Archive for the ‘Setting design’ Category

This is genius: a circles within circles interpretation on the “rotating dungeon,” and the rotating portions of the map can be moved by the GM. My compliments to the creators. Da Vinci would be proud.

Mind Weave Role-Playing Platform

Update: An improved PDF with new art is available for free at DriveThruRPG.

This is the proudest dungeon I’ve ever built, and now that I’ve run it for everyone I run games for lately, it’s finally safe to post.ChangeableMaze

She might not look like much, but that’s partly that its an old sheet of paper glued to old cardboard and partly that its too big to scan all at once and my photoshop isn’t the best. All the same, please consider what I’m presenting here. There are seven rotating circles in this maze, and they overlap.

WorstMazeCircleThe biggest circle is the one that gets the player’s attention, but doesn’t cause a whole lot of confusion. The confusion comes from the circles that can break apart and leave pieces of themselves scattered across the maze. There’s nothing quite so bothersome as finding something you’ve seen before completely surrounded by things…

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Having read way-too-much politics and history lately, I needed a break and felt the urge for some classic science fiction. Andre Norton’s “The Star Born” fit the bill nicely.

Norton’s story begins as the tale of Dalgarth, a human teen on his coming-of-age trip with his “merman” (think large, humanoid otter) friend Ssuri. Humans are not native to this world, having come here centuries before after escaping a tyrannical government on Earth. Lacking what they needed to maintain their civilization, the “colonists” have retrogressed to a roughly Iron Age technology, but they do recall where they came from and why. On their new world, “Astra,” they made friends with the mermen, who communicate largely through telepathy. And, over the course of generations, humans began to develop similar abilities.

Problems arise for Dalgarth from two sources: first, he and Ssuri discover that the cruel “Those Others,” the former humanoid masters of Astra who destroyed their civilization in a global war and who genetically engineered the mermen and other races and used them for sport, have recovered on another continent and come to Dalgarth’s to reclaim their ancient and deadly technology. As Ssuri tells him, this could mean death for everyone else, including the humans.

The other problem comes from the arrival of a ship from Earth. The oppressive government was overthrown over a century before, but the war to do it was so devastating that Earth is only now recovered and re-entering space. The focus character here is the pilot, Raf Kurbi, who becomes our second main character.

The story lies not only in the defeat of “Those Others,” but also in the realization on both Dalgarth and Raf’s part that the humans of Astra and their cousins from Terra are no longer really the same people, that they are along different paths of development, and need to let time pass before they are again ready to meet.

I enjoyed this book, which I would rate for teens and young adults. The tech is by no means up-to-date (It was written in the early-mid 50s), but the themes are evergreen: exploration, friendship, and choices that have consequences. For gamers, Norton’s “Astra” makes a nice change from the standard pseudo-medieval worlds common in fantasy roleplaying games and is closer to the hobby’s actual literary roots.

Recommended as a pleasant diversion.

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Luca Signorelli, "Resurrection of the Flesh" (1499-1502)

Happy Easter, folks!

As most know, this is a day when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. But, while traveling about the Web this morning, I ran across something I don’t recall ever hearing before in all my years of  being raised Catholic, attending catechism, or going to Catholic schools.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, others rose from the dead, too:

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;

53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

And, as far as I know (I’m not religious, nor am I a scholar), that’s the last these “awakened saints” are ever mentioned. In fact, Matthew seems to be the only place in the New Testament that they appear.

That’s kind of a significant event, don’t you think? Who were these people, and what happened to them? Did they go back to their tombs? Did they live among men? Wander off to strange lands? Do they still live among us?

My apologies to anyone devout who might be offended by this speculation, but there’s some wonderful material for fiction and roleplaying games in this. Hidden saints. Do they have a mission? Are they waiting for something? Are they behind odd events that have happened in the last 2,000 years? And why is one contacting the player-characters, now?

Marvelous food for thought.

From Greyhawk Grognard

Related: Creepy Easter Bunnies.

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(This is one of several posts I’m saving from my LiveJournal account, which is soon to be deleted. Originally written on October 22, 2004, it describes a future-history roleplaying campaign that I’d love to run someday. It’s based largely on my fondness for 50s science fiction movies and the future as they saw it. Enjoy.)

A while back, I described a couple of RPG campaigns I’ve considered running over the years. I’ve had another in mind, but it’s a bit different from the last two: a future history of humanity, but the future is that seen from 50s science fiction. Right now, I have three stages or phases in mind.

Phase One

Title: “The Aliens Have Hitler’s Brain,” or, “Saturn By 1970!”

