World of Lazarus: Handling Asymmetric Gameplay

A World of Lazarus campaign doesn’t need to include a Lazarus as a player character, and in fact much of the book assumes the players are ordinary people trying to survive in this extraordinary world. The gamemaster’s chapter includes four general campaign models: Family, Serf, Waste, and Resistance, with the first three focusing on the various tiers of society that define the Lazarus setting and the fourth focusing on organizations like The Free who work to upend that stratification and restore basic human dignity to everyone. Each campaign model has its own player-character suggestions, objectives, adversaries, and nuances that can make for very different campaigns, and none require a Lazarus among the PCs’ numbers. For three of these campaign models—Serf, Waste, and Resistance—Lazari serve more as adversaries and boogeymen than heroes.

But we all like a power fantasy now and then, and World of Lazarus delivers with all the information you need to make player-character Lazari. But if every Family is only supposed to have one of these champions, how do you handle that at the table? Most roleplaying games are built around symmetric gameplay—the idea that player characters should be roughly the same power level. Fighters and wizards play differently, but if they start to feel too different, it feels unfair. Making asymmetric gameplay—where one player is more powerful than the others—work can be challenging, because you run the risk of one player being able to solve every problem, leaving the other players feeling useless and bored.

World of Lazarus describes several options for incorporating a Lazarus into your game, but the key is to design your adventures and opponents mindfully, making sure the Lazarus can’t do everything themselves and that there are challenges that showcase other players’ abilities. You wouldn’t design a fantasy adventure where every puzzle and every opponent could only be overcome by divine magic, and likewise you need to make sure you don’t build your Lazarus adventures in a way that every challenge is overcome by a Lazarus’s superior combat abilities. You may build combat encounters with one or two high-level threats the Lazarus must focus on, with other opponents that the non-Lazari party members can take out, or build your entire campaign with the intention of the Lazarus handling combat scenarios, but the focus including many scientific, investigation, or social challenges that the human party members can solve.

World of Lazarus details four ways of including a Lazarus as a prominent, permanent element in your own campaigns, which boil down to:

  • Lazarus Oversight, in which the Lazarus is an NPC the PCs report to directly every session, and who may occasionally join them on adventures as a plot device.
  • Rotating Lazarus, in which every player makes their own human-scale PC and collaborate to make a Lazarus as well, then take turns every session playing the Lazarus as an active party member.
  • Tip of the Spear, in which one player is the Family Lazarus, with the rest of the players playing various support elements. This suggestion is especially fitting for Family campaigns, considering that all Lazari receive special condition to enforce their loyalty, and so despite their power, the Lazarus PC is subservient to the other PCs.
  • The Phalanx, in which every PC creates either a Lazarus or a lesser version of a Lazarus, representing a coalition between families or an illegal attempt to circumvent the “one Lazarus per family” rule enforced by the Maccau Accords.

There are plenty of other ways to include a Lazarus in your game, from an occasional guest role to a cooperatively-played pseudo-PC to an NPCplot device the PCs can unleash as their secret weapon. The possibilities are limited by the deviousness of your own imagination. And you can always use the Lazarus talents to allow players to create half-measure Lazuri agents without applying the full Lazarus creation rules.

WORLD OF LAZARUS: MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN

One of the major themes in the Lazarus comic books is humanity: What does it mean to be human and when do you stop being human? At the lowest end, the Waste of the world are treated as livestock to be used or discarded as needed and at worst as pests to be exterminated. The concept of human rights is a relic of the past, unknown to much of the world’s population, and so many Waste exist at the fringes of both civilization and humanity: They fight and hunt and scavenge to survive, even turning on one another. Are you still human when all the world—and maybe even you—regards you as an animal?

 

 

Of course, the comics address the other end of this chilling question: When are you so advanced you essentially graduate beyond humanity? Joacquim Morray is more steel than flesh. Li Jiaolong’s mind exists in the digital realm and operates a heartbeat away from singularity. Forever Carlyle cannot die. Are any of the world’s Lazari still human when their lives are so far removed from all the essential constraints that define mortal lives?

