Category Archives: Diesel Pulp
Short Fiction: Battle of the Channel
[Following my medical issues of a week-and-a-half ago, I’m going to be digging through my files for content for folks while I recover, and I have no idea how often I’ll post. This may be my only blog entry for the week — we’ll see how it goes.
The early versions of this snippet of fictional history have been sitting on my hard drive since I published Anachronistic Adventures, nearly a decade ago. It was supposed to be broken up as 1-2 paragraph chapter heads for a dieselpunk Second War of the Worlds setting book, which I played with but never got around to seriously developing for publication.
It appears here for the first time.]
From “A History of The Second War of the Worlds. Vol IV, Chapter 11: The First Battle of the Channel”
“Before it can be understood how a flotilla of Armored Rams was expected to hold the Straight of Dover against tripod war machines, and why those expectations were ill-grounded in the reality of the Second Martian Invasion, it’s necessary to understand the design of the Armored Rams as a class, and the Thunderchild in particular.
“Unlike older its namesake, Armored Ram Thunderchild was purpose-built to fight the Martian war machines, though no Earthly designer could have conceived of how much more dangerous the Second Invasion walkers were than what humanity had seen before. Displacing 21 long tons, the Thunderchild-class as a whole had no exposed turrets or smokestacks, as such protuberances would have been nothing but burs for Martian heat-rays to melt smooth in the opening seconds of any conflict. Its exterior was closer in appearance to the bottom of a typical boat, a curved wedge coming to its sharp, heavily reinforced point right at its waterline. Only the massive steel rivets running in long lines along the ship hinted at the thickness of its exterior hull armor, and the armored quarts viewports were nearly impossible to pick out from their metal frames.
“This exterior armor was just one of the Thunderchild’s defenses. The apparently-contiguous armored exterior was, in fact, a series of carefully overlapping plates. Behind that armor were more water pumps than any seaborne vessel had ever carried before, all fed by intakes along the ship’s belly. Combined, the pumps had a capacity of more than 500,000 gallons per minute, sprayed onto the armor from the inside, ready to cool it against the murderous burning of heat rays. The overlapping armored plates running its full 427-foot length allowed steam created by this cooling to escape as quickly as it was generated, and when the ship moved at speed the design was such that air was sucked through the space between the outer and inner hull for further cooling.
“After the outer hull and the radiators and the water-cooling system, thick layers of asbestos insulated the inner hull from the expected hellish conditions of the outer hull dissipating steel-melting temperatures, and then another layer of armor sat behind that. This inner armor was not vented, but instead able to form an airtight, pressurized seal adapted from the French Aigrette-class submarines. The Thunderchild-class was designed not to submerge, but to keep their crew safe in airtight chambers when tripod war machines covered the sea with their villainous black gas.
“The sole exception to this seal was the engine intakes, which drew in air from just above the waterline (assumed — correctly — by designers to be where air would be coolest in a heat ray-enabled battle) and passed it along sealed pipes to furnaces for the ship’s 18 Babcock & Wilcox boilers to power the ship’s mighty steam turbines. While black gas was deadly to any living creature that breathed or touched it, its effect on machines was more a question of greater anticorrosion measures. Having black gas potentially fill sections of the engines that might call for repair necessitated a new class of “smokesuit engineers,” but this was considered a small price to have engines at full power, and a crew safe from the horrors of Martian chemical weapons.
“Finally, carbon dioxide scrubbers and oxygen rebreathers were installed within the ship to form an “air support system,” ensuring that it could operate in its fully-airtight “buttoned up” state for several hours if necessary under full steam, or for roughly 30 minutes if the ship was forced to run purely on battery power.
“Lacking any exterior guns, the offense of an Armored Ram was twofold. First, as the name suggests, the entire Thunderchild-class was a throwback to ram-armed ships of the galleys of Imperial Rome. The entire construction of the keel and ribbing was to brace the thickest, most heavily armor section of the ship, the ram prow or “beak,” which was shaped to carry the ship’s massive tonnage into and throw any other vehicle it struck, be that naval vessel or walker. Secondly, it carried five 18 in torpedo tubes, designed to fire the Mark VII torpedo, each carrying 320 lbs of TNT. The torpedo tubes were mounted forward, centered behind and under the Ram Beak, well below the waterline and presumed safe from both heat rays and black gas.
“The Thunderchild-class were also called Peaceships (as opposed to Warships), because they were designed exclusively to deal with Martian war machines. Though a Thunderchild could theoretically ram an Earthly battleship, their total lack of heavy guns made them no match for modern naval vessels such as the American Virginia class, English King Edward VII class, or Italian Regina Margherita class battleships. As Martian war machines had never used heavy projectile weaponry, it was believed there was no need to develop tactics for anything other than heat rays and black gas, and while the heavy layer armor of a Thunderchild-class vessel could survive glancing blows from 9-inch guns and ignore smaller caliber weapons, the bigger 12-inch naval guns were able to sink an Armored Ram at ranges in the thousands of yards — well before torpedoes or a ramming run were a threat.
“Thus, when the Martians returned in 1909, it was expected the Thunderchild-class and similar ram ship designs worldwide would be crucial to keeping coasts and waterways clear of 100-120 ft. tall tripods. England invested more heavily in such ships because of the heavy fighting in and around harbors in 1896, and the belief that Martians would focus on disabling the English naval fleet. What no one expected was 250- to 300-foot tall tripods splashing down directly in waters all around England, as well as in its interior, and the English mainland falling to Martian forces within days. And, as Europe watched in horror, massive legions of the much-taller tripods marched towards the Straight of Dover, a narrow barrier between England and France no more than 180 feet deep.
“The Martians would not, it was realized, be limited to walking in rivers, coastlines, and harbors. The new War Machines were taller than the Straight was deep, and could simply walk the 20 or so miles to Europe. Fleets were rushed to the waters, but the taller tripods also had greatly increased range of their black gas canisters and could blanket the waves up to 10 miles away. Traditional warships could not get within gunnery ranges without being choked by the gas, their crews choked by the necrotic substance before a single shot could be fired.
“It would be up to the four Thunderchild-class ships.
“Volumes have been written on the command failures of the captains of the Ligetung, Stormspite, and Taranis, which lead to their destruction. Most of these analyses are unforgiving, placing it as purely tactical error for those ships to have stayed at their extreme torpedo ranges, rather than rushing in to ram foes as the Thunderchild did. However, it must be remembered that Martians had not revealed the existence of either their Kraken tendril-canisters or Scylla tendril-augmented black gas canisters. Had the captains of any of the three ships been alerted to the Martian equivalent of kinetic guns, able to fire whirling masses of sliding plate tendrils that could rips targets apart (and, in the case of Scylla canisters, flood an area with black gas while doing so), they no doubt would have closed range as quickly as possible.
