24 November, 2010

Tekumel 3


Though the tables and machinery pull at your curiosity, you decide your first best course is in arming yourself. Easing around the corner toward the stand of rubbish, you see into the next room. Parts of you immediately label your shadowy view as both the laboratory of a sorcerer and of a scientist. A multitude of oddities pull your eye about. The source of the buzzing is in this room, but this too must wait.

Remembering your task, you reach the corner and begin looking through the dusty items for something useful in defending yourself. You find a long metal rod, nearly as tall as yourself. It has knurled hand-size grips at shoulder width. Collars of metal flare out slightly about a foot from each end. It's solid and heavy, and for many of you this is the first time in memory when you've held a metal object. Grasping it reassuringly in both hands, you return to the body-bearing tables.

Approaching the one nearest where you woke, you search for some sort of control. A button, a lever, some moving part, but the table itself seems free of such things. The spidery machinery above yields somewhat to your touch, the whole apparatus readjusting slightly as you move one arm. You wait expectantly, looking at the cloth covered body, but nothing happens.

Returning to the metal table in which you first beheld your image, you begin gingerly fingering the gems and stones affixed to its surface. You now see them as buttons, knobs and indicators. The spidery mass which you moved moments ago begins to hum with energy above the table next to your own. A weird and otherworldly glow takes hold of the shadows above the table, seeming to fight with the air itself. It builds to a crescendo, and suddenly stops as the space above the body emanates the sound of a single deep thud, as of a mass falling on the floor, or a single great knock.

Beneath the cloth, the body begins to rise.

23 November, 2010

Gramercy Day

Status: Unexpected pre-Thanksgiving slow-down, followed by semi-expected Thanksgiving micro-hiatus. I'd rather be typing.

18 November, 2010

Tekumel 2

There is a near exit in the chamber where you stand, and a far exit. The far exit is beyond the long line of disturbingly occupied tables, all with darkly complex devices of metal and crystal above them, lurking in the shadows of the ceiling like great spiders. Through the door-less and dark archway beyond comes a hot breeze.

The near exit is another door-less archway, ornately carved and pointed. Beyond you can see only a small corner of another room, even more dimly lit than this one. The corner of this other room holds what seems to be rubbish. Long narrow pieces of wood, bits of stone and pieces of cloth. A strange buzzing noise comes from some unseen place beyond this corner.

What do you do?

17 November, 2010

Gormenghasts’s Bestiary, A Page at Random - Grue

The book is extremely thick and very large, with a cover of highly tooled and decorated, one might almost say sculpted, leather of unknown provenance. It is closed with a heavy leather hasp in the form of two paws which grasp one another when brought together. The book’s origin lies within the labyrinthine libraries of a vast and storied castle, but it has been many generations since it rested there.

Grue, Vashta Nerada, Devourer in The Dark.
Many children fear night-time and the dark spaces of the world, but most learn to dismiss this fear as they grow to adulthood. This is a potentially deadly error. When entering a place occupied by a grue, a lack of illumination spells near-certain death. All that is necessary to ensure safety, however, is to bring forth a source of visible light. It is of special note that beings with some ability to see in utter darkness are not thereby made safe. The grue will remain quite unviewable to persons of this proclivity, yet its deadly efficacy will be unabated.
None know what manner of physical form this creature possesses, for upon exposure to visible light it is instantly dismissed. Sages ponder the nature of this banishment, but most agree it has to do with the inherent shadows present within the folds of reality. Some have heard sounds of slavering and the gnashing of a great maw just before the spark of a flint lit their lantern, yet there are others who report only the clattering of an object or two before their newly lighted torch revealed a bit of gear which belonged to a now missing compatriot.

Statistics - a decidedly deadly beast to encounter, the grue has more in common with a devilish trap than a typical creature. If in an area occupied or frequented by grues, and unfortunate enough to be without a source of visible light, a character in utter darkness for more than one round must save versus paralysis or be utterly eliminated. 1d4 items carried on their person, determined randomly, may fall to the ground and remain behind. The grue will only devour one character per round, determined randomly from those present. Those devoured by a grue may be retrieved by a wish, but no other means is sufficient.

Books and Games and Games and Books

It occurs to me there is a certain odd reciprocal arrangement between the sort of fantasy books DnD players like to read. I've no idea if this is the rule or the exception, but in my experience it's almost 100% accurate.

People who like games where characters are extraordinary and pregnant with powers (4e) tend to prefer books about people who are painfully average and nearly clueless about adventuring (Jordan, Goodkind.)