The World of Lazarus would be remiss if it didn’t allow players to tackle these same questions (and kick butt doing it), and so the book introduces the concept of Augmentation talents to the Modern AGE system. Augmentation talents are special categories of talents locked behind story-based walls and only permissible with Gamemaster permission, and grant characters an extra boost above and beyond what ordinary talents provide. Most player characters will have access to the four Minor Augmentation talents—Acuity, Adrenal, Resilience, and Strength—which represent minor upgrades to the human condition powerful entities can grant their favored agents. Minor Augmentation: Adrenal, for example, boosts a character’s speed and response times, allowing them to react faster in combat, evade enemy strikes, and push their accuracy beyond human potential by overstressing their body. While Minor Augmentation talents can provide a competitive edge, they pale next to Lazarus Talents—Armor, Awareness, Cognition, Endurance, Muscle, Prowess, Reflexes, and regeneration—which reflect the pinnacle of science wielded by the Families. While every Family doles out minor augmentations as rewards to loyal Serfs and useful agents, Lazarus talents are reserved and secretive, developed and possessed solely—in theory, at least—for a Family’s Lazarus and no one else. Lazarus talents can provide suites of unusual or unique abilities, such as Cognition’s ability to predict the future or Prowess’s ability to move at top speed without making a sound.

Because the Families in the world of X+65 command a variety of sciences and construct their Lazari in different ways, Augmentation talents focus on the results rather than defining how characters get there. A Carlyle agent and a Morray agent can both receive Minor Augmentation: Strength as a reward for their service, but the Morray talent represents implanting artificial muscle fiber or replacing whole limbs with cybernetic prostheses while the Carlyle reward reflects genetic engineering. While mechanically identical, the different applications of the talent will represent different changes in the characters’ lives: an inhuman appearance for the Morray cyborg and a lifetime dependency on maintenance drugs and hormone therapy for the Carlyle mutant.

The World of Lazarus campaign setting even provides additional rules for creating a Lazarus of your very own (either as a player character, or as an NPC for your own campaign), as well as several options for including Lazari in your campaigns and full statblocks for four Lazari appearing in the comics: Forever Carlyle, Sonja Bittner, Joacquim Morray, and Li Jiaolong. But to show how easy it is to make a Lazarus of your own, I’ll run through the process here to create a Lazarus we didn’t include: The Zmey, the barely-controlled engine of destruction that serves as the Vassalovka Family’s Lazarus! We very deliberately omitted this ultimate physical antagonist’s statistics from the book itself so each Gamemaster could custom-build their own version to always be a potent threat regardless of their group’s experience and makeup, but for this blog we’ll benchmark the Zmey to be the equivalent of a 12th-level character—slightly higher than Forever Carlyle’s listed benchmark.

Here’s what you need to know to build a Lazarus for your own World of Lazarus Game:

  • Build a Character: Lazari start like normal characters, except they always have the option to select a Family background to represent superior training. We’ll build him by buying Ability scores, giving him Accuracy 1, Communication -1, Constitution 2, Dexterity 1, Fighting 3, Intelligence 0, Perception 1, Strength 3, Willpower His background is deliberately obscured in-world (but check out last February’s issue of the Lazarus X+66 miniseries if you want the inside scoop), and while it’s not canonically perfect, I’m giving him the Minor Family Background, the Soldier Profession, and the Survivor Drive.
  • Add a Bonus Profession: To reflect their extra training, a Lazarus selects a second Profession from a list, gains the Focus and Talent provided, and selects the better starting Health and Resources scores from between their two professions. Because the Zmey is a big, terrifying guy, Brawler for his second Profession.
  • Add Bonuses: A Lazarus gains additional bonuses to health and their choice of Abilitity scores. In the Zmey’s case, we’ll add the bigger bonuses to Strength and Constitution, and the smaller bonuses to Fighting, Perception, and Willpower.
  • Add Lazari Talents: A starting Lazarus begins with Novice rank in two Lazari talents, and can acquire additional ranks in place of their usual talent selection as they level up, with the limitation that they can’t improve Lazarus talent ranks two levels in a row. The Zmey’s fearsome strength and resilience make Endurance and Strength the obvious choices here.

This gives us an impressive statblock, but remember this is the equivalent of a starting Lazarus and we want the equivalent of a 12th level Lazarus! So we have an additional 11 Ability advancements, 11 new Ability Focuses, and 11 Talent improvements! You don’t have to create your NPCs as if they were player characters—and in fact you’ll get much more focused, less cluttered character sheets if you just select Ability ranks, Focuses, and Talents that feel appropriate—but I like this method personally and so we’ll stick with it for now.

