Author Archives: Owen K.C. Stephens

OGLpocalypse: WotC’s Response To The Public Wrath At Their Bad Faith Is Not NEARLY Enough

I have talked about OGL facts before, but not previously written an opinion piece here on my blog about the bad faith efforts WotC prepared to try to force people to give up the OGL 1.0s, which has driven the creation of tens of thousands of products over 23 years, in favor of a draconian “OGL 1.1” which would bad for anyone who agreed to it.

If you aren’t up to speed on this, check out Linda Codega’s articles here, here, here, and here. They are at the front of this developing story.

So, here’s the big kicker on why today’s official WotC response is unacceptable. A non-starter that even with the tiny concession they want to use to turn down the heat of anger directed at them by the community doesn’t even begin to address the root of the real problem with what they are trying to do. Taken from the very first paragraph of their response today.

“And third, we wanted to ensure that the OGL is for the content creator, the homebrewer, the aspiring designer, our players, and the community—not major corporations to use for their own commercial and promotional purpose.”

No.

Fuck you, WotC corporate. You DON’T get to ensure that, and the fact you want to means you still think you can change the rules on how people interact with and use the OGL.

You released SRDs for 3.5, d20 Modern, and 5.1 under OGL 1.0a. That license was NOT released with any restrictions on who could use it, and you know it.

The OGL 1.0a was designed to be something you couldn’t force people away from — could NOT force them to used a changed version of it — and you know it.

The OGL doesn’t allow anyone to make “D&D” products with content you object to, as they can’t even mention the name of your game, much less use its logo, and you know it.

You’ve benefited from the ubiquity of each edition of D&D you released an SRD for, reaped profits as a result, and you know it.

You don’t get to bully or bamboozle people into changes now, because you don’t like what the OGL 1.0a means for your current business plans.

[EDIT]

I feel it would intellectually dishonest not to include this, written 12 or so hours later. I’m not walking back anything I said above, but I have to acknowledge that writing the above happened on the same day I wrote the below.

“The ttRPG industry is small.

One thing that means is that dozens of people asked me to be one shows, consult on the future, or lead on the OGL issue. I have done my best.

But ANOTHER thing it means is I have hurt friends and family-of-choice in the process.

That was never my intent, but some soul-searching tells me I didn’t give that possibility the weight of consideration I should have.
Would I have done things differently? I don’t know, but I should have given it more thought.

Apologies don’t undo harm, but I’m sorry folks.

That said, I need to step back and ponder the current reality very, very carefully.

So, I’m taking the next few days off from any OGL-related news, links, or posts. I’ll wake up Tuesday, and see what I think I need to do for my career, industry… and friends.

ALL my friends.”

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Now on Patreon: First Look at The Warbrand RPG

(This article is not covered by the OGL)

I suspect it shocks no one to know I have been working on my own core RPG… for decades. Several of them, actually.

Many turned into supplements for other games. Some are currently at design dead ends. A lot are cold, dusty files at the very back of my hard drive that haven’t seen the light of day for years. But some I have kept tinkering on, and keep getting closer and closer to being something I could announce and publish.

One of the closest at the moment is Warbrand, which I am desperately trying to make exactly my preferred magical mix of fast, flexible, simple, elegant, and customizable. You know… a unicorn. With miniatures.

It’s still not ready for its big reveal. But, for reasons that may seem obvious, given it’s not a direct descendent of anyone RPG (or such an RPG’s system resource document, for example), I’ve been thinking about it a LOT, recently.

So, I have a short, quick preview of just a few of the rule elements I’m working on in the game up at my Patreon. It isn’t a design document, but instead a preview of some elements of a game I’m working on, a behind-the-scenes teaser of a thing I may or may not ever finish.

But I’d like to.

Right now that rules preview (and all Thursday blog posts) are Patreon-exclusive, because I need to grow my Patreon to keep spending time writing blog posts and other public content. However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,000/month, I’ll go back to posting my Thursday posts free for all to see here, AND I’ll create and maintain an index page of all my PF2 articles for Patrons, so they can easily access all my online PF2 content!

(Working cover. Cover art by lobard)

The K-Force Files (Part 1)

(This article is not covered by the OGL).

My love of kaiju goes way… waaaaaay back to my early childhood. It predates my love of D&D, Star Wars, Star Trek, powered armor, space opera, pulp adventures, comics, superheroes, psychic powers, monster hunters, swords, or much of anything else I can thing of.

I believe it’s my first fandom.

