Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bloody Pohansko: When Strongholds Go Bad

One of the great pleasures of an eight-year campaign mostly driven by so-called bottom-up world building (really like gender more of a fluid spectrum thing) is that there is a periodic filling in of the blank spots on the map.

I had really intended the War Bear march on Pohansko as a set up for some solo matrix wargaming on my end, but some of the long time players jumped in with wanting their characters to march along. I do love every once in a while posing open-ended grand scenarios in which I have no idea exactly how the players are going to tackle it or what the outcome will be, so ka-blamo a simple map and battle roster becomes a whole new campaign area.

Here are the particulars for you folks at home:

What's Happening?
Pinc the Petulant, king-let and spiritual head of the Insufferable Path of Disproportionate Grievance has imprisoned a company of 20 war-bear cadets in lieu of paying back wages (and into their woefully underfunded dental fund). The war-bears sit polearm-deprived and deeply despondent in the dungeons of Pohansko, a tiny micro-kingdom and fortified trade town in the wilds south east from the Cantons.

Medved, master of Slumbering Ursine Dunes and all things bear, has called the general muster for all warbears. In solidarity (and applied needling from the Guild of Condotierre, Linkboys, Roustabouts, and Stevedores) the Rada of Marlinko Canton has sanctioned the formation of a volunteer company complete with battle-wagon train.
What are the Forces Involved?
Three uncoordinated columns of war-bears are converging on Pohansko. The columns are all led by stubborn het-bears and that fact coupled with Medved's utter disdain for details means that there is no real strategy other than “angrily march there and fuck shit up.”

The fast-moving Vanguard Column of 90 young war-bears is led by the magnificently gruff and spirited Commodore (purely an honorific and ironic title) Chlupatý Hýždě. Second Column of 120 seasoned bears and a small number of allies is led by the cautious master of dogged defense Ald-Hetbear Stary Bote and is lagging 1-3 days behind the van. The Third Column composed of 180 warbears and the bulk of the human allies (and battle wagons) and of is led by the up and coming star in war-bear soldiery Snout-Captain Nová Lák and is averaging roughly a week behind the vanguard.

Stranding against them are the faux-barbarian war-bands of Pohansko. Exact numbers are unknown (but likely to run anywhere from 500-1,000 strong) but well-known to all is their bizarre martial adornment in exaggareted Bronze-Age-ish war gear (complete with cow-hide shields and engorged, impractical bronze shoulder pads) and division into doctrinally -incoherent warrior societies handed down by the first adventurer king Pohan. Pinc himself is said to have fell arcane powers that can send even the most placid and content of hruz heads into a snarling rage over the most wee of issues.

What Are Operational Conditions Like?
The weather has finally turned autumn nippy in the southern Hill Cantons. Periodic chilly thunderstorms roll in from Stormchild's breath over the Persimmon Sea.

The road east past the incestuous backhills shithole Bad Rajetz is barely a road, more a high place made up of the shattered backbone of an old stone Hyperborean highway surrounded by a sea of mud.
The road runs through terrain much akin to Pohansko proper: craggy rocky ridgelines punctuated by cedar-breaks and vine brambles (and the occasional old beech and gnome-pine stand).

What Do We Know about Pohansko?
Well I will tell you all about that benighted place and its public secrets tomorrow, champ.

But now a song from the solidarizing citizens of Marlinko
The Wagons of Ursine Emancipation
With the battle wagons, and greater,
Speeds the hairy liberators,
Onward cheered by hosannas,
And the waving of yellow banners.
Roll it along! Roll it along!
Spread your banners,
While bearlings shout hosannas.

Ursine eman-cip-ation
Cannot rest on human foundations
And the fields of Pohan's magician
Bears but a crop of perdition
Pull up the fields! Pull up the fields!
Ursine eman-cip-ation
Cannot rest on human foundations.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pan-Dungeonism, War-Bears on the War-Path and the Odious Uplands

I'm rather enjoying my real world news mixing with my fantasy world news (you can judge which is which) so expect this to be a semi-regular post here on the blog.

In things Hydra Cooperative related, Operation Unfathomable's Kickstarter has been launched and is trucking along. The first stretch goal is hit which means the Odious Uplands, an entire already-written book-length wilderness supplement is a go. Strange Stars OSR is at the proofing stage and I continue to attempt to push through that last bit of writing of What Ho, Frog Demons (the fourth and last of the Dunes series).
And Now the News of the Hill Cantons...
The fact-finding mission of self-styled Son of Mulmak, advocate of pan-dungeonism, is rumored to have met fierce resistance in the upper levels of the Mountain Hall of the Hyperboreans. An anonymous source in the Guild of Condotierre, Linkboys and Stevedores says that the party ran into unexpected new residents calling themselves the Servants of the Antagonist, Ha-Vul the Great Restocker.

