Monday, July 31, 2017

Welcome Back Potter: Reacquainting Myself With My Old BX Books

Basic and Expert as a unit really do paint such a unique picture of D&D even from the unified expanded BECMI line, let alone AD&D and other versions of the game. You flip through the Rules Compendium and this is a game that is all about super high level monsters who can only be defeated by galloping goatshit magical chicanery, here's all the ridiculously high XP thresholds to get strong enough to do that, oh by the way did we mention all these other-dimensional creatures and monsters we made up in a hurry ("It has a big mouth and a big eye and uhhhhh like all the magic and you can't hurt him;" Beholders were put together like modern Doctor Who baddies) and remember how you could already fight all those dragons well those dragons SUCK here are a bunch of new dragons and fighting them is like fighting SIX dragons and here are some more giants and some other stuff way better than dumb old dragons I mean who wants to do that anyway?

I am going to die mid-way through a run-on sentence one day. That will be punctuation's final revenge. That said, quick sidebar: FUCK the MLA; I got too much fucking style as it is.

There are TWO spells in Basic that immediately stand out as doing direct damage to your HP. Combat encounters list seven steps that have to happen before things get started, with like four chances for no armed struggle to happen. The majority of the monsters on its list are animals, bigger animals, tougher animals, just guys, some fungus, a few dead guys, and then a vastly outnumbered selection of monster-monsters, most from the Greek canon or Tolkein. Expert's monsters are mostly giants, dinosaurs, Halloween shits, and uh fuck let's say "ethnic monsters," a game of remembering the middle east exists but not talking about it too directly. Expert also has about 9 more directly-damaging spells.

They don't model everything they can think of for equipment, just about a hundred things you'd need to explore a dungeon.

There's not that much info speaking directly to DMing in either really but what's there pulls weight. There's not a ton of information on traps and most of the magic item tables rely on your knowledge of things you're ALREADY FAMILIAR WITH from earlier in the book and so don't have long write ups.

The book seems in places to be saying here you go: this is what you do and where you do it and what you do it with and what you do it for. Venture, kill, die, come back, loot, level, repeat. Your campaign can be anything: a series of dungeons where you try to kill a monster and find treasure along the way, a dungeon where you try to get some treasure and kill some monsters along the way, all two types of game there are.

Which would be fine. That's a fun game too. But I think these books are written that way because that's the only shit you need. There's a section on building castles and boat fights because that shit is hard to model or waive off on the fly. You're expected to be able to argue with the vizier, sing for your supper, hire a poisoner, find a map, pray to your god, and win at Gwent without the book's help. You're a person who has been in the world, use those tool sets for Make-Em-Up World.

Some people struggle in the world and so struggle with the fake world and that's fine, we need lots of brushes in the tool tray to make up Photoshop. I'm never in a position to judge. Then again I suck at chess and that's not chess' fault. Point is your world, the campaign, the story (explicit and/or implicit and/or player-facing emergent) can be whatever you want or need it to be.

This is how dungeons work, and it's where dragons are. That's it! That's all there is to the game, the big fucking secret on how to Do Good at the game. Just love the game, do the game, and use the book when you need to do some specific hard things for the game. There is a somewhat implied setting but you can ignore that like hell and just make your game be about a bunch of Protestants trying not to burn so many farmhands for witchery that everyone starves come winter. You can win an ENnie if you write that shit down.

D&D picks up so much This Is How The World Works Care About It Care About It Now so quickly before the novels even get into things... You know I never understood how Rogue Trader could be the bedrock of the 40K world's lore and still so poorly regarded by people who really really take that lore seriously. I needn't have been mystified, it's the same way there are people who OMG LUV D&D but only this specific iteration of the later game, or for that matter people who LOVE Spider-Man but only Earth 5714 Spider-Man who works for BANDAI. There are a lot more people who love things about D&D than just plain love how D&D works.

That's not a problem. It makes sense. I'm that way about that Game of Thrones show, I only love things about it. That's fine and I don't want anyone to be denied THEIR D&D, even if their D&D is deciding to recreate some Salvatore fan fiction using FATE.

In the search for MY D&D, though - trying to find out what D&D means to me not in a philosophical sense but in a family-genus-species sense - I am amazed every time I come back to this tight little engine. This set of books doesn't put you in a box or tie you to a milieu. It just gives you a framework. That framework says "You are small, there are many threats beyond you, never trust a dark or lost place, if you try to kick the ass of everything you meet you will probably die, here's how to try anyway."

I fully get people not digging that and deciding that it doesn't give them enough opportunity to Play The Hero and have a big cinematic moment. Me, I've always maintained that D&D wasn't a game of fantasy heroics (that's the elves complicating shit again) but instead one of survival horror. Oh, I'm going to go slowly mad before Big Squidward's creepy crawlies? A quarter of the monsters in Expert turn you slowly into fucking stone while you watch, and that's before the ghosts show up. I'm covered, thanks.

All Gold Is Books Now

Little Golden Books Treasury: the original LGBT

The implied setting in BX is incredibly hyperliterate. Tables for different magic books and manuals, demihumans in particular starting out reading and writing oodles of languages, spells to leave messages, rules for how many bonus languages you know, alignment languages, secret magic languages and spells to read lamguages, and it piles on as time marches. Druidic, thieves cant, runes, ciphers, tongues, advanced rules for copying and scribing, Bards and their fucking fakebooks...

I sometimes feel like our D&D characters have outstripped even we, with all our modern conveniences and translation apps and Duolingo and shit, when it comes to language and literacy. That's weird because while the weird make-em-up time that most D&D is set in is not exactly the dark ages (and the dark ages weren't the blindly ignorant period people often generalize about) we are still talking about a setting where the price of a decent spyglass - not a telescope, a spyglass - is enough to raise your own small army and sack a town. The price of academic luxury and liberal art, the distances involved in these worlds (and how short a distance it can take to be considered 'remote'), cultural divides and good old racism, and that's all before you get into the crushing cycle of toil and harvest or the fact that elves are a thing...

Basic has all humans speaking two languages by default. I think we've all known humans who have trouble speaking one language. Hell, I think we're all even guilty of that sometimes. Here in the states especially complete bilingual fluency is not especially common. This isn't the ability to muddle through asking when the next train to Antwerp is due, this is being able to hold discourse on your favorite Belgian philosopher in either language. I say this is exceptional. To the response "Well PCs are meant to be exceptional" I would myself respond back "Yes and no." PCs are meant to do exceptional things whatever those may be. The idea that they just ARE better by existing or somehow naturally accrete due to awesomeness levels is a pretty newschool "My lv. 1 Fighter is a legendary warrior" kind of thinking to my mind. The only thing Basic characters are better than by default are the Normal Man baseline provided for the DM's convenience when the PCs inevitably start throwing around Charm Person and starting petty brawls; compared even to the Bandit or Medium a few pages later even first level Thieves and Magic-Users are paltry.

A king must be able to communicate her orders to her generals, sacred scriptures must be passed down to new acolytes, and words of power once found must be kept under lock and key for some kind of eldritch cold war. But unless you are a scribe or tactician you almost certainly don't need this kind of thing in your day to day life in a society where you can trade grain for chicken and you die at 47.

YET D&D has this permeating literacy.

I decide that this suggests a less considered aspect of the much-blogged "implied setting" of BX D&D, a world knee deep in Greek monsters, petrified warriors, vast hoards, and easily exhaustible magics. Literacy and multilingualism is something prized even in rural communities and weaponized at the higher levels of society and secrecy. Texts are still difficult to produce, sometimes difficult to interpret, but are prized both as objects themselves and as sources of permanent information and knowledge. This does not mean that this world does not glory in whispered rumor, spoken tales, or oral histories. It means only that they prize everyone, EVERYONE, having a baseline of knowledge, and for this purpose a permanent source of information is invaluable.

Why? Magic springs to mind. When even rolled up pieces of paper with words on them can be deadly in the hands of half the population, whether they're true students of magic or not, then having a population at least literate enough to differentiate between finding someone's diary and finding someone's Cthulhu summoning ritual at a glance is helpful; they may not understand that they're seeing a summoning ritual in that second parchment but they know the first book is just Trevor's wank fantasies and nothing to worry the regent about.

Time is another big reason. If the only people with a really good grasp of what things were like 100+ years ago were the elves...fuck, are we going to take their word for it? Better not, pointy eared devils could be subtly controlling us, shaping our culture. Elves and dwarves being hyperliterate would be a factor: here's these ancient cultures with cities older than Greg's Mountain and they mostly just hang out with earthworms or butterflies but they can do these little scribblies and look at them later and suddenly have way more power than us in trade warfare medicine manufacture...

If we take both to their extremes and answer the implicit question of how THOSE two races got that way then we arrive at an easy explanation for everything: dragons.

1) Dragons discover magic
2) Dragons invent language to help control magic
3) Dragons teach language to ancient races, accidentally inventing civilization
4) Civilization invents new languages, which in turn is more tools to use to control magic
5) Better control of magic leads to greater ability to explore and discover magic
6) If magic is change then greater discovery begets greater change
7) Magic invents dragons, transformed by their power and knowledge, retreating into their massive stores of power
8) Elves discover magic, and, learning from the Dragon playbook, seed language to lesser/younger races

We get a lot of fun ideas to play around with for this setup but let me finally finally get to my main take-away, one I intend to implement:

All gold is books now.

You get yourself a Type H hoard haul? Congratulations, son, you found like nine different kinds of books. These can be traded for resources and favors back in civilization. You can liquidate them into coin, sure, but why bother with that middle step? Give the party a treasure they can carry with them, one they have to strategize and agonize about giving up, one which can be a similarly universal currency but not so convenient or inexhaustible as a pile of thousands in gold. You don't have to worry about draining coin off your PCs if their bag of Make This Problem Go Away is filled not with enough gold to build a new planet but like, all 7 Harry Potters. You get 7 big opportunities to surmount an obstacle and that's it, plus you endear yourself to your followers by reading them a chapter each night, improving their morale; is giving one of these up to buy passage to Stormboner really worth it to you?

It's also a resource that catches fire in a world full of fire breathers and fire ballers. That's a hell of a volatile market. I call this feature not bug.

So, blahblahblah wordl building bullshit, result: your party does not find 3200g in copper, silver, jewelry, gems, statues, and weapons. Your party just found a private library. Take this idea out for a spin and maybe swing on by Zak and Pat's places for some more toys to use in this Fright Zone playset.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Life, Death, and the Middle for CaBH + The West Wind Circuit

Most of this game will concern whether or not your vehicles are active and in the running but mortal concerns are still a factor. Characters slammed around in crashes or specifically targeted by other racers or creatures, folks suffering from atmospheric hazards, whatever: all these things add Wound Points. You begin suffering impairment (negative modifier of 1-2 pts) at 25 WP, but 35 WP is where things get really interesting for most players. That's when you can elect to let yourself be knocked out or elect to keep going the distance. This requires an Up check to see if you, well, stay up. It's a very easy roll against each character's Toughness. There's other stuff to consider, like Marks of Death, but here is the takeaway:

Your Pilots will not be immortal. They will be damn hard to kill without recklessness or concerted effort being involved.

Your Wound Points give you a big safety net to just do some really whack stuff. You never just hit a guy or drive really well in Feng Shui. You execute a move called Cleaving Fjord Wasp that happens to do punch damage, or take your car around the corner so fast the road cracks behind you. You get creative with your descriptions and you get buck wild with the stunts you want to attempt. Why try to just close some distance when you can do so by blowing out the base of a water tower and driving up it as a ramp, then surfing on the wave when it crashes and the water goes everywhere? That's...not going to lie, a couple rolls, maybe a -2 to a roll, but otherwise totally on the table.

That doesn't just go for your racing or combats. That goes for your role-playing, too.

The reason everyone is controlling multiple characters isn't because everyone loves keeping track of extra bullshit. It's so that no matter what scene we get lost in everyone has an opportunity to help play things out. This is something that can be hard to get people used to in demos of Fiasco (which you can tell I cribbed from) but eventually they get the gist and can fill in some gaps where needed. Your Magic Cop crashes and is our of the race? Play part of the support team for this Sifu over here, help them come out on top, keep playing!

It's also so you don't have to worry about whether or not your racers die. Your Sword Master can dramatically lose a duel in order that you, the Player, get to have a super awesome moment and wrest control of the plot for a minute...and next session your defender from someone else's team is so moved by their sacrifice that they take up his mantle and become a new Masked Vigilante to play.

You don't always have to show up with the same pilot and team, for that matter. Qualification means something in the world but in terms of our playing it just means WHO SHOWS UP - not just who is able to make the session but who the players want to bring.

Playing your Driver character but have an idea for a cyborg character with a big blocky Huitzil-from-Darkstalkers look instead, someone who doesn't know anything but racing but loves it so much? Ok, your Driver didn't qualify this race. Either you make up a good reason or I will. Maybe this will be a fun hook for future sessions, maybe not, but for right now you're Huitzil.

This can also help if you blow all your Resource Die wad and end up still having a busted vehicle, or if your character gets grievously wounded or maimed - you let them convalesce while you bring in someone else.

Speaking of convalescence, reduction of Chase Points during a Pit Stop requires the Fix It skill or Resource Dice. Reduction of Wound Points for a character requires Medicine skill or Resource Dice or some kind of magic/tech/mutation/creature power/etc that allows healing. Remember, normal juncture penalties are assigned geographically instead of by timestream for Chase a Bright Horizon. That applies to healing, too; if your Type can only be healed by Ancient Medicine normally then they can only be healed by someone who honed their skills somewhere DEEPLY strange and magical or unreal.


The West Wind Circuit brings a close to the Four Winds and determines whether the Grandissimo Prix will be held. It is the shortest race, with only four events: a driving race, an air race, and an aqua race, followed by a no-holds-barred last-person-standing demolition derby.

The West Wind Circuit was a later addition to Dawnstar Racing, a way to help settle close points rankings so there was no dispute as to who the winner of a season was. It's also a final test for any team which has managed to run away with the other three circuits. This was when Mammon Summer got tired of dealing with too many half baked challengers. Now anybody who has still proved themselves with distinction after the West Wind Circuit can expect an invitation should the Grandissimo Prix be held.

It's easy to be titillated by the demolition derby, sure, but these other races are hardly the same fare you'll see in a normal circuit. Each has some extra flair, some strange new rule, dangerous hazards, and sometimes direct opposition in the form of Dawnstar Team, a group of racing gladiators who hold no official racing position but operate as a kind of mobile, 'most-dangerous' hazard. Each of Dawnstar Team were once a pilot with a team of their own before being soundly defeated by Mammon Summer in the Grandissimo Prix.

These races are rare and deadly. Winning any of these, much less the circuit, is a storied accomplishment respected just as much as winning the Grandissimo Prix!

That's probably because nobody has survived winning the Grandissimo Prix. What a specific sentence...

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bagginses - A Stupid Dumb Stupid BXish Class

God forgive me

HD: Nope
Saves: as Fighter
Attacks: Nope
Advances: Not exactly
Requirements: If your DM actually lets you use this then congratulations, you passed the toughest requirement threshold ever.
  • Bagginses may not wear armor or use shields.
  • Bagginses may not wield weapons.
  • Bagginses may move 30'/10' under their own power, just sort of rolling forward. Permissive DMs may allow hopping. They may also be carried by any other character without adding encumbrance.
  • Bagginses are hit automatically when not carried and are +2 AC when being carried. They automatically fail any Breath save unless a character carrying them makes their Breath save.
  • Bagginses gave gems for eyes and coins for teeth. They are immune to gaze attacks, paralysis or petrification, poison, cold, radiant, necrotic, thunder, and psychic. They are -5 to save against electricity, fire, acid, and direct damage from spells.
  • When directly attacked, on a hit, a Baggins must save vs Spells/Magic in order to remain intact. If it fails then it is wrecked and everything stored inside it is lost. If a Baggins suffers a crit then it gets NO save and everything stored inside it spontaneously appears; if this includes magic items all of their magic effects go off at once. Consumed items do not reappear.
  • A Baggins may either store a magic item or consume it. For every magic item consumed it gains +1 to all its Saves. This magic item never returns but if it had a magic ability that can target a creature (e.g. Wand of Wonder or Light) then the Baggins may execute that effect 1/day on a creature it touches. If the Baggins is used as a weapon itself it does not need to save in order to remain intact. It does 1 pt of damage +1 for each magical item it has consumed, and can activate a randomly determined magical effect.
  • Healing magic and items do not affect the Baggins, nor does it eat or drink or sleep. A broken Baggins can be Mended through magic only; needle and thread won't do. After three strikes or being reduced to ash Mending will no longer cut it and the Baggins is gone for good.
  • Bagginses store up to 100 lbs. of non living materials. Rats in the bag will vanish into another dimension never to return, talking skulls (or familiars who are technically just alive spells) will fare fine. Every magical item it consumes increases this capacity by 20 lbs. At any time in initiative a Baggins may regurgitate one item in its iventummy.

CaBH Gear, Lifestyle, Wealth, & Upgrades + The South Wind Circuit

Feng Shui employs a lot of broad terms for its ranges, some Grover level generalities that used to be more common in D&D contemporaries before things got so much more granular. This applies to Fundage. Types have a wealth level of either Poor, Rich, or Working Stiff. Most Dawnstar Racers actually make a decent bit of coin from sponsors and purses. This is automatically assumed to cover the basic cost of equipment, fuel, transportation, and getting everyone paid. Your Pilot's wealth rating affects other things outside the normal course of racing. If you want to buy lunch for all your friends, or spring for a beach vacation, or an awesome new hat for Malibu Stacy, you make Fortune check. If you beat the odds then you have enough money for that thing.

Wealth level is "liquid walking around money" and there's lots of reasons an otherwise lucrative sport like Dawnstar Racing might have paupers in its midst. Perhaps you don't have sponsors, or many/large ones, and have to front a lot of costs yourself. Perhaps you're just bad at holding on to money, spending it on goodies on impulse and running out all the time when you need it. Maybe you're paying off a big debt. You could be giving oodles of dough to charity, or to one cause or person in particular. Maybe you've just taken a vow of poverty.

If you run out gas or you want 200 super-bouncy-balls or you want a present for your boyfriend or something like that you make a check. Depending on your wealth level this check might be easier or tougher. Someone who is rich has an easier time buying new tires after a blowout than a poor person. I speak from experience with that last part.

Equipment and gear in Feng Shui, as in a lot of anime frankly, is pretty loose. Do you want a thing, and it makes some kind of sense that you can find it on hand? You have it. Really weird items will require a Fortune check to see if they're around to be had. You can just roll into a race and then assume things about your loadout later. Firearms and conventional weapons are going to be a bit of an exception. A default assumption of the base game, if you want to bring these you need to specifically load up before the race begins. You are not finding an AK47 and ammo stores on a serene hillside while you repair your engine.

Resource Dice can be spent to automatically waive any lifestyle or equipment check. These are earned by the Team, bought with money earned from racing. Any Team member can spend them but these are communal resources so a light touch should be considered...especially since Resource Dice can be handy for other things.

Such as if your weapon is broken or disabled during a race. Or you want to add giant spikes to the side of your vehicle. Or you want to improve your vehicle's base stats. Or you need to repair your vehicle in a Pit Stop to either reduce its Chase Points or get back into the race after being knocked out. Maybe you want to add a new safety feature, luxury feature, or offensive/defensive feature, or a new trap or trick...

These all cost Resource Dice. These aren't rolled, just spent. Every Team begins each race with 1 Resource Die and depending on the purse they have the potential to earn enough money to buy more Resource Dice. The deeper you are into a circuit the harder these extra RD are to afford. There are also Resource Dice to be found scattered through the world which can be found through interaction and exploration.

They are a versatile resource that you should spend freely but never lightly.


The South Wind Circuit focuses entirely on aquatic races. Open ocean, winding rivers, untamed bayou, majestic sounds and tranquil coves, canals and cascades... The inaugural race in the circuit accepts twenty qualifiers, though rarely do more than a half dozen even finish (and those scarcely intact): the Waterfall Crawl, a nearly vertical climb up raging rapids and relentless opposing currents.

This circuit sees the Dawnstar Racers walking on eggshells in order to delicately balance the importance of the ecosystems around them with the need to drive fast and kick ass. It sees the least interference from local and international peacekeeping agencies, and has the least amount of broadcast coverage and surveillance from racing officials and news outlets. The remote nature of some courses means they are the most sparsely attended races, though still much viewed at home.

All of this is to say that there is no safety net. Your life preserver is your only parachute for drowning. It's impossible to overstate the power of water or the enormity of it. Add in wildlife dangers, kelp beds, reefs, oil spills, squalls, rogue waves, and more - never mind the occasional ghost ship or goddess - and you're in for some real trouble if your attention should falter.

Alliances are common in Dawnstar Racing; two or more teams acting in concert to help each other do well against the competition, draft with each other, then duke it out in the final stretches. In the South Wind Circuit such alliances are ESSENTIAL for safety and survival. Your buddies watch your back and stage your rescue mission.

Many racers had been to shores not found on any map. The walls are thinner this far out from society. Your course may take you to an entirely different kind of destination altogether.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Other CaBH Source Material + The East Wind Circuit

A lot of the heavy lifting of delineating a character concept and melodramatic hook in conventional Feng Shui is done by the very very Fiasco like (read: I ripped them off from Fiasco) relationship tables and the whole...premise of the campaign, really. You aren't disparate Dragons from all walks of life, different times and dimensions, coming together to fight a geographical war using time. Not necessarily. More likely you're excitable nobodies in a grander game or broad celebrity types angling for...whatever keeps you going, I guess.

The seed germ of this game was Studio Ghibli Wacky Races and I never want to get so far away from that as to be unable to see it without a telescope. That's not the only point of reference here. 80s cartoons - G.I. Joe specifically, and the legions of G.I. Joe knock offs like Ma-Ma-Ma-Mask. 80s professional wrestling. Card game anime. Lesser Square games. Through the Lupin III door comes Cowboy Bebop and the rest of the Watanabe canon. HAMTARO. Inevitably David Bowie. Schwarzeneggar movies but not the ones like Commando and Predator you'd expect. Scooby Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf. Mario Kart. What You'd Think Jojo Was If You Only Knew It Through Osmosis. My First BREAK!! Character. Sammo Hung movies. Not Speed Racer the cartoon but Speed Racer the movie.

Astro City #1. Astro City #1/2. Gumball Rally, or to a lesser extent Cannonball Run and Rat Race. The Good, The Bad, and the Weird. It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. The Catanooga Cats. Goldfinger, Maison Ikkoku, KIYOHIKO AZUMA, Steven Universe, the parts of Fury Road that aren't in cars.

Inevitably He-Man.

Disney Afternoon. High School AU Fan Fiction. 2005 series Doctor Who Power of Love Endings. Raiders. American Graffiti. Only the music from Katamari Damacy. Crazy Taxi. Master Roshi. The characters before Atreyu shows up. Global Frequency. The really sappy later seasons of MASH and Scrubs. The end of Schindler's List. The scene where Gen Wilder locks himself in with Peter Boyle. "So shines a good deed in a weary world." "I want everything I've ever seen in the movies!" Fuck it just Gene Wilder.

Buster Keaton while we're at it. Michelle Rodriguez. The part in Sailor Moon where she really wants to be Sailor V and ONLY those parts. Kamen Rider and Ultraman and Godzilla and Jack Kirby and Neil Gaiman and G. Willow Wilson but mostly for Mystic and Air. NextWave specifically. Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Power Stone. Sonic Adventure is shitty but the feeling of that game when you were twelve Actually fuck it DREAMCAST.

The bedrock, proto Ghibli: the Real Ghostbusters, Akira, Sherlock Hound? Sherlock Fucking Hound. Archie's Ninja Turtles comics. Legend of Five Rings by way of Last Airbender. Death Race 2000. The alternate reality represented in Monster Truck VHS tapes from the 90s where the guy who owned Bigfoot stopped drug dealers by running over their mobile homes. Monster Truck tv commercials. Jackass the Movie 2. E Honda. Yokai Monsters Attack. The weird Flintstones cartoons where their neighbors were the Munsters and they hung out with the Shmoo and then The Thing like Marvel Comics' The Thing was there too what

Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7. That time they just filmed Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7.

Pixar but not the cars ones. Disney Princesses As... Tumblr galleries. Micro Machines commercials. Explicitly and exclusively seven Transformers. The Music Meister Brave and the Bold. Unironic power chords.


Only the sincerest parts of Freakazoid!

Establishing shots of flowers and rivers.

David Lean panoramas. Mutant League Hockey. GWAR. Piano music. Zhang Yimou. Tsui Hark. Foggy Mountain Breakdown. The Great Muppet Caper. Violin music. Gershwin. Priest. Henry Selick. Burt Reynolds. Vanishing Point. LITTLE WOODEN BOY!

"My friends, you bow to no one." "My name just happens to BE Harvey."The movie Big Fish. Hey! Hey, FUCK you: the movie Big Fish.

"The river."

"Like this."


Paul Williams and Tim Curry. Goseki Kojima and Stan Sakai. The Wrong Trousers. Radar Love. Gorillaz. The Italian Job. The Crimson Permanent Assurance. Bernard Herrman.


These are your Chase a Bright Horizon characters. These are their villains. This is their world. These are your goals. This is the game. These are the choices and bonds and friendships and losses. This is Feng Shui 2, now. Now get

DEEP in it.


The East Wind Circuit is chiefly focused on sky races. The dangers here are obvious: any vehicle-to-vehicle contact ends in disaster. Crashes or "stoppages" from Chase Points can often be fatal. It can be harder to catch up from an early deficit. There are a greater number of no-fly-zones in nations than there are conventionally closed borders, as in Chevalle. Atmospheric phenomena.

Air races also require contending with travel ships and war ships more frequently in any other race mode. These are massive hulks with strange shapes and sometimes stranger missions. Magical forces, be it broomsticks or dragons, are more common in this mode than any other circuit.

The circuit culminates with a fireworks-spackled, explosion-dodging race around the world. A race against midnight to champion the first victor of the New Year.

While this circuit courts the least interference from the Road Dawgs or Knightrous Oxhide it does have some, shall we way, unique aggressors. These fields are usually pretty open and have a lot of racers who qualify. This is perhaps the most nationalistic/jingoistic of circuits, like the Olympics meets Top Gun. They are also, often, the shortest races, usually with only one major Pit Stop per race.

The skies go on forever, until they don't. Keep your wits about you, maintain dead reckoning, stay out of twilight, and think of something cool to put on your parachute.

Monday, July 24, 2017


HD: as Thief
SAVE: as Thief
ATTACK: as Thief
ADVANCE: as Thief
REQUIREMENTS: Constitution 11, Charisma 9, 1 hour each morning donning your gear and cosmetics.
  • Punks cannot use shields. Punks may wear leather armor, getting a +1 bonus to their AC (so a 3pt AC modifier total from armor).
  • Punks may use daggers, chains (as flail), and clubs. They may use any magic item they have stolen from someone, but not any they just find lying around.
  • Punks have a 2/6 chance of figuring out the meaning of glyphs, marks, and signs in cities and dungeons. Not translating them, just their meaning; "This is a warning" not "Lava ahead 500 meters."
  • Punks can skateboard (cost as shield). Punks add their Dexterity bonus to Architecture when skating, rolling this to avoid difficult terrain or double their speed for a round.
  • Punks will always detect as Chaotic no matter what sort of alignment system you use, whether they are or are not. Punks are +1 to hit and +2 damage against Lawful creatures and Lawful creatures are +2 to hit and +1 damage against Punks.
  • Punks can Detect Hidden Drugs on a 2/6.
  • Punks hope for nothing, and so are immune to Fear.
  • Punks love noise, and are immune to being Deafened.
  • Punks are considered to have Charisma 19 for hiring Punk retainers.
  • Punks get bonus HP each level equal to the number of times they were arrested since last level, whether as a direct result of their actions or just because the Man is hassling them.
  • At level 9 go fuck yourself: Punks gain the ability to ignore a rule of their choice once per day and get away with it.

CaBH Archetypes + The North Wind Circuit

Today's game prep is a discussion on Feng Shui 2 Archetypes. The idea is to treat the beginning of every campaign like you're using pregens, playing the first session through and then making any wished for or necessary changes. You just play the page out of the manual and you're fine.

I understand why some would bristle at this but as someone who ran a decent bit of Feng Shui, usually for new people, using the old rules let me tell you: this works. Believe me when I say that I do get the appeal of meticulously building your character but that's never been Feng Shui's goals. They want to get you playing as quickly as possible. However, even the relatively light customization options afforded in the older rules became a time-at-the-table quicksand. It had the opposite effect of get-playing-sooner, as people flipped back and forth between different sections....

One thing customization out of the gate does is place an unhelpful emphasis on schticks. Schticks are kind of like feats or moves in Feng Shui, they are not your primary weapon. That's usually a straight up Attack Value for Guns or Martial Arts or somesuch. Focusing on being creative in a fight is going to be much more helpful than trying to fit all your creativity in early so you can just set things on auto-pilot during combat.

Good line of thinking for most games, I bet.

So, you pick a guy and we just play and we fix them later. But what kind of guys can you be? This isn't a post to rule any Types right out or add in a bunch of workshopped ones or whatever. This is more of a guide to making this cool game peg fit into this specific Miyazaki hole. A lot of Types come laden with firearms or standard vehicles; the latter are right out and unless your Type is completely based around your weapons, so are your starting load-outs. Racers will not be trying to murder each other as a default assumption.

Do what you feel you must to be true to your dude but if you're in a Ghibli movie or an anime series or a jrpg that isn't explicitly ABOUT guns or gunplay then it's usually chiefly the bad guys running around being super gun-y. Your characters can be exceptions here, of course - even if Cagliostro wasn't a specific point of reference Lupin III is very in the spirit of what I'm attempting, and that has at least two deadly weapons masters in it. We can find some wiggle room and add things back and change things after the first session. The Killer might still use sharpshooting skill to blow out tires and puncture radiators, the Full Metal Nutball's "firearms" might take the form of Mario Kart weapons, etc.

Hammering this home again: King Arthur, Robin Hood, Conan, Xena, Ripley, etc. are all D&D Fighters. Lots of players may decide to field, say, an Exorcist Monk but have very different concepts and vastly different destinations over time.

With those two big changes in mind I want to look at individual types by groups. Some people get a concept and then find a Type that fits it, while some go the other way around. Hopefully this will be useful for both of you.

There are 36 Types in Feng Shui 2. Most don't fit neatly into one category and I'm not going to go over them all. I'd just like to look at three clusters I think are worth highlighting.

Big Bruiser
Everyday Hero
Scrappy Kid

This is kind of the starter pack. If you're never played before, or find all the other types and trading out schticks complicated, or if you are just plain unsure of which type to pick, go with one of these. They are straightforward each in their own way, with usually one or two gimmicks to master. Especially since our games may not revolve chiefly around rumbling...these guys offer some other good options.

Supernatural Creature
Transformed Crab
Transformed Dragon
Gene Freak
Magic Cop
Exorcist Monk

If you like the idea of playing a very involved character with lots of swap-out options for your schticks after first session, weird leveling paths, or just really playing up the witches and spirits and magical nutsack raccoons and pork curses of the source material then think about one of these. Just know that all of these powers won't mean very much unless you're prepared to actually use them to help your team race like a mofo. You can be obvious with your gifts or not, depending on what style you want to embrace. Not the action movie grit of the base game but the stone gears, sympathetic illusions, and binding decisions of this style of anime stuff.

Of special note, the book has off-the-shelf options for Transformed Crab and Dragon but suites to easily cobble together specific Transformed Animal types and enough room to cobble your own together, either a mishmash weird type or just say building a Giraffe out of different parts. If you go this route then just use the Transformed Crab for the first session and we'll see what you feel like building afterward. The important thing is to get a feel for how the different parts of the game work before tinkering under the hood.

Typically Feng Shui assigns "juncture penalties" for Scroungetech or Creature or Sorcery or other magic abilities. These will instead be based on geography: you will gain a bonus to your rolls in your homeland races, have no penalty when racing somewhere with similar supernatural elements (monster kingdom or robot kingdom or wizard kingdom, just not your own), and a penalty to your rolls in places without such features or with supernatural elements opposed to your own (tech rolls have a penalty in magic places for example). No nation of people is only one thing or one kind of geography so there will be little oases and exceptions along the way. But you see why, now, I take the time to call these Types out: they will involve the most give and take with me and fine tuning over time to make them work while still getting at what you're after.

Everyday Hero
Full Metal Nutball
Highway Ronin
Karate Cop
Maverick Cop
Scrappy Kid

These are the Types that begin with some level of the Driving skill. If you want to ever improve your vehicle behind its starting values you will need some level of Driving in order to pilot it. Any Type can trade a non-Info skill it possesses for Driving after the first session, as long as you can justify the swap.


The North Wind Circuit is a series of eight races beginning the day of summer solstice, when the barriers between worlds are thinner, the powers of the arcane nations hum louder, inspiration strikes those seeking it, and anything can just about happen.

North is focused entirely in road races. Some will be specific road courses, while some will take place on tracks. Most are going to be an overland scramble between checkpoint destinations. The first race in this series, the North Star Challenge, sees the racers dodging contested zones, dealing with natural hazards, and relying on their Team's bonds to overcome fierce arctic conditions and be the first to reach the finish line at the North Pole. Up to ten racers may qualify for the North Star Challenge.

First Place for the North Star Challenge is enough Money to buy 1 Resource Die and 100 Victory Points.

The North Wind Circuit represents the greatest risk of damage to property and bystanders. It also represents the greatest danger from animal life, unexploded ordnance, and dangers which can seem to come out of nowhere. It is in this circuit where the many diverse nations of the world will bring the most influence to bear on our racers. This circuit has the most direct oversight and interference from local law enforcement, militaries, criminal enterprises, and S.E.D.A.N.'s agents. Gracie Coupe herself makes it a point of qualifying for the North Star Challenge each year, just to prove the point that she and her fellows are always watching.

This is also the circuit most vulnerable to the activities of Knightrous Oxhide.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


You know that Drawtown always needs some extra hired hands this time of year, be it for labor or for security. You have an itch for coin, or maybe nowhere else will have you. Perhaps this is the start of something new.


You are a merchant, gourmet, or entertainer, or part of a larger troop of the same. Every three years you head out to the middle of nowhere to a town far larger than it has any right to be to make a big deal out of the local yokels' frog eating party. This is the last time. After this you wouldn't be caught dead here.


While drinking in Auberdene you hear tell of some trouble with some of the carnival folk who have set up early out Crook's way. You can't abide to see innocent women stampeded and cattle raped. Best to help put things right.


He cannot say what troubles him as he slides you a marker for your payment advance. He cannot say what you are looking for. He gives you the name of an old threadbare magician - Arquon the Red - and sends you to find out what he knows. The man in the hood knows a catastrophe is coming, all signs point toadward, but he cannot say what exactly he fears. If he better knew he still could not articulate it. He lacks the tools. You take him for some mean caster or low adept. He looked an awful lot like the High Reverend...

Chime out ye cauldrons, shine up yon gigs, spice up the brandy, brandy up the figs, it's TODESUP, TODESUP, come all and one, the harvest time's over, so now comes ye fun! Everyone within a week's ride of Crooker's Draw knows about the todesup, a fortnight long celebration leading to an enormous feasting upon all the gods' creatures...including the local toad population, abnormally large in both size and number. This town and the surrounding farmland has thrived on the attention its little festival has attracted, expanding into quite the tiny metropolis. This in itself is unusual. Crooker's Draw is, by definition of a Draw, not really on the way to anything, a few days ride even from the closest thing to be considered a road. There are only three things this remote burg has going for it: a big to-do every few years that helps put everyone for a day's march in the black; incredibly strong women, an accident of selective breeding in this weird little pocket of civilization; and the lake, gorgeous and silver, perfectly nestled downhill from the city like its mirrored shadow, the lake whose banks fairly burst with frogs and toads, the lake for which old Crooker first bought this stretch of land, Lilypad Lake, the lake full of people.


There are eighteen primary points of interest around Crooker's Draw.

1. The old hall, original from when this place was but a small village. The hall remains from the days when it provides shelter for distant disparate stranger settlers, shelter from winters and raiders. It has grown up in that time to be the seat of governance and regional register reporting to three different kingdoms. When taxes are collected they are stored here behind wood so old it might outlast stone.

2. The Temple of Life's Light, a pilgrimage point for wandering believers. Strong on the divestment of worldly goods and coin to the Temple, that they might do more good with them. Their friars are ascetic and severe and prone to wines.

3. The Temple of Light's Life, a splinter faith in a glorious new structure who preach of giving one's goods and coin directly to those who need it. Many people are simply lazy so donate directly to the Temple instead of pay attention to their fellows. The church is not corrupt per se and does much good but the underlying schism in such similar doctrine has led to a ferocious one sided rivalry with Life's Light, in the way of faiths.

4. The Church. Old faiths, old gods, not consecrated to any and so open to all. This is the place with the graves, this is the place with the gallows, this is the place with the true altar. It's hard to tell but this is the place with the most priests. They look similarly, dress to obscure those looks, move about and change places when others aren't watching...every worship is conducted here, including the ones the others find abhorrent, so the priests see nothing, say nothing, do not watch and about being sought. All are welcome here unless seeking forgiveness. There's none left in the box.

5. Lilypad Lake is strange for (rolls die) three reasons. The first is its isolation; several small creeks and streams can flood from time to time and send a trickle but the dry riverbed snaking out above the town is a pretty firm reminder that the tributary which birthed her is a long gone memory. Secondly, amphibians; an abnormal number of frogs and toads can be found in the mud and grasses along its banks. There is not seemingly an insect population large enough to sustain this force, which does raise the mystery of how they continue to thrive. Since residents are able to live a blessedly pest-free existence (APART from the green and brown bastards) few actually mind. Finally, there are the visitors. Most folk ride over hill from the big road maintained by the king, while others arrive from aged trails cut by their own fathers. Stranger strangers simply walk up from the bottom of the lake herself one day and straight into town. It is no longer remarkable. The visitors never know where they are or how they got there and some are stranger than others but they never stay long, particularly around Todesup, and have fueled many tales and romances. Few ever return, and those who do usually take a more conventional route.

6. The caves in the crest beyond the dried river bed. Less true caves and more impressive tunnels these have been here since before the town. Once people used them for burial. Long before Crooker settled here folk stopped doing that, though no one remembers why.

7. The market is really just a few shops: a general store, a green grocer, a tack and feed supply, a bakery, a butcher, a chandler, and, a true rarity, the personal and professional apartments of Arquon the Red, survivor of the Vodehorne who holds a kind of court here offering folk remedies.

8. The stables, far too small to accommodate the new town let alone peak Todesup numbers. The hands here are not too old for this work exactly but older than they should be.

9. The smithy, indeed under a spreading chestnut tree. The smith is ill and his seven daughters are keeping up with the increased workload.

10. The festival grounds are overpacked, muddied, shit-reeking, and an awful thing to hear, even this far out from the big day. There are all manner of entertainers, pleasure providers, and wonder sellers. They are all of them grotty to a degree. This is the best place to drain players of coin, what with the plethora of magical items to be found. None of them do a god damn thing.

11. The campgrounds spreading around homes and through freshly harvested fields, full of revelers doing what revelers do whilst waiting to revel, which is revel anyway.

12. The tower is only tower in name. It's two stories tall and meeting place for the local militia, quarters for a three-man standing watch, and part time barracks for the hire mercenaries who help to police the Todesup crowds.

13. The great square is neither great nor square, an open place for moving stalls, demonstrations, a fountain, and two wells. One ran dry and is ignored, the other seems fine.

14. The estate of Hearth Crooker, considered palatial by farmer standards but shabby by the standards of the new town. He still owns claim to this place's riches from his lineage and mostly uses it to ply travelers for exciting stories and/or sexual favors.

15. There is a true inn with a small bar called Shrew Hole.

16. There is a true tavern with a few rooms called One Bastard's Plenty.

17. The gate west is easily driven around but it is where all customs are checked, taxes levied, trials held, and generally the place everyone gets their news. Notices and bills are posted all over several boards on either side of the gate. The town road stops abruptly, overtaken by hill and loam in the direction of the true king's-road.

18. The pyramid showed up last year. People panicked, and shied away. Then scholars and holy men came to study it. Then magicians plied their trade against its rough concrete sides. Then people began stealing pieces of it to sell as relics, souvenirs, curatives, or just for construction supplies. Leader Fawn put a stop to this practice, sensing a potential new revenue stream. They have not been able to rebuild or fully capitalize on its existence in time for this next Todesup but all the locals are recommending newcomers to check out the "brand new ruins."

Put these on a map. Do it.


Your party should ideally arrive in town 12 days before the festival but if you need to lead that come up with some content to dick around with for a couple days and get them there earlier. They won't be able to get there after Twelve Til.

Twenty Til: A hunter's caravan bringing salt meats for the festival fails to arrive on time. Their trail became a great razored trench beneath them. Tracing their intended route will lead you to this hellish looking gap where the trail used to be, old earth long piled up on either side.

Seventeen Til: The first visitors in a very long time rise up from Lilypad Lake. They are not remarkable apart from this and seem to be a train of homesteaders and guardsmen. They intend to leave before Todesup and are making the best of their surroundings until then.

Fourteen Til: Giles Gaunder, chaplain of Light's Life, has had terrible dreams for the last several nights. Portents, he believes, of something awful to soon befall Crooker's Draw. With the permission of the Anchorite he has set out with the underchaplain, Devil, riding to the king's road to bring back aid from Heshing.

Twelve Til: Silak the Great only has three freaks in his show and they have all escaped. These are detailed further in the freaks section but are the Wild Man, the Dog Faced Boy, and the Minotaur. The Dog Faced Boy will be found lost among the campgrounds (11), the Minotaur lies in the tunnels (6), and the Wild Man is hiding in an ancient fishing shed about a day's ride north, where the river never died.

The Sleep: All creatures capable of sleep will sleep. Creatures who do not have to sleep but are still capable of sleep will sleep. Creatures incapable of sleep see a wave of magical darkness maybe a 20th of a second in duration pass over the entire town. They are the first to awake to what has occurred. They are the first to be suspected.

Eleven Til: A wall has gone up, thick and made from something like stone. It is 500' tall, so you don't get full daylight except at midday. It extends as far as the dry river bed and encircles even the smithy and the smith's home on the edge of town. All points of interest mentioned above, as well as all the homes and such, are within its borders. If your party went to investigate the Pyramid or ran after the Wild Man and missed the Sleep and camped outside of Crooker's Draw then they will find themselves quite unable to challenge the wall now. Refer to the Suspects section to set up your initial factions. Then, about noon, set down your first Spire (roll 1d20, reroll on 19-20).

Ten Til: The first Engine will appear overnight in an area closest to the square (13). Some time before noon the first Figure appears between Light's Life and Life's Light. In the last embers of sunset twilight the first Blade will be found.

Nine Til: Wherever the most people are gathered a Teaching will appear. A Spire appears nearby around noon. An Engine appears inside of Crooker's house come midnight.

Eight Til: A Figure is found in the old hall. A Blade is in its hand. A Teaching is alongside it. This is the earliest you can find the tunnel beneath the floors.

Seven Til: Lilypad Lake becomes inaccessible for visitors for entry or exit. The bottom of the lake has been basically paved over, made of the same stuff as the Wall. There are a lot of amphibians around its borders, watching the center of the lake.

Six Til: A mutant toad creature is found, dead. Nothing else happens. The sound of croaking grows loud as the night comes.

Five Til: The frogs and toads this town is so famous for begin crawling around town in record numbers. Some are as large as a dog. They are attacking everything, eating everything, and fucking.

Four Til: A Teaching is found. From now on the phenomena occur in an order reverse to normal - Teaching > Blade > Figure > Engine > Spire. You will have one of each per day.

Three Til: The well runs dry, the lake turns poisonous. Flies are thick now for the dead, for the first time in this town's history, yes, flies. The amphibians ignore them, ravenously attacking other animals and then cannibalizing themselves. Giles Gaunder returns to the outside of the wall with workers, soldiers, and apostles all scrambling to get in. They begin suffering Changes.

Two Til: Cracks begin to show in the Wall. Any surviving Hoplites organize themselves and begin patrolling the ruined square. Beings with more than 14 Changes will band together regardless of permutation. Any pure beings left in Crooker's Draw will be seen as enemies by all others.

Tode Nite: A Confessor is appointed. They will be found covered in Teachings, wielding a Blade. They will explain things calmly and rationally. He is not here with a way out, he is here just to give everyone a chance to atone to their gods before the end. He is not here to bargain but he will HEAR your bargains and relay them in the night. If you were saving any last ditch strategies now is the time.

Todesup: There is a rumble in the earth and from Lilypad Lake comes a steady stream of frogs, toads, tadpoles, salamanders, FISH, whatever. It is a constant stream like the breaking of a dam. Within minutes all within the wall will be ankle deep. Staying standing in them will be difficult, avoiding being eaten alive will be more so, avoiding being crushed to death will be trickier still, as will keeping from suffocation under green flesh, and oh my god the noise will make communicating just impossible. They continue pouring out until they flow over the top of the wall, at which point the wall will crumble, crushing any would-be rescuers below. Time's out: toads up.


They are not makers. Well, they were not makers. They were barely anything, half forms who had half homes, stepping from here to there, world to world. None ever settled anywhere for long, there were no homes to speak of, no possessions. There were of course places which were THEIRS.

The trails came first, blazed during the hour of light. Those were surprising, alarming, but other than instilling a new anxiety the beings paid them no mind. Sometimes there was a new tree, or sometimes the shadowy grass turned to ash, and they never knew why. They did not have the tools to even voice their concerns about the trails. Now the old hall, yes, that was a game changer.

They did not talk together much before that. This set them chattering with new words. It took a few more farmhouses and small buildings before they figured it out.

There is a world out there with the power to affect their world, to change their world. It's what burned the brush, and it's why trees just appeared. These new structures also just...appeared. The deciding factor seemed to be completeness. Once a structure was finally finished down to the last detail according to its maker's plan, or once a tree had grown to the shape of what some cosmic force thought a tree should be, it would appear here.

This was very advanced theory. Their world was without forest creatures, without anything like a human. There was them, their place, their way, and their strange food. Figuring out that there were creatures with a will behind these happenings was a long road, a deduction of sheer genius.

These new structures aged and crumbled in their world. They ruined the landside and killed many, crushing tunnels, making a mess of things. A cross-dimensional one-sided campaign that the aggressors did not even know they were waging: architectural warfare. There was really only one thing to do. To become. They were not makers.

Something to keep in mind is that these worlds are not the same. Time doesn't sync up, either; their nights were much longer while roughly corresponding to our nights, and the two centuries that went by in the mortal world was closer to a dozen for these things. This meant that any effort to join the conflict would involve generations, and careful planning and consistency, a devotion to things left unfinished. They were unfinished beings, so this was an easy sell.

The first try was the well. When that succeeded they tried something rudimentary: the pyramid. Emboldened, they widened the scope of their projects. A happy coincidence altered and speeded their plans somewhat: this world also had the food. They knew about the food and how it was found in the other worlds they visited, all empty save for they and the food. The food used the door to go from place to place, just as they did. The food was for them to use. They would use the food, the TIME of the food, for their plans.

These beings are not sorcerers but their creations have a profound effect in our world, a kind of alien radiation we have no apparatus for. They believe the distant creatures are brash and dangerous. What better weapon to use against such animals than the animals themselves? Snare them, winnow them down, let them do to each other what they had done to the half-made world. After-effects and curious alterations are a bonus.

They do not come to our world and back. The door is there but they cannot enter through it, we are too different. Their tunnels and their grander creations persist with a strange energy close to their world but that's it. Neither side of this war will ever meet a soldier from the other, they cannot harm one another directly. However, the strange energy their tunnels and grander creations persist with a hum of energy similar to that of those beings. Enough time around it and our shape becomes like a ghost in their world. They become like shadows in ours. They are not ever fully appreciated, fully visualized. They are just shapes, or less than that: mere Glimpses.


The Wall goes up first. It is 30' thick, 500' tall, and made of something which is not stone but which acts like stone. Attacking or casting a spell on the wall will prompt a Magic save. Failure means you undergo a Change. You have to get naked right now, you suddenly shed a hundred pounds, something like that. This seems perfectly normal to you. If your comrades point out the strangeness you will be horrified at how your core self has been so undermined. You will now be aware of this change but helpless to fight it. Your decision whether Remove Curse works or not since this is not a spell effect cast with intent. It is a side effect of strange matter. The Wall is not strong enough to last but, then, it is not meant to last for long.

The Spires appear first in the Weapon Clock. These are great metal skeletons piled high in an area, supported by incomplete scaffolding. In the world of the Glimpsed the scaffolding is clawed away as the Spire is completed, leaving it without any support. They will stand at their strange angles for 10 full minutes in the mortal realm before collapsing. Their component rods can be wielded as clubs or spears. If so then treat anything killed with these as you would a kill from a Blade. Creatures merely crushed by these items in their collapse rot and stench much faster than normal.

The Engines are basically traps that affect a large portion of the area in which they appear. Old standards: rippers and pullers; spikes; pits; blades; crushers. They are some mix of DaVinci diagram and Jigsaw hodgepodge. They are fragile and easily destroyed, disarmed, or otherwise dealt with once you have time to assess them. However, each will trigger as soon as they appear in the mortal world. These start out covering a wider area with deadly damage (like 12d10 or something) and then reduce in size and damage quickly over the iterations. An idea abandoned by the Glimpsed at large, save for a few dedicated murdersmiths who take the design and execution of these devices as an art form themselves, regardless of whether they affect anybody.

The Figures are all half-things, crude simulacrum of the Glimpsed themselves. These begin as a form of communication (WE ARE HERE) but quickly in their development become warnings, brags, declarations of war (WE DID THIS TO YOU). When they first appear all who behold them - not interact with them but all who behold them - must save or have a Change triggered. This power quickly fades but few travelers or citizens will feel comfortable staying in the same region as one for long. They continue to radiate unease. Examination of these will reveal an evolution in tool marks. Things will start out very jagged and experimental, the last few will be refined enough to be more terrifying. Oh also they seem to be made of gold, close enough to fool an alchemist. It's NOT gold, but it's not NOT gold, so that's just as good.

The Blades appear only to those ready to use them, whether that's out of fear, survival instinct, hatred of those one blames, madness, whatever. These are long, flat, sharp, and can be wielded for 1d8. It is wrong to consider them swords in the same way a word is not a book. Any creature you would normally kill with such a weapon instead simply vanish. They're still dead, just outside of the world, not bleeding out but dissolving like a sandcastle. For any PC that dies this way I would have a graphic little paragraph I'd slide them with instructions not to mention what it says. Better if parties waste their time in the hope their fellows can be rescued. Each Blade has its own effect on the wielder and only has one wielder at a time. Roll for effect or choose:
  1. Begins to rot alive
  2. Partial paralysis
  3. Hand fuses to Blade
  4. Floats in random directions 1.5' off the ground
  5. Stand in one place for too long and rats burrow up from the ground, biting everything.
  6. See everyone around already hacked to pieces, thankful for your violence as they bleed, pleading with you to get on with killing now VERY convincingly

The Teachings are a mix of castigation, explanation, propaganda, and religious marker. They take the form of strange writings interlaced with hideous three-dimensional pictograms that look like they were drawn on with juicy hams. A variety of emerging styles will be evident as more appear. Most viewing them will have different interpretations, and will seek like minded persons. Whenever a Teaching is revealed you must recast all of the factions within Crooker's Draw. So, for example, if the rest of the population is united against the fairground folk, you change the faction lines so that Changed people do not trust the normal people any more. Or divide the town, including people with no dog in this fight, between Light's Life and Life's Light. So on and so on. I'm using 2 factions for an example and, sure, for simplicity's sake start out with 2. By the third Teaching, though, splinter that shit but good. In this way allies will be at each other's throats the next day and back in accord the next, their minds trying to make sense of this informational warfare. Long term plans will have to be redrawn. Folk who want to hunker down in safety and ride this out will be torn apart. Try not to use this to split the party up too much.

I never said don't.


When the Wall goes up a lot of fingers get pointed. Some party has to be responsible. Explore a couple of these possibilities and lean into the first one the party responds to: make that a prevailing sentiment, erecting the first schism. Pick another side conflict between two of these parties to act as a distraction, so things are not too easy.

  • Giles Gaunder specifically and his Temple will fall under suspicion once his departure becomes known.
  • Arquon the Red is used to being blamed when things go wrong, so he isn't even surprised when people question whether a wizard did this. A faction to himself, unless other MUs are present (your call).
  • The party themselves are obviously suspect since they are among the first to get really organized and proactive.
  • The festival attendees could have some demon amongst them.
  • The vendors and entertainers never leave the folk at ease to begin with. Just as likely this is some game of theirs.
  • The Freaks in particular are suspected of bringing this down on everyone's head with their blasphemous existence.
  • The caravan which appears out of the lake has some really fishy timing. Probably invaders.
  • The blacksmith's daughters have always been strange ones, refusing to take a man. Now their family harbors some...plague! They have brought it down upon us.
  • Obviously we must ferret out whatever dark deeds and dark dealers have been hidden in the old church, for this is surely damnation for their sins.
  • Rats are always good. The rats are going Ape. Shit. Crazy. with nowhere to escape to. The smart ones will begin to dig. The Glimpsed are down there: better not, whiskery friends.
  • Any of the three nearby kingdoms will be a good scapegoat, with everyone in town from that kingdom being 'one of them.'
  • Tode is a word these people use interchangeably for anything hoppy. If violence is visited upon these masses up their number appearing in response.
  • The dry river bed divides a section of Crooker's Draw off from the rest. It's small. All divisions start small.


Young Master Crooker- Head of Crooker's Estate, not especially young but he insists folk "genially" refer to him as such. This chaos affords him the opportunity to strut, show off his privilege, and indulge a few stranger lusts once the Changes come. He will be hard to win to your side.
Watcher Gobben- Old man, head of the local watch which consists of three standing watchmen, technically in charge of local militia and the added security for the festival. Willing to lend a hand, but also too willing to trust those under his command.
Sack- One-eyed captain of a royal regiment from a neighboring kingdom, sent on a babysitting mission, incredibly peeved. Always one inch away from declaring martial law. More vicious than any mercenary but always adheres to rule of law and chain of command. Lady.
Magister Ubar Bluke- Not a fat man but somehow with the character of one. Manic when the wall goes up, he will agree to any plan that saves 'his' city and its money making festival. Will seek to punish cowardice or failure severely.
Burrabee Bluke- Tailor's apprentice, magister's son, over-eager to show off his plan to bring new life to the fair: the Hoplites. Will be incredibly helpful up until the first time the PCs lose contact with him, then will return MUCH changed. The other Hoplites will come to a similar state soon after.
Centielm- Caravan leader for the folk who came out of Lilypad Lake. She had intended to leave sooner but delayed departure to entertain a romantic pursuit of Snake Boy. Will back a course of action designed to save the caravaners but, if she has to, will personally try to save Snake Boy.
Darf- Blacksmith has had strange skin lesions appearing for a while now, caught after working a strange ore he found in the tunnels past the river bed. Confused and scared he will help anyone who seems like the know more than he does, or anybody who can offer his daughter's escape.
Iwren- A prostitute who has taken over the inn. She offers shelter to any who surrender their weapons. A surgeon with an axe, she strikes down any troublemakers. She and all peace loving folk shall abide the siege in here, thank you.
Leader Fawn- Head of Crooker's Draw and by a damn stretch the sanest person for leagues in any direction. Fawn will record any changes she undergoes with Brundlefly detachment, remaining both analytical and compassionate as long as she can. She will be understanding, insightful, helpful, and a good DM mouthpiece. She will NOT be permissive, and going against her will surely bring chains.
Silak the Great- Not an explorer or magician really, just a gifted surgeon and gifted drunk. His half-creatures feel the danger coming to Crooker's Draw and bolt, causing much consternation even before the wall: freak off the leash! If he survives until the Wall goes up he will probably not survive long enough to sober up.
Arquon the Red- Knows 6 spells and has a big chest of silver hidden somewhere. Possesses a spear that ignores all armor save for leather. Has Vodemarche's skull under his bed. Arquon is fatalistic about all of this, accustomed to being asked to solve problems but well aware that sometimes fate just catches up with you. He will assist for as long as he is able but he puts his life in his hands whenever he casts a REAL spell, so...his days are probably numbered.
Giles Gaunder, Devil, the Anchorite, and other figures of religious authority and avenues for divine intervention are simply dead ends, completely impotent in the face of this siege.


It's possible that the shape of another world slips off of those for whom the shape of this world was insufficient to fully bind and form, like water on a duck. These are unfortunates, some of them magical victims, some of them vivisected, some merely outcast. Changes and the transposition of Blades and the divisions of Teachings will not affect them. Can still get trapped and crushed, though.

Dog Faced Boy- One of Silak's things, just a dog with some brain surgery. Limited vocabulary, tries to walk on hind legs until it loses feeling in them from a bent spine. Lacks tools to convey what it actually fears.
Snake Boy- Scaly, bald, yellow nails and eyes. Female. Plays a pipe and tells fortunes that all have a smear of tragic romance to them. All she has known is this life. Her suitor represents freedom and safety surely as, to Centielm, Snake Boy represents adventure and danger.
Paper Martyr- His skin is so thin, sensitive, brittle, that his act involves cutting great wounds in himself with only a feather. He can crimp these wounds closed and smooth them down later to heal. Life outside the freak shows might easily mean death for him.
Todedamme- Simply a pox scarred young child with lots of small moles. She has been 'crowned' as part of a local tradition. She is miserable but desperate to hold onto her title and prison: her family desperately needs the cut of the gate she's getting.
Wild Man- Just a guy who has freakishly long body hair all over. Billed as a kind of ape man or educated animal, his act has a lot of poetry in it as well as the occasional foaming...He is the smartest of Silak's freaks and though he feels the encroaching counter-world the least of those three he still makes it the furthest away.
Dragon of Ganchor- Big ass lizard, extra bones sticking out of flesh, will die soon. Poisoned by a stomach full of costume jewelry.
Minotaur- Most extensive of Silak's creations, cannot stay standing under its own strength but cannot breathe on all fours. Will hide out in the tunnels uphill. Feels what's coming most acutely, most frightened. Just a Frankensteined bull with a brain too big for its skull.
Visiona- Epileptic with fourteen eyes, most clouded over. Works herself into a fugue by describing horrible things on stage then wigs out. Knows lots of languages. Didn't see ANY of this.
Pin Prick- Metal as fuck.
Jaw Clown.


An invention of Bluke the Younger these are essentially park mascot characters. Big suits that look like frog people, dressed to look like soldiers. He made a lot of these outfits and they range in quality, showing his deepening craft. Saved the grandest for himself of course. Bluke will change the first and most: his movements will become loose, sleepy, and Slinky-like. His outfit will take on stains and start bursting seams. He will not be visible within the costume's slack sack mouth. His clay sword will be replaced by a nice copper one.

There are fourteen Hoplites including their commander. When the Wall goes up only a few will have made themselves known. As the days go by more will appear. "Go be a frog guy" is its own kind of madness and Change. These will move even more grossly, as if the suit is hollow of men and filled with toads and if you feel like it then you should just do that but that is allllll you baby.

Their skin and eyes underneath with take on amphibian qualities but nobody just turns into a frog. You can, however, have one just explode into a bony pulp in the process of trying to turn into a frog. That's way better.

They will roam until addressed or attacked, at which point they will attack, croaking, until killed. Every three rounds roll to see if their battle is joined by more of their kind. If you try to reason with them or help them you attract their attention and they will follow you. They are not on the Encounter table because you need to be judicious about when and where you use them. They are always dingier than last seen and Bluke in particular looks more nightmarish each appearance.


Roll for wandering encounters as necessary. Every two real-world hours roll on this table. Few if any of these will wield weapons that do more than 1d6 and many will have only their bare hands. Those encountered will exhibit at least 1 Change for every day the Wall has been up. Not all will be immediately hostile but they will almost all be prepared to fight if needed. Re-weight this as you feel is needed, I'm tired.

1. Swarm of panicked rats, 4hp per 2d6, AC 10
2. Repenter, 6hp, AC 11, 1d4 appearing
3. Drunk, 10hp, AC 9, 1d6 appearing
4. Deputy, 10hp, AC 13, +1 tohit, 1d6 appearing
5. Soldier, 20hp, AC 16, +2 to hit, 4 appearing
6. Beggar-Thief, 4hp, AC 10, steals object on a hit
7. Dog, 4hp, AC 12, +1 tohit
8. Child, 4hp, AC 8, -3 to hit but double damage, 3d8 appearing
9. Cook, 8hp, AC 9, +3 damage, 1d4 appearing
10. Builder, 10hp, AC 11, +2 tohit
11. Hunter, 20hp, AC 13, +4 tohit ranged, +2 tohit melee, 2 attacks
12. Toad, 1hp, AC 10, 1 damage and effect, 2d4 appearing in town, 3d8 appearing near lake, double appearing night
13. Performer, 6hp, AC 15, 1 will always be clown, 1d12 appearing
14. City clerk, 4hp, AC 8, Sneak Attack
15. Freak, no Change or altered feature, AC 5+1d10, 1d4 appearing
16. Lion, 25hp, AC 13, +2 tohit and damage, 3 attacks, 2 appearing
17. Merchant, 5hp, AC 10, always has bodyguard (choose), 1d4 appearing
18. Craftsman, 4hp, AC 9, 2x non coin loot
19. Farmer, 15hp, AC 12, free attack when killed
20. Glimpse, save or you'll see them again, after 3 failed saves you disappear forever


Attacking the Wall or being in the presence of a Figure triggers a save against a Change. Most folk in town have saves much worse than the party's. These are modifiers to the people Encountered above. Interestingly the Freaks from the festival grounds are immune to these Changes. The amphibians are undergoing their own changes. Roll 2d20 to determine something...OFF about these people or their state of mind.
2. Crying blood
3. Hollow mouth, void of calcium
4. Splinters growing from fingernails
5. Gray skin
6. Golden eyes
7. Voice is crickets
8. Rabid
9. Fast walking, like a poorly cranked silent film
10. Hirsute
11. Noticeably taller
12. Skin sag
13. Albino
14. Pulsing vessels
15. Sharpened teeth
16. Hair clumping out
17. Reek
18. Boils
19. Bites from some unseen insect
20. Scars
21. Burns
22. On all fours
23. Noticeably thinner
24. Aged
25. Nude because wearing anything causes you terror and pain
26. Sleepwalking/entranced
27. Writing, wherever and with whatever
28. Deluded
29. Dead but hasn't noticed
30. Sweating black
31. Jawless
32. No thumbs
33. Big head
34. Terrified
35. So hungry
36. Seriously injured/disfigured
37. Speaking backwards
38. Suicidal
39. Overladen with materials
40. Only animal grunts and screeching


Use whatever stats you want, throwing in an occasional giant after a few days of the Wall being up. These creatures use Lilypad Lake to come and go between otherwise empty worlds like the Glimpsed but are able to enter our world. Not without changes of their own, though: they are devilishly clever, patient, and cruel. The deeper into the timetable you are the freer you should be with mutant frogs, were-frogs, poisonous toads, prehistoric ancestors...there are strange things across infinite ponds.

That is by design, really. The Glimpsed are not the only aggrieved. There is at least one more world connected like these two, only they have both the mortal world's clutter and the Glimpsed plane's horrors visited upon their own home. Their reaction was similar to that of those half-people: retaliation. The Glimpsed used Making. Their unknown enemies used Breeding, a making but in flesh. They have used the food.

No manner of crazy amphibian creation is too crazy to let through the Lake so long as it is open. Do not overdo having weird things show up but show off that they are possible. These are not salvos against the mortal world. They are rockets that overshot London. The final drowning swarm on Todesup, and the strangeness affecting the amphibians and all in their guise, was never a plan of the Glimpsed. Unable to learn any lessons watching the conflicts they caused, the Glimpsed never understood that there is never such a thing as an Only Two Sided War. The city of Crooker's Draw is almost certainly doomed, true. However, an entire world only Glimpsed from ours in shadows has had its doom planned for a long, long time.

Monday, July 17, 2017

MOON SLAVE Spell Failure Table (Wonder & Wickedness/VAM! Style)

Where an individual spell has its own failure table always use that one first, coming back to this one if referred. Otherwise just use this one straight. I often use the shorthand of "smoke, nightmares, and witches" to explain the spheres Moon Slave governs. This does not mean it is a god of all magic or that he is some source of all magic in a Dragon article kind of way. It does mean that he wants more magic and more powerful magic in the world. He takes magic's use, especially dangerous magic or magic ill-applied, as a form of worship. It will not be denied the spread of his worship just because YOU fucked something up. There is no "the spell just doesn't go"/"you lose the spell" option.

My spell failure is going to have three extra rules:

1) If you survive until your sixth spell failure an aspect of Moon Slave shall appear in a plume of flame. It will cast one spell of its own and then vanish. You're on warning.

2) Performing a blood and burn sacrifice to Moon Slave beforehand lets you modify your roll against spell failure. This bonus equals the number of living beings with Hit Dice you just sacrificed. No partial hit dice like rats or worms.

3) If you kill a creature in 1 blow and by your own hand then you get another Safe Spell for the day.

On your 66th spell failure congratulations: Moon Slave appears and begins a slow march to claim you.

1. Something in the environment which would not normally burn catches fire for 1d6 rounds.
2. Caster loses 10kg. This is not so bad at first but repeatedly getting this result will have you slowly waste away from magic. No amount of pastry will fatten you up when magic eats you from the inside.
3. Area fills with choking smoke, Poison save to keep from being helpless while hacking and retching, completely obscures vision, lasts for a minute or until otherwise dissipated.
4. Spell is cast but it dulls all blades in your party, -1 to hit and damage until each blade is sharpened again.
5. Caster falls asleep for 5 minutes or until awakened, has horrible dreams.
6. Any coins you have melt, any paper money or marques you have burn.
7. Caster's name changes, but they don't know what their new name is. Their party members have always known them by this new name. Cannot cast spells if you don't know your own name.
8. -1 Constitution until your next bad dream. This stacks over time.
9. Full darkness. If torches or lanterns are lit they snuff, if the sun is shining bright above the sky instead appears like starless black. 1 mile radius.
10. Spell succeeds but treat as immediately triggering a wandering/patrol failure. You've got company.
11. Bat swarm, obeying no master.
12. The opposite of this spell's effect occurs. Light becomes dark, fire becomes ice, death becomes life, lightness becomes crushing gravity, etc.
13. Spell targets a random creature in line of sight, even if spell can normally only affect the Caster or a touch target.
14. A weeping apparition appears and follows you, soundlessly screaming. Every time you get a spell failure between now and the next black moon another will appear whether you roll this result or not. Everyone can see them but you.
15. A dead person returns to life - mostly - for a day. They know and will tell that you are the cause.
16. 13 witchfinders appear, confused and angry.
17. Hurricane storms manifest, out of all control. If this happens in an enclosed space you're pretty screwed.
18. Spell debt: lose one Safe Spell from your next alottment. Spell still fails.
19. Spell casts. Roll for a random spell. That spell also casts, affecting the same target or affecting a random target
20. Spell fails. Summon, Wish, and Permanency cast instead, in that order.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Elves Are Over

Day drinking. Let's write.

SO: elves are the best at fighting and the best at exploring dungeons for secrets and the best at magic and the best at fighting undead critters and the best at surviving being stabbed and they don't even get sleepy.

That is boring. As editions pile up (and an important factor: as D&D novels pile up) elfs get all sorts of other cool shit. Even before Orlando Bloom comes along elfs are all stunning and cool and Above.

I don't need class as a class. "I rolled up metropolitan aristocracy!" Hell with that. And none of this really underlines the cool shit we associate with elfs.

Elfs are one with the forest, one with nature. Their step is a cloud, unheard and unseen. They are so perceptive as to be difficult to lay a hand on. They are so graceful as to save themselves from certain death. They're swift. They're really great at shooting you from a distance. That's an elf all right.

Except in BX or LotFP none of that is an elf. That's a FUCKING Hobbit.

I find it exceedingly weird that hobbits are still in the game. I do not MIND it at all, especially since all halflings are cowboys (which is another article I guess). It's just strange that they're in there in the first place from exactly one (1) point of reference where dwarfs and elfs are recommended by a plethora of myth and traditions. Gnomes, even, or a T&T style leprechaun, sure, but hobbits is weird.

I can also say that in all my years of running and playing I have never run for nor played with another character who was playing a halfling. I know one guy who played an elf and one gal who played a drow. I think a lot of this owes to the idea that people like their character to be thought of as a badass and nobody, after 6 big movies not counting the other adaptations, thinks hobbits are badass. Another factor is that elfs always take forever to level. It's the one thing they aren't best at, really.


If you want to play a halfling that's fine, play a dwarf and call it a halfling and give it different languages and requirements and shit. Hell we can make a pretty good damn halfling this way, yknow? Another solution is to just...not. If a player asks about hobbits then you can spin them one on the fly but let the work you put into it correspond to how often it comes up.

Elfs should be both fierce and fragile, like nature. Like a thorn tangle, brittle but lacerating. They should feel like I'm going to bump into them in a misty vale, not like I'm going to bump into them on the Justice League satellite.

Elfs are halflings now.

Don't like the halfling weapon restriction? Ignore it. Or just make longbows a specific exception: longbow and all one handed weapons. Or make it a reward: a lot of people don't even use BX/s bonus XP rules these days so if you have Dexterity 13 you don't get extra XP you get longbow proficiency. Or keep it and recast your mind-elf: elfs are 5', reedy, and at 5th level they all start growing horns. Or just accept that your damage output with a shortbow for BX or LotFP are the same as a longbow and you're really just trading off some extra distance at long range, then just use a shortbow. Leave longbow use to be another special thing for the Fighter to have, greedy guts.

The best thing about this change is it's so EASY. I could probably whip up a quick-n-dirty DnD PHB in like 1000 words. Most of us could. And it could have all these fun spins on these old types of guy. It's just....who needs that? If I want to play old school dnd right now I have SEVENTEEN or so rulesets on my computer including the originals. Fuc. k. This way you just go, "we do this now," and then you do this now.

My table is not Kiel's table is not Katie's table is not Claude's table: maybe your party is swimming in halflings or, one shudders, swimming with elves. Everyone's happy with things as they are. Good on yer.

I want to do things this way because rolling up an elf, even one of those fun new random elfs, feels like making something connected to Elf Kind in a very Deep Space Nine kind of removed way; rolling up a halfling, absent of enough other connotations, feels like making something connected to Jules Bass. I want to roll up an elf that feels connected to the W O R L D. This lets me do that in a sentence:

From now on all elfs use the character builds for halflings instead.

and some of them are FUCKING BRUNETTE.