31 October 2011

Dark High Fantasy One-Shot

So I’ve been stymied in gaming lately and we’ve not been able to get our group together for over a month. Now I’m off for two weeks to India and won’t be able to get my gaming fix. So to tide me over, I’ve come up with an idea for a one-shot adventure in the creepy high fantasy world of Elric of Melniboné. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to play it.

Below are ten possible characters for players to pick up. They are split into four groups:

  1. A Dark Gothic Party of evil Chaos worshippers.
  2. A Bright Chaos Party  with a sorceress from Melniboné itself.
  3. A Domain of Man Party trying to bring Balance and Law to a troubled world.
  4. Random characters that would fit in any of the above three parties.

The characters are purposefully unbalanced, as I think our group can handle that type of situation very well and come up with a good story. Relative power levels (10 = bad ass, 1 =  red shirt) are given for each character.

Dark Gothic Party

Play two truly evil characters and worshippers of chaos: a high priest of death and his cousin, a mercenary captain with a dubious past.

Prefect Thule Krin, Governor of Mist Marsh Colony
High Priest of Chardhros (The Reaper of Souls, Lord of Chaos)
Power Level 10
Thule rules over his dank demesne with brooding animosity. Upon dominating the Demon Grishom and invoking Lassa, Ruler of the Open Sky, Thule was acknowledged a master of his craft. The Theocrat, envious and threatened by those who reach such degenerate depths so aptly, could not retaliate boldly without angering Thule’s allies at the Temple of Chaos. So Thule was awarded a prefecture and governorship on a far flung southern colony.

Thule bides his time tithing the miserable swampfolk and watching over white capped waves of the Dragon Sea. He waits for an opportunity to rise in glory and power so that he might return triumphantly to his homeland in Pan Tang.

Pangaarl Krin, Corsair of Pan Tang
Power Level 6
Noble blood in the Theocracy can mean only one thing, fighting. A scion of the House of Krin, Pangaarl chose to escape deadly politics of Hwamgaarl by hiring a ship of cutthroats to ply the Dragon Sea. Pangaarl’s ship was shattered while chasing a merchant cog into the Serpents Teeth, a stretch of coastline noted for treacherous shoals and powerful currents. Bankrupt but alive, Pangaarl found his way south into the shifting sands of the Silent Lands. There he led his few remaining ne’er-do-wells into raids on the weak and impoverished swampfolk who lived in fetid swamps along the northern edge of the sandy dunes.

The Lords of Chaos smiled upon Pangaarl when his cousin, Thule, was appointed governor of Mist Marsh. Pangaarl now works as Prefect Thule’s mercenary captain at the Castle of Tumbling Lotus.

Bright Chaos Party

Play an exotic Melnibonéan enchantress and her bodyguard.

Eralda of Melniboné, Sorceress of the 3rd Circle
Power Level 9
Always hungry to read, Eralda devoured every treatise, book, tome and scrap of paper that could be found in the Mistral Tower. She soon grew bored of the vapid meanderings of her friends’ drug-addled thoughts and sought the deeper knowledge of her ancestors. Eralda cajoled, coerced or stole whatever secrets she could from the decadent Melniboné wizards. She slowly built an impressive grimoire of summonings, bindings and evocations to rival any of those in the Dreaming City. Eralda reckoned herself ready for any challenge.

When a human merchant offered Eralda’s father her uncle’s library, Eralda found the money to purchase the waterlogged books herself. She carefully sifted through them. Disappointed at not actually finding any jewels of sorcerous insight, Eralda nevertheless admired her uncle’s meticulous observations of the chaos tendrils over which he’d built his laboratory. Intrigued and eager for adventure, Eralda hired an Imrryrian pinnace to take her to her uncle’s last abode.

Bek, Eshmir Slave
Power Level 5
Slave and lover to Eralda, Bek is devoted to her mistress. In return, Eralda takes a keen interest in the lithe girl and cares for her as someone might a beloved pet. To please Bek, Eralda ensured Bek was instructed in the use of buckler and short sword. Bek has now twice saved Eralda from worse than death on nighttime escapades:  once forcing the Conjurer Abdin-go-Rushi of Shazaar to release a grating nemesis bound to his personal protection; and, and once gutting two Vilmirian guards menacing Eralda in the twisted streets of Old Hrolmar.

