Thursday, November 28, 2019

Dandy Highwayman (Troika! Background)

Troika! is a weird and wonderful science-fantasy RPG from Daniel Sells based on the classic Fighting Fantasy rpgs from the UK. It's intended as a love-letter to Planescape but with a dedication to never explain anything about the setting in the official books. 

"Backgrounds" are an essential part of the character creation process, as they determine the skills and abilities your character starts with (but not what they end with). There's broad collection of strange backgrounds in the book, and the Troika fanbase has had a lot of fun creating and sharing their own. 
I've been killing time by putting together my own backgrounds. It's pretty easy and very fun. When I get enough written up, I'll probably put them into a simple zine. Until then…

Dandy Highwayman
Qua qua, da diddly, qua qua, da diddly

Clothes. More than just a way to keep you warm and dry, they’re an extension of your soul, your personality, your inner self. Fashion is ever-changing, and what’s flash and new last week is dull and gauche now. You’re obsessed with clothes and the fickle whims of fashion, so much so that you’ve turned to thievery to fund your obsession. But no brutish thug, you. You’re a dandy highway man with swagger and poise. It’s important to look good while you rob from the rich and give to your closet. 

You’ve exhausted the sartorial possibilities of your homeworld (or maybe there’s too much heat from the constabulary). Now you’ve come to Troika to see what the Humpback Sky has to offer in the ways of fashion. 

  • 2 very Fancy pistolets
  • Belt with six plasmic cores
  • Flashy clothes, including mask and cloak (+2 to Swagger)
  • Face paint
  • Mount (horse, ostrich, strider bug, or some similar large beast)

  • 3 Swagger
  • 2 Riding
  • 2 Pistolet Fighting
  • 2 Sneak
  • 3 Fashion Sense

Every month, you must spend fully half your income on flashy new clothes. If you do, you gain +2 on all Swagger rolls. If you don’t, you receive -2 on all Luck rolls until you update your wardrobe. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Last 48 Hours for "Leopard Women of Venus" Kickstarter!

Unrestrained self promotion!

As of this writing, Leopard Women of Venus of Venus has less than 48 hours left in its Kickstarter campaign. It's been a wild ride!

We've hit our first stretch goal, and we'll be able to hire Stefan Poag to do art for the book. That's super exciting!

I'm very much hoping that we'll reach the $4000 dollar mark, so we can bring my friend Anne Hunter (DIY & Dragons) onto the team. Our plan is to have her write a new supernatural patron for book--some kind of powerful super computer connected to the Caverns and the Science Robots. Anne talks at length about her ideas on her last blog post: "I Shall Destroy All Civilized Stretch Goals." A mixture of Futurama and Star Trek? Yes please!

The LWoV Kickstarter runs through November 20.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Acadecon 2019--Games I ran and Played

This past weekend I went to Acadecon in Dayton for the first time. It’s a smaller con, a few hundred attendees maybe. I spent way too much money on the (admittedly nice) hotel, but the con staff were all friendly and the whole thing seemed very well organized, which is more than I can say about a lot of cons of this size (BASHcon).

I had registered to run two Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures, and I signed up to play in a few other games over the weekend. This is how things went.

Friday afternoon I ran “Sanctum of the Snail” from Crepusucular #1. Not surprisingly, I can pretty much run this game in my sleep. I had three players—one who had played DCC a few times at cons, one who had played DCC, like, once, and a third who had never played DCC but had heard stories about its unique and deadly experience. All together they had 12 zero-level zeds ready to run through the funnel.

I don’t get a lot of TPKs as a GM. Perhaps my hippy-dippy upbringing has made me soft. But this session wound up a total blood-bath. Things looked pretty promising for the players at the start, when they all got initiative over the Sharkboys and raced through the sanctum door to relative before the monsters could attack any of them. Things went down-hill quickly after that.

Post-game, when I shared the dungeon map and went through the adventure a bit, one of the players quipped “Wow, we really did take the path of most resistance!” Through no fault of their own, they missed every weapon cache, armor stash, magical benny, and treasure pile. Gong farmers fell like cordwood, the party split up, and the “replace your PCs here” room was avoided. Blorgamorg was never encountered.

