Tall Men

Still at home due to Hurricane Harvey. I report back to work this coming Tuesday. One hurricane homebound activity included watching Tall Men, a 2016 slow-paced psychological thriller starring Dan Crisafulli as Terrence Mackleby and Kay Whitney as Lucy, Terrence’s sort-of girlfriend. It’s not a bad movie. Quirky in a way reminiscent of David Lynch. To keep it brief, after Terrence declares bankruptcy, he applies for the Card, impressed by its low interest rate and his compulsion toward debt. Terrence buys a new car, and then his first bill comes due. He can’t pay, and it turns out not reading the fine print has some pretty serious consequences, enforced by the movie’s eponymous tall men.

Here is a version of the tall men for The Cthulhu Hack.

Tall Men
Hit Dice: 2
Nota Bene: Tall men, some sort of lesser servitor race perhaps, appear very much as one would expect. Dressed in suits, always somewhat disheveled and often stained by dirt, these creatures stand at least seven feet tall, but their height seems to vary, as if they can grow taller at will. Their faces are never clearly seen, either obscured by shadows or else wrapped tightly in gray cloth. They never speak. Tall men are remarkably strong. Strength saves against tall men are made with disadvantage. Tall men are not particularly fast, but they move with stealth (Wisdom saves to notice them are made with disadvantage), and these creatures can somehow disappear and reappear as long as they are not viewed directly.

August 31st, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Hurricane Harvey Update

Well, it’s official. Hurricane Harvey has done his damage for the most part. Months to years of rebuilding await. Fortunately, I’ve been little affected. A tree in my backyard split near into thirds. It’ll have to come down, but it’s not an emergency. I’ve had electricity, Internet, food, clean water, and shelter throughout, so I’ve got nothing to complain about and a great deal to be thankful for. Not everyone in and around Houston can say that same thing.

If you’re looking to help, I recommend both Catholic Charities and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. If you’re actually in the affected area, please check in with whatever local shelters or missions might be nearby. For example, not too far from my home is the Mission of Yahweh, which helps homeless women and children and needs food, water, diapers, et cetera.

Once I’m back to work, probably after Labor Day, I’ll get in touch directly with my students for the first time in a week. While the school has suffered no damage, I don’t know about my students’ homes. I hope and pray they’re all safe and dry. Once I have a better idea about their needs post-flood, I’ll look at putting together a special bundle or two of Spes Magna products to help pay for lost books, school supplies, uniforms, et cetera.

Finally, here’re some encounters for adventurers during a flood.

August 30th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Pilgrim Sly Chuckles

A pilgrim for Do: Fate of the Flying Temple. The name was inspired by a misunderstanding my daughter Adrienne had way back when while I was reading her the delightful Redwall by Brian Jacques. The type of character is sort of my default mode: the shiftless narcissist with a heart that’s at least gold-plated.

Pilgrim Sly Chuckles

Pilgrim Sly Chuckles just knows he’ll be a monk one day. He is quick of both mind and body, eager to help others by showing them that there’s something to laugh at in every circumstance. All it takes is looking at a problem from a different direction. Up is down, and every loss hides a gain, as well as vice versa. Isn’t this the wisdom of the Temple? That for every good there’s a bad, for every bad there’s a good? Of course it is! One doesn’t need special powers or the martial arts. What one needs is what Sly Chuckles has: an easy smile, some cunning words, and heart full of good intentions.

Aspects
* Avatar: Laughter Is the Best
* Banner: Words Have Many Meanings
* Dragon: Clever Yet Naive
* Other Aspects: Paves Roads with Good Intentions

Approaches: Careful Mediocre (+0), Clever Good (+3), Flashy Fair (+2), Forceful Average (+1), Quick Average (+1), Sneaky Fair (+2)

Stunts
* Center of Attention: Because I enjoy being the Center of Attention, I get a +2 when I Flashily create advantages by making a spectacle of myself.

* Water Off a Duck’s Back: Because trouble slides off me like Water Off a Duck’s Back, I get a +2 when I Cleverly overcome obstacles by evading or avoiding responsibility.

August 25th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Do: Fate of the Flying Temple

For some time now, I’ve meant to purchase Do: Fate of the Flying Temple. Now I’ve done so. Do, co-published by Evil Hat Productions and Smart Play Games, written by Mark Truman, promises to be “a family-friendly standalone roleplaying game.” I’ve seen this sort of claim before made by a few other games. Upon investigation, I discovered that, while those games might be family-friendly, it ain’t my family they’d be friendly to. Also, I facilitate Ludi Fabularum, a story game club, at the school whereat I teach. More than one of those other so-called family-friendly games would probably get me reprimanded if I allowed them at a Ludi Fabularum.

I am pleased to report that Do lives up to its claim. For the rest of this mini-review, I’m going to assume that you’re familiar with Fate Accelerated Edition; therefore, I’m not talking about the rules. They’re pretty much standard FAE rules, with two noteworthy exceptions, that I will address in a bit. If you don’t know FAE or don’t like FAE, that’s okay. Do‘s biggest selling point isn’t the game system; it’s the worlds of Do.

The Worlds of Do

At the center of everything floats the Flying Temple, home to wise and benevolent monks who master the martial arts in order to master themselves rather than fight others. Children who arrive at the Temple’s gates are adopted by the monks. These children become pilgrims. They’re not monks, but they’re not outsiders either. The monks teach their skills and wisdom to the children, who then fly to the many worlds of Do, answering letters sent by the troubled to the Temple. The pilgrims try to solve those troubles using the non-violent methods of the monks.

