Friday, April 11, 2014

Four Familiars

Lately a short work, On the Conjuration of Unique and Fashionable Familiars, has appeared in certain River-Town bookshops frequented by sorcerous types.  The author is listed as one Elsie Dodge, who my sources tell me is a wizardess of middling repute.  Miss Dodge's thaumaturgical researches, as detailed in the pamphlet, have yielded a few interesting twists to the summoning of familiars.  By following her instructions - which involve a convex mirrored surface and a peculiar arrangement of chess-pieces - while casting the standard 'Find Familar' conjuration, the creature that appears may be one of those described below (a d4 is acceptable).


BOROGOVE BIRD
A tall, stick-like bird which, in its stiller moments, might be taken for a mop due to its wild shock of dreadlock-like feathers, typically a bluish-grey; they also have notably large beaks.  The borogove is not suited for combat, or riding, or really much of anything, a flaw of which it is keenly aware, making it continually miserable and just awful to be around as it sighs deeply for attention.
Familiar Bonus: The miasma of depression and self-loathing which surrounds the borogove bird has a tendency to disrupt emotion-bending magic nearby; any sentient within ten feet of the borogove receives a +2 to all saves versus fear or emotional manipulation.  Also, should you ever need a sympathetic link to a dimension of para-elemental angst, the borogove is it.


TOVE
An early, lizard-like mammal from the dawn of time, the tove feeds by boring holes in cheese using its corkscrew-like proboscis; in some fancy extraplanar restaurants, toves are employed to make Swiss cheese.  Despite a fondness for time-pieces, the tove's chief attribute is its penchant for nimble activity, coupled with a naturally slimy, mucus-covered hide which makes it deucedly difficult to grab as it gimbles to and fro.
Familiar Bonus: The sorceror bonded to a tove receives a +2 on any rolls to escape grapples, wriggle out of manacles or rope, or anything else sufficiently Houdini-esque.


RATH
These small green piglets make a horrible wheezing, whistling, chuffing, screaming, whining sound basically all the time, and never seem to sleep.  Successfully owning a rath involves either deafness - itself an impediment for a wizard - or the cleverness required to figure out exactly what sort of inanimate object your particular rath wants to suck on as a pacifier; typically a certain kind of rock, a salad fork, left shoe, or other seemingly mundane thing.  The rath will happily suckle its chosen object in perpetuity, cuddling up in a near-fetal state, and not actually needing to be fed.  When the pacifier is removed, the rath will immediately resume its ridiculous cacophany.
Familiar Bonus: When the rath is outgrabing, sonic effects within thirty feet are partially countered, either giving targets +4 to resist (for save-able issues) or sometimes actually nullifying the spell entirely (an audible glamer, for example).


HUMPMONCULUS
This vaguely humanoid impling better resembles a chicken's egg in both shape and size; it bears a humanoid face, often sporting a wide grin or, alternately, a sour expression.
Familiar Bonus:  The wizard who is bonded with a humpmonculus may consult with it on matters of history or linguistics, providing a +2 to any rolls to that effect.  The GM should, however, roll a d20 each time the humpmonculus eggman is consulted; on a 1, the advice is completely rotten.

Painfully obvious, perhaps, what I'm currently reading to the Boy at bedtime.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tales from the Book of Aqueducts

Recently the Boy has been inventing countries...as longtime readers know, when the Boy is productive, his efforts are quickly transcribed, given a veneer of Daddy-dream, and added to the Wampus canon in some fashion or another.

THE BOOK OF AQUEDUCTS

The Book of Aqueducts is an ancient codex from the Long Ago which scholars believe predates the rise of Koz and perhaps dates back into shrouded antiquity.  Its actual age is difficult to pinpoint, for it has chief amongst its curious enchanted qualities the inconvenient yet amazing habit of rejiggering all of its illustrations to portray the characters as of the same species as the reader.  Thus, the Book of Aqueducts itself could perhaps come down to us from the Simian Era, or even the legendary Time of Owls - we may never know.  Historians and some wizards often read copies of the Book; the original is kept under lock and key, as a wondrous object and historical treasure.

