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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Working on the Railroad ;)

After a brief discussion about how things had been undertaken, the group sorted out its intent, and we moved on with play.

Reaching the Black Crown settlement of TshelUundam, a mining town with a high percentage of Yaesh, the PCs ascended in their armoured dirigibles and got the whole town/city talking. They quickly were met by a Yaesh engineer working on a dam project. He offered great things in exchange for one of the flying 'stubbies', but the party held off, hoping to clarify the situation.

To that end, the consulted the local university Alchemy dept., and were surprised to hear the diagnostic information regarding the two small spheres of polar lightning energy. Based on the loose readings the staff conducted under the informal setting of the dept. office, the estimated output of the Black Sphere is off the charts; highly dangerous; and highly unlikely to have been created recently.

Ssu Rosenbrad received 30 Alchemy textbooks, more than a lifetime's learning on the subject, and Roland Peltier purchased early education books for his daughter, as well as a dragon marionette.

Play will pick up (this is a Thursday session, I think) determining whether a deal with the Yaeshani Court for the Stubbie is worth it. Also, the Black Crown scientists are eager to travel to Xudorn with the PCs to set to work on creating a White Sphere to counter the Black, now residing somewhere on the Shadow plane.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Cats are Away...-

Concerned with the PCs' lack of direct action, a player prompted that the characters hop aboard a train and travel across the Black Crown, into the Yaeshani Empire, in search of a potential White Sphere to mate with the Black Sphere they found and returned with back in the Skullcrusher Mtn. Campaign.

This journey will take months to reach their initial stop, and an undisclosed amount of time to discern whether said object exists, or can be created. This plan, predicated upon its successful reunion with the Black Sphere they tossed into the plane of Shadow due to its deleterious effects, deprives the colony of Xudorn of its two top generals, its air marshal, and one of its top aeronautics chiefs. Another player voiced concern over Xudorn's vulnerability during this period, as the fledgling republic is under increasing attack by Continental Vrun forces and agents.

Along the way, barely into their trip, the PCs have encountered one of several Western Isles colonies in territory controlled by the Black Crown, essentially isolated now for over 150 years from the Western Isles Crown. Discerning things slightly more complex than at face value, it was discovered that these WI folk have been fighting the Undead for generations. Stymied by lack of official power for the PCs to institute treaties, the instigating player has suggested that they be granted said powers.

I sit back, incredulous at times, but now more confident why later generations never mentioned Xudorn in the history of Marnharnna. This is almost a parable for why the Vrun haven't regained space flight, and it is playing out before my eyes.

We'll see how this turns out.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advance the Timeline-

After escaping from the underground complex (and losing three personnel), the PCs and their squads returned home to Xudorn. Plans were set into motion to cordon-off the doors and set up a fort around the entrance. Forty tower-sites from the Ancient base to Xudorn are in varying degrees of scouting and building, to be used as a network of Aldis Lamp signals. Zeppelin-platform craft are in the works to be used as both aircraft carriers, as well as bombers. The first true aeroplanes are in production, leaving the ornithopters to be used as training and scout craft.

War with the Vrun Colonies has primarily consisted of a winter offensive of guerilla warfare, with Fort Greenpennant starting its own 'Hardpoint' cantons/mini-forts, and saboteurs introducing a blight to Xudorn's hydroponics lab. The Black Crown has shared the forging process of the Bright Metal, in exchange for a leg-up on Zeppelin technology. The local tribe of Abbekqorru have been fully integrated into Xudorn, and a ship load of Durn have immigrated to her shore as well.

It is now Midsummer, NC 548, 16 months (one year) from Xudorn's founding, and the population now stands at 2,500+ (including the Abbekqorru). A Guild Council crime syndicate active in Xudorn from its inception has either been killed in a large gun battle which destroyed a storage depot, or were apprehended, interrogated, and executed by firing squad.

The Church of St. Rel has swollen to the hundreds, with the initial adherents receiving activation of their Vrun Imperial Bloodline powers (Immortals, Dream Navigators, Emitters, Psychic Healers, Revivifists, Power Emulators, and Machine Heads). The 50 count coin, minted in the Bright Metal, depicts St. Rel on the face, and the Lady's Tower on the obverse.

The Centre for Positive Development is the Church's technological branch, and using empowered Creative Visualisation, is using devotions to engineer a series of minor changes in potential future outcomes, bridging them into a unified reality stream that permits tiny Xudorn to remain a free and independent nation, neither yoked again to Vrun, nor beholden to the Black Crown. Dream Navigators, working in conjunction with Data Specialists are restoring damaged or missing pages from technical manuals.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Other Colonies and the Marnharnnan Megadungeon-

Contact with the Vrun colonies to the north of Xudorn have had mixed results, including a rather humorous mix-up which resulted in a great set of scenes wherein the beaten person of a rather loquacious con-man escaped from Vrun Naval authorities into a Stinktown brothel, only to be rescued by the charming ladies within. Waifs, too, were rescued and given good homes in Xudorn, and other good things besides have occurred.

The Black Sphere, power source of Skullcrusher Mountain, has been disposed of into the Shadow Plane, and through a dream, Commander Ssu Rosenbrad has gained the formula for cleansing affected soil of the lower planar radiations they have absorbed. Saint Rel, posthumous hero of the Upthrust Campaign, has appeared to Commander Roland Peltier and completely healed him of said irradiation, triggering Peltier's Imperial Bloodline powers.

Finding a site held by the Dokirin to be a place of reverence wherein are placed items deemed too dangerous by local shaman, the PCs unearthed within barrow mounds Ancient technologies and the partially mummified remains of former Marnharnnans, including a Durnsman and his metal holy book. A second exploration, including five security, and ten technical specialists accompanied the PCs to a set of great doors set into the ground. Upon entering the vast vault, those in attendance witness a site larger than Xudorn and environs, two hundred feet down. Their initial exploration yielded little in the way of scavenged tech, but has stranded them in the midst of waves of ravenous and fleet-footed undead. Local indigenous Humanoids have bound themselves to the PCs in exchange for their protection and provision. These same have disclosed that this site is but one small fraction of the total underground area.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review of the Neoclassical Geek Revival RPG-

I have taken entirely too long to write this review. I will say that part of that time, however, was spent playing the game with three characters in such far ranging settings as Elven Africa, Fantasy Norway, and Hollywood Renaissance Italy.

My characters have consisted of a half-elven spell-caster/bard, and two swashbuckler fighter/thieves, to use standard FRP terminology, which do not do full justice to Zzarchov's 110 page slim hardback volume.

Having been a long time subscriber to Unofficial Games blog, I was able to see the construction process underway, and argued with Zzarchov more than a bit during those months (years?), p'd off at his arcane choice at the time to have the rules in a computer-dependent format rather than text (since then 'fixed'). Rules aspects of what was then known as Piecemeal seemed too weird, although intriguing, and the fact that I hadn't deigned to use the odd platform to read the rules as they stood made the whole thing rather jumbled in my already busy mind.

Let me say that upon first read of the game, much of the confusion was still present. That isn't an indictment against the writing, design, or organisation of the contents, rather, it is a warning to approach NGR on its own terms and not to presume thing one about how it plays. Zzarchov's Pie-Piece approach to Class is pretty darned cool, and 'fixes' much of what has been wrong with other FRP attempts to allow the player to craft a rules-basis for the sort of character they want to play. Next, his duh-brilliantly-simple Inventory and Skills selection cannot be overlooked, as it is one of the major stumbling blocks of so many games, Fantasy or other genre.

Regarding Skills, don't sweat their inclusion, as they function much, much better and simpler than anything I've seen in a good long while. The average Target Number, if you will, is 20, on d20, but the Ability being tested is added whole-cloth to the roll. If the PC's total is not 20, then they narratively explain how each of the skills they propose to utilise in their attempt adds (+2 each) to get the total to 20 (or whatever it is). The effect of this narrative cajoling is the exact opposite of the desperate lawyering common to less draconian D&D games, and in fact, enhances the gameplay by rewarding the player's shared construction of the outcome without gelding the GM of his/her power to make executive decisions.

This is the point in the review where I must explain how the mindset of NGR affects the design and gameplay, as it may not readily suit everyone's tastes -- but I assure you that with very little mechanical tweaking (like, 30 seconds, perhaps?) even this aspect of the game can be steered onto the course the GM envisages for their particular brand of Loot & Scoot.

Zzarchov is not only a cunning trickster, a big fan of schlock fantasy clich├ęs and tropes, but apparently also that of crappy 80's low-budget fantasy flicks. His post-session rewards mechanisms revolve more around 'Awesomeness' than Hack & Slash, with deliberate play towards the 'wrong course of action' being more awesome than sound tactical choices otherwise encouraged in the slew of generic FRPs out there. In fact, defeating without killing yields more points, with trap-defeating and travel to cool locales being a Major XP reward source.
Back to Awesomeness: Fate points allow for re-rolls, refreshing Luck (like HP above 0 in the D&Ds), and perhaps something else I cannot immediately recall [Any help, Zzarchov?]. Totting up the Awesomeness modifier derived by the above formula for Cinematic success, the Player rolls that number or less, or a nat-20, to gain an additional Fate point. If they succeed, and roll lower than the number indicated, they may roll again, and again, until that number drops below 1, possibly gaining more than one additional Fate point.

I could go on about other aspects of how Luck points are increased as one levels, or Lucky or Signature items, the acquisition of Henchmen, etc., but there has to be something you, the reader, discover on your own.

The two aspects of gameplay that I am least familiar with are Magic and Miracles, but I'll say a bit about them now. Magic is pumped-up by expending more Power or Mana, which increases all dimensions/axes of the spell's functionality at once. The most recent export to Jeff R's game via Evan Elkin's Wessex character is the Bees spell. In NGR, a cone 5' long and 5' wide at the long end of the cone, of angry magic bees fly out and vex those in the AoE. But, pumping up the Power on the spell can be done as desired (and as can be paid) rather than waiting to 'level-up' as per the D&D's.

Miracles are a horse of an entirely different colour than the D&D Clerical 'spells', and function more like Palladium Psionics, but that doesn't really convey their true function and the overall versatility of Piety Points, nor the sharp cost of more powerful effects. Likewise the Priest (or layperson) must be really active to act upon their faith's tenets (however morally sketchy) to gain Piety.

Can the criteria of Awesomeness be altered without hobbling the system? Absolutely. A certain game and setting designer I know is thinking of releasing a version of her notoriously non-Fantasy RPG using Neoclassical Geek Revival because she really digs how the entire system functions in tandem. Her game would most definitely not reward Awesomeness based upon the wearing of cloaks, eye-patches, or mullets, but instead reward Vruned -- acting towards the advancement of the Vrun cause, and other, Native, ideals. But all of that is just rumour, you understand.

My overall rating of Neoclassical Geek Revival: Buy a copy or two. This is possibly the best FRP I've read in decades, as much for what it simplifies as for what it enhances.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Don't Tell Us What You are Going to Do...-

My original sketch from the early 2000's

blog aside, here is a link to the Russ Nicholson artwork for the Urutsk Referee's Manual. It is the colour piece (although the b&w stuff looks pretty cool, too).


As I said in the blurb, I've had this idea for several years longer than I've had my blog, and seeing the piece come to life was really extraordinary and gratifying.

The LuLu Players' and Referee's Manuals will likely be phased out when their replacements come into being. I am currently in discussion with the producer of an existing rules set as the basis of one version of the URUTSK: World of Mystery line, as I really dig the ease and flexibility of said unsaid system, not feeling like it will shoe-horn my setting into an uncomfortable fit.

Oh, and it uses d20. :D