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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Open RPG Day: Feng Shui 2 One-Shot

This Saturday, I ran Feng Shui 2 on the Open RPG Day in Sofia. 

A warehouse full of Red Lotus thugs, led by a sorcerous "dailo" is processing cannibalistic magical ingredients.
A ninja named Kenji is watching from the beams under the roof, as a police car crashes inside. Cai Tao, a cop from the Occult Investigations department jumps out and offers them a surrender.
Just as this happens, the back door opens, and Granny Hu (pictured below on the right) enters, holding a mobile phone. "Sorry, young man, but do you know how to read that message I've received?"
That's how the game began. Soon after, the thugs realised that Granny Hu has an alternate form. The one on the left is still Granny Hu!
(The player sketched the pictures herself - just to show me what her Creature looks like. You can see her DeviantArt on the picture).

And now a better shot of Granny Hu. Hoping the player would ink the monster, too, at some point...

And then they defeated the sorcerer who was sacrificing the mooks to protect himself, found clues for the plans of the Red Lotus, and discovered they all have a grudge with Big/Red/Fat Chu, a Lotus sorcerer. Oh, and there was a portal to the Netherworld.
Things proceeded from there, in typical Feng Shui manner. In the Netherworld, they learned about the Chi War (by meeting exiles). Kenji got hired by the Lotus as a hitman. The name of his first target was...Cai Tao. The head was to be delivered to Big Chu.
Of course, they improvised a news story proving that Cai Tao has been kidnapped, and went to meet him.
Kenji got cursed with financial ruin, but they killed Chu, who was the focus of their melodramatic hooks. The killing blows - delivered in the same shot - were both suitably bloody for HK cinema (explosions on both attacks).
And then Kenji took out an MP5K and shot the whole clip into Chu's body, for good measure. After that, he reloaded.
Threatening Kenji with ruin brings out the worst in him, I can report.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Stunning Beauty Chronicles, part 8 (WHoOG)

It's time to summarize a few more sessions. Link to the previous update.

Last time, we realized it's time to begin the long path to Bone Kingdom. But first, we had to gather some entourage.
We signaled the Two-Timing Cockerel that the Jade Maidens are here. He went to talk to "the beautiful one", Zhun Bo, and returned thoughtful. "She's in love with someone", he said, being an expert in love matters, "but her sister Zheng Di is also beautiful".
My wife went to talk to Zhun Bo, because she was curious. When she returned, she shared her observation that the Jade Maiden's tone changed when she was speaking of Brother Wolf.
And she had asked her if she'd like to come and help us on a mission that might help Brother Wolf. She said she could destroy any magic items she finds!
(Pay attention: any items we find are obviously not found by her).

The next morning, both Zhun Bo and Zheng Di were ready to depart. Another person we didn't expect was also with us.
The Well-Kept Lion!
My wife sneaked into Brother Wolf's fortress and told Mirror Boy to come with us. And she committed arson, destroying the room with the mirror, and breaking another mirror to leave charred remains behind.

She barely arrived, and Brother Wolf's student - the hald-deaf one with white-streaked hair - caught up with us. She also wanted to join.
Did she hope we'd find a way to heal her? Or was she just bored? We didn't inquire, and just offered her a place in our column.

Soon after, we had a double marriage (presided by the Righteous Scholar - also known as "my pen-pal" - with me assissting him). Two-Timing Cockerel married the witch's daughter that we'd found in the village (see the previous update) and Big Sister married the Well-Kept Lion.
We kinda had helped to arrange this... Like, we noticed he is talking a lot with her, and both are almost equally tall.
"Well-Kept Lion, what do you think of Biggest Sister? She's a servant of the clan now, and we look after our own!"
"She's nice! I can grapple with her without breaking her."
"Care to marry her? You'd make a good husband for her - you're tall enough. But if you don't, I should keep looking - she needs a good, tall one that she wouldn't look at from above...too much!"
"It's a bit sudden..."
"Sure, just let me know before we reach the next village."
He went to talk to Biggest Sister. Then the two asked me to add them to the ceremony, which is how we had a double marriage.

I know my wife discussed life, philosophy and the future plans with her niece, Two-Timing Cockerel's daughter. I guess it was a lively discussion, because at some point, they left and returned with their clothes in relative disarray. Nothing surprising for the Silken Robe Society...or for any other xia clan: for those of you with a mind in the gutter, the two had fought, not f...
Oh, and I'm proud to announce that my wife had won.
I also hear she had sparred with one of the Jade Maidens (surprisingly, Zheng Di - the calmer one that's not in love with anyone...yet). How or why this happened, I'm not sure at all. I guess it was another discussion (she mentioned something about discussing family and the uses of magic items, but I wasn't interested in the content).

