23 October 2016

Planar NPC: Xix Ixi Xix

Xix Ixi Xix

A tangle of tentacles and eyes floats a few feet above the ground, with a translucent image of a shimmering, twitching, vaguely humanoid shape projecting out of device it holds.

CR 3; XP  800
N Medium Aberration (extraplanar)
Init +0; Senses blindsight 60 ft., darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +10

AC 15, touch 10, flat-footed 15 (+5 natural)
hp 32 (5d8+10); regeneration 10 (electricity)
Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +6
Defensive Abilities restorative regrowth; Immune sleep
Weakness afraid of storms

Speed fly 20 ft. (perfect), swim 30 ft.
Melee 3 tentacles +5 (1d4+2)

Str 14, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 15, Cha 13
Base Atk +3; CMB +5; CMD 15 (can't be tripped)
Skills Craft (incomprehensible alien art) +10, Diplomacy +6, Fly +16, Perception +10, Profession (untranslatable extraplanar vocation) +10, Swim +18
Language Aklo; telepathy 10 ft.
SQ alien sustenance, no breath

Environment any
Organization unique
Treasure standard (alien device that allows Xix to comprehend languages and project simple holographic images)

Special Abilities

Afraid Of Storms (Ex) Lightnings are deadly threat to otherwise rather resilient Ixi, who is rightfully shaken while within the area of a storm, natural or artificial.

Alien Sustenance (Ex) Xix does not seem to eat or drink anything resembling normal food or liquid.

Restorative Regrowth (Ex) While the Xix's regeneration remains active, it heals 1 point of ability damage per round and can remove one of the following conditions at the beginning of Ixi's turn: blinded, cowering, dazed, dazzled, deafened, diseased, bleeding, frightened, nauseated, panicked, paralyzed, poisoned, sickened, staggered, stunned, or unconscious. It can't remove curse effects, however.

Xix Ixi Xix is a traveler from another, significantly distinct universe. Xix ventured forth driven by curiosity and wish to experience art from other dimensions. It seems that Xix's universe does not contain humanoid life (or anything that wouldn't be qualified as aberration to be blunt) and takes the form of a vast space filled with a fluid of varied density as well as occasional bubble of gas with rocks floating within. This description could be an error in translation of Xix's less than perfect understanding of already complex and hard to translate Aklo.

Despite minor issues in communication and significant biological and cultural differences, Xix is a very chummy alien entity, friendly to every being encountered, insatiably curious, often to the point of asking questions that would be deemed improper. Xix is also prone to interpreting everything in terms of art.

16 October 2016

Short Story: On A Road To Nowhere

Post-Singularity Stasis: A slow and omnipresent freeze of human-driven scientific and technological technological progress after the computational singularity and following emergence of Post-Singularity Intelligences. Commonly attributed to prevalent sense of human inability to meaningfully compete with PSIs.

Post-Singularity. An ever present and overused catch-phrase. Post-Singularity Intelligences, Post-Singularity Depression, Post-Singularity Psychosis, Post-Singularity Crisis, Post-Singularity this, Post-Singularity that, Post-Singularity my ass. And yet, we live on, with little change to our own lives, except for those black box technologies springing here and there. We live on, thrown across the stars by uncaring gods of our own making. Whatever. We’ll live on. We don’t need them.
Post-Singularity Denial Syndrome: A psychological condition manifesting as inability to comprehend, acknowledge, or accept changes to human culture, lifestyle, and future prospects caused directly and indirectly by computational singularity and the following rise of Post-Singularity Intelligences.

The sky hues was stretching from turquoise, blue to violet, with pink and orange highlights shimmering on clouds. The Twin could be seen as a far away dot of light above the horizon, dwarfed by the much closer moons. The landscape of brown and tan was serene and calm. Not calm enough to bring peace to the mayor. She turned away from the windows to face the Council.

“Ma'am. Councilors.” The sheriff still stood with his pad rolled in his hands. “The news are… Not good.”

“That’s an understatement of the year, Okafor! Not good?! They are bloody terrible!” Elder Weissberg quipped. “We are barely past midyear, and the losses already exceeded growth! There won’t be more children this year but I am pretty sure more will leave, or, or… Die. We are losing people faster than they are born. How are we are supposed to survive, not even thrill, but merely survive?!” The oldest man in the room was seething with anger.