The tome itself is oversized by today's standards, bound in the purple hide of an unknown extinct creature.  The cover bears no title; it is known as the Book of Aqueducts due to the small, geometric marginalia designs which feature on many pages, which resemble pipes or waterways not unlike those used during the time of the Peacock Throne, yet far more complex - more like tiny labyrinths.  Some scholars who have studied the original Book say the marginalia have a hypnotic quality in person, and may be some sort of living code or interplanar map, indecipherable to modern eyes attached to smaller brains.  Although several relatively faithful copies of the Book exist, only the original has "proper" enchanted illustrations every few pages which animate to tell the story and sometimes even change or add meaning to the written narrative which may vary depending on the reader.

"...discussing with dear Professor Plinst our favorite tales from the Book of Aqueducts, and of course I mentioned the Travails of Poom, specifically that wonderful illumination in which the beleaguered boy knight Poom draws a whistling-sabre and decapitates the Three-Eyed Baron.  Plinst recalled it differently, insisting that when he had read the same tale in the original codex, Poom was depicted strangling his foe and spitting upon the corpse.  Wishing to settle it as a bet of honor, I sent a letter to a mutual acquaintance who lived near the city where the Book was on tour that summer, instructing him to go and read that specific story and make note of the illustrations, but not alerting him to what Plinst and I expected to see.  Well, you can, no doubt, imagine what happened.  A month later I had a letter from my friend, describing the very satisfying animation of Poom defeating the Baron in a lengthy quarterstaff duel, while noting that the text itself merely says 'killed'.  There was no doubt then that the question was settled."  -- Harcourt Runcible

The frontispiece of the Book of Aqueducts depicts a continent unknown to man, and the endpapers yet another continent.  Both feature prominently in the tales within the book, and much scholarship has been spent analyzing whether the strange lands in the stories are intended to be representative or satirical of ancient city-states, to no consensus.  Some of the countries are obvious fairy-tale sorts of destinations which exist for a narrative purpose, or are merely a humorous mention within the flow of a story; others seem like plausible stand-ins for contemporary political rivals or a historical lesson valued by the authors.  Perhaps strangely, the maps do not change, as the other illustrations do.

Below, some notable places from the Book of Aqueducts:

The land of Norbread is ruled by a clever young Prince-Regent who defends his land against the rapacious Grand Duke of Hambonia in The Tale of Two Dead Brothers.  Norbread itself seems rather vanilla compared to some of the nations in the Book; it is primarily a long valley dotted with farms, known for its apple cider.

A Grand Duchy with a large standing army, Hambonia is the aggressor in more than one story, with stock phrases describing the waves of green-clad Hambonian soldiers pouring through breaches in city walls.  The people of Hambonia prostrate themselves before idols of a deity called the Celestial Pig, and their soldiers carry destructive man-powered firearms called blunderpipes, which are halfway between a blunderbuss and bagpipes.

Outsiders know the deserts of Bejje as a white sand waste where people live in very tall houses that stick up out of the sands like spikes.  As the desert is constantly shifting and rising like a tide, they must add more levels to their house every few years, and of course the lower levels are all buried by sand.

In the valley of Boggdoggle, nobody can stand a straight line, so everything is built and crafted in curves and circles and the people live in spherical houses.  The standard of beauty is such that it is quite advantageous to be very fat and as spherical as possible, a cultural feature which factors heavily into the plot of The Princess Who Was Cursed To Eat Only Butter.

The rocky badlands of Eepgato are populated by near-naked savages who ride great cats as steeds and drive humongous scarabs before them in battle; they are ruled by the cruel, immortal Pharaoh Kwaytunkhamun.  The Pharaoh beseeched his sorcerors and scientists to make him deathless, and they succeeded - but also drove him mad.  A distant cousin and legitimate heir to the crown, the Princess With Blue Hair, hides in exile amongst the barbarians of the dunes, biding her time to regain the throne.

