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Ethereal Brain

7 May

Ethereal Brain

A well-fed Ethereal Brain (click for larger image)

Ethereal Brains begin life as sacs adrift in the Ethereal sea. Once they hatch, the brain portion is about the size of the human brain, but over time, as they feed on the memories and knowledge of other creatures, they can grow to enormous size. There are no know limits to the size of an Ethereal Brain. One as large several kilometers in diameter has been reported by several planar-traveling wizards, but the sighting has not been reconfirmed. Ethereal Brains wander endlessly in search of new and exciting input.

Ethereal Brains will latch onto any creature with animal intelligence or above and stun it with its tentacles (Save vs Stun at a minus -3). Once the victim is stunned, the Brain will copy all of its memories and knowledge… a process that takes 1 hour per point of intelligence of the creature that is its victim. The Ethereal Brain will then release the victim and it will become unstained in d6 rounds. After the “feeding” has been discontinued, the victim will be temporarily reduced 1 life-level for 24 hours. Most Brains are Lawful Neutral and do not try to purposely kill those they feed from.

Ethereal Brains are not usually malevolent and feed only for survival and an innate curiosity that drives them ever onward in the pursuit of knowledge and experiences, which its victims contain (as well as that which it gathers itself during its travels through the Ethereal and sometimes Prime Material planes).

Ethereal Brains can live potentially for millions of years, unless some other mishap befalls them. They can communicate telepathically with most sentient beings, if they so choose. Sometimes an Ethereal Brain will trade knowledge with a being, if it believes that it has an exceptionally rare bit of information will be gathered from the exchange. The willing “victim” will still suffer the temporary life-level loss. The trade time is equal to 1 round per skill level of Knowledge being traded. While the odd insane or malevolent Brain might try to steal more, the knowledge trade is usually abided by strictly, given the Lawful nature of most Ethereal Brains.

Extremely adept Ethereal Brains can cause the recipient of memories to believe they were their own. A memory recipient may also be caused to “relive” a memory experience of someone else, if the recipient is either willing or stunned by the Brain’s tentacles.

The Brains range from 1 (very young = less than 1000 years old) to 100 (ancient) Hit Dice.
They will use their stun ability as a defense and some are known to have Psionic attack capability.


From the D&D Wiki:

The Ethereal Plane is coexistent with the Material Plane and often other planes as well. The Material Plane itself is visible from the Ethereal Plane, but it appears muted and indistinct, its colors blurring into each other and its edges turning fuzzy.

While it is possible to see into the Material Plane from the Ethereal Plane, the Ethereal Plane is usually invisible to those on the Material Plane. Normally, creatures on the Ethereal Plane cannot attack creatures on the Material Plane, and vice versa. A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible, incorporeal, and utterly silent to someone on the Material Plane.

The Ethereal Plane is mostly empty of structures and impediments. However, the plane has its own inhabitants. Some of these are other ethereal travelers, but the ghosts found here pose a particular peril to those who walk the fog.

It has the following traits.

▪ No gravity.

▪ Alterable morphic. The plane contains little to alter, however.

▪ Mildly neutral-aligned.

▪ Normal magic. Spells function normally on the Ethereal Plane, though they do not cross into the Material Plane.
The only exceptions are spells and spell-like abilities that have the force descriptor and abjuration spells that affect ethereal beings. Spellcasters on the Material Plane must have some way to detect foes on the Ethereal Plane before targeting them with force-based spells, of course. While it’s possible to hit ethereal enemies with a force spell cast on the Material Plane, the reverse isn’t possible. No magical attacks cross from the Ethereal Plane to the Material Plane, including force attacks.


BRAIN! (audio file)

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Lovecraft, Lir and the Celestial Bird

3 May

Lovecraft, Lir and the Bird of Heaven

Many myths have linked birds to the arrival of life or death. With their power of flight, these winged creatures were seen as carriers or symbols of the human soul, or as the soul itself, flying heavenward after a person died. A bird may represent both the soul of the dead and a deity at the same time.

The seagull is associated with Lir, a Sea-God in Celtic lore. Like many birds, the seagull flies between the earth and the “heaven” world, bringing messages from the Gods to mortals. Gulls are highly intelligent with a complex social structure developed partly to ward off predators and can represent feelings of safety and the security of home in certain dream interpretations.

Lir was the Father God of the Sea.  His son Manannan ruled the waves after him.  He is associated with the Welsh God Llyr.  The myths of Manannan and Lír are a relatively late addition to Irish Mythology and accounts of these gods only begin to appear in medieval times. It would seem that the medieval writers merged the character of the Sea God Lir (Llyr-Wales) known across the Celtic influenced lands with the Tuatha de Danann king Lir.

Game Notes on the Bird of Heaven:

The “Celestial Bird” or “Bird of Heaven” in the H.P. Lovecraft tale The White Ship is undoubtedly a seagull.

