Thursday, July 20, 2017

Orcs as the Fallen


Another take on orcs as a playable race for ACKS. This orc thing keeps popping up around here in various forms, somehow. This time, it's a take on noisms's Tolkien's Drow, the Bizarro Orc, and Corrupt Elfdom. This isn't exactly what he had in mind. (No sense in simply copying it.). Rather, it's a different path that might be taken with that post as its starting point.

ORC (pdf)
Prime Requisite: STR
Requirements: CON 9
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 13
Build Points: Elf 0 (125), Fighting 2 (1000), HD 1 (500), Thievery 1 (200)
Orcs are twisted things, created in evil times from elves warped by foul magics. Common folk often know the smaller orcs simply as goblins or kobolds, the larger as orcs, hobgoblins or bugbears. Some scholars refer to the members of this race as the dark elves.
All know them as hateful cowards and murderers, foot soldiers of evil, and killers in the night.  
Physically, orcs tend to be squat and wiry, sallow or ashen in complexion, with wide toothy mouths and small mean eyes. The smallest common goblin is no larger than a halfling. The greatest and largest orc can reach nearly the size and build of men.
Orcs are accustomed to strife and battle. At first level, orcs hit an unarmored foe (AC 0) with an attack throw of 10+. Thereafter they advance in attack throws by two points every three levels of experience up until 9th level (i.e. they fight as fighters). They advance in saving throws as normal fighters, by two points every three levels of experience. Like fighters, orcs increase their base damage roll from successful missile and melee attacks by +1 at 1st level and by an additional +1 at 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th level. They may perform one cleave attack per level.

Orc Level Progression
Experience
Title
Level
Hit Dice
Damage Bonus

0
Goblin
1
1d6
+1

1,825
Hobgoblin
2
2d6
+1

3,650
Bugbear
3
3d6
+2

7,300
Uruk
4
4d6
+2

14,600
Uruk Veteran
5
5d6
+2

29,200
Uruk Leader
6
6d6
+3

60,000
Uruk Commander
7
7d6
+3

120,000
Uruk Lord
8
8d6
+3

240,000
Dark Elf
9
9d6
+4

360,000
Dark Elf Lord, 10th lvl
10
9d6+2*
+4

480,000
Dark Elf Warlord, 11th lvl
11
9d6+4*
+4

600,000
Dark Elf Warlord, 12th lvl
12
9d6+6*
+5

720,000
Dark Elf Warlord, 13th lvl
13
9d6+8
+5

*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored



Orcs are killers, trained in the use of all weapons and armor. They may fight wielding a weapon and shield, wielding a two-handed weapon, or wielding a weapon in each hand, as desired. Equipped with light armor and a bow, any orc is an archer or skirmisher. Equipped with heavy armor, shield, and blade, that same orc is a heavy foot soldier. Cloaked as a man, carrying a wicked curved knife, the orc is an assassin in the night. In addition to the common speech, orcs know a twisted but intelligible form of the elven language, as well as the goblin tongues -- goblin, hobgoblin, and orc.
At heart, all orcs are cowards and ambushers, preferring to set traps and fall upon enemies unawares. They gain a +1 bonus to surprise rolls when in the wilderness. When wearing leather armor or lighter garb, an orc can move silently and hide in shadows as a thief of the same level. Orcs have the searching eyes of the looter and robber and detect hidden and secret doors with a proficiency throw of 8+ on 1d20 when actively searching, or 14+ on casual inspection.
Orcs are corpse eaters and are immune to all forms of disease, including magical diseases caused by mummies, spells, or lycanthropes. Their corrupted bodies are unaffected by the paralysis ghouls can inflict, and they gain a +1 bonus on saving throws versus Petrification/Paralysis and Spells.
Orcs are fearsome, and the predators and prey alike in the wilderlands recognize them as masters. Whenever orcs build forts, all ordinary animals within 5 miles of the stronghold become servile and helpful to their goblin masters.
Orcs are feared for their inhumanity. Orcs suffer a -2 penalty to the reactions, loyalty, and morale of humans and demi-humans. Conversely, they get a +2 bonus to the reactions, loyalty, and morale of other goblins.
When an orc reaches 5th level, his battlefield prowess begins to inspire others to follow him. Any henchmen and mercenaries hired by the orc gain a +1 bonus to their morale score whenever he personally leads them. This bonus stacks with the modifiers from the goblin’s Charisma, proficiencies, and race.
At 9th level, the orc can build a fortress. When he does so, up to 1d4+1x10 0th level mercenaries and 1d6 orcs of 1st-3rd level will come to apply for jobs and training. If hired, they must be paid standard rates for mercenaries. Through force of arms, the dark elf may ultimately control several castles or even entire realms, though he can expect to face ongoing challenges from humans and demi-humans. Additional rules for castles are detailed in the Campaign chapter of ACKS.
Orc Proficiency List: Alertness, Ambushing, Animal Training, Berserkergang, Blind Fighting, Caving, Climbing, Combat Reflexes, Combat Trickery, Craft, Disguise, Dungeon Bashing, Endurance, Fighting Style, Healing, Intimidation, *Kin-Slaying, Precise Shooting, Riding, Running, Siege Engineering, Skirmishing, Skulking, Sniping, Survival, Swashbuckling, Trapping, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus
*New proficiencies described in Chapter 6 of the ACKS Player’s Companion.

