Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Backgrounds of Venture: Murder Machine

Backgrounds of Venture

This is the first of a series of 5th Edition backgrounds based on the Venture Bros., this one based upon a certain Swedish Murder Machine.

Murder Machine
You are an officially recognized professional killer. You have a reputation for leaving a trail of dead bodies in your wake, and you will undoubtedly leave many more.

Skill Proficiencies: Athletics or Stealth (pick one), Intimidation
Tool Proficiencies: One type of Vehicles, one other Tool Proficiency of choice
Equipment: A belt with an attached scabbard or holster, a pack of tobacco or a bottle of booze, flint and steel, a suit of commoner’s clothing, identification papers, and a pouch with 10 gold pieces

Feature: License to Kill

You may kill without legal retaliation in lands that recognize your professional capacity. While not an excuse for wanton mass murder or the killing of certain high power figures, you may leave a few bodies lying here and there while pursuing your duties, though you may wish to call a cleaner.

Suggested Characteristics
Murder machines are usually grim and cunning individuals resilient in both body and nerve. Though they may enjoy the pleasures of the flesh, they typically have hidden depths that will often evolve given time and experience.

Personality Characteristics (1d8)
1.       I work hard; I play hard.
2.       I have a low tolerance for stupidity.
3.       For me, there’s a right and a wrong way to kill.
4.       What I listen to is really all about love and longing.
5.       I have my hobbies. So what if they don’t fit your stupid gender norms.
6.       I did something in the past I’m not proud of. When I’m weak, the memory haunts me.
7.       I’m never without a great story to tell, though my best accomplishments are classified information.
8.       I’ll never turn down a good wager.

Ideals (1d6)
1.       Honor (Lawful or Good) There’s rules. Separates us from the baddies.
2.       Might Makes Right (Chaotic or Evil) If force doesn’t solve your problems, you ain’t using enough of it.
3.       Professionalism (Any) It’s always cold in the home country.
4.       Thrills (Chaotic) I love fighting when I’m in the zone. It makes me feel like a real badass.
5.       Persistence (Any) I don’t give up easy.
6.       Toughness (Any) Never show weakness.

Bond (1d6)
1.       Though they’re not my blood, I have a family to protect. Nobody messes with MY family and gets away with it!
2.       There’s only been one person I’ve only ever really loved.
3.       I have secret orders.
4.       They killed my partner. I’ve got a score to settle.
5.       There’s a legendary monster I’ll take out one day.
6.       I’ve seen something horrible, of which I can never tell.

Flaw (1d6)
1.       They say I have temper problems. I say they have problems becoming maimed, mangled, and murdered around me.
2.       I could never say no to a pretty face.
3.       I may have left a kid or two somewhere along the way.
4.       Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really out to get me.
5.       I act without waiting for backup. Better to ask forgiveness than permission.
6.       My trash talk sometimes gets me into trouble.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Actual Play: Darius Krin's Explorations of the Colossal Wastes of Zhaar

On Google Plus, I've been known for writing overly elaborate but somewhat humorous (I hope!) session write-ups of such disparate places as Barovania, Wampus Country, and New Feierland, among others. I have posted less of that lately on G+. However, my writing has not ended. Instead, I am using the more efficient GOOOOO-GGGLLLLE DOOOCCCCS! (Thunderclap!)

Of what I can share, I have the explorations of the rather scatterbrained artificer, alchemist, and tinker Darius Krin. Currently, he traipses about the Colossal Wastes of Zhaar. Called there by ancient and unknown magic, Krin allied with some fellow miscreants and set about learning about this alien land before ultimately beginning a search for a wrecked airship.

Krin's recollections of his travels are recorded here. Details on important persons and places may be found here. As continually updated documents, they are works in progress for the duration of the campaign. Note that these documents will contain SPOILERS for the Wastes.