The many baronies of Pleplackia are now united as a single republic, having previously been one kingdom, and before that, squabbling city-states.  The beneficent guidance of King Moofus II - now Prime Minister Moofus - has been a stabilizing influence on an area once riven by sectarian conflict, as told in The Story of Six Wandering Knights and alluded to in Poor Little Ashen-Tongue.

The city of Naupiqistan is said to be invisible unless you're inside its walls, but surely that is where any curious traveler would wish to be.  At the center of Naupiquistan's red-cobbled streets lies the Unknown Library, which contains a thousand mysterious books which seem blank unless read by moonlight, in a mirror.  Each page of one of these books contains a secret which no-one knows; and once you read the page, it disappears, for now someone knows the secret.  Sadly one cannot then learn a second secret, for all the books of the Unknown Library will be blank to your eyes forevermore.

There are a great many other nations mentioned in the Book of Aqueducts, from the mountaintop abbeys of Eeglopolis, populated by balloon-people, to the floating casino-island of Lobster City.  No doubt debate as to whether these lands are real or imagined will continue long into the future.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Super-Exciting News - On the Way to the Printer!

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that the adventure I've been working on these past few months is headed to the printer right this very minute!  We all wanted the first published bit of Wampus Country to be something really special, and this surely is it.

Fetid Curse of Baron Fuckula is a 32-page old-school super-lethal adults-only adventure dealing with the return to (un)life of the most nefarious sodomy-vampire ever to walk the worlds.  This is a no-holds-barred, heavy death sludge-metal, absolutely gonzo, ridiculously twisted adventure sure to make your players convulse with some strange admixture of joy and revulsion.  Once your PCs are in the dastardly, moist clutches of Baron Fuckula and his transgressively-shaped minions, your campaign will never be the same.  Only the most adult and metallic metal-adults will survive the grisly revelations of the Viscous Looking-Glass!  The adventure includes a small hexcrawl map detailing the Throbbing Hills, as well as a fold-out, full color map of the ruins of the Flaccid Tower, and an envelope so that you can send me your character sheets when instructed to do so by this groundbreaking adventure.  As soon as I have a proof in hand, you'll have pictures of the interior, which features some amazing art that's chock full of semi-naked people doing horrible things to one another which may or may not have anything to do with the adventure itself.  Have no fear, the whole shebang is dual-statted for LotFP and FATAL.  Look out, ENnies, here we come!

Remember, I'm not a writer, I'm a 'creative'.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

GADCon After-Action Report: In Which I Find Some Paths And Very Nearly Die Quite A Bit

I spent most of my weekend a mile from my apartment playing Pathfinder at a local con, GADCon (GAD = 'Games And Dice').  Here's the after-action report.

Bottom Line: I had quite a bit of fun at this Pathfinder-heavy weekend and look forward to returning next year; I enjoyed my four sessions of Pathfinder Society despite the many differences with the sort of thing with which I'm accustomed.

Prologue:  Not much Pathfinder under my belt previous to this weekend, and really not that much more 3.5 during that period.  I knew GADCon was Pathfinder-heavy; specifically, Pathfinder Society (PFS), which is Paizo's organized play (OP) program.  I had poked around learning about PFS and how it works back in the fall when some pals were opening up a gaming store and I was doing some event research/organizing for them, so I had a good general idea of how the OP worked, but no firsthand experience.  Further terminology for the uninitiated: in the Pathfinder rpg setting, there is a Pathfinder Society organization, which trains and sponsors Pathfinders who explore and solve problems and crap.  Professional adventurers with membership in a global adventuring guild, essentially.



