Monthly Archives: October 2016

SSAI: Eve of Hallows

Super-Short Adventure Ideas

The Sanctiweald is a crucial strip of land, one of the only passes between the Basalt Mountains that doesn’t freeze over early in winter, a crucial farmland for wheat in a rocky land where such is rare, and the route the Saint’s River takes to reach the Great Ocean. Trade, travel, borders, food, war… all are impacted by who controls the Sanctiweald.

As a result, great horrors have been committed here. The Te Essar empire beaheaded it’s Birthright Cavalry unit en masse. The Necrothurges of Kasath brought the Elephant Crypt Army through from their underground fasthold. The Mad Mayor burned wheat rather than let bandits having it, leading to starvation and the Autumn of Roasted Children. The Horned Shadow sold black seeds so the Peacekeeper legion would grow food that ate them in dark nights.

Bad stuff.

As a result, every year, echoes of those terrible moments arise. Locally known as Hallows, this mix of undead, shadows, illusions, wild magic, and demonic influence either re-create or emulate some of the worst moments in history on the longest night of the year. Hallow’s Eve.

There are wards, of course. Rituals and runes that keep hallows at bay. Some include costumes to parody the worst events, so the forces wishing to spread the memories of the evil committed here choose different sites. But throughout the mountain valley, from pass entrance to broad seaside fields, 666 Hallows WILL appear on this one, long night.

And they have treasure.

It’s nearly a festival now. Adventurers and mercenaries arrive in the weeks before Hallows Eve. And when the sun first goes down on that longest night, they move AWAY from the rituals and the runes, and SEEK the Hallows.

It keeps townsfolk safe. It promotes inter-kingdom trade. It can be very lucrative.

But it’s a long, long night, and there’s no holing up and taking a break.

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Updated List of Very Fantasy Words

A weekly (?) update to the Revised, Partial List of Very Fantasy Words!

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SSAI: The Siege of Notebookia

Super-Short Adventure Ideas

This works best with pregenerated characters that exactly match miniatures you have on-hand. Warn players this is a one-shot.

Every PC awakes to discover they are standing on a vast smooth plain. There are grooved indentions filled with dark stains. These are letters roughly the height of each PC.

The letters spell out how important the following ideas are to their creator, and how much succor the author gains from them. They then begin to describe a campaign world.

About then, a voice tells the PCs that they should step aside, and allow the words to be destroyed. If they refuse, it warns then that their entire existence is, compared to the voice, fleeting. It will destroy them.

The put an open notebook on the table. Place the PCs’ figures on it. They are literally a young gamer’s ideas, and they are standing on the notebook that has all his favorite ideas. Some force wishes to destroy them. They are rpg miniatures brought to life, they are one inch tall, and some force in the room wishes to destroy this young gamer’s hopes and ideas.

Attack them with anything else on the table. This can be other miniatures, or some pencils, soda cans, and dice. Use appropriate monster stats, but grab apparently-random objects.

Eventually let on the PCs determine that something like an old Jack Chick tract is the source of the force that wishes to destroy the gaming notebook, and it is animating the things the PCs fight. It’s also somewhere in the room, and the PCs characters are free to jump off the gaming table (with appropriate skill checks) and search for it. (Microsized Adventures might be helpful for some of this.) It keeps through challenges at them to stop them.

But when they find it, and see how ridiculous it is, it loses all power. The PCs save the young gamer’s campaign notebook and ideas forever, and they will be grand heroes of legend or demigods within the setting in the notebook. The game ends.

For bonus points, make those PCs major grand heroes of legend or demigods in the next campaign you start.

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SpellTweet: Solfatara

Solfatara (drd/shmn 5) As cloudkill, but all damage replaced by creatures being affected as by the poison spell when first exposed to it.

(With thanks, and apologies, to Wolfgang Baur)

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SSAI: Finder’s Keepers

Super-Short Adventure Ideas

Have the players all make 5th level characters. Tell the players you want to know their character’s favorite possession, worst enemy, and the most heroic death they can imagine.

The characters all wake to total silence and darkness, and a strong sense of annoyance. They eventually each discover they are in a stone sarcophagus. Allow any clever plan to demonstration of strength successfully free them.

They are all in a tomb of heroes. They are all mummies. And they are all suddenly flooded with the sure knowledge that they had their heroic deaths, were buried with honors, and now their worst enemies’ descendants have stolen their favored possessions from their tomb.

And its payback time.

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Diesel Pulp Kitbash Project: White Tsar Tank

In the ’49 setting, the Crimea remains under the control of the White Russians, loyalists to the Russian monarchy despite losing most of their territory to the Soviet Union. The White Russians are commanded by Anastasia the Great, also known as the “Black Dutchess,” the last surviving child of Czar Nicholas II. Anastacia is a military genius with a reputation for ambushes and nasty surprises, a lifetime of conflict, and mysterious ties to the legendary Rasputin.