After adjusting for additional levels, here’s the version of the Zmey that will haunt my players’ nightmares:


The Zmey

Accuracy 2 (Assault Rifles)

Communication 0

Constitution 6 (Stamina)

Dexterity 2 (Initiative)

Fighting 5 (Brawling, Flexible Weapons+, Grappling, Short-Hafted)

Intelligence 0 (Families)

Perception 3 (Hearing)

Strength 7 (Intimidate+, Might)

Willpower 4 (Courage)

 

Speed: 12         Health: 81/165/210        Defense: 12/14/15         AR + Toughness: 4I/4B/2P + 6/7/9

 

Attacks

Unarmed +7 1d3+2d6+7 S
Axe +7 4d6+7 W + 1d6 P
Flail +8 3d6+10 W + 1d6 P

 

Favored Stunts: Lightning Attack

Talents: Clearance* (Novice), Dual Weapon Style (Master), Elite Soldier (Expert), Grappling Style (Novice), Overwhelm (Novice)

Lazarus Talents: Armor (Expert); Endurance (Master; Meningeal Reinforcement, Thermoregulation, Tireless), Prowess (Novice; Weapon Mastery [Flexible]) Strength (Expert; Crushing Grip, Muscularity)

Equipment: Axe, Heavy Flail, Skull Belt

Threat: Dire

 

Giving Tuesday, 2018: Tal’Dorei Map Wildfire Relief Fund Sale

California Wild Fire Fund Raiser

[Updated Dec. 5 2018: We have extended this sale for another week, though Tuesday, December 11, 2018. Thank you for helping us help wildfire survivors!]

We have created poster versions of the Realm of Tal’Dorei Map found in the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting book. Available in framed, canvas-printed, and unframed versions, this gorgeous map by award-winning cartographer Andy Law makes a wonderful gift for the Critter in your life, and it will look great on your own wall. Through December 4th, 2018, 50% of our profits from these maps will go to the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund. Additionally, we’ve placed the print and PDF versions of the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting on sale at 20% off in our Green Ronin Online Store, and 20% of the proceeds of that book and PDF in our Wildfire Relief Fund Sale will go to the same charity.

Please join us in supporting wildfire survivors in California, and get a beautiful map of Tal’Dorei while you’re at it.

World of Lazarus: It’s Time to Organize!

Players coming to World of Lazarus from other Green Ronin titles are probably vaguely familiar with the organization rules used in the Dragon Age Roleplaying Game, Fantasy AGE, and A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. This simple, flexible system lets players take control of a noble family, thieves’ guild, mercenary company, or nation of their very own as a core part of the campaign. With the setting’s intense focus on the responsibilities and effects of character’s actions on the world around them, this system is a natural fit for World of Lazarus as well!

The setting book includes a few sample organizations already, including the Novaya Bratva crime empire and a sample Waste town, but you can make your own as a core part of your own campaign, using adventures to help shape the PC’s organization and their impact on rival organizations. For PCs playing Waste, they might build up their own tiny community and target organizations representing warlord armies, aggressive towns, and the local tax man. Resistance-focused campaigns might instead use the rules to represent the PCs’ resistance cell and network of supporters while their opponents include Family intelligence organizations, law enforcement, and criminal groups looking to pressure freedom fighters into supporting their own illegal empire. For a Serf campaign, organizations can represent anything from rival research groups in a scientific and corporate-espionage-focused campaign to enemy forces in a military campaign.

But we already started thinking about a Family campaign last week when I created my own character for a campaign, Carrie Morrow, a loyal but ruthless intelligence agent for the Quinn family, who are desperately trying to hold the Borderland South Sub-Domain together in the face of war and Family power struggles. The PCs can operate their own organization representing to Quinn family and their power base, and for this kind of campaign we’ll want some enemies… Say the local Hock forces eating into the eastern border? And a rival Family hoping to oust the Quinn’s and take their place? And just to keep the players on their toes, we’ll toss in something stealthy… say an up-and-coming dark web media group associated with the Free and prying in to family business. Each of these organizations will need their own statblock, a few named NPCs so the PCs have something human to recognize with their forces, and a modus operandi. But that’s all behind-the-scenes work for the GM. For now, let’s focus on what the players can build: Their own Family!

The GM decides that a Junior Family like the Quinns has Medium Scale, and lets us build the Quinn Family by selecting organization Ability scores from an array: one 3, two 2s, two 1s, and a 0, plus 2 Focuses representing important assets or focuses. The Quinn Family is stretched pretty thing right now, dealing with a war and political backstabbers, so we’ll want a good Force for military confrontations and a decent Tradecraft to help handle spies and political intrigue. We need to decide who the Quinns are, what makes up their power base, and what unusual assets they might be able to call one. After fifteen minutes of passionate debate and some light name-calling, we arrive at:

  • Force 2
  • Finance 0
  • Influence 3
  • Culture 1
  • Tradecraft 2
  • Technology 1

The Quinns are popular and know where all the bodies are buried—controlling the local media outlets and entertainment venues—probably with strong ties to CARSEC, but their lavish lifestyle has left them cash-strapped and perhaps lagging technologically behind what would be expected of a Carlyle house. Organization Focuses can be more abstract than character Focuses, and for the Quinns, we go with Influence (propaganda) and Finance (blackmail); the Quinns can put some serious pressure on people when they need to, making up for their empty bank accounts, but it won’t win them many new friends.

