Monday, February 27, 2017

Two Short Treatises on Bala-Basam

On Our Philosophers
From the Discourses of Rulam luVarssi

“It is a subject of some confoundment to foreigners that in addition to priests, the warbands of Bala-Basam often travel with philosophers. Really, the reasons are quite practical.

“At night, when the wind howls, and great black clouds make strange holes in the sky, even the bravest soldier cannot be blamed for wondering at her place in the Universe. In the day, when the wind screams against the steppe, and blows so hard that the horses are pushed off course, and the hills roll off forever, a soldier cannot be blamed for feeling a certain sense of futility. And marching among the gray peaks of the mountains, a soldier cannot be blamed if she is haunted by such stirrings for which God Herself has no name. Under such conditions, the counsel of a learned one who offers guidance is as fortifying as hot tea, and as comforting as a well-worn saddle. The Sage Ursanir wrote: ‘The priests are pragmatists; they are gifted in the rites and the treatment of sickness and injury, and guide well the actions of the body. But philosophers are physicians of the mind, and the priests, rigid of thought, cannot understand such miracles.’ Warlord Alssen sang: ‘I have won a hundred battles / My philosophers have won a thousand.’ This is why the warbands travel with philosophers.

“These same foreigners often remark, ‘ah, but if the philosophers are so virtuous, why is the school of Bala-Basam known to dabble in the Forbidden Arts?’ The reason for this too is quite simple.

“The school of Bala-Basam believes that freedom of thought is at the center of all good philosophy. And so its scholars dare to contemplate the most sinister counterfactuals. They rove in contradiction and dwell in paradox, and it is in these murky places that they unearth the rarest nuggets of Truth. But to find it they must shoulder the most dire and burdensome falsehoods.

“Of these falsehoods, the most terrible are the Sorceries, into which the unhappy student so often wanders. But we must not blame them for this fate. So said Warlord Kurun: ‘In a city where one is punished for the honest pursuit of Truth, there can be no justice.’ Indeed, no city is worth the ground it stands on, without its philosophers.”

The Wind in Bala-Basam
From Nola Nin's Travels

“I have noted how the Bala-Basamlur are superstitious. They ascribe to two things the utmost significance: Songs and the wind. I will expand a little upon this theme in the paragraphs below.

“Recall in the previous chapter my description of the Great Temple, its great, flat dome, its smooth, sandy walls, and the tiles that adorn its doors. Recall that the tiles form a scintillating pattern in white, blue, green, and gold, the skylike blue of the dome. Finally, recall the six minarets that surround the Temple, sunbaked white, each draped with great flags in yellow and pink that hang in the air like huge serpents.

“If it clarifies your imagining, also recall I mentioned the crispness of the air that cuts through the skin, even in full sunshine.

“Now imagine the Temple Hill, which sits in the shade of the dome. It is a white, empty place, where the sounds of the street give way to flapping of the great flags. Seven clay flutes stand on ivory poles here, all facing in different directions and rotated daily according to the phase of the moon. A priest, masked and dressed all in white, attends these flutes at all times, ready with a clay tablet and an awl.

“The flutes are so narrow they rarely sound, despite the winds blowing as they do. But when a note does sound, the priest quickly carves down a series of symbols. These, I understand, efficiently record many details, including tonality, frequency, duration, the weather, and some I have forgotten, or cannot translate in any way that makes sense. These carvings are believed to be very important augurs. They are scrutinized intensely and kept in an archive, to be consulted in times of crisis.

“I was allowed to visit the flutes on the Temple Hill under the auspices of the poet Rulam luVarssi. We had awful weather on that particular day. The clouds were heavy and nearly black. Not long after we got there a terrible gale whipped up, and the flutes began making such a cacophony. There were, at times, five or six sounding at once. The priest’s fingers went like a whirlwind. I will not describe the sound here, because it would be of no use.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Deep Carbon Observatory, Session 1: Report and reflections

Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers for Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess's OSR module, Deep Carbon Observatory. Read on at your own risk.

If you want to skip the session report and get right to my reflections, they're the last section of this post.

Dramatis Personae

Ben as 6th-level elf and drag queen Arkadia Valentine
Brett as Vincenza, 5th-level Thief
Jenny as Kira, 3rd-level Thief
Visitor Alli as Nurse Joy, 1st-level Halfling


Arkadia has been cursed with terrible ugliness for like a year now since she looted a strange-looking vase from the manse of the late, three-bodied wizard Sophia Thrice. A consult with an oracle a few months back revealed the curse could be lifted by returning the vase to the treasure vaults north of Carrowmore from whence it came, many millennia past.