About The Campaign
The campaign is a hexcrawl campaign usually run  weekly (if schedules allow) by +Ed Hackett  on G+. We used Fifth Edition rules, and FLAILSNAILS is allowed. We have a public G+ group you can ask Ed about if you're interested in joining.

About the Colossal Wastes of Zhaar
The Colossal Wastes of Zhaar  is a free, crowdsourced hexcrawl map made by numerous folks on G+. It is a precarious, highly fantastical desert land full of wonder that nonetheless languishes beneath the influence of the floating islands and flittering airships that drift overhead.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hexcrawl Index

Homebrew Hexcrawls and Hexcrawl Resources

This is just another index post with assorted links on hexcrawls, collected for quick reference.
* denotes most recent update.

Hexcrawls with keyed entries
Across the White Marsh at Blood & Bronze
Astral Marines: Patrol Section Omega (Vietnam-themed githyanki astral warfare)
Barbarian Prince at Save Vs. Total Party Kill (Incomplete)
Colossal Wastes of Zhaar at Save Vs. Total Party Kill (Desert)
Fallout themed map at Save Vs. Total Party Kill (Incomplete)
Frogstar Peninsula at Goblin Punch
Generic OSR Land (Here Be Cannibals!) at Against the Wicked City*
Gongburg Solitudes at Save Vs. Total Party Kill (Depression era themed)
Hexenbracken at Save Vs. Total Party Kill
Kaltval at Save Vs. Total Party Kill (Incomplete)
Kingmaker rewrite as a 3 page hexcrawl at Against the Wicked City 
Isles of Mist at Ars Phantasia
Kraal at Save Vs. Total Party Kill (Frozen north type setting)
Lavendar Marshes at Save Vs. Total Party Kill
Sublight at I Don't Remember That Move (Desert/hinterlands of a terraformed Mars, sci-fi)
Synthexia at Save Vs. Total Party Kill (Gonzo space fantasy)
Unholy Land by Casey Garske
Urbancrawl at the Alexandrian 
The World at Elf Shot the Foot (Part 1, Part 2,  Map)

Hexcrawls, unkeyed or without hex specific entries
Bleakstone Campaign Setting at
Distant Lands of DIY (Compiled map of various DIY/OSR settings) at Throne of Salt*
Exile Island at Elfmaids & Octopi
Hexcrawl map at Mega Dungeon
Hyberborea At I Don't Remember That Move*
Isle of Dread Map Redone at Lost Atlases*
Lost Duchy of Gaeleth at Countersong
Warriors of the Red Planet at the Eye of Joyful Sitting
Xoghul, City Hex-Crawl map at the Weirdlands of Xhuul

Other resources
Have a Nice Trip at Goblin Punch (Random encounters)
Hexcrawl Tips at World Builder Blog
How I Hexcrawl at Lost Pages
Hexcrawl Resources at Ars Phantasia
Kievs at Games With Others (features a template of writing cities)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ten Ideas About Divine Noninterference

Ten Ideas for Divine Noninterference

In a fantasy world with hypothetically meddling gods, there are often questions why those hypothetically meddling gods seem to sit around and let mortals muck about in their affairs. These questions of nonintervention (or at least, inconsistent intervent) are usually answered through some kind of Great Balance scheme. For every Good, there must be an Evil, for Law a Chaos. Or perhaps some truce against mutually assured destruction. In any case, it’s usually some vague bargain between the gods, a standard fantasy trope that doesn’t require too much committal to deciding how the cosmology of the game world works.

But what if there were some more substantial reasoning behind the rules of divine noninterference? What might it tell us what it means to serve the gods and the nature of the mortality? To give you some inspiration, here are ten alternate ideas for why the gods don’t save the day all the time.

1) The gods are far away and can't perceive much of individual events or people. The world is hazy to them, or perhaps individuals are like individual ants are to a human.  Clerics are different in that they are temporary homing beacons for the god's attentions; they can bring divine awareness into our world enough to manifest some method of divine action.  But only the clerics with the strongest connections (as in, high level) can be so fine an antennae to make the god's power manifest directly into our world (working miracles, etc.)  Certain quasideities, divine avatars, and demigods may be able to stay in the mortal world, but true godhood means existing in a reality truly out of touch with any known by mortals.