Template:
Orc Foot Soldier
Proficiencies:
Endurance, Kin-Slaying
Starting Equipment:
Crossbow, case with 20 quarrels, curved sword, battered steel shield, chain mail armor, armiger’s tunic and pants, low boots, backpack, 2 weeks’ iron rations

Orc Foot Soldier Template: This pre-generated template represents a common goblin foot soldier in the armies of evil. The template is ready for adventure. However, if your foot soldier’s INT is 13 or greater, you may pick one or more additional general proficiencies before play if you’d like (see Starting Proficiencies in Chapter 4).
*New proficiencies described in Chapter 6 of the ACKS Player’s Companion.

Template:
Orc Murderer
Proficiencies:
Ambushing, Disguise
Starting Equipment:
Short bow, case with 20 arrows, long knife, curved sword, small shield, leather armor, dark cloak, tunic and pants, low boots, backpack, 2 weeks’ iron rations

Orc MurdererTemplate: This pre-generated template represents an orc spy or assassin, perhaps a half-orc plying their trade in the cities of men. The template is ready for adventure. However, if your assassin’s INT is 13 or greater, you may pick one or more additional general proficiencies before play if you’d like (see Starting Proficiencies in Chapter 4).


Orc Saving Throws

Level
Petrification
& Paralysis
Poison
& Death
Blast
& Breath
Staffs
& Wands

Spells
1
15+
14+
16+
16+
17+
2-3
14+
13+
15+
15+
16+
4
13+
12+
14+
14+
15+
5-6
12+
11+
13+
13+
14+
7
11+
10+
12+
12+
13+
8-9
10+
9+
11+
11+
12+
10
9+
8+
10+
10+
11+
11-12
8+
7+
9+
9+
10+
13
7+
6+
8+
8+
9+
Orc Attack Throws

Level

Attack Throw
1
10+
2-3
9+
4
8+
5-6
7+
7
6+
8-9
5+
10
4+
11-12
3+
13
2+

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Street Fighter: the Storytelling Game 20th Anniversary Edition

White Wolf made one great game. Street Fighter: the Storytelling Game. It was a bright, colorful spot of adventure in their relentlessly dreary catalog. Released the same year as that dire gray thing, Wraith: the Oblivion, accompanied by apologetic articles in their magazine about how it wasn't a case of selling out, and tied in its advertising to that embarrassing 1994 Street Fighter live action movie, maybe it never had a chance. And perhaps because they didn't know any better, they made it a very ugly book, with a very ugly cover and very ugly original interior art alongside some good official Capcom artworks.

Yet they also made it glossy and full color in a world where there were few full color gamebooks, and it was sold at a low price point even in its day ($14.94).

Who knows what White Wolf was thinking?

It went out of print more or less immediately. Most of White Wolf's fanbase wasn't going for it, and the gamers who wanted a fun action adventure game weren't going for it either -- it couldn't possibly be a game that embraced actual fun -- it was a White Wolf game. Right?