The party arrives in Carrowmore to find it just recently flooded and still very much in chaos. They immediately split up to see how they can help. By which I mean Arkadia saves a priest being carried downriver on a log, and then begins pestering about whether there's any gold in his church. The devout Selminium Tem wants nothing to do with her until she pops a Charm Person, and then happily accepts her offer to help see if his church is still standing.

Kira and Nurse Joy rescue a raft of children and the elderly from being swept away and are rewarded with a story of a terrible witch. They also catch the roustabout Wit Tamdour trying to pick their pockets, but Kira takes a liking to the starving boy and promises him a snack once they catch up with Arkadia, who has all the rations in her bag of holding. Nurse Joy drives off a shifty man claiming to be the godfather of a weeping boy who can't find his parents. Unbeknowst to her, or in fact anyone, the man is a cannibal.

Vincenza spends most of her time hanging out with old people. She promises one to take the body of his wife, Sorla Ghyll, to their family tomb upriver. To Hans Gokgul, bereaved of his entire family, she promises to find the reason behind this terrible tragedy in exchange for "wealth and riches beyond counting".

With help from Selminium, Arkadia manages to keep a bishop from throwing himself into the water. He's mourning the disappearance of his church's sacred spoon, which she promises to find. Little does she know it hides in the pocket of little Wit Tamdour.

Meanwhile Vincenza, Kira, and Nurse Joy intervene in a standoff between some armed adventurers and the town's Baroness, Stary Hrad. The adventurers are easily driven away, but not before their leader, a tall man in a bronze eagle breastplate, introduces himself as Alfredo Jahn, and vows to meet them again. Hrad thanks the party with a skiff. She'd like them to prove (impossibly) that there's no treasure to be found to the north. The party pays no heed to the strange scouts looking on from up the hill.


The party reunites. Despite their efforts a lynching has occurred and scrambling survivors were speared away from a passing ship. The ship now stands in the middle of the river, with rafts coming and going to buy unspoiled food at exorbitant prices.

Liking Kira and the party's food, and accustomed for a life of vagrancy, the thief Wit Tamdour asks if he can join them. Kira delightedly accepts and promises to make a great thief of him. Together these six set off to look for Selminium's church. Ben reminds me he has a roach-man slave named Christopher Walken. Seven then. The sun is already low when our heroes leave Carrowmore, throwing bright orange spots on water otherwise too clotted and muddy to reflect. Embalmed and tied to the front of the skiff, Sorla Ghyll serves as a figurehead.

In an hour's time the church is spotted, on its side and dragged a distance from its original place but otherwise very much in one piece. With Selminium's key Vincenza is able to open the main door and rig up a rope to grant the party entry and moor the skiff.

The church is flooded a few inches deep - the chapel's crystal dome has shattered, letting in some water, but the promontory on which the church is stuck prevents it from sinking too deep. Selminium declares a miracle as he rushes past the toppled pews to the still-intact altar and begins checking up.

Arkadia, impatient, asks what he is doing. He says he's checking on the church's treasures and refuses to say more. Upon urging he refuses to share them. Vincenza, impatient, shoots him with an arrow. He dies instantly.

Young Wit decides he's fallen in with the wrong crew and makes a run for the skiff. As he scrambles up the sideways wall to the church door Arkadia sends an arrow into the wall just above his hand, startling the boy and sending him toppling back down. She threatens to curse him if he tries to run again, and Kira promises him he's safe.

The party, ever murderers-hobo despite their overfilled bank account, get to looting the altar. The spoils: some wafers and a few vials of holy water. Arkadia and Vincenza test the holy water by throwing it at each other. Wit elects once more to flee.

By the time Arkadia and Vincenza have drawn their bows the boy is already up the wall. Before they can nock them he tumbles back down - a crossbow bolt lodged in his forehead. Vincenza hurries out to see where it came from, but it is quite dark by now and her torch only shows brown water.

For some reason they decide to sleep in the church.


Vincenza, possessing an amulet of sleeplessness, sits watch on the open church door, now a kind of landing. Arkadia sits the first watch her, for reasons unclear to me. Below, Kira and Nurse Joy sleep on pews, the corpses of Wit and Selminium soaking on the floor nearby.

