Monday, August 17, 2015

Nameless Cults II

CULT OF NYARLATHOTEP (or Thee Church of Starry Wisdom)

No. Appearing: 1d8
Alignment: Chaotic
Move: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 11+
Hit Dice: 1-4
Attacks: 1
Save: Magic User
Morale: 12
Experience: 7-190

The worshippers of the Crawling Chaos, the Ebony Man, the inscrutable tormentor of mankind known as Nyarlathotep, gather at Thee Church of Starry Wisdom. It is the most well-known of the ancient cults, and semi-tolerated where it appears - in a mountain cave, or a dungeon, or a few miles from a village amongst the downs - only for the cult's healing magics. It is rumoured they can cure afflictions which are beyond even the power of the followers of the Christ Jesus, and many desperate folks will seek them out when other options have failed.

The problem is they're totally intolerable. They just won't leave you alone - once you've been to their temple and been healed or helped in any way (even after you've paid them), they will never stop trying to convert you. In the most awkward ways possible, maybe by showing up in town when you're trying to have a drink and party, or rolling up behind you in the dungeon and loudly proselytizing, catching the attention of nearby monsters. They might try to kill you in the course of their normal cultish activities, but during the fight they'll be lecturing you still. At all times, they pepper their dialogues with terrible New Age speak and motivational slogans: "Be the change you want to see in the world!" "Life is an amazing adventure!" stuff like that. Use this. Everybody would hate them even if they weren't servants of the Ancient Ones.

"Come on in, we're SO happy you could make it!"
They wear the attire of ordinary English folks in order to blend in with the populace, but due to their master's mind-bending revelations re: space and time, their clothing is always from the wrong era - they never actually blend in. In Arthur's Britain they are dressed like 19th-20th century country squires, all waistcoats and pocket watches and tweed. They wear animal masks to indicate their rank - predatory and dangerous animals are the low-HD supplicants and initiates, and every increase in status uses smaller and less dangerous animals, until the high priests are wearing mouse, rabbit and hedgehog masks.

During combat, their AC is 11 until they get surprise or win an initiative roll, and then their minds are filled with Nyarlathotep's revelation of angles and distances, making them harder to hit. Add 1 AC for every round they go first - maximum bonus is equal to the HD of the highest-ranking cultist around.
Nyarlathotep has gifted his acolytes with additional magical abilities as well - they can cast spells as a Magic-User of level equal to their hit dice, regardless of their actual class (if any). I give them spells from a special "dungeon-only" spell list the PCs don't have access to.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Nameless Cults I

A few things I noticed after dusting off my King Arthur vs. Chthulhu Labyrinth Lord game notes.
a) I didn't have as much written down as I thought, and
b) a lot of the core concepts of the setting are at stark odds with each other, and
c) there is so much other cool stuff I want to CRAM in, it makes it even worse.

But there are a few things I put together when I started working on this setting and they're really cool and shareable. I'll start with some of the cultist enemies, based on one of my fave bands:

(AKA The Blind Idiot God, The Nuclear Chaos, The Daemon Sultan)

Hats... of CHAOS
No. Appearing: 1d4 
Alignment: Chaotic 
Move: 120’ (40’) 
Armor Class: 13 
Hit Dice: 3-6 
Attacks: 1 
Save: Magic User   
Morale: 12  
Experience: 80 - 820

The cultists of Azathoth are the *really* weird ones. They will appear, seemingly out of nowhere, and
make ominous statements (some true, some false, all vague and incomprehensible) in a grinding old-man whisper. Go ahead and use some psychedelic rock lyrics or a few lines from your favorite experimental novel. They may attack, or simply say their piece and leave. Their motives are inscrutable and the rites they conduct have never been observed. The lower-ranking members wear nooses and executioners' hoods. As cultists increase in rank (and Hit Dice), they wear more elaborate headgear and costumes.

Lurking in a cave like proper tough guys.
As weapons, they use accursed bone flutes that produce monotonous whines, drums of stretched human skin, violins bent and twisted into near-unplayability, and the occasional large bell or gong from distant lands. Playing these instruments damages anyone within earshot with the soul-twisting melodies of chaos. Save vs. death or take 1d6 from flutes or violins, 1d8 from drums and 1d10 from large bells (the artillery piece!). The instruments have no magical property in themselves and not all of them even play regular music.

