Friday, April 27, 2012

Giwoitis lizard folk women

The giwoitis are lizard folk women who take care of the abandoned goats and cattle from the cursed farmlands. They enchant them and offer their milk to lawful and neutral adventurers who can find their enchanted barn.

This is how I like to use alignments in my sandbox games: I assign alignment and different alignment reaction to my special unique encounter. So the interesting parts of the sandbox react differently to lawful, neutral or chaotic characters. (oh yeah, the milk have strange effects on chaotic characters.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Witch grave ossuary

One of the witch graves ossuary from my Labyrinth Lord campaign.

Alternative larger version:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Attempt at a sandbox model for LotFP.

After my first attempt at running a sandbox campaign for LotFP, I have thought about what din't work in my setup and I have come up with a draft for creating a LotFP sandbox.

Note that I don't know if my model is fun or functional, I hope so, but I have not tested it and I don't consider myself a experimented referee.

What I am trying to address here is that in my first LotFP sandbox the weird was too isolated in locations set away from the civilized world. So doing anything in the civilized world was not very interesting.

One solution is to move entirely away from the civilized world to run a wilderness campaign like Weird New World, so you don't have to care about the civilized world. Weird New World seem fun and functional and I hope to try it someday. But still, I wanted to see if I was able to come up with something interesting for a sandbox mainly set in civilized lands.

In my sandbox model the weird come from outside civilization, but infiltrate and hide in the civilized lands. So the PC can encounter weird elements in the civilized land and follow their trails up to their source of origin. While doing so they can investigate contaminated locations or explore normal locations and settlements to gain useful resources. My goal is to create a playable sandbox. I want the sandbox to be playable in itself instead of just being a area that connect different adventuring locations together.

(Note: the weird is taken in the sense of the supernatural, magic, horror, alien, strange science, etc).

The Sandbox.

We have:
  • The civilized lands: a normal civilized setting.
  • Normal locations: normal locations and settlements that can be explored to gain resources.
  • Source of Weird: outside source of weird that seed a point of weird in the civilized lands.
  • Seed of Weird: point of weird that contaminate the civilized lands.
  • Zone of weird contamination: each zone have it own flavor of weird encounters.
  • Mix points: place where different weird element mix with each other.
Seeds of weird come from a source of weird set outside civilization, once in civilized lands they "radiate" weirdness that contaminate normal elements and generate weird's ones. Those weird elements can mix together to create new weird elements. This create a net of trails that can be investigated and followed up to their source.

Here is a schematic map of the sandbox (click to enlarge):

The grey zones are zones of weird encounters. Each zone reflect the influence of the weird seed at it center. So the weird encounters of each zone can provide clues about it weird seed, trails to follow, etc.

Some normal locations or settlements will be outside the weird zones and their weird influence. Some other will be in contact with the weird and be influenced by it. Most settlement will contain a resources that the player characters can use to investigate or explore the weird.

So when you explore a normal location or settlement you can:
1) Try to gain access to the settlement resource.
2) Try to find information about other settlement resources.
3) Encounter and investigate clues or marks left by the weird.
4) Encounter and investigate weird activity and influence.

In some places, weird elements from different seed of weird will encounter each other to mix and to create new interesting situations to explore. This will also provide trails that lead to different sources of weird.

The sources of weird are set outside the civilized lands and can be explored by daring adventures. There the weird presence and influence can be more direct if wanted since the weird don't have to be secret or hidden.

Generating the sandbox.

1) Generate 3 sources of weird.

The sources of weird can be a weird location or a location with something weird in it. It have to be something that the group can eventually explore.

Since the nature of the sandbox, it is important to have sources of weird that can generate more weird. This can be done through servitors, spawns, family, influence, corruption, contamination, fallout, cults, possession, etc.

Something most come out of the source of weird and install itself in the civilized lands to become a seed of weird.

Note that the source of weird only need to generate a seed once.

To generate the sources of weird, you can (try to use a different approach for each source):
  1. Take a classic fantasy OSR threat and just twist a little something.
  2. Take a classic fantasy OSR threat and rewrite it into something unfamiliar.
  3. Take something from a other game, rewrite it and import it in your setting.
  4. Take something from a other media, rewrite it and import it in your setting.
  5. Take something from you or something from around you and use it for inspiration.
  6. Create anything you wish.
Maybe it is interesting to avoid creating 3 sources of weird that are threatening.
Like you could create:
  • One that attract things to itself, like something miraculous, seducing or fabulous.
  • One that is sleeping, death or inactive.
  • One that is threatening, active and aggressive.
You can also roll a alignment to use for inspiration (naturally use your own definitions):
  1. Lawful: crafted, artificial, perfect, imposing the will of the gods, fate, etc.
  2. Neutral: something natural, primordial, instinctive, etc.
  3. Chaotic: magical, eldritch, faery, sorcerous, corrupted, demonic, out of this world, etc.
Naturally there is many different ways to create the sources of weird.

