Day 96: Old School

October 31, 2009

Here’s a blast from the past: the Vyrmen, which are oily, draconic vultures from my old Staunwark Island campaign. I came up with the concept, and after a disastrous situation where I added the half-dragon template to a vulture (and basically killed a PC out of the blue) Blackdirge of EN World did the stats and expanded it out for me.

At first sight this creature appears to be a large black vulture, but closer examination reveals its draconic origin. The beast is covered in greasy black plumage through which splotches of ebony scaled flesh gleam. A head that is part avian and part reptile sways from a short supple neck as the beast hisses menacingly and tears at the ground with its long raking talons.

Exceedingly foul and ill tempered, Vyrmen are the result of black dragon blood mixed with that of ordinary vultures. The beasts were designed to act as aerial spies and skirmishers but turned out to be all but intractable, and the sorcerers who created them gave up entirely. Of course, by that time, many of the Vyrmen had already escaped into the wild. Unfortunately the fecund quality of their draconic blood has allowed them to flourish and they have become quite the menace in many populated areas.

All Vyrmen are a dull black in color and range from the size of ordinary vultures to monstrous specimens the size of ponies. They are universally of foul disposition and will attack and kill anything that cannot outrun or outfight them. Also, it appears that in special circumstances Vyrmen can be bribed and commanded – but only by those with stronger black dragon blood than their own.

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Day 95: Follow my lead, ye Knights

October 30, 2009

Over at Judd Karlman’s blog, the Githyanki Diaspora, he’s talking about some old, bad play experiences, and he calls them “Museum Games”. To a certain extent he’s talking about the same things that piss the right honorable Ron Edwards off when he’s talking about “Illusionism” as a creative agenda.

“Museum games” and “Illusionist” both are pretty loaded; the implication I see in both is that the players are marginalized by the story-before-ness of them.

When I’ve had good successes with this style of play it was when I said right off “I’d like to tell a kind of dark ages fantasy epic kind of story; would you guys like to play the protagonsits?” and they were all like “Cool!”

We played 30 sessions and it was ridiculously awesome. Trippin’, as it were.  This was the Legends of Great Knights campaign, which was, more or less, without compare.

What I’d say now is “I’d like to tell this story and I need some help. I have a pretty good idea of the major plot but it needs actors and explorers to make it the best thing it can be.” and their contributions aren’t marginalized because they are contributing to a plot structure that they know already has a particular shape. We’re all working to keep their contributions within that shape, and while I have some privileged information, they have privileged spotlights.

So I tend say “Follow my lead” like I say “Story Now” or “Step on up”. A mountain-climbing team metaphor would probably work too.


Day 94: The Witch-Empress

October 29, 2009

Edit: WordPress ate Day 94, I’ll move that to day 95.

What follows tells of the Eastern Dome, and its greatest leader.  Some say Crucia descended from Yushia herself.

Yushia was the eldest child of the Dalat-Ma, a lesser noble house that had become part of the Sky Guard. At the time, few recalled their claim to the Tenfold Throne, which dated back to the Paiogun Wars. Her mother was a frightening witch, and her father was Yushius, the highest-ranking member of the Sky Guard guards caste after the mass assasination of the bastard-Aspirant Abius.

Wisely, Yushius convinced the remaining members of the Sky Guard castes to withdraw from the conflict following Abius’s death, choosing to preserve the Dominion Guard castes rather than backing a particular Aspirant-Emperor.

Their forces gathered, they secured a safe exit from Padalat; a long train of Skyguard – once the mightiest force of the Eastern Dominion – passed through the Arches of Padalat. While walking beneath the last arch, Yushia’s mother gave birth and died in the same moment.

Yushius’s forces retreated to the ramparts of Hune, a sprawling fortress built deep in the mountains we now call the Knuckle. Yushius brought with him certain loyal Imperial vassals who like him, no longer had a lord to serve, and thus made a tiny, self-sufficient enclave that was sheltered from the early Madness.

Thus, Yushia was raised at Hune, surrounded by warriors, warlocks and men of state.

When she was old enough to wed, Yushia disappeared from Hune. Ten years later, she returned and deposited her four children to be raised by with Yushius. From this day onward she was never remarked upon as having any outward sign of aging. Over the next 12 years she would return occasionally, while rumours spoke of a mighty Witch gathering forces and spirits to her side. Then, like a lightning bolt and aided by strange warriors from a nameless land, she conquered Padalat independent of the support of her father’s Skyguard. A messenger was sent to Hune, and once again the Empress had a guard (though she was an Aspirant, in truth). She would spend the rest of her life securing larger and larger portions of the Eastern Dominion, and showed no touch of age until her death just before the completion of the Thrice Coronation.