“Thank you, Ivan. We all know how the situation looks like.”

Councilor Xiu nodded and added “It’s terrible, yes, but what can we really do about it? Try to convince people to have more children? Force them to have more children?!”

“Maybe we should! The existence of this settlement is at stake. We have to protect it!” Weissberg rage wasn’t abetted by the comment. He wasn’t eager to stop either. “We could condemn the suicides! We could forbid getting on the train or leaving for the wastes! We…”

The sheriff cut in “Stop that crap, Ivan. Are we going to chain people? Are we going to take away their freedom of choice?! You really think that if you prevent them from leaving they will nicely sit here and breed for your merriment? Hell they do! They’ll do exactly the same thing as the rest that gave up, but couldn’t take themselves to leave! They will kill themselves! It was exactly what Radek and Bethy done today! Radek’s mother was complaining that she won’t let them leave for the city, she blackmailed them, she threatened them she will kill herself if they leave, so instead of living for the city, they killed themselves! Because they felt they could not live here, because they felt that death is better than living here…”

Everyone looked at him shocked, even the murmur that was slowly growing across the council when Weissberg spoke calmed down. A few people looked at mrs. Kotz, Radek’s mother. The older woman face was deathly pale, her tightly closed mouth a mere line. She was visibly trembling.

So is that it? Have we finally lost? Have we lost the fight against the decadence of metropoles and the nihilism of the wastelands? Was our choice to have meaningful lives wrong? Is that it?!”

“You answered yourself, Ivan! Our choice! It was our choice! Choice of the elders! The kids, the next generations, they hadn’t made the choice to live here. We made it.” The sheriff turned around to look on others “And what meaningful lives are those? We are working our asses producing manually what could be made by a machine in a blink of an eye. You call that meaningful? Knowing that whatever you do, can be done better, faster, more efficiently, without your sweat… Where is the meaning in all this? Oh, it’s work, you say. It has a special meaning, you say. Bullshit! There is no meaning in it! It’s going through the motions to keep your mind off the truth that we are bloody obsolete! Those shit-heads in the wastelands know this and don’t care. Don’t care about anything at all. The fuckers in the metropoles know this too so at least they try to enjoy themselves.”

The mayor whispered under her breath “Oh, no, Albert, not you too…”

“But we, we pretend that nothing happened! We pretend that our effort means something! We think that if we pretend strongly enough that everything is like it was before then it will be so… You know… You want to live that way? It’s your choice, all right. I do it too… But we can’t… We don’t have the right to force it onto others just because seeing others choose differently than us makes us uncomfortable, makes us question our choice.”

The people were shaken and avoided staring on each other. Only the mayor raised her eyes and spoke with deep sadness in her voice  “That was your resignation speech, Albert, wasn’t it?”

“I’d wish, but no, it wasn’t. I need to stay here, and keep an eye on you. I need to be sure everyone can make their own choice, that you won’t go with the bullshit that came to Ivan’s mind. I know more of you thought of it too… So at least I have still something to do with my life. Defending the choice of others.”

12 October 2016

Colossal Beasts

Zenith Games just released The Colossal Creatures Bestiary.

Currently available on Paizo and RPGNow.

The word of the day is Arachnocthonus, a gigantic spider-like entity with lava seeping through the cracks and joints of its stony carapace...

11 October 2016

Owen KC Stephens's 100 Questions For Your Group: Questions 41-50

Questions 1–10
Questions 11–20
Questions 21–30
Questions 31-40

Questions can be found here.

#41. Have you ever played an RPG sessions where the GM wore a cape (as is often represented on TV shows that include an rpg-ing character)? Has your GM ever worn anything distinctive during a game? would you enjoy a GM wearing something distinctive, or would you just think it’s silly and distracting?

The closest was the GM wearing a monk's robe and a stick. I don't feel that improves the session in any way, and in case of more silly vestments, such as the aforementioned cape it would be more distracting than helpful. I would have to be paid to wear something like this while GMing, but personally I generally dislike of dressing up myself (at to the point of not going for parties when organizers insisted on dressing up being the theme)...