I'm just proud to announce that so far, Stunning Beauty Team had scored a 2:0 in the spars.
Me? I almost sparred Zheng Di, too (and only learned about my wife's spar later), after we discussed their sect's policy on marriage and progeny - namely, they support celibacy and adopt homeless children, who grow as "adopted by the sect". While I agree with the latter part, it seems to me that this isn't properly Dehuan: without the children being adopted in a family, who would take care of their ancestors' spirits after they pass away?
We do have our own practices in Silk Robe Society, yes - but those practices in no way prevent us from doing the right thing. My brothers and sisters, for example, receive a monthly donation since I've been rich enough to afford it, and my venerable parents receive a greater one.
For some reason, however, Zheng Di took my philosophical objections as an attempt to persuade her to do something about it. I was trying to have a discussion, dammit! I mean, I know the Two-Timing Cockerel is likely going to pick her up, make her fall in love, and marry her - he's got practice.
What I really wanted to see was how her views would change after that! But to do that, I needed to know what her views are now.
Screw her (not literally). She was so unconcerned with politeness that I almost considered getting rude* without a formal challenge! Then I considered issuing a formal challenge - though I don't believe power proves anything (or else, Da Su Su would be in the right...which is impossible for someone as stupid as her).
And then my displeasure with her manners took over, and I simply left with a "ok, I guess we're on the same side, at least - we'll keep our side of the deal**, no need to . Been avoiding her since then, too - which means I've been hanging out with Mirror Boy and the Righteous Scholar (both of which would be on the Jade Maidens "to kill" list, if they knew those two are actually magic items and not humans).

One day, Mirror Boy found a path in the forest. Well, he didn't really find it...he could only sense it, and only with his eyes closed.
Luckily, it happened when me and my wife were nearby, so he told us so. We put hands over his eyes and he lead us in the a girl that looked great. The boy looked her with his mouth wide open, which reminded me I had to give him a bees-and-birds speech, and explain why women are necessary for procreation of humans and how that works, exactly (remember - technically Mirror Boy only has a father...though I have my own theories).
We followed the path, and found a fox demon. She offered to take some of our power, and an epic battle followed, in which... we captured her. (With the help of TTC - Mirror Boy ran to call his daddy...literally).
Then we made her an offer, because my wife wanted a fox pet. Regular nourishment for service (it doesn't kill people with our level of kung-fu)...or a honour place in my wife's rack, in her new guise as "fox skin".
No, fox demons don't get fair treatment as prisoners. And that's my wife's good side, anyway...
Foxy almost ran away, but being curious, she returned. And in the end, she agreed to our conditions, giving us a vow. We, in turn, vowed to chase her to the end of the Middle Kingdom and beyond, should she renege on her vows.
More importantly, in the cave - a former temple of some "phoenix" sect - we found some wall paintings showing a secret Phoenix technique.
We had Righteous Scholar copying it, and then we did our best to destroy the entry to the temple.

Later, my wife had a discussion about life, the universe, and fate - with Zheng Di. Sister Fox was mentioned, and Zheng Di mentioned the possibility that it might be that her fate is to die from this poison. She also pointed out that Brother Wolf is killing people in order to prolong his sister's life.
My wife returned in a hurry, got a horoscope reading, and found out that yes, indeed, Sister Fox was fated to die by the poison. Only the Life-Preserving Stone had prevented it for so long.
So my wife sent Foxy to steal the stone from Brother Wolf.
The fox returned with the stone.
Multiple lives had been saved. But Sister Fox was going to die at the end of the month. Such is life.
Me? I was glad I didn't have to make that decision myself - she only announced it in retrospect, as my PC is her PC's husband.

*In the wuxia sense of "getting rude", also known as "applying boot to the butt".
**As mentioned in the previous episode, my wife actually concluded it in such a way that we don't need to help them find magic objects.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Musings after reading World of Gor and Tales of Gor

I have nothing but good words about the World of Gor. It is an almost invaluable* the world-setting as presented in the novels. Period. No objections on it.
I have, so far (I haven't read it to the end, but I'm close) one objection on Tales of Gor. (As an aside, do you know how often I have that few objections? It's an amazing feat that Desborough's book only provokes that few objections from me).

What is that one thing that I disagree with?
"Only the Panni** have systematized unarmed combat. The rest of Goreans rely on (natural ability)". I might be paraphrasing it slightly.
But this contradicts the books - in many, many places.
First, it is known that even peasants practice wrestling. Wrestling is always the first systematized style to emerge wherever humans live, but rarely remains the only one, unless the practitioners wear heavy armour (not the case on Gor). And given how many empty-handed styles have evolved from the use of weapons, it just makes no sense to me.

Second, the fighting slaves are mentioned to be "the real masters of unarmed combat" on Gor. Who trains them? (Hint: probably warriors, if they're lucky). And I can't believe the Caste of Assassins would have overlooked the use of such techniques to quickly subdue and kill a target that's hard to reach with weapons - say, a rich Merchant.

