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 BernieTheFlumph.com!

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. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Blade of the Black Pyramid & Left Hand of Abaddon

Read this article on BernieTheFlumph.com!

Within the libraries, vaults, and trophy rooms of Goatheart Castle, Prospero the sorcerer hoards many artifacts of singular magic and alien provenance. One of his most prized possessions is a large chunk of ancient amber the size of large man’s torso. Suspended within the milky orange stone the scaly red hand of a demon clutches a black sword of unknown metal. These are the Blade of the Black Pyramid and the Left Hand of Abaddon.

Blade of the Black Pyramid

The Blade of the Black Pyramid (also known as Khaturial-Xuuth, Sword of the Bleak and Inevitable Overlords, or the Gateway to Suffering) is a short-bladed sword with a downward curve, similar to a Greek kopis. It is made from a single piece of matte black metal, etched with adamic script that reads “By your soul are legions made.”

The Blade is a small weapon that normally inflicts 1d6 damage. In the hands of a chaotic character, the sword does 1d8 damage. Against lawful targets, the sword does 1d10 damage. Chaotic characters add their Charisma modifier to their attack rolls with the Black Blade, in addition to their Strength modifier. A chaotic spellcaster can also place one spell (of any level) into the sword to store for later use. You can cast spell from the Blade, even if you aren’t a spellcaster. 

If you try to use the Blade, and you aren’t chaotic, you must make a saving throw vs death or take 3d6 damage (half damage on a successful save). If this damage kills you, you are burned to ash and your soul is destroyed. 

If you are chaotic, you can handle the sword safely, but the hilt brands your hand with adamic script that praises the dark glories of the Bleak and Inevitable Overlords.

If you are so branded by the Blade (whether you still possess the sword or not) you will dream of the Black Pyramid every 1d4 weeks. Under a red sky, black stars weep tar across a desert of teeth while the Black Pyramid rises from a forest of alien bones. Reality bleeds where the pyramid’s point tears lose the scab of reality. The voices of the Bleak and Inevitable Overlords ooze like an infected wound, dripping poison in your ear. “You. Are. The. Gate.”

Then you wake up. Make a save vs polymorph. If you fail, an astral parasite attaches itself to your aura. Over the next 4d6 weeks, this invisible and etheric plasmoid will feed on your soul and grow. Your Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma modifiers instantly drop by 2 each. Your Strength modifier increases by 2. You must eat three times as much food during this period, but you do not dream of the Black Pyramid. A Dispel Evil spell has a 50% chance of removing the astral parasite. 

At the end of the 4d6 weeks, at a time the GM determines to be the least convenient for you, you vomit a fully formed demon out of your mouth. This process takes 1d6 rounds, during which time you are wracked with pain and cannot take any actions. This violent oral expulsion inflicts 1d4 damage upon you for each level you possess. Your Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and strength modifier instantly return to normal. 

Roll up the demon’s stats as if created by the Summon spell, with Hit Die equal to your level (minimum 1). It is unbound, but is not immediately hostile to you. Your companions and bystanders are a different matter. The demon will wreak havoc for 1 round per HD and then disappear in a cloud of opium and brimstone. If the demon is not slain before it returns to Hell (and you are not dead), you gain 100xp for each point of damage you suffered while vomiting it up. 

1d4 weeks later you dream of the Black Pyramid again.

Left Hand of Abaddon

This is the red and scaly left hand of a demon, along with half the forearm. It smells of vinegar and has glossy black nails and golden rings which cannot be removed. You can chop off your own hand and replace it with this. It will instantly stick to the stump, like Manglor but better.

Once so bonded, you can use the Left Hand of Abaddon to safely pick up items with curses triggered by alignment (like the Blade of the Black Pyramid) regardless of what your alignment might actually be. 

The Hand also lets you access several powers. Activating a power causes you 1d6 Charisma damage each time. The GM should roll and this damage in secret, so you never know how close you are to 0. How NPCs react to you should give you some clue, though. 
This Charisma damage can only be healed by killing humans. You regain 1d3 CHA point per human you kill (you must strike the deathblow) regardless of level or Hit Dice. The GM also keeps this total secret, but they will tell you when you’re back to your normal score. 

