Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Myrma of the Crystalline Eyes.

Trippy art by the Critter
My stepdaughter has a penchant for slightly surreal sketches. She showed me a few pieces recently.   Flipping through her sketchbook, at first glance, this appeared to be a girl with crystals for eyes.  At second glance, it may be something else, but I'm going with my first impression.


Myrma Fromme, daughter of the wealthy ivory merchant Lorl Fromme, studies with the elementalist Qao Hianwou, who has recently been attempting to create gem-like elemental forms for the amusement and service of the fabulously wealthy.

Myrma, is a studious and well-meaning girl, but not the most observant... She set off an inadvertent chain reaction by tripping over a bucket of crystals and material components for Hianwou's research, igniting an explosion and becoming blinded by the shards....

Qao, crushed with guilt and beholden to the Frommes to care for their daughter, feels obligated to make things right... Withdrawing to the lab, he sorts through the remains of the elemental components and creats a pair of amethyst eyes for the injured young woman.

Recognizing that Myrma will one day likely inherit the family business, he incorporates a number of protections and benefits into the faceted orbs:

  • mild infravision
  • Protection from mind-reading or mind-effect spells,
  • Create an aura that hampers thieves (-10% or -1 for respective skill checks)

Unfortunately the faceted, unblinking eyes are off-putting, yielding a -1 to initial  reactions, and causing the already shy girl to be more self-conscious of her appearance.  Time will tell if Myrma becomes acclimated to the new eyes, and finds ways to grow her skills and confidence. especially in her first forays into representing the family business...

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mini-review: Tacitus' Agricola & Germania

Tonight, a brief review of two of the Roman writer Tacitus'  best-known works - The Agricola and The Germania.

Tacitus lived in the late First-early Second Century, A.D. and was an administrator, senator and writer during his life.  He weathered Domitian's corrupt reign, and served in the Roman colony in Britain, likely in some administrative capacity.

His time in Britain was spent under the command of Julius Agricola - the commander of the colonial military and Tacitus' father-in-law.  Tacitus had ample opportunity to study Agricola's leadership style and document it for posterity.  Agricola had taken command of the colonial forces in AD 69, approximately 9 years after Boudica's failed rebellion.  Agricola secured Rome's hold on the island, a well as expanded the empire's influence, both by military action and expeditions (including as far north as present-day Scotland) and by assimilation and 'civilizing', including construction of Roman baths and theaters.

Tacitus wrote a glowing biography of Agricola, describing his administrative and tactical skills in glowing terms.  Good way to stay on your dad-in-law's good side...  But more likely a not-so-veiled commentary on the corruption and graft of the Roman leadership and society.

The second piece in the collection is the Germania, which may almost be considered a follow-up to Caesar's Gallic Wars. The Germania focuses on the tribes beyond the Roman frontiers formed by the Elbe, Danube, and Rhine rivers.  Tacitus catalogs the German tribes, telling of their sizes, dispositions and cultures. But again, he couches them in a sideways commentary on the Roman leadership, describing the honor and self-discipline of the 'uncivilized' Germans.

These two books are classics of early 'histories' along with Herodotus, Prokopius, Caesar, and other contemporaries.  Tacitus' writing style, as translated, is a straightforward, clear read.  I pounded through the whole book on a 2.5 hour flight.  Like his contemporary historians, he played fast and loose with details, and there are many geographical errors, as well as descriptions based on hearsay.

But where the books are useful, especially Germania, are as snapshot resources/inspirations for tribal groups a party may encounter in their journeys.  Tacitus describes various traditions, leadership, martial styles, and appearances of the various tribes - any of which may plucked wholesale, or mixed and matched for colorful and useful NPC groups. The Suebi have elaborate hairstyles, the Semnones may only enter a sacred grove while bound by a particular cord, Chatti warriors wear an iron ring until they have killed their first opponent in battle.  Some elect kings, or make decisions in raucous congresses, some are cheered in battle by their women. Fleet-footed warriors keep up with their own cavalry.

So a good piece of found inspiration - grab a copy or download and pick and choose your next barbarian horde!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

NPC helpful and bane

Have been off writing for a while. I need to get my muse back. That said, I have a notebook full of outlines and a list of writing goals, so stay tuned. In the meantime, six quick NPCs to throw into a campaign or scene...