Day 93: The Harrowing Oracle

October 28, 2009

An Oracle for use with In A Wicked Age and the Harrow Deck, by Paizo publishing.

Suit of Hammers:
The Paladin: A hero, bound by honour, faced by overwhelming foes and rich temptations…
The Keep: A fortress, unassailable from without, unshaken through great hardships…
The Big Sky: Freedom and a new start, hard won, and those who would return to the chains…
The Forge: A trial by fire, some failing…
The Bear: Savage strength, turned to a civilized purpose, but only for a time…
The Uprising: Fanaticism, a force swelled beyond the control of any leader…
The Fiend: The deaths of many in a great calamity, to be delivered by a dark intelligence…
The Beating: An attack from all sides, fraying the sanity of the defenders…
The Cyclone: War, destroying everything it touches, and the ones in its path…

Suit of Keys:
The Dance: A delicate pattern showing the way, and the temptation of the flames…
The Cricket: An auspicious journey, promising treasure…
The Juggler: A great power, author of many fates, by turns relentless and benign…
The Locksmith: A stranger’s aid, badly needed, with strings attached…
The Peacock: A vision of great beauty, sundering convention…
The Rabbit Prince: A lucky blow, landed in riotous melee…
The Avalanche: The stampeding feet of a panicked throng…
The Crows: Marauders, fresh from a life destroyed, cackling…
The Demon’s Lantern: False hopes, sold for a high price to youths who can ill afford them…

Suit of Keys:
The Trumpet: A public declaration, resounding over the crowd; a call to action…
The Survivor: A survivor, driven on by the fallen…
The Desert: An arduous journey, and the guide who is key to its success…
The Brass Dwarf: A dark choice between the one and the many…
The Teamster: A life of constant toil, and the masters who hold the whip…
The Mountain Man: Raw force unleashed, unopposable, but perhaps survivable…
The Tangled Briar: The ashes of an ancient tragedy, nourishing present strife…
The Sickness: A soul’s corruption, leaving a stain upon the flesh…
The Waxworks: A captive, helpless, and his gloating torturer…

Suit of Tomes:
The Hidden Truth: An arcane secret, its seeker, and the one who can reveal it…
The Wanderer: A thing discarded, and the transient who spies its true value…
The Joke: A terror made flesh, and the clever plan to bring it down…
The Inquisitor: A painful truth, denied by fools who court disaster…
The Foreign Trader: A prosperous foreigner, bargaining with secrets…
The Vision: A work of genius, half-finished, and its architect, half-mad…
The Rakshasa: A broken mind, turned to a new purpose, part of a greater design…
The Idiot: Blackmail, bribery, and debasement, now normal in the halls of power…
The Snakebite: A poisoned weapon, used carefully to turn friends against one another…

Suit of Roses:
The Winged Serpent: A sage, sought for counsel as fate hangs on a knife-edge…
The Midwife: A disastrous arrival, and the one who glimpses providence…
The Publican: A clear-headed arbiter, called on by a trusted friend…
The Queen Mother: A noble circle, preservers of knowledge, observers of a crucial ritual…
The Owl: Nature’s power, blessed and cursed in the same moment…
The Carnival: The illusion of power, with real risks…
The Eclipse: A crisis of faith, striking during a hard pilgrimmage…
The Mute Hag: The stare of a matriarch, and the poisonous secret she holds over her enemy…
The Lost: A madman, his ears filled with the babble of unwanted companions…

Suit of Crowns:
The Empty Throne: Loss, felt keenly as the great are honoured…
The Theater: A prophetic performance, a message for its true audience…
The Unicorn: A feast, generously offered, widely accepted…
The Marriage: A wedding, irreversibly joining disparate factions…
The Twin: A reflection glimpsed at a moment of divided loyalties…
The Courtesan: Social niceties, delicately observed to curry favor…
The Tyrant: A ruler, blight upon those ruled…
The Betrayal: A false friend, steering the envied towards devastation…
The Liar: Unrequited love, the temptation to a deadly risk…


Day 92: Stitchers-of-Worlds

October 27, 2009

Stitchers-of-worlds appear to be harmless floating disks, from which several tendrils and twin eyestalks emerge.  The disks are hard and strong, like a horn, while their tendrils are soft and vine-like.  They are around the size of cats, though their tendrils can extend about two and a half feet.

When natural fissures or rents in reality appear, these beings are often drawn to the fissure, and slowly, carefully, repair it.  They are often encountered underground, near locations that have suffered from the mad plans of plane-tearers, and their diet consists of rats and insects.  When they have access to the surface.  When above-ground, their preferred food is tree leaves or long grasses.

Though clearly not of this world, and possibly originating from the mad and fecund Void, Stitchers-of-Worlds are generally benign, and in the past some were even kept by wizards and artificers as pets.