Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Man Who Wasn't There Vs. Wings Of Desire

9/16/14

As I try to wash the taste out of my mouth from all the horrible news associated with sports figures, lament the fact that I couldn’t sleep and when I fleetingly did it was full of weird dreams, and try to work through my DM burnout I decided to try and throw together some ideas for things I’m looking forward to doing in 5th Edition.  So without further ado;

BRAINSTORMING FROM THE EDGE OF OVERTIREDNESS!

- Using Microscope To Fill The 1,000 Year Gap Between 4E & 5E – I am fascinated by the game Microscope.  I have to actually play it, but the rules, the vibe of the game, and what it can do in the realm of campaign building makes me giddy from the potential.  My idea is all current campaigns will be done in April of next year.  In May I’ll run a few sessions of Microscope to prep the world for 5E.  I think it gives the PC’s a vast amount of say in how the world will function, it allows them to carry forth any threads that they feel don’t get resolved in the next 8 months, and lets them invest in a way that only serves to help all of us craft something fun.

- Something Wicked This Way… - I have a desire to run a Salem’s Lot style adventure at low levels where an incredibly nasty ‘baddie’, maybe a Vampire or a Cambion or some other sort of very dangerous to 1st through 5th levels, shows  up in the town the PC’s live in and through some proxies begins converting the town.   I thought about even using The Apostles Of She Who Walks In Beige Transcendence, but I think I’ll keep that for something else.  I want this to be something where these proxies go to the upper echelons of the town early and turn them to their side making it hard for the PC’s to attack the ‘Bads’ directly without bringing down the local constabulary on them.  By the time the town realizes what is and has really occurred it is too late.  At that point I want the PC’s to have to make that decision of whether or not they stay and try and wipe out this evil, possibly dying in the process, and being forced to kill former friends and family OR take the survivors and flee. 

- The Apostles Of She Who Walks In Beige Transcendence – The Cult Of The Yellow Sign in hiding in almost plain sight.  There was an old adventure in either Dungeon or Dragon magazine revolving around a traveling theatre group that is really a Cult Of The Yellow Sign in disguise.  I like it so much I want to use it, but not as directly.  I do want to eventually use that as the climax, but until then I’m thinking of using the Apostles as some sort of Masons-esque ‘secret’ society that is made up of local rich merchants who don’t really understand what they are worshipping or doing.  There would be an outside force in disguise pulling the strings, perhaps a Doppleganger.

- Many Tribes, Many Variations, All Danger – I have a LOT of Orc and Goblin miniatures.  Most of these have a lot of variation in them.  I like that, however when I want a group that feels like a military force it doesn’t always work out very well.  It feels disjointed.  I’ve decided that in 5E I’ll have a story reason why Orcs & Goblins have so many variations, that I currently can’t really reveal.  I also think that having things set up that way makes things far more interesting for the PC’s.  Here is my example.  The Hanging Tree Wood might be home to three tribes of Goblins.  Each of these tribes has their own levels of aggression, leadership, and motivation.  The Stone Foot Tribe might raid the outskirts of the local village, stealing chickens and defiling grain reserves in acts of abject mischief all to appease a Cockatrice they have set up as their Gawd.  This Gawd may or may not be what it seems.  The Bloody Strings Tribe worships the same Gawd as a small Cult cell in town.  They are used by this Cult to do ‘smash & grab’ jobs to gather items that their Master desires, or raid rival merchant’s caravans on the Copper Coin Road that cuts through The Hanging Tree Wood, and even occasionally commit kidnappings for ransom.  They have taken on the pragmatic and patient demeanor of their Master making them very dangerous.  Finally, the Jubilant Caps are obsessed with the consumption of local mushrooms that inspire them to dream laden lethargy interspersed with homicidal brutality.  They are like the fungus they consume; numerous, hard to find, and almost impossible to be rid of.  They attack with no rhyme or reason and do so to the bitter end.  Unfortunately for all, a local unsavory element has now started harvesting the mushrooms in order to refine and sell the final product as a drug, bringing the Jubilant Caps closer and closer to civilization as their natural supply is rapidly disappearing.  What was once a series of infrequent attacks has now become a weekly occurrence.  These are just rough off the top of my head ideas, but I feel like there are some good plot hooks dangling right there for the taking.

- The Church Of Divine Waiting – They sing hymns constantly and wait for a service that will never begin because they are ‘Unworthy’.  This would be a strange background group that would most likely never be a threat to the PC’s, but instead I imagine the guys in the air ports from the 70’s, actually I’m thinking the movie Airplane.  They make annoying attempts to convert people in a cloyingly sweet manner.  They would work as a great misguided organization or even as a red herring.

