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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: Three Killers Legend

The town of East Las Vegas keeps being an absolutely insane violence-ridden nest of criminals. Hoodoo Brown made himself mayor, and then made Doc Thomas into the town Coroner (which would allow the doc to make official papers declaring obvious murders 'accidental' or 'self defense'). The player characters just can't believe the amount of violence and criminality going on here (such that would put Dodge City to shame), and yet they're all making crazy amounts of money from contributing to this criminal enterprise.  They know there's no way something this nuts is going to last, so they're planning on milking it for all it's worth.

So Other Miller and Dirty Dave Rudabaugh were on their regular stagecoach-stick-up run, when they again ran into a large group of Commancheros. They agreed to stay and convey the message Hoodoo Brown wanted to send them, though Dirty Dave ran off at the last second, leaving Other Miller in the lurch. Even so, the leader of the Commancheros was sufficiently curious about the balls on Hoodoo for suggesting a parley that he let Other Miller go with his life.

The parley happened at a place not far from town called Piedras Rojas, where Hoodoo intentionally went with only about a dozen men (including all of the PCs except Doc Thomas), knowing that the Commancheros would outnumber them. He basically decided to psych them out, and get them to consider an alliance, and convinced them of the benefit of having a town where they would be free to come and go without any fear of arrest or harassment, and get all the pleasures of the flesh they would like.

Among the Commancheros, who came back into East Vegas to shoot up the town, get drunk and use all the whores, was a mysterious white man who started asking questions about Crazy Miller, and also Doc Holliday (who had not come with Hoodoo's group, but who was of course at his usual place in the saloon he partly owned).  The stranger had a haunted look, and a killer's gaze, the likes of which Crazy Miller had only ever seen in two other people: John Joshua Webb, and Holliday himself.

The next day, the stranger was gone, along with Dirty Dave and Mysterious Dave Mathers. It turns out that they headed off early and robbed the Santa Fe Railroad. This was a big problem, since the Santa Fe railroad are part of Hoodoo's network of powerful people who help keep him and the town protected from the real lawmen, and perhaps even more importantly because they'd gone and done it without Hoodoo's permission.  Hoodoo had also promised the Railroad men that whoever did it would pay, before realizing that two of the three people who did it were part of his Dodge City Gang.

When they got back to town, rather than hide or deny it, the two Daves went right up to Hoodoo and admitted what they'd done, that it went off without a hitch, and that they'd got a haul of $12000 which was a payroll belonging to the Railroad. And it was all thanks to the mysterious white commanchero. Hoodoo was still going to punish them, but Mysterious Dave explained that they had to do it, and he'd understand, once he knew who the man was. And when he told Hoodoo, Brown agreed.

Meanwhile, Doc Thomas was visited by a scruffy dirty teenager who'd sewn up his own bullet wound on the trail. It was also not the first wound he'd taken in his young life. He was also heavily armed, and looking to meet Doc Holliday. Doc Thomas, perhaps a bit smitten by the lad, decided to take him over to Kate's Saloon.  Turns out the white commanchero was there too.

The boy sat down very brashly at Doc Holliday's table, and started talking him up, admiringly but boastfully about how he'd heard Doc was 'almost as good a shot as he was'. And telling Doc that they should team up.  Doc was just about to shoot the boy, and asked him who the hell he thinks he is to be talking such when he can't even grow a beard yet.
Turns out, he's Billy the Kid.

This did change Doc's perspective, but he still said he had no interest in joining a gang with him. But then the White commanchero jumped in and said that Doc was wrong, that it was Providence that brought them all here, to this place, and that they were beholden to destiny to work together.  When Billy asked how he figured such, the man explained: he's Jesse James.

Now, a little historical context: It is pretty much an historically known fact that Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday did in fact meet, in East Vegas, in 1879. But it is also a long-standing legend that Jesse James met them too.  This is a lot more historically questionable; this wasn't Jesse James' country. But 1879 was a time when James was in places unknown, laying low, trying to rebuild after the end of the James-Younger gang, and in fact many people at the time assumed he'd just died. So it COULD have been that he ended up in East Las Vegas, where he knew he'd have a measure of security and a likely spot to find people to join him in a new criminal enterprise. And a lot of fans of the west will claim that this definitely happened.  And anyways, it was too good to pass up in the campaign.

When Doc asked what the two other deadliest killers in the west were proposing, Kid admitted he didn't rightly know but that he needed a new gang (most of his old gang were dead, scattered or imprisoned). Jesse James (who was in much the same situation) did have an idea, however: He had heard that Crazy Miller had made his fortune because of connections he had to the famous bandit Derek McClue, and that he knew where McClue could be found.  McClue had once double-crossed Jesse James, and Jesse felt he was owed a considerable amount of money McClue had promised him, so his idea was to force Crazy Miller to tell them where he was so they could go get it.

Of course, long-time readers will know that this is not true: the "mormon gambler" who was a PC in Dodge City was a spitting image of McClue and was frequently mistaken for him, and Miller made his fortune through a bit of cattle rustling, then some savvy legitimate business, and also inheriting money from the widow he married (who was later killed by his horse). And the other PCs from Dodge could vouch for the former, while Doc Holliday (whose aunt was the aforementioned widow) could vouch for the latter.

So that plan was out, except that Billy the Kid then casually mentioned that he knew where Derek's brother Robert McClue and most of the McClue gang were hiding out, in a town a couple of days' ride from here named Navajo Springs.

