[Mummy’s Mask] Wednesday Night Ghoul Fever

“I like to think of my familiar as quantumly entangled.”
— Devin

The Half-Dead City cover art.After a night of rest in the temple of the old goddess Bastet, Raenar the archaeologist awoke to find a cat lying on his chest. This seemed like a good omen, so the party proceeded down Acrid Street into Lapis Dog territory, looking for the leader of the pack, Priest in Chains.

First, they snuck up on ghouls rooting through what turned out to be a buffet of sorts: a street fountain filled with rotting corpses. One ghoul fleeing from that exchange led them to the Lapis Dogs’ chief lair, as Priest in Chains himself descended to join the fray, after the Plundercats forced their way through the rear entrance.

Once Priest in Chains’ head and items of value were secured, the adventurers discovered living humans languishing in the inn. While Akhil and Mentu tended to them — conveniently taking them out of dealing with any “friendly” ghouls — the others returned up Acrid Street. A chance encounter with ghouls brought out the Walkers of Nemret. Tath tried to sell the Walkers on using Priest in Chains’ mask of Set to impersonate the dead ghoul and take control of the remaining Lapis Dogs, but the language and culture barriers defeated communicating such a complex concept through gestures.

After a last pass of Bastet’s temple, Plundercats LLC cleared out of the necropolis. The ghoul victims were taken to the temple of Pharasma for care. Their cut of the take from Acrid Street did not impress the surviving Sand Scorpions at all. Sad for them, but the fewer competitors in the marketplace, the better for Plundercats LLC’s bottom line.

#RPGaDAY 29: Most Memorable Encounter

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The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Wake of the Watcher cover.In the midst of Carrion Crown‘s Wake of the Watcher chapter, beset by nightgaunts and mi-go, we happened across a creature sufficiently bizarre to put all the Lovecraftian beasties to shame. It hopped. It squawked demanding, nonsensical questions. It projected images between antennae. It was . . . the riddling turnip. Or really, it was a cerebric fungus. But the WTF factor of the encounter stuck with us for weeks after, past the mi-go’s Mr. Chunder blender, Gea the inside-out mockery of an eidolon from beyond the Dark Tapestry and even the incarnation of Shub-Niggurath herself.

“They must have ordered it late one night off the electric radish.”
— Geoff on Mr. Chunder

Honorary Mention

Way back in the day, there was the Stargate SG-4 campaign. This team of four tromps through the gate to a shiny new world, discover it’s the middle of the night in a museum and they immediately panic. Run! Hide! Don’t let the aliens find us! Never mind that this is the Stargate universe, where a simple “hi” works wonders. No, some primal groupthink instinct kicked in and the team members were all seized by an utter dread of actually encountering any inhabitants of this world they’d come to explore.

[Mummy’s Mask] The Fragrance of Fallen Qlippothim

“You know there’s a bard in the party when you’re arguing about scansion during a fight.”
— Mentu

The Half-Dead City cover art. This week in Mummy’s Mask, the party continued their sub-contract of investigating the perfume shop in the middle of a ghoul turf war. The depths of the shop beckoned, but ghouls gathered outside, so they took care of those first, with Viktovich playing the star role plowing through them.

The back rooms of the shop boasted elderly perfume-making apparatus, an oven with a qlippoth-infested cat and a giant black widow in the bedroom.

Loaded down with fragile glassware, they beat feet back to the temple of Bastet with ghouls on their heels. It was Walkers of Nemret versus the Lapis Dogs in the street, with archery support from the temple steps. And Tath finally got to use enlarge person on Viktovich, so everyone was happy.

Moreover, we leveled after all that! And then I discovered that all this time, Mentu’s favored enemy was the undead. So he’ll be shifting closer, if less tactfully, to Akhil’s stance of complete disgruntlement at treating with ghouls. However well-spoken, ghouls are pestilent vermin.

#RPGaDAY 27: Game You’d Like to See a New/Improved Edition Of…

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The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

A Uropan explorer surveys an airship in the valley below through a spyglass.Northern Crown is a alternate fantasy history of the colonization of North America. There’s magic, quasi-magical natural philosophy, strange creatures and wondrous civilizations to meet and it’s generally an accessible, fun though not necessarily light combination of early American history with the tropes of Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve written a bit more about Northern Crown previously.