It’s just grown as I aged. Some classic comics mixing superspy groups and kaiju, more modern kaiju movies constantly playing with classic elements such as mechakaiju, psychics, alien plots, and so on, just made me more and more want to boil down all the things I love most about it into a single set of worldbuilding ideas, and a single unified continuity, which I can then draw from as needed for various projects.

These are the K-Force files. You’re welcome to use them in your own home games, but mostly they are a look into how I build blocks of fungible lore and ideas that I can use as needed for various personal and professional projects. Part 1 covers Terminology, Locations, and Organizations.

Part 2, of course, covers some Kaiju.

(Art by Second F)

TERMINOLOGY

Gigafauna: Gigafauna much-bigger-than-elsewhere creatures that are not kaiju (as they lack k-cells, the physics-defying size, strength, and resilience of kaiju), but are extraordinary in one or more other aspects. Gigafauna are considered one class larger than megafauna, and are often J-class creatures.

Guardian Spirits: A popular theory among kaijologists is that while several strains of kaiju have always been primarily agents of chaos and destruction — serving to provide the same kinds of ecological and evolutionary forces as volcanos, meteor strikes, hurricanes, and earthquakes — that there were once numerous “Guardian Spirits” that explicitly protected early hominid settlements. While the theory is conjecture based mostly on cave paintings and the teachings of Vespirians, the appearance of Deltara in 1965, and Vespira on numerous occasions since 1961, can be seen as evidence for the theory.

J-Class: Study into kaiju revealed their native habitats (mostly the Kaiju Islands) are often inhabited with dinosaurs, megafauna, and gigfauna that aren’t kaiju but are at the absolute upper limit of what biological entities can reach in terms of size and power. These most often include sea life, turtles, reptiles, insects, arachnids, rodents, and ursines. Because they are “short of being k-class,” the casual term J-Class is often used to note their commonalities. Some kaiju are considered J-class in early, smaller stages of their development, such as Tarankura.

K-Cells: All kaiju that it has been possible to study possess k-cells, biological elements that appear to be independent power generators (possible drawing quantum 0-point energy) that fuel every part of a kaiju and are theorized to create quantum fields that alter the way fundamental forces (strong and weak nuclear forces, gravity, and electromagnetism) act on kaiju’s bodies (allowing kaiju to channel energies in ways other matter — much less biological matter — cannot). No Earthly technology has yet to create k-cells, though some have repurposed k-cells taken from kaiju and kaiju corpses, and humans exposed to k-cells sometimes develop psychic powers (apparently inheritable), or develop other mutations.

K-Class: Because there’s little evidence that all kaiju are related, despite common elements such as k-cells, super-gigafauna mass, subseismic movement, and GQS (Global Quorum Sensing), creatures that meet at least most of these features are placed in a single polyphyletic group referred to as “k-class creatures.” Informally, anything that is shown to be able to compete with the power of kaiju is sometimes referred to as being of “k-class,” such as referring to the mecha Gunslinger Gamma and the AI robot Tiger Turbo as “k-class machines.”

Kaijologists: Since the appearance of Tsarkyrkon “God of Kaiju” in 1954, the rush to understand these varied and violent life-forms that prove humanity is not at the top of the food chain has formed into the multidisciplinary study known as kaijology. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for a kaijologist to get extensive first-hand material to work with, and the field is renowned for producing both crackpots who make wild claims and psychopaths who consider their research more important than ethics or human lives. Despite this, every major world organization and learning institution has at least a couple of kaijologists on-staff… just in case.

Kaiju: A specific form of gigafauna, kaiju are enormous creatures standing 50 to 500 feet in height and possessing a series of traits that makes them distinct from just big creatures (see K-Class). The first kaiju known in the modern era (and arguably the most powerful) is Tsarkyrkon, the so-called “God of Kaiju,” who attacked Japan for unknown reasons in 1954. Because the first kaiju appeared in Japan, Japanese language and culture has a strong influence on kaiju naming and kaijology as a whole.

Kaiju are classified into tiers, with a dozen known Tier 1 kaiju that no known force can reliably stop, roughly double that in Tier 2 kaiju that require entire fleets and combined armies to even slow down, and scores of Tier 3 kaiju, which can be faced with massed firepower and are just one step above J-class creatures and typical gigafauna.