#42. What’s your favorite furniture arrangement for rpg playing? Do you like a big table with dinning chairs, or prefer sofas and a coffee table? Does your preference vary based on the game system or type of encounter?

Not terribly important as long as it's comfortable for everyone most of the time. Majority of games I participate are combination of chairs, sofas, and sitting on beds, as the space allows—games are adjusted to fit living conditions more than the other way. The only specific preference is tied to use of playmats, as discussed in question #44.

#43. Do you roll your dice in a dice tray? Using a dice tower? Do you need a lot of space for your dice? If playing a diceless game or one with cards, do those need special space?
Nope. No (what is it anyway? I heard the term but I have no idea what it is, to be honest). Not much space needed for dice. Snacks usually occupy much more of available space than dice. Card-based games require more space. The playmat-using games require a lot, but those are currently at hiatus for me until the future arrangements or a new group assembling to play them.

#44. Do you enjoy using a playmat and miniatures for your RPG sessions? Does it depend on the game system? Do you use them only during fights, or in any type of encounter? Do you like 3D terrain? Do you have a preference between printed maps and blank maps a GM can draw on?
System-dependent. Specifically Pathfinder/3rd edition of D&D are the only games where I used playmat and miniatures/tokens regularly. Only used during fights or dungeon crawling. 3D terrain is nice to look on but would be rather impractical with the wide array of locations that appear in games I play and GM. I have single printed map I got as a birthday present. Blank map to draw on is much more practical (if less flashy). I have a blank playmat fitting the coffee table my gamer roommates left when they were moving out.

#45. Have you ever used mood lighting in an rpg sessions? Did you enjoy it? What kind of mood lighting do you think might enhance a horror-themed rpg encounter? Exploration-themed? Combat? Diplomacy?
Yes, adjusting the lightning to the session general theme is technique often used by people I play with, including use of various kinds of lamps and candles. I focus less on it myself when I GM, though.

#46. Do you enjoy music during an rpg session? Does the type of music and rpg session need to match? What kind of music do you think would enhance an rpg campaign you are currently playing? What music that you otherwise enjoy would you not like to have playing during an rpg session?
Yes. Yes. The GM is already using various music for both Aphalon and Dresden Files games. I use it less, though he is at advantage because we usually play at his place while I would have to bring my own music. Any music I enjoy would be inappropriate when not fitting the style, genre, theme, and mood of the particular session.

#47. Have you played an rpg session enhanced with soundboards or sound effects? Did you enjoy it? What do you think might make sound effects better for an rpg session? What would make them less fun?
I don't think so. I'd be wary of it much more than of background music.

#48. Have you played in an rpg session with other efforts to set a tone in the environment beyond miniatures, lights, and sounds? Can you imagine an rpg session be enhanced by other props, or scents, or other theatrics? What would you like to try during an rpg session that you’ve never experienced?
Scented candles or incenses, hand-written or printed letters, fitting food and beverages, cell phone with a number to an informant, slavering troll screaming (well, that was GM's child actually).

Personally I don't feel like experimenting with props. It can give a lot of fun to players but it distracts me as a GM. I prefer to focus on the game and plot itself more.

#49. Do you mind when people not playing the game watch an rpg session? If you don’t mind, what might make you prefer to not have a guest? If you do mind, what could a guest do to alleviate your concerns?
If those are people I know and don't disrupt, it's not a problem. I watched a lot of session of my friends (though I can't say that I am 100% innocent of any disruptions that happened). As a GM I'd want to be sure that all of the players are ok with having someone watch them playing. If the watchers will start causing issues I'd either ask them to leave (or if it wasn't possible) I'd paused the game and move it to a more private place.

#50. Does it matter to you if you have a regular place to play rpgs? Or is any reasonable play space fine, even if the same campaign has to hop from locale to locale?

Experience tells me that regular place is better than locale-hopping, though I done that as well. Organizing games is easier with regular place, though I also participated in spontaneous and not so spontaneous games in pubs or even on a random desk in the park.