So that was the new plan. Doc, Jesse James, and Billy the Kid, along with Crazy Miller, Other Miller and Doc Thomas would all ride out to Navajo Springs and rob the McClue gang.

While they headed out, Sheriff (kid) Taylor and Deputy Jackson were busy with another job: since Hoodoo Brown had decided not to kill the two Daves (he had to admit that no one would pass up a chance to rob a train with Jesse James; plus they were giving Hoodoo half the money), they needed some patsies to take the fall. He charged the Sheriff to find three bums, kill them in a 'shootout' when they were 'resisting arrest' and plant the payroll bag with a bit of the cash on them. The Railroad would thus get their crooks, and sadly accept that most of the money was already lost, hidden or squandered.

Only, Kid Taylor being who he is, he fucked it all up. Taking Jackson and Smiley the mad scotsman with him, they went out looking for 'bums', and Smiley naturally suggested that the ideal choice would be Irishmen (since no one would doubt their criminal nature, and no one would care if they died). There was a small but significant community of Irish wastrels in East Vegas, so finding three of them, getting them alone and killing them probably wouldn't be hard. 
Except Kid didn't do that. Instead, he tried to arrest three of them right outside a tent-saloon where there were about 20 other Irishmen drinking cheap moonshine. The Irishmen called for help, and their countrymen came out en masse threatening the Sheriff and his men with violent death. Kid Taylor and the others ran for it, and took refuge in the Sheriff's office, now surrounded by a large mob of violent drunken Irishmen.

Naturally, Hoodoo Brown couldn't take this lying down. So he came out to the street with the two Daves, Dutch Henry, and a number of other goons; and when the Irishmen refused to disperse they started massacring them. Several Irishmen died and the rest fled, presumably racing out of town. Hoodoo was understandably upset at the boobery of Kid Taylor's bungled job, but in light of Taylor's talents he decided not to kill him. Instead he fired Taylor, and made Dirty Dave Rudabaugh his new sheriff.  Taylor, meanwhile, would have a chance to redeem himself as one of Hoodoo's strongmen instead.

Hoodoo was also upset at how the Millers hadn't come in answer to his call to deal with the Irishmen. He interrogated Big Nose Kate and she explained how they had gone with Doc, Jesse James and Billy the Kid. Now Hoodoo realized that yet again some of the members of HIS Dodge City Gang had gone off without his leave, and were potentially going to start a gang war with a rival band of outlaws. He decided to raise up a posse and go after them, not sure yet whether he'd be going to help them or to kill them himself (that last bit was probably bravado, as it was already clear from the previous adventure that Doc Holliday was one of the few men that Hoodoo feared).

The other PCs had arrived somewhere outside of Navajo Springs, and they decided to send out Other Miller and Doc Thomas (the only two in the bunch who weren't at risk of being recognized) to go into town, pretending to be passing through on the way to join the Cowboy Gang, and gather some intelligence.
They went into town, and soon learned that the McClue Gang (now led by Derek's brother Robert) were definitely in town. They were laying low and semi-retired, but were apparently planning to make an alliance with the Cowboys, the newest and fastest growing criminal gang in the southwest (led by the infamous outlaw Curly Bill Brocious, and based in an area of Pima County protected by the Clanton family).

Unfortunately, their questions did not go unnoticed. Robert McClue made his way out of his large walled hacienda with a number of his men, and cornered the two in the town's only saloon. Now, he said, he was going to be the one asking the questions, and then he'd decide whether he would invite Doc Thomas and Other Miller to join them, or just kill them.

That's it for this session, this one turned out to be a two-parter.


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Hawkbill + Image virginia

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

RPGPundit Presents: Three Medieval-Authentic Grimoires!

Yes, issue #8 of RPGPundit Presents is already here! Geez, it feels like this started just yesterday. Anyways, this week we have something really special for you: a 15-page book, featuring three different Grimoires, all three based on REAL historical grimoires of the middle-ages, presenting interesting new abilities and challenges for the magicians who read and study them!

Check out:
The Ghayat-al-Hakim, with its planetary and stellar summonings!

The Clavicula, with its rules for summoning demons and bonding them to magical talismans! Also, rules for creating four powerful magic items.

The Theurgia, with its 36 "Spirits of the Aires", each of which can either reveal a secret, or grant a gift.

If you want some interesting new artifacts to add to your OSR, D&D or fantasy game, pick up RPGPundit Presents #8 for just $2.99 over at DTRPG or 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, 20 November 2017

RPGPundit Presents #7 is Now in Spanish

Hey folks, as always, and right on time, we have RPGPundit Presents #7: A Medieval Authentic Vancian Spellbook, is now available in Spanish!

You can pick up the Spanish edition at DTRPG, or at the Precis Store!

And stay tuned tomorrow for a great medieval-authentic issue #8!


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

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Classic Rant: Real Magick" in RPGs: Types of Magicians and "Magical Orders"

I'm going to break from talking about actual practices of magick to take a step back into addressing types of people and groups who do magick, to add more information on that subject in the specific context of "serious" practitioners of the western magical tradition. 