Inspirations: “The Thing,” “Earth vs. The Flying Saucers,” “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” “This Island Earth*,” “Project Orion,” and “GURPS: Atomic Horror.” *(Among other glorious movies from that period)

Overview of part A: This campaign would begin with deception. The players would be lead to believe they are playing an espionage game set in early post-war Germany and Austria, and that their opponents are Nazi holdouts and Communist agents. Indeed, early missions would be just that. Soon, however, they would get hints that maybe Der Fuehrer didn’t die in the ruins of Berlin, that he may instead be leading a resistance (that didn’t happen in our world) from a redoubt in the Alps, near where the German, Austrian, and Swiss borders meet. Investigations would reveal two things: the Nazis made a deal late in the war with some “foreign power” (really, the aliens), and that the Soviets are hunting Hitler for their own reasons. This part of the campaign climaxes as the players realize just who Nazi’s “foreign patrons” really are and race to capture him before a) he can unleash the alien wonder-weapons and b) the Soviets capture him. In the base, they also discover that Hitler is now a disembodied brain held in a bell-jar. The Soviets attack at the same time, and the time wasted dealing with them allows Hitler and the aliens to escape in their Foo Fighters, although their immediate plans are foiled. The governments involved hush the whole matter up to prevent a panic.

Overview of part B: several years pass, and the PCs have moved on to various careers — Intelligence, Science, Investigative Reporting. The careers that always seem to pop-up in those films. The Space Race is on, pitting the US against whatever Stalin is cooking up behind the Iron Curtain. While the public knows nothing of the events in Germany and thinks the Space Race is just a nationalist competition to get into orbit, those in the know realize the danger we face and have decided that we can’t wait passively for “them” to come back. Besides, there are rumors that Moscow would like to cut its own deal with the aliens. (I need a good name for them.) Over the intervening years there have been UFO sightings and incidents, convincing some that “they” are watching us, but nothing iron-clad. That is, not until America finds the right way into space: Orion ships. The aliens decide they can’t wait any longer and attack. For the climax, think of the big battle at the end of “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.” Humanity wins, but there’s no hiding the alien threat any longer.

What do the players do? They can be scientists in the space projects and those tasked to protect them from alien and Communist interference. Or they can be unaffiliated with these, but their jobs lead them into dangerous encounters, much like Gene Barry’s scientist in “War of the Worlds” or the flight crew in “The Thing.” Not all adventures would involve the Alien-Nazi plot, thus letting me work in other themes from 50s sci-fi, such as people and animals mutated by radiation (Inspirations: “Black Scorpions” and “THEM!”), or weird visitors from beyond who aren’t necessarily bad (“It came from Outer Space”).

Part B ends with the defeat of the aliens and the successful launching of the USS ORION, Earth’s first real spaceship.

Phase Two

Title: “Into the Dark”

Inspirations: “It! The Terror From Beyond Space,” Heinlein’s “Farmer in the Sky,” but I need others.

Overview: In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, mankind begins to colonize the Solar System and, thanks to the discovery of the “Atomic Star Drive” can now travel to nearby star systems in a matter of weeks or months. The aliens who so threatened us in the 50s are nowhere to be seen, though evidence of their presence is found on Mars, Titan, and in Alpha Centauri. They seem to have hastily evacuated after their defeat on Earth. There are hints, however, of a “war in the heavens,” the stars mankind cannot reach yet.

This phase allows the players to explore the wonders and dangers of space in a less military or conflict-oriented setting. Possible character types include colonists, Federal Marshals, and explorers, scientists, and archaeologists (to research the lost civilization of Mars and the abandoned alien bases). There is still conflict with the Soviet bloc, who have developed their own Orion drives and are making secretive trips of their own along with the newly-arrived Chinese. The phase ends with a devastating nuclear war between the USSR and China that grows into World War 3*. The aftermath sees the foundation of the Terran Federation.

*(Hey, I said this was inspired by 50s sci-fi, didn’t I? 🙂 )

Phase Three

Title: “Monsters, John! Monsters from the Id!” or “Star Trek the way it was meant to be”

Inspirations: “Forbidden Planet,” “Star Trek” (the original series), the Terro-Human future history of H. Beam Piper, various other old science fiction stories of “man out in space.”

Overview: It’s the year 2300 and Mankind is exploring its arm of the galaxy. Atomic power has been replaced by “anti-gravity” (or some sort of 50s hand-waving), and Earth ships now resemble the flying saucers they once fought against. We’ve found the aliens who once attacked us, and a Cold War now exists between us and their Empire. Naturally, Hitler is still alive; alien tech has kept his brain healthy. He is now the de facto ruler of their Empire, plotting his revenge. Mankind encounters new civilizations, some more advanced, some less.

Players could be explorers and scouts, sent to find new worlds for colonization, or the crew of a Federation saucer sent to find out what happened to them. They could be diplomats sent to find allies among the stars to hold off the threat of the “Stern Reich.” The major “feel” of this campaign should be that, even though we can travel the stars, space is still vast and empty. The setting should never feel crowded, nor should the PCs feel that they can just zip back to Earth or radio for help at a moment’s notice. They should feel like they are out on a limb by themselves, a limb that could break at any moment.

I’m not sure how this phase ends.

As you can see, phases two and three are less-developed than phase one. I need to fool around with the ideas some more and firm up what I want while still leaving plenty of opportunity for players to do what they want. (The eternal dilemma of the GM) Suggestions and ideas for source material that fits the “Atomic Era” view of the future would be welcome.

Oh, as for game systems, I had originally envisioned GURPS, but I haven’t bought 4th edition. Of course I could use 3rd edition, but now I’m leaning toward making it a HERO campaign with some optional rules to give it a grittier feel.

Ta for now!

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