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Scarab Sages

Friends,

Just wanted to stop by and let you all know about the Slumbering Ursine Dunes, a module by Chris Kutalik set in a mythic wilderness where reality can twist and change based on player action. The module includes a large wilderness area to explore (using a unique pointcrawl system to direct your PCs to the adventure sites) and two dungeon sites: the biomechanical Golden Barge, set adrift from its dimensional mooring, and the Glittering Tower, home of a bearling demi-god under siege by pirates and the sinister Eld.

The Dunes are a truly unique and idiosyncratic product unlike anything else on the market and I can't recommend them highly enough. Although written for Labyrinth Lord, being OGL-based (if "old school") I'm sure some enterprising GMs could convert it to PF and really surprise their party with some weird, funny, and altogether different.

With only three days left in the Kickstarter and requiring only a $1 pledge to access an early draft, now is the time to check out the Slumbering Ursine Dunes:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/804120043/slumbering-ursine-dunes

Scarab Sages

Kthulhu wrote:

So, when do we get the Sword & Wizardry version?

:P

+1

I paid for a subscription, but if there's a chance for an S&W version I'd much rather have that.

Scarab Sages

Planets in Peril!

In more ways than one...

Scarab Sages

While not a subscriber, I must admit that I am very sad to hear this. I've been very pleased with the Planet Stories books I have picked up, and hoped the line would continue for some time. If Planet Stories is revived, you can count on my future support. In the meantime, I'll concentrate on collecting the PS titles I missed the first time around.

Scarab Sages

Just got it, along with a full premium subscription for Slumbering Tsar. I had previously balked at the price tag, but once I saw the quality of the Tome of Horrors Complete and Tome of Adventure Design I knew that it would be worth it.

Oh, and let me say that TOAD is easily one of the greatest gaming supplements ever produced. Bravo, Mr. Finch.

Scarab Sages

Thank you!

Scarab Sages

Richards wrote:
Sorry to have typed all of this up for you to read just to get to "but it doesn't look like I'll ever publish it," but that's where it stands. On the plus side, though, my players went through it and enjoyed it. (We only have one dwarf in our campaign, a cohort to our half-orc barbarian, so I had the party discover a sentient dwarven holy symbol in a dragon's hoard in a previous adventure, and after the dwarf wore it for a week and the holy symbol deemed him worthy it transmitted the location of Moradin's Forge into his mind.) As a "scoring system," the Forge gave each player a free weapon property upgrade depending upon how close they matched the dwarven ideal.

Jonathan,

Glad to hear from you!

As mentioned above, there are a number of 3rd party publishers for Pathfinder, although many of them focus on player options, not adventures. If you're interested in seeing Moradin's Forge in print, here's a list of 3PPs that have released scenarios:

As this list is fairly expansive, I'll start with the publishers whose work I've seen and have been impressed with:

Spoiler:

Frog God Games: bill@talesofthefroggod.com <- Run by Bill Webb, former partner in Necromancer Games, they publish for both Swords & Wizardry (an OD&D retroclone) and Pathfinder. As such, they're more likely to be keen on puzzle-based adventures, and generally put out high-quality products.

Expeditious Retreat Press: JosephBrowning@gmail.com <- They release products for both 1st Edition and Pathfinder, and release a lot of very good adventures.

Open Design: Submission Guidelines here. <- Run by Wolfgang Baur, Open Design generally isn't looking for longer adventures, but with your pedigree, who knows?

Gaming Paper: info@gmaingpaper.com <- Since they've worked with such venerable talents as Ed Greenwood and Steven Schend, I think they'd be very interested in hearing from you.

Pelgrane Press: simon@dyingearth.com <- Pelgrane is primarily a non-d20 publisher, but has put out a couple Pathfinder-compatible products and makes some of the best products on the market today.

Super Genius Games: stan@supergeniusgames.com, hyrum@supergeniusgames.com <- Super Genius Games doesn't produce a lot of adventures, but they do run Dungeonaday.com and, as such, could possibly be interested in releasing Moradin's Forge as a short dungeon.

The following list is of publishers I don't have enough experience to really comment on, and as such I'd suggest looking at them carefully, as I'd can't recommend them one way or another:

Spoiler:

KromeDragon Productions: oclark86@gmail.com

Sneak Attack Press: info@sneakattackpress.com

Total Party Kill Games: submissions@tpkgames.com

Adamant Entertainment: gms@adamantentertainment.com

Fourth Dimension Games: contact@4th-dimensiongames.com

0one Games: obully@0onegames.com

Avalon Game Company: avalon@comstar-games.com

Corvus Lunaris: enquiries@corvuslunaris.co.uk

Gunmetal Games: Contact page here.

Headless Hydra Games: storyguide.axel@gmail.com

Interaction Point Games: Contact page here.

Raging Swan Press: gatekeeper@ragingswan.com

Rite Publishing: steve@ritepublishing.com

Sagawork Studios: sagawork.studios@gmail.com

Silver Crescent: daniel@realmsoftwilight.net

Louis Porter Jr. Design: lmpjr007@gmail.com

Necromancers of the Northwest: ariggs@necromancers-online.com

As you mentioned above, however, the Challenge of Champions is actually a better fit for previous editions of the game. You're probably already aware, but there's a number of retroclone publishers out there which could be worth looking at. Outside of Expeditious Retreat Press and Frog God Games, who have already been brought up, here's a list of folks to take a look at:

Spoiler:

Fight On! Magazine: Online discussion forum here.

Knockspell Magazine: Submission guidelines here.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: lotfp@lotfp.com

You may also want to consider publishing it yourself, either through Lulu.com or even as a desktop publication. Not only do you get complete creative control, there can actually be some good money in it. More info from someone who has done so here.

If you don't find a publishing arrangement that suits you, I would still be very interested in taking a look at the scenario. If you're feeling generous, you can send whatever notes you've compiled to:

Spoiler:
robert.james.parker@gmail.com

I would certainly appreciate it!