Bek stands beside Eralda as the two gaze warily out to sea over the pinnace’s bow.

Domain of Man Party

The only non-chaotic party, this group sets out on a holy quest in service to the Ruler of Elemental Earth and Servitor of Balance.

Isabelle, Jeweler of Belrain
Power Level 8
Isabelle was born into the wealthy family of a jeweler to Duke Belrain. The priests of Grome, Ruler of Earth and Stone, recognized the latent sorcery in her veins. Pressed into worship in the caverns under the central highlands, Isabelle longed for her family and friends along the coastal towns of Belrain. Unable to devote herself fully to Grome, she slowly drifted away from the Deep Mystery. When she found herself pregnant, she left the cult’s warrens and returned home.

Isabelle was crushed when her child was stillborn. Seeking solace, she left again for Grome’s cavern temples. Isabelle found the droning incantations to stone and soil a way to soothingly forget her pain. Though she did not enter the priesthood, she eventually reached the First Depth. As a Shephard, Isabelle learned to care for the luxuriant plants and magical herbs that grew in verdant gardens above the temples.

Isabelle fears the holy quest all devotees must undergo at their reaching of the First Depth. With hesitant hope, she sends word to her lover of old in hopes that he will come to her aid.

Sir Antin Ul-Kurick of Girnoble
Power Level 5
A gallant knight from the land of Vilmir, Sir Antin has family scattered across the many realms of the Young Kingdoms. Before gaining his inheritance he sailed the wide world, eventually making a semi-permanent home in the opulent city of Belrain along the western coast of the Isle of Purple Towns. There he met and fell in love with a common lady of the bourgeoisie, who took herself at times away from the dark inland temples back to her homeland by the sea. Though he could not marry someone of low birth, he treated her well and the two kept a dalliance whenever she returned. Antin was called home when his father fell gravely ill.

Sir Antin put the household in order after his father's death. Then began the slow, drudging days of stewarding the family estate. When word came from his old beloved, Isabelle of Belrain, Antin leapt at her plea for help. He left his sister as steward of the estates, gathered his horse and squire, and hired a vessel out to sea.

Deacon Elga Gonwin
Power Level 5
Dour and efficient, Deacon Elga quickly found her calling in the inland temples. Raised in the soggy highlands of the Isle of Purple Towns, Deacon Elga was naturally drawn to the workshops of Grome. Never one for delicate metalwork or fancy gemstones, Elga preferred to beat out plowshares and horseshoes for her family and village. Her strength slowly grew to rival that of most men, though always others gawked at the bulky woman who toiled at the forge.

Lacking talent to coax the essence of Earth to her bidding, Elga nevertheless took heart in the tranquil silence of worshipping Grome. She grew more devoted to her god. A certain benevolent joy began to pervade her being. She learned to treat the minor pains and discomforts of those around her. In servitude to the Lord of Earth and Stone, Elga accepted the mantle of Deacon of the First Depth.

Elga now calmly faces the trials before her, confident her soul will find the peaceful repose of Earth whatever may happen to her body.

Characters for Any Party

Fan-Liet, Sailor
Power Level 1 (or 5, depending on how he’s played)
Fan-Liet’s own opinion of himself matched that of others around him, stupid and weak. Too small to work as a man in the rice fields, Fan-Liet was relegated to the backbreaking work of the planting women. Finding peace by taking his makeshift coracle out upon the rocky sea, he learned to navigate the deadly currents of the Serpents Teeth around his village home. Nobody seemed to miss him when he sailed off alone, so his jaunts began to grow longer and more daring. At times he would spend three or four days away from home, exploring jagged cliffs and deep firths cut into the coastal mountains.

One day Fan-Liet saw a graceful ship sailing briskly through the choppy sea. Thinking the captain foolhardy to use canvas in such wind, Fan-Liet lingered to see what might happen to the vessel. Perhaps when its hull was torn out from beneath it Fan-Liet could salvage some golden trinket and be rich!