- Only In Dreams – I am enamored with the PC’s being attacked in their Dreams, with the Dreamlands being a place where certain PC’s might be able to travel to, and therefor to tangential dimensional spaces like Lovecraft’s Leng.  I think that the Paizo crew does an INCREDIBLE job of utilizing things like this and since the Known World has been rife with incursions from horrible entities from beyond Space & Time I want to pull back from the overt dangers of what lurks between the stars and more the subtle, localized, and immediate threats.  Also, I love The Dream Warriors sequel to Nightmare On Elm Street and having the PC’s be able to do something like that sounds sort of ‘Boss’.

- Brotherhood Of Sark – Sark ‘The Strangler’, is a cleric of the God of Murder who teaches others the ‘Soft Art’, he then raises his ‘offerings’ as Cougher Corpses.  There have been a number of Sark’s, it is less of a name and more of a title now.  One thing that I think 5E is going to let me do is tell stories on smaller scales early on with a much higher threat level.  Having what amounts to an Assassin’s Guild that finds ‘beef’ with the PC’s and attempts to end them repetitively has some legs.  In 4E my PC’s would have tracked these guys down to their home and wiped them off the face of the Known World in a heartbeat.  In 5E they’ll have to work for it.  I also need to make sure I make this insidious in nature sort of a Stranglers Of Bombay vibe might work.

- Absolute Power Leads To Absolute Order – A Modron or some other servitor of Absolute Law finds itself stuck in the Known World and decides to bring the Word Of Law to the masses.  In its teachings a loosely affiliated group of Knights form an Order.  While seemingly ‘Good’ their adherence to this strict Word Of Law starts to show that Good and Evil no longer matter only Law.  This of course brings them into direct conflict with the PC’s.  It would be interesting if the PC’s had a character in the Party who had a very strong Lawful bent.  Would they feel a kinship or repulsion of Absolute Law without compassion or even truth?

- The Succors Of Mother’s Milk – A Cult dedicated to Antaia, The Witch Queen (Book Of Fiends, Legions Of Hell Vol. 1 in 3E).  This is a secret society of Witches, which find themselves forever at odds with other Witch Cults.  Early in 4E I had what I’ll call the ‘Clovertail Group’ that unfortunately didn’t last due to people’s ‘Real Life’ schedules and responsibilities.  One of the things I wanted to use was Witch Cults, warlock pacts, the whole idea of Witch Hunters using trials to hold communities in abject terror and therefor keep them under their thumb.  I can’t help but think of The Witchfinder’s General, possibly Sleepy Hollow, and numerous Mario Bava films for the vibe I’m looking for.  I think I also want that idea of things that are going on out in the woods that are bad and vile, but so unknown that the township itself is afraid to act or intervene.  I’m also thinking that this isn’t where the PC’s are originally from, but perhaps a relative or a former friend calls for their aid after the disappearance of son or daughter.  I do feel that while this one is loaded with clich├ęs and obvious homages it has a LOT of legs.

- ALL YOUR PUGWAMPIs BELONG TO US – I am VERY intrigued to see just how easy it will be to effectively port Monsters over from other editions, Pathfinder included, to 5E.  My first and foremost attempt will be Pathfinder’s resident dog faced Gremlin variation, the Pugwampi.  In fact I’m going to use them much like they appear in Pathfinder, tiny dog-men who worship the Gnolls as Gawds, and produce a bad luck aura.  I really want to bring Gnolls back to the forefront as big time antagonists in 5E since I steered away from them in the campaign world of late.  The idea of hyenas, Pugwampis, and Gnolls all being around one another brings me to the idea of reasonable Monster Ecology.  This is something I think I’ve been pretty bad at by and large in most of the D&D games I’ve ever run.  I feel like I could be better at it.  Monster groupings should make more sense, and I’m already starting to work on this pre-emptively.  Hopefully this will make it far easier to run a hex crawl or throw together impromptu adventures/dungeons.

- The Guild Of Mute Assassins – The Clutch song by the same name is such fertile ground for you to pull and pluck ideas from.  I have thought about having the Guild come after a PC as a birthright.  Maybe an uncle or other distant relative is a member and wishes to ‘induct’ the PC so they send wave after wave of these mute assassins to ‘test’ them.  At the same time the Guild begins eliminating threats to the PC’s.  At some point I want the PC’s to be forced to weigh the pro’s and con’s of being associated or even members of a secret society of killers for hire.  Oh that and the final sign of devotion which would be the cutting out of one’s tongue.

