I really need to make a new banner...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Current Affairs for Steam Age Arcanus Campaign

Yamazaki: When I run Steam Age Arcanus, this is how it starts...

How many years has it been? Five years now?

It's insane to think that this ridiculous war has continued for so long. I guess that's as good of a starting point for this story as any will be. To be honest, however, I don't know all the details. Just rumors and hearsay.

About 11 years ago, the previous Emperor of Tannish passed away. Most said it was from an illness, but the whispers said it was poison. So Emperor Basle III took the throne, the second son of Emperor Jacob. Basle was a cunning man, to say the least, and increased the power of the Inquisition within years of his rule. But things get messier after a few years. That's when the war started.

Peace is something that Tannish is not particularly familiar with, you see. Before the current war, we had only 17 years of peace since ending the war with the Barbarian Tribes to the Northwest. Basle took part of that war and proved himself an able general. Maybe that's why he started this war... But who knows? There's many rumors surrounding the Emperor, with few facts to back it up. Either way, Basle's family was entertaining some Altzan dignitaries one fine summer evening. The 'official story' goes like this - apparently, one of the dignitaries, a young elven man, fell for the eldest daughter of Basle. I'll admit, even I thought she was looker, so who can blame the man? But that's besides the point here. What happened, supposedly, is that this particular dignitary began a courtship of this wonderful daughter. This went on for a few months, and a few people were talking of an alliance in marriage, found in true love. Sounds awesome, right?

But then something happened. Something very bloody.

While the exact details are a mystery, we do know that this daughter was found dead with a knife in her chest in the young elf's room. The knife was identified as his. Witnesses had seen the young elven man the night before the murder, and he was found 2 days later on the way out of the country. A month later, Tannish had him executed and war was declared upon Altza. That was 5 years ago, to this day.

Sure, we can speculate what exactly happened, but that changes little. This war has been going strong, and a new push is being made this week. A convoy of airship just left for the forward camp of Wyrmfang just past the coast of Altza. And something more sinister is in the works as we speak, involving the Ancients and their legendary MysTek.

Thus begins our story...

Historical Lesson of Arcanus

[ excerpt from Isaac Forland's book: Mysteries of MysTek ]

There are a lot of origin stories of our world out there. Most say it was created by the gods. Not my realm of expertise nor the concern of this book. But what we need to cover is the Ancients.

They were a race of superior intelligence, magic, and technology. They created what is known as Mystical Technology, or MysTek – an amalgamation of magic and technology. The secrets of their creation have been lost to the ages, sadly. But we do know this – they are insanely powerful. One can blow away a target with ease with just a bit of magical power. Golems can be constructed in mere seconds. Wounds healed in an instant. Death can be prevented if applied correctly.

This is why everyone is interested in the Ancient Ruins. They hold the secrets of MysTek. Or at least the various Artifacts that were left behind by the Ancients.

So what happened to the Ancients? If they created such a great power, how did they disappear?

There are a handful of stories of what exactly happened, but nothing is certain. Many say the Gods punished them for their arrogance. I say they blew themselves up.

What we do know for certain is this – all of the mana (the stuff that magic is made of) was drawn from the Leylines (the near invisible paths of mana that cover the world) and focused on the southern polar cap. All this magic in one place caused the polar cap to melt insanely quickly and flooded the world. While the Ancients could deal with this disaster, they could not cope without the power of magic. With the Leylines drained of all their mana, there was no way to recharge the Ancients' mighty MysTek Artifacts. And the mana didn't return to the Leylines until 500 years ago...

You can imagine what happened after the Leylines were bled dry – War over what mana was left. This 50 year war is called the Mana Wars, and what was left after that was the dark age of magic and technology – the Age of Darkness. Eventually, this gave birth the the various races that make up the world today: the Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, and Beastmen.

During this thousand year dark age, the dragons made their move. They took over the world and quietly ruled over all. This was called the Age of Dragons. Towards the end of this age, the mighty Imperial Dragon appeared and forcefully rose to power. He took the Crimson Moon as his throne to rule over all from above.

At some point, the power of magic returned to the Leylines, quietly and subtly. Nobody knows exactly when everyone realized that magic had resurfaced... But we know it changed everything when that realization hit. Especially when they realized that MysTek Artifacts were usable again.

Eventually the races began to chafe under the rule of the Imperial Dragon. Heroes started to gather, armed with the power of magic and Mystek Artifacts. The First Emperor of Humanity and the Black Witch gathered an army, aided by the Lance of the Elves and the Anvil of the Dwarves. These heroes fought the Imperial Dragon until it was weakened. Some say it was slain, others say it was sealed within the Crimson Moon.

After the Great Dragon Wars, the Heroes went their separate ways and created the Nations and Factions we are familiar with today. The First Emperor of Humanity formed the Tannishian Empire and ruled well until he was slain by his former lover and general, the Black Witch. The Guardian Lance of the Elves still protects the Kingdom of Altza, her spear still striking true against the foes that threaten her homelands. The Anvil of the Dwarves forged the Dwarven Merchant Guilds and then vanished from the world. From the ashes of the dragon's servants rose two other factions – the Dragon Knights, sworn to protect the world from both the dragons and the darkness; and the Council of the Undying – a group of undead who quietly watch over the world and making subtle effects upon it.

