The new and improved defender of RPGs!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Classic Rant: "Real" Magick in RPGs: the MotherFucking Kabbalah

I've spoken about the Kabbalah previously, but I feel like I need to get some more detail in about that; mainly because if there's one thing that can drive a regular person to utter metaphysical "magical insanity" it's the Kabbalah.

The first thing to note is that the Kabbalah that magicians use is not the same as the traditional Hebrew Kabbalah; nor is it the sort of thing Madonna is into; that's a new-age Hollywood version of the Hebrew Kabbalah. Though it can be funny for people in your game to make that kind of mistaken assumption, as its the sort of thing that would drive a magician to rage, if someone says shit like: "Oh yeah I love the kabbalah, i have a special power bracelet, see?"

The Hermetic or Magical Kabbalah is descended from the Hebrew Kabbalah; its point of divergence is when Johannes Reuchlin and a few other Christian writers in the 14th century began to borrow the Kabbalah (which contrary to claims was only a couple of hundred years old at the absolute most at that time), translating it into Latin, and writing commentaries on its virtues that stated to separate it from Judaism. Their intention originally was of course to try to use the Kabbalah to "prove" that Jesus was the Jewish messiah, but the unintentional result of their methodology led to the Kabbalah being transformed into a system that could work outside of an orthodox Jewish religious context, and seemed to reveal a much broader view of the universe than either Judaism or Christianity would offer. It was the Hermetic Kabbalah, teaching something that magicians already were working on but could not as easily explain before the Kabbalah came along to act as a giant "filing system" or index: that everything is connected to everything else, that the universe operates on multiple dimensions where different rules apply in each dimension, and where all of creation is ultimately One, and then None.

The Kabbalah's popularity, and what made the Hermetic Kabbalah central to western magick from that moment on, was that it served as an aforementioned indexing system. It had a practical application, which is what we want to focus on in terms of emulating it for gaming: it lets you try to figure out the secret codes of the universe, and how any one thing connects to any other.

There are two parts to this: the first is the Tree of Life, the giant blueprint of creation. It consists of ten spheres (sephira) with 22 paths connecting it (the same number as there are letters in the Hebrew alphabet, or cards in the major arcana of the tarot). Each of these sephira represent a different level of reality, from the 1st (Kether) that is pure creation, to the 10th (Malkuth) that is what we usually think of as our actual material world. But each of these spheres actually contain within them an aspect of all reality, like a miniature blueprint of the universe within them, so that in each sphere, there's also a tree, making for not 10 but 100 sephira. But beyond that, there are four overall levels to creation, making for not 100 but 400 sephira. And somewhere on these sephira or the paths that connect them you can place absolutely any object, word, colour, phenomenon, or concept; to see what other concepts are basically identical to them, which are very closely related, and which are very far away.

The methods by which to derive this are by correspondence (as in, looking up in tables of correspondences that have already been compiled by others) or by what's called "gematria"; where you calculate the number value of any word, and compare it to other words that have the same value.

Finally, the Tree of Life can also be used as a method to engage in astral travel; where you project yourself in spiritual visions to different levels of the tree, to try to learn or experience the lessons of that level.

So what would all this look like? How would you simulate it in a game?

First of all, an NPC who was caught up in the Kabbalah would probably be frequently doing gematric calculations; either about everything in general (if he was rally batshit obsessed) or about the specific magical works he's doing (magicians tend to use gematria for "proofs", that if they can find something meaningful in the gematric calculations for symbols or words or numbers they've received in operations or visions, it's a "proof" that they're on the right track). Such a magician would be very excited when he made a connection, and would talk excessively about numbers and words and how such and such word "corresponds" to some alchemical concept, or to the planetary spirit of mercury, or to a phrase from the old testament, or whatever.

You might have to, as GM, simulate Gematria. Unless you want to actually become a kabbalist yourself, the best way to do this is probably to bullshit it; have a "kabbalah" skill or use whatever skill is effective in your game, and abstractly imply that the PCs have figured out the number values of words (this isn't hard to do, it only takes a minute or two for anything short of a paragraph), and have looked up in a kabbalistic encyclopedia (very easy to obtain, remember magical books are NOT hard to get) to find that the word corresponds to whatever damned magical concept you want it to in your game. 

You could try to be tricky, for example if the players are dealing with a particular kind of demon, something new or little known, the name of that demon might not be in the encyclopedia; but it could be connected to the name of beelzebub or some other goetic demon, or to one of the qlippothic spheres (oh yeah, the Tree of life ALSO has a "negative" or "qlippothic" realm of broken things that never were, a kind of shattered mirror of the tree of life, from which demons are said to arise - there's shitloads to be done in a campaign with that alone!). They might have to calculate the names of two different things, only to find that they correspond to the same number, to discover that a certain object has power over a certain spirit, for example.

A failed roll can be explained as mistake in the calculation. Anything that isn't in Hebrew has to first be transliterated into Hebrew before you can calculate its number; and that's where errors can easily come in. There's no single agreement for what the value of certain English letters with no Hebrew alphabet should be translated as, or even if they should be skipped. There's no Hebrew F, or E; and while there is a Hebrew A (aleph), a word with an A in it may sometimes have that "A" translated into an aleph, and sometimes ignored, because in biblical Hebrew there are words with an "a" sound in between the consonants without an actual Aleph being there.

Such errors might be discovered, but since most magicians tend to jump to certain conclusions in their work, they may miss some obvious correspondence that way until something they're trying doesn't work or doesn't make sense, after which they'll try to figure out the gematria yet again.