GQS: All kaiju seem to be aware of one another, even over vast distances and when separated by vacuum, and to be aware of large-scale changes to their environment (both current and upcoming). More powerful kaiju can sometimes use dominance displays to subdue other kaiju without physical combat, and even call on them over the same vast distances, but without any apparent language and possibly while lacking sapience. It is theorized that they do so as a result of being in-tune with some energy field that surrounds the entirety of the Earth, and that they all contribute and receive information using this field including territorial claims and pack leader status. Some psychic humans appear to be able to tap into this kaiju sense and communication network as well. Though the mechanism for this sense is not yet understood, the phenomenon itself is referred to as Global Quorum Sensing, or GQS.

Subseismic Movement: Kaiju are able to travel long distances without disturbing the medium of their travel, as long as they are not attacking, defending, or making dominance displays. Flying kaiju are often invisible to radar and listening stations, swimming kaiju do not impact the water flow around them and cannot be found on active or passive sonar, and kaiju walking or even burrowing through the ground do not set of tremors. Once a kaiju becomes more alert to and reactive of its environment, this disturbance-free effect ends, and they can often be felt miles away. The exact mechanism of this ability–called subseismic movement– is not understood, though it is believed to be another function of k-cells, and possible related to GQS.

LOCATIONS

The Kaiju Islands: A series of islands in the South Pacific that are the only territories known to have long-inhabiting kaiju in apparent balance with their environment. The Kaiju Islands are all extremely difficult to navigate to, with tides, winds, and even electromagnetic fields apparently directing travelers around them, no evidence of their existence visible by satellite, and fog, storms, and rogue waves

Fang Island: Fang Island is one of the smallest of the Kaiju Islands, and among the furthest from the main line of isle formations. It’s also the only one to show signs of constant human habitation going back to a Neolithic time period, despite being both the home of a few kaiju (most notably, Genghis Kong) and thousands of species of dinosaurs, megafauna, and gigafauna. It is governed by the Fang Island Protectorate.

Hive Island: The current residence of Vespira and headquarters of the Vespirian Religion, Hive Island has thousands of caves and secret “reincarnation hives” from which Vespira can be reincarnated. It has dozens of species of J-Class insectoids and arachnids, which for an unknown reason do not encroach of the area used by the Vespirans. The kaiju “Scythella: the Preying Mantis” and the spiderlike kaiju Tarankura appear to have come from Hive Island, and it is believed that eggs of more of those kaiju breeds lay dormant on the island.

Omega Island: Omega Island is the largest of the Kaiju Islands, and is where most active known kaiju (with notable exceptions, see Fang Island and Hive Island) have resided–when not on active rampages–since Tsarkyrkon “God of Kaiju,” subdued the majority of them in a dominance display at the end of Operation: Destroy All Kaiju in 1968. The disastrous results of O:DAK, and the fact civilization likely would have been destroyed if Tsarkyrkon had not ended the global rampages dozens of kaiju undertook following the U.N.’s efforts to end the kaiju threat once and for all. Many kaijuologists believe that Vespira “convinced” the God of Kaiju to do so, though they are split on whether this was just a case of her seeking balance using GQS, or a sign of higher-reasoning.

ORGANIZATIONS

Externians: An alien species that works to weaken or destroy the world with kaiju-related plans, including being responsible to sending the Void Gods to Earth. Work with GOC (General Oil Company), but their existence is largely unknown outside the highest level of that corporation.

Fang Island Protectorate: The independent nation of Fang Island claims it is ruled by the kaiju commonly known as Ghengis Kong, and its government is just a protectorate under his control. Most nations of the world (and several multinational corporations, most loudly the General Oil Company) consider this a ploy for the tiny island to hide behind having a native kaiju that is protective of people born within its territory, and dislikes large vehicles, machines, and factories.

General Oil Company: The vast multinational corporate conglomerate GOC is one of the richest and most powerful nongovernment organizations on Earth. It is also deeply involved in kaiju incidents, issues, and politics, including the creation and operation of the hybrid kaiju-vehicles Mecha-Deltara. Unbeknownst to most outside the Fang Island Protectorate and GOC itself, this history dates back to 1933, when a GOC expedition attempted to take control of Fang Island for its vast, rich oil and mineral reserves, only to run into a young Ghengis Kong and his parents. GOC killed Kong’s parents, captured him, made plans to turn him into a worldwide sideshow and their mascot, lost control of him, and the controlling families lost several members of their upper ranks in the disaster that followed.

