Friday, November 21, 2014

Vanara of The Western Lands

Medium Humanoid (Vanara), Neutral (N), Normal Intelligence; Troup (1d12)
HD: 1
AC: 13
ATK: bite (1d3) or by weapon
MV: 30, climb 20
SV: F 13, R 15, W 13
XP: 50 (CL 1)

Vanaras are intelligent, monkey-like humanoids that live in deep, warm forests and lush jungles. A vanara's body is covered in a thin coat of soft fur, and individuals with chestnut, ivory, and even black or golden coats are common. All vanaras have long, prehensile tails and handlike feet capable of well-articulated movements. A vanara stands slightly shorter and weighs slightly less than a typical human.
Large troupes of Vanara are led by a sage (5th to 8th level cleric). He is assisted by two apprentices (2nd or 3rd level). For every 20 vanaras there will be a 3rd level monk, and for every 100 a 5th level monk. Occasionally, Vanara tribes will have 1-4 carnivorous apes as guard animals. Most vanara wield staves or falchions. When they wear armor, it is rarely heavier than a studded leather, but a few bodyguards will wear splint mail (AC 15).

Vanara modify their starting ability scores as follows: Str -1, Wis +1. Vanara have darkvision to a range of 60 feet. Vanara have a bite attack that deals 1d3 damage and have a climb speed of 20ft. They speak Vanara, and might also learn Common, Carnivorous Ape, and Yokai. Vanara can multi-class as cleric/monk, fighter/ monks and fighter/thieves.

Vanara tribes can be found in any forested region, particularly in tropical jungles. The land surrounding the Jomon Sea has several large tribes near the cities of Nagana and Paititi (See map). Humans usually get along with Vanara, though the monkey folk are usually considered non serious and often unreliable. 
Vanara are a spiritual people, enjoying philosophy and in-depth discussions regarding fate and meaning. Because of this, Vanara communities are always led by priests, and monks are deeply respected. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Western Lands of Tsuchi (Soo-Chee): Campaign Construction

The big world map
While tinkering around with world concepts (something I do when sleep eludes me), I caught upon a concept that I feel needs exploring. The general concept is another world, peopled entirely by the descendants of shipwrecked people from our own world, past and present. The world itself will be warm, as with winter setting in I prefer to dream of warm to hot places, and home to magical creatures and animals that are endangered and extinct in our world.
As I continue tinkering, I am thinking that the Northwestern Europe thing in fantasy is waaaay overdone, I thought I would make it a fairly Asian-centric place, with a fair smattering on South Pacific Islands, Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern and some Central/South American elements too (for my purposes, the Olmec Civilization was a seagoing power).
And so, as I tinker I have made a map, of which I am presently tinkering with a Western region presently named Tsuchi (Soo-Chee) by the predominant cultures. See below:

Closeup of the West
As you can see, this map represents a pretty large area, with a great many places unspecified so that stories and games told here can fill them in as need be. No need to explain every corner right away! Any adventuring party should be fairly itching to go exploring.
Difficult Words: Some of the names seen here might be tricky for Americans to say. If such is the case, GMs should urge players to adopt simplified versions. If Avaiki is too difficult, say Avaki, Avi, or similar. Anything to smooth it along.