“The more interesting question is why the crew of the Thunderchild bore toward the massed tripods walking across the Straight in the first moments of siting the enemy. True, the Armored Ram ships were conceived as close-combatants, but naval doctrine at the time leaned heavily toward soften up any enemy formation at range if possible. Arguably, it was the captain of the Thunderchild who acted in error despite being the only ship to survive the opening minutes of the battle as a result. Tragically, as there were no survivors, the question of whether the officers aboard were driven by tactical brilliance, reckless battle-lust, or a desire to match the boldness of their namesake from the first War of the Worlds will never be answered.
“Moving at its full 22 knots, the Thunderchild proved a difficult target for Martian canister launchers. Even tendril-enabled canisters bounced off its hull too quickly to gain purchase, and the massive spray created by its Ram Beak-enabled prow may have confused Martian gunners. In its first pass, the Thunderchild sank 4 Tripods with ram hits, and one with a lucky torpedo salvo, and disabled the legs of 3 more, leaving them unable to continue across the Straight.
“But this success was not without cost. The expected heat rays did splay across Thunderchild‘s hull to horrifying effect, literally melting and warping sections of its outer armor and largely destroying its port prow cooling pumps. Worse, each time the Thunderchild rammed a Tripod, the naval ship slowed enough for the walker’s tendrils to grasp and scrabble at its upper hull. Numerous plates were wrenched from true, leaving gaps and weak points in the ship’s defenses, and a few were torn free entirely. Reports of the day claim the Thunderchild remained at full fighting capacity after its initial charge, but careful analysis of photos f the conflict put lie to this claim, which was likely more propaganda than bad intelligence even at the time.
“Even so, the ship barely slowed as it arced around for a second pass, which if not as effective as the first still sunk three Tripods and badly injured two more. Though more than two dozen walkers were involved in the Martian advance against the straight, the legend of the Thunderchild and the tripod’s clear focus on the Armored Ram spurred every British vessel able to float to pick that time to flee across the Channel. For dozens of miles up and down the coast, the few remaining naval ships made dashes for France, along with private craft, river ferries, and even makeshift barges. The exodus continued as long as the Thunderchild could float and fight, and is credited with evacuating more than 300,000 civilians and fighting forces. At the time, this was hailed as a great humanitarian victory, and in the years since we have come to understand just how great the impact to the Martian war effort was to remove the people it would otherwise have literally fed into its War Machines.
“By the end of its second pass, the Thunderchild was clearly in distress. It was visible on fire, and had slowed to less than half its maximum speed–a deadly limit for a ship dependent on kinetic impact to do damage. Pictures prove that at least one Kraken and one Scylla canister had found purchase on its outer hull at last, and numerous eyewitness accounts claim a Kraken tendril mass actually climbed into the Thunderchild midships, where only the crew’s small arms fire could possibly slow it. Wounded, boarded, and burning, no one could have faulted the Thunderchild if it had given quit to the battle, and turned toward France.
“But it did not.
“Whereas its previous attack runs had been the swift jabs of trained pugilists, its course plotted to ensure it deflected from each impact on a vector to bring it ramming into another tripod, the third pass of the Thunderchild was the ponderous swing of a drunken barroom brawl. Its only kill was from a final torpedo salvo that took advantage of a tripod attempting to directly block its path, and the two other walkers it damaged simply had their legs bent from glancing blows from the ram’s flanks.
“Though it managed to steam free of the remaining tripods massing to bring it down through sheer weight of tendril attacks, the Thunderchild was clearly in no condition for another attack run. Nearly half its exterior armor was gone, and in a few places its interior hull was also breached. Two explosions had rocked its starboard side below the waterline, and it listed toward that side as it came around. It moved sluggishly at best, and if any of the remaining tripods had tendril-canisters to spare, they could surely have dropped the deadly writhing weapons on Thunderchild‘s near-wreck, and torn it apart at a distance.
“But in a victory as great as the war machines it sank, the Thunderchild had shown the limit of the new Martian weapons. As horrifying as the Kraken and Scylla cannister-launchers were, their reload numbers within each tripod were limited. Most tripods carried only six canisters of this type, and those with prisoner cages carried only four. The slightly larger walkers later identified as command units could carry eight, but at the cost of not having any of the standard black gas dispensers. After the destruction of its sisterships at distance, and three full circuits of its own through the Tripod formation, the Thunderchild had taken the measure of the Martian’s new armament. If heat rays couldn’t sink it, and the ship showed no sign of going down despite belching steam and black smoke into the air, the Martians would have to tear the Armored Ram apart with their Tripod’s own tendrils, in close combat.
“Legend says the navigator for the Thunderchild was the sole survivor on its bridge by this point in the battle, and he lashed himself to the helm to make a final run into the Martian formation. It’s a heroic tale, and one popularized when the navigator’s wife became one of the most famous naval commanders later in the war. But there’s no way to confirm the story and, indeed, no way anyone could have known what happened on the bridge to begin with. But it takes no legends to acknowledge the bravery of the crew of the Thunderchild because, whether helmed by a lone hero lashed to the controls or a few brave men facing what they knew had to be their end, the Armored Ram turned toward the Tripod formation a fourth time.
“There would be no passing through the Martian forces this time. At no more than 10 knots, the Thunderchild made straight for the tallest of the walkers, and the Martian forces swarmed the point to ensure the ship could not escape again. The Armored Ram can be said to have drifted as much as steamed to the engagement, and was riding quite low in the water. As for what happened once it was surrounded, inhuman tripods using long tendrils to tear it apart and pluck bodies (though living or dead it is impossible to say) from its bulk, perhaps it was an inevitable coincidence given the ship’s damage.
“But a case can be made the timing was too perfect. The moment came just as the last War Machines surrounded the Thunderchild, and applied such pressure to its hull that the keel was heard to crack. It might have been coincidence, but if so the coincidence had timing as good as any lone engineer shut into the ship’s bowels could have hoped for.
“For it was only then the Thunderchild heaved in the water and, with a roar heard on the French mainland, exploded.
“No Martian force attempted to cross the Channel for a full2 days following that detonation. Was it fear that held them at the moment no effective defender remained to stop them? Loss of a commander sewing confusion through their ranks? A need to analyze how a lone ship named Thunderchild had, as a generation before, held them at bay?