09 October 2016

Monster: Chameleon Cat

Chameleon Cat

The fur of this lean, dog-sized cat shifts its coloration and pattern to match its surroundings. It ears, neck, and bushy tail seem to be longer than in case of other cats, at least when visible.

CR 4; XP 1,200
N Small Magical Beast
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +14

AC 18, touch 15, flat-footed 14 (+4 Dex, +3 natural, +1 size)
hp 37 (5d10+10)
Fort +6, Ref +8, Will +3

Defensive Abilities chameleon stride

Speed 40 ft., climb 40 ft.
Melee bite +8 (1d4+2), 2 claws +8 (1d4+2)

Special Attacks sudden attack

Str 14, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 15, Cha 11

Base Atk +5; CMB +6; CMD 20 (24 vs. trip)
Feats Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Improved Initiative
Skills Acrobatics +16, Climb +10, Perception +14, Stealth +20; Racial Bonus +4 Acrobatics, +4 Perception, +4 Stealth

Languages understands Sylvan

Environment temperate woodlands and hills

Organization single or a pair
Treasure incidental

Special Abilities

Chameleon Stride (Ex) A chameleon cat's fur shifts its color and pattern making it fade into its background. A chameleon cat has +4 racial bonus to Stealth checks and concealment against creatures more than 5 feet away.

Sudden Attack (Ex) A chameleon cat can make a lightning fast attack by leaping out of hiding, as if using Spring Attack feat. If the chameleon cat was hidden from the target at the beginning of the action, the target does not expect the attack, considers the cat an ally, or is denied his Dexterity bonus to AC, the attack deals 3d6 points of additional precision damage. Abilities that prevent losing Dexterity bonus to AC or bonus damage from sneak attacks prevent this damage.

Chameleon cats are cunning predators, often considered to be creatures of the faerie otherworld. Curious and capricious, they seem to sport a weird sense of humor, sometimes with a slight hint of cruelty. They adore to play with their prey, and trick and prank sapient passersby.

Some of their kind seem to be even smarter and capable of speech. They tend to be even more capricious, snarky, and capable of wielding minor magic. They have CR 5, advanced template and can use mage hand, message, and prestidigitation at will as spell-like abilities.

04 October 2016

Owen KC Stephens's 100 Questions For Your Group: Questions 31-40

Questions 1–10
Questions 11–20

Questions 21–30

The next 10 questions posted by Owen.

#31. Name a movie you don’t like that you think would be fun to play through as a roleplaying game sessions. Name a movie you love you think wouldn’t be fun as an rpg session.

Hard one. I don't recall much movies that I didn't like (not that they weren't, more like I don't recall them) that I'd feel to be material for great sessions...

A movie I love that wouldn't be a fun session? I'd go with Flesh And Blood. Paul Verhoeven, Rutger Hauer, and Jessica Jason Leigh. Rape (and the woman later falling for her rapist) is a crucial plot point... Though it could be cut out, and certain plot points changed for a decent session.

#32. If you had to choose, on a specific night, between a satisfying conclusion to a storyline, or a major advancement of the rule-supported effectiveness of your character, which would you be more likely to select? What factors could alter that situation?

Gah, the choices, the choices... It would really dependent on the game and character played, the style of the game... But if the game was really absorbing me with its story, then satisfying conclusion to the story... Though in the past I tried to build the characters in the way were their advancement was strongly related to the storyline.

#33. What’s something that happens in genre fiction a lot that never (or almost never) happens in a roleplaying game, and you’d like to experience in an rpg.

There are things that don't happen in roleplaying games? (besides those that omitted because they are not particularly thrilling in real live and assumed to take place in the background)

#34. What’s something that happens a lot in roleplaying games, that you would rather not experience again (for whatever reason, and don’t feel you must explain).

Having a dark-side to your character that arbitrarily grows on a failed roll instead of voluntary choices of the character (such as Wraith's Shadow, though my particular issue is with the Psionic Urge in Fading Suns where I played a dedicated psychic who went a long way to avoid increasing urge and temptations to call upon its powers just to have it increase in a few critical moments by merely rolling a 20 on d20... I think it was the only time I threw a tantrum during a game).