The worlds of Do are not planets like Earth or Mars. Instead, they are more like floating islands, drifting on the winds that blow through the vast sky in which everything moves and lives. To quote the rules, “There is no ‘outer space’ as we know it, with its harsh vacuum and hazardous cosmic rays.” There is sky. There are clouds and birds and worlds and flying whales and, like everywhere you find people, there is trouble. Those experiencing trouble write letters to the Temple. The monks read the letters, decide which troubles need attention, and then send pilgrims — children — to solve those troubles.

The players’ characters are pilgrims, remarkable children who live at the Temple under the tutelage of the monks. One day, all pilgrims face graduation day. Their pilgrimages have an end date, and after that they are pilgrims no more. Instead, they become monks who tutor pilgrims or else they depart the Temple to live among the worlds of Do. Regardless, they are player characters no longer.

About Pilgrims

Pilgrims are made pretty much like any FAE character. They have aspects, stunts, and approaches, but the aspects work a little differently. Every pilgrim’s name has two parts: a banner and an avatar. The former is “an adjective or verb that represents how your pilgrim gets into trouble.” The latter is “a noun that reflects how your pilgrims helps people.” Three sample characters are included in the book, and chapter two goes into admirable detail about banners and avatars. In normal FAE-speak, a pilgrim’s banner is his trouble, and his avatar is his high concept. Every pilgrim also has a dragon aspect. This aspect describes something about the newly hatched dragon that the pilgrims must protect, guide, and raise. The players, through the dragon aspects of their characters, create the personality, appearance, abilities, et cetera of the young dragon.

In simplest terms, the dragon is a non-player character controlled by the GM, given qualities by the players, a collection of aspects usable by all of the players and the GM, and, therefore, a source of both strengths and troubles. In my opinion, the dragon is the cleverest piece of Do. It’s something that is so simple that I wonder why I didn’t think of it.

The Temple Is Missing!

If you choose to run a Do campaign, it begins when the pilgrims return from a mission to discover that Temple is missing and, in its place, is a dragon egg. Where is the Temple? Where did this egg come from? What is the nature of the dragon within? All of the questions are answered during play as a sort of metaplot that moves toward a defined end of the campaign. As the game progresses and pilgrims answer letters (more on that below) and gradually solve the mystery of the Temple, the dragon gains more aspects. At the end of each letter (read: adventure), the dragon learns something new. It gains a new aspect. When the dragon gains its tenth aspect, the campaign draws to a close.

Mail Call!

As mentioned above, the people of the worlds of Do send letters to the monks, who read those letters and then send out pilgrims to solve the problems in the letters. When the Temple vanishes and the dragon hatches, the letters don’t stop. Instead, the dragon coughs up letters, and the pilgrims find themselves without the guidance of the monks. Problems must be solved, and the dragon accompanies the pilgrims, learning from how they act what sort of dragon it should be. In other words, the way the pilgrims solve problems ends up teaching the dragon, which will eventually become a very powerful creature indeed, how it ought to solve problems. Whether the pilgrims — mere children — like it or not, the fate of the worlds of Do is in their hands.

In Conclusion

If you like FAE, get Do. It is a remarkable example of what FAE can accomplish. If you don’t like FAE, get Do. It’s a fascinating idea for a multi-world campaign where solving problems via violence is possible but never without consequences, not the least of which is the fact the pilgrims end up teaching the dragon that the way to solve problems is via force.

I cannot recommend Do strongly enough, and I look forward to challenging the students who participate in Ludi Fabularum with its many worlds.

August 22nd, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Vengeance of the Vertebral Dominators!

Today’s mash-up smooshes together From Unformed Realms and Mutant Future. I let the randomness of the former determine the mutations from the latter. The results ended up being two mutants because that just seemed like a fun idea.

Vertebral Dominator
Number Encountered: 1d6+1 (3d6+3)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 60′ (30′)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 3+3
Attacks: 1
Damage:
Save: L3
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: IX, XVIII
XP: 170

Mutations: Dual Cerebellum (limited), Natural Armor, Pain Sensitivity, Parasitic Control

A vertebral dominator resembles a disembodied spinal column that slithers much like a snake. Thick, bony body segments provide good protection against attacks. Nerve clusters at its head approximate normal senses, but the mutant’s exposed nerves make is very sensitive to pain. Fortunately for it, a vertebral dominator can parasitically control a host organism. While latched onto its host, the vertebral dominator controls the hosts actions and reactions. The merged parasite-host creature enjoys the benefits of having two cerebellums.

Scolopendra
Number Encountered: 1d4+1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 150′ (50′)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 9
Attacks: 1d4+1 (pincers or thrown spines)
Damage: 1d10 or 1d6
Save: L5
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: None
XP: 3,800

Mutations: Aberrant Form (20 legs), Aberrant Form (pincers), Spiny Growth (medium spines), Toxic Weapon (Class 11)

A scolopendra is a large, predatory arthropod whose body is divided into ten segments, each segment sporting two legs, half of which end with powerful, tripartite pincers. The mutant’s chitinous exoskeleton is covered with sharp spines, each two to three feet long. It can break off these spines and hurl them like daggers, attack in melee with its pincers, or a combination of the two attack forms, making 1d4+1 attacks each round. Against creatures to its rear or rear flanks, a scolopendra may spew forth of a gout of toxic fecal matter in a cone 30 feet long and 15 feet wide at its base. Those hit that fail their saving throws are paralyzed for 2d6 rounds, while those who make their saves move at half speed for 1d6 rounds. Vertebral dominators prefer scolopendrae as host organisms since they appear especially suspectible to the vertebral dominator’s control.

August 1st, 2017  in RPG 1 Comment »