's especially funny because medieval magic is almost entirely Christian or Jewish, and almost none of these guys are. The whole "super authentic" thing goes out the window if you don't really mean all those psalms you're supposed to pray before invoking angels. But it gives you internet props anyways.

Hallmarks: Least likely to ever meet you in person. Most likely to have beards but dress like a square.

2. Thelemites

The modern wizards. Thelemites are magicians who use the techniques of Aleister Crowley, the greatest magician of the 20th century.

Like their founder, they enjoy being shit-disturbers, but fundamentally have disciplined views on magick. That said, 90% of Thelemites don't actually do very much magic, just read books and look for some fleeting partner to have "sex magic" with (Thelema is big on sex magic, though actually very few of them do that either).

As occult libertarians, they're big into free love, free drugs, and free thought; but they're also big on trying to spook the normies (and Wiccans). They can either be the life of the party, or totally insufferable know-it-alls.

Hallmarks: Most likely to wear black. Most likely to dig Alan Moore. Most likely to hit on Wiccan chicks at a Pagan festival.

3. Chaos Magicians

Chaos magicians are the post-modern magicians. It started as a kind of revolt against Thelema because the Crowley stuff was too "square" (by which they really mean "too hard"). Some of the big names in this movement are decent, because they're disciplined and studied other stuff. But 90% of Chaos-magicians have done anything at all outside of acting all pomo.

Granted, at least most of them have done some magic. Unfortunately most of them have only ever done one kind of magic: the one-trick-pony of Chaos Magic that involves masturbating over a sigil. Not even some ancient sigil, carefully selected and to deal with significant crises (where, in fact, the use of sexual energy to power the operation, even if just by masturbation, is traditional), but just one you made up yourself this morning for, usually for any old kind of bullshit.

(this is why people laugh at you, Chaos-magick wankers)

They also try to claim magic is scientific, by blurting out so much nonsense about quantum physics it would make Sam Harris' brain explode and Deepak Chopra blush. Then right after they tell you how scientific it all is, they tell you that it totally makes sense to invoke Wonder Woman in a ritual instead of Athena.

Hallmarks: Most likely to dress like a reject from an '80s movie. Most likely to dig Grant Morrison. Most likely to practice all their sex-magic solo.

4. Meme Magicians

Meme magick is post-post-modern magick. It is the art and science of creating, posting, and spreading memes to create change in your life and the world. It's either complete and total bullcrap or the most powerful sorcery of our modern era. Either way, it got Trump elected.

(Praise Kek!)

Meme Magicians operate through the power of sigils, like Chaos Magick, but instead of wanking over them, they use the power of the internet: their sigils are memes. The more popular a meme becomes, the more powerful it becomes. Of course, a lot of Meme Magicians are ALSO probably wanking over their sigils, because... you know, the internet.

So memes to them are a kind of hypersigil, and a meme that gets enough fame can achieve a kind of life of its own, or even a consciousness of its own. This is not some kind of new idea, it's called an Egregore, and it's essentially the artificial creation of a spirit through the application of group/collective consciousness. Egregores can be quite powerful, and useful, but can also sometimes be difficult to keep under control if they get TOO big. The most famous Meme Magick example of an egregore is of course Pepe the Frog. He went from being a goofy meme to beinga manifestation of an ancient Egyptian god, Kek

These memes can spill over to have effects on the real world. Some are very personal and can have very personal effects, changing things in small ways. Others can have massive world-changing effects. The most obvious case of this was the meme magick that helped the election of Donald Trump.
Other examples include the "Slenderman", and the "He'll be fine" meme, which is a meme that can be capable of killing celebrities. It may have been what killed Lemmy Kilmister.

Advanced Meme Magicians combine online memes, symbols of their intent, and more traditional occult symbols, as seen in this Jupiter Trump-Pusheen Sigil:

Obviously, you will now want to ask "are you fucking kidding me?", and the answer is yes. 
But kidding doesn't make it not real. Meme Magicians work on the basis of humor, to an even greater degree than the chaos magicians did before them, and the Thelemites did before them (old-school ceremonial magicians, on the other hand, tend to rely on being super-serious). The fact that even most meme magicians don't seem to take themselves seriously doesn't actually mean they aren't being 'real' meme magicians: meme magicians straddle a strange line between being dead-serious and totally fucking with you.

Hallmarks: Most likely to perform magick in their underwear. Most likely to weigh as much as two normal men or be stick-thin. Least likely to bathe daily. Most likely to want to Make America Great Again. Most likely to create an egregore to use for a waifu.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Billiard + Image Latakia

Monday, 22 May 2017

Why Did Time Magazine Not Know What the Kremlin Looks Like?

You've probably seen this cover, of the White House turning into the Kremlin.

Only, that's not the Kremlin. That's St. Basil's church. Time magazine doesn't know what the Kremlin looks like.

But worse: I know why.  If you do a google search for "kremlin", a lot of the images that appear are of Red Square, where St. Basil's and the Kremlin are both located, and some of the pictures that come up INCORRECTLY identify St. Basil's as the Kremlin.
See, this is St. Basil's (but the search claimed it was the Kremlin):

See the building on the right of the cathedral in this next picture? THAT is the Kremlin:

The Time magazine cover was done by someone who had to google to see what Kremlin was like, and got it wrong. And several million Democrats have been nodding sagely not realizing that Time Magazine knows fuck all about Russia and now they too know fuck all about Russia, thanks to thinking that a group of culture-studies-grad Establishment Journalists can actually have anything intelligent to say about the Trump presidency, foreign affairs, russian politics, or anything other than than the 'safe space'/microaggression nonsense they learned in school.

That cover is the ultimate triumph of the dominant Left-wing paradigm of "narrative/feeling over fact/truth or reason".  It symbolizes absolutely everything about the bullshit "Russia hacked the election" fabrication.