An hour or so in, Joy is woken by the sound of scuffling coming from the darkened far end of the church. A figure moves in the slats of moonlight from the windows above.

In hushed tones Joy wakes Kira. The moonlight strikes metal - a shoulder plate. Kira rises. Now the light shows a crest shaped like an eagle. The figure is Alfredo Jahn. Kira calls to him. He breaks into a run in her direction.

Hearing the commotion Vincenza and Arkadia look in. Arkadia casts Light on a sconce at the far end of the church. The man is stands backlit, a towering black silhouette haloed in cyan. Vincenza hits him with an arrow while Joy yells at him to back off, all courage despite her stature. Kira, twice her height, uses the distraction to hide.

Jahn starts tearing the church apart in search of Kira, flinging aside entire pews that land with terrible clattering. Joy sneaks up with her knife, sinking it in the back of his armour but not his flesh. To her surprise, a knife-cut sits just beside hers, this one deeper and caked with dried blood.

Vincenza runs out to see if there are more attackers, but slips and falls in the water. Before she can climb out, four more hands grab hold of her from below. She is saved by a Telekinesis spell from Arkadia, who lifts her from the water (thanks in part to a previous incident that left the Thief weighing little for her size).

After some fighting Jahn is dispatched, although it becomes clear that he had already died once. Kira, hoping to give him a proper rest, cuts off his head. The party resumes their uneasy sleep.

Another zombie appears a few hours later. He is quickly taken out, and it is determined that he must have crawled in through the broken dome. A wall of pews is made to block further incursion.

And yet another couple hours later a terrible clatter comes from the dome. Something is trying to tear apart the wall. Frustrated, unrested, and squinting in the morning light pouring in through the ceiling, the party decides that perhaps they ought to give up on getting much sleep in here.

To be continued.


This is a mid-level party who cut their teeth killing a three-bodied wizard, sinking the ship-fort of a pirate king, and hacking their way through the haunted halls of Rappan Athuk. They have some serious power at their disposal. There isn't much that scares them, as was apparent this session.

Therefore it pleases me immensely to have gotten so much mileage out of an encounter with a single zombie. The identity of the zombie, the party's previous dealings with him, and the setting of the sideways church in a flooded wasteland made for a compelling situation despite the fact that it wasn't actually very dangerous. DCO gives you a lot to work with in that respect. The relationships between people, places, things, and events, are expertly communicated with surprisingly little work. I was continually surprised by how nicely ideas seemed to find their place in the adventure as I introduced them, despite few explicit explanations of that sort of thing. Players had questions and I could work out answers based on what I'd read and seen. I'll return to this a lot, but it speaks volumes to quality of writing and artwork in this module.

Deep Carbon Observatory has a very different tone from the party's previous adventures. I've never felt so powerful and deep a mood from a game book before, and my main concern for this session was getting it across, in order to help calibrate the players' expectations. I focused heavily on environmental descriptions, and on the surrealness of the events transpiring. I think it came across, and they seem to realize they're dealing with a different kind of beast now. The hirelings and priest were casualties of that transition, and the players are now worried about those same characters returning as zombies.

When I first read DCO I had trouble getting my head around the Crows - a band of murderers intent on destroying the party, having some impressive resources to do so, as well as a preference for secrecy. Running it now I love them. There's a table for determining how they behave, but their tactics are so pointed and purposeful that it often makes more sense just to choose. In my mind the zombie incursions served the dual purpose of information-gathering and rest denial. The great thing about The Crows is they let you use a certain amount of discretion in applying pressure to your players, but with a context and detail rich enough that it doesn't feel arbitrary. It's good, useful game writing.

The crossbow bolt was more or less a warning shot - a signal to the party that they aren't alone. It hasn't sunk in yet: they think the water is creating the zombies. I consider this confusion a good thing too.

The usability issues flagged by a few reviewers were real, but didn't really bother me. They mostly had to do with reading the maps on the fly, and I was able to hash it out by pre-empting that and drawing my own. It is one of those modules where you should read the whole book before running, if possible. There are certain subtle connections and cues that become a lot more meaningful (and therefore gameable) if you read ahead. My prep, beyond reading the text, involved printing out the flowchart for Carrowmore, redrawing the first wilderness map with my own annotations, and printing out the encounter table and monster stats on a single sheet. My prep took about 4 hours and I have one, maybe two more sessions to go before I'll need to do any more. That's about 3 hours of D&D per hour of prep. I consider that pretty good.

