Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Magic Item: Imperator's Regalia

This is the accoutrement of the Imperators, high officers in the Thylian region that govern the colonial holdings and acquisitions of the Imperium, that ruled 400 years ago. To all of Thelerite descent, or those who at least pretend, any of these items is immediately recognizable as a symbol of authority and power within the Thelerite Imperium. Any who bear them will certainly attract attention from those who know and care about such symbols.

Scholars of the period report that in the early centuries of the Thelerite Presence, sets of these regalia were relatively common, possessed by many or even most of the regional lords administering holdings outside of the imperial heartland. It is believed that in that time, each regalia befit its owner's personality both in appearance and power, but today, there are but a few pieces remaining, and each is coveted by those who would see the Imperium returned and re-empowered.

Imperator's Armor

This is a suit of studded leather armor. The leather is died a dark blue, almost navy, color, or perhaps taken from the hide of some strange and unknown creaturefrom faraway lands. The studs are bronze and arranged in intricate patterning resembling intertwined vinces, except for the front where they frame a cunningly wrought figure of a figure appearing to be a cross between a human or humanoid and some sort of draconic creature posession sinewy tale, ellongated neck, and clawed hands: the symbols of the Imperium's ruling family from time immemorial. It is sized for a human, or any humanoid/demi-human being of approximately six feet, though it is known that it can be adjusted for persons anywhere from five-and-a-half feet through nearly six foot four. It carries a simple +2 enchantment affecting both AC and saving throws appropriately. Once per day, the wearer is able to invoke the ability to Detect Lie per the spell according to their own level. If they are not of sufficient to cast the spell as if they were a cleric, then this ability does not function. This armor will not function at all for any being of elf extraction and, in fact, those who attempt to wear it will find it binding and restricting, affording no defensive bonus at all.

Guard of the Imperator

A tall, rectangular medium shield designed to protect a roughly human sized figure from knee to nose. Blazoned across the front is the draconic sillouette of the imperial ruling family, crossed by the bar sinister in blue and black. The shiled appears to be constructed of wood, though of what type it is unclear for it is an unearthly white and it weighs only half of what a similar shield of oak should. At any time, the bearer can sacrifice 1d4 hit points in order to cast a light spell at 5th level of ability. This damage heals normally. The light itself is unbearably painful, though non-damaging, to most types of undead and will drive them back as per a 5th level priest's turning ability. Any who are drained to 0 hit points or less by this power will be drawn wholly into the shield and vanish from this world, their souls beyond the reach of all but the most powerful magics.

Hand of the Imperator

This is, perhaps, the most infamous of the currently known regalia, for it has a truly sinister reputation. A short sword with a broad, leaf shaped blade and a jagged edge in the form of fine barbs running back along most of the length of the blade. The steel is is forged from is stained a dark color, almost black. The sword carries a +1 enchantment, but is also a sword of wounding, inflicting terrible wounds that are difficult, oft impossible to heal. Worst of all, on any critical hit (or natural 20 if no critical hit rules are used), the sword will effect a vampiric regeneration on behlaf of the wielder, healing him for a like amount of damage inflicted upon a foe. For every point of damage inflicted in this manner (but not for normal blows struck with it), there is a cumulative 1% chance that the wielder will become addicted to the sensation and will do anything to experience it as often as possible, even to the point of attacking innocent victims and comrades.

The last owner of this blade is well remembered, though his name is never spoken or recorded if possible. Nazdith the Wild cut a bloody swath across the realm, killing dozens of innocents before he was finally slain by a group of heroes. Unfortunately, the Hand itself was lost and its current wearabouts are unknown.

Imperator's Orb

A six inch diameter orb of copper stamped with the intertwining vines and draconic symbols of the Thelerites: it weighs approximately 5 pounds. It's powers are wholly unknown, though rumored to be anything from functioning as a crystal ball to controlling the Great Wyrms that gnaw at the root of the world.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Arduin Eternal Shipping Soon

Well, since I'm out from under the NDA, and they're actually shipping the product, I feel that I can actually talk about this openly now, at least a bit.

This is not a review, since I don't actually have the finished product in my hands yet. I was lucky enough to be a playtester for Arduin Eternal, the third version of the game (or, maybe, 3.6, it's kinda hard to tell), and I'm eager to see what Monte actually put together in the end with this. I say this, despite the fact that I've seen the beta test, because the very last thing I or many of the other playtesters have heard is that "big changes" have occured, so pretty much everything I say here may be entirely wrong. Also, despite the fact that I am no longer under NDA, I'm going to act as though I am for the most part because, well, frankly that agreement I signed scared the crap out of me. If, when I finally get my hands on this book and get a read through, none of what I say here applies, I will gladly retract it all.

So, many of the grognards lurking about the web are already familiar with Arduin, if only in the format of the little booklets that were nothing more than options books for the original LBB version of D&D. Few people remember, or for that matter want to remember, that there was a second edition released entitled The Compleat Arduin (spelling intentional). That was a very curious set of books if only for the novelty of them. They were the first set of books out of Hargrave's mind that attempted truly to turn Arduin into more than just "Hargrave's Campaign" and house rules and into a singular and whole game if its own. It's also remembered frequently as a truly terrible game, which is mostly unfair really. Was it simple and easy to understand? Not a chance. But in the end, it's still a very enjoyable game and I recommend that version to anybody who's got the temperment to take a hammer to it and make it into their own.