Being built with an array, the Quinns begin with a Cohesion of 3 and 28+2d6… 36 Capital. That’s all an organization needs to get started. Now the GM just needs to figure out how frequently the PCs will make Organization checks, which in turn determines the timeline of the campaign. Organization checks once a month means things are hitting fast and hard, with constant struggle and changes in power, while every three months or every six months would be more appropriate for drawn-out political maneuvering in a campaign intended to covered years. The GM wants the campaign to be high-energy and high-stakes, so we’ll go with once a month, usually with a PC-scale adventure somewhere in between Organization checks.

A PC organization gives the GM additional hooks for adventures; a bad Organization check may result in a drop in Influence, and the adventure may involve tracking down whoever is trashing the Quinns’ reputation, for example. A PC organization also provides additional options for rewards. The PCs capturing a renown Hock scientist as part of the adventure may provide a free Technology Focus while a remarkable public victory over an opponent in an adventure could restore organization Capital. Especially with an intrigue-oriented campaign, it’s important for the PCs’ personal action to feel like they have larger consequences, and affecting their organization or others is an easy way to represent that!

Ronin Round Table: The Wolfenmoot

Artwork by Priscilla Kim

Artwork by Priscilla Kim

Howly Wolfenoot!

Recently, we became aware of the existence of a brand new holiday: Wolfenoot! Invented by an seven-year-old New Zealand boy, it celebrates people being kind to dogs. It’s a delightful notion, with households celebrating by eating roast meat and cakes decorated as moons, and the “Spirit of the Wolf” hides small gifts for family members – the kinder to puppers they are, the better the gifts! Folk have also decided to celebrate by donating or volunteering with local animal shelters and wolf rescues.

Quite honestly, that’s some delightful holiday goodness we couldn’t wait to get in on, and it seems only too appropriate to add Wolfenoot to the Blue Rose calendar, as well. I mean, for a setting that includes sapient, psychic wolves? It’s a natural fit.

So, without further ado, we present: Wolfenmoot, celebrated on the full moon of every month of Goion.

The Wolfenmoot

Full Moon of the Month of Goion

As winter settles into the Pavin Weald, and the moon begins to wax toward full, Forest Folk prepare for the Wolfenmoot. Read more

Welcome to the World of Lazarus

The World of Lazarus campaign setting for the Modern AGE roleplaying game is almost ready for launch. As our very first supplement and setting for Modern AGE, we’re both proud and nervous, but being huge fans of the critically-acclaimed comic book, we’re more excited than anything.

For those of you who haven’t yet read Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s comic series, Lazarus is a dystopian, near-future world that is deeply divided between the haves and the have-nots. The comic paints a broad picture of an eerily realistic future, with a handful of corporate oligarchs ruling over the teeming masses in a world ravaged by climate change, disease, and war. While it doesn’t provide many opportunities to bust out the rules for magic and psychic abilities found in the Modern AGE core rulebook (or maybe it does; it’s your campaign), it provides a lot of other elements that make for a great roleplaying game setting.

 

Lazarus is cyberpunk, but that incredible technology is only available to the most powerful figures on Earth, and those directly useful to them. Genetic engineering, cybernetic, quantum computer—these are all technologies mastered by the Families who rule to world, but are only available to their most trusted assets.

Lazarus is post-apocalyptic, but only to those who can’t buy their way out of its impact. War, pandemics, and super-storms have wiped out large swathes of the population and rendered once-bustling cities into ghost towns. The wealthy and powerful can insulate themselves from the decay, living in technological utopias and living lives familiar to us here in the 21st century—working 9-to-five jobs, picking up dinner, and relaxing to browse social media. But those without means, the vast majority of humanity, live hand-to-mouth in grueling, nearly medieval conditions or else go off the grid entirely to scavenge and hunt a living in the fallen ruins of the old world.

Lazarus is political thriller, where the actions of people on-high dramatically impacting the lives of those below them, but also where the actions of the teeming masses make the powerful sweat and toss in their sleep. The wealthy are held up by sophisticated social machines, and anything that throws a wrench in those gears threatens to topple their empire. Intrigue and quiet deals with the devil happen at all social levels, and test characters’ resolve and morals.

This is a fun, flavorful world ripe for a hundred possible campaigns, from Serf soldiers fighting a war with next-gen technology to desperate Waste survivors eking out a living and exploring ruins to maybe, finally strike it rich enough to know comfort.