Third, Tarl and others repeatedly show quite high levels of mastery of the unarmed combat in the series. Here's an example I found in Magicians of Gor.
"I seized one of the lads by the wrist and, drawing him quickly across and about my body, and over my extended right leg, flung him to the stones, where I held him, my grip shifted now to the palm of his hand, his wrist bent, far back. He screamed with pain. Another fraction of a hort, the least additional pressure, and his wrist would be broken."
That's a move that's well-known to everybody who has ever trained in martial arts. But I don't remember Tarl having been a fighting slave - and anyway, he was doing such moves after the first time he was on Gor, while exiled on Earth.
Another example is at the end of the books where an Earthman brought to Gor obtains freedom (after being a Fighting Slave...sorry for not digging the exact title, but I can guess it was Something of Gor).
There's a moment when a group discusses killing a man empty-handed. One of the men gathered says something like "maybe, but only if you're very strong".
An Warrior corrects him: "It doesn't require strength, just skill".
The former Fighting Slave merely nods and confirms.

Thus, I'd conjecture that unarmed combat should be an option for both Warriors and Peasants, not to mention Assassins (and former Fighting Slaves). Though of course, weapon skills should be higher and more valuable - but one can hope the fighting system itself would take care of that!

That aside, I admit I'm tempted to produce a table for Gorean Chess. It sure seems to have...unexpected possibilities!

*Well, technically, I know exactly how much it's worth - just check the price on Drivethru;). But if you plan to run this game, you really want the setting book.
**Japanese transplanted on Gor.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The story of my Exaltation

That's about my current character, the Patrician of the Realm (in Exalteds's...
Last session he got Exalted. As the GM put it, "you can't get any better as Solar material than that" (Solars are Exalted by the head of the setting's pantheon, the most powerful god of them all - and are thus the most powerful Exalted. She thinks they're also the most arrogant...which I wouldn't dispute).
How did I prove myself arrogant enough to get Exalted (after quite a few sessions of play)? By negotiating, believe it or not!

It was a good negotiation with Fair Folk. These are, in Exalted, the kind of "fairies" you see in old tales - the kind that come, charm you, steal your soul, and age your body beyond repair;).
Then they make a tale about it, because Fair Folk are creatures of tales.
Now, one you have a picture of the Fair Folk in mind, imagine meeting old, powerful Fair Folks which were powerful enough that decades ago to have captured a Lunar Exalt, chosen by the second greatest goddess out there. (How did I know that? Well, that's the Lunar that had accompanied me to that place, as she had volunteered to guard me - I'm starting to think she's developing a thing for me...)
Imagined those Fair Folk? Good.
Those are the Fair Folk I negotiated with from the position of strength.
Before becoming an Exalted myself - remember, I was still an unproven mortal.
After transgressing on their turf, which - in that area - would grant them "rights" over my soul.
Insolence, you say? It's part of the genre!
Hey, the very reason we were there was totally S&S: my mentor in sorcerous arts sent me to harvest the poison of a ancient god-snake as big as several houses. We were in the process - the god-snake didn't mind, as nothing less than a deer counted as worthy of his menu, and he likes when people use his poison to make medicine - when the Fair Folk came.

