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Bokû And Ailikií – Gods Of The Islands

In the days before time, when U’o, the Sky-Mother, was birthing the world, all was empty.  In her laboring, she cried out in pain, and from her howls was born Bokû, the War God of Fire.  The fire of his anger burned slowly, yet perceptibly.

The world broke forth from U’o’s womb.  Bokû’s anger erupted, and he stabbed at it with longspear.  The piercings became the first volcanos of the newly-born world.  Like their father, they erupted in anger, burning the islands and mountains and plains in their vicinity.  The peoples in their vicinity cowered in fear, for what else can mortals do in the face of an angry god?

But, something unforeseen occurred.  From the afterbirth of the world sprung Ailikií, the Trickster.  The waters of his birth settled in the low lands of the world, and became the swamps.

Seeing his brother, Bokû became enraged.  He thrust his longspear at Ailikií, piercing him on the left side of his chest.  Ailikií let loose a scream of agony, which came from the wound.  His breath swirled around Bokû, confusing him as the image of a great serpent circled around his neck.  Bokû grabbed at his throat, intending to yank the serpent off of him before he passed out.  But when he did, the serpent disappeared, and Bokû knew he had been deceived.

But it was enough to distract Bokû.  Ailikií charged forward, raised his fist, and struck Bokû on the jaw.  Bokû dropped to the ground, and Ailikií withdrew to the swamps.  Bokû awoke, his anger again burning deeply, but slowly.  He plotted his revenge against Ailikií from within his volcanoes.

Bokû’s Worshipers

Worshipers of Bokû live in the surroundings of active and dormant volcanoes.  Fearful of their god, they live to appease his anger.  Bokû demands his followers wage ritual war on one another.  The defeated tribe must supply their most powerful warrior as the sacrifice to Bokû.  The victorious tribe wins the honor of performing the ritual sacrifice.  If Bokû is pleased by the sacrifice, his anger will abate.  If he is unhappy with it, woe be to the tribes, as Bokû’s anger will explode, raining ash and lava down upon all the tribes of the land.

Clerics of Bokû tend to be the leaders of the tribal war-parties.  Like their god, they usually command by fear, and punishment is usually harsh.  Bokû teaches that strength and anger are virtues to extoll, and mastery of them are key to personal perfection.  Bokû is most pleased when his followers hunt down and destroy worshipers of his brother, Ailikií.

Bokû, God of Volcanoes, is also known as the Lord of Anger, the Volcano King, and the War God of Fire.  He is Chaotic Evil, and provides the domains of Evil, Fire, Strength, and War to his clerics.  His favored weapon is the Longspear, and his holy symbol is an erupting volcano, usually carved upon a disk of igneous rock.

Ailikií’s Worshipers

Worshipers of Ailikií live in and around low-lying swamps.  Ailikií teaches his worshipers that to be unseen or unconsidered are the keys to living a good life.  An enemy who can not find you can not harm you.  If you must fight, then appearance is more important than reality.  Appear strong when you are weak, or appear numerous when you are few; strike when the enemy is confused, and withdraw to build up your strength.

Clerics of Ailikií tend to be shamans of the tribes and councilors to the chieftains.  They perform the rituals marking important holidays, births, deaths and weddings.  Like their god, they tend to be quiet and unassuming.  The death ritual usually consists of piercing the deceased’s eyes with a snake’s fang, and dumping the body into slow-running or stagnant water.  Ailiki’i claims the body in his own time.

Ailikií encourages his followers to take chances, for he rewards such audacity, much as happened in his first battle with Boku.  His clerics meditate for days in the swamps.  The gases in the area produce intense hallucinations, through which Ailikií sometimes will reveal his will in these visions.

Undead are of little concern to Ailikií.  The spirits of mortals go on to their final reward, and the bodies will be claimed by Ailikií.  Undead are tools, and his clerics may do with them as they see fit.

