Thursday, 28 July 2011

Annual OSR Recruitment Champion Award

As some of you know, I'm big on recruiting new gamers. I run "cadet" groups for RPG-curious types every other year or so, many of whom go on to graduate to my regular gaming group, or else move on to start up new groups of their own. Yet even so, as much as I strive to bring new people into gaming, there is one blogger who has completely eclipsed all my efforts in this last year:

Beedo, from Dreams in the Lich House. Last year, Beedo ran a semi-regular group for kids in his neighbourhood, mostly around the age of eight or nine. Though he no longer runs this group, one of the other dads has taken up the flame and carried on. Several of those nine year olds developed their RP style well enough in that time to join his "adult" group as regular players. Of those who did not, at least one has gone on to create a pseudo roleplaying game of his own - an RPG based on Pokemon cards which this kid has introduced to several of his friends.

Thus, I can think of no finer person in the blogsphere to receive this, the first Annual (possibly semi-annual, we'll see) OSR Recruitment Champion Award, on what would have been the 73rd Birthday of the father of Old School himself, Gary Gygax.

Congratulations Beedo.

(Many thanks to my lovely wife for designing the award graphic for me at such short notice).

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Domain Play on the Earthshaker Isle

There's been an awful lot of noise regarding Domain play in the OSR blogsphere lately, much of it inspires, I'm sure, by Hill Cantons' work on his Borderlands supplement and Autarch's Adventurer, Conqueror, King system. Consequently, I've been fiddling some more with incorporating opportunities for domain play (should the players decide to pursue it) into the Earthshaker Isle's.

Other than that, I've been griding away at writing up Dungeons, Wilderness Locations, Encounter Tables, Event's tables and Political Dynamic Webs to get the game to a point where I'm comfortable opening up the sandbox for play. Bat in the Attic has a number of excellent sand-box posts recommending that you can start with one dungeon and one home-base location and make the rest up as you go, but I prefer to have more groundwork done. It's a matter of personal choice. And also a matter to do with scale. At one mile to a hex, a party could cross the island (realistically) from eastern tip to western tip in little more than two or three sessions (assuming they don't make any side-trips to dungeons on the way) so my sand-box needs to be a bit more fleshed out than most. It is, after all, only about forty miles long by about twenty miles wide.

In effect, the Island itself has the same function (for me) as a single town and dungeon has for Bat. Once the island begins to out-live it's usefulness (or once the party acquires a boat) I'll need to flesh out the rest of the archipelago.

Alas, what all this means is that, while I've been churning out gaming material like a man possessed, I can't post any of it. Not yet. At least not until the players start exploring some of it. But now that the sandbox is at a stage where I'm happy to run it, normal posting should resume soon.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Peoples of Zama: Myceneans

An introduction to the Mycenean (Pseudo-Greek) culture in Zama. You'll notice I'v changed the art style in this (and subseuqent) Zama posts to feature line drawings and etchings over computer-generated art. I reckon these better capture the Old School feel of my campaign setting than modern, computer generated imagery.

Myceneans:

The peoples of Mycenea came across the Outer Sea from lands now lost some 300 years after the onset of the Age of Conquest, shortly after the fall of the Pheonixian Empire. Invading the lands of the Southern Tuatha about the same time as the Sythians from the East, the Myceneans very quickly established a firm hold over most of the Southern Middle Sea Region, which they retain to this day.

Much of the ancient history of this otherwise knowledgable and educated race was lost with the catycysmic destruction of their homeland or in subsequent internal warfare. It is known that they came from the endless seas to the south of their present territories, armed with sophisticated siege engines and weapons of bronze. While the Tuatha fought individually with weapons and armour of iron, the Myceneans fought united, arrayed with long spear and pike in phalanxes the ragged Tuatha warbands could not penetrate. The tide turned further in the favour of the Myceneans when they learned the secret of iron-smelting from captured Tuathan smiths.

Yet when the Myceneans encountered the Scythians for the first time, it was they, not the Scythians, who suffered the gravest losses. Like the Tuatha, the Myceneans had never before seen cavalry, let alone fought against mounted men in combat. The strangely re-curved bows of the Scythians could easily outdistance all but the best Mycenean slingers. Thus, the swift and elusive Scythian hordes slaughtering phalanx after phalanx with arrow fire, sustaining few losses themselves save in seige warfare.

Only in the close terrain of what is now Canwyn were the slow moving phalanxes able to force open battle, slaughtering the Scythians in their turn. It was in one such battle with the Scythians that the last Mycenean King was killed without a named heir.

The result was a rush by a multitude of bastards, nephews, generals and brothers-in-law to claim the Mycenean throne for themselves. Even as the war against the Scythians raged on, the Myceneans began to fight amongst themselves.

Mycenea was shattered. In the chaos, an army of Canwyn Barbarians, assisted by a horde of allied warriors from Cerwya, descended upon the unguarded towns and cities of Mycenea, while their defenders fought fell upon one another elsewhere, burning many cultural treasures (including rare manuscripts saved from the destruction of the Mycenean homeland) to ash. Killing all before them, the barbarians drove the fractured Myceneans as far west as what is now called Pergannon. There the defending Mycenean armies met another Mycenean army marching to their relief from the west. This army was led by a man named Zerphon, grandchild of Arramnon, the last King.

Zerphon succeeded in uniting seventeen of the feuding Mycenean cities under his banner. Using cavalry trained by Scythian mercenaries and phalanxes of men armed with pikes trimmed to the size of spears to secure his flanks, he brought the Barbarian tribesmen to battle near the Holy Mountain. There, at the Battle of Balerophon, thirty thousandTuatha died. Zerphon was crowned the”Tyrant of Seventeen Cities” following the battle.

The mighty Tyrant of Seventeen Cities was able to recapture a great deal of lost Mycenean territory, but his successors were far less capable men. Today, the borders of Pergannon end almost within sight of Arka, the capitol, which has become an armed camp. Other than Pergannon itself, no Mycenean state  encompassing more than a hand-full of towns and cities exists. Instead, perhaps three dozen small city states make war on one another in the region known as the Free Cities. These scattered townships with their ever shifting web of alliances seem united only when faced by the interference of outsiders –as both the Imperium and Pergannon have discovered at great cost.

Cultural Traditions:
An intellectual yet war-like- people, the Myceneans have a reputation as notorious liars. Their reputation for political and mercantile scheming and intrigues is as legendary as their tempers. While the Myceneans make must of thier loyalty to their home-cities, many outsiders believe that the Myceneans value their individual freedoms rather too much. Often at the expense of their own families.

Myceneans, like many of the “civilised” peoples, tend to stand shy of six foot even at their tallest. Both men and women tend to be lithe of build, though muscular. Most have dark hair and eyes. Men often have considerable quantities of body hair, especially on their arms and legs, which they shave or wax often. Naturally hairless backs are far from common in Mycenean men.

While it is said that Pergannon and the Free Cities are the birth place of all art, culture and philosophy in the world this is hardly the case – as any Parnthian or Pheonixian will tell you. Yet Myceneans and Aryans insist that Pergannon and it’s sisters set the fashion for such things as rhetoric, theatre, wine, art, philosophy, and clothing for most of the civilised world (which, to an Aryan or Mycenean, conviently does not include the territories claimed by Parnthians or Pheonixians).

Mycenean sexual pratices however, are one aspect of Mycenean culture that has yet to be adopted elsewhere. In Mycenean lands, homosexual relationships between men are considered to be the ultimate expression of true romantic love. In fact, the man who loves his wife is often a figure of mockery in Mycenean theatre and poetry. In Mycenean epics, this love between men who are away from home on long campaigns, such as men who serve together on the battlefield, transcends all. Such couplings are known as “shield-pairs”. This custom is far more common in the Free Cities, than it is in the less liberal, more militant cities of Pergannon, whose generals (Strategos') generally insist in separting men who have formed "shield pairs" into a serparate phalanx.

In the Free Cities, marriage to a woman is often seen as a practical affair for the purposes of business ventures and procreation. Of course, with the double-standards typical of Mycenean society, female homosexual relationships, are frowned upon if not banned outright in many towns. Mycenean woman are even more repressed than those in Aryan high society. Woman have only slightly more rights than slaves and are often regarded as the husbands possessions by law. The exception to this is the island city-state of Mysos, where woman have full legal rights and may even elect to accept training in arms -purely for the purpose of defending the city while the men are away at sea or at war, of course.

Elsewhere in Mycenea, Women are expected to remain monogamous when in a relationship and to know no lover save their husband in their entire lives. Only men may enjoy extramarital affairs which are considered quite acceptable even by most wives – even when the paramour is another woman rather than a man.

However, should a wife decide to take offence at her man committing adultery with another woman rather than a man, the penalties for both can be quite severe. A wife is quite within her right to murder both her husband and his mistress should she discover them in flagrente delicto. Provided, that is, she does so within three days of “disturbing” the couple. Otherwise, she is treated as having used the affair as an excuse to murder the husband and her paramour for other reasons. Likewise, to kill one and spare the other is also considered murder.

Fashion and Appearance:
Mycenean dress is almost identical to that of Imperials, who copy Myceneans shamelessly in all things save the endorsement of homosexuality. Both women and men often wear as much jewellery as they can afford. A small percentage of Mycenean men have even been known to wear cosmetics into battle.

Daily exercise on the drill field and recreational athletics keep the Myceneans trim and fit until well into their advanced years. Any man too fat or too slow to fit into his armour is considered a fool, a coward and an embarrassment to himself and to his city. Any woman unfit to race is considered a shameful creature undeserving of respect or pity. Even heavily pregnant women are expected to take part in athletic events until only weeks before the expected birth

The average Mycenean is impeccably educated. Even most slaves can read and write. Many poor Myceneans sell themselves into slavery in Zama or the Arcane Imperium. There they are assured of a good life in a rich household and the chance to buy their freedom once the master's children have grown up and no longer require the services of a pedagogue.

Regions
Myceneans are not great travellers on the whole, as they have an un-savoury reputation in the rest of the world as scheming liars and pederasts. However, their merchants do travel extensively, but most like to return home for the campaigning season, lest they be thought a coward by their peers.

Most cities fight at least one battle with their nieghbours in any given summer. As a result, aside from a very few merchants, slaves and a surprisingly large number of mercenaries (mostly second sons or exiles) few Myceneans are found far from their own city-state. A great many of those who can be found are exiles of one kind or another. Myceneans are prone to exile petty lawbreakers rather than imprison or execute them, ensuring  they become someone else’s problem.

Religion: 
Myceneans worship the Mycenean Pantheon exclusively, a collection of harsh Gods and gentler Goddesses that demand much from their followers while promising little in return.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

June Painting Round-up

I finished way ahead of my June quota for the Miniature-a-Day challenge, so June was a good month for painting. I'm still on schedule for July as well. This month, I'll be finishing off the last two squads of "Alliance Marines" for my 15mm Mass Effect games [link] and making a start on some Hoplite and Amazon figures for the Expeditionary campaign. But for now, here's June's minis:

First up we have some giant centipedes from Otherworld Miniatures. Expensive figures but great sculpts. Giant Centipedes are a mainstay of low-level dungeon encounters, so how could I pass these guys up?
More figs from Otherworld, Giant Beatles this time. I left off the antennae since they seemed too fragile for table-top play. The coat of gloss varnish over the black seemed like a good idea at the time, but it pretty much destroyed my careful highlighting. Ah well. Them's the breaks.
 Here we have another six of Mark Copplestone's wonderful colonial marine sculpts. These are available from a variety of companies. Pity, but now that I'm moving over to 15mm for my sci-fi games I doubt I'll ever get round to finishing the platoon.


The three photographs above are my Ground Zero Games 15mm New Israeli infantry, painted up as Alliance Marines for my Mass Effect Games. At the top we have first squad. The command team (Lt, NCO, Medic, RTO, 2 AT troopers and 2 snipers) is in the middle picture. The third pic shows my special teams - two dug in sniper teams and a Forward Observer team.
I'm not normally a huge fan of dwarfs. In fact, I doubt I've played a dwarf character in all my life. But these guys will feature very heavily in the Expeditionary campaign (in their traditional role as the "Gods' Own Builders") so I need to get a batch painted up. These two LOTR figures from Games Workshop were the test-run.
Finally, we have some lightly converted Critical Mass 15mm Mercs. It's not clear from this photo but if you look at the head of the pointing figure you'll see I've converted these figures into an Asari Commando unit for Mass Effect Gaming,

Shameless Plug: If you want to know more about my Mass Effect Wargaming/Roleplaying project, please visit my other blog, here.