“The thousands who escaped to France during those two days did not then, and do not today, have that answer.”
Methods of Support
So, a lot of people have offered a lot of support, and I deeply, deeply appreciate it. There are plans moving forward to try to help cover medical bills and loss of income, and when they’re ready, I’ll announce them here. I may end up needing to turn to extraordinary measures, such as a GoFundMe, but I won’t be doing that until I know for certain I have to.
However, if you DO want to offer immediate support, I won’t refuse it. You can join or increase your membership tier at my Patreon, or if you prefer do one-time support through my Ko-Fi.
The Diary of Ardra Maias
“Of course, Doctor Frankenstein did not begin his work with human corpses. Not for ethical reasons, you understand, but simply because they were difficult to acquire, and until his work progressed to a stage where human trials were needed, there was no point.
“His earliest experiments on revivification were on marmots, easily bought from trappers near his family’s Swiss home. There were far more failures than successes, of course, and were it my preview I would condemn the man to perdition on the basis of what he did to those alone.
“Even so, in time he brought a marmot to life, indeed my current companion Vivo is that first, fully-revived marmot, though in Vivo’s case no surgery had been needed. The Doctor had killed him under exacting conditions, and revivified him moments later.
“I have often marveled at Vivo, for while he has all the robustness and vitality of all we mortiborn, unlike the majority of us he is a peaceful, caring creature. Well capable of defeating a predator ten times his mass, Vivo would prefer affection to affrontation. Bless him.
“But from there, the hubristic doctor did decide he must move to primates, if not yet humans, to perfect his procedure. No large primates being common in Italy or Switzerland, he had to order them bespoke. But hunting expeditions to Borneo were common enough, and he was rich.
“Indeed, I am unsure how many evils would never have been visited upon this world had the Frankenstein family not been one of vast resource and reputation. In the century-and-on of my existence, I have found more evils traced to rich, well-respected men than any other beast.
“So, vile Frankenstein had no difficulty having Indonesian and Malaysian orangutans captured and brought to him. It was thought perhaps he wanted a menagerie, such as at London’s Exeter Exchange. Many were sick and died after arrival, but that too suited his needs.
“I am uncertain how many of my distant cousins, living or dead, he constructed me from. Close examination of my form and logic dictates no less than seven, but without taking my internal organs apart — an act I have always objected to — an exact accounting is impossible.
“I have been told, repeatedly, by anatomists that my brain, at least, must be human, rather than native to my orangutan skull. This is argued that because I can talk, and reason, I cannot be a mere ape. Of my speech, I will grant, the doctor most likely used some human parts.
“But my reason? No, I am not convinced my reason is any less orangutan than my limbs. For, did his homo sapiens subjects not show vast, cold intellect beyond that of their flesh-donors? Is it so hard to believe that the gap from apes’ reason to mans’ is at best a short distance?
“I would propose the question cannot be truly settled until men show the ability to see themselves as something other than the divinely-appointed lords of all matter in the world, animal, mineral, gas, fluid, and plant alike, to use and despoil as they see fit.
“I remember nothing of my time before mortibirth, though instincts still exist from my firstflesh lives, and some smells and sounds strike me as familiar in the extreme. But having gone to Borneo once, I can safely say I am no native of it. I am no native of any land.
“I remember my first weeks. I thought the doctor wise and kind, something between a father and a god. He taught me to walk, talk, eat–ensured that I was fine in form and function. Then he drowned me in an arsenic solution of his own devising, and took notes as I screamed.
“I do presume he believed my consciousness fully destroyed. I think this not out of some trust in his character, but from the fact when I stopped moving, he stopped taking notes and never consulted my glass sarcophagus again. I sat, silent and unmoving, and thought. For years.
“Should I not have been found in the investigation that ensued after the publication of an account of Doctor Frankenstein’s insensate experiments, I believe I would be trapped, paralyzed, and thinking still, looking through the arsenic water and glass at some stone wall.
“But found I was and, in time, released. As I could speak, and was witness to the foul knowledge and process the doctor had created, I was not destroyed. In time, decades, truly, I earned my freedom by turning the lie of a human origin for my brain back on the government.
“So, here exists I. Corpses pretending to be one flesh. Abyssal chemical reactions pretending to be life. An ape’s mind pretending to be human.
“But I am also cunning, robust, and potent in the way of all my kind, and though I carry no love for Monsieur Dupin, he taught me well.
“By the aegis of his brusque acceptance of me, I am established. I have legal papers that sometimes grant me rights, and monies that do so more often.
“How did I come to know Dupin? What is my vocation now? Those shall be future articles, for which I’ll receive a nickel a word.”
–From the Diary of Ardra Maias, the Empire Coast Journal, Jan 17th, 1934.
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Original Character: The Lantern
(No part of the article is Open Game Content)
I’m going to be playing in a Mutants & Masterminds game sometime in the not-too-distant future, online, about once a month. The GM describes it as “1938 Postmodern Golden Age Superhero,” which is to say, using tropes and aesthetics and the setting of a heroic 1938 world, but not accepting those tropes or the prejudices of that era without examination.
I adore Golden Age supers.
So, I decided I want to play someone in the Mystery Men category, what I often call a “Fedora Hero.” The basics of that are easy to nail down — a 1930s suit and hat with some kind of face covering, detective/investigative skills, fisticuffs, and a schtick. Famous examples obvious include the Crimson Avenger, Green Hornet, Sandman, the Shadow, the Spider: Master of Men, and the Spirit.
I ran through a LOT of ideas (Azure Crusader. Good Citizen. Father Pentacroft. The Griffon. Hodag. Mr. Nevermore. Punchline. Red Wasp.), but they were all either too derivative for my current desires, too generic, or too far from what I see as the core of the Fedora Hero concept.
So, I decided to go a different direction, and pick a legacy, which would lead to a concept, which would lead to a schtick, which would form the core of my hero.
So I began thinking about history and folklore that predated 1938. I considered going with a character named Argent, or Argent Agent, or Revere, and having them be a silver-wielding inheritor of Paul Revere’s heroic role. But, I have long been a bit annoyed that Paul Revere is treated as though he underwent the Midnight Ride by himself, so I didn’t really want to base a character on that as a hook.
Then, it clicked. Not Revere… but the *Lanterns*!
Now my Fedora Hero had a lapel badge of two lanterns in a church tower (“Two If By Sea”) that could shine bright light into his foe’s face. No true superpowers, but inheritor of a long line of special operatives since the days of the Midnight Ride, trained from birth by the secretive Order of William Dawes to find hidden threats to the US, oppose them, and call them out. Mostly stealth-investigator-skills based, but with guns and fisticuffs as needed.