I also found it helpful to read over James Young's DCO post-mortem and Daniel Davis's guide to running the module. I also listened to some of the latter`'s actual play recordings as I prepped.

I expect I'll also be rereading chunks of the module before each session - not to refresh on the content, but to tune back in to the mood. The writing is concise but doesn't lack in pathos, and there are strong tonal cues that I think are useful to get across, as they help the players get a better sense of what kind of situation they're dealing with. A couple times I found it best just to read from the book, though there's no boxed text. I think there's actually a lot to be learned from DCO in terms of how to convey tone for DMs - more on that as I continue through it.

This was a good session.

(If you missed the link above and want to check out Deep Carbon Observatory for yourself, you can get it here.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Alex Reviews an Indie Game: Naut

Naut is an adorable-looking, pay-what-you-want road trip simulator by LucieVitagé, Tom Victor, and Titouan Millet, of the Klondike Collective. One or two players control little astronauts as they drive (or scurry) across Mars, discovering new sites, spooky houses, and what's over the next hill.

At its best, Naut looks like this.
Anyone who knows me will immediately recognize how much the concept of a game like this tugs at my heartstrings. Co-op involves the delightful possibility of one player hopping in the passenger seat as the other drives; or else they might find a second car and race across the martian landscape, or even split up and explore at their leisure. All this conveyed with pretty, pastel-coloured graphics and some slick modelling. Some may call it boring, but I call it sweet, exploratory, and meditative.

At least in theory. Naut was put together for a 24-hour game jam, and it feels like the team could have spent a little more time finessing the controls. The camera is sluggish, walking more so; running is, for lack of a better term, janky as hell; the driving could be alright if the game didn't have little obstacles popping up at random intervals and distances, sending your car careening off course and often winding up upside down. This last issue was particularly frustrating, as I found myself getting out of the car to flip it every thirty seconds or so, when I would rather have been enjoying the ride. At a certain point I found myself driving upside-down to my next destination (which works, somehow, albeit slowly) because I was tired of righting it. A designer mentions keeping in the bugs because they're funny, but for me the frustration far outweighed the comedy. This is especially a shame because on the few occasions I managed to get in a couple minutes without a collision, I actually rather enjoyed myself.
Mostly, though, it looks like this.
What perplexes me most is that the random obstacles were added at all. Perhaps it was to add a dimension of challenge to getting from one point to another, but a) a six-inch car-flipping cactus that pops up a foot from your fender isn't a challenge so much as an assault, and b) it sort of seems off concept when the required reaction time shifts the game from "road trip" to "martian car slalom." I'm not convinced the game really needed to be challenging. The reason I'm writing this review at all is to raise the question of why commit to such a design decision, when the game may have been perfectly playable without it.
What happened immediately after I hit "Flip the car"
In brief: An appealing concept with pretty graphics marred by irritating implementation. It's hard to blame the devs when they were working under such tight time constraints, but I hope this review can at least serve to remind people that less can be more, and that a high level of difficulty (or the appearance thereof) is not always necessary for an enjoyable game. Give me Knytt with a car; Give me Shadow of the Colossus but like just the horse.

Anyway, the game, as I mentioned, is free, and if you have a little fun with it you might even leave the devs a tip. You can get it here.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Immortal Athkan, take 2

I've already written about Immortal Athkan here. But for a quick refresher: Ancient warrior turned god, giant gold-covered skeleton sleeping deep inside a massive tomb. This here is my attempt to make that a self-contained class that works better with how I've been running my games these days.

I bring you...


This is the only permitted representation of Immortal Athkan. All others are sacrilege.

Prime Requisite Charisma
HD d6
Saves As Cleric
Attacks as Cleric
Weapons and Armour Athkanites may way wear Light or Medium armour, shields, and swords. Any other weapon is considered profane to Immortal Athkan, and any character wielding such a weapon should be treated as if they were not carrying a Holy Symbol (see below). Ranged weapons are the tools of cowards, sneaks, and foot-soldiers, and have no place in the hands of an Athkanite.
Special Conditions An Athkanite must carry a Holy Symbol to Immortal Athkan – a skull encrusted in gold – at all times, or lose the use of all special abilities granted by this class until such a time as they retrieve the Symbol or acquire a new one.
The use of poisons is a coward’s gambit, and any Athkanite doing so is immediately excommunicated.