Trolling Bloggers

What is it about troll bloggers? What sort of person trolls through blog sites looking for people to heap abuse on? I know it's easier to tear something down than it is to build something, but why devote an entire blog to the kind of harsh criticism that causes a long-term blogger and down-right decent guy like Christian from Destination Unknown to close down his blog?
I work with people like this all the time and like to think I have a fairly good handle on them psych profile wise. To me, it's an indicator of social isolation, feelings of helplessness and lack of control in the trollers own life and potentially the concept of "lack of voice". I like -and appreciate- some honest criticism, but this sort of vitriol is just pointless, disgusting and nihilistic. Sure, you could argue that any publicity is good publicity, but to quote Yeates, "Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams".
Bye Christian. I'll miss you dude.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Zama: Mycenean Gods

The Mycenean Pantheon is just one of many divine families that rule over the mortals of Edarnia. The majority of clerics and paladins in the new Expeditionary Campaign will be worshippers of this Pantheon, hence I've posted it here for potential players to take a look at. The name and most common title/honorific are given in bold type. Lesser titles are those listed in normal type. It is considered vulgar for a Mycenean to name a god without also using at least the greater title as well, to distinguish the fact the speaker is referring to a Deity rather than any mere mortal with the same name.

Major Gods:

Pysos: The Earthshaker, The Lord of the Flows, The Beast of Darkness. Emperor of Flame. Lord of the Underworld.
Chaotic Neutral
The Earthshaker is the terrifying, brutal head of the Mycenean Pantheon. An Elder God of mercurial temper and violent rages, many believe it is only a matter of time before this rampaging Deity is deposed by one of the Young Gods of his Pantheon. Pysos is the God of Fire, Earthquakes, Smelting, Miners and Volcanic Eruptions. He appears as a tall, wild-eyed man hurling fireballs, his beard wreathed in flame.
Clerical Weapons: Staff, Javelin, Dart, Spear, Shortsword, Flaming Oil. All Clerics of Pysos MUST choose flaming oil as one of their starting weapon proficiencies.





 

Haestia: Mother of Women. Wife of Pysos, Mother of the Gods, Persecutor of Adulterous Men.
Lawful Neutral
Haestia, wife of Pysos, is believed to be the true power (and stabilising influence) among the Gods of the Mycenean Pantheon, prone to deflecting her husbands rages elsewhere upon those whom she herself feels have wronged her. Though she has been betrayed by her husband many times, ever the faithful wife, she has taken no lovers of her own. Instead seeking to take revenge in subtler ways. Some whisper that is it Haestia herself who is the cause of her husbands madness. Many of her clerics multi-class as Assassins or Magic-Users.
She is the Mycenean Goddess of wives, marriage, morals, hearth-fires and revenge.
Clerical Weapons: Sling, Staff, Dagger, Poison, Blow Gun, Dart.

  
Dion: The Virgin Huntress. Lady of the Woods. Guardian of Virtue. Queen of the Amazons. Protectress of Mysos.
Chaotic Good
Dion is the virginal daughter of Haestia and Pysos, who bears her father an eternal hatred following his failed attempt at rape in a drunken rage. She dwells apart from the other Gods and supports the rights of women in Mycenean society. She is the protector and patron of the city state of Mysos -the only Mycenean city-state where women are the equal of men in all things- and of the Amazons. She remains a friend of her sister, Merax but hates her mother, Haestia, for continuing to support her hated father. She is the goddess of the Hunt, Wild Places, Virginity, Wild-Fires and Freedom.
Clerics of Dion may be male or female, but must remain chaste and celibate. If they break this stringent rule, even involuntarily, they loose all clerical powers unless and until the offending sexual partner dies at the clerics own hand. Many multi-class as fighters or rangers.

Clerical Weapons: Bow, Sling, Spear, Javelin, Dart.

