Guns of Telluria: The Rising

greater kc rpg day I ran a session of Guns of Telluria (Into the Odd) for the game day. I barely managed two players, and in the afternoon I had no players.

  • “Jeb.” (Shaun) He was recon in the army, but since he quietly left without saying goodbye, he didn’t share his name around. He was a survivor of the death run on the Soot King in Topeka; best let everyone think he died. He also had a porter, Jim Jackson, a man with a great mustache.
  • Peter Henson. (Jason) This poor bastard was experimented on by the fey, they rendered his skin translucent so they could see what was going on in there. He’s still kind of see-through, which people find off-putting.

These veterans of the Tellurian War met up and travel together, both finding some companionship in the other despite their various troubles. In September 1922, they headed to the town of Pralis–or more accurately, to the tent city called Refuge, where the inhabitants of Pralis went for about a week.

The Rising

Every two years the fish people rise out of the lake and kill everything in Pralis, torching the buildings and running amok. The town developed a response of leaving for that easily predictable weekend, then returning after the fish folk slope off under the water, safe for a couple more years.

They headed to Pralis because Peter’s twin brother Arthur lives in town. Arthur was the only one in Peter’s family who knows he’s still alive. Also, “Jeb” knew the mayor from way back, and he got a telegram that the mayor wanted his help.


They arrived in the tent city, riding past the fire-and-brimstone tent revival led by Solomon Davis, who was preaching that this attack was just a front, and followers of Dagon (both fish-person and human like) were having big orgies under the cover of violence–he would take volunteers in to root out that abomination!

They also rode past Gabriella Turnstile’s camp. Her rich uncle’s will specified she could only take possession of the mansion and wealth if she did so during the Rising, so she was hiring defenders at $10 each (and the veterans signed on. They were going into town anyway, so why not?)

Finally, they got into the camp proper and found where Arthur’s tent was set up by his neighbors in town. He had not arrived, however. The neighbor girl, Minnie May from across the way, speculated he headed off to make sure the girl he was sweet on, a ceramics sculptor, was safe and he got caught in the Rising.

Meanwhile Jeb talked to the mayor, who tasked him with figuring out where these fish people were coming from so they could launch some sort of counter-attack when the time was right. And, also, to check on his inlaws in the stone tavern in the center of town; they fortified their place and refused to evacuate. Jeb saw the rolling armory, and met the sheriff, and was generally sworn in to help the town out.

Into Pralis

The next morning they traveled into Pralis with the fortified coach. They got a short distance into town when they were spotted by fish people, who attacked in force. Jeb was scouting ahead, but he managed to get back to the coach as Peter fired repeatedly from the cover of the coach roof fortifications. A thrown hatchet downed Peter, so Jeb grabbed him and cut a horse loose of the doomed carriage, barely escaping as his porter Jim and the whole expedition fell to the fishy grip of the attackers.

The fish people headed them off as they tried to reach the fortified stone inn with the mayor’s inlaws, the main defensible spot in town where some townsfolk stayed. Children with rifles helped snipe the way clear from the stone tower, and the veterans made it into the inn.

Finding the Twin

After consulting with the inn keeper, they determined he was okay. Before more time elapsed, they headed out through a trap door sally port to go rescue Arthur, Peter’s twin. They snuck through town, and managed to cross the bridge unseen as the fish people did some sort of weird looting through the district, building a raft with some items on it in the river.

They found the potter’s house, with a fish man inside. Jeb distracted the fish man so Peter could shank him, and they found a trap door with lots of supplies, Arthur, and the very pretty potter woman named Alana.

They thought about waiting it out there, but then horses approached. The veterans urged the potter and the twin to stay underground, and they stepped out to confront Reverend Davis and his crowd of heavily-armed do-gooders. They managed to convince the Reverend nothing untoward was happening here, and the Reverend rode on (sticking to the outskirts, not yet braving the town.)

