Tuesday 22 June 2021

May your oaths be unbroken: Gods of the Perilous Land

The Perilous Land is overseen by a pantheon of major deities, all outlined in the core rules. Currently I'm working on a new supplement called Gods of the Perilous Land, which goes into detail about these gods and goddesses, but also includes minor deities (demigods), Sacred Items, shrines, chapels and temples and new Oath Talents. 

The new guide is designed to bring daily belief to the forefront of the game, offering new abilities based on your patron god. These Oath Talents can be taken whenever a regular Talent could be acquired, giving your character a tangible connection to their deity.

The Oath Talents you can choose depend on your class, with different Aspects of each god bestowing divine gifts to different classes. For instance, Gofannon may gift an Oath Talent to a knight that blesses their weapon, while the same god will give a thief a set of divine lock picks. The more a character devoted themselves to their patron deity, the more abilities they unlock. 

Temples, shrines and chapels allow PCs to gain Blessings based on their patron. A Blessing from Epona may increase your travel speed, for instance. 

Finally demigods are introduced in this supplement, the mortals born of the gods themselves. Each demigod has their own domain, like Arawn, King of the Underworld and Gwydion the legendary trickster. These might be quest givers or antagonists in an ongoing campaign.

Look out for further announcements and details.

Sunday 20 June 2021

Romance of the Perilous Land: War Griffins

 As a rule, any type of Griffin is almost impossible to train. Hundreds have had their limbs torn off just trying to get one to calm down. But Queen Eleanor of Eastland has managed to not only have a group of trained Griffins in her eyrie, she also uses them for battle. 

With her recent allyship with the Sisters of le Fey, her court has been joined by Delice, an enchantress of Dragon's Forest, who was able to tame five forest Griffins using magic. Eleanor's Griffin Knights rode by her Black Knights are a terrifying sight, swooping from the skies like lightning and tearing their enemies apart. 

Saturday 19 June 2021

Romance of the Perilous Land: The Night Ward

 Today we're taking a trip to the City of Lions, the splendorous capital of Lyonesse. The rule of King Meliodas divides the populace, with his hard line opposition to any form of magic use. While The Burning Chapter seeks to undermine the king's rule with the use of violent magic, an equally as sinister organisation haunts the city streets: The Night Ward. 

Cloaked in black and obscured with obsidian masks resembling the faces of lions, The Night Ward is a small vigilante group whose aim is to root out and destroy magic users in Lyonesse. No matter if you're a spell casting terrorist or a homely healer, anyone who taps into the Wyrd is fair game for the Ward. Frequently city folk will awaken to a body swinging from a rope, brutally beaten by the Ward's maces. 

Officially, Meliodas denounces the actions of what he calls 'common thugs' but privately he appreciates their work and fails to crack down on their activity. 

And perhaps little would change if he were to discover that the leader of the Ward is none other than Lady de Vance, noble mistress of the High Houses of Lyonesse whose family has ever been a supporter of the crown. While her public demeanor is that of a haughty, stuffy aristocrat with only her own interests in mind, in reality she is cunning, devious and well trained. Meliodas wouldn't have to look far to find out exactly how she has become a dab hand with the mace as Sir Rains, one of his most respected courtly knights has been training her for years and is a member of the Night Ward himself. 

In fact, most members of the group are of noble bloodline and loyal to Meliodas. With power and resources comes the ability to buy their way out of tight spots with the guard and access to the castle's own armoury. 

With The Burning Chapter raising the stakes in the City of Lions, the Night Ward become even more cunning and more brutal. Their shadow war has spilled into the streets, taking collateral damage and people are beginning to ask Meliodas to step in.

Friday 18 June 2021

Have I thrown the baby out with the bathwater?

Nearly a week ago I said that I was done with T&T, the game I love. I didn't expect it to cause the stir that it did. A tonne of people came out in support of my decision, which was nice to see. Of course others declared me "trash" and performativity woke (people who have never spoken to me before).  

Since then I've spoken to T&T creators over email and via DM and I've had more time to think. Do I think I was wrong to be angry with what Ken said? No, not at all. He has since apologised on Twitter, which I'm glad to see. Ken has always been a polemicist, seemingly taking the opposing position just for the sake of it. I've ignored this for a long time, but his thoughtless around the subject of anti-racism was awful.

