All Who Fight & Pray are Monsters & Fiends

From this twitter-thread…

Those Who Fight (lords, ladies, knights, squires, kings and queens) Those Who Pray (nuns, priests, monks, cardinals and popes) are monsters, like right out of the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio. Dungeons are knightly manors, churches, cathedrals, castles and even burial mounds and tombs.

Very often monsters are in the dark forest, on the edge of town, out in the mountains and other places where people pushed to the margin might go. Let’s put them on thrones, at pulpits and at the head of armies and see what happens to the usual D&D adventurers.

In this setting, the idea of a human king or queen or any humanoid is laughable. Every once in a while there is an orc, troll, ogre or hobgoblin king but that is as close as it gets.

There is no human pantheon. Maybe there was one and the monsters ate it or maybe humans have never ascended. Clerics gain powers through scrappy saints who are tapping into wells of power so that humans can have access to healing and all that stuff. For the monster pantheon, I’ll build it off of Tiamat and Bahamut with some Gruumsh.

Keep all of the dynastic, crazy shit nobles got up to in history: inbreeding, feuding, marrying for political gain. Merchants who are baseborn human trying to upjump into nobility, marrying their children into desperate monstrous families. Their coats of armies are stylized humans giving them what they want.

It recontextualizes humanoids as creatures bred for specific purposes. Suddenly, Half-Orcs and their monster blood means they are most likely to rule along with Tieflings and Dragonborn, bred to specifically serve devils and dragons.

Adventurers are villains or villeins from the old meaning of the word.

villain oed

I love flipping through monster manuals. Here’s how we make up a monstrous kingdom. Roll 6d6 or flip through a monster manual or 3 and think about who…

  • rules this duchy
  1. Manticore
  2. Ogre Magi
  3. Hydra
  4. Medusa
  5. Angel or Devil of your choice
  6. Dragon
  • wears the the crown and who rules over the dukes
  1. Tarrasque
  2. Sphinx
  3. Rakshasa
  4. Kraken
  5. Unicorn
  6. Dragon
  • enforces laws and collects taxes
  1. Troll
  2. Will’o’the’wisp
  3. Orc
  4. Treeant
  5. Satyr
  6. Dragon
  • puts down rebellions
  1. Iillithid
  2. Modron
  3. Beholder
  4. Oozes
  5. Purple Worm
  6. Dragon
  • sees over local religious services, sermons blessings and marriages
  1. Elemental
  2. Ettin
  3. Owlbear
  4. Golem
  5. Kuo-Toa
  6. Dragon
  • executes vyleyns
  1. Yuan-ti
  2. Griffon
  3. Salamander
  4. Roc
  5. Vampire
  6. Dragon

We’ll start the game at a young fort-town, a human enclave struggling to survive. Humans have no idea how to rule themselves and so have defaulted to a kind of medieval anarchist glorious mess called Thousand Councils that is a messy mix of the chaos of the elves and the rigid guilds of the dwarves. Of course there is always some asshole who wants to be king. Or maybe there is no human enclave. Let the players carve it out of the world and see what kind of world the players set up.

What about undead?

Undead are what monsters say will inevitably happen whenever humans rule over anything. They are the disease that comes from non-monsters on thrones because of their villainous, non-noble blood. Radical humans say that undead are what happens when humans are corrupted by the evil feudal system. Undead hunters say that undead are just a disease that needs to be purged and nothing more.

What about good monsters?

Good monsters are still monsters. Unicorns, angels, gold dragons might treat Those Who Toil in a kinder way but only because they think it will serve them better in the end. A Lawful Good monster’s views on humans are still condescending and ultimately selfish; they still don’t think humans can take care of themselves and don’t think they should be autonomous.

What happens when different monsters breed?

butt monster.jpg

Pick a monster that seems like it would be made by those 2 monsters breeding. Make it one of the parents with a slight change. Make up a new monster. Have fun.

Do you need more setting?

There is a dragon-empress but she is sleeping and her children are not up to the task of keeping her empire together. Until she wakes up it is monster feuding and cold war.

 

 

Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library. “The doome warning all men to the Iudgemente” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1581. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/fc2a81f0-7aab-0130-9b52-58d385a7bbd0

“villain, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, July 2018, oed.com/view/Entry/223…. Accessed 8 September 2018.