FRIDAY NIGHT
Headed over to the hotel, got registered, and helped Travis carry in box after box of stuff for CardBoard Gaming's table in the vendor room.  I don't know how he crammed so much stuff into that Honda Civic.  We both wrapped it up in time to get our seats at two separate tables of a "PFS for Beginners" session, which involved character creation and running a scenario called The Confirmation - basically meant to be a graduation mission for baby Pathfinders.  As a fun bonus, we new folks were given snazzy character folios (these are a player reference thing with pockets, a dry-erase charsheet, etc).  The scenario that followed was pretty straightforward - the standard beginning exposition, some wilderness travel, and then poking around in some caverns.  Altogether a decent beginner scenario (although I think the swarms were a little much for new players with level 1 PCs).  So far, so good.  Had a great time joking around and playing my new PFS PC, Noorzad the Incredibly Handsome, the Flower of Katapesh.  He's a vain daredevil of a bard, as you might imagine.  Over the course of his three sessions, he went into negative hit points nine times.  Nine times.  I swear I wasn't doing anything particularly stupid and was not getting more combatty than a bard should reasonably be expected to be.  Nine times.  This is less of an issue than you might think, in the long run, because everyone in the Society carries a wand of cure light wounds.  Not everyone can use one, mind you, but it's considered polite to buy your own so you're not draining the cleric's resources.  Will I ever wrap my head around the "treat magic wands like cheap magic potions" concept?


SATURDAY AFTERNOON
Recognizing that I am no longer 25, I didn't sign up for an 8am session on Saturday.  Instead, I focused on final prep for my 2pm Labyrinth Lord game.  Now this is a bit of a saga.  I had only one player prereg for my game; I also knew that Van (who plays the fish-man Rashidan Lochbottom in the Wampus Country campaign) was driving up to play, and Saturday morning one of the con organizers said he had someone coming in who would probably want to play something old school.  Well, none of that materialized in time.  Van and his friend were running an hour-plus late thanks to interstate traffic, the pre-regged player didn't show, and the rumored third person didn't show either.  I stood in the hall and tried to recruit people, but there really weren't any "idle" folks - at a small, focused con, this didn't surprise me; everyone seemed to be already committed to either a PF game (well duh) or involved in a Netrunner tournament going on in the second room.  So we're at "mildly disappointed but not actually surprised", which is kind of a weird place to be, I guess.

I grabbed the con organizer, related the tale of woe, and asked him at what time I should call the slot; not because there was competition for the table and chairs, but because, come on, I signed up to run a game, not sit somewhere for five hours and wait to run a game, right?  He said we'd waited long enough to call it, and besides, they needed a cleric over at his table.  (The classic jokes are classic because they're true.)

Next thing I know I'm sitting down to play in a game run by the local Venture Lieutenant (PFS regional organizer), a scenario called Ruins of Bonekeep (Level One).  This is a PFS 'special scenario' that actually comes with a "YOU COULD SERIOUSLY TOTALLY DIE IN THIS SCENARIO GUYS I AM NOT FREAKING KIDDING" warning on it, which is, I gather, kind of a huge deal from a PFS point of view.  I wasn't super worried, though, as I wasn't playing my shiny new bard - Bonekeep was meant for seventh-level characters.  So I was handed a standard-issue pregen (PFS has these), the cleric.  What this means in Society terms is that when one of my actual PCs hits 7th level, he can then claim whatever benefits ("boons" etc) I earned as this pregen.

Here's my review of Ruins of Bonekeep: this is the most fuck-you of all the fuck-you dungeons I've ever been in.  Some of you will find that exciting, others repulsive.  If Society people (in or out of character) don't make jokes about "Boned-keep, amirite?", they're asleep on the job.  Bonekeep has a lot of "yeah, nothing works against this thing" and some "failed save?  run away for ten minutes" and a good bit of "take damage anyway, yes all of you".  And despite an ostensible necromancer theme, it's a funhouse, no doubt.  A lethal funhouse.  We survived (I'll go ahead and say "barely"), we even looted some decent stuff, but man.  Not in a hurry to run back there.  One of the PCs was a ninja, and he looked like a serious badass.  You ever play in a game where there's a class you know nothing about, but just watching the dude play is like a long commercial for how much fun that class probably can be?  Yeah, it was like that.
Picture taken immediately after my cleric was mind-hosed to flee from the [redacted] in the next room over, ran through the door and was immediately surrounded by four large elementals (one of each type), who proceeded to shout at her in elemental languages and then murder her face.  She went negative, but did not actually die due to a combination of the following words: tengu, wizard, invisibility, dimension door.  Seventh-level characters are no joke, people.