But the last thing I want to do is punish everyone else who creates T&T. I also recognise that Ken has apologised and I want to say again that I don't think Ken is racist - he's just boneheaded.

Will I put my T&T adventures and supplements back up on sale? Not sure, maybe. I genuinely love it - I'm passionate about it and I'm under no illusion that I have Ken and every other creator to thank for that. 

Is it better to leave the game or use it to forge a new path? 

I'm leaning towards the latter.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

10 things I love about Against the Darkmaster

Right, it's a listy post. I should mention that I have written an official adventure for Against the Darkmaster, The Silence of Dawnfell, which you can get here. So I wanted to talk about some of the reasons I love the game and why I think it's worth checking out. 

1. Creating a Darkmaster rules

In VsDarkmaster every campaign has a dark overlord (or overlords) in the form of a Darkmaster. The rules allow you to create your own, either through choice or entirely at random. Think Sauron, but it could be an extra-dimensional witch queen who lives at the bottom of the sea. You roll for the Darkmaster's epithet, like 'Horned Champion of Death', the artefact they covet (think the One Ring), their servants and where they reside, along with choosing powers for them. It's suitably epic to randomly create an all-powerful Darkmaster from scratch and a lot of fun. There are even rules for characters who succumb to the dark taint, corrupting their passions and driving obsession with darkness.

2. Magic Resonance

You know when Frodo slips the ring on and Sauron's gaze can see him? This can happen to spellcasters if their magic goes wrong. I love this mechanic - if you roll doubles when casting a spell, you may have unwittingly drawn the attention of the Darkmaster. The more powerful the spell the more likely this will happen. This is modified by whether the caster is in a location where the Darkmaster has power, or if they are in a Safe Haven. The higher the result, the worse the consequences. These could be anything from the Darkmaster being slightly aware so the caster must take care the next time they cast, to the Darkmaster sending out their elite forces to the location the characters are in (like Sauron and the Ringwraiths). This makes magic use tense and thematic.

3. Safe Havens

I mentioned these above, but Safe Havens are basically your Lothloriens or Rivendells. These are places characters arrive where they can rest, be healed and take part in some downtime activities. When things get bleak in the wilderness (and they will - limping around with a crushed knee and broken ribs is no fun) then characters can try to find a Safe Haven, with the difficulty modified by where they are. Finding one is great but getting to them won't be easy, plus they are generally hidden and heavily guarded. Once there, PCs can do anything from learning a new language to honing their skills in battle. 

4. Passions and Drive

Taking cues from games like Burning Wheel, VsDarkmaster uses a passions and drive system to help reward roleplaying tough decisions. Every character has a set of passions, which includes their nature, motivation and allegiance. The rules explicitly says to use metal lyrics to help with these passions, which is such an incredible idea (it even has a table of examples, with everything from Iron Maiden to Manowar). Passion feeds into Drive, which are points players get for using their passions to get themselves into a bad situation. Drive can be spent on rerolls and bonuses. In some games that would be enough, but here for every 10 drive spent a PC gains a Revelation - something outside of levelling that improves them somehow. This is called their Heroic Path and if that PC dies half their Heroic Path will transfer to the new character.

5. Advancement tied to setting

Speaking of advancement, at the beginning of a campaign the group can decide on specific actions and goals that will count towards xp. These Achievements can be tied to the world, but also a specific vocation (class) or passion. This might mean for the Animist they will aim to turn the tide of overwhelming odds in their favour, or a Rogue might trick a powerful NPC. This means no two campaigns will be the same and it offers even more impetus for roleplay.

6. Spell lores and Weaves

The game emulates well a caster's focus on learning new spells and mastering their art. There's a tonne of spell lores, which are categories of spells, to choose from. As PCs advance they unlock new spells within that weave - so someone who has the Master of Animals lore can first just put animals to sleep. Then they figure out how to communicate with animals, until eventually they can control plagues of insects. This perfectly mimics a magic user learning their craft, starting small and logically working up, rather than selecting new spells that are more powerful but completely different from what they already know.