2) Generate the seeds of weird.

Each seed will come from a source of weird and will be placed in the civilized lands.

Like it source of weird, each seed must be able to generate weirdness. But unlike a source of weird, a seed must be able to generate weirdness more then once to create encounters, spread it influence, mix with other weird elements, etc.

A seed can be something animate (character, creature, entity, group, etc) or something inanimate (artifact, magical item, location, etc).

For inspiration you can roll a d6 to determine the seed relation to it source:
  1. the seed is the spawn, children or creation of the source.
  2. the seed is the servitor, slave, henchman or apprentice of the source.
  3. the seed is the worshiper, priest or cult of the source.
  4. the seed is someone or something unwillingly tainted by the source power.
  5. the seed is a rival, splinter or exiled faction of the source.
  6. the seed is a broken or damaged part or duplicate.
(note that any result can represent a group or a single entity)

3) Create weird encounters.

For each seed, create some weird encounters. Those encounters can be weird elements themselves or normal elements tainted or influenced by the weird. The goal of those encounters is to provide clues about the seeds of weird and trails to follow or to investigate.

Some of those weird or tainted elements can be monsters, NPC, artifact, magic items, locations, etc...

Use those weird elements and encounters to create random encounters, place rumors, react at the player characters actions, antagonises them, etc.

4) Mix some of those weird elements together.

Mix some weird elements together to create interesting situations or new hybrid elements.

The goal is to create a fork in the trail that the PC are following.

Mixing element can create: hybrid elements, situations, factions, activity, etc.

For inspiration you can roll a d6 when weird elements from two seed mix together:
  1. They merge as something new.
  2. They form a alliance and work for a same goal and become a new faction.
  3. They maintain a uneasy truce.
  4. They hinder and sabotage each other goal.
  5. One manipulate or use the other.
  6. They hunt, predate or fight each other.

5) Create normal locations and settlement.

Create normal ordinary locations and settlements, then give them a disposition, a resource and a attitude toward the weird (if they are in the zone of influence of a seed of weird). You can also use the settlements table from the referee book to add more details.

The goal here is to make it interesting to visit the settlement. Since the game is about exploring the weird, to be interesting a normal location will provide resources to explore the weird or weird trails to follow and to investigate.

Roll the location disposition toward adventurers:
  • 1-2: Hinder, block or oppose through "normal" means. (using it resource is a challenge and can create enemies)
  • 3-5: Neutral. (using it resource cost something)
  • 6: Are open and helpful. (using it resource is free, but create ties & relations)
Roll to determine the resources of a location:
  1. Patronage. Provide financing, give quest, etc.
  2. Information, lore, knowledge, research, divination, omen or clues.
  3. Military or fighting strength. Mercenary, henchmen or allies.
  4. Expertise, training, special skills. Alchemist, master smith, guide, legendary artisan, etc.
  5. Protection, healing, blessing or warding. (The resource is fixed in it location and can't move or be moved).
  6. Exotic resources or contacts coming from demi-human, distant lands, ancient origin, etc.
If the location is in a weird zone, roll it attitude toward the weird:
  1. Resist, oppose, hate, foes.
  2. Ignore, fear, deny, avoid. Talking about the weird is bad.
  3. Ally for mutual gain.
  4. Don't like it, but hide and protect the weird in secret. Provide safe house, etc.
  5. Control and use the weird for personal gain or goal.
  6. Influenced, controlled or corrupted by the weird.
Note that not everyone in a location or settlement know about the weird influence or activities, only some factions do.

Conflicted factions: if you roll 1-2 on a d6, the location members are conflicted about the weird, roll twice on the table. Each result represent a faction of the settlement or location.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Playing Stars Without Number

I am playing in my friend Dominic's campaign of Stars Without Number.

I enjoy the group, the game, the system and the campaign a lot. :)

The game's OSR system is neat, I like having only 3 classes, the simple skill system and all the other tweaks.
(check out the Grognardia review)

Creating your character is fun: you choose one of the 3 classes (expert, warrior or psychic), a background and a class training that both determine your starting skills.
Simple, quick and colorful.

My character is Danielle Ros, a biotech crew space marine.

So she is a spacer, she worked for a biotech corporation in a space emergency respond squad.
I established that the biotech corporation went bankrupt after a bio-contamination disaster or scandal. (Think Umbrella corporation). Her squad was disbanded and now she is a adventurer.

I was not super lucky with my attribute rolls, I only rolled a bonus in wisdom, and I got one in dexterity by placing a 14 in one of my class main attributes. But this is fine with me, I like playing characters who only have a few small edges that define them.

We started playing on Priam, a major world. Since we had no ship and we had to write a goal on our character sheet I ended up playing Danielle as a disgruntled marine hating being stuck on the ground and being ready to do anything to go back in space.

As I played her I discovered during our first session that she cared about people, I guess this come from her emergency aid background. During the second session I discovered she missed being in space so much that she now take pills of a drug that provide a zero gravity feeling. During our third session I discovered that she have a weak spot for the mysterious assassin Eliot and Indrani, a resourceful NPC. This is what she is for now.