Thing this place, the mortals live on the huge trees, hundreds of meters high. The Fair Folk and undead, by ancient contract, don't go up - but anyone who gets down, can be freely feasted upon.
As they put it after appearing at midnight, "by an ancient contract, you're ours - but please amuse us, we're willing to listen to your pleading..."
Me: "Well, I'm rich. I can buy 10 slaves and lower them to you here, or 20 slaves".
"An unscrupulous one? I like that! Let's negotiate."
"...but for 20 slaves, you make a volt-face, leave, and make sure we're not disturbed by anyone else in the next two days and nights".
I was willing to suffer their presence in the vicinity for the next couple of days.
And, as I pointed out to them, they can kill me in unimaginably awful ways, or they can get 10 or 20 other souls to feed on in the same way.
"She alone is worth more than that", they said, pointing to my Lunar companion.
"You don't stand a chance to catch her, anyways."
"We had captured her already. Didn't she tell you?"
"When was that?"
As it turned out, 50 or 60 years ago. The Exalted live for much longer.
My character had been around Exalted (Dragon-Blooded Exalted, but still) his whole life. He just smirked, knowing that in 50 years, an Exalted martial artist, like the Lunar, can go from initiate to master.
"Good luck capturing her again. Anyways, I'm negotiating for myself - she can climb those trees back faster than you can imagine, I've seen it. So, what's your word?"
Basically, I got them to the point where they wanted the slaves, and they wanted me. Decision points...
So the solution of the fair folk lady was to try and seduce me to give them both. With loads of Willpower, I resisted - much to her dismay - though she was tempting, and my character does like seductive women like her.
Of course, I knew she could just decide to take my soul anyway. So my rejection was formulated in the language of stories.
"No, much as you're's still a no. Though it's tempting!"
"Then why don't you come?"
"Ah, but consider what the story would be: I met a beautiful fair folk lady, and we fucked in the forest. Sounds like a young buck vaunting his exploits! Boring! But then, consider instead this story: I came across a beautiful woman of the Fair Folk, seductive as a dream, who wanted me for her bed - but despite me wanting her as well, we could never do that, for the mortals are too different. So we separated, still longing for each other...Now, that's a story! It speaks of wishes unfulfilled, of burning lust and desire left unsatisfied - because of higher reasons. It is a tragedy to the participants, and hints at deeper truths and plot devices at work, and yes, maybe, of a continuation!"
She was instantly sold, and thus the negotiation concluded;).
And when they left, I was feeling great, excited and powerful, while the Lunar almost had to pick her jaw off the grass.
Not the least, because I was shining in gold.
With the colours, and caste mark, of the Swords of the Dawn.
My laughter erupted. I went after the Fair Folk, and used that surge of power, such as I haven't felt since then, to kill the hobgoblins guards of the Fair Folk Nobles, to break off the man's hands and legs, and knock the lady out. I brought them back.
I had noticed the Lunar felt all tense just by seeing them.
"Was any of them displeasing towards you during your captivity, dear?"
"He most certainly was!"
I handed her my knife, handle first.
"Start cutting him. If you cut him too little, I'll finish him off."
She took her time, and he was dead at the end. In the meantime, I bound the woman before she would wake, and spoke with the ancient god about myself.
What was I now?
Was I really the incarnation of an all-powerful sorceror who would destroy my soul, as the Immaculate Monks had taught me?
Should I suicide?
"In all fights, the history is written by the victors, do you not know? The ones that lost are always guilty!"
Of course, being a Patrician, I'd seen that already, Dragon-Blooded Exalted brethren had no qualms about acting like that in front of me.
"Some of them were mad. Others were still kind, and caring", was the ancient god's verdict. "It's up to you what you would become".
In a way, that made it even harder to decide what to do next.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Interview with the lead designer of the Gor RPG

In other news, the Gor RPG is out!
And I interviewed the game designer, James Desborough from PostMortem Studios, for my blog.

If you need an intro, you can assume I said "Hi, Mr. Desborough. Let me ask you a few questions about the Gor game you just published for my Characters and Flashing Blades blog".

Question by Asen Georgiev and the CaFB blog: Mr. Desborough, please assume I don't know what Gor is and have never read any novels (which would be utterly wrong, but you get the idea). How would you present me Gor as a setting for RPGs? 

Answer by James "Grim" Desborough: I would say that it is a setting in the tradition of Planetary Romance. I think it has a lot in common with Barsoom, but where that was - perhaps - challenging the propriety of its era (with nudity and treating 'coloured' people as equal and superior) Gor challenges more of our sexual preoccupations and gender politics. That was part of a general cultural shift in the 60s and 70s with both 'free love' and the pill making an impact, but also the impact of feminism. 

Another way you could put it, I suppose, is as the bastard child of Conan and Velikovsky, with a dash of BDSM aesthetic and a fetish for the classics.

Q: You said it yourself: Gor is known as a world with heavy BDSM elements. Are you going to try and market the book to members of that particular sub-culture? 

A: I'm unsure exactly how to reach them as a market. Perhaps advertising on Fetlife? *Chuckle* I don't know. I've more focussed on trying to reach the existing (soft) RP communities in Second Life and webchat etc. 

Q: I see that you clearly present Gor as a "pulp" world, which - I agree - is how it started, and how it should be. But how does that jive with the d6 system, which can be notoriously lethal? 

A: Gor is a pretty lethal world too. Pulps can certainly be very lethal. I've compensated for this some by providing an 'honour' system, to simulatneously encourage 'Gorean' behaviour and to insulate a little from the deadliness. 

Q: Why did you pick Gor as a setting, especially since we both know it's got, how to put it, "associated cultural baggage"? 

A: I've enjoyed the books since I was a teenager. I've always thought that it would make an interesting setting for a roleplaying game given its fantastical elements, well developed societies and cultures and the 'frisson' that comes with that baggage. I'd written lots of homebrews and ideas for it over the last 25 years or so and then decided to take the plunge. Part of it's just because I like the books, some because of their personal meaning to me (and no, I don't think all women should be slaves or any of that other nonsense, I just mean they mean a lot to me). Part of it is because the double standards around sex and violence in games has always bothered me and part of it is because I was told I couldn't or shouldn't, which is a red rag to a bull. 