These days, there are probably three broad categories of western occultist you could be likely to meet in a "realistic" modern-occult setting.
First, the seriously old-school (or to use a term from modern magick, "Old Aeon"). These are the guys who basically don't like anything that came along in the world of occultism after about 1904. They identify with very traditional western magick, and more specifically with the Victorian interpretations thereof. Most of them have an affinity with the work of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (more about the Golden Dawn found later in this entry), and basically have a serious hate-on for Aleister Crowley. Some of these guys "graduated" into occultism from the new-age (particularly quasi-theosophical beliefs), though some got into it from more specific segments of occultism like astrology or kabbalah. They are, these days, a relative minority among occultists. 
When encountered, they will be very vocal about "tradition", like to use a lot of props in their ritual, don't cut any corners, and will be quite focused on old-school style hermetic work. Lots of Hebrew, and maybe the occasional sanskrit that slips in there, but they're generally not into "mingling" eastern techniques with their western magick. I would say that a lot of these guys are more "theory" than practice, but you could really say that about basically ALL of the types I'm describing; its just that these guy's "theory" will quote a lot from medieval grimoires, pseudo-masonry or Rosicrucian sources, Eliphas Levi, etc. and will carry a general disdain for any novelty. They also generally tend to be prudes, both socially, morally, and magically squeamish.

Second, the new school: Thelema. "Thelema" is a Greek word meaning "will", and is the term referring to the general religious philosophy and school of magick that was created by and will forever be influenced by Aleister Crowley, who was basically about as much of a game-changer in the world of the occult as Einstein was in the world of Physics, Picasso in the world of art, or Elvis in the world of popular music. Note that not all magicians in this category would describe themselves as "Thelemites", that is, a lot of them might not actually be DIRECTLY influenced by Crowley anymore; but if they are practicing your standard "mainstream" (inasmuch as you can call it that) hermetic magick these days, the authors they're reading and the type of magick they're doing is based on Crowley anyways. 

In many ways, the "new school" guys are not so different from the "old school", they don't ultimately reject any of the symbols or basic practices of the 19th century magicians, but they have both modernized it, personalized it, and you could say "updated" it. These guys don't stick to traditional ritual, but rather look at the building blocks of those rituals and make new iterations of it. The Kabbalah for them is still the Kabbalah, but rather than referring to just the traditional lexicon of kabbalistic concepts they want to create their own dictionary of words and images that are meaningful to them. At least, the really serious guys in this category will do that; the rest will just do the rituals that Crowley wrote, the way he wrote them, becoming in a sense the new conservatives. 

Three big differences between the old school and the new are that the new school puts a big influence on the philosophy of self-transformation (defining magick as "the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity to the Will", for that matter, you'll hear "true will" bandied about quite a lot), individualism and respect for but not blind hierarchical obedience to spiritual authority; that they put a much bigger emphasis on personal revelation and personal "astral visions" (or whatever you want to call it), basically suggesting that a big part of the magical work is to experience altered perceptions and other dimensions of your being, and take very seriously the insights that these provide (for many of the new school, this includes incorporating both sex and drugs into their magical practice, something that Crowley was really big on and that the old school tends to seriously dislike); and that they will tend to be much more open to synthesis with all kinds of non-western influences. "New School" magicians and old-school magicians both tend to accept that there is a "Perennial philosophy", that all esoteric practices of every culture are basically different ways of describing the same magical "formula" for self-transformation, but the "new school" people have taken this to mean that there is a benefit to incorporating sources that weren't traditionally part of western-magick into their practices; so you have things like the "Voudoun-Gnostic Workbook" or the "Voodoo Tarot", the borrowing of rituals from tribal shamanic practices, significant interest in sufism, and most especially in the esoteric parts of the big three eastern religions: Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. The parts they like to borrow from these religions tend to be the radical esoteric practices, things like Tantrism or Taoist Alchemy. 
On the other hand, the New School guys are generally less inclined to include Christian symbolism than the old school. Also, the new-school guys are the most likely to interact with the general Wiccan and Pagan subcultures and self-identify as "pagans" (though sometimes with the caveat that they aren't like "normal" neo-pagans, or that they're more serious about it, or whatever).

Like I said above, just as many of the "old school" guys will be more "theory" than "practice", so will most of the new-school guys; only their "theory" will be a lot more talking about received Holy Books, someone else's (usually Crowley's) astral visions of the kabbalistic tree of life or the Enochian Aethyrs, talking about the True Will, or about "sex magick". 
New school guys generally tend to think that "old school" guys are reactionary farts who "have the ritual but don't understand it", and that the "Really New school" guys are "posers" who are "too lazy" to study serious magick and don't know what they're doing.

Thirdly, the REALLY New School, or "Chaos magicians". Sometime around the early 1980s, a new kind of post-modern movement started springing up among the magick subculture of what was quickly termed "chaos magick"; this is a movement that basically rejects the old style of ritual completely (or at most, defines it as an entirely aesthetic personal choice), and have neither respect nor obedience to spiritual authority. They are extreme personalists, who believe that each magician has to not only interpret traditional symbols in an individual way (the way the "new schoolers" do), but have to create their own entirely new, entirely personal set of symbols, or incorporate modern symbols and concepts into their magical practice. Confusingly, many chaos magicians would also identify themselves as Thelemites and express admiration for Aleister Crowley (unsurprisingly, since many of them started as "new school" magicians, and then jumped over to the Chaos Magick current). They just don't believe that you need to use any of the old methods to do magick. 