 

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Sorcerer – Poker Demons

Sorcerers are all playing in a Texas Hold’em style poker game where all of the cards are demons. Face-cards are demons that can pass as human. Number cards are objects.

Cards in the river are out in the world fucking shit up. Sorcerers can only make Pacts with cards that have relationships to their own cards, no bindings.

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47dd-cddd-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w

Once the sorcerers are done with gathering their cards the time for summoning is over and they traditionally fight to the death. Sometimes they form a cabal and if they go too long, often another game will start somewhere.

Going to 0 Humanity means folding, losing all of one’s demons and usually everything good in one’s life – so that is what is at stake, being bet on, though it is never spoken aloud.

When it is your turn to draw a card you do a binding, done through ritualized acts of crime that make sense for the card you are attempting to summon.

Media Inspirations: True Detective Season 1, Heat, Dog Day Afternoon, Thomas Ligotti short stories, Margaret Killjoy’s Daniel Caine books (The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion and The Barrow Will Send What it May), Rounders, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Casino, Go

EDIT: Thinking more about this on the G+ post on the Sorcerer RPG community:

I want to use cards as a way to give demons color and structure and relationships with one another – a kind of family/clan/rivals thing and thinking about crime and the seediest sides of gambling as inspiration

Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Two of diamonds.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-cddd-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Seclusiopolis

I’ve been rereading Seclusion of Orphone of the Three Visions and now a city is in my head.

It is a filthy, fading arcane metropolis that was ruled by a senate of inhuman wizards who have faded into various stages of comatose seclusion. Their apprentices, pale imitations of their masters and mistresses wage bloody gang wars in the streets with spells, staves and pistol.

The old wizard’s senate has been officially disbanded by the Olde Sword Republic and the new government is offering the Delver’s Guild everything their intrepid members can carry out of any registered seclusium. The players can also post a flag on behalf of a sect within the city, having a say of who takes over the seclusium once it is sacked and looted.

Players can take the seclusia offered by the guild or bid on having first crack at new ones as they are uncovered and tagged by municipal workers.

I started a pinterest board collecting Delver’s Guild members.

P.S. That is not what I would call the city.

 

 

Our Dances with Dragons: the map and the battles

Westeros is a really fun map, lots of castles and rivers and with folks who are fans of the books and/or show, lots of fun background. Also, making up stuff in Westeros history is a good time. I said something about the north still being made at the Starks over the King Who Knelt and had just put down the Bear Rebellion, in which the Mormonts rose up to attempt to take the north.

dadinwesteroswithnumbers

1) In which the Warden of the North quickly musters banner-men who can answer quickly and sets up camp in Moat Callin. He didn’t have the numbers he could have had but he had speed, aggression and a little bit of surprise at this point.

2) In which the Warden and his bastard brother take a segment of the army and go to the Twins in order to marry his brother to one of the Frey daughters while the bulk of his army, led by Lord Umber guided by a Maester to cross the river near Harrenhall, where an army loyal to the Princess is on the move. When the scouts note dragons on the horizon, they send 3 separate forces to draw them off. Two return but one substantial group of men is never heard from again.

Due to Riverrun being ruled by a child whose duties are seen to by an indecisive Regents Council, Lord Walder throws in with the North.

3) The Northern army overruns Silverhall and proceeds to pick the surrounding lands dry. Using the castle’s ravens and trickery, the Warden tricks the Lannister Army mustering at Casterly Rock into thinking that the northern host is moving down the Goldroad towards King’s Landing. They march hard to catch an army that is not there, leaving Casterly Rock open. When the Northern Host approaches Casterly Rock, the Iron Islanders are already burning and pillaging the city with plans to go right down the west coast of Westeros. The Warden convinces the leader of the raids to take him by boat to Dragonstone to break the siege.

At this point, they have around 7 dragons, picked up out of the westlands and from various Targaryen dragon-riders who have been cut off from other armies loyal to the princess.

4 – 5) The Ironmen’s fleet takes the Northern Host to Dragonstone where they break the siege and capture the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. When the commander insults the Warden of the North, mentioning the death of his son who had been squired to a knight who served the queen, the Warden showed restraint when the princess (the heir) ordered him to stand down and leave the hostage alive.