Though Kong swam home, the controlling board of GOC were the first modern worldwide organization to realize k-class creatures existed. They spent decades studying crackpot theories and ancient devices seeking to understand and monetize kaiju-related technologies. These efforts included raids on Fang Island to acquire the bodies of Ghengis Kong’s parents, and the bones of more of his ancestors, allowing GOC to be the first to discover k-cells. GOC was contacted in 1950 by aliens they codenamed the Exterians, who cut a deal to allow GOC to rule the world after the Exterians destroyed all major governments with kaiju attacks. GOC used Exterian technology to build a “GearGhengis” hybrid kaiju-vehicle, on the framework of Kong-kin bones, which they used to attack Ghengis Kong in 1966, and again in 1969. The GearGhengis was a crude cyborg operated by remote, but the experience allowed GOC to build the much more advanced Mecha-Deltara in the 1970s.

GORGON: GORGON is the secret and mercenary corps employed by the General Oil Company board to achieve their goals through extralegal means. The existence of GORGON is not publicly known, and the few who are aware of it outside GOC lack detailed information about its goals and funding and/or don’t have enough evidence to convince others. Even groups aware of GORGON at some level (such as K-Force) generally believe it is no more than than a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world, and assume it is hired by GOC on an ad-hoc basis, rather than being a fully-funded and controlled subsidiary.

GORGON operates with numerous fronts, including several executive security and private military businesses (most notably the Basalt Group, FieldOps, an Redrock Contracting), criminal organizations (often arms smugglers and drug operation, including the Acrisio Cartel and AKR Weaponry) and terrorist groups (including Dreadfang, the New World Operation, and the Promethean Order). If a GORGON operation goes badly enough, evidence is created to assign all its activities to a cutout front, which is then allowed to be destroyed.

K-Force: K-Force is a branch of S.T.E.E.L. (Special Taskforce on Espionage and Enforcement of Law, an internationally empowered paramilitary group) that searches for, studies, monitors, and if needed fights Kaiju. It is based in Tokyo (with branches in other cities, including NYC), and has a small fleet of antikaiju mecha. The largest of its mecha is Gunslinger Gamma, the only mecha to ever defeat a Tier 1 Kaiju, but most are Mobile Armor Pods (designed to allow observers and scouts to survive being near kaiju battles). K-Force also has the Submersible X-Carrier for sea operations, and Striker K airships.

K-Force works closely with a few other antikaiju and kaiju-study forces, including the size-changing AI robot Tiger Turbo, and M.I.K.I. It is the only foreign group allowed a base on Fang Island. It is often at odds with the General Oil Company, and (though no one in K-Force can prove it) their secret illegal militant mercenary branch, GORGON.

K-Guard: A unit of K-Force that monitor and protect the Kaiju Islands. They mostly serve as early warning if a kaiju seems to be leaving the islands, and as guards to prevent anyone else from getting into the islands without authorization.

Megarians: An alien society that opposed interference in cultures such as Earth, the Megarians oppose Externian operations on Earth, but do so by granting two Guardianships on native humans, who gain the power to become Mega-X and Mega-Z.

Mentalist Institute for Kaiju Investigations (MIKI): Following the confirmation of psychic powers following the battled between Deltara and XJPT in 1965, numerous organizations have been created to study, train, and sometimes contain psychics, the oldest of whom are reaching their late 60s now. The oldest and most respected of these is the Mentalist Institute for Kaiju Investigations, based in Tokyo and founded by the only psychic known to have been at all five Deltara/XJPT fights in 1965. Rather than just study and train psychics, MIKI makes a major part of their activities to study Kaiju, K-cells, and the links between many psychics and some kaiju.

MIKI often works with K-Force, and some MIKI graduates are K-Force members, but leadership and funding of the two organizations are independent from one another.

Webburners: Officially “Task Force Minerva,” the Webburners are a unique, multi-component US military organization, made up of active Army and National Guard units, rounded out by U.S. Army Reserve support units. They are the US’s official North American kaiju-fast-response team, with a particular focus on dealing with J-class and k-class bugs (see Tarankura), which for some reason are the most common form of giant creature threat the US faces. Founded in 1960 with a five-year term, and renewed by every congress and president since. Originally just a fast response team, over the decades the Webburners have developed tactics, operational plans, and weapons designed specifically for dealing with kaiju and gigafauna outbreaks, rather than for dealing with other military forces.

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7 Days of the Tomb Lands, a #Dungeon23 Project

Well, who knows how long it’ll last, but I managed 7 encounters in the Tomb Lands (my #Dungeon23 project) in 7 days.