These guys can be characterized for a love of creating spontaneous rituals, breaking the rules for rules-breaking's sake, using lots of "sigil magick" where they create some new word (sometimes out of the letters of whatever concept they're trying to invoke) or image (again, out of the general imagery of what they're trying to invoke) and then using that as a focus for their will (by varied means, anything from masturbation (over the sigil) to mass-production (of the sigil, making it seen in a whole lot of places or by a whole lot of people)), and going out of their way to try to mingle talk about modern quantum physics, chaos mathematics, or other cutting-edge legitimate sciences with their personal occult theory. 

This is the guy, in other words, who will use lots of quasi-scientific words to try to convince you that the Uncertainty Principle or String Theory "Proves" that magick is real. They see the "new school" guys as "old farts" and the "Old school" guys as utterly hopeless.
The general criticism that more traditional magicians have for fans of "chaos magick" is that they're not basically doing anything, they're just making it up as they go along; I've even literally heard one "new school" Thelemic magician accuse chaos magick of being "barely a step above D&D on the scale of credible occultism".

Critics will point to the absurdity of the fact that Chaos magicians believe that symbols are only powerful due to the personal impact they have for you in your personal history and experience (rather than the more standard occult theory that symbols are powerful because of an objective connection to the collective unconscious, the kabbalistic tree of life, or the divine supersoul). The chaos magicians, feeling that all that matters is one's own personal whims, will argue that it makes more sense to "invoke Superman" in a magical ritual rather than Zeus, evoke the Cthulhu monsters from Lovecraft novels rather than the demons of the goetia, or will use pseudo-latin words from Harry Potter rather than the Ineffable Names or the Enochian Calls. More traditional magicians will take this to mean that not only do most chaos magicians not know what they're doing, they don't even believe in what they're doing, they're just playing at being pop-culture post-modern wizards; an accusation that might be true for a significant number of chaos magicians, but then again, similar accusations of "playing at being Crowley" or "playing at collecting absurd titles" can be levied at the majority of Thelemites and the Golden-dawn old-schoolers.

Like the other two above, the majority of chaos magicians are much more "theory" (or one should say "talk", in their case, since they intentionally don't have a coherent theory) than practice.
I think Alan Moore perhaps put it best in his incredible occult-comic Promethea; "You know, in the 20s, magicians had style; it was turbans, tuxedos, and tarts in tiaras; now its all sigils, stubble and self-abuse". Of course Grant Morrison, a practicing chaos magician and writer of the even-more incredible The Invisibles, responded by calling Moore's treatment of magick in Promethea "elitist". 

Curiously, the thing worth noting is that the really great magicians of any of these three predominant types will all end up looking very similar; its the posers that tend to look different from one another. The hardcore guys who have developed a serious magical practice, regardless of what outer "school of thought" they belong to, will all have engaged in obsessive study of ALL kinds of sources, near-neurotic levels of daily practices, will demonstrate a notable ability to improvise and adapt their magick to the situation at hand, and will all have gone through similar experiences though perhaps via different methods. In other words, they'll all be batshit crazy, AND have something real going on; and so will a real tantrist, or a real shaman, or a real voodoo witch doctor or a real Taoist alchemist. They all end up looking very similar at the high end of the "attainment" spectrum, and if that's not a good argument in favour of the Philosophia Perennia, I don't know what is.

Now, a note about magical orders: there aren't really any truly "vast occult conspiracies" out there. That's because any order that becomes truly big, and there are precious few of these too, will inevitably end up becoming much more social and less "occult". That's not to say they won't have plenty of serious magicians in these groups, but those serious magicians will not be seeing their membership in the group as the central part of their magical work, only as a compliment or a social outlet. The largest "occult order" in the western world is undoubtedly Freemasonry, which at the present time boasts about six million members worldwide. That sounds like a lot but you have to remember that its spread over a shitload of countries, there's no central "worldwide" masonic institution, and the VAST majority of its members would not define themselves as "occultists" at all, much less magicians, even though what they do in their lodges and rituals is entirely a part of the western magical tradition. 

As far as "serious" magical orders go (that is to say, orders that define themselves as "MAGICAL" Orders), they're freaking tiny by comparison. One of the largest of these is one of Crowley's orders, the Ordo Templi Orientis or OTO, and its splintered into about a dozen different rival factions; the largest of these has about 3000 members worldwide, and none of the others get anywhere near that number. The smallest "OTO" claimant group I've run into personally had a whopping TWO members!

The "old school" order par excellence was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which were absolutely revolutionary in their development of ritual magick in the late 19th century; the original Golden Dawn (of which Crowley was a member in his youth, and which included luminaries of multiple backgrounds, people like W.B. Yeats, A.E. Waite of the "Rider Waite Tarot" fame, Bram "Dracula" Stoker, Allan "first western Buddhist Monk" Bennett, and many, many more) broke up due to infighting around 1901; after that there have been dozens of groups claiming to be the "one true" Golden Dawn (in the same way that there are dozens of "one true" OTOs out there). These days none of these groups are very big; and they generally take the form of mail-order correspondence-course groups that send you instructional material and give you a fancy "degree" as you pass written exams; the better ones actually have some type of headquarter where you go for initiations. The entirety of the original Golden Dawn's secret rituals are available in print (and online), and many "old school" magicians practice or study that ritual on their own, rather than in a group.