#35. What is a specific event that occurred in an RPG session that at first you didn’t think you’d enjoy, but you did. Discuss why it exceeded your expectations.

Being infected with a bioengineered disease that slowly hardened skin and other soft tissues... It took months to get rid off. By mastering psychic path of body functions control (think Prana Bindu but more powerful).

#36. Discuss a game session you were looking forward to that you did not enjoy. Discuss why you didn’t enjoy it, and what you think could have been handled differently to make it more fun.

A few sessions being continuation of previous sessions where I had plans to solve the crisis presented earlier, with those plans being invalidated by either new context, actions of other players, or my own inability to follow with the plans. The primary issue was me being too optimistic, and promising myself too much, and ignoring possible input from others.

#37. How much backstory do you normally give your characters (PCs or major NPCs)? Why? How would you feel about being asked to produce a different amount (both more, and less)?

Not a lot usually. Most of my characters had some basic background with majority of their story written by the game events. My longest played character (nine years, I think) started the game as "a filthy rich dilettante playboy cavalier, a bastard of an al-Malik count with patent of nobility but no actual title". When a group of new players joined the campaign after two or three years, he was already a celebrity in-game (and Imperial Propaganda poster boy, *sigh* that was annoying) and even became sort of celebrity out of game among the players... All thanks to his achievements (overblown by propaganda and both player characters and NPCs repeating stories about him, not always accurately).

I had another character in Legend Of Five Rings who had a complex family history (being a whole minor clan, destroyed by a rival clan). It even included clan creation legend.

Most of my characters are closer to the former than the later, however. I can try to provide more background if needed but it might rely on being pressed by GMs depending upon time scale we operate in (the exact status of the former character's parents wasn't clarified until the GM threatened me to make decision without my input but we were operating on a very long scale, planning sessions in weeks in advance and the story lines in months in advance). Also, in other cases where I am less invested into character I might be unmoved by that threat.

#38. Is there a kind of story element you’d love to see in a game you are currently playing you feel that game’s rules don’t handle well? Do you have an idea for rules to handle it?

I am currently playing Dresden Files game using Fate rules... It's all about negotiation with GM and very story-oriented. I don't think there is a story element that could not be introduced due to rules limitations.

The other game I play is 5th edition of D&D and I wield a sword that belonged to imperial family of long gone empire and, according to the sword itself I am a descendant of the imperial family... The 5th edition rules could handle ancestral weapons that develop new qualities and abilities better. I might write some in the future. Maybe even use DM's Guild to publish them? Hmmm... *scribble-scribble*

There is a potential story element that is handled poorly by 5th edition, namely long term consequences, injuries, and afflictions, but I wouldn't say that I'd actually love to see them in game.

#39. Is there a kind of story element you feel is caused by the rules of a game you are currently playing that you’d rather have less of, or avoid entirely? Do you have ideas how to avoid that rules element in that game system?

Well, the current GMs I am playing with are rather strongly in the favor of "Not letting the rules come in the way of the story" game philosophy so it's not really an issue as far as I can tell. Even the one who just started GMing and was initially rather rule strict is coming to our side (it's not like she is attracted to this philosophy by having her GM powers less limited by rules, nope, it must be something else).

There might be some minor glitches due to exercise of existing rules but nothing really problematic...

#40. Discuss what kinds of themes a roleplaying game can have. What are some of your favorite themes? Which themes do you dislike, or are bored with?

What kind of themes can roleplaying game have? Absolutely any, at least as they are presented interestingly. Some might be harder to be made interesting, some might be easier. Some might be near impossible to be truly interesting. A right GM and a right group combination might even make a tea party-themed session interesting. Actually we might have done that in Fading Suns, thanks to number of plot lines converging in the right place and right time and the personal interest we had vested in certain NPCs and PCs present.

What themes I dislike? Moving mundane people to magical worlds, with certain exceptions (you are really a third generation prince of Amber). Making all the worlds part of single meta-universe. I like many crossover and multiworld settings, but I don't like trying to force all settings and multi-settings into a single interconnected setting. I want clusters of worlds, genres, themes, to be separate from each other (aside of Amber, but it should be its own world with many elements copied from other worlds, and not a hub connecting other games).