People who like games where characters are average and have only the most basic abilities (ODnD) tend to prefer books about people who are extraordinary and exemplify the ideal adventurer (Howard, Eddison, Moorcock.)

In other news, I plan to update the Tekumel adventure tomorrow, and then again on the weekend. I'm considering then settling into updating it once a week on Thursday nights, in honor of Prof. Barker's Thursday night games. I'm not sure once a week will provide enough progress though..

14 November, 2010

First Tekumel Post Updated

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that I edited the introductory Tekumel post a bit, and added some needed information at the bottom about just what I have in mind here. I'm still not really happy with how it all looks - I wanted the info part to be a smaller font size, but Blogger insists its ideas about layout are superior to my own. I'll have to trust its experience.

I had originally wanted to gradually reveal an organic system of determining what the character does, but I should probably front-load some more system info. As decisions and choices become available to the character, I fully expect (and hope for) everyone to have different ideas about what they want the character to do. If more than one person wants a certain course of action, that choice will get more weight in determining what happens. There are other things that will give comments more or less weight, but I'll leave them to be discovered. After they're weighted, I'll roll some dice and see which personality was strongest and won out! Then, in the next Tekumel game post, the character will then take the actions of the dominating personality.

I'm hopeful that this 'Play-by-Blog' idea will work out in an interesting and entertaining way, and people can use it as a vehicle to both learn about Tekumel and share their knowledge and experiences of Tekumel, and at the same time develop some cool characters-within-the-character. And have fun!

13 November, 2010

Tekumel 1

image by Simon Bisley
You open your eyes.

You are in a dimly lit room, lying on your back, looking at the cracked and fissured brown stone above. As you sit up, you realise you are upon a large stone dais, shaped roughly in the form of a person, and ornately carved.

There is a man before you, lit from behind by low even light. His bald head is weighed down by a long, thin black beard, hanging determinedly from his chin. He wears shimmering robes of deep purple, embroidered with orange. His eyes wide and aglow with avarice, he speaks.

“At last.. at LAST! After so many, the elder gods have delivered eclat!” He takes a step forward and stops, an odd look of discomfiture on his face. Suddenly, he grimaces and large grey-green tentacles burst forth from the front of his robe, wrap around the extents of his body, and like so many coloured scarves through a ring, instantly pull him into nothingness.

Peering over the edge of the dais, you see no evidence of his existence.

Looking to your right, you see a long line of similar anthropomorphic stone pedestals leading off down the chamber, more than twenty in number. Each bears a shimmering cloth entirely covering the obvious outline of a human form. Some are large, some are small. Some are male, some are female.

Rising naked from the dais, you take to your feet on a cracked and dusty stone floor. You stand next to a large metal table, covered with stones and gems affixed to its surface. It is highly polished, and you can see yourself reflected upon it. For a brief, unsure moment, you see a wild succession of faces and forms, but the moment passes quickly, and you view yourself as if for the first time.

What do you see?

The idea here is a game somewhere between a Fighting Fantasy book and a Play by Post rpg. In the comments below this post, and in succeeding posts about Tekumel, you the reader take on a personality within the character introduced above, much in the same way you would take on a character in a normal rpg. Each personality sees only itself when it looks in a mirror, and this first comment gives you the opportunity to share what your personality looks like, traditionally one of the first things exposited about a typical Sword & Sorcery character. Does your personality within the character have powerful thews? Buxom charms? Wizened features? It's your choice. Tekumel has no elves, dwarves, gnomes or halflings, but if you're familiar with the other intelligent races, feel free to have your personality be one of them instead.. even a Hlüss or Ssú.

There are an unlimited possible number of personalities within the character, so the more the merrier, and hopefully more personalities will emerge over time. How did all these personalities get in there? Good question!

What is Tekumel like? We'll find out. But to start with, the first thing which comes to the surface about your personality is simply what he or she looks like. As far as whether it's a soldier, a gladiator, a wizard, a priest, or whatever else, that will all come to the fore in time.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

12 November, 2010

Off With Their Heads!

Firstly, you can be one of the first to sign up at the HUGE RUINED PILE fantasy fiction message board! It's only just begun, but I have the feeling it's destined to be the premier internet location for the discussion of fantasy literature.

And now, another deity.

Karth-Gohmon, God of Severed Heads: 
Two sorts pray to this god. Those wishing to sever the heads of their enemies, and those wishing to keep their heads attached to their bodies. He stiffly rebukes all who might ask for a painless beheading, as those are someone else's business.

