In Book 2: Starships of the Traveller Little Black Box, it talks a bit about getting education and training. Easy enough to Apocalypse it up a bit. Here’s a different way to say something similar, drawing inspiration from ( or ruthlessly pillaging, depending on your POV) Apocalypse World and Burned Over:
But, Judd, you ask, what about stats?
I like that we’re saying that the limits of the human body aren’t interesting to us. What you use to change the world is your training and in order to gain training you have to go out and interact with the world.
What about non-basic moves?
Non-basic moves are all tech. Maybe the True Sword, a networked blade with an embedded AI, gives you a move like the Gunlugger’s Not to be Fucked With, where you fight as a gang. Certain drugs give you access to psychic powers.
A few years ago I wrote some notes in a notebook about the Godroads. They were pathways from shrines to temples to cathedrals taken by the gods. Whispered prayers could be heard on the wind. In the D&D houserules-turned-game I had notes on how players could become deities and the Godroads would be available to them. I think of this project as:
In our last session, the players were tasked with stopping a feud between a trio of gods, the last survivors from a dying world. Their characters were caught in a battle between a toad-wizard-god and a bandit-god. They killed one another; the players helped them along.
Jesse is playing a corpseflea, a nifty and delightfully strange heritage from Five Torches Deep’s Origins sourcebook. We skipped a week and so I totally forget that last game, Jesse told me that he was going to transfer into the body of the dead bandit-god.
Holy shit. As they left the Portal Town of Xaos, Jesse’s character noticed a portal that had not been there, behind the traveler’s shrines on the way into town. And so the players discovered the Godroads.
Baska’s elf’-barbarian navigated the roads through faith to her moon goddess.
When it became clear that the Mists of Ravenloft were infiltrating the Faery party the players were looking after in an attempt to snatch the sun and world being born (the party was celebrating the birth) the players talked to the party’s host. With the Fey Queen’s permission, they took the stone and the sword that represented the sun and world being born and headed into the Godroads, Demi-Plane of Dread hot on their heels. That is where the game ended.
I thought about what might live in this place, what the ecology of a place so alien might look like. I don’t need to create a whole eco-system but I wanted the encounter tables to hint at such a thing.
I like having this written up a week before the game. Having these to daydream on allows me to use them as more of a menu. I can roll when I want a surprise and choose when I have an idea. There is an eco-system inferred here. I think there were griffons once upon a time but they were domesticated and so now the manticore are running a bit rampant. Angels probably get together with paladins and sphinx and go Manticore hunting from time to time to clear the roads up.
Are unicorns and manticores and sphinx bog-standard D&D monsters? Yes, absolutely but I’m hoping but jamming them together into a series of secret roadways used by gods will give them new context. If I want to spice them up I can add a little planar conditioning and roll on the table below to see which plane(s) have had an effect on this particular herd or pride.
The group was sent to the Labyrinth for 15 years by the Lady of Pain. Teo asked a really interesting question, asking the players if they thought it was a fair sentence based on their crimes. During that fascinating conversation I found out that the Frog-kin wizard, Bugwump, was far more powerful a wizard before being sentenced.
When I rolled an Arch-mage encounter, I asked John about Bugwump’s rivals and Cret, lizard-person/saurian arch-mage was born. I role-played him as cloying fake and the players hated him right away. Kuru, the hobbit thief, cut past his wards with his magic knife and stole some books from Cret’s camp. His black robes have twinkling stars on them and every so often a shooting star launches across his arcane raiment.
Now we have a new rival, Arch-mage Cret, Saurian Wizard, and his apprentices.
They never saw the manticore but did see an angel fly overhead, delivering a message from some deity. I’m thrilled the Godroads made it out from the notebook to the table. I hope we get to learn more about them.
At the start of the pandemic, a little more than a year ago, my friend, Anthony was feeling sick. It turned out to just be a cold but we didn’t know that. We were scared. I asked him if I could grab some groceries for him and leave them on his porch or get something from the pharmacy. He didn’t need any of that.
“Could you run a game?”
“Fuck yeah, I can.”
We’ve been gaming strong for more than a year now and this t-shirt celebrates that.
100% or the proceeds generated by this shirt go to Stop AAPI Hate (and Threadless throws in a few more bucks). We love the idea of our geekery and friendship somehow, in some way, making the world a better place. After the brutal hate crime last week our Asian siblings, friends and colleagues in the hobby, have had a brutal week after a particularly brutal year. It is nice to use our creativity to support them in some small way.
All of the items in this story go to wonderful charities.
Noticed the max HP on the Stonetop character sheets is 16 hit points, found that amusing and it started a conversation with a friend about death mechanics in RPG’s. He shared a few of his favorites along with his thoughts and then I had a template so I decided to stat up an arch-fiend.
Shit, now I need to stat out a Death Avatar, don’t I?
And then I got on a roll, so I decided to stat up Asmoedeus for 5 Torches Deep and then I needed to stat up Pit Fiends…so…
I like the process of statting up monsters for 5 Torches Deep; it is about cutting out the things that aren’t key to the concept.
I wrote down Water, Chaos of Limbo, Feuding Deities. I wrote down Lake Monastery and crossed it out. Then I thought about it a while and got excited about Xaos, the Portal City between the Outlands and Limbo. In the process of thinking about that, I forgot about the water aspect of this roll, which is just fine.
In the end, the players had to head to Xaos, a Portal City on the edge of the Outlands to end a God-Feud that was ripping the town apart.
Chaos Worshippers on Pilgrimage to look upon Limbo
Alright, let’s put these pieces together.