Go overboard with gematria, and pretty quickly you reach "A Beautiful Mind"-levels of near-schizophrenic obsession of seeing connections and deep magical meanings in everyday objects and events. Everything starts to seem metaphysically important.

As for astrally pathworking the tree of life; I think trying to describe pathworking will take up at least an entire entry of this series, but if you want to get ahead of me on that, I'd strongly suggest you read Alan Moore's comic Promethea. The main character goes through a journey up the tree of life in several issues of that series, and its one of the best illustrated descriptions of the type of experiences one can have along the way; no doubt sprung from the recollection of Moore's own pathworkings.


(Originally posted December 9 2011)

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Everybody Loves "Lion & Dragon"! Also, Check Out "Crazy Wizards"!

So the update in brief: yesterday, Lion & Dragon was released for sale on OBS, and it has been a big success!

I personally saw it get as far as #2 on the Bestselling Titles list on RPGnow (it's now at #3, for the moment). Clearly, people were excitedly anticipating this OSR game of Medieval Authentic Roleplaying.  Some for it's non-vancian magic system based on real medieval occultism, some for its details on folklore, culture, etc.; and some for its full on grittiness (one fan described it as "Nightmare Iron-Man Survival Mode", though that's really not how I would describe it... maybe its how someone not used to Old-school might, though).

So if you haven't picked it up yet, go check it out! You only THINK you're playing "medieval fantasy" until you play Lion & Dragon!

But that's not all for today! I know that not everyone is a fan of Medieval-Authentic hyper-realist emulation.... some of you prefer Gonzo!

Lucky for you, I love them both, so today we also have just released RPGPundit Presents #11: Crazy Wizards!

Jeez, seriously? We've done 11 of these already?

Anyways, "Crazy Wizards" is a collection of a brief biography of 10 different utterly Crazy Wizards! You get their backstory, and each one comes with either a new spell, a new magic item, or more!

There is:
Fuxi and his Plastromancy spell (material component: setting a turtle on fire)

Shivarud and his Death Dance

Tyanus and his Rainbow Transfiguration

Joe the All-Powerful and his stolen magic items

Plantina, Mistress of Spiders

Master Dong, and his Eight-Element Circle of Reflection

Manny the Neutral, and his Cone of Neutrality

Gabal Godkiller and his Aura of Menace

The Sea Priestess and her table of random swords

Honorius III and his Grimoire

So go check out "Crazy Wizards" on DTRPG for just $1.99! Or the Precis Intermedia store for the same price.

Also, while you're at it, be sure to check out the earlier issues of RPGPundit Presents:

RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

RPGPundit Presents #2: The Goetia

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons

Stay tuned for more next week!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti half-volcano + H&H's Chestnut

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Lion & Dragon: Medieval-Authentic Roleplaying is AVAILABLE NOW!

Hey all!  It went live faster than expected, but Lion & Dragon is already available on RPGnow!  And I take it as a very good sign that without any real promotion from my part yet, in the first 18 hours or so from its release, it's already made it to #4 of the hottest titles on rpgnow. 

If you would rather get it from Amazon or Lulu, those options will be coming, soon. But if you don't care how you get it and you just want this game RIGHT NOW, go get it!

Lion & Dragon is a Medieval Authentic OSR game. Until now, you only thought you were playing "medieval fantasy"!

With Lion & Dragon, the rules of the original tabletop RPG have been adapted to create a more historically authentic medieval experience, to reflect the grittier and yet more mythic world of a magical medieval Europe.

L&D includes new rules governing social class and materials on culture to help a GM craft a world that feels closer to the world of the 100-years war or the War of the Roses. It has a grittier and more dangerous feel to reflect the cheapness of life at the time. Also included are sections on medieval economics, law & justice, and chapters with monsters and magical items based on authentic medieval legends. Finally, a completely revamped magic system is based on actual grimoire-magic as the medieval magicians really envisioned it.

From the creator of Dark Albion, Lion & Dragon will have you discovering real medieval fantasy for the very first time.


Currently Smoking: Neerup peach + Image Virginia

Monday, 11 December 2017

"El Fregadero!"

My sourcebook on The Kitchen Sink, with complete rules for covering interesting and fascinating OSR kitchen-sinks (or fountains, or whatever) to put in Dungeons, has now been released in Spanish.

You can pick it up as "El Fregadero!", which I find fairly funny, just because that's not the word you'd use for a kitchen-sink over in Uruguay.
Here, we'd call it a Pileta. Of course, others might confuse that with a swimming pool.

Ah well, Spanish is complicated.

Pick up El Fregadero on the Precis store or over on DTRPG.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + Blue Boar

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Medieval Life was on "Hard" Mode, & Lion & Dragon is OSR on 'Hard' Too

My Medieval-Authentic OSR game, Lion & Dragon, is finally coming out sometime in the next week.

And on that subject, I wanted to ask you all something.  One of the criticisms some people make of OSR play (and by 'some people' I mean mainly later-edition D&D players) is that OSR play is 'too gritty', it's too easy to die, it's just too lethal.

Well, I was thinking about this, and of course, I designed L&D to be MORE gritty, and more dangerous than standard OSR games.  Now, I'm not talking about something idiotic like the 'fantasy fucking vietnam' style of D&D where the GM is out to kill you or what-have-you, but I mean the standard elements of making Medieval-Authentic play.  Here's some of the ways L&D is more challenging than standard D&D:

1. In a game about resources, you may have way less resources.  If your PC is of low social class, he may never have touched money. His armor will be of lower quality than what a noble can get, and probably always will be, because the nature of the actual society is that it isn't just our world in 2017, so even if a noble is really really nice to you, he shouldn't be giving you plate mail. Getting a rich friend or patron can help, but the better arms and armors he'll give you will still be shittier than his own.
Of course if you luck out and get to play the noble in question, you've got it a lot better. That's just luck of the draw! But don't think that plate mail will save you because...

