Monday, September 26, 2016

The Ten Hottest Books of the Hill Canton's Hot Hell

Excerpted from a sidebar helping GM's navigate a demon-driven literary conversation in the Salacious Salon of Sxiploi, a sublevel in What Ho, Frog Demons (the fourth and forthcoming installment in the Slumbering Ursine Dunes series). 

Bestsellers of the Hot Hell
1. Applied Hedonics: Are you Pleasuring Yourself Enough at the Cost of Others? Written by the Shade of Tizzard. A rising newcomer to the Hot Hell literary scene, the author rings the warning bell on creeping weal in the City Whose Brass Towers Stand Beyond.

2. The Paleo-Soul Diet: A Homecoming to Primal Demonic Gastronomy. The case for the return to simple Cave Dwarf spirit essence-cuisine. Channel your inner Zombastadon.

3. Capital in the XXIII Aeon. Everyone claims to have read this 2,358 page exploration of demonic political economy.

4. Three Word Title: A Guide to the Naming of Products Auteur and Ludic. A short, focused primer.

5. The Iron Doom Crawling Red Monolith of the Cursed Pod-God Maze. Controversial childhood memoir of bestselling Roohaznarf the Uncheckable Flame that Consumes All. Told entirely through random die-drop charts, the title and accounts of charming life events reset at the conclusion of the book.
6. The Five People You Meet in the Sun Lord's Orb. A horror novella exploring the terrors of cloying human religious sentimentality.

7. Black Hobbit Lives Matter Not. A dry, yet informative oral history of halfling agitators in the world of Zem.

8. My Turn Again. A political autobiography of Zzatz, the eternal tyrant of the Seamless Machine. Rumored to be written by shadowy wraith-writer Mo'laliik.

9. The Tome That Cannot Be Spoken Of.

10. The Penultimate Tome That Cannot Be Spoken Of. There is a rather slim volume – one that I am not specifically referencing in anyway either on my tongue or deep in my stolen soul, nor am I ideating as a physical object or as literary concept – that may or may not be the sequel of another book. Perfect as a gift for that special someone in your life of Unspeakable Evil.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Koza the Goat for Overking and other News of the Cantons

Business first, starting tomorrow 10:00 am CST Misty Isles of the Eld will be DriveThru RPG's Deal of the Day which means a massive flipping 24-hour sale at 40 percent off. I am highly likely to run a design contest for making a Misty Isle of your own fever dreams tomorrow as a related celebration. Details on that and the related fabulous prizes then. 

And now the News from the Hill Cantons...
Our dear Overking Ragimund is gone and buried. Hurrah for the new Overking, whoever the Sunlord Most Judicious (and the Lord-Electors) deem worthy.

Though without vote and voice, the realm is hypercharged with talk of the succession. Screaming pummeling crowds gather in Marlinko's Tomb-Plaza screaming and pummeling their arguments for each candidate.

Rumor run down on the candidates:
“Experience the Koz”, the slogan rings through the commons as the filthy multitudes show their inexplicable mass love for Koza the Regimental Goat as the new candidate. Alternately styling themselves Kozers, Koziacs or the self-deprecating Goat Bros his followers seem to be everywhere and enthusiastic despite the long odds. Campaign appearances of the goat inspire a near-hysterical expressions of adulation by the thronging hordes who bleat in chorus with the short punchy stump speech of the nominee.

The Uberduke Heimlic of Popradu and his Steeplejacker party have announced an expansion to their program: a modest poll tax on the “leveling” of “classed characters” strangely offset by a tax credit to those characters under the rank of fifth and possessing no more than 4,999 gold suns.

Wildgraf Bodegast is running on the standard Grimbibber playbook of mentioning nothing about their events, program and policy to their social inferiors. There is little to read in the tea leaves of that party's traditional, secretive pilgrimage to the Peristyled Temple of He Who Rides Whooping the World-Turtle into the Ebon Sphere of Blissful Annihilation, though merchants in the capital find odd the sudden mass invoicing of frog-featured copper masks and wavy gnome-skinned daggers by the party.

Under-Prince Yohann-Pavol Legitimus refuses to campaign as a matter of principle declaring it consistent with Lisping Norker's time-honored program of changing nothing “besides the sheets on his bed.”

Meanwhile in Revoca it looks like the cantonal government is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, thanks to the infusion of new blood into its officialdom. The shrine to Our Lady of Not the Lake is looking considerably “less shitty” thanks to the newly-installed and increasingly-beloved priest. And the Lady Draga relieved of her perpetual siege by suitors seems almost lively after her weekly “date nights” with her new Consort. Gambling on dominos seems to have had a huge uptick in Throvemesto, the miners camp. The rada council is “almost concerned.”