There are two major and a host of minor "Thelemic" groups, the aforementioned OTO being the biggest; like the Golden Dawn it works with a pseudo-masonic "Lodge" structure and offers initiations. Its membership has been suffering a decline since around the late 1980s, however, and there are far fewer working OTO lodges than there used to be. The quality of these groups vary immensely, from being largely social groups that engage in a lot of magical "conversation", to individual lodges that do very serious magical work alongside the standard ritual. 

The other major Thelemic group is the A.'.A.'., which Crowley founded. It does not follow the "lodge structure", but rather works (in theory) on a "cell" basis, where each member only knows his immediate superior in the order (the guy who's teaching him magick) and those lower-degree members that the person themselves has brought into the order. 

This means that basically, since Crowley's death, there has been no true central structure of the A.'.A.'., and there are shitloads of people who spontaneously claim to have membership in this group; theoretically, the "real" A.'.A.'. is anyone who has an unbroken "lineage" going back to Crowley himself (that is, he was brought into the A.'.A.'. by someone who was brought into the A.'.A.'. by someone who was brought into the A.'.A.'., by someone etc. etc. who was brought into the A.'.A.'. by Crowley); but this is in practice notoriously difficult to accurately confirm. Fortunately in both cases, just like with the Golden Dawn, the entire OTO rituals and A.'.A.'. magical writings are available in print or online if you know where to look, though the legal heirs of Crowley's OTO try to suppress this material whenever they find it.

The "Really New School" guys tend mostly to be solitary or work in small groups, but there's one kind-of "major" group, the Illuminates of Thanateros, who were founded by the guy who first coined the term Chaos Magick (Peter Carroll). This group is, true to chaos magick format, pretty loosey-goosey compared to the other orders I've mentioned.

So magical orders tend to be kind of shit, which tends to put the damper on some of the traditional setting-concepts of occult campaigns; but is more in keeping with the far more "realistic" setting elements of isolation and infighting that I've been trying to emphasize as being part of an accurate portrayal of the occult scene. 

And in any case, this doesn't mean that you can't have "secret groups" being a significant part of an occult campaign; remember that there's probably literally hundreds of very small "orders", often incredibly pretentious in spite of their size, which can run the gamut from con artists to cults of personality, to a group of people who have tapped into some seriously Powerful (and Possibly Fucked Up) Heavy Shit. While the majority of magicians actually work alone, or through small or medium-sized networks of like-minded acquaintances, there's also thousands of "working groups" that don't go so far as to call themselves an "order", who are also often the groups that do some of the most serious magical group work. The PC party can be one of these, for that matter. 


(Originally Posted October 7, 2011)

Saturday, 18 November 2017

No Time to Write; Short L&D Update

I've had almost no time to do anything lately.

Anyways, I'll just update readers of my blog today: a while back, we did a 'reveal' of the Lion & Dragon cover.
Now, it seems that based on both some feedback, and receiving the proof copy, my erstwhile publisher Dominique Crouzet changed his mind.  The cover will now be something totally different.

I've been promised this won't delay the publication.  So we're still aiming for early December.
(this is the part of doing an RPG book that I hate; it always seems like after I'm done writing a book it still takes almost a fucking year for it to see print, and there's always endless delays at the end)

Anyways, I'll do a NEW cover reveal as soon as I have a new cover.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia

Friday, 17 November 2017

DCC Campaign Update: Because It's Venger

In our last session, the PCs had just arrived to the shantytown outside the massive spire known by locals (on the surface of the solar skyshield) as The Citadel, where they would now have to participate in a contest known as the Death Race 3000 in order to gain entry. They're doing all this because the Citadel seems to be the place where there's a transmat into the heart of the sun, from where they will be able to use the Sunstaff to reach the Crown of Creation and save G.O.D. from Sezrekhan, who has taken control and is slowly turning everyone in the universe into his zombified slaves.


-"It's a good thing someone is tracking time in this campaign, because I'm sure not."

-"What happend to Sami while I was gone?"
"Oh, yeah, she shat herself into a coma."
"Just like her player!"

-"The shantytown has a thriving economy based on the annual Death Race."
"So a lot like Punta del Este?"
"A more murderous Punta del Este, yes."

-"So wait, this is the 3000th Death Race?"
"Yup. You've come at an auspicious time."

-Sami awakens from her coma.
"Ohhh.. why didn't you just kill me?"
"We need a cleric."
"I'm sure that if you'd let me die, another cleric would have just suddenly appeared."

-"I look for somewhere to clean myself up.."
"Well, you're basically in Space-Calcutta here, so.."

-"I'm going to put on Ekim's Plastic Surgery mask."
"Ok, you now have a 9 Personality."
"Wow, you're a considerably less unappealing ex-hooker."

-The PCs start to wander around the shantytown.
"I'll stick with the group. I don't want to run into a blood vampire around here."
"So that is to say, a normal vampire?"
"Yeah, well, this party encountered a Fire Vampire first, so now to us those are the normal ones."

-The PCs start talking about what kind of vehicle they want to buy for the Death Race.
"Could we get one with like, a guy strapped to the front holding up our war banner?"