Merax: The Obedient Daughter, the Lady of Law, the Shield of Mycene, Founder of Cities
Lawful Good
Merax is the obedient daughter of Pysos, twin-sister to Dion and the patron of law, order and cities. When Pysos, in a black-rage, attempted to rape Dion in a drunken stupor, it was Merax who fought him off, earning her recognition amoung mortals as the protector of law and decency. It is said that while Dion taught the Myceneans how to live and farm in the wilderness, it was Merax that taught them to build and flourish in the cities.
Merax is the Myceanean Goddess of Crafts, Building, Law, Order, Justice and all those who work to further the cause of Mycenean civilisation as it is now, not as it should be (that is Dion's purview). Thus she is popular among city-dwellers of all stripes, but particularly clerks, lawyers, politicians and generals. She is the Goddess of the Forge and a skilled armourer/weaponsmith.

Clerical Weapons: Spear, Shortsword, Javelin, Dart, Sling.



Helkeon: The Bloody-Handed, God of War, Savagery and Conquest.
Chaotic Evil
If Meera and Dion represent the best parts of their mother, then Helkeon is all that is worst in his father. A brutal, terrifying God of savagery and warfare, Helkeon is a bloodthirsty maniac, never satisfied or content unless he (or one of his servants) is sticking his spear into an enemy or something else into an enemy's wife. Eternally at odds with his siblings, he fears Merax (for her disciplined fighting style easily overcomes his own berserk indiscipline) and despises Dion, whom he seeks to murder, dismember and display for the delight of his beloved father.

He is the God of Blood-shed, murder, war, arson, rape and pillage. The favoured God of bandits, brigands, pirates, mercenaries and the less-savoury sort of soldier. Needless to say, he is also a very popular God among the Balaerians.

Clerical Weapons: Short Sword, Spear, Javelin, Dart, Morning Star.

Minor Gods: 

Few minor members of the Pantheon have a direct blood relationship to Pysos. In fact, most are mortal woman he has bedded, raised to immortality lest they die before he tire of them. Haestia is the avowed enemy of most of these. The other "demi-gods" are most often the children of trysts and the occasional (brief) marriage between Merax and a mortal Mycenean. Her father will not allow her to grant immortality to these lovers however, and so they have been few and far between. The minor gods listed here represent only a partial list. There are many more.

Athlos: Swift-Running Athlos
Neutral Good
Patron God of Athletics, Sports and Gymnasia
Son of Merax and a human athlete named Mesos. Clerical Weapons include: throwing hammer, javelin, dart, spear, short-sword.

Miranda: Far-Seeing Miranda. Lady of Oracles, The Blind Trollop (to followers of Haestia only).
Neutral
Worshipped by Mycenean magic-users and illusionists. She is hated by Haestia even more so that the rest of Pysos' cast-offs since her husband made of gift of Heastia's command of magic to this "blind trollop." Many Mycenean spell-casters continue to follow Haestia rather than Miranda.
Clerical Weapons: Staff, Dagger, Dart,

Fortuna: Fickle Friend or Foe, Lady of Luck
Neutral
Minor Goddess of Luck and Gaming. Worshipped by thieves, gamblers and tricksters of all sorts.
Clerical Weapons: Short Sword, Dagger, Sling.

Infamia: Gossip of the Gods
Chaotic Neutral
Minor Goddess of spies, whispering, gossip and intrigues.
Clerical Weapons: Short Sword, Dagger, Dart.

Tryastia: Maid of Victory:
Lawful Neutral
Minor Goddess of successful endeavours and battlefield victory.

Tarnax: Spawn of Helkeon
Neutral Evil
God of Unwanted or Murdered Children and Orphans.
Son of Helkeaon by an unwilling (mortal) woman. Murdered at birth by his mother. Clerical Weapons: Dagger, Poison, Scythe, Sickle.


Note: Yes, there is an intended dichotomy here in the nature of the Gods and Mycenean society: Mycenean society is dominated by men, but underpinned and stabilised by the efforts of female Gods. This is, if you like, one of the main themes around which Mycenean's in Zama were built. In other words, behind every great man there's a good woman. Let the controversy begin.