World of Lazarus Character Creation: Carrie Morrow

We didn’t have room for a character creation example in World of Lazarus itself, so please indulge me while I run through a quick character to show how easy it can be and how character creation shapes the kinds of campaign’s you’ll run. I’ll generate Carrie Morrow, starting off with just a name because it makes it easier to reference her as we build. And also because I like the name Carrie.

Character creation uses the rules from Modern AGE, so let’s start out by rolling up some random ability scores: A 12 in Accuracy gives us a 2. The rest are 12, 11, 11, 14, 7, 15, 11, and a 6. That gives us:

  • Accuracy 2
  • Communication 2
  • Constitution 1
  • Dexterity 1
  • Fighting 2
  • Intelligence 0
  • Perception 3
  • Strength 1
  • Willpower 0

I can swap any two scores, but I’m going to hold off for now. Right now Carrie is a decent scrapper, charming, and has a keen eye, so lots of ways this character can go depending on what else we roll up for her, but I’m thinking whatever her background, she’s been to the school of hard knocks and learned most of life’s lessons the hard way.

To roll her background, we need to know Carrie’s social class, and to know that we need to know what kind of campaign the GM wants to run. World of Lazarus offers for main campaign models—Family, Serf, Waste, and Resistance—with each model having difference focuses and challenges. Let’s go for a Family campaign, because I like the idea of Carrie stumbling through complex family politics with her respectable Communication and poor Willpower. Let’s say the campaign is about the Quinns, a Junior Signatory Family in service to the Carlyles, left to run the Borderland South Sub-Domain as Stephen Carlyle left to replace his father in leading the Family and the war with Hock escalates.

Rolling some more dice gives us a 3 for her social class—Carrie is a middle-class Serf—and another 10 for her Background, so Carrie is a Retainer, one of the new backgrounds in World of Lazarus:

“Your loyalty and diligence earned you a position within a Family household, directly or indirectly attending to the needs and wishes of a member of the Family. Your position may grant you certain privileges over other Serfs, but only as long as you remember your place.”

So Carrie is a toadie to the Family. I can work with that. A Retainer gets +1 Intelligence, either the Communication (persuasion) or Intelligence (homemaking) focus, and Novice ranks in either the Contacts or Social Survivor talent (another new addition to this book). I’ll go for Communications (persuasion) and the Contacts talent. A roll on the Retainer table also gives us a 9 for the Intelligence (law) focus.

Let’s Roll a middle-class profession. Because Lazarus adds extra Professions, we roll 1d6 and then a second 1d6, getting a 5 and a 4: A Breacher. This is another new option in World of Lazarus, basically amounting to a specialist at getting into and out of complex systems—a sort of high-end professional thief or corporate espionage artist; not where I expected this character to go. A Breacher gets 15+Con Health, starting Resources of 6, a choice of the Dexterity (sabotage) or Intelligence (security) focuses, and either the Burgalry or Freerunning talents. I’ll go with Intelligence (Security) and Burglary; they mesh well.

At this point, I’m going to use my free ability swap to trade Carrie’s Strength and Intelligence; she’s got a lot of Intelligence focuses, and as a thief I don’t want to lower her Communications or Perception.

Finally, we’ve got to determine Carrie’s Drive. Two more six-siders gives us 6 and 5. Carrie is a Savior. She sees some clear evil in the world and works to spare people from it. Given the Family-oriented campaign and her career as an acquirer of important things, we can safely assume that Carrie is a true believer: she believes in the inherent superiority of the Family and their rigid social order. She’s a follower, and at this point I start poking the other players to see whose agenda she clings to and supports without question. Thanks to her Drive she gets either the Command or Inspire talent (let’s go with Command), and a bump to either her Health, a Relationship, or Resources. I’ll go with an extra Relationship slot, and save that for another player who plays a Family scion.

Here’s what her character sheet looks like:

Lazarus_MorrowCharSheet

And here’s her story:

The Morrow family has served the Quinns for generations as lawyers and bureaucrats, but Carrie Lilah Morrow serves in a starkly different capacity. Firmly believing in the principals of social Darwinism, she knows that her elevated position is a result of her family’s hard work and superior skills, and by extension the Quinn’s must work harder and be possessed of even greater survival traits to flourish in the harsh modern world. She has seen the world outside the Family estates and comfortable Serf residential blocks and know that people—those people who refuse to respect the system—fight and kill over the most meager scraps rather than accept the Family’s generous Labor Reward Point system, and the Quinns need to be shielded from the harshest of those realities if at all possible. Attending school alongside the next expected Family leader, Amelia Quinn, Carrie made an eager sycophant and enabler, doing whatever dirty work the Family scion found beneath her or wouldn’t want traced back to her. She still remains at Amelia’s right hand, now serving the Quinn family as a spy and saboteur.