Check them out here! https://www.patreon.com/posts/76655396

Some Facts About the OGL (1.0 and 1.0a)

With the excellent article written by Linda Codega, and the video released by Roll For Combat that brought in a contract lawyer, there is a lot of news about WotC’s (Wizards of the Coast) plans for a “OGL 1.1” and why it is an act of bad faith on the part of WotC if they go forward with it.

So I’m not going over all that again here.

What I DO want to do is present some groundwork for what the OGL is, and isn’t, and what WotC have said about it in the past. This is an editorial by me, based in factual information, and is not itself part of the OGL content on this blog.

1. WotC themselves wrote an FAQ about how the OGL was to be used, back in 2004. This is important, because it shows (for example) that they were of the opinion if they changed the OGL publishers could ignore their new version, and that the OGL could be used for software. Obviously WotC doesn’t host that FAQ anymore, but the Wayback Machine has the original archived for us to all read and draw out own conclusions.

2. There is a huge difference between the OGL and the various SRDs (System Resource Documents). The OGL is not tied to any one game system or product release (see Point 3, below). For example, none of the D&D core rulebooks has ever been released under the OGL. Instead, pared-down versions of the rules for D&D 3.0. 35, D20 Modern, and 5e had SRDs released (and the Psionics handbooks back in 3.x days).

3. The OGL does not just cover products that are designed for use with D&D. For one thing, there are game systems that have been released under the OGL that were not created by WotC, and have no ties to any edition of D&D, including d6 Adventures, Fudge, and Fate.
There are also numerous complete RPGs that are their own things, separate from D&D, including Pathfinder, Starfinder, Mutants & Masterminds, and 13th Age, just to name a few.

4. It’s entirely up to WotC whether or not they release a One D&D SRD. If they don’t, those rules aren’t open. And they could release it under a totally separate license, unrelated to the OGL 1.0a. So, WotC is not under any threat from people using genuinely new rules from One D&D using the existing OGL. (Of course they have said One D&D will be compatible with 5e, so that raises a question if they are *new* rules, and if there aren’t, that might speak to motive on their part.)

5. The OGL does not allow anyone to mention D&D, WotC, the Forgotten Realms, or any other trademarks, or emulate any trade dress. So WotC does not need to worry about the OGL allowing people to associate repugnant material with D&D — all the brands trademarks, characters, and stories, of D&D are off-limits to OGL users, as are many even iconic creatures such as beholders and mind flayers.

6. WotC always knew the OGL would be used by their major competitors to make big profits. The OGL was shared with numerous representatives of various companies before it was made public. I was part of the email chain that was used by Ryan Dancey to do that. And it’s why Sword & Sorcery Studios (a newly-created division of White Wolf, a major ttRPG publisher at the time) was able to put out the Creature Collection in October of 2000, *before* the official 3.0 Monster Manual got published.

7. WotC benefitted from the existence of the OGL. They crafted it, with the knowing intent it would last forever, as part of their D&D relaunch business plan.

But don’t believe me. Believe Keith Strohm (and learn about why you care about his opinion on it in this fireside chat with Peter Adkison, president of WotC when the OGL was created). This is from a comment Keith made on Facebook, and is shared with his permission.

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#Dungeon23 Project – How Did The Tomb Lands Come To Be?

My #Dungeon23 Project is “Into the Tomb Lands,” which presupposed a massive underground realm with its own cities and kingdoms, all tied to “the dead, the dying, memorials to the lost, guardians of the grave, eaters of dead things, mummers, mourners, funerary attendants, and perhaps even the undead.”

It further says “There are 1,000 stories about how the Tomb Lands came to be, and most are mutually exclusive. All that is agreed upon is that they are vast, cold, filled with burial offerings and gifts for the fallen… and sealed off from mortal man forever.”

Well, clearly not forever, since they’re open now. But, what ARE some of those stories about how the Tomb Lands came to be?

Here are a few. I’ll never make one officially right or wrong, so you can adapt any (or none) of these as the “truth” if you opt to run games in the Tomb Lands.

Tomb Land Origin Stories

1. When the gods were young, they thought themselves omnipotent, eternal, enduraing forever. Mortal than immoortal, they thought themselves so fundamental a part of the universe that should one of them ever cease to be, the universe would unravel.

But they were wrong, and a lost eon ago, the first god died.

So stricken were all other divinities that they stopped in all actions for an indescribable moment, and came together. Not in peace, but in truce to ensure the death of a God was not the beginning of the end of all things. And, as part of that truce, the Gods made a place apart from all the rest of the universe. A Tomb Land, at the bottom of which lay the final grave of the First Fallen God.

