- New, improved Divine Lore—Saturday, September 28th, 2013
The new Divine Lore is in a lot better shape. Because I’m syncing it with a database of spirit manifestations now, the list of manifestations per spirit type and per level should be more reliable; I no longer need to remember to change names in three different places.
Another advantage is that I can put the reverse versions in alphabetically with a note to see the normal version. I didn’t do that before because the risk of leaving in outdated information was much too high. At the moment, I’m only showing what’s different with the reverse version, but there’s no reason the reverse version couldn’t have a full entry.
While working on this and the online database, I’ve realized that reverse versions of spirit manifestations don’t make a lot of game sense. With spells, having a version and a reverse version means that, in-game, knowing one spell gives both versions, and memorizing one spell opens the possibility of using both versions. But prophets don’t memorize spirit manifestations; a spirit can manifest anything of its type. The only reason for keeping reverse versions of manifestations is the general idea that there are things the prophet can do with a spirit, and for some of those things, the reverse is also possible.
But from a rule sense, there’s no mechanical difference between marking animal bane as the reverse of animal call or just having two separate entries for animal bane and animal call. So I’ll be thinking about that.
As a side note, the on-line HTML version includes full stats for deities now that my conversion script handles floating content.
Also, don’t forget that you can also use the spirit manifestation database to create prayerbooks and spirit manifestation cheat sheets for your prophets!
- Lulu, Nisus, and Gods & Monsters—Monday, September 16th, 2013
I’ve just published the latest and greatest Gods & Monsters rulebook to Lulu.com; if you want a printed copy, it’s now available for order. This is the final copy; I don’t foresee any changes for quite a while.
If you’ve been downloading the latest PDFs as they become available, you might have noticed that some of them now have outlines (a table of contents that’s readable by PDF browsers) and links from the table of contents to the appropriate page. That’s because the latest version of Nisus automatically creates an outline for PDFs based on the table of contents. It also supports links, and automatically creates links from the table of contents to the page referenced. This makes them much easier to use on a tablet device, such as an iPad. It can also create links to online resources, such as this blog.
Obviously, this only affects documents created in Nisus; for now, that means the main rules, Lost Castle of the Astronomers, The Adventure Guide’s Handbook, Divine Lore, and The World of Highland. I’ll be slowly moving the others over as the bug hits me.
Nisus 2.0.x is also why I’m able to use Lulu.com again. Lulu doesn’t support the multiple font subsets feature from Adobe’s PDF standard, and Mac OS X’s Preview uses it when converting Postscript files to PDF files or even just saving a PDF. The version of Word that I’m using doesn’t support vector images well; for the most part, it either converts them to a bitmap or ignores them entirely unless printing to a postscript printer. This means that, to create the PDFs from a Word document that I upload to the blog or to Lulu, I need to first print Word documents to a postscript file and then open in Preview and save as a PDF.
But using Preview runs the risk of triggering this issue at the Lulu.com end, which is why you don’t see a Helter Skelter or a House of Lisport up on Lulu, as cool as I think those adventures are.
Nisus allows me to save directly to PDF while maintaining vector graphics. For the moment, at least, this doesn’t trigger any unsupported PDF features.
Lulu.com is awesome for hobbyists, but it’s also occasionally frustrating. This issue is the biggest example I’ve run into. Lulu.com’s postscript conversion didn’t work, and opening the postscript file myself and saving as PDF triggered their multiple font declaration bug.
- Life in a Medieval Castle—Saturday, September 14th, 2013
- The Castle Comes to England
- The Lord of the Castle
- The Castle as a House
- The Lady
- The Household
- A Day in the Castle
- Hunting as a Way of Life
- The Villagers
- The Making of a Knight
- The Castle at War
- The Castle Year
- The Decline of the Castle
There’s also a short glossary of castle terms, a short glossary of feudal terms, a geographical guide to “Great Medieval Castles”, and a fairly lengthy bibliography.
Some of the interesting things I’ve learned are that castles often had entrances only on the second floor: the easiest way to keep attackers from bursting the front door is to not have one. The first floor would be used for storage, with, potentially, small slits for combat.
If the climate includes cold weather, there is likely to be a fireplace somewhere near the living quarters set into thick stone so that the stone retains warmth after the fire burns low.