High-ranking Azathothian right here.
Their ability to show up unexpectedly isn't just a goofy narrative convention, or coincidence - they can travel through shadows and dark corners like a Dimension Door, fading into one and appearing out of another within 100 feet, but only if both locations are not being observed directly. They can't appear or disappear right before your eyes, but it's easy for them to sneak up on you or escape combat if they can get around a corner.

EDIT: Here we go, this is what Azathoth up in your shizzito should sound and feel like:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Steroid Goats and other pictures

Sometimes I do this weird thing where I am a big fan of something, but I forget that I like it so much. Then years later I'm looking through my CD shelf, or browsing around the internet or in my bookshelf and think:

"HOLY FUCKING CHRIST this is fantastic, my whole life has been wasted whenever I wasn't [doing/reading/listening to this], how did I forget about this?" I'm sure it's just life in the 21st century and mass distractions. It's weird, but that's how I feel today.

Because another key part of this rapidly less-Arthurian than I thought game (which I had forgotten about until the other day) will be BLACK METAL. I think this is why I picked up on Labyrinth Lord, the illustrations (especially of Orcus) look like some of the '80s and '90s B&W black metal album art. Here are some pictures to indicate what I mean. Some of these are huge, click on them for full-size:


The grand-daddy of them all.

Go ahead, tell me about how you don't want to play in this game. I'll wait.

Alignment: CHAOTIC


"I dunno guys. This seems pretty dangerous." Note the wizard conjuring this shit in the bottom left corner.


Inside the dungeon, we shall only listen to black/death like Teitanblood, Antediluvian, Mitochondrion, Portal, Blut Aus Nord, AEvangelist, Conqueror, Blasphemy, maybe some Demilich or Ulcerate and the occasional old Rotting Christ and Mortuary Drape to lighten things up. Everybody's gonna hate it but me!

Now I try to mash that stuff together with


This is the Arthurian artwork style I'm accustomed to. It looks great on a canvas, but the world just seems too damned polished and friendly - I need something dirtier, a place adventurers can trip over things and do stupid shit, for regular people and not supermen. We need a tiny bit of this, but NOT much.
This is good. It's still brightly coloured and undangerous-looking, but we can see the guy's face - he's tired and pissed off, he looks human. This could be any couple of fighters in plate mail.

More medieval, a bit more legit. I like the dark and gnarled forest here - this is the English wilderness I want, still wild and trackless.
Nope, too far back in time! Tough to get turned on by this.

This is getting warmer! Murky and spooky, feels like classic D&D. Some kind of undead happening here, Galahad might be in the shit!
Gustave Dore is the man to beat when it comes to pure desolation. Regular guy dying in the middle of nowhere.

Yeah, H J Ford is harsh as fuck. This is great. Might as well be right out of a 1st Edition book.
It's all about the black & white. Mournful maidens, mystical cauldron, hazy structures in the background. No giant gilded cities or spotless ubermensch knights here.

That wasn't too hard actually! It's not only about the shining castles. This gives me lots of brain-fodder to work with. Dropping King Arthur down a few notches, gritting it up, taking away some of the domestication that comes with the complete and total reign of a golden age in the kingdom.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the best time to set this game would be while Arthur still hasn't solidified his reign. Maybe he's just one powerful warlord among many; maybe he doesn't have as much manpower as he needs, and is out looking to fill his round table; maybe he is busy trying to repel the Angles and Saxons from Britain's shores wherever he can, and doesn't have time to run a country. Maybe he's fighting a constant battle against the snake-men, who were also pulling the strings of the Roman Empire, and want Britain back now that the legions have pulled out. Any way you slice it, this is more interesting than peacetime, and leaves the PCs more room to strut around poking their heads into caves and crypts.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Time waits for no DM

Jeez, again I let things slide so terribly! A few shakeups in life and it all just goes pear-shaped. Well, I have once again dusted off this Arthurian / Realms of Crawling Chaos game and I'm thinking of new ways to improve it. There is still a fundamental, gaping difference in core assumptions between two settings that I'm endeavoring to mash together. I feel like something will suffer greatly in the translation, yet I persist because it's all the stuff I like, and if I can't have ice cream on my pizza then I'm not hungry.