He appears as an animate vertical stack of severed heads, all slightly larger than human-sized. The number of heads varies depending on the level of power he manifests, but is never less than 3. The heads are usually human males, but can be of any race and gender, again usually dependent on the situation. When he speaks, a few words of each sentence come from a different mouth, in succession. If making a particularly strident point, all mouths shout in unison.

Karth-Gohmon is the god of choice for penanggalans, and he is often accompanied by a retinue of prime examples (maximum variables) of this creature.

He is widely known for his blessings and curses, which include:
Blessing of Vorpality - bestowed upon an edged weapon.
The Headsman's Curse - your head leaves your body, but you don't die. Rather, you must carry your head with you, or use temporary means to affix it atop your neck, and use it to eat, breath, etc. There is no wound. Hijinx ensue.
Many other curses and blessings are possible, and the enterprising DM is encouraged to be both devious and beneficent, as appropriate.

11 November, 2010

It's Alive!

Hammer Films resurrected after three decades

This is fabulous news for all those of us who look at Christopher Lee and see Dracula instead of Saruman. In the states, the Roger Corman horror & suspense pictures with Vincent Price live in a place next door to them in our brains, but we've long ago admitted we'd never see another 'Masque of the Red Death.' This announcement holds out hope that a similar spirit, if not a similar staff, can be rekindled for our sensory inspiration.

10 November, 2010


Az-Nur, The God of Cabbages:
Blind and only semi-intelligent, it is found sometimes at the center of vast patches of wild cabbages in remote seacoast areas. Once per round it can spawn a small angry warrior infant out of the center of its folds, or from the center of surrounding cabbages. It can also blast antagonists with a wave of ignorance and apathy, with results similar to confusion. If defeated and eaten, it is rumoured that great wealth will come to those who dine on its leaves. It is not as dapper as the illustration above, having neither the limbs nor inclination to wear suits.

Cabbage-Spawn of Az-Nur: Tough, leathery skin gives them AC 7 despite being naked. Additionally, they are only 1-2 feet tall, and thus receive any armor class benefit due to size differences. Each has 4hd, much in the way cabbage flowers have 4 petals, and attack with either hands or any nearby implements. Due to looking like human babies, any lawful or good opponents must save vs. spells or suffer a -2 to hit these highly aggressive but otherwise adorable minions. When killed, they fall to the ground as a scattering of small cabbage leaves.

"Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head."
-Ambrose Bierce

09 November, 2010

Small Doughy Gods

Ever since James at Grognardia announced his call for petty gods last week, I've been thinking about minor deities. Two things have kept me from submitting a few ideas. I've always been lazy and wafflish about putting stats on my creations, and as far as deities are concerned, I almost never applied stats to them anyway.

Much as voiced by Newt at Sorcerer Under Mountain, I never felt it was appropriate for my players to have any remote chance of actually defeating a god or demi-god in battle. I understand that's kind of the point behind James' idea, and that he tailored it specifically toward petty gods just because of that. I don't have a problem with that at all, and agree that it sounds like a good bit of fun for a high level party in the right situation. The thing is, I'm still left with my own total incompetence at applying stats to deities.

My solution is to post up some of my ideas here, with no stats. I posted some of what I'll be putting up here over the next few days over in Scott's PbP forum. Over there, I offered that others could stat these up and send them to James, and I'll say the same here. Here's the first one below.

Temulac, God of Baking:
Propitiated to ensure the successful completion of pastries, bread, pies and other baked goods. Easily enraged by throwing out leftovers or extras. Appears most commonly as a bulbous naked man covered entirely in flour, with a baker's hat. Those deemed particularly evil in their wastefulness may find themselves turned into some type of small anthropomorphic baked good, remaining sentient but immobile and unable to communicate.

05 November, 2010

Insane in the Brain

The characters in my play-by-post Eberron game have just earned their first Insanity Points! And there was much rejoicing.

They were exposed to a horrific scene and realisation, but a thoroughly mundane one, rather than supernatural or cosmic in nature. Thus, I rolled a d2, and happily doled out psychic trauma.

  • Mundane horrors - d2 to d4, based on magnitude and personal involvement. e.g. "Noooo! Soylent Green is made of people!!" = d3, while "..and that's my mother's ring in that box of it!!" = d4.
  • Supernatural horrors - d4 to d8 "..but the model was a photograph from life!!" = d4, but "..and then he knew that these ghouls and wights had surely been reading Carcosa!" = d8
  • Cosmic horrors - d8, 2d4, 2d6, a range from exposure to black gulfs and stygian realms to meeting Yog-Sothoth for tea in his drawing room.