-Suddenly, the PCs spot the Vegan Wizard, who had last been seen running off in the labyrinth on Gebo. Somehow, he's ended up in the shantytown, and is apparently wandering around in a daze.
"So, should we help him? Or just leave him here?"
"Well, we do need a wizard."
"I'm a wizard!"
"We've got the Hippomagus, he's a wizard..."
"I'm a wizard!"
"But the Hippomagus might not be enough."
"I'm a wizard!!"
"Yeah, we need a second wizard, let's save him."
"Screw all you guys."

-"How did you even get here, vegan?"
"I have no idea. I don't even know where here is?"
"Have you got anything in your ass?"
"I don't think so.."
"We could check with my staff!"

-A suspicious looking lizard man shuffles up to the PCs.
"Hey, psst.. you want to buy dolphin?"
"...yes. Yes we do."
"Wait, you not city guard, no?"

-While a couple of the PCs go off with the sneaky looking dolphin-seller, the others go to a 'magic supply store', run by a forehead-ridged mutant looking a bit like a klingon.
"Can I pay for this with credits?"
"You wish for store credit? We do not give credit!"
"No, my credits, from my credit stick."
"No credit. Only cash."

-"What kind of money do you use here?"
"Do you also use gold?"
"We can take gold, yes."
"But you don't know about credits?"
"Credit? You want money-lender."
"No... but holy shit you guys we should always go to money-lenders! We should borrow money at every city we go to! I mean, since after all when we're done with it every city we ever go to is either destroyed or we can never go back anyways."

-"So do you sell scrolls here?"
"No, we sell supplies to make scrolls! Like this high-end vellum."
"Ohh, this one is bordered by little flowers. And this one is lavender-scented!"
"Dude, you're not in a magic shop at all, this is just a stationary store."

-"I wonder what the rest of the party is doing?"
"We're buying a dolphin!"

-"There are two dolphins in the warehouse; one is rather emaciated and is hanging from some leather straps. The other is relatively fat and soaking in a small pool of water that seems infused with a variety of herbs."
"I run my finger over the fat one and then lick it... yeah, it's pure!"

-"This one is for eating.. other is for, well, you know."

-"Wait, you are Death Racers?"
"We will be, tomorrow."
"Oh, so then you may want dolphin catapult!"
"Dude, this is getting out of hand."

-"Can we use this Dolphin-launcher for things other than dolphins?"
"Yes, large catapult can also launch dogs, small children, etc."

-"Do you have Dolphin explosives? Like, that we could put on the dolphin so he'd explode on impact?"
"You can stuff him with grenades!"
"The dolphin looks very nervous."

-"Hey, with my Animal Summoning, we could use the dolphin to create MORE dolphins!"
"Ok, so wait... we're actually doing this now, aren't we??"

-"I don't know what happened to you Heidi, maybe it's the rarefied air here, but you've really changed."
"Well, um, we could make sure the dolphin only does non-lethal damage."
"Too late for that now, dude. You've become one of us!"

-"I'm pretty sure that dolphin is sentient, and can understand us. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm still on board with this."

-"Man, I'm sure glad we haven't gotten totally side-tracked..."

-Having secured their plans to purchase assault dolphins, the PCs now move on to trying to hijack a vehicle. They settle on a cool-looking post-apocalyptic APV manned by a bunch of pirates.
"We want to buy your vehicle, captain."
"Yarr, this ship is not for sale!"
"It's an APV, not a ship."
"Maybe it's a land ship?"
"Narr, that's where ye're wrong, lad. It be a Sea-ship Of The Land."

-Heidi uses his Ring of Human Control to force the captain to buy the ship for 50gp. Then he tells the captain to lend him 50gp.
"Ok, so you've used 2HD to control the captain, out of 30, right?"
"Oh shit, never mind... as far as you know you have unlimited uses.. it was all a dream!!"

-The captain's crew realize something suspicious is going on. To stop them from all attacking, Vizi challenges the biggest one to a duel and cuts him to pieces with his light sabre.
The rest of the pirates run away.

-"Yarr, I'll lend you the 50gp, but the Death Race be cold at night..."
"We plan to get a dolphin..."
"That'll do."
"Wouldn't you rather have me?"
"Nar, there be no place for women at the sea."

-Heidi decides he'd better get rid of the legless captain, since he has to continually concentrate to keep him controlled. So he flies him out about an hour away in the middle of the wasteland, and dumps him there to die.

-Blitzkrieg and Space-Bear show up, and they got themselves a hovertank!

-"How did you get that??"
"I won it in a sabacc game, baby."
"of course."

-"Are we allowed to split our party into two vehicles?"
"That's what that random weirdo in the gas mask told us back in town, and he should know."

-"What are you going to call your hovertank, Blitzkrieg?"
"The Shaft-1"
"of course."
"Wait does that mean you never had a shaft before?"

-"What's your APV called?"
"Well, it was called the Lolipop, but we're going to rename it the Mammoth-1, on account of the huge mammoth skull in the front."

-Heidi flies back.
"Did you take care of the captain?"
"Yes. He's in a farm now, with a big field where he can crawl around with other legless captains and have fun."

-"We want to buy some dolplin explosives."
"OK, do you want your dolphin to be alive when he explodes?"
"Oh yeah, we need it to make dolphin sounds as it flies down on our enemies."
"Yes, plus his eco-location could help him target somehow."

-That night, Mu perfects his sleep-rune. When the Vegan wizard starts to annoy him, Mu puts him to sleep.
"That's a damn good spell."