Still toying with the idea of taking out Clerics. They are essential in some ways, but it would add to the mystique of all the weird cults of the Ancient Ones if you had to nervously go in to their creepy church and listen to a lecture about Yog-Sothoth before any healing could happen. Also, God doesn't really care about you. On the flip side, religion is a huge deal in Arthur's world - but even there the priests just stay in church, they don't go around kicking ass and doing quests. How about relations between the religions? This goes to the political climate and all those decisions and possibilities, but how about the Elder Gods? How are they viewed, by whoever actually knows about them?

And what about that damn political climate? Do I set the game during Arthur's rise to power, before the Round Table is established? It's easier for adventurers to distinguish themselves, or change the world in some way, or get into and out of trouble, because it's still complete chaos after the Roman withdrawal. On the other hand, why bother calling it 'Arthurian' if Camelot isn't even built? Although the rule of law during Arthur's time doesn't leave much room for standard PC behavior - and it might be tough to say "fuck those city guards anyway" when you know your character lives under the rule of a perfect king.
More bloody details to obsess over. Some of these things I "decided" already, and have now second-guessed. Maybe better to focus back on the small things, like the dungeon where most of the game happens!

Well, this is the last iteration of my one-page newbie chargen sheet, just for laughs. Subject to change as always, but this is what the players saw the last time I ran the game. It's great because everyone knows what's up without rulebooks or explanations or edition-fights. Easy, takes no time and we can move on to playing the damn game.

*Note: ideas relentlessly cribbed from everyone and everywhere - you will probably see something familiar*


Stats: Roll 3d6 straight down the line. 8 and below or 13 and up gets you modifiers.
You can get bonus XP for *low* prime requisites in your class (3-5 +10%, 6-8 +5%).

Fighters: STR, 1d8 HP, any armor/shield, only class to use Magic Swords.
Clerics: WIS, 1d6 HP, any armor/shield, turn undead, follow your god’s dictates.
Magic-Users: INT, 1d4 HP, no armor, spellbook has 1d3 1st-levels, 1 2nd-level.
Dwarves: STR, 1d8 HP, infravision 60 ft, stonecunning 2/6, any armor/shield. Germanic. Pale, corpse-like skin with black eyes and hair. Their voices sound like the buzzing of bees, and they are almost as tall as humans but constantly stoop & hunch over.
Goblins (aka Boggarts, Brownies, Gnomes, Bogies, etc): CON/DEX, 1d6 HP, no shields, hide (wilderness 90%, underground 2/6), +1 on missile attacks. Short tough fucks who live outdoors, in dungeons and in remote areas. Native to Britain. Gnarled dark rumpelstiltskin lookalikes, crazy shit-disturbers who love danger and treasure.
Elves: STR/INT, 1d6 HP, infravision 60ft, secret doors 2/6, no shields, 1d2 1st-level spells. Fae-folk with no consistent appearance, varies by CHA and random tables are involved. Between sessions, elves reside in their native regions of Annwn, otherwise inaccessible.
Subhumans: STR, 1d8 HP, any armor/shield, secret doors 2/6, +2 save vs. poison. With large brow ridges and pronounced primate canines, they can pass as ugly or degenerate humans, but if their true heritage were ever discovered...?
Sea Bloods: STR/WIS, 1d6 HP, any armor/shield, secret doors 2/6. From the lineage of the Deep Ones. They might not know their true origins. Gradually develop a distinctive “fishy” appearance over time. Fighters with innate clerical magic.

Alignment: Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic. Affects religion and interaction with some NPCs.

You Hail From: roll and tell me your number: Humans/Subhumans roll 1d50; Dwarves roll 1d8; Goblins roll 1d40; Sea Bloods roll 1d12; Elves aren’t from Earth - pick or roll anyway you like. Consult the table here.

Languages: Everyone gets 2 languages - their native, and one of their choice (Brythonic, Irish, French, Anglish, Saxon) Only magic-users get extras for high INT, they pick from a special list.

Christianity: (Jesus, Satan, Catharism, Anti-Nicene Heresy)
Germanic Paganism: (Thor, Odin, Tyr, Loki, Balder, Heimdall, etc)
British Paganism: (Lugh, Brighid, Morrigan, Arawn, etc)
Outer Gods/Old Ones: (Esoteric Order of Dagon, Church of Starry Wisdom, Cthulhu Cult, etc)

Spells: roll 1d12 for each spell you know, tell me each result.