Odonata, Myrrhyn Bowman
Power Level 6
The insect-like race of Myrrhyn make most humans’ blood run cold. Few find any compunction against killing Myrrhyn simply due to their alien countenance. Nevertheless Myrrhyn vary as much in demeanor and outlook as any human civilization, though often they feel closest to their goddess Straasha.

Odonata is a poet at heart, traveling the world to witness the colorful variety of life throughout the Young Kingdoms. Though somewhat small and fragile by human standards, Odonata finds many who are willing to pay good bronze for his ability to shoot accurately from on wing.

Dorkara-Bel-Mek, Dreg of Society
Power level 3
A lowly peasant from a decrepit land, Dorkara-Bel-Mek scrounges a living off the efforts of others. The Org were once a powerful race of sorcerers; but, the eons have thinned their blood and addled their brains. Now they are a disreputable lot of hirsute dwarfs cowering beneath the eaves of their tangled forest homes. Some ancient longing in Dorkara’s heart drew her to the excitement of human cities. There she found only the same misery of her homeland. Dorkara knew remorse and pitied herself.

Now Dorkara skulks human lands looking for whatever means she can to survive.

24 October 2011

Hell Yeah

I've not been a big fan of the Orange Satan, Dailykos, for a few years. The constant horse race chatter drives me away - that and the fact that I'm disgusted with weak-kneed Democrats and just can't bring myself to cheer them on. Nevertheless, here's a bloody fine post over at Kos that is well worth reading:

Occupy Wall Street is not difficult to understand

h/t Cogitamus.

Done With Step 1

As of today we're comfortably done with the baby stuff. All the remaining diapers go to charity. The pacifiers are all thrown away. Now its time to collect all the little one toys and clean them up for Goodwill. Pretty soon we'll have a little extra room in the house, enough to store the presents from the upcoming Christmas.

17 October 2011

Constitutional Convention

If things were to really go in the right direction for a change, we'd see a call for a constitutional convention be taken up within the next year or two in response to this OWS stuff. I'm not yet sure the public is radicalized enough to make it happen, though.

14 October 2011

Pendragon Villain: Ymōraj

The steward of Postcombe was a youth when he accepted his responsibility to the landlord, Lord Marshal Rhodri. Shortly thereafter a curse blighted Postcombe. Crops failed to grow. The blight worsened. Hunting proved fruitless the next year. The desperate steward swore his soul to save the village. The demon Ymōraj, yearning for freedom, happily granted his request.

Thereafter miraculous bounties of river fish and crustaceans came. Moreover, thick brambles sprouted from ruined stumps. Some life came back to the naked trees, flittering through burning evening sunlight. The people were saved. By the following summer the fish were gone; but, brambles bore nuts or fruit each according to its kind. Again, Postcombe's peasants fed themselves well.

In time, Ymōraj completely dominated the steward's psyche. The demon mercilessly tormented his captive's tattered soul. Ymōraj longed to display his proud accomplishment and so called for the Lampton Worm, who came crawling on scaled feet to witness for their master. The summoning left satanic scrawl spiraling around Postcombe Chapel.  In reward for good service, the Devil granted Ymōraj leave to corrupt the Lord Marshal.

When Ymōraj led a winter hunting expedition to Tarnish Combe each man brought home three stags. Ymōraj, occupying the steward's body, impressed them all by bagging a snowy white hart. He came to be known as the Hero of Postcombe. While the blight spread like a parasite to Lord Marshal Rhodri's other holdings, the peasants of Postcombe where fed by bartered grain and venison all year long.

Ymōraj attended his landlord at the next Good Friday's Horse Race. Ymōraj begged to be made squire to any vassal knight under the commander. Rhodri refused and sent him back to Postcombe. Each year Ymōraj returned and was sent back home disappointed. Yet all the while the demon planted evil seeds in Rhodri's soul. He cultivated a hatred against neighboring Duke Ulfius. Blood spilt between the two great lords.

One day Ulfius and Rhodri faced each other upon the field. Ymōraj made plain the depths of his treachery by fighting against his former lord. Ymōraj attacked from behind while Rhodri held against Duke Ulfius. The Lord Marshal's men overpowered Ulfius and Rhodri turned to Ymōraj. Afterward, the brains of Ymōraj's host were scattered on the grass underneath the old knight's feet. The Hero of Postcombe was no more. What happened to the demon remains unknown.