The swarm of 1hp floating skulls were the worst menace. The fragile little monsters chewed up the PCs while bad dice rolls prevented the heroes from landing blows. The last three survivors managed to make it all the way to the Snail Sorceress’s bedroom, but breaking down the door created a lot of noise that attracted Chaos Slug Men. These wandering monsters were the death stroke for the party. All hands lost.

And yet! Despite that, the players all had fun. They knew DCC’s rep, they knew what they were getting into, and they had the proper DCC experience. Good times all around!

I didn’t run anything on Saturday, but I got to play in three different games. All Out of Bubblegum is one of those one-page mini-RPGs you find on Reddit. This one was about playing 80s action dudes. It was very silly and fun, and run by one of the guys from the Critcast podcast (which I will have to check out now).

Also, a gift from Chris Lauricella!
Later, I got to play Shadow of the Demon Lord for the first time. I’ve been meaning to try it out for some time. The adventure was a pretty linear—take this evil artifact to the obelisk and destroy it—but it did a good job of demonstrating the system and setting. That’s what I want from a demo game! The GM was also engaging and system-smart, so kudos to him.

My last game on Saturday was Worlds in Peril, run by another of the Critcast fellows. Worlds in Peril is a “Powered by the Apocalypse” superhero game. I love PBtA games, and I love superheroes, but I’ve never found a supers RPG that I really loved. I’m not sure this is it yet, but I like how “Bonds” worked a lot. I still have to find a group to play Masks: A New Generation with.

On Sunday, my Leopard Women co-conspirator Leighton “Laser Ponies” Connor came up from Cincinnati to play. We had a power-brunch at Waffle House, then went back to the con to do some “Saucer Full of Secrets.” “Saucer” is the zero-level funnel for LeopardWomen of Venus. I’ve run it once before at Gencon, while LC has ran it a couple of times himself at various cons. LC would play some zeroes in this session, but he’s very good at “fading into the back” and letting the other players run things. All together, I had six players with 18 zeds in total.

The adventure started with the gathered zeds receiving their mission from Forecastle J. MacBeth, leader of the Humanoid Coalition and my favorite NPC. The party needed to cross through the dangerous jungle to a crater where an alien spaceship had crashed 72 hours previous. They were to salvage what they could from the saucer and find out what had happened to the previous retrieval team.

The trek across the jungle was treated like a dungeon, with paths connecting to various clearings. No need to overwhelm new players with wilderness-crawl rules right out the gate, I figure. The party encountered a shrine to Fantomah, got the jump on some Martian scouts, fought a deranged Flying Saurian, and avoided the deadly Venusian Bees. Little-to-no casualties at this point, thanks to luck and sound tactics.

When the party arrived at Gorgon’s Gorge, things started to turn. Three giant flaming claws smashed, squeezed, and burned several members of the party before they were destroyed.

Eventually the party found the wrecked saucer and set to exploring it. The radium miner’s geiger counter let them avoid the ruptured core at the center of the craft. The Martian cafeteria seemed promising until mutated slime puddings dropped from the ceiling killed several of their number. The sadistic surgical robot the oversaw the bio-lab also managed kill some of the players before getting scrapped. The Martian barracks were the most deadly of course, as a cadre of Martian pikemen and gunners winnowed down the PC party. When they party eventually decided to examine the saucer’s power core, the co-mingled monstrosity that was once two members of the original team killed several more PCs (It had three attacks!). At long last, the PCs managed to rescue the two survivors from the original expedition and were able to call in MacBeth for an extraction. Of the 18 level-zeroes that started the adventure, only seven made it out alive. That’s what I call a good funnel adventure!

Acadecon was fun, and if Dayton’s in your travel zone, you should consider checking it out. My only real problem was that it was the first convention in a long time (maybe ever?) that I attended by myself without buddies or family. That makes for some boring downtime. If I go back, I’ll certainly need to bring company.


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Leopard Women of Venus for Troika!

The Kickstarter for Leopard Women of Venus still has 18 days to go, and we’re just $400 away from funding. If you haven’t checked LWoV out yet, click the link above and give it a look-see! I think you’ll like it.

Speaking of crazy sci-fi-fantasy settings, I’ve spoken before about how much I love Daniel Sell’s Troika. I think Leopard Woman would fit in quite well beneath the Hump-Backed Sky, executing who knows what kind of missions for the sinister Science Robots. So here they are as a Troika background.

