'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG - The Black God.

When I started writing the last adventure for our group, I had no clear goal on what I wanted to do. The players had trapped themselves in a small vault designed to contain an artifact of, perhaps, alien origin. Why they were there or how they became trapped isn't of great importance. I set out with an eight point system for writing short fiction: Stasis, Trigger, Quest, Surprise, Critical Choice, Climax, Reversal, Resolution. Armed with a basic outline I laid out the first room and then proceeded to not go very much further.

A few weeks later 'ol Hankerin' Ferinale posted a podcast on something he called "Monster Sets", basically 3 creatures connected in theme and perhaps in some other method. Translated to Conan 2d20, maybe you have a Minion type who is easy to kill, and perhaps you have a toughened opponent that can summon Minions at will, or whatever. The Nemesis is probably your boss. For a clearer idea I highly recommend you check out Hankerin' at the link above.

I wanted to try the Monster Set idea in my game. I knew my players had an aversion to statues. I had already placed several statues as creatures in the adventure but was at a loss on how to go forward. I needed to find a way to create a Monster Set around these. Fortunately for me I had just read "The Black God's Kiss" and "The Black God's Shadow" by CL Moore.

To make a long story short, Jirel, the main character retrieves a weapon to exact her revenge, which she then determines was the wrong action. In her attempt at redemption she heads back to the realm from which her weapon came from. Here she finds her victim locked in a black statue, the personification of all of his magnified sins. She releases him from this and he becomes a shade she needs to track across this unholy landscape. Meanwhile she is assaulted by the Black God and feels herself losing and becoming a statue herself, barely fighting them off. If you haven't read those stories, I do highly recommend them, there are of course links on the sidebar to Amazon so you can get copies of the stories.

But back to Conan. And so I had Statues, Shades and the Black God itself, and with this triumvirate the Monster Set was born. I wrote some custom creatures that were perhaps a little over powered, but only by a little.

The first is the Black Statue, an unholy abomination of some black material. Sin, magnified and made real. Physical forms twisted and distorted, no two the same.

The second is the Black Shade, an ethereal form of the statue. The soul trapped within the statue freed from its physical constraints. These are horrific apparitions that strike the most stalwart warrior down to a gibbering child.

I failed to used these strategically so I am not certain on how useful the ability to regen the statues is. I pretty much attacked with the Black Shades and followed up with the Black Statues.

Finally the Black God itself. The Black God can not actually be attacked by physical means. It must be present to be attacked, ie it must be engaged in combat with someone. I would allow direct mental attacks against it. As well, a player resisting successfully over two rounds will drive it off for 2cd rounds

These challenges proved exceptionally difficult for my party of five, the shades wreaking havoc on them with the mental attack they possess. I modified them a little in this post to make them a little more reasonable, but you might wish to tweak them further if you so desire.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG overview: Skill Checks.

Cover of the Modiphius Conan RPG
In an unremembered age great heroes strode across the landscape. Shining kingdoms rose from the mountains, grasslands and deserts. The greatest of these, Aquilonia, was ruled by it's mighty lion king; Conan.

The Hyborian Age was a time before ours, a time now long forgotten, wiped off the face of the earth by great cataclysms that formed our people and our continents.

It is a time of warriors and magic. Of men and monsters. It is a time of high adventure.

Conan 2d20 is an RPG by Modiphius that aims to remain as true to the original Conan stories as they can. I have been playing with a group of about 5 players once a month for about 1 1/2 years and I hope I can share some of my knowledge and experience about the game with you.

At it's heart Conan 2d20 is a simple roll under system. You roll your d20s against a target number to gain a number of successes. As the name of the system implies your base roll is 2d20. When a player wants to preform a task the GM assigns a difficulty to that task ranging from 0-5. To successfully complete that task the player must gain that number of successes or more.

For example:
Conal wishes to lift a log that has fallen across the road, preventing the parties wagon from proceeding. The GM assigns a difficulty of 2 to the task and Conal rolls his 2d20. Both of his dice come up as a success, giving him 2 successes. This equals the difficulty rating of the task and Conal moves the log out of the way.

This is the core of the game system, the full mechanics allow players to gain more d20s to make their skill rolls as well as to not only succeed but to succeed by measure, turning a success into something truly epic, but we will discuss that another day.

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Friday, April 6, 2018

The GMs Journal: Notebook selection.

So.... what mapping
programs are you
using for making
world and area maps?

A couple of days ago that question was posted to a local role playing group I belong to.

The standard answers all came up: Pyromancers, Inkarnate, Photoshop, Hexkit, VTT software and Campaign Cartographer. These are all useful tools, and although I suggested some of them, I don't personally use a single one of them.

I occasionally try and use the cool and fancy tools, but I never like them. I find it easier to simply grab my notebook/journal and jot down ideas and story arcs and finally flesh them out into maps and adventures. At most I sometimes organize thoughts in Google Docs. They never allow the ease of use that a simple piece of paper allows.

I like notebooks. I have always liked notebooks. I used binders in school with looseleaf paper and never liked it as much as a simple notebook. Perhaps I find the journals of the old masters inspiring. The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci being a prime example. His notebooks are as important as his masterpieces.

I don't journal, which you would think based on my above statement I might do, but I do keep a sketchbook and that directly leads into my current favored set of notebooks for GMing. I follow an artist on social media named, "Jake Parker". Aside from being a cool illustrator he has some awesome videos about creativity and projects on youtube. One of the things he has turned me on to is the Moleskin Cahier line of notebooks. My first reaction was, "Must be nice, Moleskin notebooks are expensive!", and indeed some of their line, like many other journals, are pricey. He went on to show how they were resistant to bleed through with inks and could even be used for some basic tone with paints, and the best part is that they are NOT pricey. They are quite affordable.

So I went out and bought a three pack of these to use as my next sketchbook. The three packs will run you around $20, and each notebook has 64 pages in them. They are not huge tomes, but that is also a blessing in disguise. I liked them. They were easy to use. They are small and easy to take with you. The paper isn't pure white, and so you can add white to sketches pretty easily. Finally because they are not 100s of pages long, they are easier to fill up. That act of completing one gives you a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.

When I went out to find a new journal that had dots or grids on them I quickly started looking over at the Cahier line, which offer books in three flavours: Plain, Lined and Squared. I immediately went to Indigo (our local bookstore chain, and maybe yours) and tried to buy a set. Squared journals are apparently more difficult to find. Off to Amazon I went!

I found a set of 3 and ordered them. They took a LONG time to arrive as I did not order them directly from Amazon and ended up shipping from the UK. When they did they were smaller than I had realized (being the 5"x8.25" journals), but in the end I think I prefer this size for most GM journaling. I feel it is a good middle ground, but I think that is a personal preference.

Like the ones I use for sketching, they are small, allowing for completion and that sense of accomplishment. They are also filled with the same type of paper that resists bleed through; I use a uniball pen and write on every page, front and back. The slightly off white color will allow the addition of whites to your journal entries if you desire.

Of course these are not the only notebook on the block, and they are far from the cheapest, even if I do think they are affordable. For the most affordable notebooks, which I have used extensively in school and out, the crown has to go to Hilroy or a knockoff. These cheap coil bound books provide an inexpensive way to get a journal. They open flat and provide an easy way to remove pages. The downside, as I have always found, being the coil interfering with your hand when you are writing near the end of the page.

I have again provided links to Amazon and the tools I have mentioned in this post. These are affiliate links and purchasing through them provides me a small commission. Thank you!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Remakes! Red Sonja and Last Starfighter.

This blog is Starships and Steel because I love Sci-fi and Fantasy. Yesterday we saw two cool announcements in both of these genres.

Red Sonja

The Red Sonja remake gets a writer and a decent one at that.
Wikipedia lists the following credit to him.

check out the article at deadline for more info:

The Last Starfighter

Concept art by Matt Allsopp
This is apparently in a pretty early concept phase. A remake of this was only a matter of time. I am tentatively excited for it. Some early concept photos were released on twitter yesterday and the writer attached to the project is Gary Whitta of Rogue One.

Check out io9 for more info:

I am not going to lie, I am pretty hopeful for both of these films. I loved Last Starfighter...No. I STILL love Last Starfighter. It is an awesome film and represents a landmark use of CGI. Red Sonja, they will get my money for trying, but I am hopeful they will produce a good Sword & Sorcery movie.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Black God's Shadow by CL Moore.

Jirel of Joiry returns in this direct sequel to CL Moore's the Black God's Kiss. This time she must return to that same place she retrieved her weapon and earn her redemption. Is she worthy of redemption or will the dark claim her as one of their own?

The Black God's Shadow was published in Weird Tales in December of 1934, this time CL Moore didn't get the cover, which was given to Robert E Howard's Conan story, "A Witch Shall be Born".