That idea went to Jacob Blackmon, who asked some crucial questions about costume design, and The Lantern’s concept and look were set!
If you’re a fan of M&M as I am, I heartily recommend you join the official M&M Patreon, which has lots of cool content from the creators and developers of the game line!
ShadowFinder Gazetteer: Elseward
ShadowFinder continues to work towards release. Some of the material I am drawing on for parts of the worldbuilding in this play mode are heavily inspired by things that helped me through some dark times in my life. Elseward is one of those.
Some of the areas in the demiplane known as the Shadowblast that are very close to the Material Plane. These regions, called Shallows, appear to be tightly bound to some mortal concepts or emotions and follow special rules compared to the rest of the Shadowblast. There exist natives of the Material Plane who are survivors of severe trauma and depression that can access a Shallows section of the Shadowblast known as Elseward – a violent, vicious realm that mixes dense noir city and surreal untamed jungle with no apparent rhyme or reason – usually without even knowing it. Projecting themselves partially into the Shallows, these Elsewarders exist in both their native Material Planes and the Elseward Shallow. They see and experience things other folk around them in the Material world do not, often mistaking Elseward events for daydreams. Some Elsewarders even develop special powers with the Shallows, creating a ethereal ShadowSelf that exists within Elseward even when the Elsewarders are not connected to it. Elsewarders then experience their ShadowSelf lives through dreams and reveries.
In a few cases, Elsewarders manage to heal and slowly disconnect from the Shallow, perhaps leaving their ShadowSelf behind, perhaps integrating it into themselves and departing from Elseward entirely. But more often, they eventually begin to draw bits of that Shallow region out into the Material Plane, beginning with minor Shadowblastoi creatures crossing over and growing in number, complexity, and power as time goes on. Such a traveller from Elseward into the Material Plane is known as a Drawesle, and its behavior is often dictated by the fears and nightmares of the Elsewarder that drew it through the Shallow.
It’s common for Drawesles to destroy their related Elsewarder, ending their link to the Material world and sending them back to the Shadowblast. Elsewarders with extreme will or some eldritch power source sometimes instead begin to spread their vision of the Elseward into their own world, and in rare cases even forge links between the Elseward and Material world denizens to whom they have strong (not necessarily positive) emotional connections. These advanced situations can result in small groups or even tightly-linked communities existing in both their own realities and the Elseward at once, appearing to experience ongoing shared dreams and hallucinations.
Some Elsewarders continue to hop back-and-forth for decades, with more and more links to the Shadowblast connecting to them as time passes. When the Elsewarder is secure, supported, and dealing with their trauma well, incidents are mostly just deep dreams and odd noises in dark corners, and easily dismissed by them and others as a wandering mind’s intrusive thoughts. When exposed to new trauma or under high stress, these well-worn links can actually anchor parts of Elseward to the Material world, generally in abandoned, remote, or chaotic, badly monitored locations. This leads to Drawesles building a Material Plane power base, seeking to torment the Elsewarder and those close to them to further strengthen the link.
In these cases, outside intervention is often needed to save the Elsewarder and those near them from their literal personal demons. This may be done by seeking out and ending the Drawesles’ base of operations on the Material world, or it may require a trip into Elseward to cut off the intrusion from the source. Of course, destroying a trauma-induced monstrosity preying on an Elsewarder doesn’t end the Elsewarder’s underlying issues. But it can help give them space to do the work needed to heal themselves, and give reassurance that their trials are very, very real.
DEEP ELSEWARDER [QUIRKY]
At one time, you were tightly linked to the Elseward, or some other section of the Shallows in the Shadowblast, and you have developed special powers that only function there.
Benefit: For each character level, you can select one tier of enigma power, one bonus feat for which you meet the prerequisites, or one level of spellcasting from a specific spellcaster class list (gaining spells known, spells per day, and a caster level equal to your levels of spellcasting selected with this feat). These are separate from your normal feats and (if you have them) enigma powers and spells. Abilities gained through this feat only function in Beachheads and Shallows of the Shadowblast.
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Twenty-Year-Old Files: Game Notes – Myrina
When I am too scattered to write, or need to chew on some design or description problem for a bit while occupying my conscious mind with busy-work, I spend time going through old files on my hard drive. I try to keep archives and backups of everything, each time I move computers especially, but the orignaization hasn’t always been consistent. I literally have a folder under OwensWork/OldWork/OldWork/Games/OldGames/Unused/OldWork.
The files in there are between 20 and 25 years old. Many haven’t been cracked open this century, just being copied and moved and copied from machine to machine to machine.
Every once in a while, I find something that I absolutely do not remember writing, and kinda like. Sometimes I can see the genesis of trends and ideas I have played with since. Here’s an example, which was saved as a WordPerfect document in 2002.
Virago leader and champion of the Argive League (for which the third king of Argos was later named), a technologically advanced society in roughly 10,000 BC. Defeated the Atlanteans and Gorgons. Was betrayed in the Battle of Thermondon by the sorcerer-demigod Thrax and badly injured. Thrax’s dark magic drove the Argive forces back, and did significant damage to the land and people around its use. As a result of the betrayal and loss, the Argive League dissolved and, not wishing to fight a war where both sides loose, the Viragos retreated. Myrina convinced the Waves, also known as Enesidaon, to create a city beneath the sea, named Mytilene, where the Virago could live peacefully away from Thrax and his chaotic empire. Having done this, Enesidaon is also moved to grant Oceanic Cities to the remaining Atlanteans and Gorgons (naming the cities Cerne and Neith, respectively).
Once her people were safe, Myrina succumbed to her wounds and slept in stasis for thousands of years, until she was awoken in 1920 by the chaotic energies unleashed in random and half-understood rituals performed by occultist members of the Ultima Society who were attempting to wake the Hyperborean divine champion Donar. Myrina discovered Mytilene had waged numerous terrible wars with the Cerne and Neith, which had left all three Oceanic Cities significantly diminished. Upon discovering the Surface World had been broadcasting radio for decades (a technology long though exclusive to the Argive League and a sign the Surface World might be finally advancing to the same technological level as the Oceanic Cities) Myrina choose to travel to the Surface World. She wished to understand how and why the Surface had evolved, and seek any sign of Thrax. She became a costumed adventurers, and when World War Two broke out fought against the Axis.