- A Harsh Winter – A small cabal of Wizards in a nearby abandoned keep have for 21 years demanded the tribute of the town in the form of three young people every three years on the last day of autumn.  This is generally done through lottery and in private.  The town’s parents are brought together in a closed door meeting and draw lots.  The teenagers are then abducted and taken to a fate unknown.  Two years ago Jacob Hiedline lost his eldest son to the lottery, and subsequently lost his wife to her distraught suicide through the mass consumption of potent gnomish spirits.  In his desolation and grief he formed a plot; he would become mayor and end this Lottery.  In a public spectacle he outs the leaders of the community, exposes the Lottery, and ends the foul tribute practice.  A week later a winter like no other sets in, the food stores of the town find themselves victims of vermin and rot, and something unnatural has begun stalking the young people of the town through the whipping winds and driving snow.  Mayor Hiedline is desperate to protect his town, but realizes it is beyond his control.  Enter the PC’s.  Again I’m finding some inspiration in things like Stephen Kings’ ‘Storm Of The Century’, every 60’s Fantasy movie where a wizard abducts a princess, and of course John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’.  I like the idea of a location adventure first where the PC’s have to deal with horrible weather that limits so much of what they can do at a range, and where the elements are an enemy themselves.  Then we get the classic ‘Crawl’ where they have to deal with traps, servitors, mini-bosses, and eventually the ‘Big Bads’ themselves.  The nice thing is you could make this as nasty as you want depending on the players.  It could be ‘PG’ed down for an audience that couldn’t deal with it, or made very disturbing.  

- The Infinite Circle – A Yuan-Ti cult or potential society that is seen as a fashionable religious choice for those that consider themselves ‘Learned’.  It is built around prophecies, which on the surface seem benign, but beneath are a long term plan to return ‘The First Race’ to its place of power in the world.  In the past I’ve used the Yuan-Ti as ‘The First Race’ hidden just below the surface of now waiting to come up and claim what was once theirs, I think it is time to potentially revisit this.  I think the Yuan-Ti is a VERY difficult race to use effectively, so I’m contemplating going one of two ways with it.  First would be they have arrived.  They are ‘Out’, possibly have their own lands, culture, and are a mystery to everyone else.  The other races that live in their dominion seem very content by and large, even in absolute servitude.  I’m thinking that they could possibly be in the mold of a more diplomatic version of Melinbone from the Elric stories.  They actively send diplomats, recruit, and show how ‘evolved’ their society is.  Just beneath that veneer is the truth that they are as ‘alien’ to most of the other races in the Known World as something that actually fell from the sky.  I’m almost thinking of using ‘V’, the old alien TV show, as a bit of inspiration.  The Yuan-Ti would show a land built on prosperity, advancement, arcane scholarly pursuits, and servitude.  While beneath the surface slavery, dark practices, sacrifices to profane Lost Gawds, and open Orc slave rebellions are taking place.  I like the idea of the PC’s either being forced to team up with the Orcish equivalent of Spartacus or giving them up to a society that will gleefully consume them.  My second idea is more along the lines of Robert E. Howards take in both the King Kull and ‘Worms Of The Earth’.  The Yuan-Ti and their agents are among us, they work behind the scenes to undermine and replace those in power, they grant horrible boons that serve their purposes of upsetting civilizations and propagating their species, and don’t feel any desire to openly rule when they can do so behind the scenes.  I feel like the 2nd option is the easier one, the more obvious one, while the 1st ones forces the PC’s to deal with something that on the surface seems ok, while is obviously corrupt.   

- Home Is Where The Wallet & Heart Are – With 5E and the shrinking of the PC’s world I need to go back to my ‘Clovertail’ style of building and make the home town a compelling place to be.  The NPC should be far more than information dumps, far more than places to sell loot, and far more than potential enemies.  I think I’m going to borrow heavily from the Apocalypse World/Monsterhearts style of play here and have the PC’s tell me just who their neighbors are.  I’m also thinking of using the city building on note cards to have each PC make up their neighborhood/area of the village.  If I can get them to sort of help me build things and therefor have immediate attachments to characters who they are associated with it will give me a plethora of hooks to draw from to form a supporting cast that makes logical sense, has resonance, and is fodder for future tales.

Hopefully that inspires some of you and gives others ideas on how I just sort of use stream of consciousness, film, popular culture, other games, and other strange stimuli to throw together what amounts to the foundations of campaigns.  Either that or some seeds you can steal from liberally.  Either way let’s knock out some…

RANDOM CRAP!