A cleric acts is a beacon to his deity. (Source)

2) The gods do manifest in our world. It's called having clerics.  The clerics (and other priests) are the special intermediaries between the god and humanity. Perhaps sometime long ago in the primordial past, the would-be priests struck some kind of deal for how gods would interact with humanity/sentient races (and therefore the rest of the world). 
A deity's work is never done. *Sigh* (Source)

3) The gods are lazy or apathetic, but of such power and awareness that they can "feel" mortals' emotions and pleas. They answer prayers and empower priests in an "Okay, here ya go kid now go away, you bother me!" sort of concession.  Evil gods might get off on the strife and pain their actions or in-actions cause, but too much of it makes ‘em go blind doin’ that. 

4) The mortal world does not have the importance we think it does, or at least not in the way we think it does.  Our prime purpose lies in what we mortals call an "after life", as that is the beginning of our true lives.  This mortal world we call "life" is actually merely a boot camp on a truly grand scale- for some ultimate purpose beyond this life.  If the gods were to “coddle” humanity, that would prevent many great people from realizing the potential, or at least prevent separating the wheat from the chaff.
Presumably even Asmodeus had to go to seminary SOMEWHERE! (Source)

Variant: Deities are all ascended mortals.  It is the destiny of every mortal soul to ascend to divine status; it’s only a matter of time (unfathomably long in our mortal perspective, but not so much in a being of the infinite’s sense).  Intervening directly would interfere with people reaching their inner divinity and is thus avoided.
Humorous Variant: South Park had it right- the mortal world is actually one great reality TV show.  If the gods solve all our problems for us, it means the show becomes boring and thus gets cancelled. (Thus dooming all of mortal existence.)

Even gods can have bad days. (Source)
5) The gods once worked more directly in the world, but were long ago eclipsed in power by the churches and other trappings of their faith.  As a god’s belief structure evolves, it ossifies and achieves a transcendent existence of its own beyond the god’s (or any one being’s) conscious control.  This typically leaves the original deity a husk of its former self (such as the turtle deity in Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods book). This phenomenon might explain the odd iconography and/or taboos within many faiths.

6) The gods exist as manifestations as Jungian archetypes of the collective human (or given fantasy, inhuman) unconsciousness and are therefore intercede only through mortal action.  This can take the place through the brute display of the strongest mortals’ faith (i.e. spells like Miracle) but more often comes about through a coordinated show of faith through combined actions (as in, mundane social movements/trends brought about by many normal people working in tandem with each other.)

7)  The gods must be crazy. The gods vaguely represent certain portfolios or interests, but the way they pursue their interests is so alien, caricatured, or inconsistent by mortal standards. One might think of them as slightly more human-like than average eldritch abominations. It takes wisdom and experience to tease out and benefit from their cryptic mysteries.

8) The gods are long dead, and any pretense to their continued existence is a falsity. Divine energy is a limited (or even nonrenewable) resource that the clergy doesn’t like to hand out like candy.

9) The gods all have self-confidence issues. It is the role of the cleric to ask as counselor to her deity and build enough confidence to persuade the deity to act. (Of course, this setup makes deities the ultimate atheists, for they truly do not believe in themselves.)
10) Pay no attention to the god behind the curtain! Despite what they might want you to think, the gods are not great and all-powerful in and of themselves. Rather, divine power exists through acting as conduits of belief. The gods’ priests are their circuits, delivering the power of their influence in order to gather more power back from the believers (or whatever interests funnel energy back to their gods). As priests rise in level, they become more attuned with this power and are able to deliver greater and greater manifestations of this power.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

D&D Goblinoid/Orcs/Etc Homebrew Resources

Oldschoolish D&Dish Homebrew Resources- Goblinoids and Other Monstrous/Savage Humanoids (Giant-kin, Gnolls, Orcs, etc)

Gathered together for future game reference. Feel free to suggest others.