That is your brain on fake news.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Soltario Volcano + C&D's Chestnut

Wild West Campaign Update: The Murder of Dora Hand & The Intrepid Posse

The PCs started the session preparing for the upcoming wedding of former Gambler and secret Mormon, Hale, to his beloved former saloon-girl Becky.  After Miller had nearly caused a scandal for Hale by incorrectly thinking he was secretly a Catholic (he came close to the truth), Miller offered to make it up for Hale by running his bachelor party.  The fairly milquetoast Hale was reluctant but decided to accept the offer.

Miller paid for everything and held the party, which involved a poker game for various "prizes" (mostly prostitutes) at the top floor (the floor usually reserved for high-stakes games) of his Gambling Hall attached to the Beatty Hotel.

During the game, which was incredibly being won mainly by David the Mexican in spite of his having no idea how to play, one of Miller's employees comes up to inform him of a situation.  It turns out that an impromptu high-stakes game has taken place downstairs and is attracting a huge crowd, on account of how there's currently $20000 on the table.

The man holding up the game doesn't have enough to match the current raise of the only other player not to have folded yet. But he's trying to get a $10000 loan from Miller now, because of his insurance:  he'g got a four-of-a-kind in his hand.
Miller takes some time thinking about it (after arriving in Dodge near-penniless only 2 years ago, he was now wealthy enough to make the loan if he wanted), but in the end decides that he's too distracted by the party upstairs and on impulse says no.  However, the town bank manager says yes and gives him a cashier's check for the value, that whoever wins will be able to cash first thing in the morning. The gambler was sure of his victory, but everyone is stunned when the other man at the table has a royal flush.

After the game is over, the PCs and the other guests continue enjoying themselves at the bachelor party. All except Doc Baker, who calls it a night early.

Some time in the night the losing gambler leaves town with his tail between his legs. The next morning, first thing, the winning gambler cashes his check, and heads out of town quickly (not suspicious, given that he's likely to be nervous about someone who heard the news trying to hijack him).
Then the bank manager tries to hang himself. He's found in time by the teller, and they get him to Doc Baker, but Doc is nowhere to be found! They bring over Kid Taylor, the second most skilled medic of the town, to examine the manager.

Marshall Bassett is concerned about Baker's absence. He and Kid start to look around, and they discover he's nowhere to be found. Miller ends up finding out from the town drunk Louis that Baker was seen last night with the losing gambler.  What none of the PCs know, nor nayone one else in town except for Miss Jenny, is that long before Doc was a doctor, he was a riverboat gambler on the Mississippi, and he recognized the old scam: the two gamblers were in on it together. They'd set up the game to secure the loan and walk away with the bank's money (though Miller had been their original target). Unfortunately, when he was following the losing gambler in the hopes of finding proof of his suspicions, he got spotted and taken hostage.

A manhunt ensued, and eventually Kid, Jim Masterson and Wyatt Earp ended up finding them in a shack in the red light district. They'd doubled back into town and were trying to figure out what to do with the Doc and how to get out of town.  The lawmen were soon joined by the two Millers and Bill Tilghman, but they still had a hostage situation.  It turned out to be the young and usually bloodthirsty Jim Masterson who solved the issue.  He agreed to the men's demand that they be able to walk out with the Doc, and when they were too far to run back into the shack he drew on them, making it clear that they might kill Doc but six guns would end up mowing them down like dogs. The men surrendered.

One might have thought that would be all the action Dodge would see for a while, but the very next night a real tragedy struck.  In the middle of night, Dora Hand (one of the most renowned and beautiful singers of the west at that time, and one of the most famous citizens of Dodge) was shot dead.

She was killed in the house of Mayor James "Dog" Kelley, her lover. Kelley wasn't in Dodge at the time, having gone to Ft. Dodge for some medical attention while Doc Baker was missing.
The murderer was Spike Kenedy, the heir to the largest ranching fortune in this part of the west, son of cattle-baron Miflin Kenedy.

Spike had fallen madly in love with Dora Hand, and he hated Dog Kelley for being her lover. He'd actually tried to assassinate the mayor six weeks back (only to have the case thrown out thanks to his father's influence) and some three weeks back he'd come to town and challenged Dog to a fist-fight; in spite of being decades older than Spike, Dog beat him to a pulp.

This time, he'd gone to Dog's house in the night to murder him stealthily, not realizing that it was Dora who he'd shot.

Spike fled the scene, and Bat Masterson immediately put together a posse: Bat, Charlie Bassett, Bill Tilghman, and Wyatt Earp, accompanied by Bill "other" Miller, and Kid Taylor as deputies. The four lawmen were at this time four of the most famous lawmen in the west, and the new Ford County Register later reported on the matter, naming them "The Intrepid Posse", as never before had such famously intrepid lawmen all ridden together in such a celebrated manhunt.

Charlie Bassett:
Bill Tilghman:
Wyatt Earp:

They chased Spike Kenedy down, at night, through a raging autumn rainstorm. About 7 hours after they set off they caught up to him. He tried to ride off but Bat Masterson shot him through the upper arm with a .50 rifle while Wyatt Earp shot his horse out from under him. Spike cried out "Did I kill the bastard?", and one of the posse told him it was Dora Hand he'd murdered.  Spike glared at Bat and said "you should have been a better marksman"; to which Bat replied "I tried my best".  Spike would end up surviving his injury but only after the doc took about five inches off that arm, leaving it permanently paralyzed.

The murder of Dora Hand and the Intrepid Posse that caught the killer would become part of the wild west's legend.  Little do the PCs know that for one of the men in that posse, it would be the last time he ever rode as a Dodge city lawman.  But that's a story for next session.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia