UL BANNER

12/30/2010

"Cryptcrawler" CRS

This is the record sheet I designed for the upcoming campaign. The goal was to stress the info that facilitates gameplay and to keep the non-essential stuff (eye color, hobbies, boob size, etc) off.

Click for full-size

12/26/2010

Excerpt



"Tollu exists at the point of synthesis between Material and Time. Not to be conflated with so-called gods and other psychic manifestations -- it is the sacred syntax of reality, the absolute effector of being." 
INTUITIONS OF THE PRIMAL PATTERN

Phraint Behavior

"We were traveling across the Southern Aegon* -- perhaps ten of us in all. An off-planet merchant** had hired our company to assist the efforts of jade phraint tribes in suppressing the blue Atavistics of the southern cataholds.*** The sound of their war-song carried for miles -- an eerie threnody that put our nerves on edge as we made our way across the humid boglands. Many jades had begun to flee before their blue cousins, sprinting across the surface of the bogwater with the long, mechanically precise strides that characterize their race. Their passage was noiseless save for the startled buzzes of those axe-flies and phosphorescent wisps that took flight in their wake. Within moments a party of Atavistic pursuers was upon us, brandishing their polymer swords and screeching unintelligible profanities. In short order they advanced in an erratic pattern like men pretending to be intoxicated. Several of our number were killed outright and then dragged swiftly into the blue-black throng to be eviscerated for trophies. It was then that I fled into the darkness, and I feel no shame for it."  CLARL THE HOUNDSMAN 
"For a time we allowed Sminn to live among us, and all was well. But as the phraint began to mature into its adult state it became less and less predictable. Its fits of hunger would render it sullen and strange. Livestock would disappear during the night. At times my sister would hear odd clickings outside her chambers, sometimes accompanied by furtive scratching. Sminn said he could taste her 'vapors' and that they were causing him some anxiety. When the creature finally attempted to drag her off, all our old sentimentality toward Sminn was forgotten. Several blows from my father's cudgel cracked a sizable hole in the thing's brain-case, from which a pale yellow fluid leaked. For a span we watched Sminn twitch there on the grasses, his mandibles still scratching out a meaningless smear of human-like sounds before his body gave way."  TAM TUTHIL OF THE MISTY TERRITORIES

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*Aegon: A term much like "Taiga" in the sense that it describes a particular type of wilderness terrain -- essentially, the Aegon is a humid and boggy woodland with areas of dense overgrowth.
**Weggish of Chandelume
*** Cataholds: Subterranean phraint communities. Each catahold is dedicated to the preservation of particular genetic qualties, giving rise to the weird array of phraint forms.

Nostalgia (2)





12/23/2010

Other Planets = Godforsaken Boondocks

Most of the action in an 8th Planet campaign will occur on the eponymous world and adjacent planets of the Chune system. Several of these others have moons. A certain number are completely lifeless. What I want to avoid is the monochrome approach seen in Star Wars and its sequels, so all of the habitable worlds will possess multiple terrains (and so more game possibilities). Minimal attention will be paid to the real world science of planetology. What interests me are little worlds -- smaller-than-Earth worlds -- not only because these settings are more practical and manageable as a DM, but because they are on the scale of the kingdoms and territories found in a traditional D&D campaign.

Chune and its sister star, Yonde

Chune and its sister Yonde are examples of life-fostering stars. They exist in an area rife with the remains of a prehuman civilization (ruins, artifacts, living creations, etc). Mankind has come on these remains very late. The former tenants of this sector have long been extinct. Some of their history and science is understood by humans, but much of it remains indecipherable. Man is limited by his comprehension of the cosmos, and so he seeks to reassemble the knowledge that has been lost. In a less noble sense, he is a microbe picking at the fossilized bones of an unknown animal.

Of the thirteen worlds that orbit Chune, five have been annexed and partially settled by humans. Traffic between these planets is common and occasionally hazardous.

The Chune System (from innermost to outermost) (so far):
  • Chune 1 (Phax) -- A small, barren rock teeming with life under the surface. Massive caverns house forests, lakes, rivers and seas. Unsettled.
  • Chune 2 (Chandelume)*
  • Chune 3 (Ulbezzon)*
  • Chune 4 (The "Purple Rock") -- A world of toxic fumes and labyrinthine mountains, dense jungles and hostile sentients. Unsettled.
  • Chune 5 -- Massive orange gas giant. Unsettled.
  • Chune 6 (Pangash the "Midworld") -- Center of local trade. A minute world with one of the busiest ports in the system. Settled.
  • Chune 7 -- Moon-sized orb rich with exotic metals. Unsettled.
  • Chune 8 (8th Planet) -- Home setting. Settled.
  • Chune 9 (Sulgen) -- Largest of the habitable worlds in this system. Rich with ocean life. Relatively untouched despite growing commercial interest in its crystallized wastelands. Settled.
  • Chune 10*
  • Chune 11*
  • Chune 12*
  • Chune 13*

Gorgon-style Interplanetary Phantasy

One of the things I enjoyed about the old Quantique stuff was the pleasing goulashing of Weird Tales-ish bizarrerie with Gygaxian naturalist seasonings. I want to continue that approach with 8th Planet. To this end I've come up with some principles to define the particular flavor I'm going for. I don't vouch for the originality of any of these ideas -- in fact the reason I've chosen them is because they represent the "tried-and-true" stuff that can be easily Lego'd into a D&D foundation. Ultimately I want to be able to evoke a place that conjures up the weird/exotic rush of a good Clark Ashton Smith or Jack Vance story.

Principles of interplanetary phantasy, Gorgonically speaking:
  1. Ancient, pseudo-ancient, and sufficiently advanced technologies exist side-by-side.
  2. The existence of extra-dimensional realities.
  3. Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
  4. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Humanity's origins are part of its distant past and have been forgotten. Man behaves in much the same way as he always has. He is obsessed with wealth, privilege and status and the domination of other living things.
  5. The local setting is unstable and only semi-civilized.
  6. Indigenous races of other worlds are (a) of sub-human intelligence or (b) advanced beyond human development. Many of the latter type are extinct though evidence of their cultures remains. Such antiquities are prized by humans on both a practical and spiritual level. They facilitate the reassembly of ancient knowledge.
  7. Deep space travel is rare. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of years go by without visitors from humanity's more civilized worlds.
  8. Interplanetary travel is possible by ship as well as a local system of teleportation gates.
  9. The technologies (space travel, psionics, mechanization, etc) are strictly the domains of monk-like brotherhoods. Therefore they are not entirely understood by or accessible to the layman.
  10. Focus should be on the frontier -- the edge -- the fringes of civilization. On untamed worlds and environments.

Attack Matrix For All Classes and Monsters

Dragon #80 (December 1983)
The following chart is based on that found on page 48 of Dragon #80. It is part of an article by Lenard Lakofka (Leomund's Tiny Hut) called "New charts, using the 5% principle." Here's what Mr. Lakofka has to say about it:

"The following material is not official, but is provided for your study and comment. Gary Gygax has said that an expanded combat results table is certainly desirable, so perhaps that part of the following information will eventually be made part of the official rules...

"The combat results table in the DMG for fighters can be altered to give a 5% better chance to hit as the character gains each new level of experience, as per the “special note regarding fighters'’ progression.” The principle outlined in this note can be used to expand the combat charts for all character classes and monsters, and at the same time to place all of this information on a single chart. I have expanded the charts in this manner, and the result appears below. It shows the combat result tables for each class and all monsters as well. The four small extrapolations I have made from the five charts in the DMG are given hereafter, but they would only affect low-level magicusers, peasants, monsters with only 1 or 2 hit points, and clerics of 19th level or higher. Purists can easily alter this chart to make it exactly conform to the DMG. This expanded chart will give a character a 5% better chance “to hit” in melee on virtually every level promotion, instead of having to wait for some number of levels to gain a 5%, 10%, or even 15% increase."


12/22/2010

8th Planet: Overview



History
The human settlement of Chune 8 began nearly 440 cycles ago with the arrival of the Engineers and their humanoid mercenaries to the northern polar barrens of Aegon, the larger of the planet's sibling landmasses. The planet and its possibilities had long been a matter of speculation between the business-like Engineers. Much brooding over certain references in the the cryptogrammary* finally compelled them despite the doubts voiced by factions of high-ranking masters and magisterials. A survey of the world was deemed necessary regardless of current shortages. 

The Engineers were not disappointed. Evidence of prehuman** development and a number of metalogical artifacts*** were located. Augury revealed an abundance of crystallized phlogiston near the planet's crust. 8th Planet and four of its brothers were annexed soon afterward by the House of Exalted Peers. Shares of the venture changed hands at a pace not seen for many cycles. 

Human habitation began near the remains of a prehuman settlement where several important artifacts surfaced during the second survey. The most significant of these metalogues is the Material Converter and its system of teleportational gateways. Careful study and experimentation by skilled artificers restored the Converter to working order, re-connecting the site of the ancient city to its counterpart on Quantique.

The city has grown in population to include nearly one-thousand human persons and hundreds of their humanoid servants. Regular conflicts with phraint cataholds have posed significant obstacles to phologiston harvesting and given the planet a reputation for being dangerous. Resistance to the exploration of Quantique by its indigenous race of culturally-regressive troglodytes presents potential hazards as well.

As a result of these uncertainties the planet's principle settlement -- named Septernis after the celebrated Engineer who championed its development -- has become something of a "frontier town" attracting some less than reputable elements. Unlicensed cartels manage the production and sale of yggoa, the memory-expanding drug extracted from the bark of a local tree of the same name. The armigerous families mutter and frown and quietly speak of revolt against the wealthy landsmen. Phantoms and predators obstruct travel across much of the planet's landscape attracting the presence of adventurer types of all stripes. The relationship between the Chune system and the rest of the Sector is that of a remote holding to its distracted patrons. Embroiled in more pressing and immediate struggles than the welfare of one among a whole array of annexed systems, the Engineers have turned over management of 8th Planet to its local personalities and power groups.
_______________
*cryptogrammary: A metalogical machine that houses a part of the knowledge of the Architect culture that predates the emergence of Mankind and is now the basis of human knowledge. Much of the cryptogrammary remains undecipherable.
**prehuman: Generally, of an advanced race that predates the rise of Man. Specifically, the extinct metalogical cultures and their paradigms.
***metalogical artifacts: Devices and machines fabricated by prehuman cultures.

