Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Apple Fell Close

Original Sin
While the 3 Kings are united in purpose but divided in method, Original Sin is the inverse. They have overlapping goals and share methods, they will be enemies in the end. 

Erica Harman and the Horror That Follows -  If the service hadn't been interrupted, Erica  could have been the Witch of Endor to the Rex Mundi. Now she wants the circle to go unbroken and run through her. One mind, one body, one spirit. 
Monstrous Motivation Collector
Face of Innocence, Oracle, Grotesque, Spirit
Harm-  The Press of Bodies 3-harm, messy Armor- Pulped mass armor-2 Health: 13 Health
Unique Moves
Tangle of Limbs- When Erica deals harm to a hunter, they take -1 forward as they're caught up in the jungle of her anatomy.  This is cumulative, anyone who takes more than a -3 forward is pulled into the mass and must be rescued.

Heaving Flesh - Hunters roll +sharp when fighting Erica instead of any other stat.  She recovers 1 Health
when she doesn't take any harm as a move's result.

Soiled - Seeing Erica stirs up a wealth of unwholesome feelings, hunters discover they have some issues to work out.  Roll +cool to suppress. 

Barren, the Mother Mud - A spiritual cast-off, Barren forgot her intangible past and found a new purpose in fundamental muck. If she gets her way, the rain will fall ceaselessly and tje mud will brim with new life in her image. 
Monstrous Motivation Breeder
Emanation, Leviathan
Harm-  Spectral Tadpoles 3-harm, magic, messy The Tongue 2-harm, sticky Armor- Greater than you armor-3 Health: 14 Health
Unique Moves
Human Mud - Anyone dealt damage by a Spectral Tadpole hosts a rapidly gestating Frog Demon minion. Next missed +tough roll births the minion. 

Reel Them In - When a hunter is hit by The Tongue they get pulled into Barren's gullet. 

Formed From Dust - Mother Mud sloughs off doppelgangers of people she's eaten.  They're stuffed full of Frog Demons and don't always survive birth trauma. 

Bayard Tagert- An unrepentant gambler, Bayard ignored his sister's advice and went out to Burnt Up Church Place. At the crossroads he lost his soul to Mother Mud with a roll of the dice. For fear of what he had wrought, Bayard attempted to enlist the Queen. Barren would have none of that and consumed him. Sloughing off a doppelgange of old B.T. and binding his spirit to the Hellion. Now he wants a new chance at life, maybe behind Cam Dolittle's face. 
Monstrous Motivation Tempter
Silver Tongue, Spirit, Skin Thief
Harm-  Revolver 2-harm, loud Armor- Spectral flesh armor-1 Health: 8 Health
Unique Moves
Helter Skelter - Bayard throws everything not nailed down in a flurry. Roll +tough, everyone marks unstable and suffer 2-harm 

Ghost In the Shell - Outside of Lacuna, Bayard can't physically embody and is forced to interact through machinery. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

We Three Kings

Eidolons. The Greek word for apparition, applied to entities of the Other Side too great to crossover bodiless.  Each Eidolon represents an element of Our Side: wrath, gluttony, greed, etc. Filtered through the Looking Glass, perception distorts their meaning.  Their nature remains static but people interpret the inverse. Thus Deceit is seen as Truth.

The Kings were once lordlings of the Other Side but global events shifted the order of things. The Great War fed souls and pain to Hope, a rising power that usurped their eminent position.  Nostalgic for nights before gods-on-sticks and sterile worship they seek a return to blood, love, and pain. With physical vessels prepared for their spirits, they set their plans in motion. 

Patience, the Cold King -
The long-toothed lord of ambush is known among the folk of Tumbleson County as Charlie. Sprouting from the Ferguson's cthonic seed, the flesh is clay to his will.  He has waited a long time for the Eschaton, he will not wait anymore.

Monstrous Motivation Devourer
Eidolon, Shapeshifter
Harm Massive Craw 5-harm, messy, magic Armor- A higher order than you armor-5 Health: 20 Health
Unique Moves
Just A Log - May be present in any scene as a piece of the landscape.  When Patience makes his move, inflict 5-harm and hunters take -1 forward as their lizard brains freak out.