In game terms, the Celestial Bird is a large seagull, with a wingspan of 6 feet. It goes constantly before the White Ship. The two seem linked and the Bird unerringly appears to guide the White Ship to its destination in the Dream Lands or other realms.

The Celestial Bird’s cry is haunting and dream-like, captivating all normal creatures that hear it (unless they save vs mesmerization), soothing them as the White Ship rolls along the cosmic sea. The Bird of Heaven seems to float if there is no wind and it rarely flaps it wings in flight or when changing direction.

As it hovers above, the Bird will alert the crew to any potential threat. Should harm come to the Celestial Bird or should it show hesitation in its course, it is an ill omen, portending certain doom to those who sail on the White Ship, unless something intercedes to change matters for the better.

The White Ship

2 May

“The white ship has sailed and left me here again
Out in the mist, I was so near again
Sailing on the sea of dreams
How far away it seems
Sailing upon the white ship”

The White Ship has always been a tale that stirs the imagination. Part fantastic voyage, part frightening journey into fear and the unknown reaches of the mind, The White Ship is one of Lovecraft’s best stories, in my opinion.

In game terms, an encounter with the White Ship could be an excellent way to bring the player characters into the Lovecraftian Dream Realms or to other exotic and never before seen lands.

The mysterious and beautiful White Ship

The White Whip

As far as game mechanics are concerned, this ship seems normal by most appearances, though made of a wood that is unknown, of purest white. It is beautiful beyond compare and alluring (save vs charm or be drawn to board the White Ship).

The vessel travels normally over water, but can also travel across space, time and planes/dimensions. The White Ship may call upon a the port of the characters world, but once boarded, it does not sail to other mundane places – only those that have never been seen before, except to possibly return the PCs back to the origin of their voyage. The White Ship should not be used as a normal sea craft, but only as a conveyance to mysteries destinations, most being wholly other-worldly.

If the characters depart the vessel, they may possibly be trapped in that realm, unless they can find other means of returning home or if the White Ship returns to that port (3% chance per year).

If you are interested in reading the text of the story The White Ship, please click here
-Jeff
“Retro”

Z = Das Ende!

30 Apr

Well, here we are at the end of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

I certainly enjoyed it. Sometimes it felt like a wicker cage, sometimes it felt liberating, but it was definitely worth it!

To end the Challenge, I want to post something that is a beginning, not an end:
I made a new video that is a very basic introduction to Fantasy Roleplaying Games as Mythopoesis. It is not meant to be complete or detailed, but is a very simple overview of the subject material. I may revise it later, but here it is as it currently stands.

Here is to the end of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and on to new things in the Blogosphere and in the OSR…

Fantasy Roleplaying Games: A Mythopoetic Experience
(This is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter. It is meant to be introductory only and does not contain details as to many pertinent details of certain aspects due to media constraints.

No favoritism of games or game systems is implied by any of the art work appearing in this video… it is a Fair Use video for educational purposes only)


X Marks The Spot!

28 Apr

The chest is already open on that map...someone must have gotten there beforehand!

An “X” on a map means that something secret, probably treasure, is hidden there! Almost every very kid learned from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, “X marks the spot!. Tales of pirate’s loot (can we still say booty these days?) that is still buried all over the world has drawn people to search for that elusive “X” on the map. Sometimes they uncover riches, sometimes they make some discoveries, but nothing world-turning.

Hoist high the Jeffy Roger!

This A-Z Blogging Challenge has been like searching for the “X” for me.

Counting this one, there are just 3 letters left in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. I think that this loosely structured month of daily posts has not always been easy, but I was able to use some of the posts to help flesh out aspects of my campaign world that I am working on. That alone has made participating in the Challenge well worth it. As I said in an earlier post, the next challenge is for me to determine where I would like to go with this blog in the future. I have some ideas of new features or projects. Also, some of the things I have been doing could be done more effectively.

It is also 3 weeks left for me until the semester is finished. During that time I might cut back from daily posts, but I will not be disappearing. The treasure is only mere weeks away, so I must put in extra effort to reach the elusive “X”. Afterward, I can count the booty… err, loot!

It has been a fun time during the A-Z Challenge. I know that other harbors and adventures lie beyond the horizon, so there I will set sail for!
Thanks to the creators of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and those that participated and to those that commented on my posts. It has been a learning experience.

-Jeff
“Retro”

Vigilante NPC: St. Francis

26 Apr

Vigilante NPC

Crime lords fear the name of this saint of the people. The common folk are grateful for his help. The authorities are consternated that this upholder of good undermines their reputation, yet they cannot deny his effectiveness on the streets. The person in question is the robed vigilante they call “Saint Francis”.

St. Francis is a crime-fighting vigilante that is found only in one major, highly populated city in the campaign. I have used this NPC vigilante in a couple of RPGs.

Originally, he figured in a Cyberpunk campaign set it San Francisco, California in the year 2056. Later, I recycled the NPC for another urban campaign that took place in a very large medieval city in the typical fantasy genre Roleplaying game.