Level 1: Detect Lies – When someone is speaking to you, you may press your gold-encrusted skull against your ears. It will whisper to you whether the person speaking is a liar. The DM rolls a Wisdom Save (or whatever save you'd use against illusions) for you in secret. If you pass, the DM will tell you whether the target is a liar. If you fail, you are certain they are.

Level 1: Warrior’s Blessing – During combat, you may raise your holy symbol to bless the faithful to Athkan. Any ally who glorifies the name of Athkan (as a free action) during that round gains +1 to Attack Rolls and AC for a number of rounds equal to your level. Clerics of other faiths fall from grace if they accept this blessing. Once used, this feature may not be used again until you spend 1 hour giving funeral rites to a fallen soldier, dethroned a false king, or bathed your holy symbol in blood from liar’s severed head (takes 1 Turn. The liar must have died from decapitation).

Level 2: Whispers of Battle – By spending 1 hour meditating and performing a rite to Athkan in a place where a great battle has occurred, you will hear the echoes of the dead, and learn of violence that happened there.

Level 3: Immortal Athkan’s Liturgies – A number of times per day equal to your level, you may cast one of the following spells:

  • Animate Dead (affects a number of corpses equal to your level, for a number of hours equal to your level, always produces skeletons)
  • Cure Moderate Wounds (may only be cast one someone who has received a Warrior’s Blessing from you since the last sunrise)
  • Enlarge Person (lasts a number of Turns equal to your level. Can also be used on skeletons.)
  • Mending (only works on weapons and armour or gear damaged in battle)
  • Remove Poison
  • Speak With Dead

Level 4: Immortal Athkan’s Favour – Whenever you would regain the use of your Warrior’s Blessing, you may also regain the use of a spell under Immortal Athkan’s Liturgies.

Level 5: Immortal Athkan’s Faithful – When a soldier dies in battle while receiving the benefit of your Warrior’s Blessing, their skeleton bursts from their body and joins you in combat. The skeleton remains animated for a number of Turns equal to your level.

Level 5: Supplication - In a time of need, you may prostrate yourself before your Holy Symbol and beg for the aid of Immortal Athkan. Immortal Athkan will send what help He can (generally in the form of skeletons, giants, or giant skeletons - but can also perform miracles like reviving the dead and removing curses, although anyone so blessed will receive His mark). He will never help a liar, a false king, or a coward, and asking Him to do so will have you punished. Unless the supplication is impossible or offensive to Immortal Athkan, it will be fulfilled. Once a supplication has been made, no more will be fulfilled until you prove your devotion by slaying a false king.

Level 9 [if DM uses domain rules]: Establish Stronghold – If you have funds, you may rally an army of Immortal Athkan’s faithful to build a religious stronghold / fortified cathedral in His honour. A massive, empty throne adorns its center, and the soldiers who helped build the structure are faithful to you.

Level 9: Athkan’s Revelation – All kings are false who are not Immortal Athkan.

Level 13: The Lord’s Awakening – Perform a mass sacrifice of 100 liars to awaken the sleeping bones of Immortal Athkan.


Decapitations - a party travelling with an Athkanite spends a lot of time trying to decapitate liars. To pull off a decapitation in combat, the attacker must be using a slashing weapon. and declare before rolling that they are swinging for the neck. An attack that reduces the target to 0 HP and beats its AC by a margin of 4 or more (or a margin of 2 if using a two-handed weapon) successfully cuts of the head. Otherwise, the target is simply killed and its head may not be used in Athkanite rites.

False Kings - A false king is any sovereign (male or female, despite the terminology) who: Came to power through usurping or false succession (an inheritor of either is also false), rules with cowardice, lies to their subjects, or infringes on the legitimate sovereignty of other kings.

Before receiving Athkan's Revelation (Athkanites below level 9 do not know it's coming), it is important to establish the falsehood of a king before punishing them. Until such time they will not be false in the eyes of Immortal Athkan.

Liars - Anyone who lies in the presence of your Holy Symbol.

False Kings & Liars - These terms have little to do with objectivity and much more to do with your own knowledge. The exception being a failed Saving Throw to Detect Lies, in which case the DM may decide whether the subject is actually a liar or not.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Passive-Aggressive Wizard Generator, or, d12 Alternatives to Geas

The Wizard wants you to do something! How's he gonna make you do it?

