Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Into the Mist We Go...

Attention, Blood of Pangea and Pits & Perils fans, there's a new zine in town - and it's good stuff!  Into the Mist (#0) comes to us courtesy of Talon Waite and Tainted Edge Games!  So if you enjoy barbarian battles in the Blood of Pangea vein or aliens and blasters after Retrospace - or even just the traditional old-school whimsy offered by Pits & Perils, this zine has it covered...

So, as a bit of introduction, Talon is an enthusiast of simple, narrative-driven games and has some impeccable credentials in this area with his excellent OneDice Supers game.  So when he said he planned on publishing something under our Open Supplement Licenses, we were understandably thrilled at the prospect!

Big things come in small packages.  For a buck you get 12 pages of new content, all presented in Olde House Rules style, meaning typewritten in someone's basement in 1974!  But there's also some evocative, full-color interior artwork from Guillaume Jentey, lately seen in Macchiato Monsters, that perfectly fits the mood:

But what's IN this mystic tome?  Let's see...

First, we get an overview of Pits & Perils classes provided in coordination with us.  This is important because he goes on to offer two NEW classes: The Half-Demon and Ursine (intelligent bears) to round out your games, and laying it all out helps.  This is material from an ongoing P&P campaign, folks!  But did we say classes?  We meant to say "races", because Talon eliminates the old race-as-class paradigm, and we heartily approve of such house-ruling...


And speaking of classes, you can now be a NECROMANCER.  Fun!

Needless to say, the whole thing reads like the best referee's campaign-specific notebook.  A playable Grave Touched race and the Shadow Guards (an alternate cleric) map a macabre new direction, perfect for Halloween or any other occasion.  You really get a sense of a unique setting implied by these new additions. 

But you also get some new materials for Blood of Pangea and Retrospace under our new OSL.  Among other things, Talon offers an optional critical system for those who fall to zero MIGHT in the heat of battle.  This is simple and easily integrated into whatever your campaign is already doing here.  Oh, and one standout is the Bloodless, an elven race for Blood of Pangea.  

You see, Talon knows that Robyn likes elves and understood her disappointment at their absence in sword and sorcery, offering up something in the best spirit of both.  She says thanks!

Finally, you get some stuff for Retrospace as well.  First, an extremely helpful guide to psionics and his own campaign's approach to the Psion Order.  You get Psion-specific armor and Furians; a duck-like humanoid race that he feels like Howard the Duck perfectly integrated into the Marvel Universe.  All in all, this is a great little campaign expansion ready to be printed out and added to your own Judge's/referee folder.  It's a LOT of world for a buck...

Into the Mist is available as a ready-to-print PDF, so check it out!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Blood of Pangea: Opherian Scrolls Is Here!

Today we're proudly announcing BoP: Opherian Scrolls, the final supplement to Blood of Pangea and a return to true sword and sorcery following our little Retrospace detour.  And it's a great way to round out the trilogy and offer new elements to expand an existing fantasy campaign.  Only this is DARK fantasy...

Understand that pulp sword and sorcery originated in the 20's and reflected a basically optimistic worldview, with clever heroes struggling against evil and bringing human might to bear against all comers, including sorcery.  It was a decidedly humanistic exercise pitting earthly might against darkness. 

But by the 1970s, things were different.  Between the war and turbulent social change, society had become more jaded and cynical, and this trickled into the sword and sorcery genre...


A handful of authors, including Lieber and Moorcock, imagined a darker fantasy to match the mood of the times.  Lieber's books were more light hearted and comical, with roguish heroes seeking their fortunes in a wicked city.  More than anything, they were a nod and wink to the unsavory side of human nature.

But the cynicism was there, and magic remained dark and tied inextricably to the demonic realm.  In truth, you could easily do this with the basic rulebook.  But Moorcock went a step beyond, imaging a darkly amoral universe where humanity was just a pawn in an endless struggle between cosmic forces of Law and Chaos. 

This excerpt from the introduction says it all...


Opherian Scrolls is set in the Khul-Dur region of the optional Pangea setting, although judges are free to imagine their own and import the desired elements, which include:  

Non-human races, like the flying Mahara, decadent Opherians, and fully human Younglings, each with unique abilities...

The Opherians, in particular, are divided into ancestral houses bound by ancient pacts to demon lords and possess sorcerous power in exchange for their cosmic allegiance.  They once ruled Khul-Dur, subjugating all from the backs of their dragons until the Youngling kingdoms rose in revolt and changed everything.

Infirmities.  Not flaws to take in exchange for greater power, although there's a mix of good and bad here, but an optional system for challenging role-play.  Addiction and madness offer certain advantages, but beware the drawbacks!  Characters can start with a defect or acquire one as part of a later demonic pact!

This could be YOU in time,
in all your tragic and accursed glory...

Optional combat and variable damage rules to make the game more lethal and survival FAR LESS certain....

Alchemy and added rules for conjuring demons, including assorted demon lords (each with something special to offer), underscoring the greater emphasis on sorcery.  And if their true name is uncovered, members of ANY class can attempt to conjure them and may even enter into foul pacts they must NEGOTIATE THEMSELVES!

And finally, simple rules for cursed artifacts that grant power in exchange for eternal service.  There's NO free lunch.

All of this is set against the backdrop of Khul-Dur (or some comparable setting), complete with new monsters and warring factions presented in a simple and open-ended way that leaves much to the judge's imagination (cause we're big on that).