Oh, and if you'll forgive me, I do have a couple questions as a fan:

1. How did you get involved in puzzle design? Do you have any suggestions for DMs who want to design their own puzzle elements into a scenario? Are there any books you found particularly helpful in this regard?

2. Do you have any further plans to write material for RPGs?

Thanks for dropping in!

Scarab Sages

I'm dredging this thread out of the depths to express my appreciation for Jonathan Richards.

Although I can see the reasons why you wouldn't want a Challenge of Champions series in Golarion, I would love to see work from Mr. Richards published by Paizo. He also did an excellent scenario, Gorgoldand's Gauntlet, which was included in a promo for Dungeon 87, and one of the first 3e adventures I ran. It was incredibly fun, and mixed puzzle elements into a standard dungeon crawl.

Speaking more generally, I would be very pleased to see more puzzles incorporated into Pathfinder.

Scarab Sages

Chris Mortika wrote:


Skill systems aren't a mechanism for the referee to let player-characters do stuff. Player characters were always doing stuff. Skills are a way to prevent player characters from doing stuff. by discriminating among them in different ways.

Right on!

Scarab Sages

SuperSlayer wrote:
What do people think of the organization of the AD&D 2nd edition Player's Handbook compared to some other games? There is rules scattered througout in just about every paragraph. The wording is not the best in some cases but I still find the book entertaining to read and it gets me in the D&D mood. Now that I have re-read the book I realized that I was leaving some rulses out when I was younger I have grasped the game better now and I'm eager to play again. Also this time I reading the DM guide all the way through, something I never did before so I can become a better DM.

If you're worried about the organization of the book, have you checked out the 2e retroclone Myth & Magic? I haven't used it personally, but I understand it's supposed to be easier to read and understand. Have fun!

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.

One thing that I've noticed is your adventures are largely 1e (First Edition AD&D), which means you're going to want access to that ruleset. I would recommend checking out Labyrinth Lord, a "retro-clone" that organizes and cleans up the 1e rules. I'd also recommend picking up the Advanced Edition Companion, which will give you more options for play.

Also, if you enjoy the Alexandrian, here's a number of other high-quality "old school" blogs:

Grognardia

Lord of the Green Dragons

The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope

Mythmere's Blog

Playing D&D With Porn Stars

The Mule Abides

Have fun!

Scarab Sages

Bill Webb wrote:
12. FGG will be attending North Texas RPG Con in Dallas in June, as well as PaizoCon in July. Look us up there. NTRPG is even going to make an exception and let Greg run a Pathfinder table. Matt and I will be running Mythus Tower almost continuously for 4 days, of course.

I will see you at both NTRPG and PaizoCon, and I can't wait to play in Mythus Tower!

Scarab Sages

Revisiting this, I don't believe the divide should really be drawn with first person vs. second person, but rather dry and formal vs. informal and conversational.

There are many times when a formal, textbook style is called for. Specifically, when providing rules text, this is necessary to prevent confusion. It also has its uses when providing 'canonical' information on the world of Golarion, although this can be varied with first-person narration (like in the Volo's Guide series).

However, that does not mean a conversational tone is never appropriate. These instances which 'break character' should be an opportunity for the author to speak directly to the audience, explaining why they've made these design choices. Presumably, your authors write these books because they believe that the options presented within will provide fun concepts for players. Employing an informal style explains to them, directly, why you thought this was a good idea. This means that the players doesn't have to deconstruct the text to find out what's cool, because the point is no longer obfuscated in a block of text about Osirioni trade regulations.

Why does this matter? Players who pick up a Companion book on Orcs are trying to make an evaluation: are Orcs awesome? They'll flip through the book, skimming past any large chunks of text, and stop to look at anything that grabs their attention. At these points, whether it be on a piece of art, a feat, or a section on Orcish culture, they are asking 'why should I care?', and unless that question is quickly and clearly answered, they are going to move on. Therefore, it is imperative to get down to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible, and an informal tone allows you to do so. This sort of quick decision making by players is not only a reality, but a necessity - there are so many options in Pathfinder that your average player does not have the time to review them all.

Once you've gotten them sold on your premise (i.e. 'Orcs are awesome because they cleave skulls and eat babies'), then they are more willing to invest the time in all those canonical details we GMs wish they cared about enough to learn. This is because cleaving skulls and eating babies is still fresh on their minds, so it seems a little less odious to read three paragraphs on Orcish clan hierarchies.

Strangely enough, Paizo used to be more comfortable with using an informal tone: we saw this in the early modules, which gave advice directly to the GM and explained the creative process of the designers. Needless to say, I loved those sidebars. They provided a window into the mind of the author and often helped me understand how to present an encounter to my players.

Scarab Sages

Great post, Neil!

Neil Spicer wrote:
1) New Options

This is right on. I never seriously considered an Osirioni character until I saw the Living Monolith. The art, concept, and thematically-appropriate rules not only sold me on the prestige class, but on any adventurer coming from that nation.

Neil Spicer wrote:
5) Widen the In-World Information

Although you've heard this many times before, Humans of Golarion is where the train jumped the tracks. While the art depicting cultural migration patterns was nearly worth the price of admission, the rest of the book felt like it was little more than a reprint. The first section that comes to mind is the section on the Shory. While I don't have the book on hand, the only new information provided was that 'their clay pottery can still be found shattered as if fallen from a great height.'

As a GM who wants to put together an adventure where the players seek out the ruins of an ancient Shory city, this is a nice, flavorful bit. I can see shady, mustachioed merchants hawking fragments of 'ancient pottery' that may have some clues inscribed on it. I commend Brandon Hodge for the idea, but as a GM interested in Shory culture and society, I read that section and thought, "That's it?"

As a player? Here's what I imagine your average player is going to think when they read this section:

Wow. Pottery.

... And that's when they're going to close this book and leave it on the shelf.

Zouron wrote:

By far the most successful part of the books for my groups are the paladin codes, nothing else come remotely close to that.