Q: Bondage and slavery is part of the novels the setting is based on, and slaves aren't exactly treated kindly. How do you suggest the GMs should proceed if the PCs are captured - a fate that has (repeatedly) befallen even Tarl Cabbot, the protagonist of most Gor books? 

A: Slavery is much more apparent in the books than it is canonically in the societies that Norman presents in his books. The figures he gives are that - perhaps - 5% of the population are slaves and the majority of that are male work slaves, out of sight and out of mind. So the impression many have isn't necessarily accurate... that said, slavery is - thematically - a huge part of the books and the world and so unavoidable. Slavery presents a good alternative to total-party-kills and there's always a chance to escape or, thematically, to become happy in that bondage and turn one's master or mistress to one's side. That's another recurring theme. For my part, I'd 'metagame' it a little, see what the players wanted and plot the following games that way. 

Q: Slavery  does indeed present a good alternative to total-party-kills. Does the system provide for means to capture someone? A threshold where the characters are incapacitated, but not yet dead; grappling (that's easier to apply than the grapple rules in d20, preferably!); less-lethal strikes; or others? 
A: There's a limited 'death spiral' inspired by one of the few good things about D&D4e and the capacity to render people insensible. So it's anticipated to an extent. I may expand on that some in a supplement. One of the next supplements will have rules for 'breaking' people, applicable to NPCs only, torture and slave training. The slave training thing is rather Gor specific, but torture is something that's common in games but not much addressed. I felt that the necessity to handle this kind of thing for a game created an opportunity to tackle that. 

Q: While you say that there's always a chance to escape and this happens in the novels, and I fully agree with your "metagame" approach - hopefully it's in the GM's advice - I'd argue that it's much more common for the protagonists in the novels to turn the tables on the master or mistress when said master or mistress is in trouble. It's also a recurring theme (and a good reason to NOT have slaves). It's *usually* the secondary characters that get used to it and try to bring the Master/Mistress to the other side. Are you addressing those options in the GM advice section (both "slaves are going to betray you", and "you can betray your master to his or her enemies, though watch out if you do")? 

A: Not so much, I've more tried to anticipate the PC side of things since 'loss of agency' is always a bummer when you're a player. 

Q: In the Gor novels, John Norman - or rather his protagonist Tarl Cabbot, I'd argue - has taken multiple stances that would be offensive to contemporary readers (to note: women are happiest as slaves, that homosexuality is unnatural and doesn't happen in a "sane" society, and that Earth's society is trying to emasculate men - I'm probably missing a few). Does the world book address those matters? How? 

A: I don't know that this is entirely true. Homosexuality is relatively prominent in one of his books as a plot-point and the Panther Girls are certainly implicitly if not explicitly, lesbian or bisexual. Men and women of Earth prove to be quite capable when on Gor - Jason and Tarl especially. 

I take these, at least the ones I agree exist as part of the world he presents, to be fictional precepts upon which the world is build, same as any other game. 'There are multiple intelligent races', 'Magic exists', 'Aliens have visited Earth in the past' seem little different to me than similar thought experiments around sexuality etc. For my part I think it's the realm of fantasy, common fantasies as that, so it doesn't bother me so much. I see reality and fantasy as distinct and trust readers to make the same distinction, just as I do with being wandering murderhobos! 

You can see an argument being made for a 'state of nature' being superior in some ways to our artificial world of concrete and plastic and I think some people have sympathy for that. It is, of course, a naturalistic fallacy but still, I think that's part of the appeal of the fantasy for some people - as it is with survival and post-apocalyptic games and fiction. 

I don't particularly address these things, I do try to contextualise them within our society as it exists now, something I got criticised for already, though I thought it was important. Rather I try to emphasise that your game world is your own. I don't think I get to dictate how people should play. I can only control what I mean and recommend. 

Q: I haven't read all the Gor books, so I guess I've missed which one has relatively prominent homosexuality (but some quick Googling suggested it's Magicians of Gor - Asen and the CaFB blog). What I do remember is that in Blood-Brothers of Gor, the character thinks how relationships between males are due to a deficiency in Earth's sexuality. Let it be clear, are you treating such statements (or those about slaves) as true in the universe of the game, or as only true in-the-head-of-Tarl? 

A: I've suggested that these things are less common, and that trans is likely less common too - Red Savages not withstanding - and that intersex conditions probably barely exist (Goreans are rather unforgivingly Spartan when it comes to children). I have, however. This isn't a personal judgement, just the way I have interpreted the world and how it might treat these things. The homosexuality aspect I've taken from the book that covers it, but a lot had to be inferred. Given so much of Gor's inspiration comes from the Greeks and Romans though... I don't think people have much to worry about. It was important to present the world as written. I didn't feel it was my place to interpret, but to suggest. 