It was fun; we were hitting on beliefs and that is the crux of BW. Having huge battles resolved all in one roll wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped, particularly because the opposing side was not fully burned up, so I erred on the side of less dice, leaving the Warden outnumbering the Lord-Commander’s die pool in every conflict. Several key rolls needed artha to cause sixes to explode and my dad rolled 6’s very, very often that night.

I’ve begun work on a slightly expanded battle mechanic based on Bloody Versus. If you want to take a look at how it is going, you can look at Clashing Storm of Sword-Kings here or see it on the thread itself.

We were talking numbers at the table but they were hugely inflated and I have left them out so that any professional or amateur historians wouldn’t hurt their neck wincing. Going by GRRM’s numbers, the armies of Westeros, like the castles, are far more numerous and grand than the European counterparts.

Ravens are a big deal.  When the army is on the move, they can’t receive ravens and so they don’t know what is going on around the kingdom. My dad decided to keep things moving, mostly so no dragons could zero-in on them and decimate their forces. It was a smart gamble but they lost the ability to know what was going on in the rest of the war. When they take Silverhall, they learned what was where, where the dragons were and learned that half of the King’s Landing fleet had sailed north to sack White Harbor. It was neat and gave yet another advantage to those who stay behind their safe walls.

 

Other Posts:

Winter is Coming and the Dragons are Dancing

Visiting Westeros…

How we got to Westeros with BW

Clash of Kings: BW Thread about Big Battle Mechanics

Reading Wraith: the Oblivion

I am reading over Wraith and it is making me want to GM…ST it a bit. It is the White Wolf game that always intrigued me the most.

I have this vague idea of a campaign where all of the characters are killed in the same plane crash and shake off the caul in the Shadowlands at the helm of a Stygian Galleon on the Dead Seas. The ship is composed of player’s fetters and bits and pieces of charred 747.

Another ship is cutting them off from land, flying no flags the characters recognize when the game starts in the middle of a storm…

Marvel Heroic Role-Playing: A Tour of Marvel’s Golden, Silver, Modern and Heroic Ages w/ Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman

The last post, in which Golden Age Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are statted out.

tl;dr Batman, Superman and/or Wonder Woman were stranded in Marvel’s 616 during World War II. The game sends the players careening through Marvel’s history, taking part in your favorite flashpoints.

Golden Age

“The world needs Captain America more than it needs Bucky.”

If you are Diana, you are flying Captain America and Bucky in to the Red Skull’s fortress where his rocket ship is hidden. Batman and Superman would likely be flying in a bomber alongside them.

Action Scene Ideas:

  • Messerschmitts get on your six and start lighting you up, threatening to put you in the ocean, forcing you to have to swim to Norway.
  • A horde of HYDRA goons in the way.
  • Thor, god of Thunder, mind-controlled by the Spear of Destiny is guarding the Red Skull’s retreat into his rocket ship.

Does history repeat itself or does Bucky live and Captain America stay out of the iceberg?

P.S. I know it was really Baron Zemo but Red Skull is so much cooler.

Patriotism

“I’ve become a political liability and you, you’re a joke.”

1XP When you discuss what it means to be an American.
3XP When you do violence on behalf of the United States.
10XP When you either walk away from this mission with a patriot’s heart or create Distinction or Milestone about your troubled relationship with United States politics.

Mission or the Man?

“This Ryan better be worth it.”

1XP When you bark orders or follow orders.
3XP When you change the plan.
10XP When you either complete the mission and bring the Red Skull to justice or set that aside in order to save your friends.

Silver Age

The Night Gwen Stacy Died

You hear on the radio that some kid in a spruiced up luchadore mask and some jury-rigged “web” shooters is fighting with a madman dressed in a goblin suit while riding a jet sled over the Brooklyn Bridge. A young lady is involved.

Action Scene Ideas:

  • This kid is an amateur. Can you get him out of the way so you can save the young lady?
  • The Goblin is tossing grenades.
  • Is this all a smokescreen for the Rhino to knock an armored truck off of the bridge into the water below and rob it? Maybe.
  • Cars careening out of control. Cops pulling guns on anyone who looks the least bit super-heroic. These are the early days of New York City’s super-hero tradition, before Iron Man flying by your office window was a kinda cool tweet.
  • Again, does history play out and if so, does Parker kill the Green Goblin or do you?

Parker’s Mentor

“Don’t loan anyone named Mockingbird or Wolverine money.”

1XP When you tell Spider-man or Gwen Stacy what to do.
3XP When you ask Parker or Gwen Stacy for advice.
10XP When you either take Spider-man or Gwen Stacy as your sidekick or give them a stern talking-to about future super-heroic dalliances and walk away.

The Osborn Solution

“In this world there is right and there is wrong and that distinction is not difficult to make.”

1XP When you threaten Osborn.
3XP When you try to help Osborn.
10XP When you either kill him once and for all or bring him to justice, hoping that his money doesn’t just buy him out of his criminal acts.

Modern Age

The Mutant Massacre


A young Morlock girl whose power is the ability to turn paper-thin runs up to you in (at your home?) and begs for help as the Marauders are hunting her for sport.

Action Scene Ideas:

  • Hunting Marauders in the tunnels.
  • Batman vs. Sabretooth or Wonder Woman vs. Sabretooth
  • Thor’s back…he seems to be a good guy…do you trust him or are you still holding a WWII grudge? Sure, a good old fashioned misunderstanding super-hero fight.
  • Showdown with Apocalypse as he uses the slaughter to gather his 4 Horsemen.
  • Confrontation with Mr. Sinister…

Mutant-friend

“Magneto was right.”

1XP When you ask mutants about their points of view, history or struggles.
3XP When you offer your skills to aid the mutant community.
10XP When you either go before the U.N. and speak on behalf of mutant-kind or walk away from the X-Men and all of their struggles, leaving mutant problems to the mutants.

Barry Windsor Smith, X-Men #205

Marauder Hunter

“We’re the best at what we do…”

1XP When you plan an attack against the Marauders.
3XP When you deal damage to a Marauder.
10XP When you either track the Marauders down to the person who put them into action or stop them all from ever being able to murder again.

Heroic Age

Civil War

Start with the Congressional hearings, having the Trinity choose sides and then launch into either hunting down non-compliant heroes or going on the run.

I don’t feel like I need to list cool ideas for action scenes because the supplements will be chock full-o-ideas. I love the idea of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman tipping the scales. And Clor gives them another excuse to beat up a quasi-Thunder God.

Structure

Action Scenes and Transition Scenes


Between each Age, I’ll ask the players how their characters are showing their years. If they are getting old, how are they able to continue? Or is this age the birth of someone new taking the mantle with appropriate changes to the character sheet. That said, I’m happy with the players giving answers that amount to Kingdom Come cosmetic changes that are not reflected on the character sheet or Batman taking Fury’s Infinity Serum or Superman handing the Big Red S to Hyperion or Wonder Woman handing the golden lasso to Carol Danvers or Batman taking Rick Jones as Robin.

Do they become more and more like their Silver and Modern age equivalents or do they stay as they were when they arrived during WWII?

I’d set it up like Mouseguard’s Players’ Turn and GM’s Turn. In the Action Scenes I set up in media res action scenes like the first pages of a comic book. The Transition Scenes being those bits in-between be it fun social interactions, building something, training someone, seeking solace or healing or good ole fashioned investigation. If they had no ideas, just set them up with a conversation in very mundane circumstances with a cool super-hero.

Low-Key Transition Scene Ideas:

  • Bruce Wayne and Matt Murdock talking law.
  • Bruce Wayne and Marc Spector talking about mental health.
  • Clark Kent  and Ben Ulrich talking about journalism.
  • Diana Prince and Ororo Munroe talking about leadership.
  • Superman asking Reed Richards for help finding Krypton or discussing if there even is such a planet in this reality.
  • Wonder Woman out drinking with Hercules.
  • Batman trying to mentor the Punisher.
  • Batman out on a date with Black Cat.
  • Being wooed by Namor.
  • Talking to Dr. Doom or Dr. Strange about returning to their own reality.
  • Dinner at the Avengers Mansion.
  • Helping with training exercises in the Danger Room.

Essentially, Action Scenes are exciting set pieces with interesting outcomes based on player choice and success. An Action Scene might grow organically from a Transition Scene and if so, Praise be to Clor! Some Transition Scenes might grow from the Action Scenes, with Batman researching Norman Osborn’s business dealings with Roxxon or Superman scanning the Morlock tunnels for survivors or Wonder Woman training Morlocks to defend themselves.

Milestones

The Authority and Marvel milestones might be relevant at different times.