 Goblin Enchantress at Le Chaudron Chromatique
Manrider Alchemist at Goblin Punch

Gadgets and Generators (See also: "Random Tables" below)
Goblin Doors at Abulafiah
Random Humanoid Horde- Abulafiah

General Information
Behold the Blingdingel at Wampus Country
Biology, Politics, and the Backwards Goblin Back Story at Playing D&D With Pornstars
Ecology of the Bugbear at Hack and Slash
Ecology of the Kobold at Hack and Slash
Ecology of the Orc at Hack and Slash
Ecology of the Troll at Hack and Slash
The Goblin Article at Basic Red
Goblins Are Bad And Mostly Hate You at Playing D&D With Porn Stars
God Hates Orcs at Goblin Punch
Halfling and Goblins at Goblin Punch
Kappas at Basic Red
Kobolds More Like NOBOLDS at Basic Red 
Names of the Orc at Basic Red
Of Manuals and Goblins at Dungeon of Signs 
Meditations on the Bugbear at Dungeon of Signs
Monster Archaeology- Large Humanoids
Monster Archaelogy- Small Humanoids
Orcs Are a Disease at Dungeon of Signs 
An Orcish Prayer at Goblin Punch
Ogres and Their Kin at Goblin Punch
Ogres of Wampus Country
They Are Like A Shadow In The Afternoon at D&D With Porn Stars
Thouls and Owlbears at Dungeon of Signs

Monster Entries and Subtypes
Blobblins at Goblin Punch
Goblin Collectors at Le Chaudron Chromatique 
Goblinforce Murdervengeance at D&D with Porn Stars
Gretchlings and Grues at Goblin Punch
Hollow Goblin (+ Hollow Hermit) at Le Chaudron Chromatique
Spider-Goblins (Hexenbracken) at Gaming, It Happens
Tooth Fairies at Goblin Punch
Yoblins, Funglybears, and Filth Libraries at Goblin Punch

PC Races
Bullywug at Hack and Slash
Gnolls at Hack and Slash
Halfling and Goblins at Goblin Punch
Savage Races at False Machine 

The Greatest and Deadliest of Goblins at Basic Red
Griffin Street Irregulars at Wampus Country
Goblinforce Murdervengeance at Playing D&D with Porn Stars

Goblin Arena at Goblin Punch
Goblin Cubes at Playing D&D with Porn Stars
Goblin Fort at Playing D&D With Porn Stars
Yoblintown at Goblin Punch

Random Tables
1d6 Goblin Traps at Goblin Punch
1d8 Goblin Weapons at Goblin Punch
Barbaric Tribe Generator at Playing D&D With Porn Stars
Cobalt Reach Encounters and Terrain at Playing D&D With Porn Stars 
Gads of Goblin Goodies at Land of Nod
Goblin Tribe Generator
Humanoid Traits Table at A Hamsterish Hoard
Mixing Liquids from Orc Spawning Pools with Healing Potions at Le Chaudron Chromatique
Random Starting Equipment for Goblins at Gaming, It Happens
Soups to Nuts Random Villain Generation at Playing D&D With Porn Stars
Thouls and Owlbears at Dungeon of Signs
What Does That Broken Goblin Machine Do? at Rolang's Creeping Doom
What's in that Dead Orc's Pockets? at Jeffs Gameblog
 WTF Are Those Goblins Doing? at Goblin Punch
 Yoblintown at Goblin Punch

Goblin Market Works Like This at Playing D&D With Porn Stars
Goblin Pig Balloon at Playing D&D With Porn Stars
The Seven Deadly Stinks at Goblin Punch

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Terrible Truth About Trolls

The Terrible Truth About Trolls
Any adventurers worth their salt have heard tales of the troll. Physical descriptions vary, but the type of brute I’m speaking of is almost universally big, dumb, and eternally hungry. The troll ability rapidly and disturbingly stitch together any wounds it sustains (the trollish “regeneration”) is well known. The method of its defeat, fire or acid to cauterize the wounds, is also well known.

