Monday, May 16, 2011

Experiment in Progress

I've started to dabble in placing commercial links to the Blog. I hope to restrict them to appropriate links, that have something to do with the topics I;m writing about or gaming in general. I regret the necessity of descending into crass commercialism, but the economy has hit me rather hard. If this becomes offensive to the point you'd stop reading this blog, let me know; I'd like to have that information.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mid-Morning of the Demigods

After staring at the Marvel Comics version of the Nine Worlds I posted here, I realized that I didn't want to come up with my own "fantasy superhero" world, I pretty much wanted to play around with a Norse one.  (Besides, coming up with your own world is a lot of work! Why not just adapt one that is already there?)

So, the focus of this campaign is demigods. I interpret this as something likethe offspring of gods and mortals, or the lesser offspring of goods like Thor, Odin, Freyja, etc.  Other possibilities are available, too, if the characters wish to explore them.  Since Walt Simonson's run of Marvel's Thor comic inspires me so much, it'll probably be a major influence, but I won't be using its continuity.  One idea that I do like is that Midgard is really our world, so the PCs can be modern characters who discover their divine heritage and the Nine Worlds from a modern pesrpective. The ones who do know something about Norse mythology will have some advantage, but I feel like I can change any details to suit me; the ones that don' know much won't have to grasp everything at once. Perhaps the world the characters know is the illusory one?  This is starting to take on elements of Percy Jackson, too. I think I'll resist the urge to include a version of "Camp Halfblood" though I'm thinking of including elements of "American Gods".

Time to dig out the reading material, I guess.  More as it develops.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cowboys and Indie Bands - Risusiverse

It's not that other games CAN'T handle genres like this... it's just that Risus makes it so darn easy! Congratulations on another fine setting, Dan (Risus Mariachi!) Suptic!

Cowboys and Indie Bands - Risusiverse

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Devastation of Demigods

In my last blog post, I talked about running a game where the player characters ar demigods  -- I used the term "fantasy superheroes" to describe them, and compared them to Marvel's Thor.  Though I don't want to run a "Thor" campaign, or even an "Asgard" campaign, I've begun to think of the world that such a campaign would exist in... and dang, if I didn't come across another Marvel comics illustration that captures the feel of what I want:

I like the idea of different "worlds" connected together by an "axis mundi" of a sort. The idea of climbing a "world tree" is very appealing, but again, it's very connected in the popular imagination to the Norse pantheon. Other possibilities that spring to mind are a cosmic dragon, clutching the worlds in its coils (which brings up images of Cthulhoid tentacles as well); a road, with hosts of heroes riding grimly to war against against an army of Giants; or a river, with tributaries, rapids, whirlpools, and waterfalls. All of them have possibilities... but I like the tree-metaphor. Many other European and Asian mythologies use the tree-metaphor, so I might keep it.

In Norse mythology, the number and nature of the "nine worlds" varies according to the source, but the term "the nine worlds" crops up in many cases (including the scholastic works of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in their seminal periodical, "The Mighty Thor").  Each of them is home to a particularly family of beings. Some of these worlds are:
  1. Asaheim: home of the Asgardian gods such as Odin and Thor.
  2. Vanaheim: home of the Vanir (Freya, Freyr, Njord)
  3. Jotunheim (home of the Jotuns, or giants)
  4. Midgard: home of men
  5. Alfheim: home of elves
  6. Hel: home of the dead, ruled by a goddess named Hel or Hela
  7. Svartalfheim: Home of the Dark Elves (who may be the same as the Dwarves, to the chagrin of many fans of R. A. Salvatore)
  8. Muspellheim: land of fire
  9. Niflheim: land of ice

None of these are detailed to any significant extent in Norse mythology, so I am pretty free to do what I want to make these playable worlds. For one thing, there's a fire world and an ice world, but no sea world.  Some random thoughts on these issues:

  1. Different families of gods living in different worlds. How do the gods of the sky-realm differ from the gods of the earth-realm or the air-realm?
  2. Dwarves: since they're obsessed with smithing and creating, make their world a sort of steampunk/gearpunk technology. Gloranthan dwarves (Mostali) have an idea that the world is a broken machine and they're trying to fix it.
  3. I see the area between the worlds as filled with weird, alien horrors (of a Lovecraftian variety), which is why the World Tree is the main path between the worlds.  
  4. There is no "ocean-heim". Does each world have its own sea, or are they all connected?
  5. How do ordinary mortals fit in? They won't be the main focus of the campaign, but do they even exist?
  6. What beings regularly travel between the realms?
This is a world-in-progress, and continues to evolve. Comments are much welcome.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"By the Power of Asgard!!!" Fantasy + Superheroes = a Demigods Campaign

In the interests of full disclosure, this post isn't about the new Thor movie (which I still haven't seen), but the movie did remind me of a half-baked Champions campaign I worked on a long time ago. It took place in a magical universe, similar to the Norse concepts of a number of magical realms linked together (presumably, a World Tree, a cosmic river, or something else like that). The PCs would be demigods, sort of like fantasy superheroes (CF the aforementioned God of Thunder).  The landscape, the winds, the rivers, the celestial bodies, all could be alive and interacted with the PCs; too, there would be obviously-magical featues, such as the River of Flames, the River of Forgetfulness, the Undeworld, the Upper Sky, and other myth-laden places.

The PCs would be demigod-like beings. My working concept is that these beings, while possessed of amazing abilities, are not divine in the sense that the Olympians and Asgardians are, in that they don't receive worship (though they probably do receive tribute in the form of worldly goods). They do possess mighty abilities that set them apart from other mortals; they are the leaders of powerful tribes.  If you read my post on using divine epithets for Questing Dice in Risus, these might be used for the cliches for these characters (e.g., "Shooter from Afar", "Protector of Fugitives", "The Earthshaker", "Sacker of Cities", "The Cloud-Gatherer").  I thought it would also reinforce the mythological feel if the characters used divine weapons and vehicles such as Thor's hammer (instead of just casting lightning) or Athena's Aegis, or summoning up a wind to carry them or changing into an eagle to fly instead of flying like a superhero. Another convention is that they wouldn't refer to themselves as "God (or Goddess)of ___", since they don't regard themselves as gods. They could be "Lord of the Dead" or "Mother of the Harvest".

If this isn't a superhero campaign, it also isn't a traditional fantasy campaign.  There are a lot more potentially world-destroying monsters, such as Typhon, the Midgard Serpent, or the Fenris Wolf to cope with. And that's the kind of beasts the PCs should be encountering. This is an age when these threats have not all been locked away; they remain to threaten the ordinary mortals whom the demigods protect.  Perhaps even the previous generation of "titans" is still around, provoking a revolt by the PCs themselves!

As is evident by the illustrations I've chosen, I was greatly influenced bt the Walt Simonson run on Marvel Comics' THOR in the 1980s. He played up Thor's mythological elements while infusing it with an epic, heroic style that most previous witers and artists had neglected. Especially impressive were Thor's battle with the Midgard serpent (while suffering from a major curse from the death-goddess Hela), and Thor's invasion of Hela's realm of the dead against impossible odds. The heroic sacrifice of Skurge the Executioner, one of Thor's former foes, holding the Bridge of Death while the other heroes escaped from Helheim, is a crowning moment of glory in a superbly told epic that elevated Thor beyond a mere comic book character.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Questing Dice, By Jove!

"Questing Dice" is one of my favorite options from the Risus Companion, which is jam-packed with usefuleness to begin with.  If you trade in one starting dice, you can get 5 dice than can be used once each (per adventure) on any cliche, as long as that cliche is being used in furtherance of a specific purpose. This purpose is the "quest" for which the Questing Dice mechanic was named, and this purpose must be specified when the dice are purchased. This doesn't have to be a literal quest (as in Holy Grail), however; it can apply to any situation which would limit the usefulness of the dice to specific situations. In fantasy games, one such application would be to represent the patronage and divine assistance of a god.

The Greek gods are fairly well known to gamers, so I'll use them as an example.  The best known ones are the Twelve Olympians, which are actually 14 if you count Hades, Hestia, and Dionysus.

