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.”
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:
LONGER BOATS ARE COMING TO WIN US
RAIN IS HAPPENING
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
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.
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):
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:
Boartopus ravishing harpy, flying antler witch,
And predictably there’s treasure. Note to self: add more mysterious gold lions to dungeon:
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?
(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.
…ever wondered how a medieval lock works?
OK, time for the big guns: Wampus/Tartary artillery for discerning murderhobos
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.
no posts in a long time, and this one’s quick and lazy…
But Dubrovnik’s about as perfect a coastal fantasy fortress town as you could ask to find. And I for one didn’t know about it. Here, have some images and maps (google sat). Just swipe it wholesale; the Croatian tourist authority will probably thank you:
There’s a straight main street from the harbour to the big gate, suitable for triumphal processions or standoffs between local princes and invading revenants.
It dominates an island trading network and maintains an uneasy truce between the Korcula and the Sipangu.
It keeps a string of vassal forts along the coast and around the islands that would be perfect troublesome gifts for enterprising adventurers.
It holds annual contests against the King of the Sea, watched by anxious crowds from the surrounding lands, who fear the day that the mer-folk throw off their ancient shackles and destroy the shipping they all depend on.
It stands guard against the Machines of the Underearth, whose landship thrust out of the ground 1400 years ago and remains, undecayed and indestructible, as a reminder of the contingent nature of human power. The equally undecayed Invasion Bridge has become an indispensable part of the local economy.
And if the PCs arrive as Southern Barbarians, without a Kuna to their name, it offers the infamous Galley-workers’ Barracks for accommodation.
(BTW: on the map kick, check out the change in datasets between google maps’ coverage of post-Yugoslav, kinda-independent Montenegro and weirdo shut-in Albania. One satellite covers the Montenegrin side of the border (with brightly lit river), another has the other side of the river, and a third, older-looking (who knows, really) image takes over from a few miles into the territory. But if you’re short of unfamiliar gaming ground to hexify, just trolling up and down that coast has a bunch of gems for you)
Some think the Hattifatteners are wicked, but this is due to their strangeness.
Hattifatteners are found only in groups, and often in swarms. Although they do not possess a hive mind, they agree so thoroughly on the fundamentals of Hattifattener logic that a player may play any size group of them as a single entity. They excel at problems of pure logic and electrical engineering. For Ars Tartary it is sufficient to state that they have no skill at combat but they may strike with a lightning-like attack, for 1d10 per turn spent building up charge, up to as many dice as there are Hattifatteners present. D&D variants will want stuff like their HD and special abilities that unlock as you go up levels: these involve the strength of their lightning attack, their ability to bypass simple obstacles by slipping through narrow gaps and/or quantum tunneling, and at high levels a telepathic mind-link power that extracts information and leaves the target confused and strangely affectless. You can certainly figure out the details there. They save and level as Monks.
The number of Hattifatteners present is indeterminate until it becomes germane, at which juncture roll 1d6 + 2, exploding. This roll may be modified by environmental factors – their numbers are suppressed underground, raised when near big electrical charges. Individual hattifatteners are extremely good at dodging but groups cannot react so quickly – they therefore attack, defend and take damage collectively.
Details of the workings of the Hattifattener “barometer” will not be revealed at this time.
Anyone who thinks the Githzerai are like Githyanki only nicer hasn’t paid attention to what they do.
They make machines. Devices that help the Githyanki invade, dominate, and enslave. These machines have a sharp, pointed, monomaniacal intelligence. And inevitably sometimes those machines get free.
A Gith Machine starts from a Seed Device with a single purpose, but it can graft other devices with other purposes onto itself. Once grafted the Machine animates the devices as parts of itself. And the more complex it becomes, the more it starts to think independently. A machine’s prime motivation is to do what it was built to do: a butcher device wants to butcher, a weaving device wants to weave stuff (anything) together, an olive pitter wants to pit olives. But every Gith Machine also wants to murder its creator, which not infrequently means murdering other people along the way. And adding more functions – more purposes – is addictive. Hit Dice are dependent on complexity; greater complexity generally (but not always) means bigger size.
Monster Gith Machines have AC3, variable d8 HD (linked only very loosely to size: bigger tends to be tougher). They attack and save as fighters. A Gith Machine monster may graft a new device to itself after 1 turn of continuous contact. Each new device adds 1HD – devices can include metal or wooden gadgets (anything with mechanical articulation), weapons and tools. Gith Machines can also use magic items, including wands and rings but not scrolls. Very complex devices (battleships, helicopters, mecha) may require multiple turns.