The GM can play it so that, while hard-hitting, the vigilante causes only non-lethal damage to his opponents or alternately as a gritty decimator who leaves few, if any criminals left alive. St. Francis comes out of nowhere, moves decisively and then fades away again, never speaking a word.

He wears the habit of the Friars Minor and attacks using weaponry suitable for the campaign. In a medieval one, a staff and hand-to-hand combat is sufficient. In a modern or futuristic setting, depending upon the violence level of St. Francis that the GM chooses, the weaponry could be the same as before or could include things that cause great havoc -usually involving cool explosions and the fiery vengeance of righteous fury!

The root cause of the motivations of St. Francis are unclear, but when he strikes, he thwarts anyone from petty criminals to highly organized street gangs and criminal organizations. Always, the motivation seems to be to protect the average citizen that falls prey to the activities of these individuals and groups. St. Francis only engages in his vigilantism at night.

St. Francis can be either an actual Franciscan monk or a loner that plays the persona for unknown reasons (defrocked monk, a devout lay religious , etc.) Typical choices of a lair of the vigilante are determined by how he is used in the campaign, but they could include: a ruined monastery, underneath a church or serving actively as a monastic cleric during the day.

St. Francis may be considered anathema by his religious organization because of his actions, but he is genuine in his desire to protect the innocent and bring criminals to justice. If there is corruption in the Church, those involved in it will want to expose and suppress him.

I have had great fun having this NPC pop up when least expected in my campaigns. He can be a great hook for drawing in PCs that have their own motivations to fight criminals.

-Jeff
“Retro”

An anathema has fallen
On this poor humanity
The dark world is falling asleep
The moon has hidden the sun

And the sky is becoming cloudy
Like arms which are opening
Spreading darkness
All over our damned world…

Unexpected Treasures

25 Apr

Dartronus Prime, a simple spacescape I created (click for larger view)

I was digging through what few old papers I have and stumbled across a Traveller Starship design I had created. This ship was one that I designed towards the end of a Traveller campaign that started in ’82 and ran for a couple of years.

My Scout character, Karl Volker, made his fortune running whatever goods he could, legal or not, across the Spinward Marches. He is the one that I have mentioned in previous posts. The guy started off as a legit, law-abiding Imperial citizen, but slowly came to dislike the sometimes oppressive policies it had, especially concerning taxation of cargo and credit fees for ports, etc. He disliked how it cut into his profit, when he was taking a lot of risks to deliver goods for the local governments on dangerous and vital missions.

Eventually he became somewhat of a tax-protester/ Anarchist and was one of the leaders in a failed rebellion of several outer worlds against the Imperium. Along the way, he had also made himself an enemy of the Zhodani Consulate, which put a death mark on him and sent infrequent Assassin agents to attempt to take care of Karl once and for all. Because he was a wanted man by far too many powerful enemies, he left Known Space and went deeper into uncharted regions. After several misadventure, one of which resulted in him being imprisoned by an advanced alien race for two years of mind probes and observation, ex-Scout Volker decided he wasn’t safe anywhere. Karl went blindly even deeper into Unknown Space.

The campaign was winding down as it was, so I decided to leave his fate a mystery (but I suspected that if I had played him any longer, he would have met some strange and spectacular death).

Osprey Non-Standard Merchant Vessel (click for larger image)

so… on to the ship design that I found and scanned. It was the first special design ship that Karl Volker commissioned, but it wasn’t the last. It is called the Osprey and I labeled it a “Non-Standard Merchant“, which could just as easily have meant “Potential Pirate vessel”, because it was reasonably armed for its size. The armaments and defenses of the 1000 ton Wedge-shape vessel consist of:

1 – 50 ton Bay Particle weapon (the Big Gun!)
3 – Turret Triple Sand Casters
2- Triple Beam Turret Lasers
1- Single Turret Energy gun (Plasma)
4- Triple Turret Missile Launchers

For a merchant vessel of this size, it was armed well! No way did I want the tables turned on me if things got dicey in space. Karl had already been boarded early in his career when all he had was his junk heap of an old Scout vessel and he didn’t intend for it to happen again.

  • The ship has a Jump Drive factor 4 and high local space maneuverability of 6.
  • The Osprey is capable of a crew compliment of 20 personnel.
  • It is fitted with ram-scoops to skim gas giants or water worlds for fuel and has a cargo capacity of 220 tons.
  • There is zero waste space in this vessel.

At Tech Level C, the bill for this beauty came to a whopping 532.85 MCr (million credits)

Quite the investment, for sure and not a bad design, if I do say so, done according to exacting Traveller construction rules.

here is the Ship Design Worksheet that went with the plans, if you are interested.  I had to adjust the brightness and contrast of the image some to make it more legible, because the original is done in pencil.

(click for full-sized image)

-Jeff
“Retro”