  • Aphrodite: Goddess of love and beauty.
  • Apollo: God of music, healing, plague, prophecies, poetry, and archery; associated with light, truth and the sun.
  • Ares: God of war, bloodlust, violence, manly courage, and civil order. 
  • Artemis: Virgin goddess of the hunt, wilderness, wild animals, childbirth and plague. In later times she became associated with the moon. 
  • Athena: Goddess of wisdom, warfare, battle strategy, heroic endeavour, handicrafts and reason. 
  • Demeter: Goddess of fertility, agriculture, horticulture, grain and harvest. 
  • Dionysus: God of wine, parties and festivals, madness, civilization, drunkenness and pleasure. 
  • Hades or Pluto: King of the Underworld and god of the dead and the hidden wealth of the Earth.
  • Hephaestus: Crippled god of fire, metalworking, stonemasonry, sculpture and volcanism. 
  • Hera: Queen of marriage, women, childbirth, heirs, kings and empires.
  • Hermes: God of travel, messengers, trade, thievery, cunning wiles, language, writing, diplomacy, athletics, and animal husbandry. He is the messenger of the gods, a psychopomp who leads the souls of the dead into Hades' realm.
  • Hestia: Virgin goddess of the hearth, home and cooking. 
  • Poseidon: God  of the sea, rivers, floods, droughts, storms, earthquakes, and horses
  • Zeus: The king of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus and the god of the sky, weather, thunder, law, order, and fate.
These would be fine for use as Questing Dice in my game, but  I think I can make them even better. Every god also had a number of divine epithets or "nicknames" that describe their scope of authority. These are often more evocative than "God of Animal Husbandry", and reveal more interesting aspects that many overlook:    

  • Aphrodite:  She Who Turns To Love;  Averter of Unlawful Desires; Spying; Peeping; Whispering; Of the Sea; Of Night
  • Apollo: Foreseeing; Shooting from Afar; The Hunter; Healer; Leader of the Muses; Of the Mice; Of the Wolves; Of the Locusts; Of the Mildew; Rescuer; Averter of Harm; Protector of Starngers, Foreigners
  • Ares: Beastly; Brutish; Of the Horses; Murderous; Manslaughtering; Slayer of Men; He Who Rallies Fighting Men; Stormer of Walls; Swift, Fleet 
  • Artemis:  Huntress; Of The Hunting Nets; Of the Laurel/Cedar/Walnut Tree; Of the Beasts/Deer/Wolves/White Birds; Of the Lake/Broad Plains/Wetlands; Friend of Young Girls; Helper of Childbirth; Leader of the Dance
  • Athena: War-Sustaining; Bridler of Horses; War-Trumpet; Defender; Of The Counsels; Worker; Contriver of Plans and Devices; The Deceiver; Born of the Head (of Zeus)
  • Demeter: Of the Earth; She Who Sends Forth Gifts; Giver of Wealth; Of the Furrows; Great Mother; Bringer of Law; Dark-Veiled; Dark Cloaked
  • Dionysus: Of the Bacchic Frenzy; Noisy, Boisterous; Mad, Raging; Of the Night; Of the Torches; Of the Feast; Giver of Increase; Of the Grape; Of the Wine-Press; Of the Phallus; Of Liberation, Of Freedom; Androgynous
  • Hades or Pluto: Of Wealth; Zeus of the Underworld; Receiver of the Dead; Savior of the Dead; Ruler of Many; Host of Many; Master of Dreams; God of Curses; Master of the Furies
  • Hephaestus: Renowned for Skills; Famed Worker; Of the many Crafts; Lame One; Of the Crooked Feet; The Sooty God; Bronze-Smith, Copper-Smith; Ingenious, Inventive
  • Hera: Girl, Virgin; Betrothed Bride; Married Woman; Widow; Midwife; Of Marriage; Of the Chariot; Of the Flowers; Whose hand is Above; Of the Heights; Pioneer; Goat-Eater; Queen of the Gods
  • Hermes: Keeper of the Flocks; Ram Bearer; Of the Market Place; Crafts, Wiles; Of the Crossroads; Of the Games; Interpreter, Translator; Guide, Minister, Messenger; Of the Golden Wand; Thief, Robber, Rustler; Deceiver, Dissembler; Trickster, Conniver; Wily, Shifty, Many-Turning; Glad-Hearted; Luck-Bringing; Keen-Sighted, Watchful
  • Hestia: Of the Hearth; Of the Councils; Of Many Prosperities; Eternal Virgin
  • Poseidon: Of the Horses; Earth-Shaker; Of the Waves; Savior of Sailors; Bull of the Sea; Averter of Earthquakes
  • Zeus: Of the Rain; Dark, Murky; Of the Thunderbolt; Furious, Raging, Boisterous; Of Fair Winds; Watcher of Sea Havens; King, Chief, Ruler; Of Hospitality; Of the Stranger; Punisher of Murderers; Puts to Flight, Defeats, Banishes
This latter approach encourages the players (and the GM) to be more creative in describing the actions of their characters, always a good thing with Risus.  I left out a numbe of other epithets, references to sacred attributes, and sacred places, all of which could fit into the relevant "quest".  Gods of other pantheons also such epithets, or you could make up your own for an original fantasy world.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Beware my Cave Primitive Klengon Warlock Might!

