A formal statement of the system I actually use when running Tartary

April 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Tartary has a couple of special systems for subgames, which are supposed to support more exciting, crunchy scenes (mecha combat, basically), but most of the time it’s just basic task resolution. And as I have drunk more martinis and DMed more on the fly, these have become streamlined to the point where I think it might be of service to other gin-swilling DMs to share this worn little pebble of a resolution mechanic. Thus:

We roll 1D10. This is because dice snobs hate the non-Platonic D10 and because I find it easy to calculate in base 10. It’s a habit.

All rolls are contested, ie. both the player and the DM roll.* Whoever rolls higher gets their way. The margin of success = damage in combat, some rough estimate of efficiency, and flair.
You can modify this roll in various ways – with a skill or attribute bonus (one or the other), situational modifiers, special pleading, bribery etc.
Also by taking extra risk. This means you say “I want to add (eg) +3 to this roll.” If you do that, then rolling under that modifier number (in this case 3) on the die is an auto failure and something terrible happens.**

1 is automatic failure anyway. Reroll – if you get another 1 something terrible happens.
If you roll a 10, reroll and add to your 10, ad infinitum.

* inanimate stuff in the environment gets to contest your roll because all of Tartary hates you.

** terrible things are, in fact, terrible. If you happen to be handling explosives (as you often are in Tartary) you’ll likely be rolling up another character and apologizing to anyone else whose character was nearby.

So then there are some standard complications; weapons add a flat bonus to damage (a sword adds +2), unless they are (a) big-ass or (b) explosives, in which case they add 1 or more d10 (more on combat here). There’s a death and dismemberment table, mishaps for psychics and vehicles and doomsday devices, technomagic items and spirit possession and Mi-go and stuff stolen from all over…
…but essentially everything else is an ad hoc ruling.


I guess you’d want chargen here to understand the level of standard mods, but as a baseline, +6 is an excellent skill and +3 an excellent attribute and +4 is an extraordinary situational mod.

image-1 images y187 DSC_0473


Pokemon conversion notes (nothing to see here, move along)

March 25, 2014 Leave a comment

So this isn’t even a real blog entry, it’s just me putting up my half-formed notes about how to do a Pokemon-to-LL conversion for Scrap, further to this discussion on G+.

But if I were stupid enough to do such a conversion (and I’ve been stupid about this before), I might use something like the following (ready for Loganizing into random generators)…

1. Abstract Pokes In A Level Agnostic Old School Crazy Bastard Random Encounter Table:
Roll d100. This table doesn’t care what Pokemon you’ve encountered; you could just use one of Wikipedia’s monster lists or Yokai or whatever. All it gives is HD and basic attack damage. Any critter rolled off this table gets its HD as a bonus to-hit.

1-9:  1 HD = d4 damage
10-25: 2HD = d6 damage
26-44: 3HD = d8
45-59: 4HD = d10
60-72: 5HD = d12
73-84: 6HD = 2d8
85-93: 7HD = 3d6
94-99: 8HD = 4d6
00: Legendary. Roll another D10:
1-7: 9HD = 5d6
8-9: 10HD = 6d6
0: 11HD = 7d6

Attack Type
All Pokemon have an attack move of their own type. Damage depends on HD as above.
Either use the ENCOUNTER TABLES below or simply roll a d20:
1 = Normal 2 = Fight 3 = Fire 4 = Grass 5 = Water 6 = Ice 7 = Ground 8 = Rock 9 = Flying 10 = Steel 11 = Poison 12 = Electric 13 = Psychic 14 = Ghost 15 = Dark 16 = Bug 17 = Dragon 18 = Fairy 19-20 = dual type: roll twice. If a Pokemon has 2 types it alternates attacks between them.

The type of an attack gives a damage multiplier vs. the type of the defender (and maybe you could have types of armour, too? Why not).  This is one insane lookup table, cribbed from Bulbapedia.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 1.08.59 PM

Imma say humans are NORMAL, elves are GRASS or FAIRY, dwarves are ROCK, halflings are GROUND, and monsters are whatever you like. Undead should prolly be DARK.

There is a chance of a critter also knowing moves of other types if you roll under their HD on a D10. If so, roll on the type table above.