Technology
Examples of technology currently in use:
  • Ansible* -- A projection screen that allows for instantaneous image- and sound-exchange across vast distances.
  • Disruptor -- A cudgel that discharges a paralytic burst.
  • Landskiff -- A floating barge powered by fractured phlogiston.
  • Psionics
  • Teleportation
_______________
*With all due respect to Ursula Le Guin.

Unrefined phlogiston crystals

Nostalgia

Some favorite Dragon covers.





8th Planet: The Basics

Chune and the 8th Planet
The 8th Planet is among the thirteen that circle a tempestuous green star called Chune. It is orbited by the fallow moons Quantique and her sister Jandeline. Nominally governed by Septernis the Gate-City, it is a minuscule world of old growth forests banded by a foggy Salt Sea. Beneath the planet's crust are rich deposits of valuable phlogiston crystals much-prized by the Landsmen of Northern Aegon. These crystals are the focal point of Septernis' economy.

Terrain and Plant Life
About two-fifths of the 8th Planet's surface is covered by the Salt Sea. The other three-fifths maintains dense  areas of pseudo-coniferous forest and treacherous bogland, here and there speckled with freshwater lakes and cold, narrow rivers. These forests form a dense canopy. A wide variety of shambling fungi and  phosphorescent plants flourishes in the darkness below.

Animal Life
Intelligent, indigenous creatures include phraints and the bird-like simorghs. Mammalian types are notably absent (this does not include humans, an alien element on 8th Planet). Giant, crusted insects are common and vary wildly in shape and disposition. Protean creatures such as the Phrithian Worm are dispersed in the hollows beneath the planet's surface. These rudimentary scavengers seem to be direct antecedents of the surface animals and share some very basic features (notably the noctid gland and a mineral-processing pre-stomach).

More later.

12/20/2010

The Disruptor

"Clearly the sword is the most noble weapon a fighter may carry," opined Fenorian the Younger. "And quite effective, as man-slayers go."

"Give me an adequately charged disruptor and a good, sharp finisher," replied Jaramal the Gat-Toothed, "and I will fell any swordsman. Real or hypothetical." 

Disruptor concept sketch

Description
The disruptor is a club-like, magical implement designed to render a foe helpless. When its wielder expends a charge and makes a successful (touch attack) hit, the disruptor sends a shockwave through the victim's body that effectively paralyzes him/her/it for 1d6 rounds (if the save is failed.) A standard disruptor can hold up to three charges.

Rarity
Disruptors are not typically offered for sale. These are heirlooms -- the property of armigerous families. In this sense the disruptor is a potent symbol of status among fighting men.

Fighting Style
Typically the disruptor is used in conjunction with a finishing weapon (finisher) -- usually a dagger or hand axe. The finisher delivers the coup de grace after the disruptor has rendered its target paralyzed. Most fighters consider it in bad taste to actually kill their foes with the disruptor itself, as if the implement is above the business of slaying. However, if worse comes to worse, the disruptor is heavy enough to do 1d6 points of damage per successful hit.

Recharging
In order to replenish the disruptor's charges it must steep for several hours in a fracture pool.* One charge is regained per hour of steeping. Excess time will have a deleterious effect on the disruptor's charge capacity. For every hour spent in excess of time needed to charge, a steeping disruptor has a 10% chance of reducing its charge capacity by one.

_______________
*Fracture pool: A cauldron of liquefied phlogiston crystals constantly tended and maintained by apprentice artificers.

We Are Undead

"I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?"  J. R. R. TOLKIEN

Gorgonmilk is the descendent of Eiglophian Press and its sister-blog Quantique. Which sounds rather incestuous when I re-read it, but oh well -- we're going with it. Yes, I've returned from my Net-sabbatical recharged and hopefully with a better sense of focus. Or perhaps I'm still reeling from the effects of that exotic mushroom wine. Perhaps I'm completely overestimating my ability to stay on task. Either way, thanks for taking the time to suffer through this awkward re-introduction. I'll try not to do it again.

Anyway, what I really want to talk to you about is (dun dun dun...)

Interplanetary fantasy & magical technology
It's not space opera exactly. It's epic fantasy with disruptor wands and floating skiffs powered by phlogiston crystals and runic engines. A place where far-flung planets are interconnected by port-gates. Where ancient, monstrous civilizations have lapsed well beyond their prime, slowly disappearing into decadence and decay. A cosmos of weird ecologies and interesting times. But perhaps most importantly a setting where there are well-defined borders (vs ambiguous territories) and a definite internal consistency (vs the anything goes approach). Key influences: Clark Ashton Smith's Xiccarph, M. A. R. Barker's Tekumel, Star Wars before it sucked, Lovecraftian xeno-cultures, the art of Philippe Druillet.

More later.