Ailikií, God of the Swamps, is also known as the Trickster, the Body-Eater, and the Illusion-Maker.  He is Chaotic Neutral, and claims the domains of Air, Death, Luck, and Trickery.  His favored weapon is the Unarmed Strike, and his holy symbol is a serpent’s skull.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 7 February 2012 in Gaming

 

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Thinking Aloud – Samurai Jack As An RPG Setting

I recently received a treat from Netflix: Disc 1 of Season 1 of Samurai Jack. I had watched it intermittently while it was on Cartoon Network and enjoyed it immensely.  While I watched the original episodes, it occurred to me that the world of Samurai Jack would be a wonderful setting for a role-playing game.

It covers so many genres.  To name but a few:

  • Fantasy From the katana-wielding Jack to the demon Aku, as well as all the magic present throughout the series, this world is rich in the fantastic.  Add to it the honor of Samurai Jack, to the obviously-evil minions of Aku, and there is a strong fantasy element here.
  • Sci-Fi It is mentioned in the series that Aku has ruled Earth for “thousands of years.”  If his reign started not too long after Samurai Jack’s battle in Episode 1, when samurai were prevalent, then he would have come to power anywhere from the 10th to the 19th century.  That’s nearly a 1000 year span.  Nevertheless, it is roughly the time of feudal Japan.  So the show occurs in our alternate future, in at least the 30th century.  This gives technology plenty of time to evolve beyond the present day.  Indeed, the show features laser weapons, space travel, and even extraterrestrial species.
  • Steampunk More than a few episodes have featured robotic cowboys, clockwork beings, and steam-infused automatons.  There are also plenty of multi-level technologies present in the same place.  All of these are hallmarks of steampunk in one form or the other.
  • Post-Apocalyptic The evils of Aku have caused untold devastation to the world and its inhabitants.  Add to that the other-worldly species that have become dominant, and you have a ruined, or at least an unrecognizable, Earth.

Given the multi-genre aspect of the setting, the system has to be capable of handling this.  What would work for this?  Again, to name but a few, from my admittedly-limited knowledge:

  • GURPS The king of generic, genre-spanning RPGs, it can handle these sorts of settings with ease.  The question is, then, can it capture the feel of the setting? It is a very mechanical, realistic system, which may be a point against it.
  • FATE Spirit of the Century, built on FATE, is an awesome system for a pulp-style game.  I love the over-the-top feeling it encourages, which definitely fits with Samurai Jack.
  • FUDGE The foundation of FATE, FUDGE can work superbly here.
  • 4E Amethyst Yes, it’s built on 4E Dungeons & Dragons, but it beautifully mixes the fantasy of D&D and the futuristic technology of a sci-fi setting.
  • 4E Gamma World This works very well for the post-apocalyptic/sci-fi feel of Samurai Jack

I know I’m missing a heck of a lot of possible systems in this list.  Do you have any suggestions for a Samurai Jack RPG?

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 27 December 2011 in Gaming

 

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Crown Of The Winter King

This is my entry for T.W. Wombat’s Winter Is Coming Festival.  Check out both his Winter Is Coming Festival page and his blog Wombat’s Gaming Den Of Iniquity.

Charyssil was a powerful tiefling warlock who lived during the height of the Empire of Bael Turath.  Unlike her brethren, who promised their very souls to devils in exchange for their power, Charyssil made a pact with a powerful archfey – The Winter King, who had dominion over the entire season in the Feywild, including all its snows, frozen fields, ice-covered forests, and other beautiful, serene landscapes.

Charyssil joined with a band of adventurers, and over time, her power grew.  Not coincidentally, she was drawn to locations and creatures of the cold northern lands, and the tall, frigid peaks.  She learned the secrets of elemental cold magic, and became a master crafter of enchanted items.

Seeking to earn a place in her patron’s court, Charyssil planned to create a tribute to the Winter King.  She was encouraged and assisted by her eladrin friend, the archmage Fervail.  He reasoned that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery; the Winter King, like all fey, would be more receptive if presented with a gift demonstrative of his power.  Charyssil agreed.  She forged a crown of ice from the heart of the Elemental Chaos, and imbued it with the power of the Winter King.