After the lubeless joy of Ruins of Bonekeep, I ran across the street for pizza with Van and Tyler, then it was a hurry-hurry back to the hotel for --


SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL
So PFS has these scenarios called "specials" that they only run at cons, and they tend to be multi-table affairs where the actions of each group matter to some larger goal, perhaps in differing ways depending on the level spread ("tier" in PFS parlance) of the table.  Saturday night's scenario was one of these, Siege of the Diamond City, and it was pretty interesting.  Not in the setup - "city is besieged by demons" - but in the execution.  As a group of level one and two PCs, we were not expected to contribute by killing a metric ton of invading demons (thank goodness), but we did have a series of (nonliteral) firefighting duties throughout the night.  Some fights with looters and mercenaries, some convincing of guards, this that and the other.  Our actions contributed to the color condition of whatever quarter of the city we were in (green/yellow/orange/red etc), and having someone at the center of the room call out as the conditions changed was pretty exciting (although, wow, the dude could've been way louder; do they not teach how to project to a room in school anymore?)  The whole bit culminated in a good-guy counterattack during which the high-level tables took the fight to the demonic generals, the mid-tier folks were stuck in against the ranks of lesser demonoids, and we low-level schmucks fired siege weaponry from the ramparts in an attempt to take out the enemy siege towers.  All this - I presume - interacted in some measurable way, such as our ballista shots preventing the demon-towers from spawning more horned beasties, etc.  Pretty neat; I'd like to read the internals on one of these.  We had an overwhelming victory at the end, but according to the chronicle sheet we were handed there were four or five possible outcomes depending on the group's total efforts.

SUNDAY MORNING
Exhausted, I rolled in for one last session at 8am (not sure I would do this again; originally I was in an afternoon slot for Sunday, but then Cub Scout stuff got moved because of snow... anyway, I was in a morning game and needed to bolt immediately after).    This morning's scenario was The Ciphermage Dilemma, and long story short, I hate pirates as adversaries, but I hate paladins who prevent their party members from doing anything resembling threatening or bluffing or psy-ops or intel-gathering way more.  I will admit that when I grabbed the pirate's corpse and made it puppet-talk to his buddy ("Gee I wish I had told these guys what they wanted to know, then I might still be alive and able to see my kids again") as part of an Intimidate roll might have been over the top.  But seriously, the guy was killed in combat when he and his pirate pals were trying to murder us in the face.  Good does not mean stupid and there were no "authorities" in that crapsack pirate armpit of a city.  We stab pirates.  Stab them.  Anyway, it was an okay scenario, nicely run; I think I was probably too tired to fully appreciate some of its nuances, but them's the breaks.


That's the initial info-dump...  I'll probably have more "thoughts" about Pathfinder Society in the weeks to come.  Fun was had, would do again.  I'm exhausted and cannot think deep thoughts at the moment.

This large slice of pizza, from a joint named Slice, is called a "Baltimore Belly Burster".  It has bbq sauce on it, and is topped with Old Bay roasted chicken, Natty Boh bratwurst, and bbq pulled pork.  It. Was. Fucking. Amazing. You. Guys.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Down Below Kwaskatoon

A background post for some upcoming low-level Wampus Country sessions aimed at lower-level PCs, newbie players, and leaning on some of the B-series of classic modules here and there.

Just north of the growing town of Thistlemarch lies the run-down keep formerly occupied by the Mad Margrave - that eccentric nobleman who sadly took his own life last year.  Parts of the keep are occasionally used by the townspeople, but the majority of the area is now overrun by a clan of poggles, tiny dog-men not known for their cleanliness or intelligence.  The poggles have been behaving themselves and trading with the hardworking folk of Thistlemarch, although they do not often come into town proper.  One day a week, a corner of the keep's courtyard becomes the "Flea Market" where men and dogs exchange goods.