Q: The setting also has the Priest-Kings imposing a world-wide technological embargo on Gor, which purposefully limits weapon technologies (they kill the perpetrators in a rather impressive fashion, for the uninitiated). What should the GMs do if a PC tries to make a gun? 

A: In the books the Priest Kings have become more distant and intervene less and less. It can take some time for such interventions to happen. I would start with a small chance of them being found out and destroyed for making or using such a weapon and crank up the chance the more and more they use it, while having NPCs etc warn them. The Priest Kings would likely prefer to eliminate them in front of an audience so... I wouldn't pull any punches, but I'd take my time. 

Q: The system you picked for this project is the d6 system. Why do you think it is a good fit for the Gor setting? 

A: I'm anticipating getting some 'noobs' into gaming via Gor. It already has a vibrant online roleplaying community in forums, chatrooms and Second Life - something I found out when doing research. As such I wanted the game to be accessible. D6 was used to power the West End Games version of Star Wars, which was also an heroic, science-fantasy game, so it seemed like a good fit. Second to Red Box D&D, D6 was probably the gateway drug to gaming for a lot of people in its time and so it seemed like a good fit. Character templates also work great for Gor's castes. 

Q: I think that d6 is probably at least fourth (after Vampire and maybe the d100 games, Runequest included) as a gateway to the hobby, but I do know that there is a Gorean roleplaying community. Are you trying to market your game to those people? If so, how do you explain to them why they need a system for the games they are already playing? 

A: I've suggested it primarily as a resource - the worldbook too. It's my hope that the game may provide a common ground for these many different RP communities, but we'll see. I am trying to appeal to them, with some success. We'll see how things go though. 

Q: Kinda related to the above, but not quite - does the way you present the setting differ in "World of Gor" and "Tales of Gor" ("Setting book" and "System", respectively)? I could see the setting book being more about the general society, while the game book being more focused on the details that concern PCs... 

A: I give a broad overview in 'Tales' and much more detail in 'World'. Some info is repeated. If you really want to dig deep into the setting then 'World' is necessary, but you could cope without it - and some understanding of the books. 

Q: Since I'm addressing the differences between the two books, let me ask about the system, too. What would you say to people that would take World of Gor, and use it with another system of choice? 

A: Go ahead! Whatever floats your boat!
As a system hacker myself though, I'm always interested in how people tweak systems and find inspiration all sorts of places. I daresay Tales could still be useful to them on that basis. 

Q: I understand that Tales of Gor has to be accessible. But you also mention that the future adventures would contain some additional rules. Does that mean that Tales of Gor is somehow "incomplete" as a game, from the point of view of RPG hobbyists? 

A: It's complete, adding additional rules etc to supplements is more intended to add value that pure adventures simply don't have and to tackle problems and ideas that couldn't justify page space in the main books. Think of it as... DVD extras, or Director Commentary. 

Q: Also, can you give us a list of what kind of rules are added in your current adventure? I wasn't able to find such a list in the adventure's description. 

A: The Tower of Art adventure contains rules for adding 'specialities' to your characters, particular areas of expertise in their skills. It just allows a bit more customisation and personalisation. I suspect a lot of additional rules will be similar, complications and special cases that aren't necessary for new players but will increase the complexity and depth for those that want that. 

Q: I hope it wouldn't offend you when I state that your reputation in RPG circles is best* described as "controversial", especially when it comes to certain topics that other people consider more sensitive than you do. It's also fair to say that most of your critics don't really appreciate Gor. Was picking Gor as a setting (at least in part) a big "fuck you" to your critics? 

A: I've been reading the books since I was 15. This project took years to pull off, unfortunately, it should have been much quicker. That's a lot of time, effort and sleepless night JUST to stick the middle finger up at someone. Is it partly a 'fuck you'? Sure, but it's also a genuine labour of love. 

After years of harassment etc. I still don't really understand my critics. I share most of their political viewpoints, just disagree on tactics. What seems to set me at odds is my differentiation between reality and fantasy and my commitment to free expression. I don't see either of these things as bad. 

Asen: Thank you for your time, Mr. Desborough!

*For the benefit of readers, I have to note that Mr. Desborough is a veteran game designer with multiple games to his name. However, that's 1) not part of my question and 2) even some people that have never read one of those books have heard the critics levelled at him. 

Feel free to copy and paste that interview, to use it commercially or non-commercially, as long as you mention the name of the interviewer Asen R. Georgiev. Of course, the responsibility for any further use is on you.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

My Low Fantasy/Mythras setting

I am working on my own setting (and might publish it this time...). I already posted two NPCs from it.

So, here's what I want from said setting:
A place where weapons and emotions are the only magic.
That's the setting I'm working on...dual-statted for Low Fantasy RPG and Mythras (I've been toying with the idea of making it tripple-statted for Cepheus/Traveller, and/or one of The Riddle of Steel clones, too - but neither is part of it yet). 