-The next morning the PCs go and, having pooled their money, purchase their artillery-dolpin. The Dolphin salesman suggests that to smuggle him out of town to where they're parked, they hire his cousin who has a small cart and a giant-snail disguise for the dolphin.

-The city guardsmen are coming down the street. Nervous, Sami tries to cast Ackbasha's Sanctuary, which only draws their attention.
"You were casting some kind of spell, miss?"
"So what? Hey! I'm not allowed to cast something now? I know my rights! I thought this was America, man!!"

-They manage to distract the guards by claiming they saw someone disguised as other guards trying to sell a dolphin. They make it over to the vehicles, but Space Bear has serious reservations about their use of a projectile dolphin.
"Space Bear says the dolphin is sentient."
"How does he know?"
"Space Bear speaks dolphin."

-Blitzkrieg has to translate from Bear to Common, while Space Bear is translating from Dolphin to Bear.
"There are way too many NPCs in this group."

-They remember that the Vegan mutant can use his Animal Summoning and that when he does so the dolpins won't be sentient dolphins. He hopes.
"Cool. So do you need to cut a piece off the dolphin or something?"
"The dolphin looks very nervous."
"No, that won't be necessary."
"The dolphin looks relieved"
"OK dolphin, I just need you to shit in this cup!"
"Why, you sick fuck?!"
"Because its Venger!"

-Later in the day, a group of Space Vampires, from a rival Death Race team, come along.  The group is nervous, but they come in peace.
"We have come to offer an alliance, blah!"
"Can you give us some time to think about it?"
"Yes, we will come back in 10.. 10 hours! Ah hah haha!!"

-"I don't know, could these vampires double cross us?"
"Wouldn't a double cross hurt them?"

-"Guys, I think Mongo is petting the dolphin a bit too roughly"
"You have to pet him hard so he can feel it!"

-The pirates who the PCs stole their APV from try to ambush them on the streets of the shantytown. But Heidi first intimidates them and then recruits them. "You are my new crew. Look at me: I am the captain now!"

-For their first task, Heidi has his pirate crew go out and buy fireworks, fish (for the dolphin to eat), wooden stakes (in case the vampires double-cross them) and pirate hats.

-The Vampire crew come back to continue negotiating an alliance.
"I am Lord Dracul. These are my cohorts: Count von Count, Count Chokula, Blackula and Sidney Appelbaum."

-The Vegan is approached by a cat-humanoid, who claims he has items they might want. He wanders off with this total stranger, and Vizi goes along just in case. It turns out that the cat-people-gang are working with a stereotypical Mad Scientist (including the German accent).

-Heidi and Mu go looking for their missing team-mates. Some mental-control driven interrogation leads them to some tips on the cat-people, and Mu follows a cat-boy while psychically invisible. Unfortunately, he loses track of him, loses his invisibility, and can't find his way back to where Heidi was.

-The Mad Scientist drugs the Vegan and initially wanted to implant some kind of probe in the Vegan, but discovers that apparently the Vegan already has a probe in him, so instead he puts one in Vizi after drugging him with poisoned but delicious strudel.

-Mu gives up and heads back, but Heidi flies around and eventually finds Vizi and the Vegan, both nearly naked on a rooftop. They were robbed blind, and had been drugged to lose all their short-term memories of what happened.
They've lost their jetpacks, their armor, their weapons, their comms, their electro-spears, their light-sabres, and their dignity.

-"We're also missing Mu. Wait, let me rephrase that: Mu is not here. We don't miss him."

-They eventually find their way back to the cat hideout. Heidi breaks down the door.
"I'm here to weaponize dolphins and kick ass. And I'm all out of dolphin!"

-Heidi goes after the Mad Scientist, who had fled out the back while the group was dispatching the cat-people. But when he gets out flying he sees that the Mad Scientist tried to use a jet-pack, crashed it, and blew himself to bits starting a fire in the shantytown.

-Vizi uses his precognition on the scientist's lab, and gets a vision of himself getting implanted with a probe. He hears the scientist mention how the Vegan had a magical probe already, but that his 'client' would be pleased with Vizi getting probed.

-"Roman, I think they put something in me, not up my ass mind you. Also, the Vegan had something already inside him, which for sure was put up his ass!"
"Yup, you've got an explosive probe. Looks ass-implanted to me."
"No no, they used microsurgery. Only on me though, not on the Vegan, on him they totally implanted it anally"

-"well, I've managed to deactivate the probe, but the bad news is you still have a lot of explosives lodged firmly within your colon."
"...through microsurgery! On me, not the Vegan"

-Heidi managed to recover one of the light-sabers, a comm, and the cats had left behind some of the other armors and weapons. They also found some low-grade cybernetics, and some drugs, which are later identified as anasthesia, euthanasia drugs, and rohypnol.
"That explains the memory loss!"
"And the ass-probing!"
"Only the vegan, not me!"

-"The Vegan's probe is totally different. It seems to be magical, and it's in his chest cavity."
"Wow, that's so strange that they got it all the way up there through his ass, while they put one in my colon but not by that route!"

-"Guys, I can try to deactivate the Vegan's probe, but there's a slight chance he  might explode."
"We step back slowly... go ahead, Roman, do it!"

-"I'm going to take off all my armor and equipment to save in case I explode."
"That's incredibly grand of you given how obvious it is the rest of these assholes don't care whether you live or die."

-"Here, I'll give you a helping hand... I give the Vegan that cyber-arm I got from the lab."