Carrie probably has a lot of growing and eye-opening ahead of her in this campaign. It should be fun!

The World of Lazarus Pre-Order and PDF

The World of Lazarus (pre-order and PDF)We are big Lazarus nerds here at Green Ronin, so we’re giddy to announce that The World of Lazarus setting for the Modern AGE RPG is now available for pre-order and PDF download. And, when you pre-order the physical book, we’ll offer you the PDF version for just $5! If you prefer to shop in person, participating Green Ronin Pre-Order Plus retailers can get you the same $5 PDF deal. Have them ask us for details.

The World of Lazarus is the first campaign setting for Green Ronin’s new Modern AGE RPG. Based on the critically acclaimed Lazarus series by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and presented by Image Comics, the book brings this noir dystopia to tabletop roleplaying games. In the near future, time has rendered death obsolete, and life infinitely cheap. In the wake of governments’ failure and global upheaval, the Families stepped in and divvied up the world. Now peace and order reign in a world of technological marvels and neo-feudalism. The Families quietly war with one another, wagering the lives of loyal Serfs while they relax in lives of indulgence, all while the Waste—those left behind by this new order—struggle daily for base survival. Play members of a Family in the highest of high-stakes game, Serfs fighting for their Family’s interests to maintain order and safety, or disaffected Waste fighting for a better life in the burned ruins of the old world. The World of Lazarus requires the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook for use.

Ronin Round Table: Using the Fantasy AGE Bestiary in Blue Rose

Part III

One of the tremendous benefits of the Adventure Game Engine (or AGE) system is how quickly we’ve developed a diversity of applications for it. Not only does this give us a bunch of great games to play, but allows us to mix-and-match them to get ourselves a breadth of options beyond that of any single game.

Today, we’re concluding a series that shows this off a little. The Fantasy AGE Bestiary is an excellent book full of great monsters, horrors, and adversaries for your Fantasy AGE heroes. But its utility isn’t limited to Fantasy AGE campaigns – we’re going to talk a little about how these monsters might fit into the romantic fantasy setting of Blue Rose.

This is the last of three articles taking these critters, one at a time, and discussing where they might fit into Blue Rose’s setting, and what (if any) mechanical adjustments need to be made to make room for them. See the first part here, and the second part here.

Brian Hagan

 

 

Ocean Worm: Though Aldinfolk have legends of dragons, they do not consider these titanic ocean-going terrors to be dragons, per se. Still, the sailor jargon referring to them as “worms” has stuck. Many sages also refer to them as leviathans, and to the Lar’tyans, they are the Great Enemy, one of the few things that threaten their mighty warships. None of these with breath weapons have ever been reported in Aldean history to date. (See also the Shadow-Touched Serpent, on p100 of the Six of Swords adventure anthology.)

 

Ooze: Though strange, ravenous creatures with gelatinous bodies have existed for a long time, it is only recently that Aldin scholars discovered a strange fact: all of them are the remains of sorcerous work. Though it’s likely the Sorcerer Kings deliberately created some of them, the truth is far stranger: most of them used to be other creatures, or other sorcerous creations entirely, and all collapsed and devolved into these protoplasmic horrors, held together literally with sorcerous malice and little else.

 

Penanggalan: Old, blasphemous rites are responsible for the creation of the penanggalan. Similar to those which create liches, these sorcerous rituals are remnants of the ancient sorcerous traditions in what is now Drunac. The witches of the Rezean people are some of the few who recognize the signs of penanggalan among today’s adepts.

 

Rat King: According to certain rhydan sages, the conjoined intelligence of these strange horrors is a blasphemous mimicry of rhydan intelligence, the closest that Shadow can manage to the gift of a living soul. Whatever causes it, they are dangers in places where rats are plentiful and have many places to hide, which includes most cities. Rhy-rats (see Aldis: City of the Blue Rose) are best aware of the dangers of the rise of rat kings, and consider the careful monitoring of non-rhydan rat populations as part of their wardenship against Shadow.

 

Reaper: The priesthood of Selene teach that the reapers first appeared with the sorcerous rite that created the first of the unliving (different legends identify this unliving differently, but most tellings suggest it was a vampire or lich). Whatever their genesis, reapers now come hunting among all of the people of Aldea, living or otherwise. Many who find themselves stalked by a reaper flee immediately to adepts of the Selenite priesthood, who specialize in discovering what it is that has gained the ire of a reaper, and help a victim put it to rights, though sometimes this means seeing a murderer pay for the deaths they’ve caused.