Why, you ask me? It resolves "the supremacy of spellcasters" and the complaints about "how can I do a monk and why do I need a weapon" in one fell swoop. And I just like weapons being magic.

Since there's no magic, and a person can only be so strong and skilled, people are your only real, nigh-infinite resource for achieving greatness. You can't defeat an army...but you can lead your own army. Or you can work the army's strategist into committing a mistake, and defeating himself.

And the only way to control people, as we all know, is to appeal to their emotions. (Of course, that means finding out what they want, first. And catering to people's emotions is always taxing). 
And some of the people you meet are weapons with spirits inside. Others are demons. Both can give you great a cost, because they also have emotions. Granted, not all of them have the emotions you'd consider sane, but then that applies to those people of flesh, blood and human parents, too... 

Swords (and other weapons) 
It's important to note that the Spirit Weapons aren't always swords. Sometimes, they're something else, but always have steel parts (making shields and iron-shod staffs eligible).

One thing is for certain: they're virtually indestructible, and never need sharpening (nor is it possible, even if they're less sharp than you wanted them to be - as might be the case with some anti-armour implements, if you ever get to a place where people walk around mostly naked). You never clean rust, nor does it impact the functioning of the weapon, if it's there (on some rare* cases). 
Last note: a true demon can never become a weapon. Only once-godlings can, and they can only be weapons. Because weapons are holy.
Don't hope to have both, though. Neither of them are into sharing, and even less are into sharing with another kind. To find two different ones that don't mind, is so unlikely as to be virtually impossible. 

The POWERZ of thy sword! 
First and most obvious: they give you bonuses and penalties on some Passions. And they demand that you indulge in those that they give you bonuses for, and avoid those where you have least they don't make it harder for you to obey. And obeying makes you happy (that's listed here, because a naturally violent person who gets another shot of magic weapon-inspired violence might become a murder machine with no special powerZ needed - but you get those anyway). Keep in mind, it's never just "violence+20%", it's "violence against equals", "violence against groups", and so on. It's never "Love+20%", it's "love for your lawful wife+20%", or "love all the nice women+20%". 

The next thing you get...depends on the weapon's personality. 
A weapon that can be any other weapon? A weapon that can fly to your hand? A weapon that can help you teleport, as long as you already are wielding it? A weapon that sheathes itself in flame, or ice, or spits lightining or acid in the enemy's face? An weapon that gives you wings? An weapon that executes your wishes, but at a price? 
The important thing is, they all have it "theme". That's because they all have spirits inside, dontchaknow, and spirits have...well, personalities. 
And all NPC personalities have a "theme", even if the "theme" is "person living in the Wild West and driving cattle around". Or, for a fantasy game, "a normal Nemedian guy who hopes his skill at arms would help him get ahead in life". 
Or, in the case of weapons, The Noble Eagle, the Principle of Cutting, the Principle of Insertion, and The One Who Spots Everything (beware of ever meeting The Ruthless Ferret, though - he kills for fear, profit, pleasure, glory, infamy, food, because someone was in reach and his head was conveniently situated to shear off, and because once you start, you might as well go for the full round...) 

The Noble Eagle has the powers of Sight (including through objects), See Magic, Flight, Paralysis, Telekinesis** and Longevity. He wants riches,  power, but be ready for you your sex drive to take a plunge: eagles fuck once a year, after all, and he finds it distracting. 

Farseer also gives you Sight, but also DarkSight, See Magic, and only then Flight (to get to better vantage points), and Longevity. He's quite close to The Noble Eagle, but while he respects the Eagle, the Eagle secretly envies Farseer. His desires are Curiosity, Respect, and Sex (being able to see people naked either makes you horny, or jaded, but being jaded doesn't match well with his curiosity). However, he lowers your desire for mass violence: Farseer prizes understanding and showing off the knowledge so obtained, not killing off. He very much wants battles with worthy opponents, though: what's better than figuring out the weakness of a man with no weaknesses? 

Cleancutter is probably his stellar opposite, yet the two are, for some reason, close friends. Cleancutter allows you Power Cuts, Transformation (of Cleancutter, not yourself - you can always carry him like a knife, if only a knife is allowed, or as a glaive, if you face a horseman), Spirit-cutting, Wounding, and allows you to sever causality to get what you want by merely making a symbolic cut in the air. However, something is going to happen, as a price: when you cut the strings of causality, expect backlash! (Also: karma is a bitch). 

You get the idea.

*Rusty weapons are alternately said to have spots on their souls, or to be weeping...forever. Or both. 
**You suck being an eagle if you can't carry your prey off, if it's struggling, and eagles are long-lived. 