The only other players companion that really got a good looking was "Humans of Golarion" especially the section of the evolution of the human races and how they spread across the continents.

These two examples highlight a point that I made in another, related thread. Not only are they easily applicable to players who are interested in those subjects (especially the Paladin codes), but they are straightforward and easy to read. The migration patterns have attractive art that informs and inspires, and the paladin codes are quick, clean bullet points that convey a huge amount of flavor in very short bursts of text. This makes them perfect for players, who are more likely to browse through a book like a magazine then digest the entire text in a single read-through.

Scarab Sages

Set wrote:

2) More descriptions of heraldry, clothing styles, architectural styles, armor preferences, common foods and trade goods, etc. for regions or cultures detailed. Not just flavor, but the sort of flavor that's going to be relevant when I'm describing a group of Shoanti raiders and don't want to say 'They're Shoanti raiders,' or describing the contents of a plundered Varisian trading caravan and my brain locks up and I say, 'Uh, they were carrying turnips.' because I have no idea what crops are grown in Varisia.

I love almost everything you post, Set, but I'm going to disagree with you here.

I love the Volo's Guides. They were (and are) incredible tools for the GM, and I still regularly lift bits from these to add flavor to my game worlds. That said, this is the sort of information that GMs care about (and players who also GM). The majority of players, however, are going to be nodding off when they're looking at a list of foodstuffs available at a Numerian market.

Why? Because players don't care about this stuff until they experience it in play. They will 'ooh' and 'ah' if you can point out the heraldric symbols of their patron house, and their mouths will water as you describe the fine Varisian meal they are being served. These very same things will seem dead on the page to them, however, when there are no guarantees that they will appear at the table.

That said, I would love to see some Campaign Setting books in the style of a 'Pathfinder's Guide To' which provides this information for GMs who love to provide specific world detail. I just don't think that this information is appropriate for a line of products marketed towards your average player.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

As far as I can discern, there are two reasons for art in an RPG book:

1. Demonstrative: Art saves a lot of text that describes a person / object / monster when you can just show it. This becomes an aid to imagination, as well as saving time at the table. The classic example here is the Bestiary, where you can point at the monster and say 'it looks like this!'

2. Aesthetic: This is a piece of art that exists only for the 'wow' factor, which works to sell you on why you should buy the book on the initial flip-through. You see the art and say, 'hot damn! I want my roleplaying games to look like that!' They serve a secondary purpose of breaking up large blocks of text, which can see dry and boring without some visual stimuli. This stuff is neat, but ultimately useless. Most book covers serve this function, and another example would be the iconics.

I believe that demostrative art can often fulfill the aesthetic role, and would personally rather see illustrations that serve both purposes. While, say, the cover to Faiths of Corruption is sinister, it simply fills space. If, on the other hand, it depicted a sinister ritual of Zon-Kuthon, I can work that into my game. The players burst into the horrible temple and they see this ritual in particular.

I would like to see that each piece is evaluated on the basis of, "What information does this illustration convey? What utility will it have at the table?" If there isn't an answer beyond, "this is frickin' sweet!", I'd rather see it cut.

Mind you, I still want art that is frickin' sweet, but it should have a demonstrative purpose, such as:

* Clothing style of the region, race, religion, etc.

* Conveys the architectural style of a city, state, or building.

* Displays a specific object, monster, or spell effect.

In regards to magic objects in specific, the object itself should, in my opinion, be displayed. The image may be less dynamic than seeing Merisiel employing it, but the utility of the image is drastically improved.

Thanks again for seeking our feedback, Wes!

Scarab Sages

I think that a choice of voice is less urgent than the need for the material to engage the player. If speaking directly to the reader works towards that goal, so be it. I don't think it's a necessity, as long as you tell me why Zon-Kuthonites are so unbelievably awesome that I should be dying to play one. The important part, to my mind, is that this is made boldly apparent. A Player's Companion book should be jam-packed with concepts that scream 'play me!' Otherwise, only GMs will read them, and then you might as play just publish an extra Campaign Setting book a month.

Scarab Sages

Ernest Mueller wrote:

I have to say, the companions don't speak to me that much. I get them, I leaf through them, then that's about it. Sometimes my players ask to borrow one relevant to them but I often find they didn't read it afterwards.

...

They are also not written in an engaging tone, by and large. I would think the point of a 32 pg players guide is to be extremely gripping; to fire people's imagination with ideas and images and not just be a fake textbook. More Vornheim and less Britannica. Maybe use some fiction; I got a lot more gameable fluff out of 32 pages of Prince of Wolves setting-wise than the 32-page Cheliax book despite it being "for reference".

I agree with these two paragraphs completely, especially 'more Vornheim and less Britannica.'

Scarab Sages

In my experience, many players are not interested in granular details about setting, flavor, and the like, especially if it is written in a neutral, even tone and in a dense block of text. GMs like that stuff, of course, but players wonder, 'Why do I care about this?' What they are interested in is clear, concise information that excites the imagination and is easily referenced and applicable to their character, right now.

As an example, let's take a look at a passage from Faiths of Corruption:

Colin McComb wrote:
Like Lamashtu, Shub-Niggurath is thought to be responsible for the introduction of frightening species into the world, but unlike the Demon Queen, the Outer God's children are a more aberrant get. Your rites sacrifice to aberrations, offering children and the infirm to tentacled and oozing horrors that should not be. You have an unholy fascination with that which slithers, scurries, and oozes, and you believe that one day, should you mate with such a beast, you will achieve unity with your master.

Starting with a comparison to Lamashtu is likely to alienate many players, because unless they have some reason to know who Lamashtu is, they'll have to look her up. This is a barrier to this short article's usefulness for a player making a decision about which evil god to play, or when referencing information about their evil god to use in-game.

Things start to spice up, however, once the text starts addressing the reader directly. Sacrifice children to tentacled monsters? Mate with ooze fiends? For a player looking for a 'metal' concept, this is going to sing to them.

That said, the presentation could be more straightforward, with bullet points, quick story hooks, roleplaying tips, and a how-to guide of options that will make a character uniquely 'Shubby'. This does not necessarily have to be new options presented, but can also reference other books, preferably with a page citation. It should also be written in a way that talks directly to the player, with an eye for presentation that jumps off the page and demands that you play this concept because it so damn cool.

None of this is to say Mr. McComb is a poor writer, or that these ideas aren't good - they're great! The problem I've seen is that the Player's Companion line has been written in the same style as the Campaign Setting line, which is to say aimed at an audience of GMs.

I also recognize that a few players love this stuff, myself included, so it is worth preserving some of it. Perhaps each section could be 'front-loaded' with quick 'n' dirty summaries, allowing a casual player to understand the basic concepts at a glance, with more detailed information to follow?

...

This is a need that has clearly been recognized, as the books have increasingly moved in this direction, especially with such handy tools as the paladin codes in the first two 'Faiths of' books.

Thanks for asking for our feedback, Wes!

Scarab Sages

It doesn't hurt that he is probably the best Cthulhu scenario writer currently active.

He's certainly one of the best, but there's so many 'top tier' talents in the field right now that I would hesitate to name any single one 'the best'. John Crowe, Dennis Detwiller, Dan Harms, Ken Hite, Kevin Ross, and a handful of others all jockey for that honor.

Also, with the revival of SixtyStone / The Black Seal looming on the horizon, they are likely to be many other contenders re-entering the field.

That said, his Stealing Cthulhu is a thing of beauty.

Scarab Sages

It is a completely new system.

You can check out an open playtest of it here.

This looks awesome, and I'm seriously considering using this system in the future.

Also of note: the new DCC system is a heavily stripped-down version of the 3E/PF system with some serious tweaks. The good news is that this means that the new DCC adventures should be more compatible than from 4E.

Scarab Sages

Holy crow, daemonslye. I'd only looked at your conversion of Paladin in Hell, which I was very impressed by, but this document... it's a thing of beauty. You may have been out of touch for a while, but you've clearly not been slacking on the conversations.

Bravo, sir! Now I just have to print and bind this bad boy, so that I can peruse it at my leisure.

Thank you very much.

Oh, and if you're still taking requests, here's a challenge for you: Tegel Manor.

Scarab Sages

Having perused the PDF of this product, I have to say that it is a tremendous resource, and well worth the cost.

Thank you, FGG!

Scarab Sages

Here's my favorite Marvel titles at the moment:

1. Rick Remender's Venom is probably the best book from the House of Ideas right now, though. Incredible action, suspense, character drama - this one has it all.

2. Remender's other book, X-Force deserves all the praise it gets. I've felt alienated from the X-books for years, but this has proven to be a truly epic undertaking. Highly recommended.

3. Dragged down by bad art, Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak's Herc is still one of the absolute best comics on the market today. More humor and humanity than five other Marvel books put together, this has been a great series.

4. To understand Mark Waid's Daredevil, one has to consider what has come before. Over the last few decades DD has been a very dark book, with one writer after another riffing off of Frank Miller's work. As a longtime DD reader, I found this a surprising bit of fresh air, and have high hopes for Waid's run.

5. Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man has been a little uneven in quality, but when it works the book truly sings. Although the Spider-Man books have generally been pretty bad since the early '90s, they've been revitalized over the last couple years and a really worth taking a look at.

6. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Heroes/Villains For Hire probably won't last for much longer, but has been a blast so far. A tight central premise allows for team-ups with a variety of unexpected guest stars. DnA wrote a lot of amazing material for Marvel's cosmic books over the last few years, so it's nice to see them get an opportunity to play in a different sandbox.

7. Christos Gage's Avengers Academy started strong, had a slump, but may be back on the upswing. This had a lot of promise to be a great Marvel teen book, and I still think it could recover.

8. Jeff Parker's Hulk has turned out to be a fun thriller and has actually made me enjoy a book with Red Hulk in it, something that I didn't believe possible.

9. Although it doesn't look like he'll be staying on the book for very long, Warren Ellis has taken his signature "big ideas" to the Secret Avengers to make one of the wildest adventure books of recent memory.

10. DnA also have taken over New Mutants recently, and it's nice that they have a stated goal of cleaning up loose plot threads, something that the X-books have accumulated far too many of over the last decade.

Scarab Sages

D,

Glad to see you're still around. I really do appreciate all of your hard work!

Scarab Sages

Anyone know what happened to daemonslye? His work was fantastic, and it's sad that he's dropped off the map.

Scarab Sages

Oh, yes.

I would certainly buy this.

Scarab Sages

+1 for 'Art and Culture of the Inner Sea Region'.

Scarab Sages

On it.

I can't wait.

Scarab Sages

Grand Magus wrote:


Does anyone know of Cthulhu Dark adventures you can point me to?

Yeah. Use any Call of Cthulhu or Trail of Cthulhu adventure.

Scarab Sages

Scott,

A few more questions about this project:

1. Can we upgrade the amount of our pledge later in the project? For example, if I initially pledge $100, but in February decide I can't live without a wire sculpture, could I spend an extra $400 and become a Starlord?

2. In the description of the "Supreme Shaper" you mention that the supporter will receive a one-of-a-kind adventure. Who would be the designer(s) on this adventure? What would be the length? To what degree what the supporter be able to direct such a project?

3. Speaking of the Supreme Shaper, I noticed that the higher pledges (Starlord and One Who Knows) don't include that personalized adventure. If a supporter wanted the benefits of both the One Who Knows and the Supreme Shaper, would there be a way to arrange that?

Thanks!

Scarab Sages

Very, very cool.

One thing I'd love to see, Scott, is to hear from you (and the rest of the authors) about your inspirations for this book. Not just game modules, but the literature and films that inform your sensibilities coming into a project like this.