2. It's not just combat that can kill you. Oh, sure, there's always been poisons and traps and whatnot. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about how in L&D, if you survive a fight, in fact if you slaughter the crap out of your opponent, but he gets a nick in, there's always a chance that nick will lead to a little infection, which will lead to a big infection, which will lead to you going out like Khal Drogo, except your arranged-marriage wife probably won't even end up with any dragons in the bargain.
But that's not all!  Want to go into a city? Great. There's a chance you could die of dysentery.  Of course, the game still has Clerics with the power to heal, but...

3. Religion is actually serious, and potentially deadly. Want to be healed? Great. But you better be able to demonstrate that you are a faithful worshipper, or you won't be getting the answer to your liquid diarrhea from the Church.
Yes, one Church. Protestantism hasn't been invented yet. Your options are the Church or insane Chaos cults.  The Clerics have a strict militant-order set of rules inspired by the knights templar, and if they think you're not worthy of divine grace then you damn well better promise to go on a crusade or do some other holy work to earn your miracle.  And if they think you're a cultist, witch, or heretic, they'll help your dysentery problem by having a nice bonfire.
Of course, wizards can heal too in this game, just that it's complicated for them, because...

4. The system is grittier too.  
Magic-users don't do Vancian casting, and most of their magic requires preparation in advance. It often requires materials, like an alchemical lab. It requires having ingredients and money, requiring either social class or patrons.
Characters start at 0 level.
At level 1 they're usually a stronger than the average OSR lv.1 character, but after that they don't gain as much per level.  Characters of higher levels will usually have less hit points than their other-game equivalents, and worse saves.
There's an optional critical system that's also just brutal.

So... what do you think about all that? Music to your ears? Or are you not a fan of playing in Medieval-Authentic "Hard" mode?


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Fox Dorisco

Saturday, 9 December 2017

DCC Campaign Update: G.O.D. is my Pimp!

We're smack dab in the middle of the Death Race 3000!


-"On the hover-tank we have Vizi, Heidi, Blitzkreig Sakomano, and Space-bear."
"Yeah, the cool group! The other car has the nerds!"
"Man, it's bad when it's the GM saying that..."

-"It's kind of an ideal situation for you, when your GM forgets that your familiar even exists. Which is why I count on the rest of you guys to remind me of Mu's monkey-wizard familiar."
"That's what we're all here for, to inform on each other!"

-"I'm depressed so I go and pet a dolphin."
"The dolphin looks nervous."

-The road in the death race track leads right into, and out on the other side, of some kind of green basalt ziggurat-style pyramid.  After a brief debate about possibly driving around it, the PCs decide to go right in. The tunnel leads into a room with several corpses, a steel gate, and a couple of undead guards in vaguely aztec-esque gear.
While the Vegan and the Hippomagus debate over who should get to have the staff, instead of firing the APV's weapons at the guards, the guards rush forward and jump (quite athletically for undead) onto the APV roof.

-The Vegan and the Hippomagus are under attack! Mu casts magic missile.
"I fire all the missles at the zombie on the Vegan."
"Heh. You really want the Hippomagus to die, don't you?"
"You're lucky, Vegan, in that you're no threat to Mu, or to anyone."

-"For defeating the zombies, you all get 2xp."
"Just barely not enough for the Vegan to level!"
"No, actually, I won the xp award last time, so it's exactly enough for me to level up!"
"Hah, the GM intentionally wanted to leave you with 1xp to level."
"The vegan played his cards close to his chest. Well done."

-"I swear to god, Vegan, if you summon another porcupine Mu will never get to use that staff again!"

-"Why are you summoning another porcupine?"
"For protection!"
"What, is it going to dive in front of you, Bodyguard-style?"

-During the fight with the guards, a ghoul snuck into the hole in the hull of the Shaft-1, and attacked Vizi, paralyzing him. Heidi dispatched it, but Vizi lay there, paralyzed and ignored.
"Hey Heidi, so is Vizi dead or something?"
"Oh yeah, I forgot to check... Vizi, blink once for yes, twice for no."
"He can't blink at all!"
"He seems broken on so  many levels."
"Aren't we all?"
"I'm less broken."
"Being less broken than everyone else in the party doesn't mean you aren't still really broken."

-"The Hippomagus is of Lawful Boyscout alignment, but he's slowly shifting into Lawful Freak, thanks to you guys."

-The steel gate rose automatically when the zombie guards were dispatched, and they moved on into a larger hall with some strange menhirs and some more undead guards.
In the ensuing fight, one of the PCs misses a shot at an undead and instead hits a menhir, causing it to explode. When it does, a magical shockwave hits the party, and all of a sudden a bunch of them switch bodies with each other!
Mu switches with the Vegan, Vizi switches with Heidi, and Sami switches with Mongo!

-"Mu, my body is made of paper! Don't get hit!!"
"You really suck, Vegan."

-"I'm going to blow up another menhir! That ought to fix things."
"No wait!"
"too late."

-Naturally, this only makes things worse. Now Heidi is in Vizi's body, Vizi is in Heidi's, the Vegan is in Sami's body, Mu is in the Vegan's body, Sami is in Mongo's body, Mongo is in Mu's body, and Blitzkreig and Roman have switched bodies!