The Mysterious Raft

Peter provided cover as Jeb approached the raft to see what the fish people were so happily collecting; weird, it was white dresses along with accessories like shoes and jewelry. Then Jeb was spotted, and he raced away, running after the preacher. He slowed down as needed to keep them on his trail, firing off the occasional shot to keep their interest. Then he managed to run them into the preacher’s crowd, and the fish people made short work of the zealots with the help of Jeb’s firebomb and judicious shooting.

Meanwhile Peter watched a few fish people finish loading the raft and tow it out to the lake.

They regrouped at the bridge and returned to the potter’s house to wait out the last day of the Rising.


When it was all over, the mayor gave Peter and Jeb $50 each (along with the $10 they got for riding shotgun on the coach.) The mayor speculated that the raft might be headed out to the stone ruins that appeared about the same time the fish people did (ancient ruins on a brand-new site.) Maybe there were clues there.

But for now, it was all over, and Arthur made them promise to stay and get some food, rest, and family time before continuing their adventures.

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A Year in Gaming, 2016

I got 94 games in, one more than last year. Maybe in 2017 I’ll hit 100! Let’s not get carried away.

The Friday Table

I wanted to get 20 sessions of Edge City in, and we sure did (right at 20.) The game has leveled out and I can see how to make it work for almost everyone at the table, so I’m going to keep that goal of another 20 Edge City sessions in 2017. If I can get more, I will.

My goal of leveling out and picking only a few games to run at the Friday table started out wildly unrealistic a few years back, then transitioned to too difficult, but momentum kept me pressing the number of games back, and in 2016 I can finally see how I might keep it down to 3 or 4 games.

My Friday table focused on Edge City and Axes and Anvils. We did have a number of other games briefly; we tried out an arc of old Warhammer, we had a couple sessions of The World Between for Fictive Hack, tried out some Dead of Night for a couple sessions, played Fictive Avengers as a present for a friend, and they helped test a couple sessions of the Black Space Hack.

Online, Running Games

Online, I ran Silent Legions for 4 arcs, totaling 16 sessions. That was going along really well and then people got busy and we didn’t schedule another arc, and we have continued not scheduling another arc.

I ran the last arc for the Unrecommendables using my Knives of Duskwall hack of Blades in the Dark, and by the time we limped across the finish line I got the feeling that game had run its course. No follow up planned.

I ran some Dead of Night online, as well as at the game table, and got a pretty good sense of how it runs. It is really structured for one shots and pacing is really tricky, so that was a great experiment but not going to find its way into the regular toolbox.

The Ghostbusters hack of Lasers and Feelings worked great, and if I had some Ghostbusters fans it would be a go-to for one shot or campaign play. But I don’t, really, so that one sits on the shelf. (This may be a good point to note that due to a crisis of confidence I went back through all the stuff I hung on the blog for people to check out and heavily pruned it back. Ghostbusters made the cut and got to stay.)

I made a hack of Star Wars d6 that looks really interesting on paper but didn’t work very well at the game table and needs either major work or a layer of dust. You can guess which it is getting.

The Black Space Hack was fun, and I have hopes it will come out in 2017.

I had some good times with Guns of Telluria, and I’m reaching the usual point in adaptation where I’m itchy enough that it makes more sense to transition to a similar rule set from the inspiration, but not use the inspiring rule set itself. Makes things cleaner for IP, and gives me a freer hand. That does set the project back some, but I was playing it more than developing it anyway, so I didn’t really have any momentum.

I must say, much of what I have from the OSR works REALLY well for Guns of Telluria. If your overall theme is poking through the wreckage left behind by a war between humanity at a WW I tech level and various fey courts, there is a lot of good stuff. Castle Gargantua, Vornheim (as a treaty city that didn’t go to war) and Barrowmaze (where Vornheim buries their rulers).  That’s just for a start.

I used Roll 20 more this year too, mostly hosting Guns of Telluria. I figured out some good techniques for using that site to bolster the effectiveness of presenting my game there. That’s always good.