And like any place created purely for a single god’s use, that land naturally became a part of that god’s will. But the First Fallen God had no will, as it was truly and permanently dead. And thus, the divine power that shaped the Tomb Lands had nothing but the trappings of the grave and burial upon which to build an entire domain.

No god rules the Tomb Lands, and since it is an extension of a dead god’s own resting place, no God ever can.

2. The first undead was not a lich, or a vampire, or wight. It was a revenant, the spirt of a dragon wrongfully slain, returned to half-life through the power of its wrath. As it unleashed its vengeance, it’s dread power created lesser undead, things horrifically powerful by the standard of modern mortals, but a mere shadow (in some cases literally) of the Dracul, the Dragon Half-Returned. And when Dracul’s vengeance was fulfilled, that first undead settled itself at the bottom of the world and wove a Tomb that none could ever penetrate. for each lair of his final resting place was empowered to built more Tombs on top of them, and those new tombs were also so empowered, each new lair able to create its own protective margin of additional graves, on and on, forever.

3. All concepts are represented by spirits, from genus locii that are spirits of the place to muses that are spirits of art to the elder beasts that are spirits of each kith of living thing. Even Death itself has a spirit, an eternal representative of the concept of dying separate from any necromancer or angel. And the spirit of Death must, to fully embrace the nature of itself, be able to die.

Thus came to be the Strange Eons, known as the Tomb Lands, where the spirit of Death goes to die, coloring the nature of every inch of its endless tomb.

4. The Ureld was the first city, the first kingdom, and the first empire. So great was it power that the Last Emperor of Ureld dared to claim to be able to build his own Heaven and Hell, places so great his command over them would make him a god, and his people angels and devils.

And perhaps he could have. But his efforts were a violations of the natural laws, and the Principles of Heaven and Hell combined to destroy his mortal duplicates of their home before it was complete. Archangels and Archedevils joined forces to turn Ureld upside-down, burying that first civilization forever, and turning its aritficial heaven and hell into very-mortal kingdoms of death.

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Now On Patreon: Companion Feats for PF2

As I run my Gatekeepers campaign for PF2, the player running a ranger with a bear companion (“Brogue,” who is beloved by the team) and I are learning the Companion rules together.

Sometimes, we both think there ought to be an option to expand the existing options, such as with a feat.

Two of those feats are now up at my Patreon.

(Art by grandfailure)

Those feats (and all Tuesday and Thursday posts) is currently exclusive to my Patreon. When we raise my Patreon to $1,500/month, I’ll go back to making all my weekly posts double posts here and on my blog. (And at 1,000/month, I’ll go back to including Thursday posts here on the free blog.)

At the $1,500 goal, I’ll also create and maintain Starfinder and 5e article Index Pages for my Patrons, with links to all my 5e and Starfinder blog and Patreon content.

(However, my #Dungeon23 project, Into the Tomb Lands, is also at my Patreon and free to all! And as of this writing, we’re up to 3 encounters.)

The Year. It is New.

A “New Year” is, of course, an abstract idea. A social construct. We could have marked its passage last week, or next week, or 71 days ago. If we did it on a solstice or equinox, that would at least be tied to some specific actual event. But instead, we have a rather abstract observance tied to a calendar that has a long history (though not as long as many people think) of being wrong, changing, and adjusting to meet everything from political needs to atomic calculations.

But the fact that this being the first day of a “New” year is a cultural decision doesn’t mean it lacks real power. Because of that cultural decision, the cost of my health insurance went up 16 hours and 40 minutes ago. (Well, it went up for a ton of cultural decisions, but the timing of that increase is tied to all of us collectively flipping from one calendar page to another).
How much money I make in the last 365 days and the next 365 days matters more for many federal laws than how much I made in 365 days centered on today. Many businesses are charging me for 365 days of service now, or within a week of now, because that’s how they want to define a year.

Those examples are more concrete, and less optional, than things like “new” year resolutions, but that doesn’t mean taking this shared moment to try to adjust our life course is any less “real.” And for the first time in a long time, I have major resolutions I have chosen to make now, because of the thoughts and decisions I came to when contemplating the past year (and the few years before that). Could I have done that contemplation at another time? Of course.

But I didn’t. Spurred by the mass delusion that is the flipping of a specific page on a communal dust collector, I’ve thought about it now. In preparation for now, even, which in many ways is more impressive. The imaginary temporal line in the sand has enough power for me to want to be ready for it, even though in no physical way is it significantly different than the line before it, or the line yet to come.

