Monday, September 25, 2017

RED WHITE AND WHO: THE STORY OF DOCTOR WHO IN AMERICA

On the podcast we talked with Nick Seidler and Robert Warnock about Red White and Who: The Story of Doctor Who in America. You can learn more about the book HERE



Sunday, September 24, 2017

DESIGNING STRANGE TALES OF SONGLING

We are officially working on a new game that is a variation of Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate. This will be more horror and bizarre tales than wuxia (there will still be room for the wandering sword but the focus is on ghosts and spirited beasts). Obviously this is directly inspired by all the Strange Tales from the Chinese Studio entries I've been doing, so the name of the game is tentatively Strange Tales of Songling

Here are just some basic principles and design ideas as we go forward:

1) Higher Lethality: Strange Tales of Songling will take a more lethal approach than Ogre Gate. A ghost can often kill you quite easily in one strike. Characters are more fragile, they die more often and there are fewer guarantees of making it to the end. 

2) Simplicity: This is going to be a lot simpler than Ogre Gate. I think this is important with the higher lethality (because we want a very fast character creation so players can quickly get back into play). I also felt like going back to something simpler and smaller. Our games have been getting progressively higher in page count (with Ogre Gate clocking in at 492 pages or so). The final book for this will be under 100 pages and the rules chapters will be very short (for the core rules chapter I am aiming for 1-2 pages). 

3) Monster of the Week: This is a monster of the week game in terms of adventure structure. The focus will be things like monster hunts, haunted temples, etc. My Ogre Gate games tend to be more open sandbox, and that works great, but for this, I wanted to do something more like monster of the week. 

4) Emphasis on adventure material: The Ogre Gate core book included a large amount of setting material (and there is more setting material for Ogre Gate to come). My focus on making material for Strange Tales of Songling will be the adventure. Even the cosmology of my setting is built around adventure locations. 

5) Timeless setting: The setting is largely up to the GM. I provide an example of what I do with the game and how I make a Songling-like world, but if you want to set it in China during five different dynasties, you can do so. There is no emphasis on a particular time or place. You could run it in Ogre Gate's Qi Xien, your own world, etc. I am going to be very light on setting stuff here. The focus will be the adventures and the sources of inspiration. In fact, if I do get into the nitty gritty describing historical and cultural details, those would be shifted to the appendix (so the main book remains light). 

6) Compatibility: This game is compatible to a degree with Ogre Gate, but it is like a basic version of the game. There are fewer defenses and some of the skills have been streamlined. Characters have fewer Max Wounds, and the abilities they have access to are considerably lower powered than Ogre Gate martial heroes. A way to think of it is, the characters in this game, even though they have levels of their own, are pre-Martial Hero Characters. Some have cool abilities and powers, but they don't measure up to a Qi rank 1 character from Ogre Gate. They can, if you choose to continue them past the levels in Strange Tales, become a regular Ogre Gate character with some adjustment. I think Strange Tales would be a good introduction to the Ogre Gate system. The simpler approach and faster character creation, means people can be introduced to the core concepts fairly easily. There are key differences though because the scale of power is lower and the number of defenses are fewer. 

We've been play testing this over the last couple of weeks. I actually shifted one of my Saturday games to Strange Tales (and my Tuesday game is doing a group of Strange Tales adventures). I will keep you updated as more information becomes available. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

DELIGHTFUL FOREST DISCUSSION

Over at the Bedrock Podcast I talked with Lady Cao Feng, Kenny and Adam about the classic Shaw Brothers movie The Delightful Forest.  



Friday, September 22, 2017

GAMING STRANGE TALES: TABLE OF CONTENTS

I recently made a bunch of blog entries creating content for Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from the Chinese Studio. These are all listed in the sidebar of the blog, but here is the master TOC. I did notice I missed 2 entries, so I corrected that today and they are linked below. 