All God's children got a place in the choir...
The western lands (in fact all of the world of the setting) is home of an enormous pantheon of deities. I am breaking from the standard cosmology of more RPG settings in that ALL of the settings gods and goddesses are "Petty" deities, meaning that none of them are of greater power than a Celestial Paragon or Demon Lord. These powerful spirits are collectively powerful, but individually embody specific mountains, certain rivers, obscure concepts, animals, and all manner of oddities and concepts. This will allow for pretty personal cleric/deity relationships as well as potent local flavor.
In general, the gods are mostly pretty alien in mindset, and not really very good at communicating with mortals. Most of them are best left lumped together into broad categories of Lawful and Chaotic, with chaotic gods being in the majority (though being chaotic, they are less adept).
PRIESTS: The main division of Clerics are those who revere the Lawful gods (Lawful Clerics), those who revere Chaotic gods (Chaotic Clerics), and Druids. Clerics of specific deities are specialty priests, and take a domain rather than having any power over undead.
Below are a few examples of deities:
Azwa: Protector of Giant Stone Heads in the Wilderness. Azwa is a normally silent god, but can be demanding. Clerics of Azwa can turn air elemental creatures and rebuke earth elemental creatures.
Barae (The Sea Rose): Barae (bah-rah) is the goddess of the waves, Orphium flowers, and patron of all who would cross the sea. Clerics of Barae are skilled in balance, climb and swim.
Grandfather Kogo (Kōgo Ue): Kappa god of ponds and rivers. Hates visitors, preferring its solitude. Occasionally eats people, however they generally deserve it. Clerics of Kogo gain swim as a class skill, and can speak to turtles.
Lord Kotenbo (Crowfoot, Laughing Sword): Daitengu god of martial arts, wild forests and enemy of vanity. Clerics of Kotenbo can use any weapon, and gain a +1 to damage when wielding swords.
Lady Mohin (Bringer of dead birds, Trilling Maiden): Bakaneko (cat Henge) goddess of cats, vanity and revenge. Clerics of Lady Mohin are skilled at  listen at doors, move silently and trickery.
Yuha (Offal One, He of The Mysterious Smells): Akaname god of filth and gross monsters. Not nearly as bad as he looks or smells. Clerics of Yuha gains a +2 bonus to save vs. disease and is immune to Nausea.

Differing human languages of the land can make things pretty difficult. So lets say the magic of the land more-or-less translates the differing languages based on race/species. So there will be the following languages: Draconic, Elemental Tongues (Air, Earth, Fire, Metal, Water and Wood), Celestial, Common (trade language), Henge, Infernal, Obake, Oni, Tengu and Yokai (Fey). If you would prefer a more varied selection of human languages, add Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Maori, Spanish, Tagalong, Greek, English and any others you might prefer.

As this world is the place many lost ships have foundered over the centuries, the humans of the Western lands are a fairly diverse lot. Onto those shores have crashed Pirates (Chinese, Barbary, Caribbean, etc), Japanese fishermen, Polynesian Islanders, Phoenician Traders, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish Explorers, WWI and WW II soldiers (sailors, pilots, etc), Filipino people and African slaves from ancient times to more modern eras.
Though ethnically specific communities do exist, most of the human people of the Western lands have mingled over the years, and have mixed ancestry. The overall look is much like when Hollywood attempts at having a caste look ethnic enough to pass as being in a foreign country, regardless of what people in the intended country actually look like.

All manner of Non-Human races exist in the Western Lands, with a few living, working and fighting alongside human residents. Whether or not humans and non-humans get along is a different matter. Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, and Halflings are not available as player characters. This is partly because creatures of traditional western fantasy-fiction come with their own flavor regardless of the efforts of writers to change them. Also, I want other options for players.
Most of the non-humans are actually different types of Kami (spirits) akin to the many gods of the land (see religion and clerics), and can be strange. Of the races I will allow, I am choosing ones that are fairly human in appearance and mentality, so they do not easily offend.
Details for creating player characters of these races require both the Blood and Treasure Players Handbook and the Blood and Treasure Keepers Tome (see here for details).
As a GM, I am allowing the following races:

Hanyo (Assimar or Tiefling)
Creatures born of a mingling of human and spirit-creature are about as common os Half-Elves in most campaign settings. The Hanyo always show some aspect of their mixed heritage, though in an Asian culture, this might take many strange forms. As a general rule, those of celestial heritage will look like exceptionally beautiful and graceful humans. On the other hand, those of demonic heritage will often appear ugly or with animal features (fox ears, tails, claw-like hands etc).
AASIMAR (Celestial Blood): Aasimar characters modify their starting ability scores as follows: Wis +1, Cha +1. They have darkvision to a range of 60 feet and can cast daylight 1/day and have resistance to electricity. Aasimar speak Common and might also know Celestial, Draconic, Elemental (Air or Water), Henge and Yokai. They can advance to 9th level in most classes, but have unlimited advancement as Clerics (Lawful), or paladins.
TIEFLING (Infernal Blood): Tiefling modify their starting ability scores as follows: Dex +1, Int +1, Cha -1. They have darkvision to a range of 60 feet. They can cast darkness once per day and have resistance to fire. Tieflings have a knack for moving silently. They speak common and might also know Draconic, Infernal, Elemental (Fire or Metal), Henge, Obake and Oni. Tieflings can advance to a maximum of 9th level in most classes, but have unlimited advancement as thieves of Ninja (Monk variant).

Henge (Hengeyokai)
Badger and Fox Henge
Henge are shapeshifting animals that can take on human or hybrid form. Such creatures are actually spirit beings (Yokai). Seven races of Henge are available as player characters, each with their own nature and culture, though all share a common tongue. Most Henge can and do live amongst humans undetected, though those with less pleasant animal and hybrid forms do so for dishonest reasons.
Henge live between worlds, having contacts with both the world of Kami (spirits/fey), animals and mortals. They can and do interbreed with humans, producing either Henge or Human children. They can also breed with normal versions of their animal side, producing animal or henge children. It is only when married to another Henge that they will always produce more Henge.
Details for character creation can be found here.

Oni (Ogre)
Oni is a term that comprises several species of giant-kin. These creatures are a race of creatures related to both kami and to man. They are hideous, gigantic creatures with sharp claws, wild hair, and two long horns growing from their heads. They are humanoid for the most part, but occasionally, they are shown with unnatural features such as odd numbers of eyes or extra fingers and toes.
The term Oni can refer to a fairly wide range of giant humanoid creatures such as Ettins, Cyclops, Hill Giants, Ogre Mages, Ogres and Trolls. All of these creatures (and other besides) can and do interbreed in this campaign setting and are considered Oni. Most of these races are not available as player characters, as they are too powerful and inhuman in caste (and they eat people). 
The only playable race of Oni are the Kimon-Oni. See below:
KIMON-ONI (Northern Ogre)
The Kimon-Oni or Kimon comprise the "common" populace of Oni. They resemble "regular" Oni, but have brown or red-brown skin and are more often Neutral than Chaotic. It is said that the Kimon-Oni are descended from mortals enslaved by the Ogre Magi in ancient times, and so they resemble men in demeanor to some degree. Kimon Oni are often found in the wilderness, but can occasionally be seen working as soldiers, bodyguards and even grunt laborers.
Kimon-Oni modify their starting ability scores as follows: Str +4 (max. 20), Dex -1, Con +2, Int -2, Cha -2. They are large creatures, so must pay double the normal price for armor. Kimon-Oni have a natural slam attack that deals 1d6 damage. Kimon-Oni have darkvision to a range of 60 feet. They speak Oni. Their thick hides give them a +2 bonus to Armor Class. Kimon-Oni can advance as barbarians, clerics, fighters, sorcerers and thieves. Kimon-Oni cannot multi-class.

Half-Oni are descendants of a Human and a Kimon-Oni parent, and so all of them are big and strong. Half-Oni look like particularly big humans, often having brutish or otherwise "ugly" features. Unlike Half-Ogres in most settings, a Half-Oni is far more likely to come from a mixed marriage, and so has had the benefit (or ill-luck) to be raised by both parents. Kimon-Oni are tough but good parents, but will usually encourage less than savory habits on their children.
Half-Oni modify their starting ability scores as follows: Str +1, Con +1, Dex -1. They have darkvision to a range of 60 feet and a natural +1 bonus to Armor Class. Half-oni can speak Oni and Common and might also know infernal, henge or tengu. They can multi-class as cleric/fighters, fighter/magic-users and fighter/thieves.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Polyester Road: Home Campaign Notes