Ymōraj's stats beneath the fold.

13 October 2011

Better Late Than Never

Steve Benen writes:

Those hoping the White House would have the good sense to follow through with an aggressive jobs message should be pleased. Indeed, Obama and his team clearly seem to believe they have a winning message here.

Yes. I wish this would have happened back in Feb'09. Its not like the problem or solution was hard to see then. I guess we had to wait for an election cycle to kick in before the politicians starting doing what the people want.

11 October 2011

15-Minute Encounter: Libations!

I set myself 15-minutes to do a quick encounter for any random occurrence during our next gaming night. Ever since the death of King Uther they've had a Fey or (un)Holy bent. Here's one for this coming Wednesday, if I can work it into the game session. Otherwise it goes on the shelf for later use.

Setting: Ghostly Roman celebrations at an abandoned shrine, alter, villa or settlement.

At nights, from the corners of your eyes and the edge of your hearing, the sound of joyous celebration can be heard coming from an elusive sacrificial offering. A goat is butchered, the blood collected in as many goblets as knights are present. Its clear the goblet on the table is for you and your companions.

Should you leave the ephemera alone you suffer nothing beyond the occasional weird glimpse.

If you taste the blood, any Faerie Longing passion you might possess immediately increases by one and you get a check in it. The ghostly vision becomes reality as your own body stands in a stupor. Gain an Indulgence check as well. This satisfies the Faerie Longing passion for the year.

If you consume the blood, revel in the libations of raw goat flesh, O, Incarnation of Pan! Gain a new Faerie Longing (3d6+2), or +1d6 to an existing passion. Ability to summon the craic once per year. The craic makes everything in the social setting (i.e. court) for one day kinda go your way. Its palpable even to those with whom you don't interact personally that day. +1d20  for any one courtly skill that day. Ad lib those critical successes! Each use: 1d6 (1-4) lose the craic.

If a holy character is present, play up on the association with the Holy Grail and how utterly disgusting and sinful all this pagan celebration appears. In addition to Indulgence, a holy character will get a Worldly check for sampling the libations. Fully quaffing the goblet yields in addition yields +1d6 Worldly and a Worldly check.

Updated: I just realized that the above meme probably came at me as a riff on what James Raggi posted here. - e

08 October 2011

Home From Japan

P1030527New umbrellas in the rain


Exhausted; but, strangely wide awake at 1:30am. Jet leg was here to welcome us with open arms.

The pictures from the trip are up.

06 October 2011

The Sorry Ass State of America

Do you know who has the best coverage of Occupy Wall Street? Al Jazeera. Why am I not surprised?

In the immortal words of George Carlin, "This country is finished."

03 October 2011

A Special Form of Torture

I've decided that theme parks are a special form of torture designed to drive parents absolutely batty. In the last week we've been to three theme parks.

First was the Anpanman Museum in Yokohama. Other than the typically bad food and high prices, it was short and the girls were generally well behaved until lunch time. From that point forward it was nothing but whining and temper tantrums until we got on the train home an hour later. My rating: two aspirin.

Second was the Studio Ghibli Museum. This was one that I would have really enjoyed, except that the girls wanted only to play on the Nekobasu and nothing else would do. After making a beeline to the room with the Cat Bus (and dealing with Alisa having a nervous breakdown from fear of the giant stuffed cat), we spent the rest of the time in the cafe dealing with hungry kids who wanted nothing actually on the menu. At least they served beer. My rating: one aspirin.

Today was the penultimate in theme parks, Disneyland. I actually enjoyed myself by the fourth time through "Its a Small World". It was relaxing and we got to sit down - much better than the 80 minute wait to get our picture taken with Mickey Mouse. Still, there probably wasn't a single moment throughout the day when I didn't hear some screaming kid somewhere within earshot. Usually it was one of my kids doing the screaming. Altogether we probably had about three total breakdowns and six or seven good cries from the rides. There were an order of magnitude more laughs and smiles, though. At least it was good exercise having a child in my arms or on my shoulders for 14 hours in a single day. I shouldn't really complain; I'd do it again in a heartbeat and did have fun. My rating: six aspirin spread throughout the day at 6 hour intervals.