Friday, September 2, 2016

Dueling Rules and Combat Options for Classic D&D

A full eight out of ten times I am quite peachy with the abstract (mostly quick)  combat resolution of well-aged edition D&D. The game's primary play arena is granular site exploration and combat typically runs at the right balancing point. (If you don't believe me go run Runequest in a dungeoncrawl setting and see how far you get in a session.)

That said, there are some times when it just runs flat and anti-climatic. Some of the worst let downs being one-on-one fights with a hated villain or worthy opponent.

For going on seven years I've noodled around with a few subsystems to model that kind of fight. The first Hill Cantons Compendium had options for making a pressed attack at an AC penalty (and a defense with an AC bonus). By this Axe used a dice pool and included some scaling options. The following synthesize those with some inspirations from the interesting combat rules from Heritage's old and obscure John Carter, Warlord of Mars.

Warning: none of this has been playtested yet (and I am still working out ways to model fights involving multiple opponents and missile weapons). If you do find yourself using them, drop me a line and tell me how it goes!

Dueling Rules
Dueling rules are used for climatic or otherwise interesting battles between single opponents. Standard rounds and the standard hit/damage system are used but employ non-standard options, modifiers and initiative. Players and the GM write down their option from the following list before the round starts and reveal them as it begins.

Your Options for the Round:
1. Standard Attack. Vanilla measured attack, normal modifiers. Opponent taking Concerted Defense gets an modified attack response, but no Counter.

2. All-Out Attack. Attacker pushes the limits and trades a furious series of blows—at a cost of corresponding amount of AC for the round. If she hits and scores damage at or above the result on the following chart. Opponent taking Concerted Defense gets a modified attack, but no Counter.

To Hit Option
AC Penalty
Damage Inflicted to Stop Counter
5 hp
7 hp
9 hp
11 hp

3. Concerted Defense. Character pulls into a defensive stance, parrying and waiting for an opening to strike. The character opts for a bonus to his AC, taking a corresponding penalty to hit for attacks this round. The character strikes at the end of the round and may gain a Counter (a second similarly penalized attack in the round) if an All-Out fails to hit and/or make the minimum damage threshold.

AC Bonus
To Hit Penalty

4. Dirty Trick. Character attempts to throw sand in the face of her opponent, kick in the nether parts or otherwise distract the opponent (player/GM should go wild giving flavor for this). On a roll of 1-2 on a d6 the opponent can not carry through with their option this round (AC is at normal) and loses the next round completely if the trickster employs a Standard Attack. (In other words the trickster can make a free unmodified, uncountered attack at typical AC the next round).

Who Strikes First in the Round:
1. Character playing a Dirty Trick. If both characters are doing Dirty Tricks, automatic no effect for the round and no effect for the next if they both succeed at their d6 rolls.

2. Character making an All-Out Attack. If both characters are attacking than the character with the higher plus modifier strikes first. If tied than both attacks are simultaneous.

3. Character making a Standard Attack. If both characters choose this, then combat is simultaneous.

4. Character making a Concerted Defense. A defending player now attacks using their penalized attack. If he is defending against an All-Out Attack that didn't hit or makes its damage threshold then the player gets a Counter, a second penalized attack. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Building a Mid-Level “Domain Game”

If there is one lesson I have learned from years of oodling around with domain-level play is that bounded, “lower-level” domain game activity is often way more gratifying and fun in a well-aged D&D-like campaign than playing a game of high-rolling rulers. 

The nature of D&D with its emphasis on micro-site exploration and granular personal advancement just plain makes it better suited and more enjoyable to play a petty wanna-be lordling clearing a fragile hold in a vast and hostile wilderness or the mayfly life of a warband chief than it is to be even a lowly baron stuck with the static play (and bean-counting) of rulership.

And I've found the more you can ratchet down the frame, the easier and more natural a fit it seems. A natural extension of this is creating more avenues for players to carve out power positions inside society well-below name level.

What follows is my first stab at instituting it in the Hill Cantons campaign. As always feedback and yakking about your own best practices appreciated.

Hill Cantons Social Advancement
At fourth level a player is eligible to worm/buy their way into local office broadly speaking: an entry-level position within the Canton government/legal system, a contrada society junior officer, guild journeyman (and this extends to a business such as owning an inn), magical college good standing member, mercenary officer, criminal society officer, etc. See below for a list of current open positions in Revoca Canton (a much larger list coming down the pike for Marlinko).