1-3: HOMUNCULOUS, AN OTHERWORLDLY EXAMINATION, AND LIVING DEAD
4: SPITTING WATER
5: TALKING PUPILS
6: THE PAINTED WALL
7: THE TROLL
8-9: BITING GHOST AND CATCHING A FOX
10-12: THE MONSTER IN THE BUCKWHEAT, THE HAUNTED HOUSE, AND STEALING A PEACH
13-14: GROWING PEARS AND THE TAOIST PRIEST OF MOUNT LAO
15-18: THE MONK OF CHANGQING, THE SNAKE CHARMER, THE WOUNDED PYTHON, AND THE FORNICATING DOG
19-20: GOD OF HAIL AND THE GOLDEN GOBLET
21: GRACE AND PINE
22-23: A MOST EXEMPLARY MONK AND MAGICAL ARTS
24-26: WILD DOG, PAST LIVES, AND FOX IN THE BOTTLE
27: WAILING GHOST
28-29: THUMB AND THIMBLE AND SCORCHED MOTH TAOIST
30-33: FRIENDSHIP BEYOND THE GRAVE, KARMIC DEBTS, RITUAL CLEANSING, THE DOOR GOD AND THE THIEF
34-36: PAINTED SKIN, THE MERCHANT'S SON AND A PASSION FOR SNAKES 
37-39: A LATTER-DAY BUDDHA, FOX ENCHANTMENT AND EATING STONES
40: THE LAUGHING GIRL
41: THE MAGIC SWORD AND THE MAGIC BAG
42-44: THE DEVOTED MOUSE, AN EARTHQUAKE, AND SNAKE ISLAND
45: GENEROSITY
46-48: THE GIANT FISH, THE GIANT TURTLE, AND MAKING ANIMALS
49-51: THE LITTLE MANDARIN, DYING TOGETHER AND THE ALLIGATOR'S REVENGE
52-53: SHEEP SKIN AND SHARP SWORD
54: LOTUS FRAGRANCE
55-56: KING OF THE NINE MOUNTAINS AND THE FOX OF FENZHOU
57: SILKWORM
58-61: VOCAL VIRTUOSITY, FOX AS PROPHET, THIS TRANSFORMATION, AND FOX CONTROL
62: DRAGON DORMANT
63-64: CUT SLEEVE AND THE GIRL FROM NANKING
65-67: TWENTY-YEARS A DREAM, MYNAH BIRD, AND LAMP DOG
68-69: DOCTOR FIVE HIDES AND BUTTERFLY
70-75: THE BLACK BEAST, THE STONE BOWL, A FATAL JOKE, RAINING MONEY, TWIN LANTERNS AND GHOST FOILED, FOX PUT TO ROUT
76-79: FROG CHORUS, PERFORMING MICE, THE CLAY SCHOLAR, AND FLOWERS OF ILLUSION
80-81: DWARF AND BIRD
82-86: PRINCESS LOTUS, THE GIRL IN GREEN, DUCK JUSTICE, BIG SNEEZE AND STEEL SHIRT
87-89: FOX TROUBLE, LUST PUNISHED BY FOXES AND MOUNTAIN CITY
90-91: A CURE FOR MARITAL STRIFE AND A PRANK
92-94: ADULTERY AND ENLIGHTENMENT, UP HIS SLEEVE, AND SILVER ABOVE BEAUTY
95-96: THE ANTIQUE LUTE AND WAITING ROOM FOR DEATH
97: ROUGE
98-100: SOUTHERN WUTONG-SPIRIT, SUNSET, AND THE MALE CONCUBINE
101-104: CORAL, MUTTON FAT AND PIG BLOOD, DUNG BEETLE DUMPLINGS, AND STIR-FRY

GAMING STRANGE TALES FROM A CHINESE STUDIO 5: TALKING PUPILS

I have been making NPCs, monsters and scenarios inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. For each entry I take two or more stories from the Penguin Edition translated by John Minford and make gameable material.

Today I am doing Talking Pupils (#5). This is an amusing story about a man who gawks at a highborn lady, to have one her servants throw sand in his eyes. Over the next several days, he develops a thick film over his pupil and goes blind. He then seeks comfort in meditation and approaches serenity. One day he hears voices in his head and two tiny figures emerge from nostril. They seem to have grown from the grains of sand and eventually remove the plaque from one of his eyes, enabling him to see. 

KARMIC SAND
This looks like ordinary sand but when thrown at a person it afflicts them with a Flaw in keeping to their most egregious wrong committed in the last year. A person who was lying goes mute, a person who ran off with someone else's property may lose the use of their legs, a person who deceives another may grow incredibly dim-witted. This can only be removed when the wrong has been corrected ten times over. 

GAMING STRANGE TALES FROM A CHINESE STUDIO 27: WAILING GHOSTS

I have been making NPCs, monsters and scenarios inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. For each entry I take two or more stories from the Penguin Edition translated by John Minford and make gameable material.

Today I am doing Wailing Ghosts (#27). This one is about ghosts who haunt the house of a local official. He placates them with rituals and food. One of his guards falls ill, and when he awakens appears to have been one of the ghosts. 

