2019/11/08

OSR: Unofficial Ultraviolet Grasslands Filmographic Appendix N

What a title! Probably worth a fair few points in Scrabble.

The Ultraviolet Grasslands are neat, but the book isn't player-facing. Sure, players can flip through and see the pretty pictures, but some of those pictures contain spoilers for content. Not a huge deal, but a sense of discovery is important.

I'm working on a 40k-style intro blurb for my players. Something that explains who they are, what they're doing, the tools they have available, and the general tone and language of the setting. Finding adjacent films is part of that. Adjacent music is available.

I sent Luka a list of films, he sent one back, they've been mashed together. Nothing is official. Some films Luka sent back haven't been included because they felt slightly general (e.g. Alien is a great film, but is it a UVG film? Who knows.) Your mileage may vary.

Core Anticanon

A.k.a the two films Luka picked as most useful when I asked him.
-Heavy Metal (1981) 

Heavy Metal, taken in sections, has very little to do with the Ultraviolet Grasslands, but as a whole, and for being a snapshot of Heavy Metal magazine, it's a decent introduction to the genre. There's probably a little nostalgia here too. From a modern perspective, where D&D isn't just for white men from Wisconsin, it's also got a few faults.

Plot Summary: An evil orb called Loc-Nar shows six short films: a dystopian New York crime drama (see: Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, etc.), a teenage fantasy where all problems are solved by sex and/or violence, a sci-fi escape any Rogue Trader would be proud of, WWII with zombies, a sci-fi alien invasion that becomes a robot sitcom, and Taarna of Gor and/or Red Taarna (basically).


 -Zardoz (1974)
Ultraviolet Grasslands makes Zardoz a better film. Not exactly a good film by any means, but it places it in a larger and more interesting context. If your players have (heaven help them) watched Zardoz, it'll save them a lot of time. If not, organize a double feature with Mad Max: Fury Road and they'll be completely ready.

Plot Summary: bored telepathic post-humans in a force-field enclave mess with the primitive outsiders via a giant floating stone head, a hokey religion, and regular deliveries of guns. In a long-term plan to end their tortured existence, the mutant Zed (Sean Connery in very small red pants) is educated, captured, manipulated, and set loose to smash both the all-powerful crystal Tabernacle and the society's decadent structure. Much like Heavy Metal, Zardoz isn't exactly a bastion of feminist ideals (Note: UVG is significantly better about this than its film antecedents). It also feels three hours long. You've been warned.
 

High-Octane Brain Fuel

Films that, to me, cover the experience of what a game set in the Ultraviolet Grasslands could involve. Wandering around, running into strange situations, glimpsing cultures from a distance, cutting deals, and running away.
-Fellini's Satyricon (1969)
-Easy Rider (1969)
-The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)
-Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

-
Prospect (2018)
 

The Grasslands (a.k.a. What In The Fuck Is Going On Here?)

Films that capture a sense of the environment, the strange inhabitants, or the eerie ruins of the Ultraviolet Grasslands.
-The Wizard of Oz (1939) + Return To Oz (1985)

-Кин-дза-дза! /  Kin-dza-dza! (1986)
Special mention because you probably haven't heard of this film. It's great. It's probably the best sci-fi film I've seen in the past decade. The characters are wonderful and, crucially, very different than what you'd expect. Nobody panics. Nobody holds the idiot ball longer than necessary. Much like Prospect, a small budget goes a very long way when paired with a great story and a solid cast.

The whole film, in gloriously restored colour, is available for free on youtube. I strongly suggest going in blind. No plot summary, no spoilers.
 

-Lessons of Darkness (1992)
 

Technobarbarians of the Ruined Earth

Everything that can happen has happened three times already, including world unity.

-The Time Machine (1960)
-Beneath The Planet of the Apes (1970)
-The Omega Man (1971)
-Logan's Run (1976)
-Wizards (1977)
-Stalker (1979)
-Thundarr the Barbarian (1980–1981) (TV series)
-Mad Max 2 (1981)
-Conan the Barbarian (1982)
-Yor, Hunter from the Future (1983)
-Posetitel Muzeya / Visitor to a Museum (1989)
-Bunker Palace Hotel (1989)
-Hardware / Mark 13 (1990)
-The Postman (1997)
-Six String Samurai (1998)
 

Drugs, Bright Colours, and Exceedingly Weird Shit

-El Topo (1970)
-The Holy Mountain (1973)
-Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
-Beyond the Black Rainbow (2011)
-Annihilation (2018)
 

Jean Giraud / Moebius -esque

-Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
-The Fifth Element (1997)
-Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets (2017)
-The Zero Theorem (2013)
 

General Science Fiction

-Forbidden Planet (1956)
-Barbarella (1968)
-2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
-Dark Star (1974)
-Pilot Pirx's Inquest (1978)
-Dune (1984)
-Red Dwarf (1988–) (TV series)


Any other suggestions? Working on your own intro? Post a link in the comments.

2019/11/07

OSR: Medieval Mercenary GLOG Campaign Recap

I fell so far behind on my session writeups that the whole campaign came and went without even one report. Here's the hasty remedy.

On a cold morning in early spring, a titanic black vault burst into existence in the middle of a dismal swamp. A faint octarine glow was visible for miles around. Scrying mirrors cracked. Spellbooks flung themselves from lecterns. Owls fell dead from trees; ponds boiled and cast up fishes.

Luckily, the region was sparsely inhabited. Dawn's light found the servants of the Baron Almaric de Lusignan peering down at the swamp.


They found only one survivor. Jericho, a pale and emaciated wizard in filthy rags and a tattered cap, hid under a sickly tree, weeping inconsolably. On his left, tied with rope, lay a mysterious door in a doorframe. On his right, the corpse of a deerling.

"We should take this, err, wizard back to the Baron," Ebin the Envious said, "and bury his friend in the swamp."
He paused, then whispered to his friend Linnaea. "Don't bury her too deeply. The Baron may want a meal. And chop off her head and bring it to me. You never know..."

For this unwholesome group clustered around the poor sun-baffled Jericho was not a congregation of saints. Indeed, they - and the baron they served - were a collection of ambitious rogues and outcasts.

-Ebin the Envious, human "apothecary" to the Baron, was an amateur necromancer. With his pet raven, sinister black cloak, and crooked staff, he doled out dubious cures and took payment in both gold and flesh.

-Vulwin Sarphine, elf wizard, was an exiled diplomat seeking refuge in a region unlikely to be visited by her cousins.
-Wardablorg, frogling summoner and cultist, gave spiritual advice to the Baron while dabbling in all manner of schemes.
-Linnaea, batling thief and general dogsbody to the plots of her lord.
-Sash, fishling thief and failed wizard apprentice. Dogsbody number two.

Their patron, Baron Almaric de Lusignan, owlling ghoul and noble, was rarely seen outside his crumbling manor. The few villagers who owed him homage avoided the shadowed keep wherever possible.

After briefly interrogating Jericho regarding his mysterious origins, vast wealth (carefully hidden but inadvertently referenced), and potent wizard powers, the Baron decided on a course of action. His followers would travel to Bosola, that turbulent but wealthy peninsula, and claim territory for their lord. He would migrate to richer and more populous lands when the time was right.

Branca branca branca!
Their journey through the mountains was fraught with peril.

They were ambushed by roving penniless knights. Jericho impressed all with his potent wizard powers, collapsing the earth and burying several attackers. Sash climbed a tree and threw flaming pinecones at his attackers while shouting "fireball! Ok, this next one really will be a fireball!" Ebin the Envious learned to cast mundane missile; a rock thrown at someone's head. "Mundane missile sometimes misses," he'd cry.

The group decided they needed a knight of their own and elected Wardablorg. The summoner was dressed in badly fitting and very dented scraps of plate armour, placed on a horse, draped in colourful fabric, and appointed group figurehead.

They paused briefly in St. Menthon to buy supplies. On the road, they found a necromancer's tower and cult. Burning and looting commenced, followed by a trip to Bovem. In that partially ruined town, they found work visiting a village in the mountains. A travelling trader hadn't heard from the village since the snows melted.

Jericho and Linnaea remained in town to on business, leaving just four adventurers (and a few hirelings) to travel for three days into the wilderness.

The adventure ended poorly for Sash, who was killed by a goblin ambush on a rocky hillside. The rest of the party, wounded and tired, found a gnome barbarian guide named Big Hamish MacFeegle and hired him... very briefly. The next day, another goblin ambush (and rather obvious pit trap) killed the gnome and Wardablorg's horse (borrowed from Jericho).

The village turned out to have the plague. The PCs looted the church's meagre hoard of gold and fled into the night. A third goblin ambush, on the return journey, killed a hireling but finally resulted in the extermination of the goblin tribe, partially thanks to Wardablorg's fighting prowess, but mostly due to Vulwin's bow. The goblin warlord's helmet of +2 Intelligence and obedient chain whip were looted.
The next day, the party hired Crazy Harry, his cannon, and his crew. They set off on a new mission. A foreign diplomat had been kidnapped by bandits. They were holding him in an isolated castle near Ardeno. The Company of the Red Banner wanted the diplomat back, but didn't want to pay the ransom. The PCs took on the job.

They had a cunning plan to reduce the bandit's strength. They purchased a large barrel of wine, poisoned it, then allowed the bandits to capture it. They then attacked the tower by night, surprising the guards, killing some of the inhabitants, shooting people with their new cannon, and generally wreaking havoc. Linnaea the batling lost a leg and elected to retire.

After interrogating their captives via vague and implausible threats, the party discovered the diplomat had vanished from his cell in the small dungeon below the castle. The bandits were baffled; the cell had only one entrance and it was still locked. Though they did insist the dungeon was cursed somehow.

The "curse" took the form of a bell. Anyone who rang it summoned a secret stone button that followed them around, appearing on any finished stone wall and migrating as they moved. Pressing the button temporarily opened a passage to a secret, magically concealed crypt.

Alex Brock
Note: I thought the idea of a cursed secret door was intriguing. How do you get rid of a door that follows you around, constantly tempting you to open it?

The dungeon itself, not the secret crypt, contained a system for lowering prisoners into a subterranean lake of ghost-infused water. Prisoners would be raised up, possessed and angry, and interrogated by pious monks hoping to drive the lost pagan souls to one afterlife or another. As a side effect, living creatures possessed by the ghosts turned blue and began to float. Even chickens. This becomes important later.

Exploring further, the party discovered the source of the ghost water; a reality-warping whale-sized slug-creature with tree-like hands, clusters of ruby eyes, and dozens of blubber-lipped mouths. They decided to leave it alone, and instead looted the rest of the tomb. A battle with some skeleton guardians very nearly went wrong, but Crazy Harry's cannon saved the day at the cost of the party's collective hearing and equilibrium. Wardablorg was revived with a dubious discount healing potion, which inflicted avianthropy on the poor knight. The light of the full moon would turn into a... seagull. Ebin the Envious used untested necromancy on Vulwin the elf, more or less tethering her soul to her body by the equivalent of a few scraps of magic thread. The necromancer only survived by using a cursed amulet acquired from Jericho; the same flesh-stealing amulet that had caused so much trouble in the underground wizard's previous adventures. While it healed one person, it stole life and chunks of flesh from anyone nearby.

Having retrieved the brain-damaged and memory-drained ambassador from the digestion pool near the whale-creature, the party elected to leave immediately and spend their ill-gotten wealth in a proper city. They traveled to Charron, entered the mercenary camp of the Company of the Red Banner, dropped off the diplomat, and relaxed. Wardablorg spent all their money on chickens, carts, chicken-handlers, chicken-cages, and canvas. If ghost-possessed chickens floated, the knight reasoned, they could be used to make a flying machine. Soaring through the air on a cloud of ghosts didn't appeal to the rest of the party, but the knight was insistent.

After a week-long binge, the group acquired a new knight. This one had actual title. Sir Reko Pizelle, a preening hawkling, decided to assist the group on a new mission for the Company of the Red Banner. A wizard's tower on the company's line of march occasionally vaporized passing scouts. They wanted the tower cleared.

Robert Litja
Unfortunately, the group never made it to the tower. On the road, they were ambushed by four minotaurs. Though they triumphed in combat, Vulwin lost an arm and their new knight was severely bruised. A hearty meal of minotaur hearts soon improved their strength and vitality, though Crazy Harry's two cannon-hauling hirelings sprouted horns.

At Sir Pizelle's suggestion, the party decided to explore the minotaur's labyrinth-lair. They avoided a an idol trapped by green slime, but, a few moments later, in a 10' wide corridor, ran into a stegocentipede.

Cackling with glee, Crazy Harry fired his cannon past Sir Pizelle at the front of the group, badly wounding the monstrous chitin-plated beast. From the back of the party, Vulwin the elf decided to test her looted spell orb.


Obtained in the mysterious dungeon where they'd rescued the ambassador, the spell orb contained 2 spells and 4 charges. The first spell was, testing showed, magic missile. The wizards had never bothered testing or identifying the second.

It was cone of flame.

Vulwin could only watch in horror as the roaring torrent of fire rebounded from the walls of the corridor, engulfing the entire party. Jericho tried to deflect the fire using magic; he botched it, acquired his first Doom, dropped to 0 HP, and was badly burned.

And then the Cannoneer's gunpowder charges went off. All seven of them, plus two bombs.

The resulting explosion demolished the party, the stegocentipede, and some of the walls.

Ebin's flesh-healing cursed amulet tried to stitch his body back together, but his soul had departed for its appointed afterlife. The resulting flesh amalgam (elf, human, hawkling, stegocentipede, looted skeleton parts, etc.) shambles the corridors of the labyrinth to this day. Embedded in its back is Jericho's door of holding, and inside the door is a king's ransom: 4,700gp in gold the wizard never got to spend.


And thus ends the tragic tale of the servants of Baron Almaric de Lusignan. Wardablorg, self-styled "Sir Gucci de Lusignan", survived by being elsewhere. Perhaps in some future tale, a chicken-ghost airship will drift overhead. Perhaps not.

In any case, what a way to go.

2019/11/03

OSR: Pirates of the Merabaha, Interlude

Charles Derwent, natural philosopher, sat cross-legged on the sand. Leather-bound notebooks surrounded him, their waterlogged pages slowly drying in the merciless heat.

"It was then," he said in Wexlish to no one in particular, "that I began to suspect that the crew of the Magnificent were pirates."

"We sailed to the east coast of Chult. The Captain - that was, Captain Margarita Duerte - obtained a Letter of Marque from the governor. There was a terrible battle with some pirates, but we prevailed. Well, I say, 'we', I had very little to do with it. I was busy you see. Looking after the tortoises."

Charles' small audience nodded appreciatively.

"The crew of the Venture - that was, a sister-vessel to the Magnificent, a Ranstead cargo transport, were all slaughtered, but somehow we made it back to Port Nyanzaru. And then we sailed north, far north, to the Merebaha Islands." Charles paused to flip the pages of his notebooks, exposing freshly blurred notes to the sky.
The Things We Do for XP - Oorlof
"There was something about... Handsome John. Yes. He was a pirate, or a lord of pirates, I'm not entirely sure. The captain of the vessel that attacked us had once sailed with him and," he said, then paused as if trying to remember an exact phrase. "And before he died, he said that none but Handsome John could claim his life, and that anyone else who tried would be cursed. That was it. Superstitious nonsense, but the crew took it very seriously. The Captain too. She spent most of the voyage in her cabin. Oh yes, she did kill that man. And... well, it must have been coincidence."

"But first there were sirens," he said again, after another very long pause. "The Captain tried to sail south of Shipkiller Rock, past Siren Point. There was... fog. And screaming. The Captain, the Quartermaster, that is, Thorfina, and some of the other crew went ashore."

"He... found us in the fog. Handsome John. Took the ships without a shot fired. I don't know what happened on shore, but only the Captain returned. I had to let Lemmy, Dexter, and Charlie out of their cages. They flew away. I hope they're safe." Charles' audience nodded again, waiting for the strange little man to continue his tale.

"He hung some of the men. Drove the women ashore and left them at Siren Point. I couldn't say why. Then, when we reached open sea, he offered to maroon me - as a gentleman - and the Captain - as a Captain - on this little island. I went for the boat, but... I'm afraid the Captain went for his throat. You see, he kept a noose around it, the same one that hung him on the gallows."

Another set of pages. Another pause. "I don't know how the fight ended. But I fear the Captain did not survive."

"That's... where ye'd be wrong," a voice rasped from the shore. Every head swiveled. By the white-hot light of the noon sun, a mangled corpse slowly dragged itself out of the water. Her torso was shredded. Ribs and organs protruded, mixed with sand and seaweed. Half her face was gone. But the voice was unmistakable.

"Captain... Margarita Duerte..." the corpse rasped, barely audible below the screams of the island's inhabitants, "at yer service. Listen close... for I have not much time. I know the means to slay Handsome John and reclaim my stolen treasure. The... noose around his neck..."

"Kill it!" someone shouted. A sword flashed, but simply rebounded off the corpse's flesh, as if struck against an anvil. "God's wounds! We'll build a fire."

"This mortal fire," the corpse groaned, "is as nothing compared to the... fire that awaits me."

"Not listening. Logs logs logs."
Lada Da
And as the crackling flames rose higher, consuming the laughing corpse within, the strangers on the island gathered together again at a safe distance.

"We should leave," one said. "Charles brought us a boat. If we could make a sail, we could probably make the mainland in 2 or 3 days."

"I think there are enough palm leaves for a sail," another said.

"How many times do I have to say it, I don't speak your stupid languages!", the third replied. "Does anyone here speak Valoch? What was that little man saying? Who is he? Why was that corpse talking? Anyone?"

2019/11/01

OSR: Mercenary Stats & Tables

Here's part of the Monster Overhaul project. These handy stats and tables overlap nicely with my GLOG Mercenaries posts.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=18ntoQUInXVL2igbtXRoDDG58PFxyGxeJ

PDF


Providing tools to make "mundane" encounters interesting is tricky. It'd be easy to expand the tables, but would that really help a GM running a game? What tools are immediately useful, and what could be folded into other sections of the book?

Basically, if I'm going to take up 3 pages on Mercenaries, are the ideas present worth the page space?

I think so. Full-page statblocks aren't usually my thing, but I'd like to provide useful tools that most other Monster Manuals ignore or stick in an appendix, without filling a page with excruciating and difficult to parse details.

2019/10/29

OSR: Ultraviolet GLOGlands

With a core GLOG hack complete, making an Ultraviolet Grasslands-based hack was fairly easy.
PDF Link. This document includes:
  • Fighter, Barbarian, Thief, and Hunter from Many Rats on Sticks.
  • 5 Wizard Types. Some spells based on existing ones, but a sprinkling of new ones too.
  • Entirely new Polybody, Vome, and Warlock classes, with associated useful tables.
    A UVG price list (including pets).
  • A handy condensed character sheet, time tracking sheet, and hireling sheet.
  • And much more!
The GM-facing UVG maps are here.

Even if you don't use the GLOG bits, there's a decent chance some tables in this document will help your UVG games.



XP System

Choosing how to award experience points changes your game experience.
-Ultraviolet Grasslands
My preferences (for most games) are:
  1. Acquisition of XP should require some player skill.
  2. Acquisition of XP should not occur by default. It should require positive action, overcoming obstacles, or making critical choices.
Gold for XP is the gold standard. Elephants for XP is great (elephants aren't caught by default; catching them takes skill). 5E's XP for story milestones is not good (the story progresses by default in 5E; failing takes effort.)
How well do different methods in Ultraviolet Grasslands meet these requirements? 

New Location: XP for Traveling to Discovery Sites
In UVG, the PCs travel from location to location. When they reach a new location, a hero tests to locate Discoveries: side-sites, dungeons, or points of interests. If they choose to visit a Discovery, they gain some XP (ranging from 30 to a few hundred); not insubstantial when 300xp gets you a level.

Technically, discoveries are not available by default, but there's no player skill involved in uncovering them. It's just luck of the dice. Visiting them is not really risky. Travel in the UVG is assumed to succeed; failure is possible but (unless everyone I've seen running it has missed something) has very little to do with player skill.
Rating: Maybe Suitable

New Organism: XP for Describing a Creature or Survey Site: XP for Describing a Location or Investigate Anomaly: XP for Describing an Anomaly
This isn't really a player skill. It's a fun idea, but is this why people turned up to D&D night? Who's doing the describing. The players, who in most D&D-type games have less than total control over some aspects of the fiction, or the GM, who has enough to do without describing the life cycle of the boa-rat? XP for the player inventing purple prose or XP for listening to the GM's purple prose?
Rating: Not Suitable

New Anomaly: XP for Encountering a New Thing
Difficult to adjudicate; trickier still if wizards can conjure solid light or stuckforce. Hard to remember too. Requires no skill; the PCs just need to show up and go "oooh".
Rating: Not Suitable

XP for Combat
In UVG, XP is awarded based on surviving conflicts. Again, that's the default state. Victory or dealing the final blow gets you some bonus XP. That does require some player skill, and isn't the default state... but there's a problem. XP for kills leads to violence being the default answer. It can also lead players to try to win fights when they know they should retreat, and can lead to frustration when fights go wrong or enemies turn out to be very tough. "We're trying to do the thing that you set as a victory condition, GM. Why are we being punished for it?"
Rating: Maybe Suitable

XP for Carousing

I like this idea, even if it doesn't fit player skill paradigm. PCs often end up with far too much cash. Converting some into XP via irresponsible decisions is a good plan. It's gold for XP with an extra step. But XP for carousing can only support an existing core XP mechanic; it can't replace it.
Rating: Suitable (but supplemental).

Quest XP
There are 14 "big" quests on UVG pg. 147. Complete one and you get a chunk of XP. It's a good idea - none of the quests can be completed by default, and all require some degree of player skill. Some will warp the playstyle of the game (like the XP for Elephants method above). Others only deliver XP once in a huge lump. It's a mixed bag. Having a big quest isn't the worst idea if players have trouble self-directing.
Rating: Maybe Suitable


Conclusion

What the heck am I going to use in Ultraviolet GLOGlands?

Gold for XP is good, but it doesn't encourage exploration. If anything, it encourages finding a rich site and "mining" it for gold for several sessions. As much as I like it, I don't think it's the right core XP system for this game.

XP for Discoveries is mediocre because discoveries require minimal player skill. I'm going to augment it as follows:
-XP for reaching a Discovery.
-XP for fully exploring or mapping a discovery or figuring out what's going on.

So just turning up gets you 1x XP, but spending time exploring gets you 2x XP. How the PCs explore or figure out what's going on is left ambiguous. Smart play is encouraged.

On top of that, XP for Carousing will help deplete some of that excess gold and encourage irresponsible decisions.

EDIT
If this system is too complicated and you'd like an alternative to SEACAT, try Victor Carity's ultra-basic BASICAT. Or if you want a completely different style, try
Mike Ferdinando's UltravioletWorld Apocalypse World hack.

2019/10/28

OSR: GLOG-based Homebrew v.2: Many Rats on Sticks Edition

I've finally finished updated the original Rat on a Stick GLOG hack. Feedback and notes from playtesting was incorporated. Notable changes:
  • an all new Hunter class
  • significant revisions to the Exorcist and Monk classes
  • clear procedures for dungeon and wilderness adventures
  •  an expanded and updated table of races
  • 2 new wizards: the Geometer and the Curse-Eater
  • lots of little tweaks and changes.
In general, the document is cleaner, more organized, and easier to use. Enjoy!
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1wOAkBOCUSjnthMEnIsPVT1LSOCQzd88j

PDF

Since most classes fit on one sheet of paper, I've created a Character Sheet File. Print a character sheet on one side and the rules on the other. No background info is included, just stuff the player is likely to use every session.

Thanks to my patrons for their support and keen eye for spelling errors.

Everything in the book is licensed under CC-BY-SA, so hack away!

2019/10/24

OSR: Magical Industrial Revolution Megapost

Magical Industrial Revolution is now on sale via Exalted Funeral and DriveThruRPG.

Print copies will be available from Exalted Funeral once all Kickstarter backers have received their copies. Stay tuned for announcements closer to the release date (November-ish).

Art by Jonathan Newell, Logan Stahl, & Luka Rejec. Editing, layout, and incalculably valuable assistance by David Shugars. Additional editing by Fiona Geist.

Introduction

This book is about Atlantis before the tide turned. It’s about Hyperborea before it vanished between dimensions. It’s about Nu Yark Citee before the Mushroom Bombs hit.

It’s a setting guide to the greatest and most ambitious city in the world: Endon. It’s about a world slowly tipping onto its side, and all the interesting things that begin to slide at the start of a revolution. It’s about people with grand dreams pushing the boundaries of the possible, and the strange machines and devices they create along the way.

But mostly, it’s about magic. 


Magical Industrial Revolution: A Pre-Apocalyptic Setting Guide contains a wealth of information to supplement Role Playing Games, including:

• Maps, People, Buildings, Dungeons, Factions, and Villains of Endon
• Eight Pre-Apocalyptic Innovations
• Hundreds of Magic Items and Spells
• Rules for Magical Industry
• Useful Tools for Urban Campaigns
• Horrible Monsters and Nightmarish Creatures
• And much, much more.

Three very useful pamphlets featuring magical industrial tips, hanging ballads, and local attractions are provided along with the 156 page book. The PDF is fully optimized and bookmarked.

Reviews

Here, I think Skerples hits the nail on the head for one of the most exciting core narratives for an RPG campaign can be: Revolution. Change.

Change, not so much in the way History has traditionally viewed it: with the rise and fall of Big People, with grand wars and grand empires, with technology emerging from the minds of great men like Athena from Zeus's skull and then suddenly just, like... being everywhere... But with how it alters and affects every day people, how they view and interact with the world. How it gradually and subtly worms its ways into our collective perceptions of Life.

How, for instance, the railroad revolutionized our notions of space and time, or how A.I. revolutionizes are notions of personhood.
-Goodberry Monthly

Just wanted to say that the setting of this book didn't really interest me. I backed because Skerples always does great work. Upon receiving the pdf, I was surprised at how much stuff I was able to pull from it for my own setting, which hews closer to traditional sword & sorcery. Thanks so much for an amazing product.


Why?

Cities and technology in RPGs often feel static. I wanted to write a book about a setting that changed as the game progressed in ways that the players could influence or manipulate. No fixed metaplot, no locked-in NPCs, just a big pile of useful tools, all designed to work in harmony. City tools, good magic items, fun encounters, and excellent ways to spend hard-earned cash.

I wanted to write a pre-apocalyptic setting. Most D&D-type settings assume there's a layer of magical ruin and decay below the current world; I wanted to write the explosion that could bury that layer. Gleeful, mad optimism instead of sullen and pragmatic pessimism. High magic, high ambition, disastrous lack of hard lessons.

I also wanted to include methods for scaling up magic, meddling with the fundamental forces of nature, and trying to change the world via the logical - or illogical - application of weird science and dubious engineering.

You can a look at MIR's development history here.


Playtesting

MIR, like all my paid products, was tested with a number of systems, including AD&D, B/X, the GLOG, and (I think), Into the Odd and The Black Hack. Some sections were tested against 5th Edition and seemed to work fairly well.

It's designed for broad compatibility. Assumptions are stated. Wherever possible, conversion tools are provided. You could probably use it with Apocalypse World or Fate by ignoring some of the numbers.

Session Reports

None yet!

Thank You

I'd like to thank David Shugars again for his hard work spinning gold from the pile of straw I provided. I'd also like to thank my Patrons, blog readers, and friends for supporting this project. MIR wouldn't exist without you.

2019/10/23

OSR: Ultraviolet Grasslands GM-Facing Maps

I've made 3 GM-facing maps for Ultraviolet Grasslands (reviewed here). Spoilers abound.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=11mFnJtClS1IhNY0-zH4W4XpJkk29Fqkh

1. UVG Only Locations

Main locations are coded. Bar for a wasteland-ish location, circle for an urban-ish location. Trade goods are in <brackets>. Some terrain around the Glass Bridge - Three Sticks region was moved around to make slightly more sense to me.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1g2t3blq_z38mztrV8_EjU0uvWr87Xi0i

2. UVG Locations + Trilemma Adventures

Trilemma locations are squares. Not all Trilemma adventures found homes on the map. Some were just too thematically difficult to integrate. Flesh-sculpting, necromancy, ghost-magic, poison water, and crystal technology permeate the adventures; with a bit of purple prose they'll fit UVG nicely.

All the Trilemma adventures are free, but the compendium is very nice and well worth buying.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1tiypBNqqV_pyv8-5oYI4BU-UhJVVypLG

3. UVG Locations + Trilemma Adventures + Other Adventures

New adventure locations are hourglasses. For when you really want to go overboard, this map includes:
-Operation Unfathomable

-Anomalous Subsurface Environment
-Deep in the Purple Worm
-Purple Worm Graveyard
-Temple of the Blood Moth
-Gem Prison of Zardax
-The Roving Wheel

I might revise, update, alter, etc. these maps as time goes on, but for now, they might be helpful to anyone running a game in the purple haze.

OSR: Review: Ultraviolet Grasslands

Ultraviolet Grasslands, or, to give its full title, UVG and the Black City - Psychedelic Metal Roleplaying, is a setting book by Luka Rejec.

You can - and should - buy it here or here. There's a free introductory version here.


Full Disclosure
Luka did the art for Kidnap the Archpriest and Magical Industrial Revolution, and has generally been good to work with. I was hired to do a high-level review and structural commentary on Ultraviolet Grasslands. This review has an enormous positive bias.

Because I'm fussy, peevish, and peculiar, this review also has an enormous negative bias. I usually review books by listing problems or issues and then saying "but it's still very good." This review is no different. You've been warned.

I also haven't playtested the book. I've seen people run it and it seems to work pretty well.



'People of the Earth can you hear me?'
Came a voice from the sky on that magical night
-Billy Thorpe - Children Of The Sun

What is UVG?

Ultraviolet Grasslands is a setting book, pointcrawl, toolkit, artbook, and set of liner notes to an imaginary compilation album. Sir John Mandeville under the influence of heavy metal. The result of giving the people at Burning Man access to terraforming equipment.

Should I Buy This Even Book If I Think Blue Oyster Cult and The Blue Man Group Are The Same Band?

Yes.

First, because it's beautiful.
Second, because it works. It's a gamebook, not a novel or a tasteful heap of prose. It is a finely crafted tool to create stories.
Third, because it's well written. Concise, sharp, dense, and flavourful.
And fourth, because it's cheap. According to my calculations a book with 220 pieces of full colour Luka Rejec art should cost [stack overflow error], not including text. $25 for a PDF is a bargain.


I realized I was approaching this book with the wrong mindset. It's a proper setting guide, not some bolt-on fits-your-assumptions setting guide. It's closer to taking up Warhammer 40k or Glorantha. Trying to figure out how to make UVG work with an existing paradigm is like bolting Warhammer 40k onto a Spelljammer game and hoping the tone will match.


UVG demands to be run. And it's very likely to get what it wants
When I lay me down to die
Goin' up to the spirit in the sky
- Norman Greenbaum - Spirit In The Sky

Nonlinear Genius

There's a temptation among very clever authors and game designers to create perfect linear museums or galleries. The transmission process from author to GM and from GM to players is messy. Important details will be lost. Themes will be mangled, distorted, and simplified. Creating a guided tour through the author's masterwork prevents GMs and players from rubbing their cheeto-stained fingers on the art.

It's a problem. And it's a problem UVG does not have. This book is designed to be used. Exploration is encouraged because it's excellent, not because it meets some arbitrary mechanical or structural requirement. Nothing is mandatory. Everything is permissible.

Power is great. Given the choice between a 1d4+1 dagger and a 2d20+1 dagger that also sets the user on fire and can't be held by mere flesh, I'll include the 2nd option every time. Sure, it's "overpowered", but it's interesting. Great games come from giving the players power and seeing what they do with it. Grab the tiger by the tail.

Give the players a nuclear reactor and some enemies. Give them a barely steerable hoverobelisk. Let them go slightly mad with power; power won't save them.

Conceptual Density

Dense and chewy are the grasslands. Aesthetics of ruin? In great heaping strata.
It is so far into the future that everything that [redacted] made possible has happened three times, even world harmony.
-Ra
Beneath the caravan-trading-exploration system, there's a settlement-kingdom system. Treasure is often thrones or nation-forges. Settle down, claim some territory, collect some tolls, build some statues, wage a catastrophic war, add another layer of debris to the grasslands.

The System

I'm not a system person. Mechanics and tools yes, but systems are full of moving parts. Figuring out how they work without extensive testing is tricky.

System-specific rules (i.e. the stuff you'd replace if you ran UVG using B/X or the GLOG or whatever) take up ~8 pages. The rest is tools you can use in most systems.

There's a Paradigm. I like paradigms. More books should explain their core assumptions; it makes improvisation much easier.

The caravan rules are sublimely elegant and, critically, include brilliant tools. As I was reading the book, I found the next page answered the question I about the previous page. "What if the players set up a recurring trade route under an NPC?" [flips page] "Oh, here's a handy and hilarious table."

If you want to learn about the SEACAT system, Luka's written some blogposts.

We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
And the machine is bleeding to death
- Godspeed You Black Emperor - The Dead Flag Blues

Criticisms

Information Loading
UVG is not an easy book to process. There's a lot of "hidden" information; even with the index, glossary, and search tools the onus is still on the reader to put together some patterns.


Reading the book linearly is probably suboptimal. I'd suggest:

  • start at the front until you hit a term you don't understand and can't figure out from context
  • flip to the Glossary
  • read the whole Glossary
  • then, flip to pg. 133 (Heroes and the Cat). Admire the art. Isn't it nice?
  • without reading any text, flip to pg. 138 (Wonderful Creatures) and read to pg. 153 (Starvation and Thirst)
  • then, go back to wherever you got lost the first time around and start reading linearly.

Weak Discoveries, Strong Discovery.
The weakest locations in a hexcrawl are pointcrawl are purely descriptive.

GM: You encounter the Obelisk of Grune. It is an inert stone 20' tall.
Players: Neat. We move on.
Second weakest are locations that are purely descriptive but have hidden information with no way for the players to access this information.

GM: You encounter the Obelisk of Grune. It is an inert stone 20' tall.
Book: The Obelisk of Grune produces gallons of pure gold if the blood of an albino duck is rubbed on its surface. The only person who knows this is Sir Alfred Mooseblaster, who died 300 years ago on another continent.
Players: Neat. We move on.
GM: Not going to... oh, I don't know, rub some duck blood on it?
Players: Why would we do that?
Ultraviolet Grasslands has a few of both types of locations. I do mean a few; probably no more than 5 or 6 in the whole book. But they still exist. Cool ideas without hooks ("Why should we care? What can we do with this?") or with hidden information ("How in the world would we have figured that out?")

Coming up with a cool idea is not enough. Without a way to interact with the idea, it's just some words for the GM to say. Nobody comes to game night just to hear the GM talk.

Map Snarl
I didn't follow UVG's development closely, but it seems like one region was completed before some of the others, then retrofitted into the larger structure. The Glass Bridge - Three Sticks region is a mess. There is a mini-map, but it's cut into 3 sections spread across several pages and, more importantly, it doesn't match the main map.
It feels like the minimap came first, full of cool names and neat locations, and the pointcrawl format came later. It's got too many locations in too small of an area and some of the locations are just... dull. Location 17 is a tethered moon. And here, in location 18, there's a whole paragraph about a boring river. Seriously, the text says "There is not much to say about this river."

That's probably a sign to cut the river or fold it into a table. Things shouldn't exist just because they're named on a minimap.

Unlike most of the other minor locations in the book, locations in this region have precisely defined locations, both in the map and in the text. This weakens the nebulous structure of pointcrawl exploration.

The section is 10 pages out of 200, it's still got some good information, and it's not too messy, but it's the weakest section of the book. An erratic boulder left behind when the great editing glaciers retreated. A minimap that was too good to prune.

The Weirdness Curve
I've got a slight preference to start the game a little less weird and let the strangeness build. The deeper you get into the grasslands, the weirder things become. But since you can
rent animated skeletons with wheelbarrows from a serpent-tailed mind-controlling cat in the first 10 minutes of the first session, it's hard to ramp up the weirdness consistently. I'd possibly tone down the Violet City. It makes sense in-setting, but it'd make exploration payoffs easier.


That's me
That's it
That's life
Go go go.
-Birdy Nam Nam - The Parachute Ending

Bonus Tools

I've created a GM-facing map. Most Discoveries are listed. Spoiler alert. Main locations are coded (bar for a wasteland-ish location, circle for an urban-ish location). Trade goods are in <brackets>. Some terrain around the Glass Bridge - Three Sticks region was moved around to make slightly more sense to me.

At this point, I can't think of any other tools I'd need to run a UVG game. I might make some quick reference sheets or generators, but I'd mostly need a personalized sheet of page numbers.

A revised version of the GM-facing map, with non-UVG locations added, will be available fairly soon.

2019/10/22

OSR: Class: Curse-Eater Wizard

Some ideas from Iron & Ink's post here.