7. Magic item Affinity

I could be wrong but I think this rule was inspired by D&D 4e. In the game there are Items of Power, which are intelligent magic items with their own motivation and purpose. For instance, the Windblade is trying to unite all of elvenkind under a single banner. The wielder gains or losses affinity points based on whether they're acting towards this motivation or not. The more points, the more powerful the item becomes. In Windblade's case it starts to get more balanced and eventually the wielder has access to the Haste spell. Go too low and it becomes a mundane blade and eventually vanishes, seeking a new owner. I remember this in 4e and thought 'damn, this is such an incredible idea for intelligent items' so I'm glad they used it here.

8. The art

Oh my god the art. Artists like Heraldo Mussolini, Andrea Piparo and Tommaso Galmacci have really hit the old school MERP vibe with these incredible black and white illustrations that bring the world to life so well.

9. Travelling and hazards

Epic fantasy is about epic scale, which usually means there's a lot of travelling involved. The game simulates this with rules around hazards that the GM zooms in on while the group travels. There are a series of random tables based on the type of location they're in, from woodland to desert, which offer lots of ways to create complications for the group. Comprehensive rules for foraging and camping mean that their actions while in the wilderness very much count, and with such a brutal combat system it pays to know what you're doing.

10. Lots of optional rules

Scattered liberally throughout the book are various notes on optional rules. This could be advice for changing parrying to make it more simulated, making new cultures, using hordes or creating level zero adventurers. Hell, there's an entire section on optional skills to enhance the game's flavour. It's clear the game wants you to create your own bespoke rules based on your group's preferences. That's awesome.

Atlaclara: Sword of Constantine

Type: Longsword

Damage: 1d10+1

Special: While atlaclara is drawn, the wielder's speed increases by 5ft. Gains an additional d8 damage against giants.

Atlaclara was the legendary sword of the first king of Camelot, Constantine, forged from meteoric iron. Known as Giants' Bane, the blade was used in the fight against the cruel giant Malduit after the beast invaded Hill Castle and began a campaign of terror over the nearby villages. Constantine's young advisor, Merlin, told the king of a forge crafted by the fairies known as Glimmerforge. If Constantine offered the fairy smith a single hair from his head, a sword would be crafted that could help slay the giant.

And so Constantine commissioned the crafting of Atlaclara at the Glimmerforge with a single payment of hair. While this won him the battle, the fairy was treacherous and used his hair to forge a new blade - Kingslayer. This dark sword would go on to wound Constantine, causing the grave illness that would end his life and reign.

Saturday 12 June 2021

I'm done with Tunnels & Trolls

Update: I've turned off the comments for my own mental health. It's worth me noting that at no point have I said that Ken is racist, but I believe his thinking is harmful, especially for not addressing the comment.

This is really hard. Trollish Delver started as a blog celebrating T&T, a rules lite gonzo game that I adored. Since then I've published my own T&T stuff and amassed a sizeable collection of books. But I'm done.

I've been a fan and a acquaintance of Ken St Andre for almost a decade. I even thanked him in Romance of the Perilous Land for inspiring me to make games - which he absolutely did. But what I and many people saw on Twitter this week was inexcusable. 

A post was made by a POC, coming after the devastating murder of four Muslim people in London, Ontario, saying that it's not enough to not be racist - we must be actively anti-racist and hostile to racists.

I hope you'd agree this is a sensible stance.

So why Ken decided to go out of his way to respond with "why? What gives you the right to tell others how they must be" I have no idea. It was asinine and shows utter contempt for Muslims and people of colour. 

Rightly he got a tonne of flack for it but has yet to respond to any of it or show any sort of introspection. This is a ludicrous and dangerous mindset and if it's any indication as to who he is then I want nothing to do with him. 

I understand that T&T is more than just Ken, but it's his creation and has his DNA all over it. I'll be taking my T&T adventures down from sale. 

We must all stand against racism in all its forms and that involves being hostile to racists. It's not difficult to understand. Some might see this as an overreaction, which it isn't - this is exactly how important inclusivity in gaming and life is. So fuck my favourite game.