The seemingly interminable election of the new Overking drags on with the 27 lord-electors continuing to bicker and maneuver and the powerless majority to debate and riot. A crowd of bystanders in Marlinko's Tomb-Plaza rescued a local Worker of Wood member who attempted to gouge out his eyes with an auger while simultaneously hanging himself on a self-made gibbet. The man was heard screaming repeatedly “please Sun Lord, just make it stop!”, an apparent reference to the length of the campaign season.

For the first time since the Green Rye Uprising, Medved, hirsute divine Master of the Dunes, has called the muster for all leveled war-bears. Under pretext of rough behavior, Pinc the Petulant, despicable petty tyrant of the pocket kingdom of Pohansko, has imprisoned a score of war-bears in his foulest dungeons allegedly to avoid paying back wages. Hosts of bearlings have been seen marching east and south through Marlinko Canton mustard banner unfurled with a new ballad on their hairy lips.

In the gaol cell I sit,
Thinking glaive-guisarme, of you,
And our bright slumbering home so far away,
And the tears drip my snout
'Spite of all that I can do,
Tho' I try to cheer my comrades and grunt hurray.

Brump! Brump! Brump!
The war-bears are mar-chin'
Cheer up cubs here we come!
And beneath the starry paw
We shall smell the blessed honey again
In the free dunes of Medved's sandy home.

In the battle's van we stood
When their horsey charge they made
And they swept us off
A hundred bearlings or more
But before they reached our phalanx
They were beaten back, dismayed
And we heard the roar of victory o'er and o'er

Brump! Brump! Brump!
The war-bears are mar-chin'
Cheer up cubs here we come!
And beneath the starry paw
We shall smell the blessed honey again
In the free dunes of Medved's sandy home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Operation Unfathomable and Hill Canton News

The Hydra Cooperative is about to make another big ole leap forward in coming weeks. Next Monday, October 10th the Kickstarter for the one of my favorite (and way too self-deprecating) creators in this little scene, Jason Sholtis, is bolting out the gate.

And yeah, yeah I know, like you, I have seen a thousand crowdfunding ships launched--many of them floundering still out there years later. But not only is the extended-dance remix version of Operation Unfathomable in excellent shape going in (the main manuscript pretty damn clean, a host of illustrations completed and even the stretch goal material written and edited), it is also has a damn funny, pitch perfect Harryhausen-esque stop animation video that even if you don't pledge you should check out. 

[Guerrilla ads below and above by the world-famous Trey Causey, whose Strange Stars OSR is going through final edits.]
And Now the News from the Hill Cantons...
The Velveteen Group, operators of Marlinko's seedy-chic Black Pomegranate bathhouse were reportedly “going to bring a war without peril [sic] to the streets of the city” over the opening of an unlicensed, yet contrada-sanctioned new "grooming facility” in the Sullen Apriarian quarter by an obscure guild with origins in the Marches of Nur. Said group spokesman Pan Otkar “This so-called 'facility' with its lack of hands-on experience year in year out, poises a public health disaster to our city body. Traditional Marlinko bathhouses have delivered for centuries on the promise that any on-site pleasures will be mixed with the proper atmosphere of jaded weariness and sullen indifference.”

The Beneficial Society of Scavelmen and Engineers, Social has reportedly been testing campaign slogans for the Steeplejackers party claim to the Overkingdom throne on forcibly-detained groups of debt peons, glitter-slyphs and law students. Sources say that the focus groups have zeroed in on the catchy, yet opaque slogan of “Superlative Souls are Deplorable” as the party's new war cry. Fortunately with the electorate set at only 27 souls -- all of which already have their horses in the race – the slogan is nuncupatory.

The self-styled Son of Mulmak, proponent of the heretical theory of pan-dungeonism and best-selling author of A Brief Relation of the World-Dungeon Unitary, As it Was Delivered to the Folk of Marlinko is gathering together a field work expedition for the faux-meadhall haunts of the Mountain Hall of the Hyperboreans with the explicit goal of “proving that a subterranean spiderweb of byzantine tunnels and treasure-house sub-basements connects all to All.” Undoubtedly the all-loving Sun Lord will strike him down and all who follow him in his hubris.

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.