Nikola Matkovic
Starting Equipment: spellbook, ink and quill. Both your smallest fingers or one eye are missing (and devoured).


The line between a curse and an enchantment is almost invisible. Curse-Eaters are wizards who specialize in personal and forbidden magic. They are widely reviled by the Church and by other wizards, for their powers inevitably corrupt and twist the spells of others. 


Perk

You can take 1 MD from an adjacent wizard’s pool and add it to your spell. They know you have done this. On a 1-3, the MD returns to their pool (as normal). If the MD does not return, you can choose to either heal the wizard for 1d6 HP or inflict 1d6 magic damage. 


Drawback

Barring exceptional circumstances, you cannot enter a good afterlife. Domesticated animals fear you.


Cantrips


1. Touch a creature or object to discover if it is cursed (i.e. if it has a negative but hidden magical effect applied to it). You can roll under Intelligence to divine the nature of the curse.
2. Touch a recently deceased person, perform a 10 minute ritual, and Save. If you pass, you take all their sins upon yourself. They arrive in the afterlife with only their positive deeds remembered.
3. Spit to crack all non-magical mirrors within 50’. Calm water will ripple. Other reflective surfaces may crack or darken.

Lucas Roussel

Curse-Eater Wizard Spell List


1. Fingerbreaker

R: 100' T: creature of [dice]x2 HD or less D: 0

The target of this spell must have fingers. You snap your fingers and your target's fingers crack, break, and bend. They take [sum] damage and must immediately Save or drop whatever they are holding. You can choose to have the target take no damage, but they get +2 to their Save. 


2. Deflect Spell
R: 100' T: spell D: 0

You may cast this spell as a reaction. Save, with a bonus equal to [sum]. A roll of 20 always fails. If you succeed, an incoming spell is deflected to [dice]x10’ away. The incoming spell must target you or a point within 10’ of you.


3. Crush Flames

R: [dice]x20' radius T: area D: 0

Mundane flames in the area of this spell are extinguished with a great deal of smoke. Torches fill a 10’ cube with smoke, bonfires fill a 30’ cube with smoke. Wind dissipates the smoke in 10 minutes. If you cast this spell with 3 or more [dice], living creatures lose 1 HP per round while they remain in the smoke.


4. Transfer Disease

R: touch T: two creatures D: 0
Touch a diseased creature and a healthy creature. [Dice] diseases move between targets. If the recipient is unwilling they get a Save. If the disease is magical it also gets a Save.


5. Forget

R: 10’ T: creature of [dice]x4 HD or less D: 10 minutes

Target creature must Save or get the last 10 minutes. They may recall vague details but not useful information.


6. Enfeebling Sigil

R: touch, 50' T: object D: [sum] rounds

A writhing arcane symbol appears on an object you touch. Any creature within 100' of the sigil who looks at it must Save or be reduced to Strength 1 for [dice] rounds. Nothing can cause their Strength to drop lower than 1 while they are under the effects of this spell. The symbol vanishes after [sum] rounds. If you invest 3 [dice] or more, you can instead set the duration of this spell to permanent, provided no one looks at the sigil. Once it is seen, the duration becomes to [sum] round as usual. 


7. Abjure

R: 100’ T: creature or object D: [sum] rounds

Name and point at creature or object. The target cannot approach within [dice]x10’ of you for the duration of this spell. The target can Save once at the start of the duration to negate. 


8. Drain Life
R: 50' T: creature D: 0

Target living creature takes [sum] damage, Save for half. You heal for ½ [sum]. It costs 2 HP to remove 1 negative HP and 4 HP to remove one Fatal Wound.


9. Cure Wounds


R: touch T: creature D: 0
Target creature heals [sum] HP. It costs 2 HP to remove 1 negative HP and 4 HP to remove 1 Fatal Wound. This spell cannot restore lost limbs, remove injuries, or cure diseases.


10. Remove Curse

R: touch T: creature or object D: 1 hour / permanent

Up to [dice] curses or diseases are removed from the target. If [sum] is greater than 12, the effect is permanent.


11. Cloudkill

R: 30’ T: [dice] 10’ cubes D: 24 hours
Summon a cloud of ghastly yellow-green vapour. Creatures of 2 HD or less in the cloud are instantly slain (no Save). Creatures of 3 to 5 HD must Save or die each round. Creatures of 6 or more HD must Save or take 3d6 damage each round. The cloud is heavier than air and slowly drifts. It moves 10’ per round in a gentle breeze. A strong wind disperses the cloud in 10 minutes.


12. Death Ward

R: touch T: self D: [sum] days
Designate a date up to [sum] days in the future. You cannot die until that date. You can be hideously mangled, burned, mashed, spread across the cobbles, or torn apart, but your soul will still remain in your body (or its remains) until the date designated. On that date, you automatically fail all Saves.









Curse-Eater Wizard Mishaps
1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24hrs.
2. Take 1d6 damage.
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then Save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Blind for 1d6 rounds.
5. Agony for 1d6 rounds.
6. Spell targets you (if harmful) or an enemy (if helpful) or fizzles (if neutral).

Curse-Eater Wizard Dooms

1. You are transported to Hell for 24 hours. You aren't tortured, but you are carefully examined and audited before being returned.
2. You cannot enter sanctified spaces. Touching silver inflicts 1 damage per round. Silver weapons deal 2x damage to you.
3. 1d4 angels and 1d4 demons, plus any religious figures they can find along the way, descend upon your location to drag you bodily to Hell.