The unfortunate part about Northern Crown is it hit the market after the d20 wave crested and began to roll back. It’d been in publishing development for a long time — and had been a freely available thing on the early web prior to that — so when it finally got to the market, all anybody saw was another d20 fantasy campaign world with the usual smattering of additional classes and new magic items. Northern Crown never got a fair shake.

The creator, Doug Anderson, is focusing on an introductory role-playing game for younger players called Dungeonteller these days, and some very cool isometric printable dungeon tile packs. He seems to have pretty much moved on from Northern Crown. Back in January, Atlas Games announced Battlefield Press planned to compile the setting material, adapt it to the Pathfinder rules and expand the game world to include the continent of Southern Cross. Battlefield’s own web site is silent on the project so far, but in the run-up to GenCon, I asked someone I think was associated with Battlefield via Twitter — certainly, he was publicizing a panel the company planned to hold at the convention — and the reply was the Northern Crown project was still a go, so far as I knew. I wish I could dig up the conversation, but my Google fu is failing me at the moment.

So here’s hoping Battlefield Press sees this project through. And if not, honestly, it can run pretty well in Pathfinder without much more work.

#RPGaDAY 21: Favorite Licensed RPG

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The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

The Day After Ragnarok cover. A muscled man wielding an automatic firearm and knife poses aggressively in front of a rearing serpent.We’ve gone over the prime candidates for favorite RPG license in previous #RPGaDAY posts: Ghostbusters and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Allow me, then, to split hairs and introduce The Day After Ragnarok, HERO edition. Yes, it’s an original setting by Kenneth Hite licensed to use the HERO system in this particular printing. Systemistas can also find it in savage and fated flavors.

When the Nazis summoned the world-spanning Midgard Serpent and it began devouring Atlantic convoys whole, President Truman ordered the Trinity device flown into the serpent’s maw. The colossal thing died, crashing across Europe. The far-reaching consequences of Serpentfall wrought havoc with the global climate, atmosphere and more.

Basically, it’s post-apocalyptic fantasy in 1948, and the apocalypse is only a few years behind. America and Europe have been trashed. There are holdouts of western society trying to keep on as before, but the infrastructure just isn’t there anymore. Sorcery is on the rise, as well as ultra-weird science as the adventurous mine the Midgard Serpent for unearthly materials with bizarre properties.

Regardless of your rules preferences, Day After Ragnarok is a very cool setting for mixing up the modern day with sword and sorcery fantasy. I talked more about the game with my friend Joe on Carnagecast.

#RPGaDAY 20: Will Still Play in 20 Years Time

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The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Carrion Crown: The Haunting of Harrowstone coverThis is a no-brainer. In the circles in which I currently move, the game we’ll still be playing in 20 years is Pathfinder, if only because Paizo pumps out campaigns far faster than we can play through them. Carrion Crown took two-plus years meeting almost every week. At every other week with the occasional side diversion, Mummy’s Mask could easily take double that to play out. If Paizo stopped publishing adventure paths with the end of Iron Gods, that would leave thirteen for me to play through, including resuming Skull & Shackles. Look at the math, if you estimate 2.5 years per playthrough:

13 campaigns * 2.5 years per campaign = 32.5

I’m not saying that’s a goal of mine. Pathfinder is an extremely accessible game, and the local area has a wealth of options to play. All things being equal, it will always be a safe fallback.

[Mummy’s Mask] Ghoulish Nation-Building

The Half-Dead City cover art.We went off-book this week in Mummy’s Mask. Tath the tiefling witch has been very interested in picking up where another team of treasure retrievers left off, as ghouls cut the Sand Scorpions in half before they could even get to their assigned target, Iskahara’s house of perfumes.

So into the necropolis they returned, heading for Acrid Street, the perfumery district. And they discovered not one pack of ghouls, but two, plus an embassy from a ghoul nation deep beneath the earth. Akhil was not psyched about treating with ghouls at all, but Tath and Raenar pushed forward, made some friendly overtures, and got free passage within their territory, so that’s a good start.

And then they met a girtablilu in Iskhara’s shop. It’s a very cosmopolitan population in today’s necropolis. More than half of whom did not immediately try to kill us!