  1. Invites you over for tea and crumpets. They both taste a little yeasty. That's actually the eggs of long, horrible worms that will coil around your spleen and nibble at it until you complete the quest, at which point they will leave peacefully through a randomly-determined orifice.
  2. Knows the true name of a violent, terrible storm. Will instruct the storm to follow you around and ruin anything you try to do that isn't complete the quest. The storm hates the wizard and obeys him out of necessity, but can be coerced into joining forces to take revenge if you can learn its language.
  3. Has been spying on you. Polymorphs an NPC essential to a quest you were just about to complete, into a speechless newt. Then kidnaps them. Will return them upon successful completion of the quest.
  4. This is basically just a crueler geas. Magic Missiles shoot painfully out of your posterior, dealing 1 damage and striking a random target, whenever you stray from the quest.
  5. Steals your true name. You become a 0-level schmuck and your XP resets to 0. At 500 XP, you may take a level in any class available to a member of your race. Upon completing the quest, you may regain your original class and XP total or keep the new one. In case of the latter, you get a new true name.
  6. Transforms into a malignant tumour at the base of your neck. Insults you constantly, seizes control of your nervous system and has you smack yourself in the head whenever you stray from the quest. If they die, you die. If you die, the tumour pops off and transforms back into the wizard.
  7. He gives just a little too much exposition as to how he's going to destroy the world/ruin your day/whatever, then teleports away. The only way to stop him is to do the thing he described first. Except he was never going to do it.
  8. Invades your dreams one night and sneaks the quest in as a "prophetic vision." Dreams will get more and more dire if you don't comply.
  9. As geas, but a random possession of yours turns into a snake at every sunset until the quest is complete.
  10. Sends mooks to kill your loved ones, shifts the blame in such a way that you would complete the quest.
  11. Traps you and your friends in really awesome powerful enchanted armour that refuses to do anything not related to completing the quest. Including lying down, or opening up so you can eat. Also the suits of armour can fuse into a super-armour robot hero. He'll want the armour back when you're done.
  12. Polymorphs you all into animals, your animal forms will be instrumental in completing the quest. He'll offer to change you back when you're done but like hey this is kinda cool.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


(Thanks Jack Shear for getting me thinking in this direction.)

So my dungeons tend to be full of books. Books are worth Money but that's about it. Most books on a shelf need to be conveniently ruined or illegible or it's like why am I describing all these 2 sp paperbacks.

Pictured: Not exactly a 2 sp paperback

Here's why.

First, get a random book generator. Vornheim's is good, but if you don't have Vornheim, this one plus a d8 and a d6 will probably do in a pinch.

Decide how insightful or informative the book is on the following scale, or roll 3d6 as if rolling an ability score modifier.

-3. Polemical screed.
-2. Poorly articulated garbage.
-1. Undersubstantiated but has a couple decent thoughts
0. It's got some decent ideas.
1. Solid piece of writing
2. Exceptionally smart
3. Essential text on the subject

(Hey, look at that, you can roll 3d6 and determine its usefulness as an ability modifier.)

N.B. Even fiction can contain very useful information! You might have to be a bit more creative about it though.

Reading Books

Whenever PCs have a few hours to kill, they can study a book in their possession. Make an Int check.

You know how in Dungeon World you can "hold" questions and spend them to be like "oh I already know about this" and get information about a subject? This is like that.

If you succeed on the Int check, roll 1d6+the book's usefulness (if usefulness is greater than 0, don't bother rolling). If the result is a modified 1 or lower, the book has nothing left to teach you, and can no longer be used. Otherwise, subtract 1 from the book's usefulness and hold one question.(Not sure whether usefulness attrition should be per-character or across the board. I'm inclined to say per-character but your call.)

You can spend the question to remember you totally know something about the book's subject whenever you want and ask the DM a question about the book. The DM should base the accuracy and quality of the answer on the book's initial usefulness, though even a polemical screed should have a hint of truth, even if that's what it's railing against. You can hold a total number of questions (across all books) equal to 4 + your int Modifier. PCs who already have all their questions attributed may drop one upon earning a new one.

The DM should also adjust the quality of their answer based whether you can refer back to the book and how much time you have to do so. Raising a question in combat will get you a much shittier answer than raising a question in a safe place where you can pull the book out and refresh your memory. That said, you can never earn new questions if you're reading in a hurry.