A Gith Machine without articulated limbs may roll around like a Katamari at 20’/HD. One with articulation may use stuff in any way convincing to the DM. They especially enjoy having suits of plate armour to play with.
In order to manipulate (carry, puppeteer, asset strip) living or dead creatures the Gith Machine must have at least 3HD of complexity.
A Gith Machine may appear to be defeated when in fact it has only been reduced to its parts. In order to actually “kill” one you have to find and destroy its Seed part.
PC Gith Machines also fight and save as fighters, start with AC7 and use d8 for Hit Points. They start as two devices, one picked or rolled off the following table. In order to level up they have to meet xp requirements and acquire at least one new device. A critical hit can sever one device from the grafted bundle. Whenever a device is severed, the severed part needs to save vs death or be destroyed. If reduced to 0HP the Machine falls apart: its Seed Device is separated from everything else and stunned for d10 turns, but after that it can graft devices back on, up to the maximum for its level. The Seed Device must suffer one additional hit and fail a save vs death to be destroyed.
To put all this in more-or-less familiar game terms, the Gith Machine has 2 powers, which are always active:
1. animate metal object (may extend to mineral objects at level 3, which is also the level they can “carry” a living passenger and use their senses)
2. control machine (which may require multiple turns to “get a handle on” for very complex machines)
The range of these powers is Touch, with the proviso that it extends to touching an object with another object that is already attached to the Seed Device – as a rule of thumb, if you could conduct electricity from the Seed to the object touched, then that object can be animated/controlled.
Parts Table: roll d100. The player chooses which roll is the seed and which the first attachment. If you roll the same result twice, try inverting the tens and units the second time. Or just reroll.
1: hoverbeam. Makes a really unfriendly sawtooth wave hum, lets you float up to 6′ off the floor, but doesn’t hover over water.
2-10: melee weapon
11-18: missile weapon
19-21: compressor (gas or water siphon) (level up to aerosol)
27-30: fast running mechanism
31-33: flippers for swimming
34-36: battering ram
45-46: inert scoop (good for holding/trapping oozes etc)
53-55: rocket fist
56-58: directional listener/echolocator
59-61: low-light/infravision viewer
62-63: x-ray/penetrating viewer
67-68: illusion projector
69-70: accurate drawing arm/plotter
74: minesweeper (also detects pressure switch traps)
75: glassmaker (lightbulbs, flasks, similar items)
79: cocktail shaker (useful for poisons, potions)
80-81: cargo carrier
82-83: espresso machine
84-85: lock/portal sealant
87-89: simple robot arm
90: surgery arm
91: superfine manipulator arm suitable for picking locks etc
92-93: footballer kicking leg
94: acid stomach for digesting small items (up to hobbit-sized)
96: pickler/preserver (useful for bodies you hope to Raise, Pharaoh mummies you want to impress)
99: Test Phantom (see below. No functions but Phantom saves vs death at +6)
100: minisafe (see top image). May hold 4lbs or 1 Pokemon. May also be used as a morningstar for 1d10 damage.
Whether you require the Gith Machine to get a loudspeaker in order to speak with other players at the table, or an arm to draw simple instructions with, or eyes to see, I guess depends on how patient/sadistic you are as a DM. I would assume that you’d have eyes, ears, some means of communicating and getting around – wheels, tracks, legs (mismatched, multiple, stolen), something I haven’t thought of. You can figure that out.
1. fighting the Kraken should be like fighting a pack of wild dogs. A couple of tentacles keep you attention, and then when you’re occupied with them, another one will dart in from the back and pick off a straggler. If you all go back to back and hold fast it’ll step up to an overwhelming 4 tentacles on one person, so at least part of your group has to turn to face the massive threat, and then it’s back to seizing people from behind.
8 attacks a round will piss off even quite patient Old Schoolers. Also the DnD books are insane when it comes to animal combat and this just might be the way in to understanding the deep veins of insanity elsewhere. But it’s still a fun game.
2. to keep Scrap Princess happy, allow longer weapons to get initiative until the opponent gets a successful attack in. Actually I’m thinking of allowing a contested roll system for someone with a polearm or similar to hold of a daggeriste – you both roll, if the polearmer gets the higher result (modded) then they hold the other off, and maybe they get +2 or summat for using the scenery (narrow corridor, sofas, flames, lava).
3. don’t have one player’s failure nobble another. Or, rather, if you’re going to have collective success/failure, let everyone at least try to influence the result. And point out to them that they can do so if they’re being quiet.