Now, Monty StJohn, author of The Worldbook of Khass, has put together a new, completely revisualized version of the Arduin game that will lock in with his previous work. Of course, being a systemless book, saying that anything at all will lock in with the worldbook is . . . meaningless, but you probably understand what I'm talking about at least.

This new book, called Arduin Eternal, is a significant leap away from the original system (essentially D&D) and the Compleat Arduin systems. People looking for a game that is a strong inheritor of the D&D mechanic, any of them, will be sorely dissapointed. Certainly there are identifiable elements of Gygaxian DNA in the thing, this is a whole other monster that will twist the undies of a fair few.

First, this is not entirely a class based system. Yes, there are classes, and yes, they do, in very broad strokes, outline the general thrust of your character and his abilities, this is, in no way, the class system where fighters, magic-users, and clerics are identifiable and quantifiable packages of specific rules. Instead, being a part of a class nets you access to specific skill sets and talents that are not accessible from the outside, or in some cases as easily improved. For instance, while anybody can learn to use armor and weapons and to hold their own in a fight, Warriors of all stripes have access to deeper and, in some ways, more powerful understanding and abilities in the arts of combat and war than others.

You know, that last sentence seems fairly . . . blatantly obvious now that I'm rereading it, and perhaps in a way it really is. However, it's just not when you're looking at the gaming industry as a whole any more. We currently reside in a world where RPG's largely cater to the wish fulfillment and "give the player what he wants" mentality. A world where "character build" and "fun" are the vast overriding factors, even over the power of the referee. This, though it looks to be that at first blush (and even second and third blush) is not that. There are a great deal of Old School sensibilities here, mixed well with some of the best traits of New Schoolism. Youngin's will have all the choices they could imagine in their wildest dreams, and will be able to build to their heart's content, but some of the older folks will truly love, I think, that things here are very easily stripped down and jiggered into a bare skeleton on par with even the dustiest of grognard lore.

At its heart, at least last time I saw it, there is a core mechanic that governs the entirety of the mechanics. Essentially, roll D100, add modifiers and skill ranks, and compare to a target difficulty number (either set by the ref, or set by an opposed roll). It's really that simple. It just has so much else slathered on that it may throw people off who came here looking for simplicity. Those who come looking for infinite diverersity in infinite combination will also be dissapointed as many choices are not universal and are largely attached to others based on Arduinian flavor.

What the game does very well, though, is to provide tools for both the GM and the players to . . . well . . . the only way to adequately describe it is "go hog wild." Bare bones ideas of how to build magic items, both from the GM's perspective of including them in adventures, and from the players' perspective, of having their character build them. The most logical minds here, though, will probably find them infuriating in their spareness. Not to mention similar rules for demi-urges, spirits, technology and alchemy. A section worth special mention is the rune-magic section, which will drive many people absolutely insane: instead of rune spells as in prior editions, we are provided with actual individual runes that produce specific effects on their own (ranging from fire, earth, air, and water all the way to runes that affect time/duration and dimensions) and in combination with others. Every rune casting is, literally, a recipe that has to be discovered, experimented with, and perfected. The same goes for much everything else.

At its heart, and the last time I saw anything official, the game was all about economies of scale. At its heart, the game is a single, simple mechanic which can be used entirely satisfactorily on its own. Everything else can be added on bit by bit as desired, or left out as you please.

I'm excited to see what the "big changes" are, and if anything I know still actually applies.

Where The Hell I've Been

Well, I suppose I owe the two or three people who actually read this blog a brief explanation as to my long absence.

First, my home computer suffered a horrifying and total meltdown not long ago. The kind of meltdown from which delicate electronics do not recover. The service group, when called, laughed in my face and informed me that they would not care a whit for a 7 year old computer and that I should be ashamed of myself for having something so old and "out-of-date" in my home. I was forced to purchase a new machine, which took a goodly time to be built and delivered to my lair.

Second, in the process of increasing security, my office has decided that blogspot.com is now a blocked site. I can no longer browse the blogs while in long telecon meetings, and that makes me sad. Nor can I, obviously, make updates to my own pointless and rambling blog while in the office. This cuts down my available time to post things here to about 2 hours a day at most.

Third, I am the semi-proud survivor of several rounds of vicious layoffs in my workplace that resulted in something like a 50% cut in the work force which prevented me from spending as much time online not working as I am want to do at times. This is either because, if my boss is aware I have a blog and reads it, that I am actually a good worker and productive and valued member of the professional community. Or, if he is not reading this, then because the people who decided who was to be terminated and who was to remain are complete and total morons. I tend towards the later myself.

Well, anyway, I'm mostly back in production here, though obviously I won't be able to post terribly often. Yeah, you probably won't see a change at all, so I'm not sure of the point of this post at all.

Anyway, I do have some brief thoughts coming up, so I'll be posting a real thought sometime in the next couple hours.

To all those who hate me: well, you can't get rid of me that easily you bastards!