Thursday, February 23, 2017

Strange Stars - OSR - A REVIEW

So a while back Trey Causey of Sorcerer's Skull Released "Strange Stars" a " setting for any game where modern transhuman science fiction meets classic 70s space opera." It was a pretty good all purpose supplement about a very "Star Wars" (or perhaps more "Ice Pirates") meets Ian Banks' Culture Novels or Lecke's Ancillary universe and it was followed shortly by a FATE mechanics book for the setting written by John Till. I know nothing about FATE so I can't comment on that one, but recently Trey and Hydra Cooperative put out Strange Stars OSR.  I think I know OSR and I even know Stars Without Numbers, which is a slightly crunchy (Optional DM facing crunch - it's fine) version of space Dungeons & Dragons using the contentions of the 1980's Basic & Expert books ('B/X' or Red and Blue Box).

Interior Sample of Strange Stars OSR

I also know Trey, in an internet acquaintance way, and think he's one of the best people working in the OSR gaming scene (though I don't think he'd consider himself OSR exactly, even if I think he's running a Wizard of OZesque 5e campaign or maybe a B/X Planet of the Apes game these days), who doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves.  Not only is Mr. Causey's blog always updating with something interesting to say (though often about comics or sci-fi movies, and usually fairly short), but it has been for years.  Mr. Causey's earlier works regarding "The City" are a phenomenal setting that was one of the early departures in the tabletop revival blogging scene from vintage rules recreation.  "The City" is detailed in "Weird Adventures" and is a 1920's weird fantasy New York attached to a Weird fantasy America and world.  It is amazingly well done, pulling from a rich well of popular culture and geek culture to create a truly inspiring and darkly humorous setting.  The folks at Hydra Cooperative are also pretty excellent, and produce high quality works, so I have a great deal of fondness for both author and publisher - but still I bought this PDF ($5.55) with my own money and so I promise to be critical of it where it's deserved.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

In the City at Night - Trade your Dreams for Tawdry Fashion

Pennington -Year One
The Capital is eternal, possessing the hubris of something that is, and it's 2,800 year history of continuous metropolitan occupation gives it some claim to being the largest, longest continuously occupied human city in the world, unless some poor bastards still cling to something akin to life in the blasted cities of the Imperial Heart Provinces. Still discounting bone singers, the Capital was a bustling city of high industry when the Papacy of the Red Sun's was truly the scattering of nomadic cattle raiding tribes that Imperial propaganda still paints it as.  Only Far Vehisu claims a longer history, and far Vehisu also claims to have been founded a thousand years in the future.

With great age, comes a deep, wide detritus of knowledge and a deeper one of trash. Much of the Capital's trash is magic, and some is still useful.  Below is a 2D20 table of magic items that may be found in the Capital.  The items shown are varied, but tends towards the less martial and more esoteric functions as conflict in the Capital is just as often whispered intimations in a dusty salon as it is knives under a canal bridge.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The City at Night - They Stalk Darkened Streets - Blackhearts

Michael Whelan - Descent

This began as a random encounter list companion for the most recent post of random urban landmarks for the capital of the Fallen Empire, but became a long monster description relating to a form of ghoul designed for Fallen Empire.  Ghouls are one of my favorite D&D monsters and almost always make an appearance in my games, being a truly horrific source of imagery for me, and the 'Blackhearts' below are an especially horrible and pathetic variety.

One of the things I decided when running Fallen Empire Games was to use mythological monsters from less common mythos, and for various reasons the folktales of the Caribbean became the source of some of the monster design, Blackhearts being based on the legend of the Blackheart Man/Uncle Gunnysack (not Bunny Wailer's reinterpretation as a symbol of resolute anti-colonialism but a boogeyman that steals children and carries them off in his gunnysack).  Likewise Duppys and the Rolling Calf are likely to appear on Fallen Empire random encounter lists, though in equally twisted forms

There is no safety in the winding and convoluted streets of the Capital, paths overlaid, rewritten, and turning in on themselves and ruin crumbling next to commerce, while hideous things creep up from the underways, down from the abandoned stories above, and out of the canals.  Palisades of repurposed masonry and expensive imported timber protect the dockland redoubts of the Resurgent Merchants a Wreckers, magical wards still have some power around the manses of the craft and trade castes and the nobility and their servitors are more often than not themselves predatory beasts that hunt the night.

Most citizens and visitors to the Capital have no such protection and rely of stout doors, heavy locks, iron shutters, silence and low folk magic to protect their homes and family.  These protections are effective for most, but each night at least one family is reduced to red ribbons and one band of late night revelers dragged under the green scum of a nearby canal by something long dead.

While many potential dangers stalk the Capital’s crumbling streets from renegade Knights Perilous to duppies formed of an angry spirit and cyclones of trash, one of the most common and most awful is the Blackheart, skulking at the fringes of society with their sacks of human bones and preying on the weak.