One of the things that has allowed the Black Dutchess is hold on to the Crimea as the last gasp of the Russian Empire is that rather than build walkers (which her tiny empire simply lacks the resources to design or maintain), she depends on the mighty White Tsar rolling heavy armor units. Faster and cheaper than walkers and more reliable than the legendarily finicky tracked vehicles, the White Tsar remains the only wheeled heavy armor unit in the war. Though the original Tsar wheeled mecha was too heavy to move, by using what Martian-derived technology is available to her on a revised wheeled design for a huge mobile cannon platform, the Black Dutchess has created a mobile mecha unit that performs very well, and which traditional anti-mecha tactics don’t work well against.

I plan to kitbash a “White Tsar” tank model. Here we have a picture of the real-world Tsar Tank prototype, circa 1914. This thing was massive, but never worked well. In the ’49 setting, many of its shortcomings were solved and, while it was never a great armor unit, it remained active through the Russian Civil War, almost exclusively in the hands of the White Army.

I have a model of the also-real-world VsKfz 617 Minenraumer prototype, a German minesweeper vehicle design, circe 1942. Clearly much smaller than the Tsar, it’s also a trike design, though it replaces 22-foot tall bicycle wheels with 7-8 foot pedrail wheels. Like the Tsar, it was slow and a terrible idea, and never put into production. But I plan to use a 1/35 model VsKfz 617 as the basis for my White Tsar  in the ’49 setting. Since my models are generally 1/48/O Scale/28mm, a 1/35 VsKfz 617 will look MUCH bigger, as fitting for my White Tsar II.

Also above is an illustration of a KV-2, an actual WWII Russian tank. The KV-2 has a distinctive, enormous turret. I plan to mount a 1/48 KV-2 model turrent on the 1/35 VsKfz 617 body to create the mythical White Russian.

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#Microfeats – Centalier

Microfeats are experimental feats we have in playtesting or development (and may well change before they ever get used in a product – or may get cut entirely).


You are a centaur trained in cavalry tactics.

Prerequisites: Centaur (or similar creatures at GM discretion).

Benefit: While in a form that gives you four legs and two arms, you can act as if you were a two-armed creature riding a quadruped. You can thus use a lance one-handed, use the Spirited Charge feat (if you have it), and so on.

If you have an option that would normally use a Ride skill check, you instead use Acrobatics. If the option would allow you to avoid an attack (such as Mounted Combat), it only applies against bull rush, drag, trip, overrun, and reposition combat maneuvers. If the option has Ride as a prerequisite, you may use Acrobatics for that prerequisite.

Special: If you gain a mount or animal companion as a class feature, you may take this feat instead of gaining that feature.

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Tripod Toys and Diesel Pulp

My Diesel Pulp Nazis in the ’49 setting I play with are going to have “pocket tripods” as late-1930s designs they still use variants of in 1949 as light walkers. To represent these, I plan to kitbash from these McDonald’s Happy Meal “BLACK MANTA Launcher” toys I picked up on Ebay for about $7 each with shipping. Here they are unmodified next to a DUST Tactics German walker and a HeroClix heroine.

My Diesel Pulp setting assumes that the War of the Worlds happened, and involved multiple waves, one in 1899, and a second in 1903, both while Mars is in opposition to Earth. The first invasion goes very much as described in The War of the Worlds, but the second lasts until 1907 and was a significantly broader conflict. They are known as the First and Second Wars of the Worlds, and these events changed history forever.

At first Martian technology is too advanced for Earth’s governments to unravel, but eventually the secrets of compression gears, genetic chemistry, etheric generators, Cavorite, N-rays, odic forces, and red mercury began to be revealed to the nations of the world, though often at great cost and consequence, and unevenly. Some nations specialize in specific applications of just one or two of those technologies, while some secrets are unlocked only by a few specific geniuses.

As a result of these two invasions, the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian Revolution of 1905, first and second Balklans Wars, and World War One do not occur. There are many minor conflicts that do occur in the altered time and one major conflict, the largest of which is the Triples War, which is essentially a shorter version of WWI that is restricted to a conflict between the Triple Entente (the British Empire, France and the Russian Empire) versus the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy). However this conflict runs only from to January 1915 to March 1917. Importantly, the United States, Japan, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria do not enter the war. The Triples War did include the development of trench warfare, and it was also the first time major powers used Martian-derived technologies against one another.