Myrina is tough, swift, and powerful, as all Viragos are, and is a master of all forms of combat and strategy. She also possesses the Areioi (a divine girdle that grants its wearer the strength of titans and flight of the gods), Ancile (a shield that can turn away any force as long as it is held with conviction), and Harpe (an indestructible adamant blade that can pierce any magic defense).
If you are enjoying any of these, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).
Rosie’s Rifles, Part II
“When you are the storyteller, you get to decide what the story is.”
I’ve been working on miniatures for Rosie’s Rebels, a super-powered military team for my Diesel Pulp ’40 hobby setting, for a long time. I rarely have much time for it currently, but my roommate built a Bren universal carrier model of mine, which let me wrap up a long-stalled project, the automatons Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale to accompany Bolt Buster.
Below are Eight-Ball and Gibson (who you can read about here), along with Medusa, Stheno, Euryale, and Bolt Buster (who have write-ups below). Eight-Ball and Bolt Buster are both carrying Thompson-Remmington M2S1 submachine guns, as common with Rosie’s Rifles, while Gibson has her iconic High Standard HF .38 pistol.
Still need to be painted, obviously.
Bolt Buster: Prior to volunteering for the Homestead Observation Program Executive, Bolt Buster was a moonshiner, tractor-repair woman, and torch singer who worked the Appalachian Mountain resort circuit. Her exposure to mateirals as part of H.O.P.E.’s experimentation resulted in gaining the ability to comprehend mechanical and electronic functions (but not, for example, chemical) by hearing sounds echo off such devices. This allowed her to become a genius-level inventor and engineer. When in a hurry, she often began fixing things by hitting them with a wrench to hear what was wrong with them.
Early in deployment, Rosie’s Rifles picked up three 1st-generation R.U.R. automatons, MDA, 13O, UR-AIL, and worked with them for some months. When the automatons were destroyed, Bolt Buster was determined to rebuild them, despite the fact no one had ever successfully restarted a failed “cold” R.U.R. cognition core. She succeeded… but the automatons were incapable of speech, and could no longer achieve the coordination needed for bipedal locomotion or coordinate hands (though MDA could operate a single “off” hand). Bolt Buster built them new, smaller, bodies, and they became a core part of the Rosies’ section until the end of the war. In their new forms the automatons selected new names — Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale.
It was often debated whether Cast-Iron or Bolt Buster was a greater genius and inventor, and Cast-Iron’s inventions where clearly more advanced (but no one but her could ever make them work), while the vast majority of Bolt Buster’s much more mundane, but replicable. The two women felt no need to participate in such debates, and were good friends who often collaborated.
Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale: The only R.U.R. cognition cores to ever be restarted from total failure and remain stable, the automatons originally designated MDA, 13O, UR-AIL nonetheless underwent significant personality changes. Medusa was the only one of the 3 still able to operate even 1 hand, and was the most aggressive of the 3, generally taking charge when they made decisions without one of the Rebels present. Medusa was also able to easily adapt to different weapons in her Dexter gun mount, though she generally carried a M1919 Browning 30 cal. Stheno was built into a gun carrier to serve as its driver and gunner, and often served as the Rebel’s primary portage unit and fall back position. She had a Browning M2 .50 cal mounted forward, and a M25a 105mm recoilless rifle that could be fired by her, or swung down on it’s mounting arm to be fired by adjacent infantry (which tended to be significantly more accurate, but required Stheno to be stationary). Euryale was fixed in a single form, unable to adjust to new weapons (equipped with two custom box-fed .45 Thompson-Remmingtons), but was by far the fastest of the three, able to move up to 45 mph, even in rough terrain.
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More Models for my Hobby-Only ’49 Setting
I have been working on a “White Tsar” diesel pulp armored vehicle for nearly 5 years now. It’s a major kitbash, using some pretty advanced models beyond my actual skill level, and it’s stalled out more than once.
But our new housemate (a friend of decades) is an avid modeler, and wanted to help. The fact each wheel has more than 100 individual parts (I love pedrails, but they were not simple tech) phased him not a bit. And thus, this monstrosity has finally finished the construction stage, so I can show it off prior to beginning painting.
Comparing it to the original Tsar tank:
More than 20 feet tall? Check.
Triwheel design? Check
Giant weapon sponsons and a turret? Check
Here’s a quick recap of its fictional origin.
“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 Duchess,” 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 a cabal of loyal psychic stranniks with mysterious ties to the legendary Rasputin.
One of the things that has allowed the Black Duchess is hold on to ‘Czarist 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 primarily 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 armor unit 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 Duchess has created a mobile heavy armor unit that performs very well, and which traditional anti-walker tactics don’t work well against.”
Now, I can turn my attention to the Black Duchess’s primary Romanian Fascist foes.
Pics with Eight-Ball, one of Rosie’s Rebels, for scale.
Sorcerers & Speakeasies Part 3 (Religions)
We’ve talked about doing the 1920s Magic and Mobsters campaign, “Sorcerers and Speakeasies” in general terms, and talked a bit about Backgrounds, and even talked a bit about our plans on the BAMF podcast.
A common question that has come up during these discussions is: What do you plan to do about religion?
It’s a common question anytime you add fantastic elements to a setting rooted in real-world history. There are numerous potential issues when you look to grant traditional D&D-like divine powers to real-world religions. These problems are magnified if you don’t do tons and tons of research. Should you treat Christians differently than Hindus? Is Zues still worshipped? Are their fantasy gods, like Karracker? If monotheist religions can talk to God, does that prove polytheists are wrong?
So, Sorcerers and Speakeasies is leaning toward avoiding a lot of those questions, and focusing instead on religios themes. Players and GMs can do whatever they and their group are comfortable with those themes.
First and foremost, gods (and God) don’t talk to people in Sorcerers and Speakeasies.
Outsiders do… but all admit they can’t discuss (or don’t know) the reality of gods. Angelic and fiendish creatures themselves follow various religions, or at least seem to, but in general state they support those mortals that support their own areas of concern, often as indicated through Aspects (see below).
Cleric: Three Callings
Gods aren’t as directly communicative in 1920 as they seemed to be in Ancient times. Rather than the focused power of a divine domain, S&S clerics are generally following a calling that motivates them to live spiritual lives in very specific ways.
Calling of Ordination – Member of a specific holy order, though that may be a Buddhist nun, Catholic priest, Presbyterian pastor, semicha lerabanim, or any other organized group that have common rules, training, and requirements to join.
Calling of Preachers – You have been called to preach. Perhaps in a church, perhaps under a tent, or perhaps on a street corner.