Here, my friend D•Miranda made a drawing of my character taking her dose of Zero-G drug:
(check out his blog: Jaguar Combat :)

The group is composed of 6 players (2 female & 4 male players playing 2 female & 4 male characters):
- Drake the born noble commando.
- Danielle the biotech crew space marine.
- Eliot the security crew assassin.
- James Flanagan, adventurer and criminal
- Griff the technician pilot
- Constance the rogue psychic priestess

In 3 sessions we had two characters reduced to zero hit point, but we had no casualty thanks to the 6 rounds we have to stabilize them. With the XP we gained at the end of the third session all the characters will able to reach level two at the start of our next session.

This is the first time I have a great time playing in such a large group. The session are very packed, we often hesitate at the start as people figure out what they want to do, but once we choose the action move quickly and a lot of stuff happen. The referee never use "no" on failed skill tests, he always use "no but..." I like it, this work well for a 6 players group as it keep things moving. We play one session missions, which is great since we feel that we accomplish something each time we play. For now we miss a little bit of time at the end of the session to wrap things up. I wish we had the time to play a few follow up scene with NPC and other PC. But this is ok.

During session 2 we were able to steal a transport ship that a faction planned to sabotage. Now we have to find a way to repair it jump drive. Earning the ship was really fun. I admit that at first I was a little bit worried that it could take us a lot of time before we could able to buy our own ship to explore the space sand-box.
Doing missions on the starting planet is fun, but what really interest us all is exploring the sandbox and having galactic adventures. I din't read the whole SWN PDF, but I wonder if there is advice or guide lines about how to get the group in space to let them explore the starmap sandbox on their own. That said, I think it was well and fairly handled in our campaign.

Next session we are probably going to explore a derelict spaceship that crashed in the rock desert in hope of salvaging tech to repair our own ship.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Halflings receiving the bishop fish's communion

Here is the illustration I was working on for the Green Devil Face art challenge.
But I din't had the time finish my drawing. The idea was to illustrate hobbits cultists receiving the communion from weird bishop fishes coming out of a well. But maybe my style is too cartoonish for LotFP.
Oh and I want say that I really like the owl demon that won the contest and it was nice to see what the other contestant had submited.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I have traded some demons with Scrap Princess.

Glorious pictures of the Marilith I have adopted.

I could not take a picture of my own, so I have drawn her:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Taking a break.

Tonight session din't go very well.

I am closing down my LotFP campaign and taking a break from being the referee.
(but I will be a player in a Stars Without Number campaign)

I will also take a break from this blog to focus more on my personal drawings

But I will still visit your blogs. It was very interesting to read you all.

Monday, April 2, 2012

LotFP, session 05

Session 05 was not easy to run. We had to connect Vital's solo session time line with the party actual time line. So this was distracting and confusing. Also there was the fact that my preparation was all about the possible adventure location destinations and not the in-between activities.

Since session 04 was all about resource management, travel and doing things in towns, the group was eager to reach a dungeon location and rushed ahead. I clumsily handled some situations and the player who play Vital was frustrated by the group desire to rush things. End result: we took the entire session to reach the town close to the dungeon location (while also doing things in town). A very frustrating and discouraging session for all of us.

Beside the stuff I clumsily handled, our problem is the way our setting is set we only care about the dungeon locations and when the group is not in a dungeon everything feel like boring obstacles dragging us down and keeping us from reaching what really interest us.

This is frustrating to the point that we are asking ourselves if we should reset the campaign to start with a new setup.

Our setup right now:
We have a large sandbox composed of civilized lands with isolated weird locations set far away from civilization.

For now this have those consequences (that I can identify):
1) The group have to move a lot between towns and have no real home base and nothing to care about out of the dungeons. Everything in the sandbox feel too scattered. It hard to build on established things.
2) The weird is separated from the civilization, so when we play in towns we are separated from what interest us in LotFP: the weird.
3) The civilization and the weird don't interact or influence each others. The adventures have no consequences or influence on the setting and on what the characters could maybe care about.
4) If something "adventurous" randomly happen away from the dungeons in civilized lands, we are not tempted to engage or to explore it because it gonna be mundane in nature. We all just want to quickly resolve it.

So gaming out of the dungeon is just not interesting because nothing engage us there.
But at the same time just skipping everything to start at the dungeon's doors don't seem satisfying.

I have a hard time figuring out how to create and to handle a good gameable LotFP campaign setup while considering what work well for old school adventuring and what work well for the horror/gothic/weird fantasy genre.

LotFP is starting to burn me out a little (well not the game, but my campaign). I have a blast being the referee when I run the dungeons, but I have a really hard time running the campaign itself. I have up to wednesday to think about how I will handle things, but right now I just don't know. If I don't find a fun way to play the campaign, I think that I will drop the game and let someone else be the referee for a time.