Listen here young-uns!
The Apocalypse means something different to different people. But for those of us who soaked up a hearty dose of Cold War propaganda, Reaganomics and  70's and 80's pop culture, the Apocalypse is all about Adrienne Barbeau's cleavage, shoulder pads, bad dialogue, rubbery monsters and lots of hair gel. Which brings me to a nifty little game called "Mutant Truckers Of The Polyester Road," but as Polyester Road is way easier to say, I am going with it.
The Polyester Road campaign is a Beer and Pretzels RPG that uses the Target 10 game system. It is a post apocalypse game that is fully detailed in NOD # 12 (print or e-book). Though the official game uses its own setting, there is no reason why you cant use your favorite RPG system to emulate the setting. Mutant Future could easily be used for this setting, with only minimal changes.
The setting of The Polyester Road RPG melds Trucker and Biker culture with the post apocalypse comics, books and movies of the 60's, 70's and 80's. Ever game-world locale should look and feel like it could be shot (if a movie of TV series) on a back lot, in an abandoned factory, an off-shift reactor or along a lonely stretch of road. 
So get on your old hockey pads and glop on some hair gel. Its time to roll out!

THE SETTING (My Take Anyways)
The Polyester Road takes place in an alternate timeline from our own, first diverging with the failed assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Instead of concentrating on the Space Race, technological advancements in robotics, super-soldier programs and PSI take place. A more heated Cold War ensues, culminating in a nuclear World War III in the fall of 1977. The Soviet Union nuked all of its primary and secondary targets in the U.S. (and vice-versa), obliterating civilization as we know it.
Now its the late 2070's, and the world has (mostly) gone back to a wild state, with most of North America being a primeval and often irradiated wilderness. Civilization is centered around isolated city-states and kingdoms scattered across the wilderness, each holding their own laws and customs. These towns and cities are at-best at a Renaissance technology (15th-16th century), interspersed with more advanced relic technology.
Across the remade landscape of post-nuke Murica stretches an important trade route called the Polyester Road. This road is central to cultural interaction through regions of the Murica connecting the East and West and North by linking traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads, and urban dwellers from the great city of Kinston and its still-working plastic factories. 
Maintaining this route are Truckers, who drive ancient big-rigs and other vehicles along this and other routes, connecting the far-flung pockets of civilization. The road is lawless and often quite dangerous, and so tough, smart and brave men and women are needed. The vehicles are often so patched and modified through the efforts of post-nuke modern craftsmen that they are often a rolling mish-mash of patches, figurehead, armor plates and guns.

Character Sheet!

So in the days to come I will be posting some of my own thoughts and embellishments to the Polyester Road campaign setting. So stay tuned!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Grit and Vigor: Thoughts on Weird History and Science

Light German land ironclads in The Battle of Purleigh 1910
The Grit and Vigor game being devised by John Stater is all about the pulpy adventures of manly men from 1850 to 1959. An era of manly men doing manly things. Though over the top action and wild adventure are implied and encouraged, it is largely a historic and human-centric setting. However with that in mind, game-masters should never feel constrained by history and real-world events. As a lifelong student of history- I can assure you that most people don't know jack about history. Most people don't even recognize why they should care. So dont worry too much about it.

My Pulp Age setting for Grit and Vigor incorporates selected components of weird history. This attitude comes both from my love of penny dreadfuls, pulp magazines and the habit of publications of that era having no compunctions about mixing fact and fiction to boost sales. Everything from tales of bat winged moon men to the accounts of Spanish-American War Correspondents are all newsworthy, and might be real as far as the player characters (or other people of that era) are concerned.

So mixed with real history (or at least the history the establishment teaches us) will be a number of strange events, weird technology and other elements of the bizarre.