If using the Hand’s powers brings you to 0 Charisma, your soul is sent to Hell and your body is immediately transformed into the new body of Abaddon (a Pit Fiend). Abbadon will be happy to be returned to the mortal world. In his infernal mercy, he has a 4-in-6 chance of letting any of your present companions leave without a fight. Then he’ll get down to some important demon work. 

Powers of the Hand (each use costs 1d6 Charisma)
  • Blast a fan of flames 20’ long in a 90’ arc, doing 1d6 damage per Charisma point lost. Targets can save vs Breath for half. 
  • Cast Charm Person. Target has a penalty to their save equal to the Charisma lost. 
  • Your next attack has +1 to hit and damage for each point of Charisma lost. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

30 to 50 Feral Hogs (for DCC)

A Swarm of 30-50 Feral Hogs

Init: +1; AC: 10; HD: 10d8 (40hp)
Act: 4d20; MV: 30’; AL: C
Attack: Hog-Gobble +6 melee (1d8)
Saves: Fort: +6; Ref: +2; Wil: +5

Swarm: A mass of 30-50 feral hogs covers a 30’x30’ area and acts as one large creature. The swarm can move through and occupy the same space as other creatures without penalty. Creatures caught up within the swarm move at half speed. Each action die allows the swarm to attack every creature caught within the swarm’s area (make one roll and compare it to each individual’s AC).

Wee wee wee...: As the swarm takes damage, individual hogs die and its effectiveness is reduced. For every 10 points of damage the swarm suffers, it loses 1 Action Die.
  • 31-40hp = 4d10
  • 21-30hp = 3d10
  • 11-20hp = 2d20
  • 0-10hp = 1d20

Child Eater: A child reduced to 0hp by a feral hog attack is immediately devoured. The swarm is invigorated, regaining 1d6hp. Additionally, on the next round, all the swarm’s Action Dice are increased to d24s.

2nd Amendment Solutions: As everyone knows, a swarm of 30-50 feral hogs is especially susceptible to gunfire. The swarm takes double damage from firearms. For the sake of your children, I can only pray your campaign has guns.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Gencon 2019 Recap

Read this article at BernieTheFlumph.com!

We got home from Gencon last night. Today is my recovery day, where I rest and recoop from the travel and convention hangover. For the past three years, I’ve gone to Gencon with my wife and kid as our family vacation. This year we shared an AirBnB with my Leopard Women co-author Leighton Connor and his family. It was a pleasant experience, and much more enjoyable than the cheap hotels we normally use. In brief, this was my best Gencon ever, with a lot of personal, professional, and emotional high-points. I feel somewhat guilty saying this, because for some of the other Hex Games folks, this was the worst Gencon ever.

For the past 5 years I've had emergency car problems the day before (or the day of) Gencon. This year we finally seemed to break the curse, as we had no car issues. I fear our bad luck may have bounced onto some friends, though. At 3am Saturday, the Extended Stay caught on fire, displacing over 200 people. Two of our Hex Games people both had rooms there. No one was hurt, but they ended up convention-homeless and wound up leaving early. Now the hotel and Expedia are dicking them over on refunds. It’s a pretty crappy turn of events.

But as I said, for me Gencon went pretty good. I’m going to go over the highs and lows with a series of bullet-points, because I’m still tired and don’t feel like writing actual prose. It's gonna sound name-droppy as hell, but seriously, these people all made my Gencon great.

The Recap...
The Connors and the Burnetts shared an AirBnB in town and used Lyft to go back and forth to the con. This turned out to be pretty cost effective and gave us all a lot of freedom of movement. A successful experiment I will use again!

I ran Hobomancers vs Dracula on Thursday with a group of repeat Hobomancer players. It went well. I’ve run Hobomancer games every Gencon for the last six years or so, and I think this might be my last one for a bit. I’ve just run out of ideas for it.