Today, the search for the Truth of MysTek is one of the main goals of the Mage's Association. We seek the answers that nobody knows of the Ancients and of their Artifacts. We're also the only ones crazy enough to delve into these ruins that are full of traps and dangerous golems...

[/ exerpt from Isaac's book ]

Isaac Forland is the world's renowned archaeological expert in the field of the Ancient Ruins.  His knowledge would be second to very few.  He has written a handful of books on the topic, and continues exploring the Ruins of the Ancients to this day, and usually does it alone...

[It's about bloody time I added to the Arcanus campaign info...  I have more coming soon!  Again.]

Monday, November 3, 2014

Chronicles of a Pathfinder GM, part 1

Gods, it's been a long time since I posted here.  But I'm in a writer-y mood, so I shall post a bit of stories as a GM.

For the past year, I have been running Pathfinder for my group of players, which consist of my wife, my brother, my brother-in-law, and a friend or two.  We have had 3 campaigns during this time-frame: 2 of which were Pathfinder, and one attempt at Shadowrun (that didn't go so well...)

The original run of Pathfinder used a few different modules.  My players were all newbies, save one, so this made things... interesting.  The party included a ninja, a magus, a paladin, a rogue, and my wife playing a ranger by the name of Paul Jourgensen (he was a lumberjack, too).  The best stories of this campaign involved Paul.

So the party were traveling to a small mock-up dungeon for the newbie adventurers (a dungeon that by terrible plot twist was infested with undead), and during their first night camping out, they were attacked by wolves.  Nothing special - combat ended almost as quickly as it started.  But Paul surprised me with his actions afterwards.  "Can I skin the wolf?"  I have my wife roll it, which ends in a crap roll.  It was her response after that that was surprising: "Is the head alright?"  "Yeah...?"  "I put the head on my head.  It's a hat now!"

So envision, if you will, a lumberjack with a chopped off wolf head as a hat.  This became a running joke...

This campaign brought many firsts for me, including running my first dragon encounter.  And it was a random encounter one.  My friend from work, playing the magus, figured it'd be a great idea to wander off on his own.  Mind you, he had been doing a lot of stupid things recently, and had a bit of odd sense of humor, so half of the party had no problem of him going off on his own.  But the ninja figured it'd be wise to follow him.  So I rolled for a random encounter, and got a young green dragon.  I giggled to myself as the magus failed his perception checks to see the dragon.  And before he knew it - the two of them were running as fast as they could back to the rest of the party with a small dragon chasing them.  Eventually, the party killed the dragon (using Paul's falcon companion, Scruffledink Fogglesworth).

Later in the campaign, I had my first player kill ever.  While this wasn't my first time running, I usually do not try to kill off characters.  The party were fighting a golden golem that radiated heat - had concealment, spell resistance, damage reduction, everything that a GM would want to fuck up a party.  The party surrounded the golem and whittled away at it HP, as it wailed back upon them.  This was already entertaining for me.  The magus drops below 0 and hits the dirt.  The ninja gets him back up with a potion, bringing him to 0 HP and staggered.

Now, I don't know about you, but my first plan of action normally would be retreat and heal.  But our magus player wasn't particularly bright.  No - he attacks!  And he drops again into negatives.  Whatever, I think - but it gets better.  Thankfully, he stabilizes on his own, and they all think he'll survive the fight.  Until they destroy the golem and it self-destructs.  Paladin drops into the negatives and the magus dies right out.

What followed this was the magus's player running a few sessions, to give me a break.  These were referred to by my players as 'Whore Island'.  Because that's exactly what it was.  With demons.  And devils.  And I'm sure there would've been a Kyton or three, if he knew what those were.  I still face palm about the whole thing to this day.  Barely had a chance to enjoy playing my gunslinging alchemist...

More next time, on my current campaign.  Maybe.  Not too many good stories there.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Building the Megadungeon...

So, I will be starting a new section of posts here over the next few weeks.  Yes yes, I know.  I have posted much in a long while.  Screw you too.  But it's time to put some ideas down on digital paper for the world to see.  So what am I doing?  Building a megadungeon!

Minor story segway time!
For the past 2 months, I have been running a Pathfinder game for some friends and family.  All of them newbies.  While this is fine and dandy, most of them are foreign to role-playing and crafting characters (unlike us geeks in the D&D field).  So they've become the fightery fighters of fightingness, or FFF as I will refer to them from here on out.  There is only a half caster in the group, a magus (who's archtypes has diminished his spellcasting even further...), so they're kinda very screwed in the future.  I will indeed punish them for that by killing at least one of them during the megadungeon.

Right, the reason I segway'd - since my players don't care much for story or role-playing, I'm building them a megadungeon so they can explore and kill and loot all they want.  I have a few more weeks of buffer time to work with, between crappy work scheduling, a few more seasons of their current adventure, and my friend running for a few seasons for me.
(end segway)

So, I am recording the whole ordeal of making this dungeon for the world to see.  Mostly because this will get interesting.  As well as try to record how my players roll with the whole thing.

So, the first step was research and concepts.
Since this was my first foray into the megadungeon, I searched the internets for advice.  This link gave me a great deal of info for the whole thing.  Thank the gods for the internet.  Meanwhile, I scoured Pathfinder books for ideas to cement the whole thing into the world.  I have a great deal of flexibility here, given that my players haven't read anything into the world (lazy bastards) or they don't care (ie, my wife).  Eventually, I came across the Rise of the Runelords adventure path, and used that as a stepping stone.  For those who never played it/read it, it details the rise of one particular Runelord (ancient Super-Evil Mega-Wizards), but also suggests others return to the world.

The concept was simple enough - a mountain with a tower on top.  Eventually, I explaned the idea to making the tower go through the whole mountain, making it a hub of sorts for the various sections.  The players would start out by clearing out mines full of orcs, but then stumble upon the tower's hub at the end of the mines.  The door into the tower already opened by the orcs (as they came from another end of the tower hub).  Throw in some awesome plotting and scheming by a wizard or two, some ulterior motives, and a possible cataclysm ending, and this might just turn out epicly.

Taking the advice I found, I drew up a side view sketch of the whole dungeon.  We have the mountain contain everything, with the tower right down the middle.  Then I added various locations: the mines, the Crypt (gotta have undead somewhere), the Forgotten City (for those mindflayers and other fuckers that can fuck up your day), the Underground Lake (gotta have some water here), and the Pit (for the demons and other crazy monsters).  There is also the Orc tribe camp, which connects via a set of tunnels to the tower hub.  Speaking of the tower, that is also divied up - the Summit at the top, the Spiral below, the Tower Climb next (right around where the mountain peak is), the Cathedral (just above the main Hub), the Tower Hub (where most of the connecting areas meet up), the Tower Base (which connects to the Pit and the Lake), and the Cage (which can be only accessed by going through the Pit, and you have to be very high level for that shit).

To keep things easy to understand for myself, I created a small 3D sketch of where thing where in relation to the tower.  I will scan this page and post it later when I get to a scanner...

I like to believe I'm decent at making an over-arcing plot.  So I created a basic job to bring the players in - a wizard in charge of a mining business hires the players to clear the orcs out.  After the boss orc, party FFF (or what's left of them after that fight) discover the door to the Hub.  Hopefully, at this point, they head back to town to get some answers from their employer, who then explains that the miners dug up the door, but left it untouched (in fear of any nasties that'd come out of it).  The wizard will offer more gold to secure the Hub, hoping to prevent any more monsters from coming up from the woodwork.  Of course, the party being the money grubbing fighters that they are, will dig deeper into the tower and it's related dungeons and kill off major monsters, guardians of the Tower....  And I will stop there in case my players find this post.

Mythic or Not?
At this point of my plots and schemes, I discovered the Pathfinder book, Mythic Adventures.  It's pretty cool stuff, and I am tempted to use it with my players.  They need all the power they can get during this thing.  Unless someone re-rolls a real mage.  Gotta kill someone soon...

Next time...?  I dunno what I will duscuss next.  Encounters?

Friday, November 16, 2012

MysTek Artifacts

Now for the post you really weren't waiting for, but should have been ('cause this is the cool stuff):

Mystical Technology Artifacts!

Nobody knows how the Ancients created these Artifacts, or how they work, or how they seem to evolve and unlock new abilities over time as it's user gains experience.  That's a secret that may forever remain in the past.  But really, most people could care less about that stuff.

What are Artifacts?

These items, which have strange angular lines etched along and around, have unique magic circuits.  Unlike the circuits that normal creatures possess, these seem to be ambiguous, and not hard-coded.  It's possible to alter and change how these magic circuits behave and do.  In fact, one can add extra abilities to Artifacts, with the right materials and tools (which have only been found in the Ancient Ruins) and skills.

Often times, most Artifacts have a core ability, one that cannot be changed entirely.  A fire sword Artifact will always be a fire sword.  However, if it has an extra ability to, say, shoot fire balls, or something, this feature could be changed to be a fire shield instead, if you had the tools and know-how.  You could even go so far to add a transformation ability so it become a fire gun, but such Artifacts capable of this are few and far between.  So far, only the Mage's Association has this knowledge, and they guard it fiercely.

Who can use Artifacts?

Thankfully, anyone can.  You just have to be able to use Mana.  That's it.

What kind of Artifacts exist?

The most common ones fall into one of three categories: Offensive, Defensive, and Utility.  Offensive Artifacts come in weapon varieties, like guns or swords.  They inflict damage, as one would assume.  Some even allow the user to take control of Ancient Golems (these are dubbed 'Director Artifacts').  Defensive ones usually appear to be belts, bracers, or pendants, and grant protection - either from damage, or secondary effects (like heat or cold).  Utility Artifacts are the most common, and often do things that normal items shouldn't be able to, like greater storage, communications, sensors, and other handy gadgets.  It should be noted that some Artifacts fall between two different categories.  The really powerful ones will have abilities in all three.

More info coming soon!