 

Sea Devil: Sea devils rise up from the dark and cold depths that the sea-folk avoid descending into, for Shadow dwells in the deep oceans as well. Some sea-folk legends claim that sea devils are Shadow-corrupted members of their people from ages past; others seem to suggest that they are predators on sea-folk who rose to power by dwelling in the pelagic abysses. Regardless of where they came from, sea devils are a threat to all ocean-going folk: they are capable raiders of both subaquatic and above-water targets, swarming out of the ocean to attack sea-folk coves, seaside villages, and ships alike.

 

Shadow Person: Neither darkfiend nor unliving, elemental or fey, the exact nature of the shadow person is largely unknown. They are rare enough that only studied scholars are likely to recognize the signs of their predation without extensive research. They are known to torment the people of Kern most regularly, likely because Kernish folk are denied the means of defending themselves against them by their dark masters. Shadow people are considered darkfiends in Jarzon, and the witches of Rezea are said to know specialized wards to keep them from creeping into tents among the tribes.

 

Shard Lord: Records in the Vault of Censure – that collection of works considered too dangerous to permit general dissemination by the Crown in Aldis – claim that shard lords are a true abomination: the results of an infusion of arcanely sensitive shas crystals with the emanations of Shadow. This is why they are sometimes referred to as “shas lords.” The fact that shard lords are found most often in the Shadow Barrens upholds this origin story, as all of the shas deposits of that dark land are known to be utterly corrupted by Shadow, suitable only for works that aid sorcery.

 

Soul Harvester: For as long as Aldean folk have recorded their knowledge of monsters, they have spoken of soul harvesters. But these monstrosities were relatively uncommon for most of that history, until the actions of one of the Sorcerer Kings, the tyrant Yngalandis. Experimenting with uses for souls, Yngalandis constructed a sorcerous device that acted as a beacon and lure for soul harvesters, drawing them into this realm and forcing them to his service. Unfortunately, machinations by a rival not only destroyed the device, but scattered its power across Aldea, acting as a lure without an attached trap. Though these emanations have long faded, whatever culture exists among the soul harvesters has established this dimension as a place attractive for hunting, and they continue to stalk its folk.

 

Thin Man: Some of those who served in the wretched halls and palaces of the Sorcerer Kings mentioned the thin men afterwards, describing them as strange entities that came through shadowgates at the behest of the Sorcerer Kings. Whether ambassadors from a strange people known only to the Sorcerer Kings, or otherworldly mercenaries paid in some terrible coin, no one knows. It is sufficient that these things yet stalk the peoples of Aldea. Some scholars suggest this means that the thin men have either developed their own means of passage into this world, or that there yet remains at least one shadowgate that they have access to.

 

Treeman: It is said by some that the deeps of Wyss are home to entire communities of the treefolk, living trees who shepherd trees the way mortal shepherd sheep and cattle. Whether this is true of Wyss or not, treefolk occasionally appear solitarily in other deep forests. They are usually hesitant to speak to any folk, although a few rhydan enclaves have managed to establish alliances with them, and actually consider them kin in some capacity, plants given minds and souls the same way they are animals who were given such. Treefolk mystics are all incredible masters of the Nature Reading and Plant Shaping arcana.

 

Troll: Though they were once the terrors that haunted the high mountain passes, trolls are almost exclusively found in the Golgan Badlands, the Veran Marsh, the Shadow Barrens, and the wastelands of Drunac.

 

Werebeasts: Almost unheard of in Aldea, the exact origins of werebeasts are by and large a mystery. Some rhydan enclaves warn their members that werebeasts are what happen when rhydan are lost to Shadow, while some scholars think it is a curse inflicted on those who have mastered shapeshifting arcana who become corrupted. However it happens, it does so rarely, so much so that most Aldeans have never heard of werebeasts, though their existence is recorded among the Rolls of the Damned in Jarzon, and in the lore of Selenite mystery cults.

Orktoberfest: November, Shmovember—Orks Am Ignore Sour Man Sense of Time!

So, this is the capstone on the Orktoberfest series, where I went over some of the notable elements of Ork!: The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition. Subtlety is not especially orky, so I’ll lay it out: This was to make you interested in it, so you would buy it. Krom, god of the orks, is a cruel cosmic overlord, but he’s honest! Therefore, I’m going to end things by making a “stone staircase pitch” (elevators are rare in the World of Orkness; anyone capable of building or maintaining one would probably be eaten by a troll).

Enter the World of Orkness!

Enter the World of Orkness!

Why You Am Buy Ork?