Swallow Whole - anyone dealt harm from Patience's Massive Craw could be swallowed whole. Soft move, sliding towards oblivion and separated from the party. Hard move,  lost completely. 

Appeasement - Patience is appeased when families drown their youngest child. He bestows prophecy upon those performing the gruesome rite.
Abstinence, the White Teeth -
A large composite skeleton wrapped in gauzy flesh, Abstinence lairs beneath Hollow Hill, the Harman family estate. Each death on the Harman family adding to her mass. Plagued with nagging emptiness, she longs to be full.

Monstrous Motivation Beast
Eidolon, Necromancer,
Harm- Gnawing and tearing 4-harm, magic, armor piercing Armor- A higher order than you armor-5 Health: 16 Health
Unique Moves
Leftovers- Abstinence vomits Leftovers when threatened, minions made from misshapen beasts and people pulped together. Hunters need to roll +cool to keep their lunch down

Thirsty- Abstinence recovers Health equal to harm dealt. 

Appeasement- Abstinence' favor is earned through debased consumption. Raw offal, feces, cannibalism, the more extreme the greater your favor. The Eidolon grants the ability to wear the flesh of the dead. 

Kindness, the Blackeye Huntress -
A quiet menace, invisible against the night sky, Kindness misses the nights she could inflict cruelties on the human mice. The Rambler, Otis Lee, desecrated the Governor's son's corpse, a blood caked owlet congealed in the remains. She ate his heart and curled up in the cavity. Since the Rambler's arrest she now nests in the jailhouse.

Monstrous Motivation Torturer
Eidolon, Mesmerism
Harm-  Long Claws of Night 3-harm, magic, armor piercing, mark unstable Armor- A higher order than you armor-5 Health: 16 Health
Unique Moves
Dark Wisdom - Apply 2 backlashes when a hunter attempts to Use Magic. Apply 1 when they roll +weird.

Falling Up- When a hunter suffers harm from Kindness' talons they are drawn hurling upward.  Roll +weird to navigate the surging weightlessness. Plummet to Earth on a miss. 

Appeasement - Missing its right eye stirs Kindness' envy. Offerings of human eyes, especially from the heads of of willing supplicants, draws Kindness' attention. The favored move with the silence and presence of shadows. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Everyone Trusts Granny

 The Kindly Grandmothers
Beldames, termagants, maenads, and witches are a few of the names you'll hear describing the wild women who dwell far away from Tumbleson's townships.  Sought for favors by the desperate, the cost of business is more  terrible than the nuisance.  With their long memories and longer legacies, these women have a deep influence over County affairs following the Spinner's inscrutable directions.

Good Granny - preys upon her granddaughters and wants to free her grandsons from Abstinence. She uses the Great White Teeth's investments against it.

Monstrous Motivation Parasite- to infest, control, and devour
Magus, Shape Thief, Sineater
Harm- Hideous strength 3-harm messt Armor- charms braided into her skin armor-1 Health: 12 Health
Unique Moves
Worm in the Apple - Anyone who owes Good Granny a favor bears her worm in their ears, it shares their senses and takes over their bodies when they are willed to do so.
Counterspell - When a hunter rolls +Weird against the monster, reduce the success level by one.
Iron Nails - Good Granny Bulloch can hex any place or person that has one of her iron nails stuck in it.  They look like normal nail with hair wrapped around it. 

The Spinner- under England's gray skies they called her the Cutwife. In the New World she puts her Scissors to the Great Work.

Monstrous Motivation Parasite- to infest, control, and devour
Norn, Great and Terrible, Immortal
Harm-  The Scissors 2-harm, magic 
Armor- Death trembles to take her armor-2 Health: 10 Health
Unique Moves
Seen It All Before - When a hunter rolls against the Spinner, reduce the success level by one.
Welcome To My Parlor - Anyone who enters her Sanctum is unable to leave without permission. 
The Clean Cut - The greatest power held by witches is centered around fertility. The Clean Cut severs fecundity and fortune, requiring only the victim's bodily scraps. 