-Roman fails to be able to disarm the magical probe in the Vegan, so they call on the Hippomagus to try dispel magic on it, with the help of the Sunstaff, which they briefly lend back to him. As soon as he manages to de-power the probe, they take it away again.
"But.. i was told i'd get to keep the staff?"
"You will, later."
"i'd like my staff back please..?"
"You guys realize that eventually he's going to snap and kill us all, right?"

-Sami heals the Vegan, but only on the condition that he's baptized (she had earlier suffered divine disapproval, and needed a new convert). She baptizes him by breaking a bottle of beer over his head.
"You know that kind of baptism is only what the Religious Fantastics do, right? It's not the normal way to baptize people..."
"It's now a tradition for me."

-"The good thing out of your shameful misbehaviour is that we learned we were being probed."

-That night, the party rests after an eventful day, knowing that the Death Race starts tomorrow. But late at night, they're woken up by their Pirate hirelings, altering the PCs to a very large horde of Sezrekhan zombies marching right for them!

That's it for today. Will the PCs actually make it to the Death Race next time? Will they be able to get closer to their quest? Or will they get distracted by more nonsense or yet another side-quest? And most importantly: will their projectile explosive-dolphin weapon work?

Stay tuned next time for the answers to at least some of these questions, we hope!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti half-volcano + Sutliff's Man's Best Friend

Thursday, 16 November 2017

NOW is a Great Moment to Send me Your Review Copies!

So, at this time I've actually managed to get to the end of my queue for review copies.

First of all, that means that if you have sent me something to review, and I have NOT reviewed it, that would mean I did not get it. I don't think that there is anything I was expecting to get that has not arrived, but if there's someone I forgot or you sent me something without checking first, please get in touch with me ASAP, since I have not yet received it.

Second, if you have an RPG product, be it an OSR book or any other kind of RPG at all, and you would like to get a review done for it, now would be the time to send it my way!

If you check out theRPGsite's Reviews Subforum, you will find that I have a ridiculously large number of reviews under my belt. And it will give you an idea, if you did not know already, of the kind of thing you could expect.

If you're wondering why you should send me a review copy, here is reason #1: I review EVERYTHING I receive.  Those of you who are experienced publishers will know just how important that is, because I have heard time and time again from publishers countless horror stories about how they've sent 5 or 7 or a dozen review copies to all kinds of people and don't get even one review back. Knowing that there's someone you can send your review copy to that has a 100% track record of providing a review in return is, in and of itself, a huge deal. One might wish it wasn't, one would expect that this should just be normal, but sadly, that's just not the case in our hobby/industry. There's only a couple of reviewers who have a consistent record of producing reviews when they get review copies, and I'm the most prolific of these.

Reason #2: a lot of people who send review copies, after paying for the copy and the shipping, and even if they do get a review out of it, will get a pathetic review of a couple of paragraphs.
My reviews, on the other hand, are always very thorough, detailed, and insightful.

Reason #3: The reviews get coverage. Even if you did send a review copy and got a review out of it and that review was more than two or three paragraphs long, it doesn't do you much good if no one reads it.  My reviews are always posted at multiple locations: they get posted here on my blog of course, they get linked on my G+ account and posted through that to a number of G+ gaming 'communities' relevant to whatever the book being reviewed is about. They also get posted, in full, in the RPGsite Reviews subforum, linked to above. Furthermore, these reviews are often reposted as "classic posts" here several years after the initial review was posted.  That's a lot of coverage!

Reason #4: I'm FAIR. Yes, I know, that might be something you might doubt if you know my reputation. But I'm not saying I'm unbiased. I make my biases in terms of what I like or don't like in RPGs, and I don't try to put on a veneer of neutrality. But I certainly DO make an effort, even while I talk about what I personally like and dislike about a game, to differentiate that from what I think is objectively good or bad about a game from a design point of view. And I ALWAYS make an effort, whenever possible, to conclude a review by assessing just what type of gamers would like a given gaming product, and what kind might not.  In that way, the review allows people to get an idea of whether the game will be for them or not, regardless of whether it's for me or not.
I won't ever promise you a favorable review. But I do promise it will be thorough and every effort will be made to look at it fairly.

Finally, IT WORKS.  There's a reason why people send me games they know I'll hate. There's a reason why people who clearly can't stand me, either my type of gaming or my politics or my personality or whatever, still send me games to review. Because if you have a gaming product and you send me a review copy, when my review comes out, in the vast majority of cases that translates into sales. The "pundit bump" is real and even people who have no reason to like me have admitted it.

So, if you have a game you want me to review, please get in touch with me!
All reviews will be done in the order I receive them, so it's first-come first-serve; and often that means long waiting periods from the time that your book arrives until the review comes in, because I'll have a big backlog, but right now, I have none, so whoever gets a book to me first will get a review fairly quickly from when I receive it.  Note that Uruguayan mail is notoriously slow, so assume that whatever you might have been told is the estimated delivery time will possibly be double that or more, though sometimes it surprises you (there's no way to guess at this, I've had books that arrive to my door a week after they were sent, and in some very few extreme cases, books that took six months to get here!).

So, RPG designers, writers and publishers, take advantage of this moment. I'm betting it won't last long, and new books will be getting to me shortly, so strike while the iron is hot!


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Hawkbill + Image Virginia