But the Winter King, like all fey, is a fickle being.  Rather than being flattered, the Winter King was offended that his essense was used to create a mockery and pale imitation of his own power.  Enraged, the Winter King slew Charyssil.  During the battle, Charyssil was betrayed by Fervail, who absconded with the Crown and fled back to Bael Turath.  In the centuries since, the Crown Of The Winter King has appeared and disappeared many times.  It is said that the Winter King hunts for it still, so that he may finally reclaim his shard of power.

Crown Of The Winter King Level 27
This translucent blue-crystal circlet feels cold to the touch.  When you don it, those around you get a chill, and your skin feels cold and clammy.
Item Slot: Head 1,625,000 gp
Property: Gain Resist 10 Cold
Property: Gain a +6 item bonus to Endurance checks to endure extreme cold weather
Property: Any enemy that hits you with a melee attack takes 1d10 cold damage
 
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Posted by on Thursday, 29 September 2011 in Gaming

 

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Sudd Madarch – A Dwarven Liquor

Hammer’s lifted!  Name’s Daervin Dreadlode, Master Distiller of Clan Dreadlode, Son of Tuvand, Grandson of Baerdil, Great-Grandson of Daervin, who was Chief Distiller to the Grand Dwarven Thane himself!  And I’m at your service.  My apologies for cutting my lineage titles short – I’ve learned most non-dwarves lose focus somewhere around the third paternal ancestor, not to mention the sixteenth.  They usually fall right asleep before I even begin the maternal side.

A bottle of Sudd Madarch

Anyway, I understand you’ve an interest in the techniques of dwarven ale-brewing.  Well, forget about that – dwarves don’t do anything special to their ales.  In fact, it’s a small part of our culture.  Hah!  That look on your face is a sight!  It’s true, though – we don’t have much interest in ales.  Sure, we brew and drink a little.  Of course, it’s the finest you’ve ever had, too – a dwarf brewmaster is a dwarf, after all, and we put our heart into all of our endeavors.  But, think about it.  How do you make an ale?  Barley and hops, right?  Where do they grow?  On the surface, in the soil.  Dwarves don’t care much for the surface, tilling the soil in the sun.  No, sir – let the elves have that!  We trade them for the raw ingredients to make our ales.

No, no – we use what we grow for ourselves to make our prize spirits.  So, what’s that, you ask?  Mushrooms!  That’s right – mushrooms!  What better to grow in these grand lightless realms of ours?  Sure, we can grow lichens and other fungi, and they make for some great spirits too.  But the noble mushroom… that’s what’s best.

We call it Sudd Madarch – and it’s typically a clear, grey-brown liquid, although colors range from red to brown to black, and sometimes it’ll be cloudy as well.  The few humans who’ve had it compare it to your whiskey, but with a stronger, muskier, more pronounced flavor.  Also, one sip seems to knock your kind over.  Heh, I guess there’s something about our dwarven heartiness that makes us better suited to drinking.

Button mushrooms, prior to harvesting

Anyway, we make sudd madarch by making a mash of the mushroom caps.  After a week or so, we take the mash out and put it next to the forges to dry out a little.  It also picks up a great smoky flavor while it’s there.  From there, we take it back to the vats, which are usually carved right into the living rock.  Mix a little flavoring, usually salt, or copper, or some other mined minerals.  And, no, I’m not telling you anything more than that – I am Master Distiller after all, and I keep my secrets.

Anyway, add hot water and let it ferment for some time, a few months or longer, depending on what you like.  Once it tastes just right, and I’m the one who determines that, you get it to the stills.  From there, it’s off to the casks, where it ages for anywhere from two decades to two centuries.