One of the first things that strikes me about this story is that it is a direct sequel. In my other explorations of pulp literature, being mainly Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and some HP Lovecraft, this is not really done. Certainly Robert E Howard also has numerous characters that span stories, and in the case of Solomon Kane we have stories following each other in a very specific chronology and we see character development along that chronology. As a direct sequel, this story is dealing with events and ideas raised in the first, and revisits some of the same settings. It is not just another story dealing with the same character later in her life.

Overall I again enjoyed CL Moore's Jirel character, and again I found her journey to pull me along with her and want to join her at it's conclusion, whatever that might be. It again strikes me that over the years more has not been done with Jirel of Joiry.

Within this story are several chase scenes. Although these scenes introduce interesting aspects to the environment she is in and do help to build on the in earthly creepy factor, there were times I felt they were a little drawn out. This flight across the same dark landscape as the first Jirel story also made me feel like more of the same at times. However even with these thoughts, I don't think these possible negatives were strong enough to take away from the story.

Despite the slightly drawn out chases and more of the same dark landscape the story moves well and has good pacing. The writing is excellent and I felt it was little more descriptive than the first Jirel story. Aspects of those chases and the descriptions of the things she faces are awesome and terrifying. I also enjoyed the overarching themes of light and dark, clearly not something new, but cool to see in early fantasy literature.

Jirel is again shown as a powerful and fiery warrior. She again seems to give little thought, or at the very least, little care to venturing from our reality to another to accomplish a task she views as correct. In "The Black God's Kiss" she is tormented by another's action and knows she must strike out and gain her vengeance. In "The Black God's Shadow" knowing her error and haunted by it she knows she must return and undo as much of her error as she can. In both of these she is willing to risk her very soul. To me she is an incredibly engaging character.

If you want to check out some of CL Moore for yourself why not click through to my Amazon affiliate link either through the sidebar or by clicking here?

Printable Miniatures. Part 1, Getting the Image.

In Part 2 we talk about basing options!

We all love miniatures, or at least I suspect you do if you are reading my blog. If you play a system that uses a lot of smaller level fodder type characters, such as a 2d20 system or Savage Worlds, you might find it hard to have 15 or 20 of a single figure type. Even for me, with the Conan board game to pull from, it can be hard to have enough bad guys.

Custom Minis from a Ghoul stock image I got from DriveThruRPG
Enter the paper miniature, sometimes refered to as flats. I first came across these when I was getting back into gaming and watching the various channels on youtube that exist. Check out Wyloch's tutorial on how to make your own.  He goes through how to make these props, step by step using images found images.  Please be respectful of copyright when you are building printable minis this way.

We also have Printable Heros over on Pateron. For a couple of bucks you can get access to the cool collection of figures he has produced. For me though, I often need something fairly specific and I am building them pretty close to the last minute. I don't have time to search the net for the image and cut and paste it, trim it up, size it and get it ready for play. Sometimes I just want to do a quick search, print out the figure and get it on my table. For this I go to DriveThruRPG.

I am sure you are all aware of DriveThruRPG. If you are not click the above link and it will take you to a wonderland of digital products, BUT back to printable miniatures.

These guys are probably my favorite shop creating printable miniatures. They are have a wonderful distinct style and he has a wide variety to fill many many different gaming roles! Get them here!
Another store that has an excellent selection of figures for use with your games. Like Okum arts there is a wide variety of figures from fantasy to sci-fi. Get them here!
The ICRPG Core set is more expensive but comes with a wealth of content, including a selection of printable miniatures for your table in Hankerin's distinctive black and white style. Get it here!
These guys have a wide selection of printable miniatures(some are even free!) as well as papercraft buildings. Get them here!
A later entry to this list, as I just found them recently is Trash Mob Minis. Like Okum Arts above these guys have an impressive collection of paper figs in a very distinctive style. I recommend checking them out!

There is a wealth of people creating these printable heros and monsters! Part 2 of the series will talk about the supplies I use to make mine, as well as some alternatives. Once we have all of our supplies together we will see about putting together some of these creations!

Until then, keep it weird!

The above post contains affiliate links, using them will give this blog a small commission on the sale.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Robert E. Howard House Archaeology

There is currently a push on GoFundMe to help fund an archeological expedition at the Howard house in Cross Plains, TX.

There is a sealed storm cellar behind the house that hasn't been opened in a very long time. They might find nothing, but they might find something cool. If you have a couple of dollars why not support the initiative?

Check out the GoFundMe page for more information!