This poggle-tribe is ruled by a particularly clever poggle called Red Blanket, who holds court over the Flea Market.  Although the poggles have a great deal of energy and capacity for out-of-the-box thinking, they are not skilled at matters martial, or any task which requires strong organizational skills or sound judgment.  Thus has Red Blanket, in his wisdom, attempted to recruit some 'tall folk' to undertake a few tasks for the benefit of the great poggle nation...

Greetings, mercenaries, adventurers, and seekers of the unknown - thank you for coming before me today and expressing your interest and willingness to serve the righteous poggle cause.  I have sniffed your backsides, and consider each of you trustworthy.  Listen closely to my words, and attend my needs, and you shall be rewarded.

Some distance from here lies an old burial mound of the Black Eagle tribesmen, and beneath it, caverns which they say are haunted.  The place is called Kwaskatoon in their old cant - it means the bleeding-place.  Black Eagle braves sometimes traverse these caverns to test themselves against the dangerous creatures which dwell within.  And dangerous they are!  Poisonous centipedes of tremendous size, slack-jawed lizard-men...and, at one time, my own clan of poggles, who dwelt in the upper levels.

Some years ago my little tribe split from the main group of poggle-kind, who had begun to hear the voices of dark powers whispering in the shadows.  A brief poggle civil war led to our flight, but we have no desire, really, to return there.  However, the secrets of Kwaskatoon need to be understood.  When I, Red Blanket, prince of my kind, lived in the halls beneath the mound, I spent many an hour eating the strange mushrooms there and attempting to translate the ancient mystical writings on some of the walls.  I had a makeshift notebook in which I kept what I had learned...if that notebook still exists, somewhere in the caverns of Kwaskatoon, I want it returned.  If it cannot be found, then I will need transcriptions of whatever writing is found on the walls.  Whatever else you find in the place is yours - we poggles have no need of it, whatever it might be.

Although I should someday like to see my enthralled countrymen liberated, and the halls of Kwaskatoon cleaned out, that is not my primary goal at this time.  Be cautious, sneak in, and fetch my notebook, or make rubbings of the inscriptions.  If you return with these things, you will be paid, and have earned the love of this poggle princeling.

Red Blanket will gladly send an escort of poggles to guide adventurers to Kwaskatoon, but these tiny warriors consider the caverns themselves taboo since the advent of the whispers-in-darkness, and will not enter with you.

RUMORS/INTEL REGARDING KWASKATOON

1.  The Black Eagles say the caverns are haunted by accursed ancestors, and inhabited by cannibal snake-men.  Poggle-tales confirm there are reptilian humanoids in the deeps who will gladly swallow a wayward poggle-pup whole.

2.  After Grandpa's War, some sixty years ago, an adventuring wizard attempted to convert part of the caverns into a living-space.  Later, the Black Eagles discovered he was using their cemetery as a bachelor pad and pretty much murdered the bejeezus out of him.

3.  Three years ago, Red Blanket allied himself and his poggles with a group of gold-seeking adventurers under Kwaskatoon...none of them have been seen since.

4.  The poggles around Thistlemarch are deathly afraid of the "creeping darkness" which they say has taken hold of the minds of their kinsmen beneath Kwaskatoon; they speak of it as though it is neither man nor beast, but some sort of demonic presence.

5.  One of the poggles at the Flea Market remembers that there was a room full of strange waters which they were forbidden to drink by their elder-dogs.

6.  Although the upper levels have been worked by human hands, deeper down Kwaskatoon is all wet natural caves.  Who knows how far down it truly goes?

7.  The well-known cave entrance is the best way to get into Kwaskatoon, but it may not be the only way to exit the deadly complex.

"Poggles, being the wildest of dog-folk, careen dangerously between 'obsessively friendly' and 'wantonly destructive'.  Trusting poggles is ill-advised, if one expects to remain a gentleman."

Kwaskatoon, get it?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Whither Wampus?

Warning: no game-able content, only rambling about campaigning.