Leopard Woman of Venus

You once were a normal citizen with a caste and a job--just a comfortable cog in a subterranean techno-socialist “utopia.” Then your masters, the Science Robots, chose you for some reason. They filled you with radioactive leopard blood and rewired your brain with pranic circuitry, making you faster, stronger, better. Now it’s your duty to defend Venus from all manner of alien evil. What threats does the city of Troika hide?

  • Comet Fire Helmet (as fusil)
  • 3 Plasmic Cores
  • Leopard Skin Armor (modest armor)
  • Flying Saurian (Medium beast, flies)

Advanced Skills
  • 3 Saurian Riding
  • 3 Comet Fire Helmet Fighting
  • 2 Hand-to-Hand Fighting
  • 2 Propaganda
  • 2 Spell: Leopard Blood

Leopard Blood (X)
The Leopard Woman channels her prana through the irradiated leopard blood coursing through her veins. She gains a bonus to her Skill on her next action equal to the number of Vitality she spent when casting the spell.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Leopard Women of Venus: now on Kickstarter!

If the blog has been quiet lately, it’s because we’ve been very busy down here in the Flumphwerks. And what we’ve been busy with is Leopard Women of Venus!

I’ve talked about Leopard Women of Venus (LWoV) before, but I’m going to go into a bit more detail here. LWoV is a psychotronic sci-fi setting based on the works of cult-favorite Golden Age cartoonist Fletcher Hanks. I’ve called Fletcher Hanks the “Ed Wood of old comics,” because his imagination outpaced his talents. His artwork is weird, often grotesque, and his stories are simple, lurid, and violent. But there’s a weird, fever-dream imagination behind them that really speaks to some core part of me and Leighton’s (my co-writer) creative muses.

Leighton Introduced me to Fletcher Hanks around 2010, when he showed me a few pages out of I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets, the first volume of Hanks’s collected works. I was intrigued, and over the next year or so we put together a setting book for QAGS called “Leopard Women of Venus” all inspired by this initial panel:

Years went by, and now Leighton and I decided to update and rewrite LWoV for Dungeon Crawl Classics. The weird pulpy insanity of Hank’s sci-fi, superhero, and adventure stories lend them selves well to the amped-to-eleven nature of DCC.

How Do You Make a Game Based on Fletcher Hanks?

That’s a good question. If you’re familiar with Hanks’s work, you know that he’s not big on world building, or character development or even plot. Most Hanks stories are only 6 to 8 pages long. A villain executes some crazy scheme, and out overly-powerful hero swoops in and brutally murders them in the name of justice. This brutal justice is often meted out in creatively disgusting fashions. In the hands of a more focused writer, the punishments would be ironic, but for Hanks they’re just weird. Occasionally there’s a small setback for the hero that he has to overcome to complete that W-shaped plot, but for the most part the stories are simple and direct.

Since there’s not a lot to base a game world on, Leighton and I used Hanks’s work as a springboard for our own imagination. We put all of Hanks’s best known characters (Stardust, Fantomah, Space Smith) as well as his most used tropes (giant insects, fear of spies, bug-eyed monsters, toxic jungles, bodily mutation or mutilation), put them in a big ol’ blender, then mooshed that psychotronic slurry into a cohesive sci-fi setting.

Fantomah and Stardust are omni-powerful, nearly godlike beings, so they work perfectly as Patrons. The jungles of Venus are ruled by giant spiders. Uncanny chemical deposits spawn strange mutations in humans, animals, and plants. Monsters crave human flesh. And the struggling human settlements must always be on the lookout for enemy agents.

On top of that we layered our own creations. The human settlements of Palna, Avrok, Otram, and the Caverns are all terrible places to live, each with cultural baggage amped up to toxic levels. The Humanoid Coalition is the one real force of good on Venus, dedicated to bringing something like balance between the human factions and getting them to work together against the apocalyptic threats to the planet.

If you’ve read anything else that I’ve written, you know what to expect from LWoV. It’s not a comedy setting, per se. But we take a ridiculous premise and deal with it straight. It’s weird, and a maybe a little disturbing in places, but not distressing. It’s quirky, and there are some jokes, but it’s not funny-ha-ha. It skews towards “gonzo” but there’s an internal logic to things (mostly).

The Team!