What themes I am bored with? The "chosen one" and the world-shattering prophecies, they were a big part of Aphalon game, whose new reiteration is our 5th edition D&D game. Thankfully, the new Aphalon game takes place after a big event that undid the fate and prophecy and changed the rules governing the world.

02 October 2016

City Of Mists Story Idea: Drowned Past

City Of Mists: Introduction
City Of Mists: The Law
City Of Mists: The Departments
City Of Mists: The Infrastructure
City Of Mists: Characters And Campaigns
City Of Mists: Black Market Deals

Some strange events taking place on the island end investigated by the law enforcement or private investigators... This is one of them:

Drowned Past
Characters: Investigators of any sort are the best for this story, be they public law enforcement officers, private detectives, or corporate troubleshooters.
Moving The Story Elsewhere: Other Caribbean islands could work, as could Florida or a city on the Atlantic shores of Central or South America. The access to reliable criminal investigation lab, and especially the division of tasks between investigators and criminal investigation technicians can change certain aspects of the story significantly, though.

The protagonist are sent by their superiors to investigate a suspicious death. A man was found in his hotel apartment dead. He was a well-off american citizen living on the island named Rick Devon.

The deceased is a well build male in shorts and lose T-shirt revealing a golden coin worn on a strap as a necklace. The first examination suggest that he died of drowning—there is fine white froth at his mouth and nose. While he lays in the middle of the spacious room with no splashes of water around, there are big fish tanks adorning the walls. Was he drowned and pulled out? Was it long enough that the warm air dried the splashed of water?

There is a laptop on a desk that can be accessed easily by anyone with decent computer skills—there is a password but the system itself is a home version and can be bypassed in a few ways. The background image shows a underwater picture of sunk ship. The browser favorites lead to a number of sea maps of the region, historical articles concerning various sunken ships, lost Spanish galleons, forums dedicated to undersea salvage and diving... And the deceased own webpage dedicated to sea cruises and treasure hunting. Apparently he was (or at least claimed to be) a seasoned treasure hunter, though he also organized diving trips for tourist wishing to see sunken ships.

Further search reveals a number of photos of sunken ships, diving tourists, boats, yachts, colorful places all around the world, and various maps showing previous treasure hunts. The files make multiple reference (and bills) to a marina (yacht harbor) called The Yellow Sands, owned by Antonio Piatti. Apparently it was a sort of base of operation for Rick's sea trips. There is also a cleared space among them, as if someone grabbed a bunch of files... Was that the motive? Further search might reveal a small stash of gold coins hidden in the bathroom, probably some sort of emergency reserve.

Checking the e-mails and the phone shows that Mr. Devon recently communicated with someone named Richard Greenwood, Jr. The e-mails show very little actual content, as if they discussed things at length via phone, and only use e-mail for organizing an actual meeting—with Mr. Greenwood staying in different hotel.

The hotel staff asked recalls visit from Mr. Greenwood and his two rather unpleasant associates—big, threateningly-looking tattooed men who were rather rude toward staff members of Latino and African descent. Someone can even recall seeing tattoo motives reminiscent of white supremacist. They left in the afternoon. There was also a visit from a local call girl, working under the alias of Midnight Angel. When did she left? Hard to say, the receptionists who had the evening shift is not here, and does not respond to phone calls...

Who will the investigators seek first? Mr. Greenwood and his cronies? Midnight Angel? The missing receptionist? Go check what the owner of The Yellow Sands can say about Rick and his work? What will they do when the autopsy confirms that Rick drowned? Not in the fresh water of his fish tanks but salt water, though. And yet, there were no signs of violence, except for strange barely visible marks on his lips, nose, and cheeks...

Checking on Mr. Greenwood shows he is a minor but rising politician from United States, politically close to certain fringe white supremacist groups. Much better behaved than his followers, much better looking, with a certain degree of boyish charm, and a sense of style that can lead to successful career despite the unsavory message of his backers. What could summon him to a Caribbean island to seek a treasure seeker?

Had the missing receptionist seen someone she shouldn't see? Had Midnight Angel seen the same person and is in danger too? How was Rick Devon drowned without leaving physical traces?