Scarab Sages

I'll be pledging closer to December, but I just wanted to jump in and say how excited I am about this project. With such a great line-up of authors, this promises to be fantastic. Pett + McComb + Boomer + Kortes = awesome!

Although this seems to be getting off to a slow start, I think the excitement building for Paizo's Distant Worlds and the strong demand for a Numerian AP means that there is a fanbase for this sort of material.

Personally, I've been reading a lot of sci-fi / fantasy crossbreeds recently, so this comes as a godsend. I'm hoping for something that will draw upon Expedition to the Barrier Peaks , Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, 1st Edition Gamma World, and REH's Tower of the Elephant.

Any chance you could spill more info on this project, or what else is coming up in The Weird Cycle?

Scarab Sages

Holy cow!

I had no idea that the NT RPG Con had such an amazing lineup: Sandy Petersen, Rob Kuntz, and Zeb Cook in one place? This may be the only time in my life that I've regretted moving away from Texas.

Also, got my Tome of Horrors yesterday, and I have been amazed by the quality from what I've seen so far. Worth every penny. Thanks, FGG!

Scarab Sages

As readers may have noticed from the previous post, I did not mention a particular theme for Crispin. To be honest, he was the one character who I had not really nailed down. Looking over this journal, however, I do detect particularly Lovecraftian elements:

* Transmigration of the soul.

* Existential horror, where one's assumptions about one's self and reality are called into question.

* An emphasis on dreams, where the character is both stalked by a hag and inhabited by a higher, cosmic being.

* Relation to a subhuman, degenerate offshoot of mankind.

* Manipulation by unknowable, inscrutible otherwordly forces.

I find little surprise in this, as my last major campaign was a two-year run on Call of Cthulhu, and undoubtedly these themes are still in the back of my mind.

Having realized this, though, I suspect the best thing to do is to embrace it. One thing I can do to set Crispin's story apart is that while I incorporated a number of elements from Lovecraft's imagination, the campaign was a modern, conspiracy-horror spin. Here, it might be interesting to actually capture the tone of a classic Lovecraftian weird tale. By attempting to emulate HPL's antiquarian sensibilities and prevasive mood of creeping horror, it may help set the character apart. I'll probably borrow a bit from David Lynch, too, whose darkly surreal dreamscapes and existential themes should be a good fit.

Inspirational Reading / Viewing:

* Lovecraft:

*** Dreams: Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Dreams in the Witch House, From Beyond, Hypnos

*** Subhuman Degenerates: The Picture in the House, Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, The Lurking Fear, The Rats in the Walls, The Festival

*** False Sense of Self: The Quest of Iranon, The Outsider

*** Transmigration of the Soul: The Strange High House in the Mist, The Thing on the Doorstep, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Shadow Out of Time

* Lynch: Twin Peaks (for the sequences in the Red Room), Lost Highway (for the transmigration elements), and Mulholland Drive (for the false reality).

Scarab Sages

A. 8 - I love the impact of the printing press and the introduction of early guns, but the game stops being D&D when the standard infantryman uses a musket.

B. 7 - Combats, by and large, should be short and brutal and generally avoided. That said, every once in a while an old-school dungeon crawl can be a great change of pace, provided that it doesn't stretch out for too long.

C. Urban - Although I'm fairly flexible on this issue.

D. 1

E. 12

F. 1 year+ - I've never found that "training time" works in reality, if the adventures are paced sufficiently, PCs should be able to have years of downtime.

G. 5 - PC choices always matter, but the GM should also have a story prepared.

H. 10 - Goblin children? Schisms in good churches? Bring 'em on!

I. 3 - Generally, low fantasy is the preferred setting, but I'm willing to go higher, as long as we don't reach 11.

J. 1. Horror 2. Mystery / Crime Drama 3. Political 4. Survival 5. Romance 6. War 7. Exploration / Trade 8. Adventure 9. Oriental

K. 2 - Even the most gritty games need a laugh now and then to release tension.

L. 5-10 - I can go up to a "10" in the gross-out horror scale, but sexual scenes should be relegated to a "fade to black".

M. 5 - Characters should be able to survive without players spending all of their time on the Advice boards on Paizo, but death should be a real possibility, with strong tactics and (especially) player skill and innovation factoring into survival.

N. 7 - Long-winded descriptions can get tiresome, and I don't expect the GM to prep every potential NPC encounter beforehand. However, preparation is key for GMs who may not be skilled in improvising.

O. 3 - Players should be rewarded for caring about the campaign world, but the GM should also be flexible enough to incorporate ideas from PCs without being completely shoehorned into a preset mold.

Scarab Sages

After an extended absence, the campaign journal is back with another character profile. This time, we'll be looking at one of the 'zanier' concepts that has been pitched for the game, Crispin / Cin, schizophrenic witch of Molthune:

1. Born a peasant of Molthune, Crispin was mentored by his village elder in the ways of witchcraft.

2. Although able to eke out a living providing folk medicines to the locals, Crispin wanted to offer a better life to his children and so enlisted in the military as a field medic.

3. During an excursion in Nirmathas, Crispin's unit was informed by the locals of a passage into the Darklands which could give them access to the fallen sky citadel of Kraggodan. Intrigued, the troops descended into darkness.

4. Unfortunately, the passage led them into the territory of the Derro, who slowly picked them off one by one. The last thing Crispin remembers is his torch sputtering out, the last of his unit, and waiting for the horrible fate that awaited him...

5. Weeks later, Crispin was found comatose outside the Nirmathi village and became a ward of the state. This was five years ago.

6. A month before the campaign started, Crispin's comatose form was visited by a multi-colored glowing orb, which pulsated weirdly over his bed. After a few moments, Crispin awoke, but was a changed man. Now referring to himself as 'Cin', and with a new, strangely alien personality, he escaped from the institution and made a long pilgrimage to Varisia.

