Friday 30 July 2021

Adventure Seed Generator: Spears of the Dawn (Sine Nomine)

 A few months ago I was flicking back through my old PDF of Spears of the Dawn by Kevin Crawford (currently available from Drive Thru RPG I believe) and came across a neat table for generating adventure seeds.

The set up is simple: 5 1d20 tables which together imply a story: 

  1. 20 patrons who approach the party
  2. 20 antagonists in conflict with the patron
  3. 20 causes of the conflict
  4. 20 MacGuffins that are central to the conflict
  5. A location where the MacGuffin is found.
I put the 100 entries into a simple generator using perchance:

Obviously there's go t to be some degree of interpretation on the GM's part, but that's the point: it's a seed. How the adventure grows out of this sentence is down to you. You'll also notice that there are buttons for "Old school Fantasy" and "Pariah", the additional lists for which you will find below:

Sunday 25 July 2021

Artefacts of the Others

As explained in my last a recent post I think I'm nearly done with hand-wringing and "anxietising" over my post frequency (or lack thereof). Life is complex at the moment and I will just have to deal with it, hoping that the future will provide more opportunities to play and to create.

That said, I have plenty of drafts sat on the ol' slush-pile awaiting a cursory polish, and I will attempt to drip feed these out to you as the weeks and months go by. This is one such slush-post: the Artefacts of the Others...

Greyscale iamge dominated by swirling, worm-type creature emerging from the ground and sucking the a figure towards its gaping mouth, causing the figure to drop their assault rifle. In the distance, a similar figure appears to be strolling away, oblivious or unconcerned.
Roadside Picnic concept art by Alex Andreev 

This post is at least partly inspired by the novel Roadside Picnic, though the contents were originally designed for use in burgeoning Pariah adventure/sandbox City of Ghosts. Another inspiration—the great Semiurge of Archons March On—I shall pace the generator proper at the top of the pile:

The form, materiality and the effect these artefacts produce may not make any real sense: this is not a bug, it's a feature. A Neolithic person would have no idea what to do with a Marshall combi amp, but taking it apart they'd gain multiple capacitors capable of delivering powerful shocks, lots of shiny copper and a fuck-off big magnet. Similarly, artefacts are fragments of larger wholes, beyond the ken of the average pariah, but still capable of producing incredible supernatural effects.

Read on to find out how the generator slots together (1d20 tables listed below)

Sunday 18 July 2021

Genius Loci — Linking Encounters, Hazards and Reaction Rolls

This post is a sketch or a collection of notes... or maybe a starting-off point. It is an attempt at addressing a self-imposed problem: that of making an environment that is also a character, not just a spirit of the place, but a spirit-as-the-place.

Photograph of a Roman Fresco depicting 3 figures, the central one being the spirit of the place. There is a snake at the bottom of the picture.

The Genius Loci

The words are latin: "genius" = spirit (hence genie, which was also used to translate the Arabic word jinn) and "Loci" = [of the] place (locus).

I never came across it until I was studying landscape architecture, when we were introduced to the English landscape garden, the picturesque and cultural appropriation ("chinoiserie" and "orientalism") in our singular design theory module in the first year. This introduction came via Pope, who was a garden designer as well as a poet:

Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.

...and through an unnecessarily complex process of backwards and forwards engineering, learned that the term originally meant a Roman guardian spirt but has come to mean the ambience/character/"personality" of a space in contemporary architectural discourse.

I preferred the original definition, but also didn't really see much of a distinction.

Before we brush this aside, I just want to add a nice design quote form a former teacher of mine:

"The genius loci must be consulted... but it does not have to be obeyed..."
- Tom Turner

Thursday 15 July 2021

Let's Play - 4 Vignettes and a bad poem

This is an informal essay — more a collection of notes, really — which represents an attempt to jot down some thoughts I've had since listening to (and occasionally participating in) discussions on discord, anchor and twitter about general RPG "theory" (scare quotes mine).

Apologies for those, by the way. The scare quotes. I can get defensive when I see attempts to intellectualise the hobby, mostly due to my an ambiguous relationship with design theory. This isn't a boast, it's a confession: part of me is and always will be passive-aggressively anti-intellectual, while another part craves the validation of the labyrinths of Hod. Both these aspects of myself shame me, or I shame myself by outing them in public...

But look. We're here now, you're reading, I'm writing and we both may as well persevere. GNS still gets touted around and we really have to move on....


Well, there aren't really any answers here, but I hope the anecdotal vignettes that follow might provide some further thoughts and discussion.  It's also likely to be in two parts: both are inspired by childhood play, but the second part is perhaps more relevant within the context of street culture and children's folklore and I'm more likely to post it at my other blog psychocartography, as I've neglected it for nearly two years now and I think I'd like to resurrect it.

Here's some half-formed thoughts. Bon appétit.

Sunday 11 July 2021

Ancient One — derivative Isopod Monster

It used to be that I'd look back on a forgotten /abandoned piece of writing and be pleasantly surprised by its quality... or maybe (should it have been below par) there'd have been some nugget or turn of phrase which caught my attention. The older I get (and, dear readers, I'm barely into my forties) the less this occurs and the more I'm struck be the weird spelling mistakes ("no" and "know"?), missed typos, odd grammar and sentences trailing off into the void. Not sure if I have a degenerative brain disease nor if this is the platform upon which to talk about such things... but maybe I should speak to someone.

All that neurotic hypochondria aside, nothing really prepared me for picking up the Bestiary the other week in an attempt to turn it into something at least partially table-worthy and realising the first entry was a complete rip-off of the isopods in lair of the lamb. This was disconcerting: I'd read the adventure at some point in the summer of last year, then within a few months I'd added a very similar (albeit somehow more aboleth like version) to my bestiary without really acknowledging or realising that I had stolen the core idea  (metal eating woodlice) from another source. 

It's not so much the plagiarism (I've ripped off loads of stuff, but I always try to cite my sources)  but the worrying fact I hadn't realised I'd done it. It's such a specific thing. What made it worse was the fact that I read the adventure through AGAIN around December  and STILL didn't twig the connection (I had somehow forgotten about my rip-off monster). The 3 sessions I ran never made it to the Isopods but I had read ahead and was eagerly awaiting the party running into them.

There's something weird going on and I don't like it: being a pitiful human, I believe that my actions are somehow powerful enough to mould this universe back to a state that I am more comfortable with, and I offer up this post as an act of sympathetic magic: take this derivative shit away from me, with apologies to Arnold K.

A macro lens photograph of a pill woodlouse, a land-dwelling crustacean with a segmented body that can roll into a ball. The creature's body is segmented, and is pictured against a backdrop of various granular minerals.
Common pill woodlouse via wikimedia

Friday 9 July 2021

How much PRIMAL is there in PARIAH?

A great deal of time has passed since Jim Parkin ( first suggested I watch  Primal... but now the dust has settled, those 10 episodes are safely beneath my belt and my belly is full I can finally answer the question: how much PRIMAL is there in PARIAH? How much PARIAH is in PRIMAL?

A red-eyed tyrannosaurus roars in the centre of the image. Atop its back sits a bare-chested, long-haired man holding a spear, who looks up towards a yellow sun in a pink sky. the scene is obfuscated by a thin mist, but we can see a tropical palm on the far right and the suggestion of other such trees in hte background.

This is a short post [edit: it was supposed to be a short post] taking a summary overview of Genndy Tartakovsky's animated series PRIMAL, through the lens of my own proto-neolithic psychedelic animist old school RPG, PARIAH. Spoilers abound, you have been warned... scroll down for TL/DR