Science in the 1800's and early 1900's was the stuff of legends. New discoveries, theories and inventions were coming out all the time, and even common joes might invent or discover something extraordinary if they put their minds to it (this was before corporations and academics made a concerted effort to crush such free thinking and innovation). Society at large saw scientists much like the wizards of old. Imperious, mysterious and capable of almost anything.
In the world of The Pulp Age, bizarre chemicals, substances and devices are being discovered, re-discovered or invented all the time. However though such inventions are marvelous, they are mostly in the hands of secret societies, the super rich and-or the inventors who created them. So while death rays and Land Ironclads exist, they are not commonly bought and sold.
But still, with the many skirmishes across the Empire and in the Americas, the Good Lord only knows what devilish devices may be unleashed! Since the Martian Invasion of 1898 as well as interest in Lunar and Martian colonies grows, all manner of strange devices will be needed.

Below are some strange substances that exist in the Pulp Age. Most are only known of by specialists, scholars and the certifiably insane. Whoever has access to these items, they don't share their secrets with the rest of the world. This list is far from exhaustive.

Apergion [Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg]
An antigravity substance with enough power to propel a ship from one planet to another. In the story, the actual use of Apergion is a bit vague, so I would call it a fissionable fuel of some kind. Perhaps the source of the "M-Force" used in The Honeymoon in Space by George Griffith.

Cavorite [The First Men in The Moon by H.G. Wells]
This amazing alloy is not affected by the force of gravity, it can also shield other materials from gravity. It was named after its discoverer, Dr. Cavor. In the Pulp Age, this alloy is derived from the metals used by the Martian invaders, and is instrumental in building the larger sorts of Aeronef airships, Aether Ships and Land Ironclads. The secret of Cavorite is only available to British engineers and metalurgists.

Fleury's Gas [With The Night Mail by Rudyard Kipling]
Lifting and power gas in 'Aerostat airships. This substance is non-flammable, and has five times the lifting power of Hydrogen.

Vril [Vril, the Power of the Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton]
An extremely luminous compound which can be used as an energy source, a healing agent or a disintegrating agent. This substance is controlled almost exclusively by secret mystical societies who use it to develop what most would see as psychic powers or magic.

These marvelous gadgets would all be game-changers if they were employed in large conflicts. Fortunately, their mass production was cost-prohibitive, so only a limited number were ever made.

Aeronef [Victorian/Edwardian Airships]
Small Aeronef
Heavier-than-air flying vessel, capable of hovering, supported mainly by rotating propellers, often aided by wings in horizontal flight. These are effectively Victorian/Edwardian era helicopters, generally in the shape of a water-going ship. Generally speaking, these vessels function like a cross between an Ironclad and the V-22 Osprey. While some governments and private inventors use these vehicles, they are generally considered too difficult to maintain.

Aerostat [Air-Ships]
Steerable lighter-than-air flying vessel supported by gas-bags or balloons, e.g. a dirigible. Of all the devices mentioned here, the Aerostat saw the widest practical use in the eyes of the common man. Most of these ships use either Helium or Hydrogen as a lifting agent, with a rare few having access to Fleury's Gas for greater lift.

Automatons [Automata]
Automatons are robots that generally resemble mobile water-heaters or other machines. Some are simple toys or useful gadgets, while others are veritable robots that meet or exceed the abilities of modern analogues. The more sophisticated use specialized Babbage Engines as brains, with most being about as smart as a dog. Some are extremely sophisticated, and are as intelligent as a human, but this is very rare. Automatons are only used by the very rich and inventors, as they are dreadfully expensive and require constant maintenance.

Babbage Engine [Difference Engine]
These are computers, only using clockwork rather than magnetic processors. The original Babbage Engines were the size of a printing press and weighing over a ton. However as things progress, these devices are now the size of a typewriter and merely about 200lbs. These devices are very expensive, and require regular maintenance.

Land Ironclads [Tanks]
Effectively super-tanks the size of battleships. These juggernauts were originally used in the Second Boer War, and were devastating against human targets and fortifications. These vehicles vary in appearance and size, but all are BIG, loud and belch smoke like a mobile factory. It is hoped that these mobile weapons will be of use agains Martian Fighting Machines if the invaders are to return.

I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light
-- Henry Vaughan