7. This new persona, 'Cin', lacked emotion and viewed the world from a strangely detached perspective, yet seemed to take orders from the sphere which now constantly rotated around his head. At the guidance of the orb, he waited patiently in Magnimar until Samuel True arrived in the city. Tracking down the priest, Cin declared that he had been 'guided by the stars' to join True in a quest that he knew nothing about. Soon, they would both be Southbound to Sargava and, unknown to them, Smuggler's Shiv.

8. Once upon Smuggler's Shiv, the 'Cin' persona would fade and Crispin, remembering nothing of the last few years, found himself on the other side of the world and in another decade. Now, Crispin maintains control most of the time, with Cin taking over during moments of stress.

A rather convoluted and bizarre backstory, but PCs always do seem to come with baggage, don't they?

The core idea of a possessed character came from the player (Paul), as well as the emotionally disconnected / shell-shocked persona. I helped Paul fill in the details about Molthune and Nirmathas, and have (so far) kept him in the dark about the nature of his tormentors beneath the earth.

Paul initially began play as Cin in what could be considered (in retrospect) to be an ill-considered experiment in characterization.

Off-Topic Discussion About Motivation in RPGs Begins Now!

As player and GM, Paul and I have argued several times about what compels a PC to adventure. Paul is of the school of thought that believes every adventure should have a deeply personal motivation for each character, and that at the beginning of a scenario the GM's primary goal is to convince the PCs that the stakes are high enough that they are forced to take action.

I, on the other hand, am of the school of thought that believes PCs should be built as 'men of action', characters crafted with an inherent desire to go out adventuring, whether it be for virtuous reasons or personal gain. From that point, the PC can be further invested in the individual scenario by revealing additional motivations that pertain to the situation at hand.

An example would be a character that I had played in a previous campaign, Pastor Fryday, corruption-busting cleric of Pelor. When, during the party's first dungeon-delving expedition, they discovered the ancient history of the maze they had entered. Pastor Fryday quickly became excited at the marvelous find they had uncovered. Previously unrevealed to the rest of the party, Fryday fancied himself a bit of an amateur archeologist and historian, and the significance of the tomb simply could not be ignored! Why, after they had cleared the dungeon of its dangers (and secured its treasures), they would have to contact the local university and organize a fully-fledged excavation!

Now, in my initial conception of Fryday, I had not conceived of the character as a history buff. However, I saw this as a perfect opportunity: give the GM a chance to provide backstory (which we always appreciate) and hype the rest of the party on why the dungeon we were delving was unbelievably cool.

Off-Topic Discussion Complete

Cin was an attempt by Paul to create a character without internal motivation which would be compelled by a purely mysterious external factor, the glowing orb (which is, in fact, a Paracletus). After a few sessions, however, it became obvious that Cin's Data-like non-personality would not be sustainable for a long-term campaign. The schtick would get old and the player would get bored with a throw-away concept. Discussing the issue with Paul, we agreed to have Crispin make a miraculous reawakening, a 'Rip Van Winkle' who found himself under very strange circumstances and wanting nothing more than to get home to his family.

So, what do I have in store for poor Crispin?

In the short term, the greatest difficulty I'll be facing is when the characters get off the island. After all, if Crispin's motive is to return to Molthune and reunite with his family, why wouldn't he book passage on the first ship out of Sargava?

Thinking on this issue, I came up with a rather peculiar solution. What if Crispin was nothing more than one of the para-personalities crafted by Hirretta? His experiences were drawn primarily from a Molthuni regular whose nightmares had provided much fuel for the Crone during the Nirmathi rebellion of 4648, meaning that his wife had long ago passed on, his children now dottering in old age, and grandchildren grown adults. With the horrific realization that his whole existance is a lie (and that the body he inhabits is not even his), what does he ultimately have to go back to?

This being a late development in the game, I had two kinks that needed to be fixed, however:

A. What does a Paracletus have to do with a Night Hag?

Initially, I had conceived of the Aeon's intervention being motivated primarily by a need to correct an issue of cosmic imbalance created by Aroden's death. Part of Aroden's portfolio is a god of history, and therefore the progress of time. With his death, time itself has been undergoing a readjustment on Golarion, and ancient threats and secrets have been uncovered at an ever-increasing rate as history slips into a regressive cycle (explaining the timely reemergence of Runelords, Dragon Liches, Serpentfolk, and so on in the various APs). The Aeons have therefore been subtly acting to ensure that civilization marches forward and the proper flow of time is maintained. In service of this goal, Cin was activated to play a part in Ydersius' defeat, ensuring that the Serpentfolk stay buried in the past.

Although I'm likely to continue to pursue this idea, it occurred to me that the Aeon could be working to serve a secondary goal as well: the Aeons, as the 'maintenance men' of the Planes, view the Night Hags as parasites who interrupt the proper migration of souls. As such the Paracletus' superiors saw the 'hijacking' of one of Hirretta's sleepers to be icing on the cake.

B. So, what's the deal with the Derro?

Having Crispin's unit decimated by the Derro was a bit of a lay-up for a later development in the campaign. The Urdefan of Ilmurea left me cold, as I haven't been able to muster a lot of interest in this particular monster. Rather than slog through Thousand Fangs Below with a long string of encounters with a baddie that I felt ho-hum about, I decided to pull a bit of a switcheroo and have them replaced by the Derro, which really pushed my buttons in Into the Darklands. The Derro, using the Morlocks of Ilmurea as stock for their experiments, worship Cyth-V'sug from their blue-litten caverns and work to unlock the secrets of the ancient city.

As mentioned in my previous post about Hirretta, the parapersonalities are built from bits and pieces of experience extracted from Hirretta's former victims. With the decision to make 'Crispin' one of these false personas, it occurred to me that perhaps the horrifying experience beneath Nirmathas was actually that of a Morlock in Ilmurea. As Crispin enters the city beneath Saventh-Yhi, he'll discover that he still has a living family, but they are the inbred degenerates that comprise the slave class of the Darklands. Will a character so strongly driven by his need for family be able to find solace in the only kin that will embrace him?

Time will tell.