On Saturday I ran two sessions of Apocalypse Truckers using QAGS. I ran this once before at Archon, and these sessions both went nice and smooth with a lot of weird grindhouse action with truckers, Hot Wheels, and skin-eating alien demon mutants.

Aside from running, I got to play in three scheduled games this year—a Phantasmagoria DCC game run by Chance Phillips, Sword of the Jungle Deep (DCC) by Ian Smalls, a DCC Lankhmar game run by Michael Curtis. All great fun.

My cousin Kerwin and my wife Ivy
as Capn's Hammer and Marvel
My wife and our kid are both cosplayers. They both spend most of the con running with their cosplay friends. We didn’t see our (adult-aged) kid for most of the con. My wife got a lot of compliments on her Captain Marvel outfit. I also thought her Yennifer was pretty cool.

I spent Thursday and Friday evenings at the Embassy Suites lobby hanging out with the DCC/DIY crowd. The DCC crowd are just simply the best. Friendly, supportive, and fun. Bob and Jen Brinkman, Dieter Zimmerman, Brendan LaSalle, and other people I’m sure I’m forgetting (apologies!).

On Thursday at the Embasy, I got to play in a pick-up game of Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, run by Mike Evans, with a table full of Ennie winners and noms. It was a great game. Mike is a very active and engaging GM, as well as being one of the friendliest guys you could hope to meet. Back his Kickstarter!

On Friday night I ran a Leopard Women of Venus funnel at the embassy for Justin Ryan Issac (the man with three first names!), Eric Bloat, and Leighton. This was the first-ever session of LWoV for DCC, and I’m happy to say it looks like a winner!

Throughout the week, I was very happy to have a several chances to hang out with Lloyd Gyan and Jim Ryan, internet friends that I only ever get to see at Gencon. I wish we had more time. I hope they come back next year.

By Sunday I was thoroughly exhausted and tired. So much so that I sadly had to forgo my Sunday evening game. There was simply no way I was going to survive until 7pm and still drive safely home. It’s too bad, too, because it was a Mothership game and I badly wanted to play.

I actually didn’t spend a lot of time in the Dealer’s Room. As expected, Goodman Games got the most of my money, and I bought some original art from Brad McDevitt, including the original Bathory piece from Draugr & Draculas. In addition to a couple of modules, I also now have a new DCC shirt, hat, and numchucks. I also had some nice conversations with Peter Mullen and Joseph Goodman. Have I mentioned how much I like the DCC crowd? (Is this what it’s like to be in a cult?)

The picture to the right of our Gencon stash is going to make that previous statement look like a lie, but I swear to you most of that pile comes from my wife because women are always shopping, am I right fellas? *tugs at imaginary tie*

I don’t have a clever way to fit hum into a bullet point, but it was nice to sit and talk with Andy Davis for a while, too. Hi Andy!

Jarret Crader and I kept running into each other when I was in the middle of a game session or running to meet my Lyft. Sorry we didn’t get to chat more, Jarret!

Saturday night, The Hex Games crew and families left the downtown area to go have our “Staff Dinner” away from the press and scramble of the convention. It was nice to sit and relax for an hour or two at the steakhouse.

Leigthon and I passed out several dozen copies of our preview zine for Leopard Women, which got some very excited responses. That’s awesome! We have a limited number left, and I’ll figure out how to get rid of them relatively soon. Keep your eyes peeled.

I am very pleased that people are excited about LWoV, and I am very happy that people are still enjoying Sanctum of the Snail. I was walking on air for a lot of the week, and it was a great way to burn away the imposter syndrome. I’m fully charged, creatively, and I’m eager to continue my current projects and start up some new ones later.

I’m sorry if I forgot to mention anyone I met! My brain is still full of mush!

I’m sure I have a ton of email to go through, that I can’t possibly imagine getting to until tomorrow.

My next convention should be Acadecon in Dayton in November. Those three months are going to go by quick if I’m not careful. I’m also re-dedicated to finally make it to Garycon next year, but we’ll still have to see how that goes.