4. “don’t put any treasure in you don’t want the party to be able to get.” Roger Giner-Sorolla. This is so true. I accidentally put a bunch of enormous bombs in my players’ path and now they have enormous bombs to use on any obstacle. Well, not quite bombs. Luckily I’m OK with any part of the setting getting blown up. Except for that total Mary Sue pit boss ruling over the Dangerous Gas Mine. D’oh! Bombs and gas mine!
5. How to succeed in my games: STOP, LOOK, LISTEN rather than rushing in – observe what’s going on. TRY TALKING RATHER THAN STARTING WITH VIOLENCE combat is always a good way to get killed: if you must approach with violence, do it from cover, with mines and/or sniping – but if you’re going to talk, starting from cover/a distance isn’t a bad idea because you don’t know if they’re friendly. IMAGINE THE SITUATION IS HAPPENING IN REAL LIFE not in a game. I am imagining that your PC is a fairly ordinary person trying to climb that wall, not a badass leaping climbing machine or a Lost Vikings type game piece with the maneuver climb anything. If the situation seems dangerous, that’s not a signal that we’ve entered the exciting music scene and it’s time to start with the whirling kung fu moves. It’s a signal that you’re in danger and you’ll have to think to minimize your chance of dying.
6. LIFE IMITATES ART: Meteors strike Chelyabinsk, on the Russia/Kazakhstan border. Captured (partly) on video. Ahem: Carcosa Wacky Races opening, April 2012 –
A small figure in baggy robes stands atop it all. He gestures and great sails unfurl, showing the form of a luminescent bird with the figure at its head. He touches his throat and his voice booms out across the desert:
“…erm, yes. Hello. Um, you have been summoned! From… afar! because I – that is, the Seers of Otrar – have seen a Fall! A farishta of the Overworld will fall tonight, probably in the mountains just to the north over there. Your task is to collect its Black Casket. Your reward – the Prize! The Grand Prize! Is the rest of the farishta – its body, its, um, raiment! Never before has such a Prize been offered!”
He looks up at the sky, then at his hand. “And-”
Abruptly the sky is split by a brilliant streak of light and a deafening crack. In eerie silence a bright orange flash blooms on the northern horizon, followed by a dull red mushroom cloud. Then the bone-shaking boom of a shockwave knocks you all flat and hurls the scaffold away across the desert to the south. When the dust settles the little man is standing among the vehicles, jumping up and down, shouting “I was right! I was right!”
“Well what are you all waiting for? Go! Before those bastards up in Ulaanbatur get it!”
…so what’s so special about Chelyabinsk? Well, it’s about the most Tartary location imaginable – secret nuclear research facility, site of the worst nuclear powerplant accident before Chernobyl, on the Kazakh border, decidedly Cold War sounding official response from Russia Times:
Police in the Chelyabinsk region are reportedly on high alert, and have begun ‘Operation Fortress’ in order to protect vital infrastructure…
“Do not panic, this is an ordinary situation we can manage in a couple of days,” the governor said in and address to city residents.
Background radiation levels in Chelyabinsk remain unchanged, the Emergency Ministry reported.
Reward for getting this far, and via Jez Gordon of Giblet Blizzard: the amazing, varied, mysterious art of Kay Nielsen – an artist whose work I have seen from time to time and I’ve been tormented that I didn’t know who it was and therefore couldn’t find more. Now fixed.
Successive waves have washed back and forth over the line between sorcery and technology in Tartary. Right now the mood is decidedly technurgical – something unexplained may make the giant run, but its skeleton is almost certainly worked wood or metal, its eyes cameras or viewing screens. And inside there will be a pilot – tucked away, perhaps, like a baby bird in an egg, but altogether in command.
But things were not always thus. Some hints of how they might have been before can be seen in ancient statues, which show stunted, cat-like creatures perched atop strange bodies, steering them to terrible purpose
And then there are the writhing, tormented pits of Azoth under Dashoguz
Most such remnants are assumed once to have been clothed in metal plates, as they would be now. It is inconceivable that the world of power and subjugation should have been ruled by such soft-bodied things, no matter how strong their grip.
Still there are hints that the day of solid iron may be reaching its end. Rumours are circulating that strange, flowing forms have been seen issuing from the Archmage of Ashgabat’s cult-tower (that palace or tomb where the Great Bashi has sealed himself up these past fifty years).
And these fluid giants, the size of a fighting machine, appear to be thinking for themselves.
(BTW, some much better monster creation over here)