I'm going to be participating in a Play by Post Encounter Critical adventure, so I needed to come up with a character. If you don't know what Encounter Critical is, check it out (for free!) at .Let's just say it's kinda like D&D meets Star Wars by way of Mad Max.

Kor-Otch, War Shaman of the Sky Conqueror Tribe
Cave Primitive Klengon Warlock
Special Class Abilities
Spells 1, Magical Attack Damage 1-4







Spells: Warlock Bomb, Heal













Machine Friend

Magical Attack


Melee Attack

Melee Damage

Mistaken Identity

Command Energy
Monster Friend

Command Matter


Consume Alien
PSI Resist

Crowd Manipulate
Psychic Implant

Ranged Attack

Ranged Damage

Experience Bonus
Read Minds

Restore Courage

Saving Throw


Great Feat

See the Future


Sneak Attack




Lesser Feat
Unpleasant Oder

Kor-Otch, War Shaman of the Sky Conqueror tribe
Ages ago, in the days when the Vulkins first pretended to be gods, a tribe of Klengons stealthily visited to see if it was worth conquest in the name of the Klengon Emperor. Vulkin treachery sabotaged their scout ship, leaving them stranded upon the planet. They endured tremendous hardships, fighting many battles against savage tribes of hideous, deformed aliens and Klengon-eating monsters.  They remained strong in the ways of their forefathers because of their War Shamans, who maintained contact with the honored dead of the tribe, who battled all day and feasted all night in the Afterworld. This way they survived for many generations, always vigilant for a way to return to their sky-home.
In recent days, the tribe fell upon difficult times, when game was poor or poisoned with the Phasic curse.  Kor-Otch was a foundling, abandoned in the woods, suckled by a she-beast. About the youngling’s neck was a necklace with a strange metallic device, clearly made by Sky-Klengons in the days of old. The wise men of the tribe saw this as an omen: this is the child who would lead them back to the Homeworld, and return with the Emperor’s fleets to conquer Vanth.
Kor-Otch, as he was named, was raised as a War Shaman, according to his gifts. He was spirited and rebellious, and often shunned his studies. He was not a mighty master of the spirits and demons, and was thus not privy to the wisdom of the ancestors, yet showed an affinity for war magicks. When the False Klengons* came and settled in the tribal lands, some of the tribes betrayed their ancestors and joined their “Colonies”. The Sky Conqueror tribe fought back, taking to the hills.  Kor-Otch dreamed of pursuing a wounded beast to its lair, a place of shining metal dwellings and many strange beings. The wise men saw that the wounded beast was the destiny of the Sky Conquerors’ fate, and that his quest for the beast would determine the tribe’s eventual fate. Kor-Otch was sent off to follow his dream-beast, and he pursued it across the world, to the very steps of its lair: the place known as God City.
*”False Klengons”: Klengons who settled in the Klengon Colonies after the destruction of the Sector Navigation Grid.
Records of the early Vulkin expeditions to Vanth include employment contracts for a work gang of Klengon laborers, plus a consignment of doxies.  Payment records for their services continue for several months, then cease. The original labor contract was cancelled after the Klengon laborers failed to report back to work after a negotiated half-day holiday in honor of the Emperor Kayless’s birthday. Their deserted barracks had been vandalized, with several derogatory remarks about their Vulkin employers scrawled upon the walls in organic waste product.