And they may have a status-affecting move (roll under their HD on D10 to see).
If so, roll d10. All status moves allow saves except where noted.
1. Flinch. Target gets no attack this round
2. Sleep. Save v magic every round to wake up
3. Fear. Save or be forced to flee
4. Charm. Save or refuse to attack
5. Confusion. Suffer -3 on all rolls
6. Taunt. You are ompelled to attack this Pokemon and do nothing else
7. Attractive! You must capture this Pokemon at all costs
8. Berserk. Save or attack nearest target, friend or foe
9. Sleep next round. No save – you will fall asleep next round. After that you can save to wake up.
10. Roll twice.

ENCOUNTER TABLES if you want to differentiate encounters by the kind of terrain:

Wilderness, grassland, forest: d20.
1-4: grass, 5-6: water, 7: flying, 8-9: poison, 10-12: bug, 13-14: ground, 15-17: normal, 18: fight, 19: fairy, 20: rock
Underground: d10.
1-3: ground, 4-5: rock, 6: fire, 7: dark, 8: ghost, 9: fight, 10: normal
Volcano: d10
1-3: fire. 4: rock. 5: fight. 6: steel. 7: poison. 8-9: dark. 10: dragon
Mountainside, badlands: d10
1-3: ice, 4-5: flying, 6: psychic, 7-8: electric 9: fight 10: fairy
Desert: d10
1: ghost, 2: psychic, 3: dark, 4: rock, 5-7: ground, 8: fight, 9: fairy, 10: dragon
Lake/sea: d10
1-6: water, 7: ghost, 8: ice, 9: dragon, 10: flying
Urban: D12
1: steel, 2-4: electric, 5: dark, 6: psychic, 7: ghost, 8-9: normal, 10: fight, 11: poison, 12: bug
Sky: d10
1-8: flying, 9: ice, 10: electric

That’s it for the abstract version.


Oh, you were hoping for some of Pokemon’s Extra-Crunchy Crazy, like a full conversion? Fine.

2. MORE COMPLEX CONVERSION FOR POKEMON PCs or a game in which Pokemon can level up.

Here is an excel spreadsheet with all the Pokemon on it, with DnD converted stats: pokemon_by_stat_total_2

And here it is as a Google Drive doc.

The first set of columns is how many HD they should have if you encounter them in the wild, also the HD die size for calculating their HP (some really big ones get eg 2d8 hp per level).

Damage is based on the attacking MOVE you use (per Scrap Princess) – and you learn moves by leveling up or finding them like magic items. Here is a conversion table, created by Scrap Princess, for converting Pokemon move damage to DnD damage dice:
Pokemon damage rating  = DnD

30 = d4
40 = d6
50 = d8
60 = d10
70 = d12
80 = 2d8
90 = 2d10
100 = 2d12
110 = 5d6,
120 = 6d6,
150 = 7d6

Dam. mod on the excel sheet above is effectively the critter’s STR bonus/penalty – it gets applied on top of the damage from the move and modifies the Pokemon’s to-hit rolls (like str bonus). Also, you add level to your to-hit rolls for fighters, right? Same for Pokes.

WTF is Magic mod? It’s what I’ve got for Special Attack. There is no ready equivalent in DnD for the separation of attack and defense into “Physical” and “Special.” But. Physical attacks imply contact, special attacks do not. So, as a quick ‘n’ dirty workaround Imma say that all Special attacks are in fact magic effects, and you get to Save vs. Magic against them (or maybe the Poke has to hit you with them as if they were ordinary attacks but they have this Other Mod to deal with on that to-hit roll). This mod is either applied to your saving throw target (ie if it’s low, that means the Poke is crap at it) or to the Poke’s to-hit roll.

Save is the number the Poke has to roll over to save v. whatever, at level 1. It improves by 1 every 2 levels.

Initiative modifier should be clear? “Double for move” is what it says: double this number and you get the DnD “move” stat in feet (so Bulbasaur can keep up with a lightly-armoured PC at 90′, while Munchlax is almost sessile at 10′ and Ninjask is insanely fast at 320′). And then after the types/descriptions there are the original Pokemon stats so you can correct my work. Don’t worry about the “nonsense” column.

Other stuff not covered in the spreadsheet:

5 Pokemon levels = 1 DnD level.
Start at level 0, so a level 4 Pokemon is still a level 0 DnD character; Pokemon level 30-34 is DnD level 6 (this being useful for calculating when Pokes should “evolve” or learn moves if you wanna check all that on Bulbapedia).