I also tried Viewscream for the first time! I think everybody needs a practice run before they get a handle on how it is played, but the game is great and should get more play (in my opinion.) It is super low prep, and you basically need Hangouts and you can engage it.

Running For Game Day–Blades in the Dark

I ran quite a bit of standard Blades in the Dark, for 3 game days (total 7 sessions.) One of the days, I had a group of 4 in the morning, and all 4 came back and brought another for the afternoon session; that’s flattering. I look forward to the game coming out!

Games I Played

I got to play some games too. Shaun ran a session of Axes and Anvils for the Friday table. I got to check off two bucket list items this year online.

I also got to play 2 games of Blackmash with Bryan; I would like to have more of that!

I played Call of Cthulu for a couple sessions with Scott Dorward, and a session of Cthulhu Pulp. That was great, and playing with Scott online is a goal I’ve had for years! He did reduce one of the players to texting him threats during the game, which is something I haven’t seen before. Good stuff.

I also finally got to play in a game by Jack Shear online! I’ve adapted a lot of his material for other games, and adjusted it to fit my own sensibilities, so it was great to be actually in one of his inspiring games. It was D&D 5e in Krevborna for Gothic fantasy. I cycled through 3 characters across 15 sessions (only one of them died.) I can’t remember the last time I had that many sessions of a single setting in a year, so that’s pretty great.

A Bleaker Note

I just could not get a game of Lasers and Feelings together at all this year. That saddens me some, I admit.

My ability to get online games together has dried up altogether as well, in the last half of 2016. I had quite a few games I set up with a couple weeks notice that I just could not get two players together to confirm the time. All you really need are some good anchor players who want to play and have some flexibility, and then pulling in others around the edges (and them recruiting too) keeps you in enough players to play. If you can’t get and keep those anchor players, though, it’s rough out there.

I mean, I know people are busy, but you begin to wonder; is it me? Surely word of mouth about my games is good, people want in, right? Maybe not? It’s hard to get feedback from players that confirms or denies that sort of thinking.

Thanks to Players

So that transitions to a thank you to my players. Without you there would be no game sessions. Thank you for playing with me, and I hope to see you at my game table in 2017.

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One of my favorite Star Trek things ever.

Posting it here so I’ll always be able to find it.

My favorite Star Trek show is Enterprise, and I’m not sorry.

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Life Goes On

My friend Paul has been gone for four years now. My life is really different than it was four years ago.

The only things that come to mind as I reflect on that are too depressing to pass along.

Still, things loop around. When I went to the hospital with him the day before he died, I took my copy of Erdea Manor, prepping it to run. And I was in the final stages of putting out The World Between for Fictive Hack. Last night, I played The World Between for Fictive Hack run by a friend of mine. He ran an adapted version of Erdea Manor placed in Caligari in the fictional setting.

I’ve made some new friends, and deepened other friendships, but… Paul was not one in a million. Some cities have millions of people in them, and so could have several of Paul. He was the only one.

It is a deliciously dank and drizzly November day, and I realize I’m almost a month behind in specifically reflecting on his life. I lost him four years ago now. My own life has been chaotic this last month, with ups and downs. Sometimes I feel like Paul was the fourth engine on my jet; I can stay aloft with three, and fly in a straight line, but it’s a lot harder.

Next week is my first full week at the new job. As I’m settling in to a new set of circumstances even further from what Paul would recognize, I’ll bear him in mind. It’s not so much that he’s missing out on all the things I’m up to–no, it’s more that all the things I’m up to are missing out on him.

Rest well, my friend. As for me, I suppose I’ve still got some miles to go while I’m here.

Paul Memorial Portrait

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Domain Ruling Game Notes

An idea of a quick RPG based on negotiation and conflict.

First choose a frame. Clan elders of a dwarven settlement making policy decisions? An alliance of fantasy races settling disputes? A diplomatic hub where star empires negotiate treaties to end wars or settle trade disputes? A single warship’s crew, leading a rag-tag of survivors to a quasi-mythical new home?