Wisteria Coryell - an herbalist first and will worker second, she is deeply involved in the life of her grandson Simon.

Monstrous Motivation Parasite- to infest, control, and devour
Face of Innocence, Herbalist, Medium
Harm-  Daddy's Peacemaker 2-harm, loud Armor- Innocence only preserves so much armor-0 Health: 11 Health
Unique Moves
A Kiss of Nightshade - If a hunter has consumed something prepared by Wisteria, they are considered poisoned when she wills it.
Malignance - When a hunter rolls +Weird against the monster, take -1 forward on future rolls. 
Daddy's Little Girl - A hunter rolling a miss on +Weird becomes possessed by the ghost of Wisteria's father. Turning on the other hunters, targeting the weakest one first. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Bumps In the Night

This is a high point perspective of the competing supernatural factions in my Southern Gothic setting.  I will define the terminology and cosmology in entries focusing for intensely on each group.

 The Three Kings
These 3 Eidolons predate Man's arrival beneath the brackish canopy and grew addicted to his worship and flesh. Like junkies hungering for a fix the Three have differing methods to capture Man's fascination. But they share an end goal: aid the Rex Mundi in his Ascent and bask in the adulation of the Eschaton.  To do that they will need an Embodiment, so they can walk on our Side and intercede.
Movers & Shakers
Patience, the Cold King - born to one of its cultists and a Ferguson, its Embodiment is still a child but maturing rapidly.
Abstinence, the White Teeth - entered into a pact with Goodberry Harman, a bit of itself Embodies within every Harman boy.
Kindness, the Blackeye Huntress - the Rambler, Otis Lee, incubates its Embodiment where his heart should be.

Old Man River
The River flows through both Sides, bearing wisdom, greedy for Sky, and jealous of its past. It remembers strangling the Land for forty days and forty nights. When its grasp was broken, it took everything it could carry to the bottom.  The River longs to hold and cherish everything again, never letting go.
Movers & Shakers
The Hellion- a cursed river boat casino, "do what thou wilt" is the only rule until you're caught cheating the House.
Salome LaBeija- an agent of chaos and seer, uses Kindness' left eye as a crystal ball. Dwells on the Hellion since she was drowned in the River.
Baphomet- This great Eidolon is trapped in the River's confines since the Good Granny buried its Reliquary in the riverbed.

The Kindly Grandmothers
Beldames, termagants, maenads, and witches are a few of the names you'll hear describing the wild women who dwell far away from Tumbleson's townships.  Sought for favors by the desperate, the cost of business is more immediately terrible than the nuisance.  With their long memories and longer legacies, these women have a deep influence over County affairs following the Spinner's inscrutable directions.
Movers & Shakers
Good Granny - preys upon her granddaughters and wants to free her grandsons from Abstinence.
The Spinner- under England's gray skies they called her the Cutwife. In the New World she puts her scissors to the Great Work.
Wisteria Coryell - an herbalist first and will worker second, she is deeply involved in the life of her grandson Simon.

Original Sin
Burned alive on a Protestant altar, the death of Erica Harman and a generation of young people gouged a hole to the Other Side. Since then the Burnt Up Church Place is the center of superstition and avoided at all cost. Numinous power gathers and empowers otherwise minor spirits and Eidolons
Movers & Shakers
Erica Harman and the Horror That Follows - a nubile, young lady to the hips heralds the extruded tangle of human limbs and body parts behind it. She wants all of humanity to join her in unity.
Barren, the Mother Mud - the fecundity of the swamp given volition. Jealous of Man's independence, Mother knows best and wants him home.
Bayard Tagert- reneged on a debt he owed to Mother Mud, his soul is now trapped on the Hellion. Her agent in the court of foes.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book Review: Do: Fate of the Flying Temple

 In the years since its release Fate Accelerated (aka FAE) has become my favorite flavor of Fate.  It's quick to kick off the ground, and fundamentally challenges the way we think of resolution in role-playing games.  Mark Diaz Truman penned Do: Fate of the Flying Temple, powered by FAE, a sequel to Daniel Solis' Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Both games cater to families with young/first time players, though Fate is probably better for older players than Pilgrims.