Besides a well or other water source nearby, there might be a cistern on an upper level, with pipes leading down to provide lower levels with easy access to water—that sounds like a fun thing to add to an abandoned dungeon.
Also, castles were too big for an outhouse, so they had garderobe’s built in, usually nestled in a buttress at the end of a short passage, or corbeled out over a moat or river or a long shaft to the ground.
Two of the more interesting chapters are the ones on the villagers around the castle, and the year in castle life.
A peasant’s possessions consisted of three or four benches and stools, a trestle table, a chest, one or two iron or brass pots, a little pottery ware, wooden bowls, cups, and spoons, linen towels, wool blankets, iron tools, and, most important, his livestock. A reasonably prosperous villager owned hens and geese, a few skinny half-wild razor-backed hogs, a cow or even two, perhaps a couple of sheep, and his pair of plow oxen.
They also talk about the villein (the non-free villager, or serf, though “the term was less common in England”) who owed two or three days of labor a week to their lord, and who “could not leave his land or sell his livestock without permission”.
There were also the free tenants, who did not owe labor:
- Playing at the World—Monday, August 12th, 2013
“An author investigating the history of wargames and role-playing games.”
I’ve just added Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World to the blogroll. Peterson is the author of a book with the same name, on gaming history. On his blog, he expands on ideas in the book and he also introduces new snippets of gaming history—from oddities in letterhead to dice notation.
- Gods, Monsters, Spells, and One-Page Dungeons—Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
Over the last two months I’ve found several intriguing and strange compendiums useful for Gods & Monsters or any old-school game.
All of them, at this time, are free.
Space Age Sorcery
Many of those 100 names are weirdly evocative, such as Squamosity, Spasm of Horror, and Subatomic Reembroidery.
If you’re looking for some wicked-twisted spells that a cyborg sorcerer from a shoggoth-haunted nuclear waste- land might have on-hand or you want to give the next bunch of foul cultists something with a little more oomph than a few magic missile spells, we’ve got you covered.
The spells themselves are “costly… gonzo batshit terrifying… [and] gross”. They’re categorized as Clerical spells and Magic-User spells; the only stats are spell level, range, and duration. You’ll need to make up any other necessary stats (or pull them from the description) as needed.
The back has a page of 1d6 spell-based scenario seeds, a page of 1d6 random magic items, and a page of 1d6 encounters.
Some of the spells are themselves adventure seeds:
Existential Excision: The caster may remove a noticeable portion of the existence of any one entity, including the caster. Whether this is physical, mental or spiritual in nature is entirely at the whim of the caster. The portion of the victim’s existence that is so removed can be used, bartered, or embedded into some relic or object, even simply consumed, but only by someone other than whomever originally cast this spell.
It’s a work-in-progress, so you’ll want to subscribe to their blog as well. As of version 1.5, Space Age Sorcery has 23 pages of spells and other things. It looks like a great addition to a game that includes both fantasy and ancient technology, with a bit of horror thrown in.
Subtitled “A compendium of unusual deities for Labyrinth Lord”, the compendium of Petty Gods sports a 2010 foreword from Paul Jaquays and a nice cover by Thomas Denmark. The back section includes an essay by M.A.R. Barker, “Create a Religion In Your Spare Time for Fun and Profit.”
- Roll20 and Gods & Monsters—Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Because the Gods & Monsters maps are made with layers in Inkscape, they are easy to repurpose to other uses. For example, Rob Conley, several weeks ago, mentioned Roll20 over at Bat in the Attic. Roll20 accepts PNG and PDF images, and it honors transparency.
To create the player map, I unchecked visibility on everything except for the map itself: no grid, no key, no secret places.
Then, for the GM overlay, I unchecked everything except for the key. Because Roll20 honors transparency in PNG files, the map shows through.
The “fog of war” is especially useful: it lets you show only the specific part of the map they’re currently able to see. Fog of war is a setting in the page’s settings from the gear in the page toolbar. It’s only drawback is the lack of reveal shapes. There are only two reveal tools: rectangular and polygonal. So you can make any shape you want, as long as it has corners. This makes it a bit tricky to reveal full tower rooms or grand balconies without revealing the areas beyond the tower or balcony. You need to be careful setting up the polygon.