Calling of Witness – You don’t just have faith, you demonstrate it by doing something dangerous as proof your faith protects you. Among the most famous of these are scorpion-dancers, who handle deadly scorpions as proof they have divine protection.
Certainly there’s nothing wrong with the domains in the Player’s handbook–if you want to play a cleric of the Knowledge domain, feel free. But most Sorcerers and Speakeasies clerics, and divine characters and NPCs in general, are built around one of sixteen Aspects, each of which has a domain.
These are build off concepts often seen as “sins” and “virtues,” and eight of each have angels and fiends empowered by them, but the aspects are not alignment-locked. While there are demons of Pride, it is possible to have a good-aligned cleric of Pride who embodied taking pride in your work and avoiding false modesty. Similarly someone who believes in killing those who are not generous enough would be an evil figure of Generosity).
Angelic Aspects: Courage, Diligence, Generosity, Gratitude, Humility, Justice, Patience, Prudence
Fiendish Aspects: Cowardice, Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth, Wrath
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Sorcerers & Speakeasies (Part 2: Backgrounds)
Okay… so maybe I now AM working on a Sorcerers and Speakeasies 5e supplement. Mostly, I’m having someone else work on it right now, while I just offer outlines and notes. But since it’s on my mind, and I need content for my blog anyway, here are some more thoughts.
Given that 5e is a robust, flexible, well-supported game system we need to ask ourselves: what do characters really need to fit in to our 1920s setting? Equipment, obviously. Since we are sticking with the normal species there’s no need for change there. We’ll make adjustments to the classes, but only as needed. Maybe a few spells to augment the feel of the setting (Tannison’s Terrible Tommygun, anyone?) But there’s actually not a ton of hard rules changes needed.
That brings us to backgrounds.
Many of the backgrounds in 5e conceptually work fine for our 1920s “Djinn and Tonic” campaign. We’d need to update available equipment, including for each background, but we can do that easily (once we have an equipment list… so this is something I have an excellent freelancer working on right now). Similarly we’d want a conversation about languages (do we have all the 5e languages and all the real-world languages? Do we decide German is elven, so Netherlandic is drow, West Scandinavian is old fae, and so on?), but once that’s settled languages are easy. The personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws generally work fine (I think we can trust players to update any anachronistic terms to 1920s-appropriate equivalents).
Beyond that, looking at the PHB, Acolyte, Charlatan, Criminal, Entertainer, Sage, Sailor, and Urchin all work pretty well as-is. Some context might be worth adding, but each of those backgrounds can easily be adapted to Sorcerers & Speakeasies with a small entry that gives an update to equipment and maybe proficiencies, and a short description of any conceptual tweaks that need to be mentioned.
We might want to do just a bit more work for Folk Hero, Guild Artisan, Hermit, Noble, and Outlander. The core of those work fine, but the details might need a tad more adjustment. Luckily, the concept of Variant backgrounds can handle that just fine. Local Favorite is an easy variant for Folk Hero, Union Member for Guild Artisan, Dedicated Academic for Hermit, Upper Class Scion for Noble, and possibly WWI Veteran for Outlander.
It could be worth doing a few more variant for the backgrounds that already work well too, just for specific flavor. Gambler is an easy variant for Charlatan, Gangster for Criminal, Scientist for Sage, and so on.
Now that doesn’t mean we may not want to add some new backgrounds as well. Journalist comes to mind as a common 1920s trope worth supporting on its own, and maybe Masked Vigilante if we want specific support for it. Copper, Detective, Driver, Engineer, Pilot, Smuggler, Rum-Runner… there’s tons of fun stuff we can do if we want to. In each case we should ask if it needs it’s own background (if we do Smuggler, Rum-Runner is a pretty obvious variant–same with Copper and Detective or Diver and Pilot). Dilettante could be a variant of Noble, but maybe Dandy/Flapper deserves its own? We can touch on things like Made a Deal at the Crossroads (if we don’t borrow the idea for the Warlock), or Blasted By Lovecraftian Horror if we want to support more mystic backgrounds in keeping with our magic-and-machines.
We don’t want to get TOO specific. I suspect we want Archaeologists as a form of Sage or Hermit, and Banker/Grocer/Typewriter Repair Man are likely just suggestions for some kind of Crafter or the Guild Artisan. We should think hard about whether Spy, Photographer, Athlete/Sports Star, Student, and the dozen more than come to mind are really worth having their own entries at all, but certainly some will.
A LOT of character flavor can come from backgrounds, so we’d want to think about if we want to make any variants just for that reason.
For example, look at the Entertainer background. It has 10 Entertainer Routines listed. There’s nothing wrong with being an actor, dancer, or juggler, but “jester” doesn’t speak to the 1920s. Let’s look at what a revised table might look like.
Pick 1-3 routines, or roll a d10 to pick them randomly.
- Stage actor
- Carnival barker
- Jazz instrumentalist
- Big Band instrumentalist
- Radio actor
That doesn’t change the game rules at all, but it does feel very much more grounded in the culture of the Roaring 20s.
This also means a Backgrounds chapter of a Sorcerers and Speakeasies game could contain a lot of flavor without loading down players or the GM with a lot of specialized rules. If we want to sneak in references to Adventurer’s Inc., Hexers, Grendels, and Taxi Heroes, we can put all that into Backgrounds just to help flesh out the world.
Speaking of helping:
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5e Campaign Settings the Easy Way (Sorcerers & Speakeasies)
As is so often the case for me, as I specifically set myself up for a massive workload (I am currently sitting at 223 different project deadlines due sometime in 2020), my muse is hammering me hard with ideas for a project that ISN’T on that list.
That, combined with the fact I’m still in Seattle having been flown out for some meetings at OrcaCon, means I am going to punt the next d20 Class Design Diary post (which has had Part 2 and Part 3 in recent weeks) by another week.
But we are going to tackle a related topic! I take a look at some campaign building/class expansion ideas to match new campaign options for 5e, based on the ideas that have been Muse-shoved into my brain recently. So, what project does my muse have me thinking about, that so far is NOT on my list of things to get to anytime soon?
Sorcerers & Speakeasies
“It’s the Raging 20s. Magic elixirs and booze are illegal. Monsters are rampant. Adventure is everywhere!”
There are lots of ways I could proceed about making a magic-and-machine-guns setting based on Prohibition era America, ranging from making a brand new RPG ruleset, to a full game system hack (such as I have been working on for Really Wild West). But its also possible to design it as just a set of bolted-on extras for an existing game system that does most of what we need. The current edition of 5e is flexible and open-ended enough that it could cover a lot of what a Sorcerers & Speakeasies game would need. Some worldbuilding would be necessary of course, and 1920s equipment would have to be designed and added, but that’s easy compared to reskinning a whole game or creating one from scratch.