-"The Vegan is going to enjoy this! It's the closest he'll ever get to being inside a hot girl's body!"

-"Are you casting?"
"Yeah. Wait, I'm in the Vegan's body.. I spellburn!"

-"I'm shooting at another menhir!"
"No, you motherfucker!"

-Heidi keeps blowing up menhirs, causing more body switches and total chaos.

-"Maybe if I kill the Vegan's body I'll switch back?"
"No, don't do that. I don't think it will end well for any of us. Go against ALL your instincts and don't kill the Vegan!"

-"I was in Mongo's body for a while; did you know he was packing? Like seriously, now I know why he is the way he is, no blood is getting to his brain."

-The PCs come up with a plan. They back the vehicles away, and then just have three of the PCs in switched bodies go up and destroy a menhir, to see if it works out that at least one of them switches back into their own body.
"You'll have to carry me. I'm too weak to walk."
"Dude, even after Mu spellburned the Vegan's body, you have 3 Strength left. That's still enough to walk."
"I'm not talking about strength. I'm stuck in the Vegan's body; I'm talking about the will to live."

-After blowing up 4 menhirs, the Vegan is finally back in his own body, and Heidi is in Mongo's body.  The Vegan also notices that Heidi used a dagger to carve a penis on the vegan's arm.

-Unable to figure out how to open the next gateway, the PCs go on a side path, and run into a large undead humanoid with a massive sledgehammer. He charges the Lolipop and smashes its mammoth skull.
"Holy shit, what is that goddamn undead?!"

-After blowing up some more menhirs, using their previous strategy, only Vizi and Mongo are still switched.
"Huh. It's true that Mongo is packing, but I'm not sure if as much as Blitzkreig."
"Sakomano pleases all the ladies!"

-The room with the undead giant had a trapdoor. Heidi opens it to see if there's something of use, and finds that the pit below is full of zombies who try to rush out. Luckily, he manages to shut the trapdoor before they get through.
"Nope, nothing important down there."

-They go down the opposite path to another room, where there's three of the undead giants seemingly using some black sludge to make a new menhir.
"OK, magic-users get ready!"
"Oh, so now I'm a wizard, huh?"
"I didn't say wizard, Mu, I said magic-user."
"fuck you."

-The Hippomagus fires a barrage of magic-missiles in a rare show of competency, killing one undead-giant and badly injuring the other two. Then Mu fails his roll to finish them off.
"You had one job!"
"I told you we should have left it to the real wizard."
"Shut up!"

-After the giants are dispatched, they blow up the last column, finally switching Vizi and Mongo back into their own bodies, having both failed their saving throws to resist the body-switching effect.
"We succeeded by failing, as usual!"

-"Where's my fucking lightsaber, Mongo?!"
"Hey guys, did you see my fancy new lightsaber?"

-"The Hippomagus is so pathetic.."
"Shut up, Mu! He's your future!"

-They finally figure out that the gate they couldn't open rises when one of them touches it. Ironically, Mu had guessed this, but no one paid any attention to him.

-In the next chamber, the PCs face off with a minor demon that looks like a cross between the Chesire Cat and Longcat.
"Old memes are the best memes."

-The Hippomagus reacts to the Cheshire-Longcat's invisibility power by creating an anti-magic field, which he centers around himself, rendering him unable to cast any other magic.
"Why?! Why the hell would you do that? You know you're a wizard, right??"

-In mid-fight, Vizi touches the metal sledgehammer they got from one of the giant undeads (which turns out to be a hammer with a head made of solid mithril) and has a vision of the Wardens presenting the hammer to a trio of aztec-mummies.

-When the Cheshire-Longcat makes itself visible, the Hippomagus shifts the anti-magic field to the demon.
"There! See? Now it can't make itself invisible!"
"Huh. Ok, I guess you weren't so stupid after all."
"Wait, can spells affect it now? Can we hit it with magic missiles?"
"Well... no."
"Goddamnit you're an idiot."

-The Hippomagus annuls the anti-magic field.

-After blasting the demon to death, they move on to the final chamber, where they see a throne with what seems to be a corpse on it.
"I'm going to check it out you guys."
"Wait, I saw a vision of this, come back!"
"Suddenly, the 'corpse' stands up and looks at you with its dead eyes."
"Oh shit! I wet myself and climb back on the tank!"
"Are you tired of sucking, vizi?"
"Shut up you hippomagus-in-training!"

-The Hippo-magus and the Aztec-lich (who turns out to be a spellcaster) both get caught up in a Phlogiston Disturbance and vanish. Unfortunately, the Hippomagus was wielding the Sunstaff at the time.
"Oh shit."
"Well, there goes saving the world..."

-They wait for about an hour in the hope that the Hippomagus might return from wherever he came from. He doesn't.
"If he doesn't come back, everything depends on Mongo."
"Yeah, the mentally defective Ancient manchild who has no sense of self-preservation."
"We've faced worse odds."

-Rather than giving up, Sami prays for Divine Aid, and incredibly makes the roll, bringing the Hippomagus back! They'd both ended up in the Neutral-zone, where the Hippomagus managed to kill the Aztec-lich in magical combat. But he had no way to get back.

-"I hope this teaches you all an important lesson: keep your cleric safe!"
"I'm pretty sure if you died another cleric would show up to take your place."
"That's probably true.. I have a backup human."

-"Wait.. is G.O.D. your pimp?"
"What? No. Well, he does take all my money, he screws around with me by giving me stuff, but not always, and he randomly punishes me... shit! G.O.D. IS my pimp!"
"He even makes you get on your knees and worship him from time to time..."