What xp chart does my Gyarados use?
Oh god. Yeah. Um, Pokemon takes full advantage of being a computer game to mess with the xp model. In the end, most Pokes are divided into 4 categories for xp-for-next-level. Imma say that “fast” = cleric xp table, “medium fast” = fighter, “medium slow” = MU and “slow” = elf. After that, you’re on your own. Could this be incorporated in the master table, above? Mmmmaybe, but not by me.

Random encounters?
If only I had the time and patience to sort all Pokes by type, frequency, power and preferred terrain, and then generate full encounter tables! Sorry. In lieu of that, the most gonzo approach is just to roll d8-1 for the hundreds, then percentile, and that’s the Dex# (Pokedex number) of the encounter. They’re all tabulated here. Null result means the Pokemon got away before you could ID it.

XP if defeated
Use the LL chart based simply off HD. Add 30% for each extra attack it has beyond the first.

Morale: I got nothing. Unless the description gives you some indication (eg Lillipup: “when at a disadvantage in a fight, this intelligent Pokémon flees.” Rufflet: “bravely stand up to any opponent, no matter how strong it is.”)

This is not a pure conversion. Honestly I despair of doing any such thing  b/c Pokemon delights in outliers at the extremes of the curves that screw things up and I used a bit of fudge factor to make sure we don’t have a bunch of categories that only have like 2 Pokes in them.

The singular Save is based off Special Defense and is assumed to be Save vs Wands or similar (that being missile-type magic). Other saving throws are tricky: poison and steel types should be immune to poison, flying should be especially vulnerable to electric attacks, water should be harder to drown… use the Type chart and improvise.


Tartary hooks and rumours

February 6, 2014 3 comments

Let’s start with the PCs’ more-or-less commitments:

You’re currently 2 days into a 3 day event Mecha Basho, the third day of which is being delayed by your irresponsibly absconding with the Pit Boss of Komtor.

cube of komtor

His vizier, OTAN, images figures that they won’t start the climactic day without him and besides, those bastards from Ulla-n-Batoor Overworld2 haven’t turned up yet and you guys were unceremoniously chased out of the Dashoguz arena by a nomadic horde of Purples so you probably have a bit of a grace period before people start to moan that you’re late.

You have a secret mech for this 3rd day showdown, and potentially awesome destructive capacity (using energy weapons + Holtzman shield, or possibly orbital bombardment). OTOH, now you’ve seen the size of the Pit Boss’s mech, giant saw mining machine it’s kind of comically out of scale with your own (like if yours were a 25mm scale figure, his would be a shoebox).

Cutter #5, driven by Jen the goat and Kyre the human

Come to think of it, it’s pretty much a classic hobbit/dragon scale relationship.

So there’s that.

Also somebody told Kyre to kill the Pit Boss via orbital strike because he’s a mere puppet for sinister Nautiloids (and so is the rest of the top rank of mechawrestlers).


The metal seed-pod in the next door chamber


OTOH OTAN has offered you guys a job fighting for him. Not clear right now how that’s gonna play into Day 3: is it even allowed in the tournament rules? What rules?

Meanwhile OTAN wants colourful belts like your Yellow Belts of Choison. He has not said why. So that’s why you guys went to the Farishta crash site,

Map of the inside of the farishta

Farishta interior, prior to looting

a hundred miles north of Otrar, City of 99 Seers. Apparently the Farishta has been extensively looted already, and its control furniture (likely including the belts) has been taken to Otrar – after a battle between Otrari and Ulla-n-Batoor forces. Wreckage of the battle (burned out Ulla ‘thopters) still litters the area.

So. 1. Farishta wreckage seems to be in high demand – except for the various creepy stuff that’s still left at the crash site (jelly eggs full of dead/dormant humanoids, Mi-go, and other hybrid and exotic body types), which even the ghouls won’t touch, even though it seems mighty meaty.
2. If you want to try to get those belts you’ll have to go to Otrar. 9RraiIrE17D6y36sPfK6fYvuLD0wUIFqQaNiUXLgyAI=w422-h597-no Locals can tell you that Otrar is a fortified city with a high blue tower and famous workpits, from which there is a near-constant banging of hammers and occasional flashes of light like they’re welding together continental plates or something. The Seers of Otrar sometimes have jobs for them, which either involve bringing stuff back from toxic wastelands or performing meaningless acts with mysterious metal stuff on mountaintops. It was a junior Seer who started the Carcosa Wacky Race going, the object of which was to recover the Farishta’s Black Box. Local sky men know that Seer (Mienu the Fat) – and Thora has met him, though I don’t think they exchanged words. You don’t know if the Black Box ever made it back to the Seer or not.
3. Whatever valuables the Otraris didn’t take is probably either in the hands of the sky men or of the ghouls.