#RPGaDAY 10: Favorite Tie-in Novel / Game Fiction

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The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

I was reading role-playing game tie-in fiction before I knew it was tied in to anything. At the time, I thought Dragonlance was purely a gloriously long list of interconnected books to collect and devour. Then TSR published a series of Spelljammer novels to go with their new setting of the same name. The first one was set on Krynn, so that was an easy buy. I was more leery of the second, Nigel Findlay’s Into the Void, since the back cover blurb promised it would feature the Forgotten Realms, which I had studiously skirted for no real reason. And yet, it wound up being my favorite of the Spelljammer novels, and possibly of all tie-in fiction that I can recall reading, because it was so different and novel. Quasi-sailing ships flying through space, the infamous tinker gnomes with their hamster-powered paddlewheeler, alien menaces in the shape of the neogi and the illithid, Into the Void had a great mix of elements to appeal to me at the time.

I’m a little afraid of what I would think of the novel now. Not that it would hurt my memories of enjoying it then, because I don’t buy into the notion of “this new thing, or revisiting an old thing, ruined my perception of my childhood,” but my perception of the novel as an adult would drown out my fond memories of how I enjoyed it then. I’d be amazed if there were extant copies out in the world, but if I ever run into one in a used book store, I’ll give it a familiar nod, like seeing an old acquaintance, and move on.

Extra Credit

Now, my favorite retroactive tie-in novel is another story. That’s the novel that was clearly the genesis for a role-playing game, or campaign framework. That title easily goes to Tim Powers’ Last Call, which became a cornerstone of the cosmology and occult ethos of Unknown Armies. Powers has written more novels in his self-created patch of secret history and improvised symbolic sorcery: Declare, Three Days to Never, On Stranger Tides, The Stress of Her Regard. I like to think of them as the unofficial fiction line for Unknown Armies — which does have a novel of its own, Godwalker, written by Greg Stolze. I highly recommend reading Godwalker and honestly regret writing a whole post about Into the Void before remembering that Unknown Armies had a companion novel.

Most Honorable Mention

And holy cow, how could I miss the opening fiction in Break Today, also part of the Unknown Armies line? It’s a tight little vignette that’s so engaging, my coworker at the time loved it and wanted the whole book to be the rest of the story.

#RPGaDAY 5: Most Old School RPG Owned

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The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Before we go any further, I need you to brace yourself. We’ve already covered that the first role-playing game I ever played was third edition Dungeons & Dragons. That’s a simple defect, though, one that could be rectified by any right-thinking GM with their copy of the red box handy, right? Maybe someday, sure, but not yet. I’ve never played or owned an edition of Dungeons & Dragons prior to third. The vast majority of games I own date from the 1990s or later. I’m a true third wave player. That said, I do own a couple games that come from the old school, or at least grew up listening to stories from the good old days.

Ghostbusters RPG box cover.It should not surprise anyone that I treasure the original Ghostbusters box set from West End Games. I found it for a steal on eBay, misfiled in the art supplies category, or somewhere weird like that. Still in the original shrinkwrap, with pristine manuals inside, the equipment cards unpunched and, the most treasured of treasures, the ghost die — scroll down a bit to see Dungeon Mistress showing her die off. It’s old school in that it sprang forth in the heady days when anything seemed possible, and nothing had been done before, and it’s the prototype system that went on to power countless Star Wars campaigns.

I’ve never actually used it, mind, because I’ve always gone with GURPS and, more recently, Cinematic Unisystem for my Ghostbusters convention games, but I love going to the plot seeds section for ideas and characters to adapt to my needs.

Playing Labyrinth Lord with Lasoleg the Elf, Gringo the Halfling, Bob the Cleric and Pope the Dwarf. Fittingly, Dingus the Thief cannot be seen.

Left to right: Lasoleg the Elf, Gringo the Halfling, Bob the Cleric and Pope the Dwarf. Fittingly, Dingus the Thief cannot be seen.

The other old school title in my library is Labyrinth Lord. It’s a retroclone, rather than a vintage, but I maintain its heart is in the right place. I once ran a game of Labyrinth Lord, far longer ago than I realized until I dug up that post. It was . . . fine. Crunchier and fiddlier than I would want to deal with in a game system, but fine. And I say that recalling how Neil, the unpictured Dingus in the picture, remarked that style of rule set was really too simple for strategically interesting decisions. Neil is a 3.x/Pathfinder guru who published his own rules supplement, so you can make your own call on that.