Further thoughts

I like the idea of high-Int characters carrying books around, having an interest in books they find on adventures, and wanting to read them when they get the chance instead of rushing to find a collector so they can get the damn thing off their hands. Handling books this way might also lead to particularly useful books getting passed around the party. This little subsystem also plays nicely with my Camping Actions, and characters may even look forward to downtime as a chance to take another look at a book they have.

In Jack's post there's this cool thing where books all provide special bonuses, which is a fantastic thing to do for very rare or unique books, but this system lets your PCs grab a bunch of shit off a shelf and makes it usable with minimal work. You could have both systems in the same game.

Also kind of digging the idea that maybe instead of a question, a natural 6 on the 1d6 roll provides a special bonus, adventure hook, or maybe the beginnings of a spell formula for the DM to declare immediately.

Saturday, December 5, 2015



this game is about PSHYWAR

she is young and she is out for adventure
no, she is looking for something

it's okay that i'm not sure what

MOVE: recollect
this is a game about remembering
Can everyone recollect? No. Only PSHYWAR.
But everyone takes turns being PSHYWAR.

PSHYWAR is building a past.
Everything around her has a past, and her companions know it.
GAALGON is a part of every past.

GAALGON is an the antagonist.
Their identity is unfixed but takes on character as players take turns being them.
Maybe certain GM moves require/allow the revelation of information?
They are always a step ahead of PSHYWAR.
Perhaps they are a shapeshifter.

The world is sad and gray. It has pockets of colour.

Other PCs are supporting characters. They come and go. They are the colour of the world.
Their job is to build a world for PSHYWAR to explore, and for GAALGON to ruin.

They include MOLUCK, the dead wizard's homunculus.
CALC, the red robot seeking a heart.
RADA, the froggish swordswoman of the swamp, who wants to woo PSHYWAR.
GRANDMOTHER ESTIVELLE, from Castle XXXXX, who seeks to bring PSHYWAR home.
FRAMOR the tigress, who wants to honour her debt to PSHYWAR. She does so by her own means.
OLANON the witch, who wishes to steal PSHYWAR's heart -- literally

Found this lying around my harddrive. I typed this up about a year ago and never really followed up on it but I'm thinking it was actually kind of a cool idea. Copied directly from the file, pretentious caps and all.

So the idea was an RPG where the players swap around roles in between session, So the "main character" - Pshywar, it played and developed by everyone. Gaalgon and the supporting cast switch hands every session, and you get different supporting characters from session to session.

I think my mental image for this game was Samurai Jack as drawn by Yoskitaka Amano with some Miyazaki feels thrown in. I mean Gaalgon is pretty much Aku.

Also implicit in the writing is that I was intending to base the rules off Apocalypse World and its ilk - hence the references to Moves. It would be cool if the GM had a playbook for Gaalgon indicating how they are able to manifest their influence. The idea being Gaalgon advances like any other PC.

Thinking about it now it would be cool if the supporting characters determine what kind of things Pshywar can recollect. So, like, if Flamor is injured defending Pshywar, Flamor's player gets to invent a detail about her and Pshywar's shared past - their first encounter, the last time they saw each other, the reason for Flamor's dept, etc. (Flamor, being a tiget, can't talk, so she can't just explain these things.)

Rada might be good at fighting and her bravado recalls past loves. Grandmother Estivelle brings back memories of Pshywar's childhood. Maybe Olanon helped Gaalgon rise to power?

Pshywar needs a clearer goal. Obviously her primary goal is to rid herself of Gaalgon - whether that means killing them or simply getting away I'm undecided on. But, what brings her from place to place? Maybe she doesn't know yet. That's why she's the center of every session. Really the idea is to create her by playing as/with her. The establishment of clearer goals might be tied to advancement?

Tentatively, let's say her goal is to "find colour".

I'm still not sure where I'm going with this but I really like the idea. This will be seeing more work.


 Music by Tom

 Via Flickr:
 Outdoor theater, Kjosfossen, Norway. Its total fall is around 225 metres (738 ft).

One of Gaalgon's lieutenants?

Magic Wire mesh sculptures by Pauline Ohrel (FR) 
(via Pinterest: Discover and save creative ideas)


Harlequin - Raúl Soldi
This seems like a good candidate for a supporting character


The Letter, by Moebius

This is there, but there's no one is looking at it and it's never going to be finished
Possible ally or assassin sent by Gaalgon
Gaalgon is behind this somehow
This too
That's Pshywar in there

artmastered:Giorgio de Chirico, The Red Tower, 1913

Michael Whelan, Watchtower
A place of colour?