Co-creation and Creative Down-time. Players are encouraged to co-create details about both their position and the local branch of the institution. Players also have the option of creating elaborate downtime plans though mechanical adjudication/impact is completely at the GM's time/energy level for the week.

Obligations. PCs holding office are assumed to have to rote duty Obligations happening in downtime, see position listing for exact number of days. These obligations are often localized (as in the PC has to be around town). Failure to meet Obligations due to being away for adventuring/travel or incapacitated produce a small cumulative chance of 5% per day (rolled at the moment the PC resumes duty) for a demotion or loss of position. Before the roll is made the player can opt out of the roll by “Throwing Money at the Problem” (a “tax” of 1d6 x 100 gold suns).

Career Opportunity. Once a real world month or upon attainment of a new level, a player holding office may invoke a Career Opportunity (none of them involving opening mailing bombs for you) at the beginning of a session that they the player are in attendance. Opportunities provide the following:
1. The PC must sit out the session (again this must be a session the player is in).

2. The player must play a henchperson or hireling that session. Players lacking a decent henchperson can roll up a backup character at 60% their current exp. Henchmen and hirelings tied to the position (ie your underlings) can be played and gain a 20% bonus on exp in the session with 0-level hirelings earning 1st level at the end of a session.

3. Player invoking a CO rolls on either the Fabulous Prizes or Advancement chart. The die used is dependent on the Position listing. Players can add  +1 on their die by throwing in inducement money at 200 gold suns a pop (up to a +3/600 gold maximum).

Fabulous Prizes Chart
1-2 This Shit was Just Laying Around. Pick up 1d6+1 pieces of mundane equipment for free (value no more than 20 gold suns each).
3-5 Little Bites. Bribe money of 1d4 x 100 gold suns straight into your hot pocket.
6-8 The Clothes Make the Man. You have acquired an extra-ordinary piece of fashion worth 1d8 x 100 gold sun (and half the exp).
9-10 The Corner Office is Open? Player gains personal control of rooms or structure commiserate with position. A position inside a castle thus gaining a suite or a shrine priest is given a small hut. 1D4 x 100 exp for the new digs.
11-12 Rank Does Hath its Privileges. Major graft/bonus chance this time PC level x 300 gold suns.
13-15 My Precious. Magic item “falls off the cart”. Randomly determined or by GM discretion.
16+ Fuck Yeah. Roll Again Twice (ignoring this result).

Advancement Chart
1-2 That Bastard Pavol Out Maneuvered Me. Again. NPC rival (if none, gain one) gets the roll instead, no effect. +1 to you next Advancement roll due to the resentment inducement.
3-5 An Embarrassing Yet Hilarious Faux Pas. Your character is the in the news next week, strangely you still get +2 to your next Advancement roll. Otherwise no effect.
6-9 Missed My Window But Patient I Am. No effect, though add +3 to the next Advancement roll.
10-11 Oh I Suppose I Can Make Do. You are not promoted but you have made your current position much comfier, take a roll on the Fabulous Prizes chart at +2.
12-15 That is Clearly Under My Job Duties. Minor Expansion of an aspect of your character's current position and a +2 on your next Advancement roll. GM and player negotiation, typically this would be something like an extra hireling (or two) or bumping up to the next die for Advancement or Fabulous Prize rolls etc.
16-17 My Obvious Talent is Appropriately Awarded. You are either promoted to higher office (if open) or can take a Major Expansion of your current position.
18-19 How the Mighty Have Fallen. A rival is disgraced/demoted or the office above you is vacated through a death/demotion/promotion.
20+ The Right Place at the Right Time. You can choose any two results from the Advancement chart.

Current Entry-Level Offices in Revoca Canton
A number of mostly ceremonial and not-particularly lucrative--though relatively prestigious and open to quick advancement—positions with the Revoca Cantonal Rada (council) or Lady Draga's household retinue (the line being blurry since by right the Lady holds five of the Rada's nine seats) are currently open. 