Very cool—with a caveat—is the map measurement tool. It quickly shows distances simply by drawing a line from start to finish. That’s as long as you aren’t looking at an overview of the entire map: the size of the measurement number scales down with the map, so if you set the map to be 20% size, the measurement number is also 20% size, practically unreadable.
- The Secret Bookshelf—Sunday, May 12th, 2013
You’re in your run-down school, and you get into a fight near the books. You’re pushed back into them—and the bookshelf slides back to reveal a secret passage! Sounds like the beginning of a fantasy book, but for Sarah Hoyt (author of, among many other things, A Few Good Men), it was real.
In today’s post she describes a scene from her childhood in Portugal, unruly kids going to school in a re-purposed earl’s palace:
However, in our exploits, while we were being little (or in my case big) monkeys, we shoved at this big cupboard that looked built in, and which was used for school supplies. Okay, there was a fist fight (me? I was more likely to kick. Honestly I don’t even remember if I was engaged, because what happened next wiped it all out of my head) and one or more people fell heavily against the cupboard, which swung away, creakily, on hinges and long-disused wheels, revealing… a passageway.
Did we go down it? Are you kidding? Wild horses couldn’t have stopped us. For one, they wouldn’t have fit into the passage.
We went into it, and found ourselves in this sort of box high up on the side of one of the most magnificent churches I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure what was the point of the secret passage, unless someone didn’t wish it known she prayed a lot.
The church was all in ruins, of course, and smelled strongly of mouse whee. In retrospect, I think that the people from the great glorious revolution—no, no, the anti-monarchist one—which was strongly anti-religion sealed all other accesses to the church so well that, barring a drawing of the building by an architect, no one suspected it was there.
Anyway, the church had been decorated in the baroque style (yes, RES, they were going for Baroque) which means that it had enough gold everything that even in a corroded and tarnished condition it looked like Donald Trump’s wet dream. It also means that the various saint statues were in positions of martyrdom and had expressions that could be either of extreme pain or orgasm, and it was best not to look too closely. Saint Sebastian, pierced by however many arrows might have seen heaven close, but the smile was still disquieting.
Anyway, to the right of the altar, directly facing the box we were in was the best statue of Senhora das dores that I’ve ever seen “Lady of the Pains” is the straight translation, but I think in the States she might be known as Madre Dolores, thereby giving rise to a number of women named Dolores. Her chest is pierced by seven swords, and she looks up to heaven with an ecstatic/painful expression.
Believe it or not, this is Hoyt’s Mother’s Day post. I can‘t imagine what I would have done finding a secret passage behind the ancient copy of Thunderball in our Catholic grade school. It’s like a real-world Scooby Doo. But with mouse pee.
- Remington Steele’s Detection Lesson: The Cluedunnit—Friday, April 5th, 2013
If you have not yet seen the first-season Remington Steele episode Hearts of Steele, watch it first. This episode is a classic cluedunnit, which means that I can’t talk about it without giving away a significant part of the enjoyment of the show.
Mind you, if you enjoy cluedunnits you’ll probably pick up on the solution pretty quickly: Remington Steele’s schtick was riffing on other media, mostly movies, and the clues—at least one of them—comes from a very well-known Sherlock Holmes story. In this sense, it resembles a lot of role-playing adventures and makes a good, simple, lesson in the presentation of clues in an RPG. While abductive reasoning should always be the number one tool in any adventure where the player characters must unravel a mystery, there need to be some pre-laid clues to let them know there’s a solvable mystery in the first place.
Television shows, like RPG adventures, have a limited period in which clues must be laid in order to have a fun result. In this episode, there are two clues that should direct the player characters, in this case Remington Steele and Laura Holt, to the solution of the mystery. There was one red herring, never explained, to lead them off-track.
In the movie, someone is trying to murder divorce lawyer Malcolm Marcall. Marcall is pretty certain that it’s the wife of one of his four current clients; he only has four clients because he’s winding down his practice in preparation for a very early retirement. He doesn’t want his wife to worry, so he hires the Remington Steele Detective Agency to go undercover as a potential fifth client and find out who. Since Remington Steele and Laura Holt bicker all the time anyway, they have no trouble convincing Marcall’s wife and the four suspects that they are in fact a divorcing couple.
The murder attempts are: