Thursday, 25 April 2013

Setting Idea: Yippee-ki-yay!

On Sunday I saw Olympus Has Fallen, which was good in a pulpy, ridiculous sort of way. Good actors making the most of an overblown plot. It has been described as "Die Hard in the White House" which is a description that totally fits.

Last night I was watching an episode of Lost (don't worry, if you've never seen it I won't spoil anything) and there came a point where a character was crawling through a ventilation shaft. Something connected back with Olympus Has Fallen and the "Die Hard in the..." summary. Which in turn lead me to write "Game/Setting Idea: Die Hard in an abandoned castle/wizard's tower" over on G+.


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Monster: Weaves

Art sometimes get a bad rep. On our world people look at graffiti and wonder if it has merit. They look quizzically at a shark in a tank of formaldehyde. And they just don't get why Picasso couldn't get perspective right.

In other places, people look at a bizarre statue: a creature supported by a dozen piglegs, stitched to a cow's body, the head of a gargoyle, creepers growing out of all of the orifices and tree limb arms ending in scythes. "How is that art?" they ask. Then they run screaming as it stirs into life and chases them.

They didn't hear the story about the adventurers excavating under the hill of the Dread Rabbit who found a similar composite creature: a tripod of metal, stone and flesh (a bent broadsword, a three-foot stone column, the leg of a grotesquely fat person) carries a great dead horse head, mouth held shut by nailed bands of metal. A sword spike juts out of the top of the head, tentacles that sprout rosebuds spill out of the eye sockets and nostrils. As the adventurers walked past it shuddered into movement and pursued the group.

These are descriptions of Weaves.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Games Night: Of Mechs & Men

Last night I joined in my second session of Pendragon of Mars (noisms' homebrew mash-up of Pendragon and Mekton on Mars) on G+. We had a lot of fun, particularly when we got out into the Martian wilderness and were hunting down a fugitive knight

The story picked up a few months after the winter phase of the previous session, at the Easter Festival. Earl Roderick tasked the noble knights - Owain (me), Xyre (Zak) and Wiglaf (Patrick) to hunt down Sir Michael, a knight who had lost his honour when he slept with another man's wife. The other man is a rival lord from the south, and if Michael is not presented to him soon he may start a war with the Pendragons as he seeks justice. Not good.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Games Night: Veins of the Earth

So last night I rolled up a couple of characters to take through a dungeon based on Patrick's Veins of the Earth setting/sourcebook. This was kind of a playtest I guess - I don't know if I'm the first person to encounter some of these creatures and situations in the wild - but it was all new and different and weird to me.

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Man and his Mechs

Sir Owain the Red's family are fourth generation Mars-worshippers. As a child he listened to the stories of when the planet was lifeless and red; he heard the legends and absorbed all the myths. Mars is much changed from those old days, but Owain thinks he remembers them... Before he came of age he took a tattoo of the old, red planet on his back, an artwork that spans his torso. It shows ley-lines that are talked of in the ancient stories, the old passages of rivers and streams. It is on his back but Owain can trace it from memory.

Sir Owain is the master of his household now, and the controls to the family's mechs have been passed to him. All but one of them has been in the family for a very long time; he has read the family history of them, as well as his great-grandfather's more fanciful tales from when the family converted to Mars-worship. He likes both accounts.

The greatest of the mechs is Dyn Gleddyf Mawr; this colossal metal man has been in the family since before there was a family. It is the champion, the power. The family have poured love and care into its upkeep. A bipedal armoured man, criss-crossing patterns of artwork covering the skin. Mawr has many ranged weapons systems, and a phased plasma blade which Owain delights in using.

There is a strong design similarity between Mawr and Ryfel Bychan, which is much smaller but carries a heavy arsenal. Owain's grandfather told him that Ryfel Bychan was Dyn Gleddyf Mawr's baby brother. As a child he believed him. Ryfel Bychan is small but strong. The family has not tested it in battle for many seasons. There is some hope that it could hold it's own, but in Owain's life he has never seen the red eyes alight.

Marchog Deircoes was added to the family's mech arsenal only in the last fifty years. It was a wedding present given on the occasion of Owain's father's first marriage. Deircoes carries traits and markings from several different elder design schools. Almost impossibly it seems as if it were put together more recently than the old times. Which must be impossible. But how else to explain the three legs that it walks on, coupled with the radically different torso and head? No matter, it has weapons and moves, and that is to be valued.

Poor little Cofamhir... He is so small compared to the other mechs and now used only to carry things around the estate. But as grandfather used to say to Owain, "Cofamhir is old, so very old. He did great and mighty things in the past - look at where his left arm should be, eh? Yes, so old... But he must have seen so much..."

And then: it was the winter of Owain's 22nd year, a week or so after his birthday. Judgement had been carried out on the case of the farmer and the tradesmen. Owain hoped that it had been wise. Would father have done the same? Father was dead. A knock at the study door. So sorry to intrude. So sorry to disturb. In cataloguing your father's possessions we found this...

A small chest. A control crystal. A letter. A location. Of another family mech. Stored in secret, twenty feet underground, out under the old stables. His birthright. Owain called for his horse, changed his mind and asked that Cofamhir be brought to him. A new sight perhaps, for the little mech's old eyes...

Sunday, 14 April 2013

AP: Pendragon of Mars

It's been a crazy topsy-turvy sort of week, but I couldn't let it end without talking about one of the highlights for me: my first chance to join noisms' game, Pendragon of Mars, which was also my first time playing anything over a G+ Hangout.

I'll talk about my character, Sir Owain the Red, and his mechs in another post, I just want to focus on what happened and what it was like playing with noisms, Patrick (Sir Wiglaf), David W (Sir Elias) and Zak (Sir Xyre).

The other guys had already had a couple of sessions to get used to things; I'd done most of the statting up beforehand, but there were a few things I didn't know about my character. As ever, as soon as the questions started flowing - What does he look like? What sort of family is he from? - the few details I had already brought together started mating like crazy.

A lot and a little happened in the session. So far, Pendragon of Mars is really unlike anything else I've played in the last two years: we spent ninety minutes playing through the events of a formal-ish ball, full of court intrigue, flirting with the Ladies of the court, being knighted, passing initiations and sometimes making asses of ourselves as we tried to impress women with knife skills or back tattoos (both techniques I tried, both of which failed). Finally we were formally knighted by the Earl (including being punched in the face and jumping over a sword to mount our steeds; that's how we roll on Mars).

And then the night of our knighting over noisms said "OK, so now it is winter and you are back at home. Here is what happens..." and each of us had some scenes back at our manors for the winter (passing judgement on commoner disputes, finding out what happened with our families, and just generally getting older).

Where things really got fun was seeing what the other players' characters were like, and how they interacted.We weren't trying to tag team fighting Martians or performing some mission. We were trying to help each other out at court. Brothers in arms!

The experience of playing over G+ Hangout was interesting. It was a lot of fun to be playing from home, and playing with people not just in different parts of the UK but different parts of the world. It also made me wonder about playing ViewScream, a game which I've read about and intrigues me...

Anyway! Lots of fun, and looking forward to this week's session. I have to stat up another mech! One final part of the character gen was rolling for an important family belonging. I got another charger, which in Pendragon of Mars means designing another 150 construction point mech under the Mekton Zeta rules...

Roll on Wednesday.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Creature: Wilizards

Someone from another universe, perhaps a universe like ours, would see a saurian-like creature such as the Wilizard and think "that's a chubby sort of little velociraptor without the sharp claws; a bit fatter like a T-Rex but definitely a smaller dinosaur." As the Wilizard is not native to these parts, and is more readily found in the lands around Wetham, the chances of you seeing one are slim.

And probably just as well.

People who study such things don't know what has happened; a few hundred years ago Wilizards were simple pack predators, hunting, sometimes scavenging. They were nowhere near the top of the food chain, but at around four feet in height, with sharp teeth and a tail to help them balance running on two legs they were at least on the middle rungs of the ladder.

No longer.

Recently Wilizards have been showing greater levels of intelligence than simple pack-hunting animals. They track prey and wait until nightfall before striking. They pretend to play dead so that others investigate. They - somehow - construct crude pit traps and lie in wait for the unwary to fall in. Not all of these tactics are well executed, but more often than not they allow the opportunity for a Wilizard to bring something down, be it a man or beast. Scholars are trying to determine from old museum artifacts whether they have always had opposable claws...

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Large Chess

The people of Wetham appreciate board games - if they are played on very large boards. While Flaming Chess has been popular for hundreds of years, a variant known as Large Chess has become popular much more recently. Pieces are represented by people, and they move according to the regular chess rules but for one difference: moving on to an opponent's square does not indicate capture, merely combat - a fight to the death or surrender for the two pieces involved.

There are unarmed Large Chess leagues where teams compete regularly: pawns are boxers, rooks are wrestlers, knights fight according to the styles of faraway lands and so on. However, in recent years those with the means to organise such things have taken to invoking Large Chess to settle civil disputes and outstanding debts. Writs are served specifying dates and times for people to pay up or settle by the rules of the game, with both sides bound to abide by the result.

Most choose to pay.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Somewhere South: The Warren of the Dread Rabbit!

Previously: Orve, Vaskin, Orchard (all Patrick) and Rowntree (David W) set out from the city of Wetham to investigate rumours of a Dread Rabbit, a big demonic creature that rises every thirteen years from slumber to wreak havoc. After a few encounters with a small Grogan, psychic rats and giant mucus worms, they retreat to the nearby town of Bilge...

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Creature: Devil Cats

No bigger than ordinary house cats, these annoying little pack predators are mostly feline - except for the eight legs on their bodies and four horns on their heads. Devil cats meow and hiss constantly, even while asleep. They attack by mobbing their prey, and if encountered in a group will generally herd their young away while attacking whatever they have come across.

They are feared in spite of their small size due to a venom they can inject through their bite. The venom is not poisonous as such, but triggers pain sensations in victims. Although they look bizarre, and despite their name, devil cats are not actually demonic.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Creature: Grimhook Jays

They are not natural, that much is clear. Someone made these - possibly for "a laugh" - "oh, what would happen if..." - and then when they got pecked to death by them they got their answer. Maybe they were made in a wizard's lab, maybe a demon pushed malevolence into a predatory bird - who cares? They're here and they are mean.

Three-feet tall, mostly bird-like, skin-wings that unfold and unfurl and allow gliding. They run on double-jointed emu legs, and have have claws at their wingtips that help them to climb and grasp. Their head has simian and avian qualities, forward-facing eyes, short plumage that covers their torso as well.

And the grimhook. Damn. An eighteen inch razor beak ending in a four-inch downward hook overbite. Nestling between a two-inch double underbite. When it bites it tears flesh, the over- and under-bites scissoring together, the beak edge cutting. It's not just a predator, it's a killer.

When a Grimhook Jay steps out from bushes or glides down from tree-tops, a mocking "HAW HAW!" call echoing, you will flinch, but you will think you can take it. It's not that big. And it's just a bird with a sharp beak really. When a half dozen follow it, you will run. That's the only thing you probably can do.