Perhaps most importantly was the development of mecha, heavily armored mechanized units, specifically walkers and tracked vehicles. Because Martians had very advanced technology, and depended on walking machines (especially their tripod fighting machines, but also their working machines and excavators) a broad school of military thinkers concluded that “walkers” were clearly superior to wheeled vehicles of any kind. It was generally assumed that the fact compression gears and etheric generators were able to easily power an articulated limb, that the increased mobility of a walker was a clear advantage over any other form. After all, God had made man a walker, rather than some wheeled creature.

In Germany, a pragmatic school of planners argued that while armored legs might function better than wheels, advancements in tread technology for tractors could create a rolling war machine that would be faster, more stable, and present a lower profile than any walking design. Walker designs were clearly extremely complex, and the flexible all-compression-gear design of Martial fighting machines was well beyond any Earth nation. But as the death rates for trench warfare during the Triples War skyrocketed, the need for some mobile, armored, armed, trench-crossing machine became clear to both sides.

The British build the first Earth-designed walkers to be used in a military conflict, and both Britain and France fielded simple walker designs beginning in February 1916. The British Type I was a small two-man walker, with a driver sitting low in a central cabin that was taller than it was wide or long, and a gunner/commander sat above him. The Type I’s legs could fold up to its sides in such a way that if it was knocked over or fell, it could “squat” which would cause it to right itself, and then stand again. Though its external weapon sponsons (placed where “arms” would go in a humanoid figure) were not designed for climbing, operators soon found the strong, flexible legs and longer cannon-sponson would allow it to climb up and down the sides of trenches, albeit slowly.

Germany instead developed the A7V*, a tracked “Sturmpanzerwagen” (roughly “armored assault vehicle”). The A7V had a crew of 18, six machine guns and one Maxim-Nordenfelt cannon. It had poor off-road capability and a high center of gravity, which made it prone to getting stuck or overturning on steep slopes. It was also hot, slow, under-armored, and under-armed.

The first mecha against mecha combat in history took place on 24 April 1918 when three A7Vs met three Type Is (two armed with just machine guns, and one with two 4-pounder guns) near Villers-Bretonneux. During the battle, the machine-gun armed Type Is were damaged and fell back, unable to significantly impact the A7Vs. The remaining Type I then attacked the lead German sturmpanzerwagen with its two 4-pounders and knocked it out (killing five of its crew). The Type I then managed to damage the tracks of both remaining A7Vs. Their crews fled, which began a route among the German forces present.

The lesson learned by military planners of the time was that tracked vehicles were unreliable and, as suspected, Martians had depended on walkers because their advanced science had proven the designs universally superior for the role of front-line fighting mecha. This is arguably the wrong lesson, but it was largely accepted as “proven doctrine” by the nations of the Earth. While wheeled and tracked vehicles were still designed for personnel carriers, artillery, and support vehicles, all major militaries turned to walkers for the vast majority of their armored mecha designs. By the time the First Global War began in 1939, hundreds of walker and support mecha designs existed worldwide.

I have shots of other kitbashed walkers here and here, and talk more about the technology of the fictional setting here.

*The A7V really is the real-world German effort at tanks in WWI, and it really was a terrible design. That design really faced Brittish forces at the time and palce mentioned above, but I replaced the British units in that first real world tank-on-tank battlewith walkers, so Diesel Pulp’s first-and-only walker vs tank battle is responsible for the rise of walkers as military designs. This helps hammer home that however bad an idea a walker is for 1940s-era combat, there’s a reason they are at the forefront of heavy armored units in my ’49 setting.

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Updated List of Very Fantasy Words

A weekly (?) update to the Revised, Partial List of Very Fantasy Words!

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#Microfeat: Nice Things

Microfeats are experimental feats we have in playtesting or development (and may well change before they ever get used in a product – or may get cut entirely).

Nice Things

By not focusing on the eldritch or mystical, you have gained time to learn knacks and tricks most people don’t expect.

Prereq: No ability to cast spells, use psioncs or hexes, or create extracts.

Benefit: Select a single combat trick, alternate class feature, archetype class feature, trait, or feat that a character with your core class and level could qualify to have access to. This ability cannot give you the ability to cast spells, use psioncs or hexes, or create extracts. You can use this ability once per day, even if you lack the resource it normally consumes (if any, such as a combat trick’s stamina cost).

If a character of your class two levels lower than you could qualify to have access to the option, you may instead select two such options and use each once per day.

Special: This feat may be selected more than once. each time you may select the same option, which may be used an additional time per day, or a new qualifying option.

Special: Every 2 character levels you gain, you may change a single option you gained through one selection of this feat.

Special: If you select a character option through other means that causes you to no longer meet this feat’s prerequisites, you may immediately retrain this feat

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