Scarab Sages

thejeff wrote:
We've got the free-market absolutists in the national discourse. Where are the radical socialists?

I'll take a little less radicalism, please.

If you're looking for reasonable, moderate socialists, though, try here:

Democratic Socialists of America.

Sadly, they don't field candidates of their own. The best-organized progressive political movement in the US today is the Green Party. Although we may never see the emergence of a third-party candidate as President, I would highly recommend that you support your local and state DSA and Green Party organizations and, if there is not a local chapter, organize one!

Scarab Sages

Gruumash . wrote:


I think (my opinion) is that is the case because the democratic party has been very smart and has been able to bring together their party as a united front. Something the Republican party has been unable to do since the Regan era.

Gruumash,

I apologize that this has turned into a leftist dogpile, but I did want to address your post.

First, I agree that the Democratic Party have been very canny when it comes to enforcing solidarity in the ranks. What is so surprising about this, to my mind, is that the actual policy decisions do not reflect a genuinely progressive outlook, despite protests from the right.

Second, I wanted to take a second to clarify what I mean about the center-left politics I referred to previously. These views may seem extreme to many Americans, but do keep in mind that they are fairly standard across the rest of the world:

1. The promotion of locally-operated, democratically-run worker co-operatives over multinational corporate hierarchies.

2. Union involvement in the determination of national economic policy.

3. International control and monitoring of transnational corporations, with unions that transcend national boundaries.

4. Economies that mix private enterprise and socialism, which closely regulates financial services in the interests of the people and ensures public services (such as higher education and medical care) are available to everyone.

5. Modern Socialism looks not to control public institutions through top-down state-run policies but instead by the workers and their communities. There are a variety of models being tested here, but the goal is to achieve truly local, democratic decision-making at work and in the public sphere, instead of control wielded by distant bureaucrats.

6. The gradual elimination of the concentrated wealth and power of those at the top, with the eventual goal of a more equitable distribution amongst workers as well as producers.

7. Finally, there needs to be a special emphasis on gradual. Center-left socialist groups (Social Democrats and Democratic Socialists alike) advocate an evolutionary reform of society through the democratic process, not the revolutionary overthrow of governments.

Again, although these ideas may seem extreme to you, please keep in mind that they are normative goals amongst center-left parties that hold sway in Europe, Japan, Canada, and elsewhere. Despite this, we do not see anything approximating these goals by the Democrats in power, either in policy or even their campaign promises.

Finally, I wanted to express solidarity with your views regarding gay marriage and abortion. Although we may disagree on economic policy, on social issues we pretty much see eye to eye.

Scarab Sages

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Gruumash . wrote:
As a libertarian at heart, when I secede from the Union I am taking New England with me. ;) Hope you are okay with that.

I'm sorry, but since the highest concentrations of Democrats are found in the most prosperous parts of the country (New England and the Pacific coast), we're holding on to what's ours. You're welcome to Wyoming, though! ;)

Gruumash . wrote:

With all seriousness I find the divide between the extreme left and right very discouraging. When the fringe groups start talking for the main groups it is very disheartening.

I think both moderate democrats and moderate Republicans do need to work together once again. I know you focused on saying fringe right groups and I agree with what you said, only I think you left out moderate democrats, because there are extreme left groups out there who concern me as well. Those extreme groups go so far to their prospective left or right they seem to come around to form a circle and in many ways I see them ending up being closer then they think they are which frightens me.

Gruumash, I appreciate the sentiment towards reconciliation, I really do. However, when I hear statements that the extreme left hold any meaningful sway in the political dialogue today, I am flabbergasted. I can only attribute this viewpoint as a distortion by the American media, as it does not correlate with the facts.

I know several people on the far left in America today. They are almost universally Anarcho-Syndicalists. If that term is unfamiliar, don't worry, it's because these ideas are not being disseminated into the mediasphere except by a handful of academics like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. They have no political representation as they comprise a very tiny segment of the population.

Moving in the center-left, we do have democratic socialist groups like SPUSA. SPUSA currently has 1,000 members and is struggling to meet their Spring funding goal of $500. They hold no political offices anywhere in the country. Hedging closer to the center of the political spectrum is the Green Party, which has 300,000 members (slightly less than one percent of the population) and holds no offices higher than mayor.

Compare this to the rest of the first world. The Labour Party in the UK holds 258 seats in the House of Commons (out of 650). In Canada, the New Democratic Party holds 103 seats in the House (out of 308). Finally, in France the Socialist Party holds 186 seats in the National Assembly (out of 577) and 111 seats in the Senate (out of 343). All of these are center-left parties, falling somewhere between SPUSA and the Green Party.

The Democratic Party in the United States today is, at its most radical, a centrist party as far as the rest of the world's concerned. So please, do not tell me that leftist extremists are corrupting the political dialogue in our country today. That is simply impossible, because there is no American left worth speaking about.

Scarab Sages

Just finished running this earlier tonight.

Everyone had a blast and it was my best experience yet with PFS play.

I sincerely hope this varied approach of roleplaying / puzzles / problem solving / investigation / combat will be reflected in future PFS design.

Overall, great job Adam.

Scarab Sages

I'd personally recommend the following:

For mystery/horror games, you really can't do better than the classic, Call of Cthulhu or the more recent Trail of Cthulhu. The mystery structure creates a sense of mounting terror, and the high lethality forces players to exercise greater caution. Scenarios (which are sometimes quite involved, taking multiple sessions to resolve) often only have one or two combats, and both systems are rules-light. Both have a wide variety of phenomenal scenarios to get you started, as the vast majority of products are modules. I'd try:

Call of Cthulhu: Our Ladies of Sorrow, Final Flight, and Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37, all of which are phenomenal scenarios.

Trail of Cthulhu: Out of Time, Bookhounds of London, and Armitage Files.

Outside of Lovecraftian horror, I've been quite impressed by all of Arc Dream's products, with Kereberos Club and Monsters & Other Childish Things being my favorites of the bunch. You can find them here.

Hope this helps!