The online Wampus Country campaign took a hiatus, there were winter holidays, and a month where my primary mental focus was quitting smoking (successfully so far).  In revving back up to "something resembling full speed", I find myself thinking about what's working and what isn't from a campaigning point of view.  I don't mean house rules, or the underlying system, or anything like that - I mean the campaign itself.

The online campaign has always been several things:

1) An Open Table.  Although I require folks to sign up for each session, it's otherwise open.  There's a good bit of drop-in drop-out depending on who's available on a given Friday night, although some PCs show up more often than others, or for several sessions in a row, so there's a semblance of continuity on occasion.

2) FLAILSNAILS-friendly.  Most of my regulars or semi-regulars have native Wampus characters, but there are always non-natives floating in and out of the game.  They don't usually turn up with weird stuff that "breaks" the game, but I do regret seeing a PC once at 3rd level and then again at 7th level sometimes.

3) Primarily GM-driven, because of the above.  What I mean by this is that for the most part, a given session is not "PCs have decided they want to go do this", it tends to be "GM puts out this theme or plot hook for the night".  I would love to see PCs self-organize and say "hey, we'd like to go do X pretty soon, please prep that area", but it doesn't happen much - probably in part because most players aren't sure if they're going to be available when that session finally happens (see #1).

4) Chiefly 'home-based' in the town of Thistlemarch, with short excursions up to ten hexes out or so.  This isn't a mandatory thing, it just kind of worked out that way, due to #1, #3, and some PCs homesteading in the area.

Another thing I've noticed is a reticence to return to certain areas, despite them being potentially lucrative for PCs.  Nobody's gone back to the expansive ruined city of Crumbledown to explore it.  Nobody's taken on the task of finishing the clearing of the Charnel Caves.  I'm not complaining about this one, I just think it's interesting.

I wouldn't say I'm unsatisfied with the campaign thus-far or as-run, but I am cognizant of some of the thing which we give up or preclude because of the above assumptions.  No steady group, so there's a loss there.  But if we transitioned to a steady group, we'd lose the open table - it's a trade-off, and one that several other "previously FLAILSNAILS" campaigns have done.  I've avoided it for precisely that reason - we've been running Wampus Country as fully-FS-friendly open table for over two years now.  Not many campaigns can say that, and I'm loathe to abandon that achievement without significant gains in trade.

The "best of both worlds" would likely be if I ran twice as much (or half as much, depending on how you look at it, and scheduling), leaving one slot for GM-directed pickup play for FLAILSNAILS open-tablers, and one slot for a regular (or semi-regular) group of native PCs who can have the time and space to pursue their own goals.  As you might imagine, this kind of scheduling isn't the easiest thing in the world, but I'd be open to pursuing it if I thought there were enough steady regulars to make it work (and frankly I'm not sure that's the case).  I would really like the opportunity to somehow alternate between lower-level and mid-level PCs without it being all artificial, as well.

Anyway, thinking aloud.

The chief innovations of the Burbank expedition were twofold: first, the use of bicycles to speed across the salt flats of Massacre Mesa; and secondly, bringing with them several dozen babies for use in the distraction of slavering beasts, giant predatory birds, and painted savages.  Given Eustace Burbank's successful collegiate career as a shotputter, one imagines the tactic was easily deployed at a significant range.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Beware the Tooth Fairy

A word from the learned Doctor Harcourt Runcible, on the subject of "tooth fairies".

I am not one who has gathered his modicum of fame by means of splendorous hyperbole, so perhaps you will listen keenly to the bold statement I am about to make: the most dangerous creature in the Wampus Country, pound for pound, is neither the eponymous wampus-cat, nor the owlbear, nor the fearsome snollygoster with its mouth full of cross-cut saws.  Nor is it Man, an answer too cute by half.  No, my benighted friends, the deadliest, cruellist, most killing-est beastie in our lands is, in point of fact, the tooth fairy.