What’s that?  You’ve never heard of sudd madarch?  Well, of course you haven’t!  Distilling it is the finest art, producing the finest spirit a dwarf can drink!  Naturally, we’re gonna keep it to ourselves.  We’ll let you surface folk have the ale.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 26 August 2011 in Gaming

 

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The Color of Music

My apologies to those sight- or hearing-impaired readers – I mean no disrespect to you in this article.  My intention here is to describe, to the best of my ability, the way I see and hear the world around me.

Do you know what you’re missing?  I wager you have no idea, but guess what: you are missing a sense.  You are blind, and you are deaf, and you don’t even know it.

“What the heck are you talking about, BeefGriller?  I can see and hear just fine!”  That’s what you’re saying to yourself, isn’t it?  Well, that may be true, but you’re missing out on another dimension to the world around you.  I can’t describe it perfectly to you, no more than you could describe the view of a sunset to one who has been blind since birth.  But allow me to try.

I have synesthesia – a condition where the stimulation of one sense elicits a response in another.  Now, I’ve never been evaluated and diagnosed with it.  However, I spent 40 years of my life living with it, and only recently have found a name to give it.  I have been told by the few people to whom I’ve tried explaining it that I’m either lying or imagining it, but for me it’s just there.

Now, in particular, I have what is known as sound-to-color synesthesia.  In short, I see music.  I know, you’re probably furrowing your brow, trying to make sense of that phrase, seeing music, and at best you’re coming up with maybe a sine-wave on an oscilloscope.  But you truly are coming up short if that’s the case.

My synesthesia allows me to see music in the form of colors, lights, shapes, patterns, even objects and, in some cases, people.  A song’s picture is unique – one song always looks the same to me.  If covered by a different band, or even done slightly differently by the same band, it looks similar, but maybe the colors are a slightly different hue, or the lights a little brighter in the corners, or perhaps it’s purple where it once was green.  I haven’t noticed any connection between volume, pitch, tone, instrument, note or key and the color, light, pattern, shape or size of what I see.  I can say that when I listen to a song enough, it becomes familiar enough to me that I can see differences from, say, one recording to the next.  Also, the more I listen to a song, the more detail it reveals to me.  My favorite songs become like friends, recognizable at a glance, and as comforting.

It’s interesting to see how music has changed since I was a child – no, wait, that’s not quite right… how similar songs are to each other.  The phenomenon of sampling makes so many modern songs look oddly similar.  Maybe it’s the background, the canvas of several paintings are cut from the same cloth.  Perhaps the color of the shapes in front are dancing in the same pattern.  Or, maybe, the peaks and valleys of the hills can be superimposed over one another in a perfect fit, if only one of them is squeezed in or stretched higher.

Another thing I have noticed is that a composer or conductor of a song can be seen in his or her works.  The color of Beethoven’s symphonies, for example, tend to be primarily purple and brown, especially in the slower songs; Mozart’s, on the other hand, have more of an orange hue.  These are generalities, mind you, as some of Mozart’s symphonies have the most green and blue skylines at times.  But when one person writes several songs, it’s as if his or her signature is on it.

When I say that a song is particularly beautiful, I mean that literally – the shapes, colors, patterns and lights of the song fit together beautifully, creating an impressive view.  Likewise, a song that I hate will be an ugly miasma of ill-tempered stains, rough edges and shapes that just don’t fit.

Another thing that I have always liked are remixes of songs.  When a DJ, producer or songwriter records a new mix, it is a surprise to me as the shapes that were once there are now moving off to the left, a different color, or forming a new pattern.  If it is done well, I am pleasantly surprised.  On the other hand, if changes are made for the sake of changing them, but without a good, solid, musical reason, then they stick out like loud tie.

Finally, when two songs are mixed together, or mashed-up as it is called lately, they better fit together, otherwise I can see the square pegs not lining up in the round holes.  I usually can tell if two songs can be mashed-up successfully, because their patterns will fit, or the colors won’t clash, or, well, you probably get the idea.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, “OK, BeefGriller, so you’re a synesthete.  Great.  Um, what does this have to do with gaming?”  Well, I’m glad you brought that up.  I can’t help but use it in my games, and it makes for some interesting themes.  But, that will be in a future post.

Does any of this make sense to you?  Do you have any questions about synesthesia?  Do you know anyone who has an extra sense like me?  Perhaps you, yourself, are a synesthete.  Please let me know in the comments below.

Author’s note: I do not own the rights to the images in this or any other article on this site (other than the picture in Show Me Your Dice.  I did, however, try to find pictures that were in the public domain for this article.  If there is any question, the rights to these images are owned by their respective owners.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 in Gaming, Personal

 

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RPG Seeds – Sea Priestess

As a long-time GM, I’ve found inspiration for adventures, campaigns, characters and locales in some of the most unusual places: history books, novels, paintings, sculptures, conversations, and songs, to name but a few sources.  Here, I will briefly describe an idea that came to me while listening to Edge Of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks.

Enter our antagonist – the Priestess of Umberlee, The Bitch Queen.  I chose Umberlee because, at the time, we were playing in the Forgotten Realms, and, in my mind, the antagonist worshiped an evil(or at least very demanding) sea god.  This Priestess has found an ancient and abandoned temple to Umberlee in a cave on a cliff overlooking the sea.  The temple was built by an aquatic race thousands upon thousands of years ago.  At the time of its dedication, the cave itself was submerged.  For some reason, however, the sea withdrew, the cliff rose out of the water, and the entrance remained undiscovered until recently.  How or why did this happen?  Did Umberlee punish her worshipers for some transgression?  Did she lose some great battle to another god – the temple becoming the prize?  Perhaps it was simply a natural occurrence, the result of an earthquake, or global cooling caused the sea level to drop?  The answer to these questions could provide further hooks for the story.

What are this Priestess’s goals?  More personal power?  More power for her goddess?  Does she wish to establish a following on land for her goddess?  To me, Umberlee seems the kind of goddess who prefers smaller, more numerous groups of worshipers – as a Choatic Evil deity, larger institutions just don’t seem her thing.  I’ve always thought of the Priestess as wanting to establish a small cult devoted to Umberlee.  She seeks to increase her own power by increasing the influence of Umberlee.  To this end, she needs followers…

Umberlee, The Bitch Queen

Enter the cultists – two young men who serve the Priestess, in more ways than one.  Yes, it’s hackneyed, but the Priestess has recruited the two youths by seducing them.  They each seek greater attention by carrying out her orders, as well as sabotaging one another’s efforts.  Not only does this competition have them putting forth more effort toward the Priestess’s goals, but also serves Umberlee’s desire for conflict.

For her part, the Priestess spends her days deciphering the ancient inscriptions on the walls, statue bases, stone tablets, etc. found within the temple.  She sends her devotees for supplies, scrolls, and other items that may be of use in her endeavors.

Enter the heroes – this is where the PCs come in.  Perhaps the Priestess’s two cultists have been too ambitious in their tasks?  In gathering supplies for a ritual, they killed a local sage who became suspicious of them.  Or they’ve been poaching beasts considered sacred to a conclave of druids or elves.  Perhaps her devotees’ families are concerned about their sudden elusiveness and shirking of responsibilities.  Or, for the darker campaign, perhaps the ritual calls for the sacrifice of “the blood and entrails of three-and-ten whose souls are pure” – and young children have been disappearing from several towns, villages or cities as of late.

I have to admit – I have a fairly well-defined framework for this story, but I’ve left much of it out of this post.  I’d rather give a general idea for you to use in your own game(s), rather than specific details that wouldn’t work for you at all.  Besides, I believe that a good GM would rather fill in the details himself or herself.

Speaking of which, how would you use the Priestess in your campaign?  Would you like to hear more details from me, or would you care to fill in the blanks on your own in the comments?

 
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Posted by on Monday, 25 July 2011 in Gaming

 

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