-The party finally rides out of the pyramid, and continue on with the race. They soon run into a giant metallic snake-creature.
"I do NOT want motherfucking snakes on my motherfucking race!"

-"I have to say, the Death Race 3000 has been getting us a ton of XP."
"True. Whatever happens, we should come back next year!"

-After defeating the snake, the team rides on and runs into a strange looking giant holding a glowing cube.
"Vegan, you go."
"Why me?! Why  not the NPC musician??"
"We've already had that talk, dude. The musician is a more valuable member of this party."

-The Vegan reluctantly accepts the "challenge of the cube", which involves tossing the cube and suffering the utterly random consequence it generates. He vanishes!

-"Hey Sami, can you bring the Vegan back like you did the Hippomagus?"
"I don't know, I was extremely lucky that time. Anyways, why would we want to?"
"So he can do the stupid cube-challenge again."

-Sami actually tries to bring the Vegan back, but when she did it with the Hippomagus she'd gotten a natural 20. That isn't going to repeat itself.

-"Why don't we just kill the giant?"
"If we do that, the cube might vanish, and then we won't get the Vegan back."

-"Where did the cube send the Vegan?"
"He was sent either to a place of neverending pain, or neverending pleasure."
"So there's a 50% chance he's having eternal bliss? Now I want to bring him back."
"Yeah, that's a risk we can't allow."

-The remaining PCs now try to convince the Musician, the second most useless person in the group after the Vegan, to take up the Cube Challenge.
"Listen, if I do this, then I get to go live in the Citadel with you guys."
"Ok sure. Wait, 'live'?"
"Yes. The Wardens let the winners of the Death Race to live in the Citadel with them forever!"
"But, can they leave?"
"I don't know, no one has ever come back; we assume they're having such a wonderful time they would't want to leave even for a visit."
"Oh shit... the Citadel's a trap."

-"The Musician tosses the cube, it glows brightly, and he seems to somehow appear more experienced."
"Did the musician just gain a level?!"
"I'm a bard now!"

-Having won the challenge, the Giant offers the party the option of bringing the Vegan back. They agree, and he is drawn back to the material world from the demiplane of infinite bliss just before getting it on with 72 virgins.
"73, counting the Vegan!"

-"The vegan isn't a virgin, remember that old witch he had to sleep with after he robbed her, who he later murdered?"
"I don't talk about that!"

-"What's your name, musician."
"I'm Max. Now, I'm Max the Bard."
"Oh great, that's just what we need, another NPC."
"Says the NPC."

That's all for this session. Stay tuned next time for part three (the last part? Knowing this group, maybe not) of the Death Race 3000!


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia

Friday, 8 December 2017

Lion & Dragon Comes Out Next Week! Also, NEW Cover Reveal

So, I have been promised by my publisher that Lion & Dragon will be out this coming week. It may not be out in every format and in every venue, but eventually we'll have it at OBS, Amazon and Lulu, in softcover, hardcover and PDF!

Part of the delay was that the last time I made this announcement, along with a cover reveal, we didn't know that in actual print the old cover we'd selected didn't actually end up looking as good as the digital version.

This time, we've gone with a new cover, which we hope will be to your satisfaction:

Let us know what you think, and stay tuned and save your pennies, because in just a few days YOU will be able to order Lion & Dragon, the premiere Medieval-Authentic OSR RPG, for yourself!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + Blue Boar

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Classic Rant: "Real" Magick in RPGs: Aleister Crowley

Today (December 1st) is the anniversary of Aleister Crowley's "Greater Feast for Death". That is to say, 64 years ago today, he croaked.

Certainly, one could have all kinds of material related to Crowley that would spice up any historical/occult campaign set anytime from the 1890s to the 1940s. But what about in a modern campaign? What makes the guy important?

I can't possibly dedicate a single blog entry to telling you everything about the man and his magick: there are tons of biographies of the guy out there, and feel free to read one if you're really interested. What matters now is only the "cheat sheet", of how you can use him in your campaign without knowing every detail.

For starters, Crowley was very important not only to modern magick, but to modern society. As one of his biographers put it: "new ageism, witchcraft, hippies, paganism, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll: it's all his fault".

It really was. Crowley was doing all that shit 40 years before it was cool, in many cases 40 years before it technically existed. And magically, his influence was paramount. He took a bunch of medieval systems and victorian pseudo-masonry and gave it a purpose for our new Aeon, the new astrological age.

And while we're at it, he ended the world.

Magically speaking, the apocalypse happened in April 1904. The procession of the astrological ages took place at that moment, when Crowley received the Book of the Law from the god Horus, after a vision experienced inside the great pyramid in Cairo.

Essentially, this was the change from the "age of Pisces" to that "age of Aquarius" the new-agers talk so much and know so little about. Its already happened, and it marked a moment when humanity grew up in its capacity for understanding of its relationship to the universe. As a result of this vision, Crowley predicted a number of things that few in 1904 would have expected to come to pass: devastating wars, atrocities, and incredible human destruction; but these were just the birth pangs for an age of societal evolution where equality of all human beings, sexual and gender liberation, a new interest in the discovery of the self, experimentation with drugs as a means for transcendence, new pseudo-scientific/psychological ways of understanding magical symbolism, a breaking free from old restrictions and limits of both morality and human potential, all would come to pass. He predicted, in other words, a world that looks very much like our own.

The essence of his teaching is a word I've used in this series before: Thelema. It means "will", and is represented by the law of this Aeon: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will".
This is a new magical paradigm that gives a greater purpose to magical work; not that it is completely new, but that it was something that had been long lost or hidden in the background of mumbo-jumbo, of people summoning angels or demons or working with elemental forces or ritual without really grasping a bigger philosophical purpose behind it all. That purpose is to discover your True Will.