This is a SUPPLEMENT and requires Blood of Pangea to play, being available as a digital download from One Book Shelf.  But there's a hardcover release planned for later this year; probably something similar to The Collected Pits & Perils, combining the rulebooks with new material (we're thinking Cosmic Horror).  More on that later, because today it's all about the tragic Opherian Scrolls... 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Nadsat As Thieves' Cant? Possibly...

Back when thieves were still "thieves" and not the ambiguous and sanitized "rogue", we heard a lot about the so-called Thieves' Cant, that manufactured language used by criminals to conceal their activities from the eyes (and ears) of the law...

But what would this tongue sound like?  And does it really matter WHAT our fictional in-game languages sound like?  Maybe.

Depending on the degree of immersion in the campaign, yeah, it certainly could matter a lot.  Especially if your players get into their role-playing and like to act out...

But maybe not.  Still, the Nadsat language from the excellent book and Kubrick film "A Clockwork Orange" is one idea...

A Clockwork Orange imagines a
dark future where violent gangs prowl...

For the uninitiated, this compelling tale by Anthony Burgess imagines a dystopic future where teenage gangs walk the streets in search of money and a bit of "ultraviolence".  I don't condone violence against the innocent (and don't find its protagonist's evil exploits remotely charming), but I STILL have to say the movie version is a sheer MASTERPIECE in cinematic terms... 

And a nice bit of social commentary, I might add!     

Now, part of this imagined future was Nadsat (meaning teenager), a slang based on a strongly Russian-influenced English...

Could THIS be a suitable Thieves' Cant?  There's more than one resource online (Burgess actually created this), but for impatient players, here's a list of words to try in your game:


Anyone familiar with the film could easily adopt this pigdin for their thief characters, keeping in mind that it was used by ruffians who no doubt took advantage of its mysterious qualities to conceal their own questionable exploits.  If this sounds like a thief, you'd be right (sort of).  And it could be fun to use in play...

Of course, there's always the REAL thieves' Cant, but this is a little edgier and PERFECT for cyberpunk!

Anyway, that's all we have today.  If you haven't already seen it, investigate the movie, although be warned, it's pretty dark and also misogynistic.  But this is meant to underscore themes of sexuality in society and its links to violence.  I don't find Alex to be a very nice man at all, but there's a social message to be found here, and it does provoke discussion.  Decide for yourself.        

Whatever you think about the film, its Nadsat language is certainly one way to approach the Thieves' Cant.  Viddy well, everyone!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Make Pits & Perils Lethal Again!

Welcome to 2017 and the new, improved Pits Perilous (same as the previous version, but now bi-weekly)!  And with the holidays behind us and everyone (hopefully) rested and ready for action, there's never been a better time for us to reduce our workload and the time we spend blogging.  What can we say?  Laziness rules...

But it's not all doom and gloom.  We're working on the Opherian Scrolls expansion to Blood of Pangea, which is our little foray into the OTHER sword and sorcery tradition: meaning dark fantasy after Lieber and Moorcock.  You know, the 60s and 70s stuff complete with anti-heroes and wicked, soul-sucking swords?

So yeah, we're keeping busy, which I suppose gives us an excuse!

In the meantime, let's talk lethal.  Those who know and play our games know we value narrative over detailed rules because what happens in the adventure is ultimately more important than the rules used to get us there.  And old-school games make much of player agency and interpersonal negotiation.  We just formalize this with rules that (deliberately) keep things simple and open-ended.

Opherian Scrolls draws
from this sword and sorcery tradition...

Accordingly, Barons of Braunstein, Blood of Pangea, and, of course, our own Pits & Perils, offer somewhat more survivable characters because when role-playing and interaction are prioritized, we can only assume that participation, and not sudden death, is what really matters here.  This is the experience people want...

Except when they DON'T.  And some of you do prefer it lethal!

So here's a little freebie (assuming you haven't developed your own house rules) for variable damage and lethality:


And if you REALLY wanna make things lethal, use the revised hit point rules from The Collected Pits & Perils House Rules from Yerth appendix and watch the heroes fall!  Oh, and enemies are generally treated as combatants, with the possible exception of commoners, although the city guard might be both common AND tough, armed with the right weaponry.  If you want lethal, here's a way to go.

Now some of you are probably using the UNTRAINED rule from the Referee Companion.  In this case, damage is 1 up to 9, adding all applicable bonuses for weapon type.  Easy enough...

Two WARHOGS from the
decidedly more lethal Maze of Memory...
    
We need to emphasize here that individual referees should already know their players and what is takes to challenge them, making these provisions optional.  The ball's pretty much in YOUR court.     

Of course, the above applies to Barons of Braunstein, Blood of Pangea, and Pits & Perils and will appear in the soon-to-be released Olde House Rules Combat Companion, so this is a PREVIEW!  You can expect critical hit tables and alternate rules for magical armor and weaponry to keep things interesting.  So yes, we've been BUSY!

But if you like to kill with careless abandon and want something more along the lines of an elimination dungeon, check out our humble The Maze of Memory, designed specifically for one-shot games, but expandable for campaign play.  It's our first to use polyhedral dice and features character creation DURING play.  Look it up.  

Anyway, we wish everyone a safe and happy year ahead!  Now, if we could just pull away from Netflix long enough to make some real progress on this stuff.  Robyn is good, but I'm starting to discover that I have a favorite chair (50, you know).  Rest assured, though, we're playtesting like mad and promise to get this stuff going...