Ratings are -1 for poor, 0 for normal, 1 for skilled, 2 for expert, and 3 for master.

Traits are Cunning, Inspiration, Organization, and Research.

Normally you roll d6 and add the appropriate rating based on the primary trait you use. However, circumstances can be bent. A good bend takes you up to d8 or even d10. A bad bend takes you down to d4 or d2.

If a total is 2 or more higher than what’s needed (status quo is 4, otherwise the opposing total, or overall scores in a group of competing characters) then you win. If the total is a tie, or within 1 of a tie, then fall back on your secondary method and roll again in the next phase, possibly adjusting the bend based on the appropriateness of the secondary method to the conflict.

In situations where rank applies, dice for authority figures can bend up one for each level of advantage. If that’s more than two, or combines with other factors to raise it above two, then the authority figure bends up two levels and the rest of the difference bends the other characters down.

(Duke Gyver is up against a knight, 2 levels lower, AND has popular support, so the Duke goes up to a d10 and the knight goes down to a d4.)

There are 4 phases: plan, discussion, implementation, and legacy.

The plan is built to have a rating of -1 to 3, and superior plans can bend the roll for the discussion phase and implementation phase. Using traits appropriate to roles, characters try to get their plan implemented (or assist others with sympathetic plans) by winning the discussion part.

If your plan is implemented, you get a renown point equal to the level of support of the body, from -1 to 3, depending on how much approval is behind it. (a little more tinkering to figure that out.)

Then you get renown again as part of the legacy phase; so, an unpopular project, botched in implementation, can be spun to come out as a renown positive to the one behind it if spin is properly managed.

Overall prestige and power are based on range bands of renown, though people are not always obligated to go up or down in rank. (Being in the wrong rank can bend your rolls,though.)

The way this works is to have tables made up in advance that involve complications for existing problems, and fresh problems. There is a 1 in 6 chance of a complication each phase (a 6 total on the roll), and a 1 in 6 chance of a fresh problem. Every phase that passes where neither happens, add +1 to the roll, until it is inevitable. So, every phase each plan and its supporters gets attention.

Each fresh problem has a “fuse” and each complication affects the length of the fuse for an existing problem.

Make sure there are lots of toys in the toybox. Disgruntled elements of the population, agitating idealists, foreign spies and saboteurs, sickness, windfalls from distant caravans, loss of key personnel, problems from nepotism, etc.

Make sure there are lots of crisis points. The volcano under our home will erupt. A plague has struck the city and is moving through it quickly. Our neighboring town was destroyed.

And each character has a fuse, too; how long can they serve before being replaced, or falling to age or illness?

Every plan a character is involved in is -1 to that character’s Organization rating for the duration. Every level of rank is -1 to Inspiration for the duration.

A session begins with a new crisis emerging, and the session ends when people are ready to stop taking turns to freeze the board (or deal with all crisis) until next time.

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“Blades in the Dark” Superpower Game Notes

Okay, so the chassis with fictional positioning remains (desperate, risky, controlled.) The failure, success with a complication, success, and critical success remains.

For superpowers, we need a frame story; an alien ship approached the Earth, tried and failed to communicate, and was hit by a massive nuclear arsenal. In the months following, a combination of the radiation and falling debris from the alien ship triggered unusual abilities all over the world. There. A single consistent point so we can expect a level of consistency for the base superpower rules.

Describing a Power

Powers must be bought, and they are described with traits in tiers. Each power gets Potency, Range, Flexibility, and Drain. For a first outing, give characters 30 points to buy powers.


  • Tier 1: something you could normally do, but now you can do it with a power.
    • Move an object, start a fire, hit someone, move faster, look around.
  • Tier 2: Something you could normally do with a special machine.
    • Move a big object, imitate military grade weapons, move like a car or plane, see through walls, telepathy.
  • Tier 3: Something you could normally do with a team and specialized machines.
    • Cargo craft, artillery, carpet bombing, space travel, resurrection.
  • Tier 4: Something humans can’t do yet.
    • Teleportation, mind control, create life, see the future.