But the game! The game was better than it had any right to be. A modern martial arts action adventure game, a game in which you got bonuses for shouting out the name of your martial art move when doing it (shoooooryuuuuuuuken!), a game featuring a cutaway map of the villain's evil lair in its antagonists book, a game in which you can get in a fistfight with a robot to see who is the best at punching!

Goddamn, White Wolf. You did something right.

Now a fan has drawn together all the game's core rules into a single re-release. All the genius of the fast playing martial arts action adventure game that still stands as the best entry into the field of martial arts RPGs.

Nothing before or since has gotten kung fu roleplaying so right.

Download it here!

Download it. Play it. Remix the source files to make your own personal Street Fighter dream game.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Montana Event

We've lost Montana. 

Our current intelligence is limited, but communications from our embedded agent at Malmstrom Air Force Base strongly support the theory that a xenothropic entity has control of most of the state. Satellite imagery corroborates that large parts of the state are currently reality adjacent. Ordinary Americans are finding the idea of visiting the region subconsciously abhorrent and are cancelling family vacations, rerouting road trips, and electing to stay at college during the summer instead of returning home. More worryingly, our agents in homeland security have identified a number of suspected basement-infected military contractors, rogue agents, and global "adventurers" who have entered the U.S. via PDX, SLC, or DEN. Given these entry points, the conspiracy suspects that these rogue elements are converging on the region.  

Malmstrom Air Force Base remains under our control. This will be your entry point. From that site, you will be equipped for your insertion at the Berkeley Pit, which we believe to be the center of the incursion. 


All communications into and out of the Berkeley Pit area have gone silent. You are to verify whether this is the source of the breach, analyze the xeno-etiology of the event, estimate the percentage of the state population that has become infected, and identify the nature of the xenothropic entity at its origin. You are then tasked with a safe return to Malmstrom base for debriefing and extraction.


This mission is categorized high risk for UAS. Proceed with caution regarding the behaviors of yourself and your fire team.  

Good luck and Godspeed.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Theists are not Clerics," and other inchoate first steps toward religions, doctrines, rituals, myths and other sacred things for a RuneQuest campaign


Clerics belong to churches. They have doctrines. They devote their worship to a single deity to the exclusion of others, even in worlds with a diverse plurality of gods with different spheres of influence. Clerics evangelize. They pray. They hold services for congregations in buildings dedicated to worship in little pseudo-medieval villages.

The moustache is one of the vestments.
Basically, clerics are Christian, with church hierarchies and sacred doctrines that compete with other belief systems in a zero sum game to collect the largest number of followers. Admittedly, many do have a veneer of non-Christianity through their spheres of influence: Bane is a god of strife, hatred, and tyranny. His rites involve ritual human sacrifice and torture, which are not recognized ideals in Christian doctrine. Yet Bane still has a church. It has a priesthood organized around the equivalent of bishops and a high priest ("high imperceptor"), with cathedrals of a sort, and with an orthodoxy and a schism between the orthodox and "transformed" church. His priests are priests, with vestments, who pray to their god for spells. Clerical prayer -- even in the church of Bane, where its done at midnight -- fits comfortably into a mainstream Christian conception of what prayer is. It is a basically private, individual conversation between deity and follower, wherein the follower asks the god for things and the god answers. Clerics of Bane have a personal relationship with their god.

Sound familiar? 

Bane is just an example. D&D clerics are Odo Van Helsings, after all, and culturally gamers are a pretty Christian bunch. It's what we know, and it's hard to imagine other ways of thinking about religion, especially organized religion.

Now I've never really thought about this much, beyond the basic observation that clerics are boring, which you already knew.

Our game reflects this. Our clerics are pretty Christian, just like our characters are pretty modern and pretty western in their worldviews. Our clerics tend to have an evangelical habit. If there are followers of other religions in their same party, they try to convert each other, or they try to pick apart their respective imaginary religions with clever metaphysical arguments that no fantasy faith could possibly stand up to. They go on holy crusades against evil (the "fanatical fire and brimstone inquisitor type" being a classic result), and so on. It's really hard to see beyond your culture, you know? And in D&D this may or may not be a problem, depending on your goals.

For me it's mostly not a problem, in spite of what the preceding paragraphs may have suggested, as long as I don't have to play a cleric. Because clerics are boring. Which you already knew.  

And actually, this post isn't about clerics.

It's about theists and theistic magic and cults and myths and rituals in RuneQuest. I'm trying to get a better handle on these things. And the first part of doing so is recognizing that theists aren't clerics. (Except when they are, of course, but that's on me for putting a Christian church in my RuneQuest game, and I get that.) The second part of doing so will be communicating the fact that theists aren't clerics to my group (with the ultimate goal of convincing them that theists aren't boring). But let's focus on the first part first. 

So here's a thing. When the vikings were messing about in Northern England and Scotland and Ireland and places (I will stop this list here it will get too long), what were they up to? Well they were killing people and taking their stuff, and they were shaking down local big men, and they were burning things, and they were making great heathen armies, and they were calling places names like Something-by, and they were saying "their" a lot. So they were doing these things and other things, but it looks like they weren't evangelizing. You just didn't go around trying to convert people to worship of Odin. I mean, you didn't even extoll the virtue of Odin to Anglo-Saxons, who were getting pretty Christian by this time and should have known better! It just wasn't a thing you did as a matter of habit. Can you imagine that? Meanwhile, the Christians were busy extolling their doctrines to you. And eventually a bunch of people evangelizing about Christ managed to repeat their case enough and throw in enough fringe benefits (convenient church locations on top of your sacred sites, for starters, and some good Christian sacred kingship as well. Maybe wine? I don't know.) to get you to trade off your weird old gods for their one true God. What does that tell us? It tells us (among other things) that these heathen religions were different in this way from the frame we're used to using to think about religion.

And that's not the only thing that's going to be different. 

Statue of Freyja. Maybe.
So here I am wanting to make a bunch of Runequest religious cults that are pseudo-viking-y, and what am I trying to accomplish here,what is worship like, and what are the worshippers like? Well, part of the problem is we don't know much actually about heathen religious practices of Northern Europe. I mean we find statues of Freyja and we only know that they're statues of Freyja because, well, we don't know actually. They're statues of women, and Freyja was a woman, so we say they are statues of Freyja. Because why would anyone craft a little statue of a woman who isn't a goddess anyway? They must be statues of Freyja. Or at least of some goddess. Anyway, we know Freyja's name, so let's go with that.

So we don't actually have a lot to work with, in practical terms, other than a whole lot of conjecture and some imagery and a few words written about some gods hundreds of years later by Christians, and some actual objects that didn't happen to rot away and that we have found.

Ask me about the religious beliefs in Michigan a couple hundred years ago. We have really good records about this but if you tried to reconstruct the religious practices of 19th century Michigan people from what I told you about them after you first lost most of the pages of my notes, plus maybe a cross pendant you found, you'd be doing something sort of like what we're doing when we try to figure out heathen beliefs. You'd have conjecture and imagery and pieces of actual objects that didn't happen to rot away and that we have found. 

Fortunately for us, conjecture and imagery and pieces of actual objects that didn't happen to rot away are pretty good working material for fantasy gaming. Way better than they are for humanistic research because we don't actually have to try to say true things based on these scraps, we just have to do interesting things with them, where "interesting" is defined as "it worked at Friday night's game with my friends and was not boring, like clerics."

So that is a reasonable goal, and I will adopt it.

But this post is long enough, so I'll drop some images in and post it. I will come back with something more constructive later, using RuneQuest to structure it. I can't promise I'll follow up soon (the beauty of blogging is that it's on my own schedule, and my schedule is slow). But I promise I will get back to trying my hand at this. I have started. In the meantime, my first draft attempt at a pseudo-viking-y cult is this Cult of the Gullet. It's still underspecified for a RuneQuest cult, but it's a gesture in that direction.

In the meantime, feel free to tell me that this has already been done, and where this has already been done, and who has already done this. Glorantha, I know, this is Glorantha's whole thing, so of course it's no accident that RuneQuest is making me think about it. Others?