And, honestly, that plays into the theme I’m embracing for a new way of trying to survive, and to contribute to the society that I live in like it or not. To accept that the nonphysical has power, and that trying to dismiss it as irrelevant to the base, crass, fleshly moments of my existence is not just foolish, it’s delusional. My advantages are real, even when they are as unweighable as inspiration, friends, and hope. My drawbacks are no less obstacles to be overcome when they are moods and fears and morals rather than measured barriers of location, height, weight.

Weight.

I am born down by vast weight, but the pounds and ounces of fat and hardened arteries are only a fraction of what crushes me. And its those invisible, insubstantial weights of depression and hopelessness that often drove me to add the pounds and ounces, which speaks to their greater power. I don’t have to go so far as the spiritual or religious to see how the things I cannot prove or falsify are often the things that are going to decide if I live or die.

Many times in the past, I have denigrated the idea of a “new” year, because the core elements of my existence don’t change when a date does. I’m aging by the analog moment, not in digital chunks. My failures, personal and public, come in deadlines strained until they die, not crisp seconds of fireworks making bright distinctions of a date passing.

But this year, this New Year, I am embracing the opportunity, as psychological and traditional and cultural as it is, to try something new. And even if the most important elements of my life and my effort at a different approach to it are too ephemeral to sift into a jar or pack onto a shelf, the results of a change in life view can be measured.

And I am beginning that measurement today.

While I wish joy upon all of you in every moment, that needn’t lessen the impact of wish you all a:

Happy New Year.

Gatekeeper’s Campaign for PF2, Session 3

Since people still seem interested, here’s the notes for session 3 of my Gatekeepers game for PF2.

The PCs wake having stayed the night at the farm run by Morgan’s Dad — whose name is Ferris, and can go by Goodman Ferris, Yeoman Ferris, or Landsman Ferris (since he owns his own land and has the deed on register in the Imperial Archive on the Continent). Player’s start to jokingly refer to him as “MorgansDa.”

The storms which have wracked the area for the entire autumn have suddenly stopped, but it’s unseasonably cold – winter cold. There’s barely any wind, the sky is clear but the air crisp, and the night was so cold dry wood cracked and frost formed on stones around the farm.

Heading out from MorganDa’s Farm, the Pcs see a group of 7 sailors coming down to road to the farm, pushing a cart. Hailing them, the PCs discover they are from the “King of the Crest,” an enormous 14-decked imperial Gantharian warship (Ganthar being a major kingdom on the Continent). The sailors are looking to buy food, and offer to pay in gold, or double-price in spellsalt. Gantharians being legendarily proper and polite there’s no sense of threat, so Morgan takes most of the sailors (lead by Deckmaster Rithan) goes to take to Ferris and see about buying some food.

“Bohrgun the Badly-Named” (the ship’s bosun) – stays with the other PCs to answer questions. They learn the Continental Empire nation of Curtalia, “the Grainhouse of the Empire,” has been stricken by a blight that both destroys crops and rots food in warehouses within hours. Curtalia is being avoided and quarantined, but many of the major food stores of the Empire are already infected. The King of the Crest managed not to put in at any quarantined harbors (which would have led to it being quarantined), but as a result it is seriously low on foodstuffs.

Further, the PCs are told Tidesgate is being flooded by other ships looking to buy food. Because the sea is suddenly becalmed, only ships large enough to afford a storm witch or sea warden (druid) can make it to the island easily, and those ships are too big to put in anywhere by Tidesgate or Seagrace. Most are avoiding Seagrace unless they have contacts or contracts there, so Tidesgate is being inundated with big ships.

MorganDa agrees to sell some preserved food, all for spell salt, and the Pcs get to see that he has potato cellars on his land that aren’t easily spotted (being under trap doors covered in sod and then under scattered hay and where he parks his empty wagons and large items waiting for repair.

The group then head back to Tidesgate. As they approach they see other groups of sailors from different nations (not all from the Continental empire) heading out of town, but in this case each is accompanied by someone the group recognizes as a responsible citizen of Tidesgate (often guards-for-hire). The harbor is choked with huge warships, many from distant lands that normally bypass this island when making a route along the Circle Trade, but must now be desperate for supplies. One is a huge ship with a spiked roof covering it, and rows of long oars in addition to massive ribbed sails, and is clearly not from any nation of the nearby Continent.