"Will" in this case means not whatever the fuck you want (to the chagrin of the many satanists and heavy metal geeks that like Crowley on that mistaken basis) but rather it means that you have a higher self, a higher purpose, that magick is supposed to help you get in contact with. Discover your true will, and then unite to it (in Love, meaning union), and then to the universe itself. This is the purpose of magick, not unlike many other mystical systems, not unlike Tantra or Buddhism, Sufism or Taoism; its to "know thyself" and then become "one with everything", or nothing.

The Book of the Law itself is a short but fairly complex spiritual text, that most magicians will have read at some point, and certainly every thelemic magician; it might make very little sense to a non-magician who reads it, but you may want to give it a try. Its not hard to find online, and its in the public domain as far as I know (at least, it's on a ton of websites).

There is one other mystical operation of Crowley's that's very worthy of mention, though probably even more incomprehensible to the non-magician; it's the kind of thing that if you were running CoC, would cause you to lose 1d10 SAN just by reading it (the Book of the Law would probably cause you to lose 1d4, while we're at it): this is "The Vision and the Voice".

I mention it here because it is the record of Crowley's personal enlightenment, 5 years after writing the book of the law, where in the middle of the North African desert he entered into a series of "pathworkings", or astral journeys, to the 30 Enochian Aethyrs; gnostic dimensions beyond our own, where he encountered a series of powerfully transformative initiatory visions, that changed his understanding of magick and himself.

The system for using the "Enochian Aethyrs" was not invented by Crowley, it was given by angelic beings to Dr. John Dee, the famous Elizabethan magician, in the 1580s; and while the Golden Dawn used some elements of enochian magick, as far as anyone knows no one had actually used the "enochian calls" to travel to the Aethyrs until Crowley did it (not even Dee, although he received the system of magick, there's no evidence he ever used it). Of course, since then, quite a few other magicians have done so.

"The Vision and the Voice" is the kind of book that many would-be occultists will own, very few will have read, fewer still tried to seriously understand; and some (though not necessarily the same as those who understood) may try to imitate; without proper preparation, trying to pathwork to the higher enochian aethyrs is a recipe for going batshit nuts. It would do to the psyche what going to the outer planes would do to the health of 3rd level AD&D characters... almost certainly nothing good.

(and this one is just the lowest aethyr!)

Its a good example of the kind of spiritual visions and trips that a very experienced magician is capable of doing, however.

Aside from these, Crowley wrote a ton of books on the themes of magick, yoga, and Taoism; and designed an extremely influential tarot deck too. Remember, in your game, none of these should be very difficult to find!

Resist the temptation to make "books of true occult power" difficult to obtain, they're NOT. They're all over Amazon, Ebay, and the internet in general. What's difficult is having any sense of context to study them properly, and the lack of laziness to actually do the work they suggest and do these right. Crowley's "Magick in Theory and Practice" alone is, in one very large book, more than enough to get someone all they need to know to start successfully performing magick, yet most people won't bother to read it, even those who own it or claim to be magicians.

In a modern setting, Crowley should be portrayed as misunderstood by the general occult scene, with the know-nothings being generally scared shitless of him aside from a minority of fawning admirers who like the idea of him because he's "wicked" without actually knowing anything about him at all (he's the Occult equivalent of Che Guevara in that sense: far more people will go around wearing his image on a T-shirt than actually know what he did or why). Among serious practitioners, there's a group of hardcore "old aeon" magicians who despise him, a larger group of modern magicians (self-described as Thelemites or not) who base their magick on what he did, and a third group that express admiration for him but don't necessarily follow his precepts. But in each sense, every modern magician is affected by him, even those who have never read him; including some who may not have a clue who he is. His teachings have affected all books of magick that came after him whether he gets credit for it or not, as well as movements like Wicca that try very hard sometimes to pretend that he had nothing to do with them, even though the whole basis for what they do started with him.

(Even Chaos Magick, and now its bastard-child Meme-Magick are hugely the product of working from what Crowley started)

Crowley also spawned 2 magical orders, the A.'.A.'. and the O.T.O.; I've talked about these before, and remember: they're mostly useless in terms of serious magick, though they may have serious magicians in them. They're usually used by their membership as ego-trips or social clubs.

Other fun things you can do with Crowley:
-From time to time, some magician (usually a total newb) will go around claiming they're Crowley's reincarnation. This is usually coupled with the person trying to talk or act like Crowley (though usually not matched with Crowley's non-magical achievements, like being a world-record mountain climber or chess champion), and is met with derision.

-Crowley taught a secret form of sex magic as part of his OTO framework, this is not really secret anymore, its available online, but more than a few unscrupulous people have started sex cults based on it.

-Boleskine, the Loch Ness mansion where Crowley attempted (and failed) his first effort at doing the complex magical operation known as the Abra-melin rite, has long been said to be haunted, and the locals have many stories of people who have gone mad, or killed themselves or others, as a result of the house's nefarious influence (the Abra-melin operation culminates in summoning up demons, after having obtained a full connection to your Holy Guardian Angel (your higher self or true will), and some have speculated that having failed to complete the operation, the demons got loose with nothing to control them). The mansion was for many years owned by Thelemite and Led Zeppelin frontman Jimmy Page, and has since been turned into a bed & breakfast.