This is already getting too long, and I didn’t really want to turn it into a commercial. But I want to tell you about the artists and editors we have lined up. Aside from Leighton and I, we have a great group of illustrators lined up: Brad McDevitt, Juan Navarro, Evlyn Moreau, Diogo Nogueira, James V. West, Matt Kish, and the legendary Erol Otus! Additionally, we’ve got two great editors to catch all the typos and comma splices and make sure our sentences make sense: Steve “Dollar Sign” John$on and Fiona Geist.

And so…

You guys, I’m very excited about this book. We’ve added so much more to the original QAGS version while tightening up stuff that just doesn’t work any more. DCC is a great fit for LWoV, and I badly want to get it out to the world!

You can check out the free preview zine to get a taste of LWoV right HERE.
You can check out the Kickstarter right HERE.

I’m sure I’ll talk about the project more here over the next few weeks. But come back next time for more Troika stuff!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Veteran of the Time War (Troika Background)

Read this article at BernieTheFlumph,com!

Troika! is a weird and wonderful science-fantasy RPG from Daniel Sells based on the classic Fighting Fantasy rpgs from the UK. It's intended as a love-letter to Planescape but with a dedication to never explain anything abut the setting in the official books.

"Backgrounds" are an essential part of the character creation process, as they determine the skills and abilities your character starts with (but not what they end with). There's broad collection of strange backgrounds in the book, and the Troika fanbase has had a lot of fun creating and sharing their own.

I've been killing time by putting together my own backgrounds. It's pretty easy and very fun. When I get enough written up, I'll probably put them into a simple zine. Until then, here's the Veteran of the Time War.

Veteran of the Time Wars

Proud, ancient Chronotopia was the most advanced civilization in the multiverse. Its noble chrononauts were dedicated to the observation and preservation of the timeline, never interfering with history except when they felt like it. Then the Null Collective came from the Darkness Between with a hunger to devour all of time and space. The Time War raged across a thousand multiverses, creating and destroying infinite realities over the course of a hundred lifetimes.

Now the Time War has ended. The Null Collective was erased, but Chronotopia was reduced to a ruined cinder floating in dead space. You are the only survivor. Now you’re in Troika with nothing but your trusty cosmic multi-tool and the smoking wreckage of your Impossibility Engine. Is this strange city some fragment of a forgotten realty broken off from an aborted universe? What is its connection to the Time War? No one seems to know.

  • Many layers of vintage clothing (counts as light armor)
  • Unreasonably long scarf
  • Cosmic multi-tool (+2 on all tinkering rolls, except screwdriving, which is -2)
  • Irreparably ruined Impossibility Engine.

Advanced Skills
  • 2 Mathmology
  • 3 Universal Trivia
  • 2 Tinkering
  • 4 Verbosity
  • 2 Awareness
  • 1 Running

Thanks to your people’s advanced evolution and connection to the Time Matrix, your body has remarkable regenerative abilities. If you die, permanently reduce your Luck score by 1 and give your character sheet to the GM. They will change three Advanced Skills on your sheet (retaining their current score) and give it back to you. At the end of the scene, you wake up with a new face and full Stamina. Describe your character’s new appearance and personality.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Millennium Tortoises

Read this article at!

The seaside village of Siltmere is famous for two things. One is the high-quality paper products made from native silt-reeds. The other is the millennium tortoises.

Millennium tortoises are large terrapins with kindly eyes and long white beards. The tortoises are given free rein in Siltmere, allowed to roam wherever they wish. Injuring a tortoise is a
grievous crime, punishable by an overnight stay in the eel pits. At any given time, 50-100 millennium tortoises can be found wandering the flowered and sandy streets of Siltmere.

Residents of Siltmere use exotic inks to write poetry on the shells of living millennium tortoises, believing that it brings good luck. This has also become a popular tourist activity. The tortoises don’t seem to mind.

Millennium Tortoise (DCC stats)

AC: 16; HD: 3d6 (10hp)
Init: -2; Action Die: 1d20; Attacks: bite, +3 melee (1 damage)
Saves: Ref +0, Fort +3, Will +6
Move: 10'; Alignment: L

  • A character that takes at least 30 minutes to write poetry on the shell of a millennium tortoise gains 1d4 Luck. A character can only benefit from this blessing once in their life.
  • Millennium tortoises are beloved by the gods. A character loses 1 Luck each time they attack a millennium tortoise, whether they hit or not.