Since the main way players interact with a game world is through character classes, that’s a great place to start when looking at creating a campaign setting for a new ruleset. When discussing using 5e classes in a Paladins-And-Prohibition game, there are two routes we could take. We could create new 5e classes whole cloth to fill all the roles we need, or we could just add new specializations to each class to give them a 1920s moonshiners and monsters feel. That’s a good deal less work, and in some ways more flexible since it means any other material designed for those classes can be easily added to our Sorcerers & Speakeasies (S&S) game.
Of course some people might not consider all the 5e classes to be good matches for a 1920s-era setting, even one that adds dwarves, gnomes, and spellcasting. For example, players with visions of barbarians exclusively as nordic vikings, Conan-like Hyperboreans, and savage jungle princesses may have trouble seeing how the class works in a game that runs from Uptown Citadels and Theater Street all the way down to the Undertown and Gearling Park.
But that’s why our new specializations need to be flavorful and thematically appropriate both to the core of the class, and to some 1920s hero/villain trope. For example, if I was going to do S&S as a simple 5e bolt-on, I’d start with something like this.
Barbarian: Three new Primal Paths
Boondock – You grew up in a remote rural location, commonly mountain country or midwestern farmland, in an area with extensive and extreme poverty. You may have learned to survive just on woodcraft and farming, or you might have gotten a hard manual labor job such as miner, oil field worker, or logger. You might fit the stereotype of being an uneducated overall-wearing moonshiner and pistol-popper… or you might have depths city-slickers neither expect nor appreciate. You may or may not not be quick to anger, but your hillfolk roots give you access to a pool of simple, potent wrath you can tap when you have had enough.
Grinder – When there is dirty, hard, unpleasant work to be done, people look at you. Your best prospects are often acting as a second-tier knee-breaker, not trusted to plan anything complicated but an expert at mayhem when the the plan falls part. Some grinders make an honest living, as boxers, wrestlers, pig-chuckers, or circus strongmen, but your strength and durability often draw the attention of people who think they have more violent uses for your talents.
Jitney – People are shocked at how big you are, and how much hardship you can shrug off. They may call you “built like a cement truck,” a “brickhouse,” or a “palooka,” but the sentiment is the same regardless of the term — you are made of shoeleather and axehandles, and your durability seems unearthly. It’s fairly common for those who don’t know you to assume your mass and density mean you are dim-witted as well, though being underestimated in that way can play in your favor.
Yes, I’d need game mechanics to make those paths complete, but my starting point for adding specialties to 5e to give a 1920s magic adventure feel is very much conceptual. Taking this exploration of ideas a bit further, here are some other potential directions to take 5e classes that might otherwise feel very disconnected from the modern world of a 1920s campaign. These are just sketches of ideas, starting points I’d build out from if I was spending more time on this.
Bard: Three Circuits
There’s a good chance your S&S bard has a bit more experience singing for his dinner, and a little less formal training, than a bard with a “college.” In place of colleges, an S&S bard can select a Circuit, reflecting the types of places where they are most likely to have gotten paying gigs.
Busker’s Circuit – You might not still mostly be performing on the streets hoping for spare change to make a living, but you’ve done it enough to know the ins and outs, and how life on the street works.
Club Circuit – There are a lot of houses of entertainment these days, and you’ve learned to get booked, make a living on the gigs, and work contacts bot for your career, and to arrange for anything else you might need.
Vaudeville Circuit – You’ve done a little of a lot of different things to fit in to the vaudevillian life, and may be able to sing a bit, dance a bit, do a few card tricks, throw your voice, tell some jokes, throw your voice, or a dozen other little performances.
Druid: Three Habitats
There isn’t any one universal druid circle in the 1920s. There are numerous groups and religions that work with or include druids along with many other characters, but what most distinguishes one druid from another in Sorcery & Speakeasies is the habitat of creatures they focus on and feel a connection with.
Alley Habitat – You are closely connected to the creatures that share urban living spaces, from pigeons and rats, to feral cats and dogs, and sometimes even roaches.
Domestic Habitat – Civilization has been working with animals, as guards, allies, mounts, producers, and just food, for thousands of years. You are most strongly connected to animals that share citizens lives, be those cattle, horses, guard dogs, housecats, hunting birds, or circus elephants.
Wilds Habitat – There’s still a lot of wilderness out there, from back roads to mountain hollows and unspoiled woodlands. You prefer to connect with the creatures of these
Step 0 – A Feel for the World
This project didn’t begin as a thought experiment into how to adapt 5e classes. It began with a wild notion for what kind of slang might exist in a Fantasy Roaring 20s campaign, and how such slang might help define a world and inspire adventures within it. I’ve posted all this to my Facebook page at random times over the past couple of months, but it seems worthwhile to offer it all in one compiled for here.
Sorcerers & Speakeasies Slang
Adventure, Inc.: Adventure, Inc. is a semi-formal network of taxi drivers, trash collectors, diners, phone operators, street workers, milkmen, bus drivers, mechanics ,and similar folk who work to get information about “grendles” to people who might do something about them.
Babylon Phonebook: Spellbook, especially one focusing on summoning things.
Button Troll: Any monster paid to act as a guard, thug, or legbreaker, normally by organized crime figures.
Calico: A woman who has rural hedge-wizard, witchcraft or shamanistic powers, but also acts as an urban employee, guide, or even boss.
Cement Cloak: A magic item designed to get the user killed. Sometimes used to refer to any method of assassination.
Cleaver Squad: Group willing and able to engage in violence using primarily melee weapons, especially those adapted from tools. “The merchants of Unstreet, from the Gutters to Old Fane, can call up a pretty big Cleaver Squad.”
Copper Shield: A system protecting police and other government enforcers *and* their agents and informers from the consequences of their own actions as long as they remain useful to the government higher-ups. “He’s crooked, but he’s behind the copper shield.”
Corpse Doctor: A necromancer. Or necrothurge. Or flesh automaton maker. Basically anyone who mucks with bodies for mystic purposes.
Dama: A woman with the skills and confidence of a knight. May be literal for a warrior-woman, or may be a term of respect for the woman’s expertise and dominance within her field, be that accounting, politics, or just being family matriarch.
Drowned Man: Functioning drunk. Often barely-functioning, like a disgraced doctor who now works out of a back ally, or a corrupt police detective who does private investigations now.