I ❤ Batman

“…and I’m a rich kid with issues, lots of issues.”

1XP When you show affection to the Caped Crusader during an Action Scene.
3XP When you save his ass from serious trouble.
10XP When you either marry him, mask and all or break it off forever, after telling him that he is effing crazy.

I ❤ Bruce

“This would be a good life, good enough.”

1XP When you show affection for Bruce, the man behind the mask or downplay Batman.
3XP When you talk about Batman as a sign of serious psychosis.
10XP When you either get Bruce to quite the cape and cowl or accept the Bat as an integral part of Bruce’s life.

Oh, Diana.

“You’re a princess from a society of immortal warriors… “

1XP When you help Diana get in touch with her Amazon roots or do something romantic with her in a place that has mythical significance.
3XP When you get into an argument with Diana about gender and patriarchy or mansplain.
10XP When you either pledge your undying love to Diana or do something shitty and passive-aggressive that you know will force her to dump you (and it does).

Oh, Kal

“You’ve got me. Whose got you?”

1XP When you help Superman get in touch with his Kryptonian heritage or spend a Transition Scene doing something romantic with him.
3XP When you cause Superman mental stress, letting him know that he isn’t responsible for saving everyone.
10XP When you either move in to his Fortress of Solitude and get serious about making a family together or declare his messiah complex bullshit unbearable and move on.

Oh, Clark

“Hey there, Smallville…”

1XP When you show affection for Clark Kent.
3XP When you point out how Clark is being hopelessly naive.
10XP When you either marry Clark Kent or end the relationship because he is too much of a boy scout or you believe he is better than you deserve. If you break it off, choose on and tell him.

Trinity Triangle

“Dating within the team always leads to disaster.”

1XP When you do something petty and jealous.
3XP When you help the other two get together.
10XP When you either step away from any romantic entanglements within the Trinity or find a way to make the relationship with all 3 together work.

Thomas and Martha

“How, father? How do I do it?”

1XP When you talk about memories of your parents.
3XP When you talk about the night they died.
10XP When you either find peace and put your grief to rest or have the injustice of your pain rubbed as raw as the day it occurred.

Last Kryptonian

“My son, you do not remember me. I am Jor-El.”

1XP When you talk about your Kryptonian heritage.
3XP When you talk about something you learned in Smallville or Metropolis.
10XP When you either try to being back the philosophies of Krypton through your own traditions and lifestyle or find peace with your Kryptonian heritage and your adopted home.

Themisciryan

“…in a world torn by the wars and hatred of men…”

1XP When you discuss an injustice of the Man’s World.
3XP When you discuss something you enjoy that was not available at home.
10XP When you either return to Themiscrya never intending to return or find peace in your role as diplomat on behalf of your mother and sisters and teach your sisters here.

Gaming ideas rattling around in my head.

Burn the Throne and the Crown

By the people, for the people, dammit.

I’d make up a dozen or so Burning Wheel characters for players to choose from. No noble lifepaths, dammit! No noble bastards with pretty hair looking for revenge. I was thinking of having the only martial characters being a soldier turned farmer, a failed knight and a desperate killer while the rest of the characters are guild leaders, merchants and craftsfolk. Mmmmaybe a failed apprentice sorcerer but maybe not.

The players would craft beliefs about bringing about a revolution that will end the feudal system and links to their personal lives. I don’t want the revolution to be perpetrated by a group of hooded loners with spring-knives on their wrists.

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Dwarving Mining Company

By my beard, axe and anvil, let’s make some money!

Pete had this idea way back for Burning Wheel. I’d like to add a situation to it – word is that the dwarven prince is on the verge of bankruptcy, so any enterprising guilders with money to lend will have a strong pull on the throne.

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School Elections

Soda machine in the cafeteria and O-negative in the nurse’s office.

A few friends were talking about the supernatural-themed novels they were writing and one is loosely based on a Monsterhearts game she played this summer. After posting a link and another FB friend saying that the game looked it cool, it took every ounce of my self-control not to jump on the opportunity with both feet and offer to run a game.

Game fast, I’m not playing RPG’s right now and that is okay.

Naturally, the election season made me think of how much fun it would be to run a high school election in a supernatural drama.

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Those are a few of the rough gaming ideas rattling around in my head.

How about you?