(Art by Juulijs)

In town, the price of food is skyrocketing in town as captains go door-to-door to buy anything people will spare, and send their men out of town to buy from farms directly (such as the Gantharian soldiers were doing). Rumor is some ship’s crews are threatening or outright stealing, while others offering to buy with spell salt at x2 to x5 food’s normal cost, and even black sugar is being used at 2/3 its normal value. Some are sending foraging parties into the plains and woods, which is technically illegal. The law is normally ignored, but there are so many now that local residents that depend on forage are beginning to run low on food, and there’s been a spike in apparent wolf and trihorn steer attacks, suggesting the sailors are stirring up trouble.

The PCs see Pottage’s Tottage has been turned into a central depository, with townsfolk bringing anything they are willing to part with to sell on consignment (and then locking their home’s doors and placing “No Thing For Sale” signs on them), while Pottage takes lists of desired items from a line of ship’s quartermasters, and makes them wait until each evening for him to say what each can buy, and at what price. The PCs grab a moment to update Pottage in private.

Then they head to Hexer Hellaina’s, to report to her. She pays them well for the information (in spell salt), and buys the black glass they got from the broken salt circle around the burial grounds (last game session). That she pays for with silver. Hellaina promises to update the Town Council.

Later, the Town Council wants to see the PCs, and confirms what Hellaina told them. In addition to Tidegate’s other issues, the council tells the PCs it’s been falling below freezing already, months before the norm, and hard freezes are expected in the next few days. The entire fall crops are in danger of being lost, and only having farmers putting out torches all night, every night, may keep that from happening.

With all this, the Tidesgate Council is spread impossibly thin by the combination of early freezes and hungry sailors. They are called on to watch the docks, keep fights from breaking out, and enforce usually-ignored laws on hoarding and cornering markets. The PCs offer to help, and the Council asks them to go to Southmount Farms, 2 days south beyond the God-Knuckle Hills. The farm is normally reliable in regular fortnightly deliveries, and now they are 4 days late. The Council sent Briarbrow Hooffoot (a cousin of Holly’s) to check it out, and he has not returned yet.

Southmount is run by the Braddoc family, who are regular suppliers of the Smoke Pine Taven, old friends of Morgan’s father and Averill’s family. They make “the Clear,” a very high ABV liquid that tastes like stale fire, which Nana Cutthroat often uses to add kick to drinks she has watered down, so people don’t realize how little of the original booze is left in the version for sale.

The PCs head out south the next day. They discuss their concern about things getting worse in town, especially if panic sets in about a lack of food, or folks sell too much of their emergency reserves and then the fall harvest falls.

As they enter the God-Knuckle Hills, they come across 5 shambler zombies, caught on a hill surrounded by a flash flood river from the heavy rains in previous weeks. They identify one of them as a farmhand at Southmount. The shamblers seem to be constantly trying to cough up something (like a hairball). The PCs jump the rushing creek and destroy the 5 shamblers. They also conclude that these are created intentionally with necromancy, not spontaneous undead that sometimes rise. The bodies seem diseased. The heroes burn them, making sure they do so in a hollow that will keep the ashed from running into the local water supply.

End Session 3.

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Now On Patreon: Simple Carousing Rules

It’s common in adventure fiction for characters to need to take a break or blow off some steam. Whether that’s a night of drinking, time spent on a beach, or a monthlong retreat for meditation among flowers (depending on the setting and characters), such time away from the grind of adventuring and danger often leaves characters better-prepared for the next major hazard. In the real world, people also often need time to get away and recharge their mental and physical batteries, and if such a break goes well can come back from it more focused, efficient, and productive.

Tabletop roleplaying games often don’t do a good job of the boost that can be gained from relaxing and having a good time. And while some GMs and players may enjoy playing through heroes spending their money on parties and luxuries, making such activities their own reward, for other groups it’s a failing that anyone who doesn’t need to spend downtime crafting, learning, training, or plotting has nothing they can do that might have a game mechanical effect.

(Art by Helen Trupak)

So, over on my Patreon I wrote some simple system-agnostic rules to allow characters who have a good time to potentially benefit from doing so. I’m making all my Thursday blog posts Patreon-exclusive, because I need to boost my income to keep writing these posts. However, once my Patreon funding level hits $1,000/month, I’ll go back to posting my Thursday posts free for all to see here, AND I’ll create and maintain an index page of all my PF2 articles for Patrons, so they can easily access all my online PF2 content!