The clever grammarians and sly syntacticians amongst the crowd will now, of course, recall the pound for pound qualifier I employed a moment ago and think it a wiseacre strategy for ensuring a surprise reaction.  But, even so, the statement stands - and it is made all the truer, for the tooth fairy is more dangerous than larger creatures not merely by a factor equivalent to its own relative mass, but exponentially greater.

Perhaps you have never seen a tooth fairy, or so-called osteopixie, in the wild.  You must imagine them as pixie-like, winged, and humanoid, about half the height of the common plains atomie which even the most ill-educated pig-farmer must be acquainted.  Like the more mundane pixies, the tooth fairy is winged, generally nude, and bears minor insectoid features, including faceted eyes and tiny pedipalps surrounding the mandible.  Imagine, if you will, a horrible flitting menace the size of your pinky-finger; one which often travels in swarms of a dozen, or two-score, or a hundred, depending on the season.  A dozen osteopixies is very dangerous - I leave it to your own shadowy nightmares to consider what a hundred can manage in the course of an evening.

It is a famous misconception that the tooth fairies collect teeth, particularly from children.  This is true, as far as it goes, but demonstrates a limited understanding of natural philosophy of the sort common amongst bootblacks, chimney-sweeps, and journalists.  As the story goes, when a child sheds a deciduous tooth, if he or she should gingerly place the bicuspid beneath their pillow, a magical nocturnal visitor - a tooth fairy - will arrive and replace the lost tooth with a coin.  This is precisely the kind of unscientific bumpkin-prattle which causes backwater children to get stuck in wells or devoured by bears.  While it is true that a recently-lost baby tooth can attract a tooth fairy, those which arrive are inevitably either fairy children, elderly, or infirm.  That is to say: tooth fairies who must resort to stealing or trading for their sustenance.  Which is to say, all the more clearly: tooth fairies who cannot participate in the glorious hunt.

And what hunters the osteopixies are, magnificent piranha of the air!  They subsist on bone and marrow, which is fine enough, as when times are lean they can scavenge bones from the kills of larger animals; do not be overly surprised should you see a small swarm of fairies following a mated pair of owlbears about the wood.  But the tooth fairies are not dumb animals, and possess their own culture, one which celebrates the hunting of sentients and their artful slaughter.  I remind you that these creatures can fly, are intelligent, and hunt in packs of twenty or more.

Tooth fairy scouts will locate a target - ideally a sentient, as it makes the hunt all the more delicious.  They are primarily attracted to exposed bone, whether this is from a wound (do not leave your companion with the recent compound fracture in camp alone) or the teeth.  Once a target is marked - likely by some means of pheromones, the research is shoddy here - the scout returns to the swarm, and the hunt begins.  In minutes, the several-dozen tooth fairies descend upon the hapless victim.

I say hapless without intent of demeaning those who have been slain by tooth fairies; quite the converse, I mean to praise the lethality of the osteopixie.  Firearms, fighting-spirit, even sorcery are of little use during a tooth fairy onslaught, when dozens of the accursed things are assaulting your head, prying open your mouth, crawling in, and wrenching out your teeth forcibly -- all the while peppering your flesh (not just the skin, remember - also the gums, tongue, uvula...) with painful, disorienting stings.  How can you fire at something crawling on your face?  How can you utter eldritch syllables with a mouth full of fairies?  Tiny bodies laced with calcium from their diet, they are nigh-uncrushable like the cockroach.  They will render you unconscious very quickly, and you will be toothless, but not dead.

If you are lucky, you will expire from the shock of having all your teeth violently ripped out, or you will crack your skull on a rock as you fall.  If you are unlucky, you will lie there in a stupor while the tooth fairies feast on your molars.  And if you are very unlucky...you may awake just as they return, crawling through your sinuses to make seconds of your skull.  Best not to think of the direct and efficient means of those osteopixies who have acquired a taste for the coccyx, my friends.

I do have a dentist friend in River-Town who can cap teeth with cold iron, for a small fee.

"Don't be scared, sweetie.  I'll eat your spine very gingerly, so you can still tell I'm back there."