When the total of insanity points equals the character's wisdom score, roll a save vs. spell (my usual go-to for mind effects.) Success reduces your insanity point total by 1d6 points. Failure reduces your insanity point total to zero, but inflicts a randomly selected insanity upon the character. I prefer random, because that reinforces the chaotic nature of the process, and many good random insanity tables can be found. I especially like the table in the old first edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but have also used the one in the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

Cures for insanity are generally the usual cleric spells, such as restoration, but the victim might also benefit from lengthy rest at the proper sort of institution, if available. Unless the institution provided horrors of its own, that is :)

01 November, 2010


Not a new class, but rather another option for the method of a magic-user's madness, the Leycaster uses ley lines to power and shape his wizardry. Not only does a caster's distance from a ley line determine how strong his spells might be, they may also dictate the most efficacious type of thaumaturgy for the area. In some cases, the presence of certain types of ley lines might even provide the imaginative magic-user with the raw energy needed for the spontaneous weaving of singular sorceries.

The first thing a trained Leycaster learns is how to attune his senses to the presence and power of the lines. Not all wizarding adventurers need be skilled in this endeavor, but one who uses the ley lines will immediately sense their presence. Does this require the DM to map out a complex network overlaying his milieu? Although the option is there to place lines for specific purposes, to serve either setting or story, it's certainly not necessary. Simply roll 2 six sided dice on the following table when leycaster or DM have a need.

  • 2 - a dead zone. Powerless! Hopefully you have a dagger.
  • 3 - distant. Spells will automatically cast with minimum variables, and targets get bonuses to their saves.
  • 4,5 - far. Spell variables are rolled normally, but any result over half is reduced to half.
  • 6-8 - normal. Spells function as usual within the rules.
  • 9,10 - nearby. Spell variables are rolled normally, but any result under half is increased to half.
  • 11 - close. As nearby, but targets get penalties to their saving throws.
  • 12 - immediate. Spells will automatically cast with maximum variables, and targets get penalties to their saves.

If the result is 9 or higher, the magic-user has a chance to actually see the ley line. This can be checked either with an intelligence check, or by rolling 2 or less on one six sided die, as preferred by the DM. If the ley line is visible, and the leycaster is able to get within close range of it (usually 30 yards or so) he can try to utilise it directly to power spontaneous magic appropriate to his level, and to the nature of the ley line itself.

When a leycaster is intent on tapping a line directly, the DM can roll upon, or choose freely from the following list of line types. Indeed, the DM is encouraged to add to or subtract from this list as appropriate to his own milieu.

  1. Earth - a western and eastern element
  2. Air - a western element
  3. Fire - a western and eastern element
  4. Water - a western and eastern element
  5. Metal - an eastern element
  6. Wood - an eastern element
  7. Astral
  8. Ethereal

If close to a ley line, and so attuned to it as to be able to see it, the caster may then use its energy to create a wide variety of effects. Any magic so cast will require at least one round of effort and focus to take effect, and will directly evince the nature of the line in question. Proximity to an air line, for example, might enable levitation or even flight, as appropriate to the level of the caster. Even a first level leycasting magic-user would be able to at least levitate if standing directly under a ley line of air, though his speed and ultimate height might be severely limited.

These effects, as rare an occurrence as they might be, do not use up the resources associated with spellcasting typical to the setting, whether memorisation slots, spell points, or some other commodity. The effort can still be prohibitively tiring if overused.

The position of ley lines is often related to their nature. Thus, air lines often lie at least a dozen feet up from ground level. Earth lines lie upon the ground, and at times even travel beneath it. Water lines are often found passing through a natural spring, or along an unusually straight and fast portion of river.

The most powerful configuration of ley lines is an intersection or nexus of multiple lines. These should almost always be specifically placed by the DM. Not only do they lend themselves to the casting, creation and maintenance of unusually powerful magic, they also often mark the location of gates, portals and other cracks in the fabric of reality. Whether the foci cause the tears, or the tearing leads to the foci is a matter of long debate among the arcane-minded. Whichever is true, those who utilise these powerful locations can sometimes become the unwitting conduit of interplanar congress. Likewise, those with other motives sometimes seek them out specifically to cause such temporal disruptions. Such sites often become the grounds of arcane edifices, such as circles of standing stones or wizard towers.