Incidentally, the Carcosan sorcerer Chixi’lu the Melter chihuly_face2 used to be highly active in your area. You never figured out what he was up to, but the landscape is littered with his weird scallopy colourful glass towers. Red-Figure_original_large Dale_Chihuly_Mohegan_Sun_Tower_1668_32 Last time Thora was here, there were also lots of dazed/zombified women stumbling about, missing hands or feet. They’ve gone, but the ghoul population has boomed. Why do you care? Well, he was the previous owner of the Yellow Belts. Also he probably had a lair or hideout or something.

Farther afield, and back the way you came…

On the TV: news is still all about your amazing victory at the Basho – unprecedented! Complete unknowns, Cosmic Dancer… could they be another cover identity for The Vengeance of Kokand? Surely he was not so easily bested! Let’s replay that moment when…  interspersed with reports of the fighting around Dashoguz: apparently the main Purple infantry have now arrived, it’s not clear exactly what’s going on. News speculates that terrorist attacks (pictures of Kyre, Keisha and Iqbal with a moustache) were really scouts for this invasion force. The Khan of Khiva says the situation is in hand, but the Amir of Urgench says a strong counter-attack is the only way to stop the Purple Menace, and he’s parading his tanks,_8 implying that the Khan can’t handle it. Dashoguz may or may not have loot for the taking, now that you killed its Governor.

Khiva clearly has its own secrets – big toroidal underground complexes; oNUAv5-JtxN2OuR7iFl6teS8nrcqmF1HLhW6QKVRL14=w865-h592-no odd blue crystals. Extensive mech factories even though the Khan doesn’t fight, and a fondness for electrical powerplants even though the Gas Mining Colony is next door. The Khan

This guy is the Khan of Khiva

was perfectly happy to let you guys loose after you confessed your plan to “deal with” the Pit Boss, and even to host you at his parties, even though consensus seems to be that the Pit Boss is horribly dangerous. He also fixed you up with grease monkeys and supplies – all unofficially. Weirdest of all, he expressed interest in Cutter and where it came from (everyone seems to be curious about that) and then let you go do your thing, rather than, say, impounding Cutter and making you guys disappear.

Who else is curious about Cutter? Well, there’s the Space Psychics (represented by Birunni, mysterious Black Carcosan woman) who abducted, briefed and returned Kyre. They seemed super-excited about something that could fight the Nautiloids. But they also seemed to be in trouble when Kyre saw them – Birunni’s boss had disappeared and her Gigeresque home/base/ship was beiong taken in tow by 2 enormous Nudibranchs nudibranch that kyre saw.  And there’s the strange detail that, even though your attack on Dashoguz has been all over the news, no footage of Cutter is ever shown. Only those brief moments when members of the party are off the mech.

Oh yeah, and right when you got hold of Cutter – you had to bust it out because the caravanserai was being attacked by a band of desert pirates who were being manipulated by a giant red Mi-go. You didn’t think anything of it at the time but it sure was convenient that this supermech happened to be buried under what’s basically a desert truck stop which just happened also to contain a famous engineer on the run. And then the desert pirates didn’t try to hold the caravanserai after they’d taken it – they marched off with prisoners, in more or less in the direction the Mi-go had fled – are were themselves attacked by someone else. You saw the signs of fighting at night. So maybe the desert is teeming with hostile pirate bands. Or maybe there was some specific thing that brought all these people to this out-of-the-way sand bowl.