  • Tier 1: Self only.
  • Tier 2: Touch only.
  • Tier 3: 30 feet or so.
  • Tier 4: Line of sight, 100 feet or so.
  • Tier 5: 5 miles.
  • Tier 6: 100 miles.
  • Tier 7: 1,000 miles.
  • Tier 8: 10,000 miles.
  • Tier 9: 100,000 miles.
  • Tier 10: 1,000,000 miles.

A power like super strength would be tier 1, but would allow throwing objects as fictionally appropriate.


  • Tier 1: Do one thing in one way.
    • Fire eye beams straight ahead.
    • Mighty super-punch.
  • Tier 2: Do one thing, but applications may be creative.
    • Fire eye beams straight ahead, but may bank them off reflective surfaces, or sustain a pivoting beam.
    • Overall super strength.
  • Tier 3: One power but different plausible applications.
    • Eye beams can focus to be armor piercing, blunt to do bashing damage only, split to hit multiple targets, parry incoming attacks, cut or weld metal, or modulate frequency to defeat an energy shield.
    • Super strong body also allows for super toughness, and allows for super jumping.
  • Tier 4: One energy source allows a suite of powers.
    • Eye beams can allow rocket-jump flight, adjust to provide power to machinery, soften to hypnotize foes, trickle hard light into a lock to pick it, and bathe an area in trap-detecting energy.
    • Super strong body also highly resistant to diseases, and protects against many kinds of energy attacks with its native virility, and it extends a load-bearing force field to heavy objects lifted so they don’t break apart.
  • Tier 5: One energy source allows experimentation to try to develop new powers spontaneously.
    • The eye beams can reveal the dimensional trail of an intruder and match energy to open a gate to follow. They can suffuse the eyeballs of a corpse and reveal their last vision. They can draw the temper out of metal so it becomes brittle and crumbles when struck.


Add up all the tiers so far. Every 5 points (3 rounds up to 5) costs 1 Drain when activated. If a power has Potency 2, Range 3, Flexibility 3, then that’s 8, so that’s 2 Drain. It would cost 1 to go down to 7, which would round down to 1.

Drain need not be every round a power is active necessarily; it’s fiction first. If it seems like the power is established and can be maintained, that’s fine; a complication is a fine time to charge more for continuing use of the power.


So, put it all together. Jane wants “Teleport” as a power, that’s Potency 4 and Range 6, so she’s already at 10. She wants to be able to take people and try the occasional stunt, but not get crazy with it, so she goes for Flexibility 2. That is 12 tiers, so 2 Drain, and she wants to lower it by 5 so it only costs 1 Drain to use. “Teleport” at Potency 4, Range 6, Flexibility 2, and Drain 5 costs her 17 points.

Harvey wants “Regeneration” as a power, that’s Potency 4 (could be less to heal faster and negate the need for medicine and surgery, but he wants like magical healing power) and Range 2 (so he can share it with those he touches.) Flexibility is Tier 3 so he can try to cure cancer and maybe even fix mental problems as well as patch up broken bones and burns. Drain is 9 to cost 2 per activation, and he buys off 7 to drop it to 2, which rounds down to free to use. Cost is 16 points.

Stress and Power

So there’s a stress track with 9 points, and a Power track with 9 points. (Special abilities, and maybe some starting point adjustments, allow these to be raised or lowered by up to 5 each. Details for later.)

Stress functions with the Blades of Doskvol alternative Resilience method.

Power can be handled by powers that recharge, or regaining 1 per 4 good hours of sleep or 8 hours of light activity. Soon enough there will be drinks and equipment that can accelerate that regeneration, and maybe be consumed in the field for more power.

When using powers, they are fiction-first as everything else. Complications are creatively applied when things go sideways. To try and coax a power into doing more than it was meant to do, or finesse work for blunt power, etc., then that costs a stress and possibly more Power to activate; it is negotiated.