- Team TROLLSTRONG trolled so hard last night, SO hard in fact that the phrase ‘Meaty Hawgs’ was born, thank you The Geneious.  This coupled with tales of the Yo Randy (!) and Sweet D. nuptials #BaronCorbin, James & his Majestic Beard’s bridesmaid romance evaluations, RAW being halfway decent, ALL the Popcorn, and us absolutely kicking ass and taking names in record time in our adventure led to a wonderful night.  I had fun beyond words.  In addition my copy of Skull & Shackles arrived.  I know we might take a short break after Rise Of The Runelords, but I for one am excited to be a Pirate!  I might see if I can form another Pathfinder group with Casual Doug, Master Kedrin 4.0, THE Karl, Cassandra, and maybe a bamboozled La Randita Rojo.  Who knows…

- That Chili in the downstairs fridge is calling my name.  I don’t know how long I’ll be able to resist its siren song.

- I backed the World Wide Wrestling RPG’s Kickstarter.  For a while now the members of L.E.W.G.I. have been looking for a RPG to get together and play.  We seriously contemplated Know Your Role, but the rules are just too damn crunch heavy.  WWW has the Apocalypse World engine going for it, which I LOVE.  It plays fast, and the Beta rules are out for mass consumption for free.  Some of the finer nuances in the rules are still a bit vague to me, but I’ve only read the rules once.  I plan on re-devouring them again and again until I feel I can run and teach it with ease.  I have sent out the clarion call to those who I think might be interested and I hope I get some takers.  I’m very excited to run a trial game as ‘Creative’ and just see what my fellow Gentlemen think.  

- I have decided to make all my Night Of Champions picks based upon the logic of booked strong on the ‘Go Home’ RAW you will LOSE at the PPV. 

- No Antagonist Relations Podcast this week as Zack Attack is low on Hit Points from the constant at will attacks of the place that pays him.  Instead Magic Mike and I shall sit down and discuss our first impressions, expectations, and worries about 5E.  We might also talk other RPG’s and board games that currently hold our interest.  It’ll be Nerdery heavy, but I truly think it’ll be damn swanky.

- To those that know, “Ditto Forever!”

- I promise I’m going to try to be done with this whole subject for a while after this.  I want to give a kudos to the Vikings brass for proving the old adage that it can indeed get worse.  You go from taking a proactive approach to re-instating the ‘alleged’ abuser.  You don’t follow your own internal logic where you’ve dismissed folks in the past who have had domestic abuse issues.  Oh wait, that is unless they are a starter, like Chris Cook, OR a star like Adrian ‘Switch’ Peterson.  In that case you ‘let the legal process play out’.  Right.  You are building a publically funded stadium and the poster person for your ‘brand’ is a guy who beats his kids.  That’s right kids, because we are getting even more tales of more of his children from other mothers getting injured during ‘whuppins’.  I had a passionate discussion about this last night with a Friend who raised some good points, and honestly we don’t agree on everything and I’m ok with that.  We are allowed and in many cases SHOULD have different opinions.  I’m fine with folks who want to blame it on ethnicity, cultural, regionalism, upbringing, etc.  Seriously, you can give me any number of factors that as to why this occurs and why Peterson is going through this.  My question would be two fold; 1) When can I come by and ‘discipline’ your 4 year old with a stick 2) Why shouldn’t we hold people who make millions of dollars portraying themselves as role models for a company that takes public funds accountable?  I am a massive human being, but I guarantee I’m not anywhere near as strong as Peterson.  I would never hit a child in any way because first off it could hurt them, and secondly it doesn’t teach anything except that when you are mad hitting is the answer.  That isn’t parenting, hell it isn’t even disciplining it is punishment and in reality it is abuse.  Secondly if you are going to take my tax money to build another alter to millionaires and billionaires then I want them to be a real representative for the community as a whole.  I don’t like being represented by a man who repeatedly beats a child with a stick until he causes injury.  Have you ever been beaten by a parent?  I was.  I had a mentally ill father, and he would tell you that he never spanked his boys, but he did beat them unmercifully sometimes.  I turned out ok, I guess, but the big thing my dad told me when I got older was how much he regretted doing that, how much it embarrassed him, and how he felt he failed as a father.  I learned.  You don’t do that.  There is a better way.  Hell, I’ve seen my brother who went through the same treatment learn to be better than that.  In fact he is an amazing Father and he doesn’t need to ‘whup’ anyone to do that.  Oh and by the by, I’m originally from Kansas, so I am unmoved by the ‘it’s a Southern thing’, that is an asinine excuse.  What will it take for people to understand that this is no joke?  Does it take a video of him beating the kid like it did with Ray Rice and his now wife?  Aren’t the pictures taken a WEEK later bad enough?  Like all things I feel strongly about, I can go on and on and on about this.  I truly hope that over time we all remember it has less to do with a guy who may or may not play football again and more about a child, or children if new things popping up are to be believed, being beaten in a way that is ABUSE.  What does it say about us as a society that we are having such a hard time seeing that?

Well that was longer and less satisfying than I had hoped.


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