Cutter has been patiently sitting inside a statue for the past couple of days, _g unconsulted, but it stated quite clearly a while ago that it wants to go find the Ground Base of Tjerimai, the Sister to its own Mothership, Smeroe. And you guys think that’s probably inside a giant brass enclosure at Amritsar Amritsar+copy. Why a brass enclosure? Because that’s what you freed Cutter from, back at that desert caravanserai, SW of Dashoguz. IMG_1057

And that engineer, Wachim, and his grandson Selim (currently somewhere on the streets of Khiva) seem to have an intuitive grasp of what Cutter wants. They built the control panel you use to talk to Cutter without ever having actually seen the machine or opened its brass cucurbit. They knew there was something helpful in that cucurbit.


Does my Dune have pictures?

February 1, 2014 5 comments

So I reshared a collection of images from the David Lynch Dune movie and I noted that Lynch’s vision wasn’t what my Dune looked like… and Joshua Blackketter asked what does my Dune look like?

Well. Even though it was probably the book that made me decide to go to art school, I never actually made any pictures of it I was happy with. So I’m going to have to show a bunch of other people’s art that still isn’t my vision but which I think is fantastic. Thus:

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 11.58.46 PM DuneCarry_all

First I think Lynch’s Carryall is unimprovable. No apologies, no explanations for how it hangs in the sky: it does so by sheer  industrial charisma. The only misstep is that the spice harvester has nothing in common with its superb brutality of form. But that’s because the perfect, complementary sandcrawler had already been used in a bigger scifi epic a few years before:


The stillsuits, the Fremen, even the Bene Gesserit I have no problem with. Lynch’s guild navigator (start at 3:20 or 4:10 if you’re impatient) is straight up the best thing ever seen in any science fiction film, narrowly beating Princess Aura’s costume in Flash Gordon and Chris Tucker’s hair in Fifth Element. But the Mentats and the Harkonnens… I just wasn’t buying them. Fortunately Moebius’s designs for Jodorowsky are freaking amazing:

baron rabban feyd

That’s the Baron, Rabban and Feyd (in heels!). Imma say that again: Feyd in heels. Melnibonean.

sardaukar2 sardaukar3 piter

Sardaukar guards. And Piter, the Baron’s Mentat-assassin. All from duneinfo.


Thufir, the Atreides’ Mentat… I’m less convinced about, even though I love the Pieter Stuyvesant callout with the wooden leg. Really the only other character I’ve seen who I think would make a great Mentat is that creepy dude from Game of Thrones.

Sandworms are the best thing evar in the book, but every illustration I’ve seen of them has only been ho hum. The consensus Penis Worm is OK I guess once you get over the whole penis thing.

Sheeanaandworm Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 9.31.32 PM ku-medium

In my game I have hot glass worms as a partial homage to Dune but adapted for my electroradiant hellscape (and riding them presents several novel engineering challenges). In that spirit, these are my faves:

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 11.54.32 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 11.54.57 PMdune_arising_sandworm_by_philippel-d5jsq2s

though if I were to draw one it would be blunt-ended, almost completely submerged, and more like a tunnel drill than a star-mouthed lamprey.

And the architecture. Lynch is pretty good. These are also good:

dunepix Dune8

but you know what I would love?

12 citadel walls merv13 merv14Great_Mosque_of_Djenné_1 IMG_3083 737691985_1be4a5c55a hotw_vardizacaves1 858053xixia-mausoleum-tomb-tower_0

Finally, ornithopters. Lynch et al said that flapping planes look crap, but I think Miyazaki pretty much nailed it – they’re not birds but dragonflies:

laputa_castle_in_the_sky_002 Weirdest thing: they actually work.

And there’s no shortage of orthoptera out there, via Jodorowsky among others, from the graceful to the charmingly awkward:

Ornithopter dune_ornithopter_by_ilya_b-d36rl91 DUNE_Spotter_AnimTest 1370425299136

but my favourite by far is this incredibly cheeky one in a set of custom minis:


43868-Conversion, Dune, Flyer, Flying, Ornithoptor, Star Wars 43873_md-ornithopter underside bow port 43876_md-Ornithopter Rear

My own would have cantilevered counterweights flapping opposite the wings and would be a health and safety nightmare.

Finally finally, apparently Frank Herbert himself really favoured Schoenherr’s magnificently moody paintings. I like ‘em too, but I’m a child of the 80s: I like my science fantasy illustration more informative and detailed. Still, you gotta admire his Vladimir Harkonnen: dripping with menace, yet PG:


Dutch ships in the 17th century: a diorama for CCH

December 9, 2013 2 comments

One day soon (goaded by Michael Moscrip) I’ll post an actual thoughtful gaming article full of usable goodness, but from now until Christmas it’s gonna be lazy photoposting.

I’ve talked before at length about the diorama as an art form and a form of knowledge (and if you want more of that go read Steve Quinn‘s delightful book and hunt through the archives at fuckyeahdioramas). This here, though, is (a) pure pleasure; (b) a handy establishing shot of the Borg Invasion Fleet for Counter-colonial Heistcrawl -
the diorama of the Texel roadstead at the Jutters Museum, on Texel in the North Netherlands:


Texel is an island just off the coast of north Holland, strategically situated where the unfettered North Sea hits the sheltered and shallow “inner” or South Sea (Zuiderzee). The island has abundant water that stays drinkable for an unusually long time in barrels (due to some mineral inclusion I don’t really understand) and livestock. Through the period of the East India Companies the “roadstead” (shallow narrows between the island and the mainland) was the premier staging point for fleets leaving the Netherlands in all directions.


Ships would gather at Texel to wait for a favourable wind and tide to sweep them out into the North Sea and English Channel – sometimes for months at a time. They would be repaired and refitted and emptied of cargo and filled with fresh crew while at anchor in the Roads. If you wanted to gauge Netherlands sea power, your best bet was to hang out at Texel.

The diorama shows it “sometime late in the 17th century” – before the lustre had gone off the Golden Age. And I don’t know how many ships is has, but it’s a lot.


If you plan to play CCHeistcrawl and you really want to be alarmed about the navies that will grow up out of the first half of the 17th century, check out Willem van de Velde’s pictures of them arrayed against each other, fighting over ownership of the Atlantic:

1280px-De_slag_bij_Terheide_-_The_Battle_of_Schevening_-_August_10_1653_(Willem_van_de_Velde_I,_1657) velde_schoonevelt

The diorama shows merchant ships, whalers, fighting ships. Ships with battle damage from one of the Anglo-Dutch Wars:


Warships whose decorated spiegel sterns bespeak notable captains.


Little service vessels bustling around the great hulls like birds on a hippopotamus.


And everywhere contrasts: between the big ships and the little houses of the people that serve them:


between those houses and the cannon fort that defends the mouth of the Roads:


and between the costly business of war and the ruthless efficiency of Dutch trade:


that last image – the Baltic fluyt – is what the Dutch want to bring to the East Indies. Minimal crew, narrow deck, hull stretched out for cargo like an old shoe. That’s the ship that feeds the kitchens of Amsterdam with grain. Useless for fighting, optimally adapted for bulk extraction of resources. It only operate in places where you’ve already won the wars. In our own timeline it won’t be a practical instrument of colonialism until after the 1760s, and then it’ll be the English who wield that power, and they’ll adopt the faster Blackwall Frigate, and later the even faster clipper:

D9898THE Sea Witch

In the meantime (1600-1800, more or less) the Dutch will rely on their big East Indiamen, difficult to tell apart from warships:

van_strij1790 voc ship and warship detail

(the East Indiaman is on the right), heavily armed and crewed – vehicles for soldiers, sailors (European, Chinese and Malay), guns and pepper. They’ll station old, leaky ones on port defense and shuttle routes around the Java Sea, and use them to provide an artillery backbone for the fleets of native canoes and caracoas that will fight all those obscure internecine wars between local princes that will slowly, but surely, grow their influence and colonies and arrogance.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 2.41.59 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 2.41.30 PM…unless you stop them.

But they won’t be easily dissuaded. See, the Indies trade will supercharge their economy – which they need because they’re already in massive growth of population and a war for independence with Spain. From 1600 t0 1665 Amsterdam, hub of the Indies trade, will grow sharply, from this:


to this (click to make much, much bigger):


It’s the realisation of a plan they come up with in 1610 – the year CCH begins – because right then they can see that they’re going to need a lot more city. For more and bigger houses, to accommodate their wealth. And although not all that growth can be credited to the East India trade (and it’s hard anyway to pick apart the influence of one trade among many in forming a commercial hub and economic powerhouse), some specific centres can be identified directly as indispensible parts of the machine:


Reward for getting this far: a bunch of fun dioramas from fuckyeahdioramas, including some delightful Japanese whaling ones especially for Arnold K:

tumblr_lfutbbGcD91qbua3eo1_1280tumblr_lfusjiPq8B1qb7smmtumblr_lfusk3B7gI1qb7smmtumblr_lfusku0GrA1qb7smmtumblr_lfuslq5nry1qb7smm      tumblr_lfusldSBJU1qb7smm tumblr_lijnluUUR91qz6rwyo1_1280  tumblr_l4t6qxuQnL1qzpyz2o1_1280 325494.tifordovician_life-500tumblr_lbw52rhVcA1qa1853 tumblr_m96v87G7ee1qz53p8o1_1280  tumblr_lihd9odGV41qdn731o1_12806329678_500

Our archipelago (Counter-colonial heistcrawl could be the new Sea of Osr)

November 22, 2013 3 comments

Guys, I am astonished and humbled by the response to Counter-colonial Heistcrawl, and it hasn’t even started yet.

I’m running this campaign a bit differently from usual: it’s more of a collaborative creation. I know some parts,* but the players are coming up with others. In particular and right off the bat, they’re creating their home islands, shortly to be contacted and eventually colonized (if the players don’t do anything about it) by Perfidious Dutch and English men. And they are, without exception, exceptional. Like, damn.

First, Patrick Stuart’s Pat-Te-Chack-Ha, the island at the centre of the world.”Remember almost everything in the world is poisonous. The only way to avoid the poisons is to get exactly the right foods and mix them in exactly the right way. If you do this, the poisons cancel each other out. If you go ‘out there’ to the edges of the world and you see anyone mixing foods when they eat, always do exactly the same thing. …You can always cancel out a tabu or a sin with a different tabu or sin. But they have to be exactly right. If you can keep your actions even, you will be ok when you die.”

While James Young’s Kuna Kuna is at the end of the world.
“When your baby is born …you must choose the fate of your child. Carve a secret symbol into the walls of a god’s old chamber, do not tell anyone what you chose. This gives your baby the protection of that god’s children. When you are close to death you may tell your child the secret symbol you carved those years ago. If your child is far away you must tell another, but that person must tell your child as quick as he can or bring calamity on both. This is a spell of oath.”

Jason has sneaked some AmTart under the bamboo fence with his Cooly Islands:”In the end a new leader was appointed. The fairest skinned of our people, Los Blanco. His first act was to take control of the waterways and that was a wise thing. He starved out many traitors and those who clung to the Old Ways. He adopted the ways of a new God and killed those who did not follow.”

All I know about Evan of Gamepieces’ character so far is that he distrusts coins and giant floating stone heads.
“Why would a monarch affix his head to a small metal disc? To spy on his subjects, naturally! And when the disk in question is a precious metal, endowed with that metal’s charms, its medicinal properties, etc. the disk may on these accounts readily find its way into the hands of the innocent. (We must grudgingly acknowledge the awful cleverness of these tactics.)”

Undeniably Arnold of Goblinpunch’s islanders have a thing about whales. But probably only because they have a thing about the Leviathan. Here: “When Toa-Makakang gave birth to the Leviathan, the sky was torn asunder and the stars fell to the earth.  The earth spat venom, to kill the Leviathan, and from the cloud-mansions there issued lightning to strike the creature dead.  Finally, all of the waters of the earth came and piled atop Balalang, to drown the Leviathan.  We all drowned then.

But the Leviathan devoured the poison, and became venomous.  Then it grew its ten-thousand triangular scales that rattle in the light, and the lightning slid off.  Finally it swallowed all of the water of the oceans, and grew larger than any other thing.

“Finally, it devoured the gods.”

His Centerra setting kinda explores the same colonial themes. I have to mine it for What We Know About the Farangs.

So much good here. Go read it all.

And reproduced in full, because AFAIK it’s only on G+ so far, Scott knows his NOI:

Shit, on my island of  Perseroanterbatastelekomunikasindonesie Terbuka the language we talk is Bahasa Riau Malay and if I wasn’t making a effort to tone it down it would strike you eight parts of nine dead with the bright and vulgar lightning of it. That’s our fucking magic. Where I come from the ocean is endless and dark and cold and there are islands strung across it like singing brass lanterns. We live at the bottom of that sea. Deal with it.

You guys probably don’t have the words for “nieuw” and “oud” yet, you can barely wrap your sarongs around “alt” and “altar.” Cool. So better not say I’m from the island of “new” rice.  Strike you eight-ninths dead. I come from the island of “unfamiliar” rice, “far” rice, for all you know “better” rice. Once you have had this rice, man, you will not go back, fuck no you will not. Even if you might want to.

My island is beyond all your lost horizons. It is here now. We are forty birds on this boat in search of our king. Each and every one of your souls is a bird.

I had a dream of the coming of longer boats bearing a strange gamelan made of string as well as brass. They are harder than the black robes and plumes in Malacca and their gamelan plays too fast even for me. It sounds like this. Once they come the world is guaranteed to be over but the cargo of that voyage, the “transition,” will follow slower behind the lightning like the bright memory behind your eyes, or like thunder. We can tune that thunder into words like flocks of birds you can number in the hundreds.

I will not be here long and will not talk a lot in order to give your fucking sensitive ears a break. We will not be going to my island because it will kill you eleven ninths dead with the sheer light and noise of it. I like to fight and cook the rice.
– Bobby Suharto

* I said I knew some things, right? Here:
a first set of character classes (though we might not use a class system),
Jeff’s 20 questions, from local and interloper perspectives

Also check out the Counter-colonial Heistcrawl tag for a heads up on other hazards. Kraken not included.

Picture bonus for getting this far: all from the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam. Which, BTW, also has some better photos of its collection online, if you can navigate the site. Their Papua webspecial is just plain amazing but takes some fiddling to figure out.

Also I just found out about the Virtual Collection of Asian Masterpieces. Wow. I mean, I don’t like the masterpiece agenda much, but still, stuff from 55 museums in one place.

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Irresponsible in the Rijksmuseum

November 9, 2013 1 comment

One of the things I love about blogging DIY DnD is it gives me an excuse to be completely irresponsible in museums. I spent years as an art student and middle class British lad with educated pretensions stalking earnestly around museums and galleries trying to understand why Jasper Johns was more famous than Eric Ravilious or why Dutch painting should be interesting in the 17th century but not in the 18th or early 19th. Now, letting my DM flag fly, I can tell you that it’s a lot more fun wandering around the Rijksmuseum  just looking at the things I like looking at and sniggering roll for initiative when I see some gold lion eating a man holding up a candlestick.

So for instance I can enjoy this intaglio print of a witch riding a demon carcass around without caring much who it’s by (yeah, right. It’s Agostino Veneziano):

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and mutter “pendulous dugs” and “fish slapping dance” to myself as I ogle this Mantegna.

So these, apparently, are mourners on (or rather off) some saint’s tomb. But now they’re a bunch of NPCs for your Alice game:

alice-figs1 alice-figs2

boartopus antler_witch

Boartopus ravishing harpy, flying antler witch,



And predictably there’s treasure. Note to self: add more mysterious gold lions to dungeon:

lion2 sneezing-lionlion1

especially sneezing lions that dispense potions. Also stuff you pick up should tell you about upcoming hazards. Like this medieval mi-go victim:


speaking of which: who says brain-cases have to be so damn functional-looking?

st-thekla-1 st-thekla-2

(reliquary for St Thekla, allegedly). Reliquaries are some weird-ass treasure too. Some are like tiny wee treasure chests that anyone who’s gamed with Scrap Princess should be too wary to touch:


and look what they contain! A nice surprise. At least this bone ossuary is kinda doing the medium is the message thing.

Magic shield? I bet you’re picturing something metal. Not, for instance, a chunk of elk headgear:


and speaking of headgear…


Even Throne of Blood didn’t prepare me for this bunny/propellor. Quietly scribbling notes about what world you’d need to make those Playboy extensions at all sensible.

locks lock-open

…ever wondered how a medieval lock works?

OK, time for the big guns: Wampus/Tartary artillery for discerning murderhobos

guns1 pistols musketoongrape-shot

navy-shell shrapnel

Early 19th century shells. And a shrapnel shell cut in half. Note wooden cone-tip and big ball-bearings just sitting in a dynamite goop.


…and one for Jeremy Duncan.


and three for Paolo Greco. The last of which is the red coral hilt of a rapier given to legendary Dutch murderhobo Michiel de Ruyter.


Magic lantern slides were the 18th century’s Roll For Initiative gifs.


Mecha golem disguised as a figurehead.


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