Rada Prestidigitatior
Entry: Fourth level magic user or white wizard. Purchase of new tea set and party clothes, 400 gold suns.
Income: 5 gold suns per week stipend
Superior: Rada Thaumaturgist, Princess Zuzu
Hirelings: Buc, a talking honey-badger and scribe.
Obligation Days (per week): 1 (tea-party and discussion of agenda)
Fabulous Prizes Die: d8
Advancement Die: d8
Perks: A musty sigiled night-blue robe and pointy hat. Learning new spells from Zuzu at half rate. Access to the cantonal library (such as it is)

Brevet Lord-Consort
Entry: Fifth level and at least gentry pedigree (1,500 gold suns forgery). And the Lady must take at least a minimal shine to you. Gender strangely unspecific.
Income: 40 gold suns per week, spending money for baubles.
Superior: the Lady Draga (duh)
Hirelings: Himek your personal valet who might be stealing from you.
Obligation Days (per week): 2 (date night and ceremonial duties)
Fabulous Prizes Die: 1d6
Advancement Die: 1d12 (promotion to official engagement and Lord-Consort if male)
Perks: fancy velvet doublet with the Lady's monogram, signet ring with small container of snuff. Sugar (though of a platonic and proper sort).

Haruspex of the Leshy Contra-Movements
Entry: Fourth level and a spell caster. 500 gold suns worth of slop bucket contents to your immediate supervisor.
Income: 5 gold suns per week stipend
Superior: Cantonal Patriarch, Father Hog/Sister Sow
Hirelings: Mu'u [whistle-whistle noise] the Xom (old, inscrutable yet unpleasant like much of his race).
Obligation Days (per week): 1 (entrails reading at Rada meeting)
Fabulous Prizes Die: d8
Advancement Die: d8
Perks: pile of salt, sacrificial animals, the Vertz blade (a wicked, flanged copper-hilted dagger, +2 vs. Old Pahr spirits of the forest)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Contest and Video Review of Fever-Dreaming Marlinko

A rather nice and thorough video review of Fever-Dreaming Marlinko by Talking About Games. Here's the fun part, the host is doing a contest based on my dumb Robo-Dwarf class presented in Marlinko  with a chance to win a copy of the book.  Contest deadline is August 12th (later today, so get entries in.)

Here are the contest particulars: "Send me a youtube message or write a comment below saying why it's a good thing and a bad thing to be a Robo-Dwarf."

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Reviews and News of the Hill Cantons

There have been a number of interesting reviews of things Hill Cantons popping up here and there as I finish up the last pages of the last installment in the SUD series, What Ho Frog Demons. John Bell of Retired Adventurer blog fame did a rather nice (and first) overview of all of the published products and the context of the Hill Cantons as a setting. Needles of Swords & Stitchery ran through some interesting usages of the recently released Misty Isles of theEld. And here's a nice, long video review of the Dunes themselves.

And Now the News from the Hill Cantons...
The ritual words have been intoned this most dolorous of days:
Cover the sun dials, cut off the herald, prevent the pelgranes from hooting with a juicy bone. Silence the balalaika and with muffled drum, bring out the golden coffin, let the mourners come.”

Our dear Overking, Raginmud LVII “the Effervescent”, alas has been called to the all-consuming fiery orgasm of the Sun Lord. For the next month all residents of our realm – on pain of spoken poetry and mutilation – are required to follow the sumptuary dictates of the Orichalcum Bull: the dyeing of all exposed skin black, the donning of mustard-yellow sackcloth robes and the wearing of the four-cornered hat of mourning (tassels optional).

And so the great political succession game of the Bull begins. Leading heirs to be considered by the 27 Elector-Lords Temporal, Spiritual and Arcane are reported to be:
1. Uberduke Heimlic of Popradu, the Ragimund's 11th (legtimized) son and leader of the Steeplejacker royal party whose program includes aggressive expansion of the corelands, heavy regulation/taxation of the casting of spells greater than that of the second rank, returning to the platinum standard and a moderately liberal social policy on inter-species amorous activity (with a sub-plank recognizing dirt-gnome life-partnership).

2. Wildgraf Bodegast the Teal, Ragimund's youngest brother and now presumptive head of the Grimbibber party whose program is ostensibly secret but said to include strict fiscal discipline and an ambitious program entitled An End to All Things.

3. Under-Prince Yohann-Pavol Legitimus, the sole issue of Ragimund and his Queen-Consort. The decadent and quite aged prince has been reportedly press-ganged into service as head of the of the ad hoc Lisping Norker noble coalition whose stated policy seeks to change “nothing about the world but the sheets on the royal bed.”

4. Koza the Regimental Goat of the Great Nemec Company of the Black Army. It is unclear what this seemingly immortal goat's political positions are—and which group of Elector-Lords sponsored him. A clear favorite among the common class.

Meanwhile in lesser news, 49,000 residents of eastern Maarb were said to have been killed in a earthquake in that Southlands country yesterday.