The games' core idea is the characters are adolescents in a Little Prince universe on a problem solving pilgrimage answering letters they received. From there the two games diverge thematically. In Pilgrims, the characters eventually return to the titular Temple at the center of the Universe and discover destinies shaped by their experiences. In Fate, the Flying Temple is gone and the characters steward a young Dragon on their pilgrimage. Each player defines the Dragon with an Aspect and a new Aspect after each letter. Shaping the future Flying Temple through their escapades. 

Mark Diaz Truman has a deep understanding of Fate and a deft hand explaining the core concepts and applying them. For more of his excellent work, check out the Fate Codex on Patreon. If you're looking for a game to introduce Fate to kids pr the young at heart, then Do: Fate of the Flying Temple is worth picking up.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book Review: Bubblegumshoe

Confession time:  I love mysteries and crime fiction, and nothing hits the nostalgia like teen detective stories: Encyclopedia Brown, Veronica Mars, Lumberjanes, Leave it to Chance, the 3 Investigators, Goldie Vance, Gotham Academy, Durarara!!, Persona 3 & 4, Scooby-Doo, the Hardy Boys, Danganronpa, Atlanta Burns etc.  So I'm an easy mark for these kinds of stories. Ever since Ken Hite mentioned Bubblegumshoe (BGS for short) over a year ago on KARTAS, I've been eagerly awaiting its release.

What is Bubblegumshoe? BGS applies the fantastic GUMSHOE system to the teen detective genre. Your sleuths assemble clues, expose secrets, snarl relationships, avoid the police, solve crimes, and generally get into trouble.  And since it's high school the stakes are incredibly high and incredibly low.  The GUMSHOE skill list is refined to bare necessities and more specialized information is obtained through WHO you know, rather than WHAT you know.

There are three ingredients that differentiate these stories from their adult counterparts: sleuth focused, entangled relationships, and verbal sparring.  When creating a Sleuth you define their place in school through socio-economic class, clique, clubs, etc. and their Goals.  Goals are outside the investigation and ground the character in the larger narrative, ranging from being class president to evading that bully.   Accomplishing your goals feeds into your character's Relationships, increasing their ratings.  Defined by a paradigm, (Like, Love, or Hate) that's how your get access to university book learning and adult resources (a car if the characters don't drive or a weapon from your mom's gun safe for example.)

Physical conflict isn't really a point of focus in these stories, in parallel BGS emphasizes social over physical confrontations. Called Throwdowns, they emulate the verbal cut-and-thrust of teen double speak and questioning. Interpersonal skills fill the role of more traditional fighting skills, allowing the characters a wide array of social tactics to get what they want. Reassurance, intimidation, flirtation, and more provide creative, and complicating, strategies than just talking at GMC's with an anemic diplomacy check.  I could write another blog post about Throwdowns.

One of the best things about GUMSHOE products is the modular campaign drifts and tools provided to assemble your own.  Pelgrane has cracked Bookhounds of London, Mutant City Spies, Shadows Over Filmland, Moondust Men and others.  BGS carries on this great tradition with some great examples in the back covering diverse teen sleuth flavors. For example, want super powered Hogwarts? Danvers Academy fits the bill. What about some sleuths with a weird sidekick? Then Ruby Hollow lets you assemble your own secret riddled township, complete with creepy old men driving down property values dressed as monsters.

The hardcover is only $20, it's the high quality typical for Evil Hat, the pdf is complimentary,  and the game design is top notch. If you're interested in playing teen detective stories then BGS is the best game for the job. Emily Care Boss, Kenneth Hite, and Lisa Steele have outdone themselves capturing the spirit of these stories. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gently Used Grimoires and Tomes

“Then, idly scratching his nose, he walks to the bookcase in the living room and stoops before a set of drab brown Victorian volumes gathering dust on the second shelf from the bottom.

How amusing, he thinks, as he withdraws one of them-amusing that a key to dark and ancient rites should survive in such innocuous-looking form.