  • A simple, intuitive system for casual “beer and pretzels” roleplaying, that even gets around to supporting a theme—you against your god!
  • You play an ork: a short-tempered, uncannily tough, green-skinned-boar-faced bruiser, hoping to earn glory and dethrone your village’s sinister warlock overlord!
  • Full color, blood-spattered-yet-humorous illustrations by Dan Houser (see Icons: Superpowered Roleplaying too!) throughout.
  • New to this edition: Revised and expanded rules for magic—a potent art tainted by the curse of Krom, the ork god!
  • Finally, a game whose jokes refer to both Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Buck Rogers in the XXV Century.
  • Limb-ripping, bone-crunching combat, revised for the new edition!
  • A full-sized catalog of things to kill, from annoying flying monkeys to giant robots. Plus: All giant lizards breathe fire!
  • Seriously, a truly complete game, that includes enough adventures to run an entire campaign. Start by raiding the village of the pie-making, hair-footed squishy men, move on to crashing airships piloted by mutant stinkbugs, and meet your fate in the legendary dungeon called Horserat Mountain!

Why You Am Have “You Am” Sentence Constructions?

Okay, I keep forgetting to put this down in various blog articles. Part of Ork!’s fun is talking like an ork! Orks live in an eternal present, like stereotypical enlightened masters or excitable mastiffs chasing cars, so always use the present tense, with emphasis, because the word “am” usually precedes verbs and adjectives. “Am” also replaces “do,” “be,” “is,” and a bunch of other weak, worthless words. Orks use “me” instead of “I,” and frequently reject stupid dithering definitive articles, and generally employ Hemingway-eqsue economy of speech. Me am tell you good? You am get ork points for good ork talk!

Where Am World?

I never bothered to get into the setting before, either! Orks live in a place called the World of Orkness, because we don’t pass up cheap jokes around these parts. In development, we got rid of a bunch of stuff detailing specific areas because orks have terrible memories and if they mostly have a geography divided into their village and a fluid, enemy-filled not-village, this frees Orkmasters from the burden of consistency. However, the World of Orkness has a basic set of stuff in it, including:

  • Various weak and worthless creatures you may recognize from equally weak and worthless sources, including sour men (who we might call “humans”), squishy men (small, annoyingly cute, hairy-footed, and weirdly free from copyright claims until the point they throw rings into lava), bagpipe-playing goblins with Scots accents (so you can’t use them for dwarves—well “stunty men” to orks—in this setting!) and so on.
  • Anti-science trolls eat anyone trying to move things past a fantasy world technological steady state, and as an ever-comforting allegory for the anti-science stuff your weird uncle shares on Facebook.
  • A magic-ravaged world. Long ago, the World of Orkness’ (WoO? I should have thought of that during development!) mighty civilization Am Go Too Far, and suffered a magical catastrophe that ripped open the skin of the world like an old-timey hockey goalie’s face. Strange people, creatures, and things rained through rips in reality, and mountains got tossed around like the teeth of, once again, an old-timey hockey goalie’s face. Things have calmed down a bit, but you can still find virtually anything, anywhere. This includes items from the 21st century, since, well, we have a lot of stuff to dump due to the productive forces of late industrial capitalism. Magic may warp such things, from their shape to how they work. This is a whole bunch of words to tell you, “You can have your orks fight an animated Mazda Miata if you want.”
  • The aforementioned giant fire-breathing lizards.

What Am Next?

That’s it for Orktoberfest (at least for this year! Heh.). All that’s left is for you to buy Ork! However, that’s not all! Coming up next year, the Orkmaster Mayhem Kit will give you a screen and new adventures.

Furthermore, after experimenting with Ork!’s system a bit, I decided to see how it would work for a more serious rules-light game. I can’t say much about it now, but the wheels are turning. Watch this space!

Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel (Print Pre-Order and Three Electronic Formats)

Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel cover image, by Magdalena PągowskaWe’re excited to announce that Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel, by Joseph D. Carriker Jr., is now available for pre-ordering and in three electronic formats from our Green Ronin Online Store.

When two envoys from the Sovereign’s Finest disappear on a critical mission, an unlikely band of allies, led by Soot, a rhy-crow with dark and secret power, is brought together to combat a hidden threat. As portents bloom across the smuggler’s den known as Serpent’s Haven, these strange agents quickly find themselves tested by the machinations of a cult dedicated to darkest Shadow. Grieving, afraid, and unsure who to trust or where to turn, they must rely on one another and their erstwhile allies in hopes of rescuing the envoys and foiling a terrible plot. Success will bring no great reward, but failure is unimaginable. Can they overcome their suspicion and fear to fulfill their mission, or will they, too, fall to Shadow?

When you pre-order Shadowtide through our Green Ronin Online Store, you can get the novel in three electronic formats right away, for just $5.

Pre-Order Shadowtide

Also available from Nisaba Press:

Nisaba Journal Issue 1 (PDF, EPUB, MOBI)