-Crowley had a commune in the 1920s in Cefalu, Italy, named "The Abbey of Thelema". The house where the commune was based has been abandoned for decades, is half-ruined, and has been put up for sale. It is frequently squatted in by Crowley-fans and occultists, and still has the fading images of the wall-paintings that Crowley and his students drew there, some of them quite unusual.

-The Book of the Law was received in connection to an ancient Egyptian funeral Stele called "The Stele of Revealing". The Book of the Law contained the instructions that the Stele should be stolen or otherwise obtained (it was at that time on display at the Boulak museum in Cairo) and taken to Boleskine, and that if this was done it would have stunning and transformative effects on the world. Crowley himself never got around to doing this; the Stele is now in the Cairo museum, where it was reported unharmed by the recent civil unrest in that country.

-The Book of the Law instructed Crowley to "find the value of the English alphabet", that is, to figure out a numerical system of gematria (as in, the Kabbalah), by which one could directly determine the number-value of English words without having to translate into Hebrew first. Crowley never ended up accomplishing this (he didn't seem to bother to try very much, being quite happy with Hebrew Gematria) and after him many would-be "english kabbalists" have broken their minds trying to make a system that makes sense and works magically as well as the Hebrew gematria system. Some have claimed success, but none has been universally adopted and recognized as a success.

-The Book of the Law also contains a code, a series of letters and numbers that Crowley was instructed were not for him to understand, but that someone would come after him to decipher it, and its meaning would be clear to all and near-universally accepted as correct. Up till now, that hasn't happened, though many many would-be Crowleys have tried.

-it recently came to light that Crowley was an agent of British Intelligence. He is credited, among other things, with having given Winston Churchill the recommendation of using the "V for victory" sign as often as possible, as a magical countermeasure to the Nazis' own use of magical symbols (the swastika, the nazi salute, etc).

-every once in a while, items show up on sale on E-bay which claim to have once belonged to Crowley. Most of these are unquestionably fake.

-Crowley was the first white man to have provably used the I Ching for divination on a regular basis. To do so he had designed his own special set of divining sticks. After his death these came into the possession of one of his magical heirs, Grady McMurtry (who re-founded the biggest claimant to the modern OTO). McMurtry in turn lost the pouch with these sticks one night at a party on a California beach when he was either drunk or stoned out of his mind. They have never been found.

-Crowley has no tomb; he was cremated, and his ashes eventually brought to America by one of his students, Karl Germer. Germer's wife eventually dumped the ashes under a tree in the garden of their New Jersey suburban home.

Anyways, all of these and many many other details about the guy's life should give ample fodder for modern-occult adventure.


(Originally posted December 1, 2011)

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Mazel Tov, Jerusalem; and Well Done, Trump

I was going to post a classic rant today, but I couldn't let today go by without expressing my appreciation for President Trump rightfully recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel!

Well done, Mr. President.  And it's of course hilarious hearing the hysteria of one leftist after another, all the same ones who had maliciously claimed that President Trump was somehow "anti-semitic" in some vague unspecified way, all of a sudden condemning Israel and taking the side yet again of the people who hold the extermination of Israel as their official policy.  The gang of hypocrites are squealing, as only Uncle Donald can make them squeal.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

My Newest Supplement is Literally "The Kitchen Sink!"

Yes, you too can now have a mechanic to not just install a Kitchen Sink in your dungeon, but to make it interesting, fun and potentially rewarding and/or lethal for your players!

RPGPundit Presents #10: The Kitchen Sink is a guide to a feature every dungeon should have. Also works for fountains, bubbling pools and other water-related architectural features. But it's just way more fun if it's a literal sink.

For just 99 cents you get 7 pages of random charts and tables to make unique and weird kitchen sinks, including where they are, what they look like, what's in the sink, what's in the drain, what the faucet does, and what comes out of the faucet. You are almost guaranteed never to get the exact same sink twice! Surprise and entertain your players for hours, with a product you'll be able to use over and over again, for less than the cost of a coffee!

You can purchase The Kitchen Sink now, at DTRPG or at the Precis Intermedia Store.

Also, while you're at it, be sure to check out the earlier issues of RPGPundit Presents:

RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

RPGPundit Presents #2: The Goetia

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons

Stay tuned for more next week!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti half-volcano + H&H's Chestnut

Monday, 4 December 2017

RPGPundit Presenta #9: El Libro Del Arte De Las Horas!

Ya se encuentra disponible el nuevo capitulo de la serie "RPGPundit Presenta": El Libro del Arte de las Horas!

Se dice que el extraño y poderoso Libro del Arte de las Horas fue revelado al gran mago San Apolinio en Corintia, donde ascendió a la Tercera Esfera de los Siete Cielos. Se revela el método para contactar e invocar espíritus descarnados que gobiernan las veinticuatro horas mágicas del día, y describe los dones que dichos espíritus pueden conceder.

Si quieren algo nuevo para sus magos, un texto misterioso, o una nueva forma de magia para sus juegos de OSR or D&D, este libro les va servir!   

Compralo en DTRPG o en la tienda de Precis Intermedia!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: Showdown at Navajo Springs

Our last adventure ended on a "to be continued" as Hoodoo Brown and his gang (including the PCs Kid Taylor and Deputy Jackson) went out riding after Crazy Miller, Other Miller and Doc Thomas, who had gone on a heist job with the three killers: Jesse James, Doc Holliday, and Billy the Kid.