WAILING GHOST
Wailing Ghosts are non-physical but torment the living with their incessant cries. They occasionally possess those who are ill or weak, taking them over until an exorcism is performed. 

Defenses: Hardiness nil, Evade nil, Parry nil, Stealth nil, Wits 7, Resolve 8
Skills: Command: 2d10, Deception: 3d10, Talent (Singing): 3d10, Detect: 1d10

Wounds: None

Powers
Possess: A Wailing Ghost can attempt to take possession of someone who is sick or wounded. Anyone with reduced Hardiness or suffering from Wounds is vulnerable. Roll 2d10 against Resolve of the Target. On a Success they take possession of the person. 

Distracting Cry: Wailing Ghosts create a distracting cacophony with their singing until they get what they want from people. Make a Talent (Singing) roll against Wits of all who can hear them. On a Success the targets suffer -1d10 to all Mental, Knowedge and Relevant Specialist Skills due to distraction. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

GAMING STRANGE TALES FROM A CHINESE STUDIO 101-104: CORAL AND MORE

I have been making NPCs, monsters and scenarios inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. For each entry I take two or more stories from the Penguin Edition translated by John Minford and make gameable material. You can see my previous entry HERE

This is the last new entry for the Tales from a Chinese Studio series I started last month. There will be a follow-up post to compile them all together, but this is basically the end of it. I am going to give some general thoughts before moving into the regular topic because I've been writing these every day for some time now and it has been an interesting process. 

I think this has been a great exercise for  me as a Gamemaster. It really forces you to make mechanics, adventures, monsters and characters you otherwise would not, and you get surprising results from that sometimes. 

This has also been a lot of fun. I think forcing myself to slowdown and deal with entries in small batches (rather than read the book in the course of a few days) gave me more time to digest and remember each individual story. 

It definitely took portions of my day up at times, and when I got sick with the flu last week it  even got exhausting. But I still enjoyed it a lot. I think some entries have been stronger than others. The point of it was to make something and force myself to find inspiration in stories that might not normally spark something. Some of my favorite entries will be reworked and given to a proper mapper for use in upcoming books, but most of the stuff is just here for the blog (also the things I do end up using will undergo pretty serous revision due to an important announcement. 

I mentioned in a previous post that I was thinking of making a Strange Tales variation of Ogre Gate and putting it on the blog. Making these entries has convinced me. I've started work on the game, but the result is so different from the core Ogre Gate rules (it still uses the base system but is a lot simpler and faster). I like this so much and the playtests have been going so well, I decided to make it our next book in the pipeline (which means it should follow House of Paper Shadows). This will be a new game with more streamlined mechanics and greater emphasis on lethality and horror. It is directly inspired by Strange Tales (and the movies based on it). Right now we are just calling it Strange Tales. The book itself will be lean (probably no more than 80 pages) and the focus will be on gaming content. So it won't be a massive setting book like Ogre Gate and I am trying to keep the core rules section under a single page. The bulk of the book will be stuff like character creation, adventures, monsters, etc. Stuff that will help the GM. The setting will be more open and at this time I don't plan to go into great detail there. I see this more as something you could run in China during any period you wish, something you could run as a setting you develop through play or something you could take to the Ogre Gate setting. 

I am looking forward to working on Strange Tales and I am happy to answer any questions people might have about it. In the meantime here are the last entries in this series. 

Today I am doing Coral (#101), Mutton Fat and Pig Blood (#102), Dung-Beetle Dumplings (#103), and Sit-Fry (#104). 

Coral is about a glutton named Yue Zhong who is devoted to his mother that he cuts a portion of his own flesh to feed it to her when she is dying. After she dies he marries but finds no pleasure sex so he divorces. Some time later his mother appears before him and tells him she has been residing at the Holy Island of Nanhai. He divorces his wife and goes on a pilgrimage where he meets a courtesan named Coral. They develop a chaste relationship, despite sharing the same bed they do not consummate the relationship. The two go together to Nanhai and there they make offerings. Coral sees an image of Guanyin, while Zhong sees images of his own mother. They eventually have to part, but he soon meets a young boy who turns out to be his son from his earlier marriage. He raises him as his own and a few years later Coral returns to him, saying she would like to be his wife as their relationship was a pure one. Together they raise his son until he too had a wife. One day while drunk, Zhong attains a kind of enlightenment, seeing his humble abode as a palace of jade. The scar on his leg begins to form into blossoms and he tells Coral their marriage will be at an end when they bloom. She convinces him to stay a little longer, and he agrees. Later Coral reveals she is actually an apsara, cast temporarily to earth because her mind was fettered. Both she and Zhong leave the world at the same time in a fabulous display of light and perfumed mist. 