Eveic: The secret language of Eve, used in the Garden of Eden, which neither Adam nor God understood. Therefor, any secret known and used by a group of women.
Hexer: Anyone with magic that is of an evil source, or they use to specifically evil ends.
Hexhunter: An expert at tracking down, understanding, and undoing the evil caused by hexers.
Glint: Someone who has one, and likely only one, truly noteworthy magic item (often a weapon or one-use spell-tosser).
Go Dwarven: Get simple, heavy, primitive, and generally violent. “If you don’t pay your loan back, we’ll have to go dwarven on you.” But also a mechanical philosophy. “The radiator doesn’t work unless you go a bit dwarven on the pipes.”
Grendle: Any monstrous or supernatural problem that, for whatever reason, the local authorities won’t do anything about.
Guillotine Cure: Fixing social problems by getting rid of politicians in charge. Not always by killing them, but that’s often the implication.
GumSword: A hired monster-killer or adventurer. Often a low-rent one, who can’t afford high-end steel weapons, but may depend on a baseball bat or crowbar.
Lotus Fiend: Drug addict, especially addicted to drugs that grant magic visions and maybe real eldritch powers, at least briefly.
LuckLubber: Someone who is cursed, or has such bad luck they seem to be cursed.
Medusa: A woman who is believed to have power, generally magical or political, and the will to use it.
Morlock: Any intelligence, roughly humanoid thing that most lives below ground and doesn’t abide by the rules of civilization and society, not even Undertown society. May include trogs, derro, mongrelmen, skulks, tommyknockers, and, you know, morlocks.
Noirmancer: A secret spellcaster, who only does their wok in the dark or at night, or in the metaphysical shadows.
Paper Troll: Someone who talks big and makes trouble, but only in newspaper editorials or letters to the paper, or in town meetings and such.
Pargeter: An artificer skilled in the creation of automatons and homonculi.
Parthian: An enchanted firearm. “No one wants to cross Gurhtu One-Tusk. His violin case supposedly is where he carries a Parthian.”
Precious: Any important item, often referred to by the obsessive owner; such as “Jimmy the Glint’s ‘Precious’.”
Psara Cat: An unusually large, fluffy, calm breed of feline who supposedly pick people to adopt and turn into spellcasters. Also, anyone who appears to be the power behind the scenes. “Little Ezri may just look like the bartender, but he’s the real Psara Cat south of 114th street.”
Raven: An informer who knows things about the world of magic and monsters. Sometimes, may be an actual corvid.
Spelleasy: A neighborhood bar when you drink coffee or tea and discuss magic. You might discuss elixirs, but don’t actually make them. Like alcohol elixirs are, after all, illegal now.
Spider-Friendly: Willing to deal with creatures from the Undertown, like drow and driders and ropers. “The ground floor of the Drake Drink Club is upscale, but the basement levels are spider-friendly.” Also a suggestion of a person who might be sexually attracted to subterranean races.
Stormer: A powerful, primal spellcaster. often one who has to be angry to create magic effects, or who creates uncontrolled magi effects when angry.
Talk to a Mirror: Any form of divination. “Okay, I’m stumped on this case. but I know a guy who’ll talk to a mirror for us.”
Taxi Hero: An adventurer who deals with things on a case-by-case, for-pay basis. “They may not deal with the whole cult, but the neighborhood gathered some money to hire a taxi hero to clear out that Set temple on in the abandoned Monarch Hotel.” Taxi heroes often literally work for a local branch of the Delver’s Union, which sells tickets to people they can give a Taxi Hero to deal with a problem. An “A Ticket” is a minor nuisance, such a a giant rat in your basement, or soot-sprites. The letter-codes go all the way up to the E Ticket, which is your trolls under an overpass, chimera nest in the church’s bell tower, hauntings, and so on.
The Taxi Hero takes the ticket back to the local Delver’s Union, and gets paid for the work. Of course, it seems like the A and B tickets pay out less and less every season…
“Three C’s”: Chokers, Cloakers, and Crypt Things — stand in for anything you may run into in an urban alley or sewer that’s common enough to recognize and know how to deal with, but dangerous enough to kill in an unheroic manner you anyway. “Lots of people gone missing in the Battery recently. Probably just the Three C’s.”
Threadman: An undead created intentionally as a servant. Comes from the fact they often have lips, eyes, or both sewn shut.
Wand Wiggler: A spellcaster-for hire, often a pretty weak one.
WarWolf (or Loup de Guerre): A civilian vehicle converted for paramilitary or military purposes. “The Starshiners have an old WarWolf they use to make deliveries.”
Step 0+1: Microfiction
Even after I saw how easily gamified the concepts for Sorcerers & Speakeasies could be, I didn’t leap to game rules. Instead, I began wondering if there was a way to present a setting that had magic melee weapons and firearms both be fairly common, but magic firearms be rare. I especially liked the idea of enchanted clubs and sling rocks being even more common than enchanted swords.
That lead to this super-short story.
Runes and Remmingtons
“Sarge, why do the Torchers carry breakbats?”
“Are you asking, cadet, why an officer in the Undertown street patrol might be equipped by the city with an Type IV Enruned Peacekeeping Cudgel?”
“Because cadet–Macklin, is it?–there are things in Undertown that need kinetic encouragement to be good citizens.”
“Well sure, Sarge. We all get that. But why not use a .38?”
“While our Police Standard Issue is a fine choice for many duties, son, there are things in Undertown that don’t pay attention until you tap their should with something that has runes on it.”
“Okay, Sarge, but why not just put runes on a .38? I mean I’ve seen an Ogre Squad carrying more boarspears than shotguns! Shouldn’t we just put some runes on modern weapons?”
“First, Cadet Macklin, a shotgun lacks the lugs needed to keep a wounded globster from crawling up onto and over you while you and your squad hit it with the wrath of Good St. Alaina the dozen or more times it takes to bring it down.
“Second, runecasters have been putting the roxie on pigstickers and crossbows for centuries. They’ve gotten right good at it. But a nice Remmie pump 17? Been out less time than you’ve been alive. Turns out, until the Longbeards and Calicos in armaments have been perfecting the runes for a kind of weapon for a good dozen decades, the cost of enruing one is… prohibitive.”
“But Captain Auburn has that cherry Springfield with a bunch of runes on it!”
“She does indeed. Brought it back from the war. And she earned it. Got that for killing a dragon, Macklin.”
“A draaaagon, Sarge? Really?”
“Feel free to ask her your own self, cadet. If you want to lose your eyebrows for insolence. But until then, let’s train with the Peacekeeping Cudgels, shall we?”
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