Scarab Sages

Purchased and skimmed this product earlier today. There are certainly a number of very flavorful items that I'll employ in my home game, and the product boasts superior layout and presentation.

For the price point, this is one of the better 3PPs I've purchased. Keep up this level of quality and you'll have a dedicated customer, Clark.

Scarab Sages

Frankly, I'm very happy to hear about this.

I certainly hope that American libertarians and capitalist anarchists achieve their goal of establishing a non-state in which they can call home. With any luck, the Tea Party will also embrace this notion and migrate out of the country.

I'm also a firm supporter of the Christian Exodus movement, which plans to migrate every politically-motivated Christian fundamentalist to South Carolina and secede from the union. It would please me greatly if Rick Perry embraced this plan instead of running for president.

It seems clear that there are major ideological differences between the American left / moderate Republicans and the far right that has come to wield considerable power over the last couple decades. Instead of trying to negotiate with an implacable opponent, Democrats and moderate Republicans can work to restore the Keynesian economic policies that created decades of American prosperity between the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations.

The Tea Party, Libertarians, and other fringe groups on the right also benefit from such a plan, as they'll reap the benefits of their social experiments in theocracy and stateless governance.

To them, I say godspeed and good luck!

Scarab Sages

Finally, on a totally unrelated note, I'd love to get your perspective on a rather sticky problem:

As a fan of Paizo and Pathfinder, I enjoy most of your company's output. Unfortunately, I am not always pleased with every design decision or enthused about every product announcement. I feel that, as a consumer, I should express my opinions (both positive and negative) to provide feedback and help shape the future of the line.

At the same time, though, I cannot help but notice the sometimes-vitriolic comments on these boards and would rather not contribute to the hostility. Thus, I sometimes find myself choosing not to say anything, even when I am disappointed by decisions made by authors, designers, or developers.

Where would you say that the happy medium lies, where customers can share their concerns and criticisms with the company without turning the boards into a seething pit of nerdrage?

Scarab Sages

Speaking of Skull & Shackles, I've been excited about this AP since it was announced at PaizoCon. However, after getting a chance to peruse the vehicle rules in Ultimate Combat, I'm somewhat concerned with the regatta in Tempest Rising.

As currently designed, the rules for running vehicles places all of the decisions into the hands of the driver, with little else for the rest of the party to do. While this is fine under circumstances like ship-to-ship combat, where the rest of the PCs will likely be fighting tooth and nail against an enemy boarding party, it does seem like the centerpiece of this AP volume will be entirely up to the driver PC.

This has been an issue in RPGs as long as vehicular combat has existed, and often leads to the rest of the party being bored and alienated (I can certainly think of personal examples in both Spelljammer and the D20 Star Wars game).

Has this issue already been discussed and, if so, could you share your thoughts on how the rest of the party can stay engaged?

My money's on a modified version of the chase mechanics, where party members take different roles on the ship and are called upon to make a variety of skill and ability checks based on which roles they choose, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Scarab Sages

James Jacobs wrote:


But also rules for things like courtly love, business/guild building and growth, expansions to the Leadership feat, rules for building cults, rules for running towns and kingdoms perhaps, new social options for all classes, rules for running courtrooms, rules for how to throw parties and feasts, rules for how to perform plays, and so on.

First, I would be very interested in purchasing such a book.

Second, I also recognize that it would likely not sell as well as, say, Ultimate Combat. That said, I do believe part of Paizo's winning formula is your willingness to take risks and try new things. I noticed this back when you were a magazine publisher, and have continued to appreciate it with adventures like The Sixfold Trial and Kingmaker. I sincerely hope you consider to do so, as your upcoming hardcover releases seem fairly conservative (Advanced Races Guide and Ultimate Equipment in particular).

Third, in regards to such a proposed hardcover, if it does come to fruition there are specific things I would like to see:

A. Rules for building businesses, guilds, religions, and other organizations would be compatible with the faction and academy rules found in the Faction Guide, Inner Sea Magic, and elsewhere. These rules should also provide a measure for tracking the size and resources of not only one's own organization, but rival organizations as well. This way, both players and GMs will be able to track real progress made by faction missions.

B. Expanded rules for trade that can be integrated into the caravan system found in the Jade Regent Player's Guide, as well as whatever additional rules we see for ships in Skull & Shackles.

Scarab Sages

James Jacobs wrote:

But now IS the perfect time to tell me what you want in this book. As in more NPCs, more villains, more monsters...

Fluff-wise, I'd really like to see more on the Shory and the pre-Earthfall Mwangi nation that was hinted at in Heart of the Jungle. An, if you're willing to consider some Mwangi-love, I'd be very happy to get some additional information on Zurakai.

Another lost kingdom I'd very much would like to see explored is Lirgen, possibly with a section of their inheritors in Jaha and any attempts to retake their homeland.

It might also make a nice change of pace to consider kingdoms in locales that are off the beaten path, such as the fall azer empire (mentioned on p. 19 of The Great Beyond) or a fallen nation elsewhere in the solar system. As Akiton seems to be largely modeled off of John Carter of Mars, I suspect this would be a prime candidate.

Crunch-wise, I think it'd be interesting to see information that can be salvaged from these ancient kingdoms that can have a real mechanical benefit.

Spells that have been lost to time are always a classic, but ancient techniques and technologies would be cool, too. For example, principles of Shory Aeromancy that provide a cost-reduction to aerial propulsion systems, or a forgotten chain of Style Feats that is shown in ancient pictograms and can be decoded by modern martial artists.

Oh, and if you do end up developing Lirgen, I'd love to see a Lirgeni Astrologer archetype.

Scarab Sages

Not mentioned on the wiki is that the Nolands are featured in the Pathfinder Tales novel Winter Witch.

Scarab Sages

Vic Wertz wrote:

We'll be announcing the spring 2012 Modules and Player Companions in maybe a month or so, I'd guess.

Thanks, Vic.

I assume the same goes for Planet Stories?

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