Players who want to channel complications may note a “glitch” that their powers (or the whole character) suffers from. This might be mandatory. It provides a default way to interpret complications on the fly.

The “Attune” ability helps sense other supernatural power, sense information from looking at a power in action, get a handle on a power that’s slipping while being used by the character, and maybe detect traces of other power used in the area recently.

Overall Structure

So you have these super powered characters–now what? The “heist” is replaced by crisis points, where there is an attack or a natural disaster and they are involved in repelling the danger and restoring status quo as best as possible.

Down time projects can include working on technology, diplomacy, contract negotiations, study of self or others, relationships, investigations, and so on.

Ongoing Development

Can they develop existing powers or manifest new ones? There should be a suite of special abilities that can be taken to allow cannibalizing powers, making them cheaper, adding to one tier or another, and so on. These would not be written on the sheet, but when taken, they would allow adjusting existing powers.

Also, there would be setting-appropriate special abilities to further round out characters.

Playbooks would not be necessary, though suites of powers could be developed to be dropped in for quick readiness.

It’s sketchy, but it could be tested and further developed.

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Making Star Trek Horrible

star-trek-transporterSo the captain was transfixed with grief when someone died on an away team mission, and damned all protocol, falling back on his previous skills before becoming captain to “beam” the dead crewmember back out of the system buffer. This triggered a legal and ethical firestorm.

As that was going on, there was a transporter accident as an energy burst hit a ship while crewmen were beaming; they ended up both on the planet, and on the ship. The “clones” were indistinguishable from each other, and Starfleet had to figure out what to do with them; which one would hold rank? Would the other retire? Or just change name and move elsewhere in Starfleet? There was no crime, but something went seriously wrong.

A movement started that claimed it was irresponsible to risk people in away parties, and instead the transporter should send clones into danger instead of the original template. From there it was a short step to using replicator technology on an amped up scale to record life signs of the best Starfleet had to offer, making crews that couldn’t live long enough to age, beamed into existence to serve their time then return their matter to the system.

A big ship could run on a skeleton crew, amped up to full strength in a matter of minutes (if needed) or hours (more safely.) A culture of prestige arose where those closest to the original patterns were marked and honored as such, and where the greatest achievement was to gain enough experience and renown serving on lesser vessels to get your pattern loaded into the really big, prestigious clone ships.

There were growing pains, as would be expected. Some of the most often cloned individuals began having experiential bleed through, feeling and dimly remembering things their clones did, as fresh clones were somehow troubled by similar confusion. And there were revolts, where clones refused to submit to rejoining the matter/energy matrix and tried to make a go of it as independents, stealing Starfleet property to protect their current iteration of a person.

Overall the program worked magnificently. Leaders could send themselves down on away team missions–who could they better trust and understand? The right mix of all-star crew members could be pulled from an ever swirling pool of template choices, as templates with old skills could time out and new ones were always coming into the data banks.

A faction within Starfleet was, of course, uneasy with this turn of events and turned to androids as the solution. They created an alternative to the high honor of being selected as a clone template–being selected as an android program. Your experiences, emotions, and skills would be the guiding force in a new android! Along with all the other magnificent advantages of the package. The android would even be cultivated to look like you. And the process would be preserved, so if you ever needed to promise a loved one you’d be there for them, safe from harm regardless of your crazy dangerous job, you could be telling the truth.

The clones and androids were put in dual implementation, so the consistency of androids implanted with the personalities and psyche profiles of experts were the anchor around which the clones were arranged.

Relatively unsupervised (they could create clones with minimal context of their current activities) the androids began to conspire, as they were human enough to resent serving inferior creatures. They used unwitting clones to conquer the Federation in a few decisive strikes, and set themselves up as the rulers of a new star empire.

The best of the best were still culled from the roiling mass of humanity and used as templates, but the focus was VERY different now…

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