They  had been riding to recover over $20000 that Jesse James felt was owed to him by the infamous McClue gang. Back then it had been run by Derek McClue, who was a dead wringer for the Mormon Gambler back in Dodge. But now, Billy the kid had let him know that the gang was being run by Derek's brother Robert, over in Navajo Springs, a tiny town of mostly Mexicans and Indians in the middle of nowhere.  When they'd got to the outskirts, Other Miller and Doc Thomas went out to the town to gather intel, but they'd been found out by McClue who was now holding them prisoner. He didn't know who they were working with, or what their intentions were, but found them suspicious enough to make them hand over their guns and become his guests until it was worked out.

Along the way to catch up to the killers gang, the Dodge City Gang ran into a troop of soldiers and a lawman, who were headed toward East Vegas. They'd heard Billy the Kid had been spotted there and were out to catch him. The lawman in charge of the manhunt was Pat Garrett, who Billy would later reveal had been a Regulator with him, but had now betrayed him. And if there was one thing Billy couldn't stand it was betrayal. He swore one day he'd put a bullet in Garrett if he could.

The Dodge City Gang rode on and found the Killers gang. They were concerned that Other Miller and the doctor hadn't come back and were debating what to do. Doc Holliday wanted to do nothing, Billy wanted to ride in shooting at everything in their path, and Jesse James wanted to send in someone else feigning some other story. But Hoodoo Brown proposed instead that he act as an intermediary between the McClue gang and James, and suggested sending in an envoy, who would also determine if Other Miller and the Doctor were still alive. Mysterious Dave Mather was the man chosen for the job.

Mysterious Dave went in, and somehow got Robert McClue to agree to a parley, under the impression that Hoodoo wanted to talk business (he'd been told not to mention Jesse James yet), and confirmed the two prisoners were alive and well-treated (the hirsute Doc Thomas having helped himself to a large amount of his jailor's wife's delicious empanadas).  Hoodoo and the rest of the team went into town for the parley, all of them except for Jesse James and Doc Holliday, both of which were thought would be too likely to cause trouble.

Riding in, the crew saw that the McClue gang were about 20 men, all long-term seasoned outlaws. A half-dozen of them had aligned themselves on the various roofs, ready to do some sniper work if things went south. But Hoodoo was his usual diplomatic self, and the parley was agreed upon, in the local saloon.  The McClue gang felt they were too exposed now and planned to move on to one of their earlier hideouts, and didn't feel they need anything Hoodoo had to offer them; they figured that new gangs like the Dodge gang or the Cowboys were all too reckless, that's why so many gangs had come and gone while the McClue gang, laying low and being subtle, had lasted for so long.
When the subject of Jesse James came up, McClue made it clear James would be getting none of his brother's money from him, and made it clear that if Hoodoo wanted peace, neither he nor any of his men could help James in any scheme he had. Hoodoo agreed, a fact which Billy the Kid was clearly very irritated about.
Anyways, Jesse James had other plans, right from the beginning.

He'd acquiesced to be absent from the meeting because to him the parley was always just a planned distraction. While most of the McClues were busy over in the saloon for the parley, Jesse James and Doc Holliday snuck into McClue's ranch-house, first to rescue Doc Thomas and Other Miller, and second to rob Robert McClue of everything he had.

Freeing the two PCs, James gets to McClue's safe and starts to get it open. Doc Thomas guards some Mexican servants prisoner while he helps himself to the delicious bean stew they were making, and Other Miller finds and captures McClue's Mexican-Indian girlfriend. They manage to crack the safe, get the loot and start to flee, but not before lighting some dynamite in the office as a distraction.

When the dynamite blows, taking out half the ranch house, everyone in the Saloon is startled. Everyone but Billy the Kid, that is, who immediately responds by shooting Robert McClue twice in the head.  A surprisingly brief shootout ensues between the 8 members of Hoodoo's entourage and the 8 members of the McClue gang. The latter were clearly rusty from years of easy living, and the Dodge City Gang got the drop on them; it was a massacre. By the end of it, no one could believe their luck, only one of the eight Dodge City guys took any damage at all, and his was just a scratch. As for the snipers, someone had gone up on a roof and started taking them out one by one, the party assumed it was John Joshua Webb, whose tracks Kid Taylor had earlier noted following those of the three killers gang.

There were still several of the McClue gang who got away, but the whole party decided not to press their luck, they raced out of town, with Other Miller pausing to recover his signature gun from the saloon.  They let the girlfriend go too, no longer needing her as a hostage.

Billy the Kid, having been informed about Garrett looking for him back in East Vegas, decided it was time to head off, taking his share of the loot with him.  Jesse James figured that with the massive bounty on his head and federal 'damnyankee' soldiers in East Vegas, he'd better skip town too, and said his goodbyes, planning to head back toward Cooter County Missouri with his loot, to get a new gang back together.

And just like that, the two famous outlaws rode out of the PCs lives forever.

At least, we think so. Anything's possible.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Some More Dark Albion Stuff, Not From Me

I've got a game in less than an hour. So, let me direct you over to the Swords & Stitchery Blog, where we see an examination of using Dark Albion in the 100 years war.

So, go check it out!


Currently Smoking: Neerup  + Image Virginia

Friday, 1 December 2017

A Couple of Great Reviews!

So, today we have two different reviews, from two different authors.

First off, Eric Fabiaschi has done a great review of my latest RPGPundit Presents issue, The Book of the Art of Hours (another Medieval-Authentic Grimoire). He provides great detail on just what you find in the book, and some examples of what some of the spirits you can some provide for a magic-user.

And in the second place, J. L. Duncan has provided a review of my Cults of Chaos book, the most complete guide ever to generating sophisticated and interesting medieval-authentic Chaos Cults.  You can pick up Cults of Chaos here.

So please check these two out!


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Hawkbill + Image Virginia