Taking a cue from Trophy Gold Incursions I’m going to break the Portal Town into sets. This is helpful to me because structure is helpful, especially with an idea as big as Gods Feuding in a Portal Town between the Outlands and the Elemental Plane of Chaos.
Front Gate, Portal Platform, Bell-Tower, Shrine-Town
Front Gate is built under a cyclopean statue of the ancient hero-saint Gith, cross-legged, meditating upon a sword, a broken chain and the elements.
Portal Platform has Githzerai with long polearms to keep out any chaos monsters that might spill forth from the gate. They are milling about but always with one eye on the portal, ready to spring into action.
The Bell-Tower is where the Abbot of the monastery lives and studies. The bell is only rung when something comes through the gate.
The Abbot’s Library – lots of planar theory about law and chaos, meditations on hierarchy, why the fist is more potent to the sword, martial arts manuals
The Bell of Chains – yes, it is made of melted chains from their days as Illithid Thralls.
Shrine-town is a ramshackle town where the chaos pilgrims stay.
The Eight-Pointed Star is the lone inn with shrines to Arioch and other Chaos Saints.
Squats – none really own land here, folks stay in the shacks here for as long as they need to and move on when they are ready.
One of my favorite parts of Trophy Gold adventure’s format is moments. Little things for the players to see, little things for the GM to say when there is a lull.
Front Gate Moments
Crow caged prisoner asks for water (Githyanki, Illithid and one other. to be determined at the moment or randomly..)
Monk meditates on four elements rotating around his head, changing the nature of each; she will talk about nature of the planes if folks want to chat about philosophy
Portal Platform Moments
Guards tell anyone coming too close to be careful but don’t hold anyone back CHAOS REIGNS
Chaos Pilgrims look upon the Chaos of Limbo, weeping on their knees
Fallen Paladin looking upon chaos; he came here to throw his broken sword into Limbo itself
The Bell-Tower Moments
The Abbot meditating upon the nature of lava.
The room, silent and inviting, only a sleeping crystal bat and Limbo’s portal lighting your way.
Chaos pilgrims debating hierarchies and their place in Law and Chaos…
But what do they DO?
They track down gods.
During the first session I had 3 player characters, so I based the gods roughly and loosely on them.
The Bandit God, The Hanged Man, the Road Agent
Escape, Ambush, Criminal Recruitment
The Sorcerer God, the Wizard-Toad, The Blesser of Towers
Spells, Lore, Towers
The Elder Ring, Dryad Crone, The Holy Willow
Roots, Seeds, Secrets
The first game was travel and getting used to the area. The second game I started with a bang. The Bandit God mugged one of the players at knifepoint while the kids of the town were watching a puppet show about Gith liberating her people from the cruel Illithid.
I decided the gods were weak and had trouble healing. They’d have 4d10 hit points and powers that went with their spheres of influences.
The Toad-Wizard-God tossed an acidic mist spell into the plaza, trying to kill the Bandit God and a brutal battle followed. I liked it. I haven’t run a good D&D combat in a long while and this one was fun.
At the end of the game, the players were gathered around Trundle as he tried to destroy the stone that had done the first murder in the gods’ dead world. It was a brutal death artifact. The Elder Ring approached. I rolled an encounter table and rolled a 10 – considers offers/leaves. She was not willing to jump them; they were right in front of the portal to Limbo. She asked them to give the stone to her. They refused.
She nodded and walked away.
On the Bingo XP table, I covered, Players make an enemy and told them I did so. There’s an angry tree goddess from a dead world pissed at them.
Next game the players are heading to a party in Faery. Dark Powers are afoot. I won’t tell you what I rolled but I’ll post the notes just like this once I’m done.
Dozens of moons surrounding a gas giant with a satanic storm eye moving to and fro. The gas giant is called Leviathan with dozens of moons and enough asteroids in its rings that new moons are still discovered.
There are 4 major houses: Job, Triton, Rangomai and Mizuchi charged with defending the ducal moons with the finest atmospheres with a dozen more houses minor picking up the scraps. Those with noble titles and their knights can wield fighting knives. They are trained with rifle and pistol but the ammunition is controlled by the Unions – laborers, crafters, and engineers who make sure those with title don’t drag everyone into frivolous wars.
War Mechs and Battlecruisers are only unlocked if there is an outside threat.
Alien artifacts on the solid planets closer to the system’s sun.
A science-station observatory at the edge of the system; this is where aging nobles who are found to be too warlike are exiled to.
I am imagining the Astrogation Temples, where you go to have your journey mapped. The mapping takes place in empty rooms with vaulted ceilings, where stone moon scultpures are put into motion on hard light holograms.
Why is it a temple? Because all journeys have religious significance. The navigators are trained in anthropological religious studies, helping humans keep in touch with their humanity while traversing the void. They might offer a parable or an argument or sit you down for a meal with a nearby family or offer guided meditation with their coordinates.
Astrogation computers are available but only used in an emergency. Computers have a rough time around Leviathan. The gas giant’s magnetic radiation wreaks havoc with any complicated computer and A.I. research is strictly forbidden because of the fell effects Leviathan’s pull has on synthetic entities of any kind.
The Ducal Moons are held by the 4 Major Houses: Job, Triton, Rangomai and Mizuchi. In the centuries since their settling, the moons have changed hands a number of times with houses Major and Minor rising and falling on a political tide.
Baikonur was the first moon settled and is held in trust by the Guilds and Temple. The Major Houses take turns guarding it, changing every 4 cycles. Baikonur, because of its special place in the orbits, was named for a spaceport on Olde Earth, rather than a nautical port.