Big Mary
Mary is a scarred, burly woman sitting at the back of the bar. She bested many men as a pugilist and veteran of the pankration ring.  However, she fled the coliseum after being accused of throwing a match. She seeks employment and shares in an adventure in hopes of securing sufficient gold to quietly disappear to her home country, but will only join a party who appears to be well-sorted, with a strong fighter in the lead.  She speaks a bit slowly, and has short-term memory loss from much time in the ring (10% chance of forgetting a name or some piece of information, per day). Likewise, Mary has a limp from a chronic knee injury and is partially blind in one eye. She is a stout unarmed fighter, and wears a pair of stained cestus (1d4+2, 2 attacks), but can also wield a club or staff with efficiency.

“Sir” Willard DeVroy
Sir DeVroy is an exceptionally lanky mounted fighter or knight. He rides a donkey, but is so tall that his feet nearly drag the ground.  While he appears slightly comical, DeVroy is deadly with the lance.  He is not allowed in tourneys because of his “substandard” mount; however, in impromptu challenges on the road, he and his well-trained mount charge and dodge, the stout donkey outmaneuvering a massive charger.  DeVroy wears a battered gold-plated archer’s ‘kettle’ helm.  When turned upside down, it fills with water twice per day.  He will not go underground.  “Too tall,” he says (claustrophobic). He has the habit of singing poorly-translated foreign ballads.

“Boss" Taite
Thin and greasy, with a protruding potbelly, this knave is a fence and broker of illicit goods along Wharftown. He knows all the entrances to the “Warehouses below the warehouses”. The Boss has an unpleasant penchant for pale-skinned boys and girls, some of which he brainwashes and/or coddles into luring other youth into his slaver pens.  “How dare you accuse me of being a slaver, sir! However, can I help it if an urchin or two finds themselves on a ship for ports abroad?...” For parties of flexible morals, he has work transporting/escorting particularly valuable chattel to discerning clients.

“Lost Lily”
Found on a forest road, this youth of indeterminate age claims to have been abandoned by a caravan, lover, etc.  Tearful, she wiles and distracts travelers, before absconding with several items of value and disappearing.  For parties of substantial wealth, she will lure them to a local bandit band for a share of the loot.

Aleghetha Horsewarden
This exiled tribal queen lives incognito among the community.  She clandestinely seeks a party to assassinate the so-called ‘usuper’ conqueror-governor, allowing her return into the power vacuum.  Aleghetha discretely wears the iron torq of her royal office.  The torq allows her to either calm or panic horses within a 50 foot radius.  There is a low chance that it will be recognized here, several kingdoms from her homeland.  She is an able warrior and rides well, but prefers the chariot, where she rains a quiver of javelins against foes.  Horsewarden is accompanied by a mute guard wielding a bronze-bossed shield and spear.

Brother Orph
A pious itinerant preacher, living on an austere vegetarian diet, he seems wracked with conflict and guilt.  The brother has become afflicted with a moon-bound lycanthropism, transforming him into a were-tiger.  He seeks a cure for the curse, and hopes to find a party to escort him to a Were-priests of Inagha, who have reportedly secured a curative boon from the moon gods. Any party accompanying him must proceed with caution, for if travelling during a transition, there is a high likelihood that he will pick off one character during the night.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

One Page Dungeon Entry, 2016

The instigators of the 2016 One Page Dungeon Contest are at it again, sponsoring the annual contest of brevity and (hopefully) wit.

My writing has been off this year, but I prepared a small hex-based adventure with an alien threat.  I don't think it came out as evocative as I hoped, but I do like the idea of assisting critters normally thought of as foes, or at least nuisances, in restoring their 'god' who has been infected by something horrible.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cinolth Citadel, manning some more Dyson Logos real estate

From Dyson:

The citadel sits on a chunk of generally unprofitable land surrounded by poor farming land, making it unappealing for most nobles. It generally sits quiet and cold, manned by a small garrison at most, a skeleton staff of four to six men and a single priest out of favour with the church at worst.

Baron Nichol Ondrae never cared for the family's scheming and machinations to overthrow the last dynasty, and after the last attempt on his life, possibly from Duke Augh-enryn, or perhaps his own cousin Enoch, it was time to put some space between himself and the fractious infighting of the capital.

So when the Black Pox created a opening for custodian of the Citadel, Nichol took it as a sign.  The gambles of remaining too close to the capital (and family) have become too rich for his blood.  Time to take in a new view.  With a few loyal retainers, and what second-rate soldiers were begrudgingly offered for the post, Nichol took his family and moved west to the isolated outpost.