A young fool like Freirs would probably refuse to believe it. Like the rest of his doomed kind, he'd probably expect such lore to be found only in ancient leather-bound tomes with gothic lettering and portentously sinister titles. He'd search for it in mysterious old trunks and private vaults, in the "restricted" sections of libraries, in intricately carved wood chests with secret compartments.

But there are no real secrets, the Old One knows. Secrets are ultimately too hard to conceal. The keys to the rites that will transform the world are neither hidden nor rare nor expensive. They are available to anyone. You can find them on the paperback racks or in any second-hand bookshop.”  - T.E.D. Klein, The Ceremonies

Mystics, warlocks, and their ilk share one fascination - a desire to be remembered after they have left the world, to stave off their memory's demise. In the past they would take an apprentice, but in the modern age it is much easier to self-publish than ever before.  In spinner racks and recycle bins, the starry wisdom of the ages is available to the truth seeker at bargain prices.  Be wary, the knowledge within will fundamentally change who you are and how you grapple with the world. 

When you read a magic tome, roll +Sharp: on a 10+ you choose 2 Benefits and 1 Backlash, 7-9 you choose 1 Benefit and the Keeper chooses 1 Backlash and 6- receive no wisdom from this tome, for good or ill.

Take +1 forward when applying the book's subject to a task. (ex: when you read a book on demon summoning you have more knowledge to draw on when summoning demons.)
Recover 1 point of Luck
Ask 1 question of the Keeper, expect authorial distortion. 

You are drawn to a person or place.
Attract unwanted attention.
Driven to distraction,  -1 forward to off topic rolls. 

A magic tome can only be gleaned once per group of hunters. 

Pelles Holocaustorum (Latin for 'Skinning')
Originally written in Mesopotamia, the Pelles Holocaustorum has belonged to several occultists and mystics through the centuries.  The modern translation was written by the infamous Russian mystic, Rasputin.  The book outlines an escalating series of self-inflicted initiations allowing the initiate to peel back the skin of reality and access its pulsating organs and twisted musculature.
Add the following Benefit and Backlash to the read a magic tome move.
Benefit: You may ask the Keeper 2 questions which they must answer to the best of their ability.
Backlash:  Take 2-harm as your limbs involuntarily begin your initiation.

Great Albert
Relatively common in the Southern United States, this book represents the pinnacle of Albus Magnus' quest for enlightenment.  Finding himself too base to undergo the Grand Transfiguration, the alchemist instead had parts of himself cut off and mixed with ink so he could literally pour himself into the Work.  Since then his essence has been difffused and all copies of the memoir bear matching traits: they weigh as much as a grown man, readers hear the author's voice in their heads, and once you've picked it up, you're stuck with it.  Unless you give the book a funeral.
Add the following Benefit and Backlash to the read a magic tome move
Benefit: You can use magic to create a philosopher's stone.
Backlash: Part of your body petrifies, probably a hand.

Spiritist's Telegraph
Recovered from a sinking library boat in the Ten Thousand Islands, the Spiritist's Telegraph provides a step-by-step guide to attuning yourself to astral frequencies and those who haven't moved on.  Further chapters detail how to invite the broadcasting entities within and similar mysteries.  Overall leaning on the metaphor of spine as antennae for the Otherside.
Add the following Benefit and Backlash to the read a magic tome move
Benefit: You may interrogate distant ghosts when you investigate a mystery.
Backlash: You're lost in the ghost's narrative and rush off to fulfill part of it.
The Verse of Kings
Brought to France by the Swan Knight and entrusted to the Merovingian dynasty, the Verse of Kings empathically selects its readers in pursuit of its own agenda.  The book details the responsibilities of would-be rulers and provides prophecies to those it feels are "worthy."  The book isn't actively malevolent, just understand that anything it shows you serves a greater purpose.
Add the following Benefit and Backlash to the read a magic tome move
Benefit: When you manipulate someone take +1 forward to further manipulate them.
Backlash: Become obsessed with a scrap of prophecy, sacrificing anything to attain the dream.

This month's RPG Blog Carnival theme is the Ways of the Wise, click the image below if you're interested in other fine entries from other fine blogs.