However, for all true knowledge known of trolls, many more misconceptions maintain in our minds.

Trollish Physiology

Trolls loom over normal men in a disgusting fashion that shouldn’t even be physically possible. Their bloated cores (which might be called abdomen) sag disgustingly over the top of legs much too gaunt to hold them. Its arms are equally emaciated, with skin seemingly pulled painfully tight over the bone.  A troll has no hair save for its head. Instead the creature’s (at times) rubbery skin is “decorated” with varicose veins, stretchmarks, or pus-filled growths of unknown nature. The latter features tend to change places when nobody’s looking.


The troll is often described as technically a member of the giant family. However, their vaguely humanoid structure is perhaps the closest thing trolls have with giants. Physiologically (and historically, see Troll Origins), trolls more closely resemble the doppelganger. Ecologically they vary between behavior that mimics plagues of locusts and, more often, (somewhat more subtle) cockroaches. (See Troll Ecology and Reproduction).

The physiological body of a troll is actually incredibly weak. A troll’s physical toughness comes from its state of constant “regeneration”. Yes, even when unharmed, a troll’s body warps and devours its old flesh to make up for new.  The troll possesses no regeneration ability as we know it. “Remutation” serves as a better term, for the troll is technically a shapeshifter, like a doppelganger. However, the troll bears no control its shapechanging, dooming it to an existence of eternal suffering as it suffers constant writhing “mini-mutations”.

The troll’s mini-mutations pass by so quickly that the human fails to notice it. Two exceptions to the rule exist: when the troll deliberately turns its remutation to its favor or when it is wounded.  Of the former, the troll has two little known abilities. First, it can stretch its limbs slightly but significantly. This stretching is always accompanied by a noticeable physical change, such as the creaking and cracking of bones or the tightening or even tearing of the flesh. Second, a troll can fold and compress itself to fit into a much smaller space than its normal volume would allow. Of course, a troll will only perform such compression if it accepts the bone-breaking pain and mutilation that accompanies such a transformation. It helps that the troll’s bone structure is not consistent; it can turn solid, spongy, or even almost liquid given the right circumstances.

The troll’s constant transformations require a humungous heap of energy to burn. Hence, in addition to the constant trauma of their bodies breaking down and building back up, the average troll faces constant hunger surpassing even the most gluttonous of ghouls.

Troll Ecology and Reproduction

Trolls have been rightly called the cockroaches of the giant world for several reasons beyond their ability to be too damn hard to kill. For the most part, they are disgusting, lurking horrors that stay out of the way until food is most readily available. Like the normal cockroach, they feed on garbage (or what they consider garbage- as in, sentient humans and humanoids smaller than them.) Of course, because of the constant trauma they suffer from pain and starvation, trolls show much more aggression than cockroaches show.

Trolls are similar to cockroaches in another way: reproduction. Or at least, in a way cockroaches are rumored to reproduce. A troll’s reproduction resembles the old wife’s tale of female cockroaches. Namely, that they shoot their eggs all over the place if squished. (This is of course, a myth, but in a magical world with all sorts of whacko wizards, you never know if somebody turns it into a reality). However, when a troll is hacked apart, it does not eject eggs, but rather the trollish flesh acts more like a planarian flatworm or even an ooze.  Any “significantly large” enough piece of troll flesh, bone, or even blood that is left undisturbed can regenerate back into an entirely new troll, even when the original is destroyed.