For this one I decided to focus on the Nanhai scene because that gave me an idea for a Rock Demon. 

Mutton Fat and Pig Blood is about a type of divination done through poetic couplets. This gave me an idea for a ritual. 

Dung Beetle Dumpling is about a woman who puts dung beetles in her mother-in-law's dumplings. That night the woman turns into a pig and is paraded through town as an example the next day by the local magistrate. I liked the idea of a dumpling that turns people into pigs but under the right circumstances can be used more effectively against the person who made it in the first place. 

Stir-Fry is a bawdy story about a man who returns from a long trip with some lotus seeds and roots, but also a dildo, which he places nearby the other ingredients. His wife, not realizing what the object is, cuts it up and stir fries it, then serves it to his friends. This one was tough. I ended up making a master chef who is so good, he can prepare food from everyday objects. 

TRANSFORMATIVE DUMPLING
This dumpling is made from dung beetles and tender pork. It requires a Talent (Cooking) TN 10 roll to make. Anyone who eats it, turns into a pig for 1 day. If the maker of the dumpling is somehow tricked into eating it, then he or she is permanently turned into a pig. 

THE SANDSTONE OF HEN-SHI
This is a red sandstone that resembles common depictions of Hen-Shi. It is found deep in the Banyan Mountains. Followers of the Sandstone Sutra are particularly drawn to it. According to legend any person who is truly merciful can go before the stone and make offerings and Hen-Shi might appear. Of course this is not true, the sandstone is actually a rock demon. As soon as a person of substantial virtue appears, it devours them. Any witnesses believe they saw Hen-Shi and forget about the person who died. 


Defenses: Hardiness 9, Evade 6, Parry 6, Stealth 9, Wits 7, Resolve 9

Key Skills: Bite: 5d10 (6d10 Open Damage), Stone Attack: 3d10 (5d10 Damage plus 2 Extra Wounds), Grapple: 4d10, Arm Strike: 3d10, Speed: 2d10, Detect: 2d10, Muscle: 5d10, Meditation: 1d10, Creatures (Humans): 2d10, Religion (Hen-Shi): 2d10

Max Wounds: 19

POWERS:
Immunities: The Sandstone of Hen-Shi is immune to normal mundane attacks, only taking damage from Kung Fu Techniques.

Hen-Shi Illusion: Roll 5d10 against Wits of anyone who sees the Rock Demon. On a Success the Rock Demon looks like Hen-Shi to them, and seems entirely non-violent in its actions. If they witness a person die, they completely forget about that individual for the rest of their lives. 

Bite: The Sandstone's bite does 6d10 Open Damage.

Stone Attack: The Sandstone can manipulate nearby stone, causing the jagged edges to rise up like teeth, or causing it to change shape and constrict. Anyone within 100 feet of the Sandstone is vulnerable. Make Stone Attack Roll against Evade. On a Success it inflicts 5d10 Damage plus 2 Extra Wounds. 


Qi Absorption: The sandstone can absorb Qi from the blood and flesh it consumes. It only feeds on those with good Karma. Every 10 Qi rank it absorbs increases its wounds by 1and every 20 Qi ranks absorbed gives it a new power. 

SPIRIT COUPLET (NEW RITUAL)
This ritual is done by writing a line of poetry and then beseeching a spirit or god to enter you and respond with an answering line. This isn't done in the form of a question in answer but traditional poetic couplet. It can sometimes be vague. To perform this ritual, first make a Talent (Poetry) roll against the Wits of the spirit or god you are trying to appeal to. If that succeeds make a Ritual Roll TN 7. On a Success it finishes the verse for you. 

MASTER CHEF REN
Master Chef Ren is one of the most skilled chef's in Qi Xien. His specialty is taking everyday objects and cooking them so expertly that they taste like meats, vegetables and also provide a full day of nutrition. While this might seem like little more than a novelty, he can be a very handy companion indeed during a famine. 

Defenses: Hardiness 3, Evade 4, Parry 3, Stealth 6, Wits 10, Resolve 7

Key Skills: Arm Strike: 0d10, Speed: 3d10, Muscle: 1d10, Talent (Cooking): 4d10, Trade (all): 3d10

Max Wounds: 1