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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Grit & Vigor: Pulp Age Concepts

Grit & Vigor is the up-and-coming RPG from the fevered mind of John Stater (aka the "Blood and Treasure guy"). It is an adventure game that draws on the literature of Kipling, Conan-Doyle, George MacDonald Fraser, Robert E Howard, Verne, Burroughs and their ilk. It's about larger than life men going on adventures in search of money, power and freedom.
The game system will be compatible with Blood and Treasure, but will have its own flavor. The game focusses around the many tales of adventure from the last two centuries, from cowboys to super-spies and pioneers of SCIENCE! Character creation promises to be very interesting, with the process including the characters earlier life, education and assorted oddbits relating to his journey to becoming an adventurer.
In preparation of this coming game, I have decided to begin tinkering with a campaign setting for this game. The setting will be one that incorporates elements of my favorite stories from and set in the years leading up to The Great War (WWI). I plan on incorporating both historic fact, and fiction; including scientific romances, tall tales, and pulp tales into the mix.

The setting will be in 1910, a time of great upheaval in the world. Even more so when adding the strange events of the pulp world. Below is a brief timeline for starters. All the events in this timeline will be in living memory of most folks, with the effects of certain events featuring mightily.

1880 - The First Boer War.
1881 - Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson move into 221B Baker Street. [A Study in Scarlet]
1883 - Frank Reade Jr. builds his first electric Aeronef airship.
1885 - Dr. Jekyll creates a formula to isolate evil. [The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde]
1886 - Robur attempts to conquer the world with his Aeronef flying fortress, The Albatross. [Robur the Conqueror]
1891 - Sherlock Holmes apparently killed in confrontation with Prof. Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. [The Final Problem]
------ Russian occultist Helena Petrovna Blavatsky dies.
------ Dr. Moreau begins performing terrible experiments Noble's Isle. [The Island of Doctor Moreau]
1894 - Rudyard Kipling publishes The Jungle Book.
------ England begins construction of a fleet of airships to combat future flying foes.
1896 - Wilhelm Röntgen's discovers X-rays and X-ray imaging (radiography).
1897 - England fends off an invasion by France and Russia with the help of Germany. [The Great War in England in 1897]
------ Lord Dracula comes to England aboard the Demeter and is hunted down by Dr. Van Helsing's band and apparently slain. [Dracula]
1898 - The Spanish-American War.
------ The Boxer Rebellion in China.
------ Martians invade the earth. [War of the Worlds]
1899 - Beginning of the Second Boer War in Africa.
------ Nikola Tesla begins his high-voltage, high-frequency experiments in Colorado Springs.
1900 - Max Planck formulates the quantum theory.
------ First flight of the Astronef. Earl Redgrave and his new wife Zaidie embark on a honeymoon adventure touring the solar system. [A Honeymoon In Space]
1901 - Queen Victoria dies, succeeded by her son Edward VII.
------ Bedford and Cavor build a ship out of cavorite and travel to the moon, encountering the insectoid selenites. [The First Men in the Moon]
------ Earl Redgrave encounters the humanoid Aurorean Martians. He finds that these Martians are not the same as those who invaded Earth 1989.
------ The first Land Ironclads are employed in the Second Boer War. [The Land Ironclads].
1902 - End of the Second Boer War in Africa.
------ The Gun Club of Baltimore builds the giant Columbiad Cannon in Florida to launch a projectile to the moon with explorers Michel Ardan, Impey Barbicane & Captain Nicholl. [From the Earth to the Moon]
1903 - The Wright brothers make the first sustained human flight in an Aeroplane.
1908 - Summer Olympics are held in London.
------ Frederick Cook claims to have reached the North Pole. Returns with tales of an inner world that includes prehistoric mammals and temperate climate.
------ Tunguska event or "Russian explosion" in Siberia.
1909 - Einar Dessau uses a short-wave radio transmitter, becoming the first radio broadcaster.
------ Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Abdul Hamid II is overthrown and succeeded by, Mehmed V.
------ Serbia accepts Austrian control over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
------ The United Lodge of Theosophists, or ULT, is founded by Robert Crosbie.
1910 - Present year (game time).
------ ???

More to come...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

House on Troll Hill

Good news! Donita K. Paul and Aaron Siddall (me) have published a book! House on Troll Hill is an excellent reading aid as well as a fun story for the young and young at heart.
Here is the official press release:



Available at http://bit.ly/HouseOnTrollHill  Amazon book sales

A reasonably priced, much-needed addition to books for beginning readers.  House on Troll Hill presents just the right content to seize a reluctant reader’s attention and motivate him to push forward.

When a young reader chooses a book, he picks up something that won’t make him look silly among his classmates. Puppies and kitties, turtles and fish, drawn with an eye for cutesy and color, give off the aura of “baby books.” It’s no fun to struggle through reading while your friends snicker. An appealing book does not advertise its low level.

House on Troll Hill looks sophisticated. As it engages the child with a fun tale and intriguing pictures, it also provides reading practice. Complex sentences challenge the reader. Quick, snappy sentences reward his persistence and offer incentive to “read on.”

The combination of story by bestselling fantasy author, Donita K.Paul, and illustrations by master of line art, Aaron Siddall, gives parents and teachers a book to put in the hands of reluctant readers.


So come on by and get a copy! THis book is a perfect gift for kids and other reluctant readers.

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