Social Class: Roll 3d6 for your Social Class - 11 or higher you’re a knight, 18 you are a Prince or Princess! Don’t expect many freebies though. Multiply this number by 10 for your starting cash.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Pitch

Ok guys, so here is my opening blurb for the Arthurian/Weird/Fairytale game. I'll refer players to this as I go along for a very quick primer.


"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

Long before men raised themselves above their ape cousins, the Ancient Ones held sway over the Earth. Serpent-men, Deep Ones and other nameless things subjugated all life and dedicated it to the adoration of those blasted names - Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Dagon, Yog-Sothoth. They are forgotten today, but not gone. The sorcerous serpent-men thrive in Scotland, north of the Antonine Wall. The Deep Ones still swim through the bones of ships, salvaging gold to tempt fishermen into hideous pacts. The hidden cults of Cthulhu struggle to destroy society from within. The gods of men have power but it is weak and temporary; the Outer Darkness is eternally strong.

“Rex quon dam, Rex que futurus”

One hope exists. High King Arthur, only eighteen, has just defeated the last of the rebel British warlords and their Saxon allies at the battle of Mount Badon. He travels the country recruiting the strongest knights for his Round Table and has begun his new castle at Camelot. His soldiers patrol the highways, making safe travel and trade possible in the some parts of the kingdom. Humans, demihumans, and subhumans of all religions and creeds live together (sometimes uneasily) under the fragile Pax Arthuriana.

"Hir yw'r dydd a hir yw'r nos, a hir yw aros Arawn"

Britain is still wild. Giants, trolls, dragons and more roam the woods and hills. Beneath the kingdom lies the mythical otherworld called Annwn (an’oon), ruled by the death god Arawn. Existing in mythical, not physical space, it conforms to no rules of geography or distance. A pit, a well, a mineshaft, a crypt, a cave, even your root cellar - all of these and more lead to the underworld. Faeries, talking animals, madmen, the living dead and demons alike make Annwn their home, and death is quick for the unprepared - but one might find anything in those endless tunnels - even treasures and magic said to outshine the High King’s hoard...

The round table is busy, the High King has better things to do. Your characters are mercenaries, adventurers, freebooters and landless gentry looking to get money, see some action and make a name for themselves. What are you waiting for? Get in the dungeon!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

infrequent blogs

Well, shit - I got a new job last year and picked up my guitar again - where has the time gone? Apologies are due to Jez, Erik, Stefan and the other dudes who I was in the middle of a conversation with when I up and vanished. Next time I'll let you know what's going on - and hopefully not disappear for a year.

I haven't played much of my home game since last spring, but I still toss ideas for games around in my head all the time. I ran a one-shot of my proposed Arthurian Labyrinth Lord game almost a year back, and it was... OK.

After some reflection, the setting needed some changes - it's back on the drawing board. One of the big improvements was adding Realms of Crawling Chaos to the mix. Now I have a setting that's still familiar enough to be easily communicated, but is gaining much-needed variety. I'm going to scrap the one-shot dungeon I wrote, and use a few parts in building a MEGADUNGEON beneath the Isle of Wight.

Actually, the megadungeon will extend underneath all of Britain.

Right now the setting is less "Arthurian high fantasy" and more like:

You might say those first two are pretty similar. The Arthurian heroic fantasy milieu is closely related to Welsh and Irish folktales, but actually the concept of Arawn's 'otherworld' or a fairyland will be stretched to include not only classic D&D stuff like rust monsters and gelatinous cubes, but also the kind of gonzo shit I love to see on MMSFP. So while the Arthurian influence will govern the cities and wilderness of primeval mythic Britain, the folktale/fairyland stuff will take over underground - while the Cthulhian, Weird Tales shit will be stuck in all the hard-to-reach corners.

I have been crawling my favorite blogs (and some really cool ones that are new to me) for monsters and other ideas that fit the bill. Some of my older Arthurian posts are now inaccurate; the speed hireling table and the "Where do you hail from?" table specifically. I will update them in a while, if I am ever done my endless fiddling with the fucking things.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

my "Appendix N"...

since young times
(the one you can't see because of glare is Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain)
I don't know why I never thought of putting all these together before.