The process of the above “budding” reproduction is fiendishly slow, leaving most troll hunters completely unaware that trolls can even multiply this way. Woe be it to the unwary troll hunter who brings fire only to burn the main body but leaves scraps of the creature laying all over the place. Fortunately, their slow reproduction rate also puts a cap on their population. If their inert parts are eaten by predators or scavengers, the trolls will not regrow. Trolls are prone to cannibalism, which sounds nice but actually has a nasty implication. Troll hunters who wipe out an entire clan can make things worse than simply thinning out the population. Few other creatures can stand the taste of troll flesh…

Trolls generally prefer the splitting method of reproduction over sexually mating, though the latter is technically possible. Due to their origins (see Troll Origins, below), trolls find each other physically disgusting. Instead, they find the beings with conventionally finer features much more appealing despite the physical weakness they loath. A lustful troll can experience an erotic high from combat, further complicating the troll’s already convoluted (and now self-contradictory) feelings towards combat. Even the language of trolls reflects how they relate to bloodshed. In the trollish dialect of Giant, the words for “kill”, “die”, “eat”, and “mate” are largely the same. In its own twisted way, a troll signals its love by wanting to tear your guts out and wanting you to do likewise...

Troll Origins

How did a creature so warped in body in mind come to exist? And why does it mock our human form? Perhaps the right question might be why does our form mock it?
Classified erroneously as giant-kin, the origins of the troll more likely hearken back to a much more ancient time, where the rules of life were not like we know them.  In that primordial existence several worlds ago, form and physiology were less distinct. Sexual reproduction, perhaps even reproduction itself, was new or perhaps even unknown.  Yet, something raised the humanoid shape from the creatures that skitter on the ground.

Even in this bygone times (if time was a thing back then), the drive to improve, to evolve, still existed in some form. The first creatures resembling our form, the First Walkers, were otherwise shapeless, indistinct, even malleable, for fixed form had not been decided yet. The creatures we would call “doppelgangers”, the Formspawners, were among the first to solidify their forms from inconsistent muck. This feat was accomplished by ardent pushing and pulling, tensing and letting go, twisting, and untwisting. These first forms were simplistic, nearly featureless faces, dull colors, and of course the inability to reproduce. Yet this basic frame was mutable yet stable enough for the Formspawners to begin crafting more refined shapes.

At the same time as the above physical transformation, the basic reflexes and instincts of pushing and pulling, etc. began to become more complex as the drive towards differentiation unbound creation from itself. These reflexes and instincts intermingled and combined, first becoming basic perception of the outside reality, then awareness of the distinction of organisms, something akin to animal desire, and finally “human-level consciousness”.

The Formspawners were true to their names, having achieve separate existences, yet linked by an understanding of each other that could only come from evolving from the same “mass”. This common understanding may have evolved into what is the telepathy modern doppelgangers show today. That’s not our concern for this discussion. Suffice it to say, the Formspawners thoughts allowed them not only to communicate with each other, but also communicate with their own flesh, allowing increasingly finer and more distinct shapes.

However, in increasing their forms capacity for finer manipulations, the Formspawners reduced their capacity for grosser manipulations. No longer could they assume as radical size or weight changes, nor could they heal themselves as quickly.

An early Refiner (Art by Niii of

A sizable number of the First Walkers saw folly in substituting subtlety for greatness. These Reverters (as opposed to the Refiners on the other side of the argument) believed they had to go back a step and start again. Stretch for ever greater and greater things, continuously warp and mutate, “reach for the stars”. The Reverters stretched and warped themselves to greater and greater heights.

De/Evolution to the Modern Troll

Like the saying that if you make a face enough it will stay that way, so did their forms. Stretched to the limit and yet still warping, mutating, substituting quantity for quality of change, the Reverters damned themselves to an everlasting hell of torment. Through their petty spite and desire for vengeance against the Refiners, the Reverters became the abominable trolls we know today. (This is not to say the Refiners were without blame, far from it, but that is a story for another time.)

The greater sized troll ancestors look upon a Refiner. (Art John Bauer, 1915)