P.S.: Those are the versions of Farseer and Cleancutter that I'm using. They might well be different in your campaign.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Farseer, Lord of Glorious Battle and Cleancutter, Red Rainbow Amidst The Rain Drops!

I'm running a campaign for Low Fantasy RPG, on-and-off...meaning "any time that the WHoOG campaign isn't running for one reason or another". We are playing Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, and I'm behind with the updates again - it's just that we play more often than that!

I'm also planning to make it into a setting supplement...or mini-supplement, we'll see. I'm not even trying to hide that my main inspiration for that are the Books of Twelve Swords by Fred Saberhagen, the French RPG Bloodlust, and Earthdawn's magic items. (Well, I hear Dave Arneson himself has been putting magic swords in his setting as important part of the magic, but I don't know anything else. Either way, it's nice to know I'm following good tradition!)
The first thing that you'd notice if you played in this campaign, would be...that there's no Wizard class. Want magic? Find an item.
Most such items are weapons. For a reason that's part of the setting's lore.

And now, let me introduce you two NPCs from this campaign!

Farseer, Lord of Valorous Battle looks like a slender Type XIX (with side rings), according to Oakeshott's typology. He's black as night, and carries a symbol of the Iron God (which I decided to adopt in my setting...though he might turn out to be just a namesake).
He's made of cold iron, of course.
The first power he always gives to any user is the ability to see the invisible, including in the dark. This was already used to notice a dryad hiding in her own tree. (Previous unscrupulous owners have used it to see through clothes, as Farseer would tell you - not that he's hinting at anything...he's not a pervert at all!)
Later it might be upgraded to "seeing magic emanations".
Then, he'd give you the power of sprouting wings (for a time), and then having them retract.
And if he likes you well enough, then he would make you unaging. Forget
He has one more power that he seldom grants to any user. Speculations abound as to what is might be: Does he teach the owner deadly counters, coupled with sixth sense? Grant stunning beauty? Allow the limited use of a Forbidden Wish (1/lunar month)? Immunity to fire? Control over water?
Is it even only one power, or does he just hold back several things he doesn't give access to, except as required?
One thing is for sure: Farseer doesn't want you to kill many people. He wants you to avoid fights, except with enemies that would provide a valorous combat. He's very much a "quality over numbers" guy!
And yes, the sword is a "he", most definitely, as he'd tell you if you ever met. It's just an accident most of his wielders have been female, and good-looking at that...funny coincidence, that!
Or, as it often works with those blades - is it a coincidence?

Cleancutter, Red Rainbow Amidst The Rain Drops looks like a mix between a Peidao and a Bulgarian sabre, with slightly bigger guard. And he's the bones long-dead gods, some would say.
Cleancutter is also silvered, which might or might not explain his colour.
The first power he'd give you is the power of sudden, deep cuts. Which is something all swords do, in a way - but he can decapitate an enemy regardless of armour (which normal swords can't do).
The second power he would reveal is his ability to change shapes temporarily. So, if you need to enter a palace, you could have Cleancutter as an inoffensive dagger on your belt (though he'd remind you about that...) A rider attacking you? Cleancutter can be your halberd or pike. Someone grappled you? Cleancutter can become tigerclaws affixed to your wrist.
The third power is his ability to drink souls of your enemies, and grant you parts of their abilities (or just of their lifeforce, should you need it - and yes, if you didn't need it, this can prolong your "natural" lifespan a lot, preventing aging, much like Farseer's ability).
His fourth power is the ability to hurt even targets that are far away.
His fifth and subsequent powers are subject to speculation, too. Does he grant true agelessness, regardless of killing? Does he cause wounds that can never stop bleeding, unless the user touches them with his blade again? Does he give you the power of bladedancing, which can allow you to protect a single target against any attack, even at the cost of your life? Does he allow you to stop any attack (1/ lunar month)? Does he hew the weapon of any enemy when you defend?
Or does he, as some claim, allow you to cut the binds of causality, granting you a Forbidden Wish for seemingly unconnected actions - but possibly at a terrible price?
Or, conversely, does he allow you to cut the ties that bind enemies to what they cherish? No doubt there would be a price for the ability to sever the love of the grieving wife for her perished husband, or the like - but what would it be?
Questions, questions...and no answers in sight. But a few things are for sure: he likes women (not as targets), money, and slaughter - not necessarily in that order. He's a "quantity over quality" kind of guy, unlike Farseer. And he's slower to give you his trust, but readily adits what (and how) he wants you to do.
Oh, and you should never call him Vorpy. Only Farseer gets away with that, at times...and he hates the price so much, he tries to avoid it.

Important: all magic weapons in my setting have the one obvious power of never needing sharpening, anti-rust measures, or the like. That's a separate power in Low Fantasy RPG which I decided to make a default in my setting.
But then, they're the only way to gain magic powers of any kind, so it makes sense to preserve them!