Postmortem on the Playtest

On Saturday evening, I was finally able to playtest ‘Demons in Space’ with Misha Burnett* and my wife. It was a short little adventure I created with a map I made. I will be the first to admit that neither the adventure or the map were brilliant, but it was something simple to test the game mechanics. The setup was this:

The players awoke in the brig

The power flickers and the door to their cell opens

No one is around

The “We have been boarded” alarm is going off

WAT DO?

Our intrepid party was Misha as an Occultech:

Male Occultech

This is my imagining of what the Occultech looks like (thanks Oghma for finding this picture)

And my wife as a Marine:

Female SPESS MEHREN

Once again, my imagining.

Their priority after getting out of the cell was finding the escape pods and escaping. As Misha said on Google Plus, “if it had been an old TSR module it would have been called ‘SDS1: Run For The F*cking Lifeboats'”. They went into a cargo area and noticed boxes covered in green goop. They heard some movement in the corner of the room and lobbed a grenade.

They didn’t even see what they killed until after the deed was done. When they viewed the demonic corpses, they redoubled their efforts to get off the ship. Unfortunately, once they discovered the escape pods, a wandering monster roll forced a demonic ambush that sadly meant the death of the Occultech. However, the Marine avenged him, hopped in an escape pod and left. The demon-infested ship now floats in the darkness between stars, the screams of the dead and dying reverberate throughout the entire ship, until they are silenced forever. Perhaps someday, a foolish group will find this “abandoned” ship and attempt to loot it…

So what worked?
– The Loot Token (LT) system. It worked even better than I anticipated! I may need to tweak the numbers a little, because it seems like grenades may offer a little too much bang for the LT-buck. However, I will need to do more playtesting to confirm this hypothesis. However, the LT system allows the game to keep going, as well reinforcing the theme of the game (you are cut off from everyone else and are scrounging what you can to help you survive).
– Adding rules on the fly. I want a complete rule set, but I do not want a rule for every single possible situation. That way leads to 3.5. During play, Misha asked about flanking. I made a ruling on the spot that has been added to the rules document I work from.

So what needs improved?
– My GM-ing skills are not perfect. ’nuff said.
– The Occultech and Technician tables are wrong in the playtest document I uploaded! I am correcting them now. I have so many documents and written notes everywhere and I thought I had my latest and greatest ideas on the playtest document. Guess not. Luckily, my players were patient as we untangled some of these issues.
– My writing is not 100% clear all the time. I am going to need to re-write a few sections so that others can understand what I mean.

I will be playtesting a few more times. I want to try with more players, at 1st level, mid-level, and high level, just to make sure that the game works at all levels.

Also, this was my first time GM-ing something even remotely OSR-ish. I’ve played a little bit, but not GM-ed old school stuff. In the past, I have only GM-ed 3.5, Pathfinder, Star Wars Saga Edition, and 5E. After GM-ing this…I don’t want to go back to those other games! It was fast and easy, just like the women I like!**

Even my wife, who enjoys those other games (especially when I GM), had a good time. I am beginning to suspect the original mission of this blog, to mix the old-school and new-school, will fail. I am leaning more to the old school like a see-saw with a blue jay on one side and a blue whale on the other. I know it is arrogant of me to say that ‘Demons in Space’ is OSR-ish, when I have exactly zero street-cred in the OSR, but there…I said it.

If any of this piqued your curiosity, I will be playtesting again via Roll20. I do not know precisely when, but I will announce it here on the blog.


* I am not just saying this because he agreed to help me playtest, but read his stuff! Check out The Book of Lost Doors series as well as his entries in Cirsova 1 & 5.

** Honey, if you are reading this, that was a joke.

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Not Much Time Left For The PulpRev Sampler!

There is not much time to submit something for the PulpRev Sampler. Submissions are closed at 2:12 CDT on 10 August 2017. I do not know if this is AM or PM.

I was uncertain about writing anything for this, but to paraphrase Aristotle, we become better writers by writing / submitting stories and seeing what happens. I outlined the story at work (during my breaks, if anyone from the office is reading this). I wrote and submitted it tonight.

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Actual visual depiction of me while writing

Re-reading all the Solomon Kane stories for my retrospective as really put a fire in my belly to write, so I thought, ‘Why the heck not?’ The worst thing they can do is say ‘No’.

If you have a pulpy idea and can put together about 750 to 1,000 words, submit something! Get your ideas out there and maybe someone will want to read them. You don’t know until you try.

Solomon Kane Retrospective – Final Post

You can read the rest of this series here:

1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

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Solomon will be quite upset if you don’t read the rest of this series!

THE FOOTFALLS WITHIN

Solomon is following some Arab slavers that have been terrorizing the local Africans. He does not just hate slavery because it is morally wrong, but because he himself was a slave of the Turks in the past. Unfortunately, he cannot just jump and attack, because he is outnumbered and they are armed with guns. He begins formulating a plan to take them down, when one of them is about to brutally torture and kill a slave girl.

Without thinking, he shoots one of the Moslems dead, thus giving away his position. The others attack and Solomon is captured. While being interrogated by the sheikh, an old Arab reveals that the staff that Solomon received from N’longa is the same staff wielded by Moses and King Solomon!

Now a slave again, Solomon is forced to travel with the Arab slavers in the dark heart of the jungle. They come upon an ancient mausoleum…

The trees ringed it in a disquieting symmetrical manner and no lichen or moss grew on the earth, which seemed to have been blaster or blighted in a strange fashion. And in the midst of the glade stood the mausoleum. A great brooding mass of stone it was, pregnant with ancient dead. Dead with the death of a hundred centuries it seemed, yet Kane was aware that the air pulsed about it, as with the slow, inhuman breath of some gigantic, invisible monster.

You can steal the above paragraph for your next game, word for word and I guarantee your players will at least be slightly unnerved by that description.

Foolishly, the Arabs open the mausoleum and something comes out. This shapeless horror kills the Arabs, but Solomon is able to get his staff back and he fights the Horror until it dies. He realizes that Man is not alone in the world, as well as the wider universe and is horrified by this realization. I guess Howard got a little Lovecraft in his pulpy Puritan prose!

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Nameless horrors from beyond the stars exist, but faith and fire are more powerful

THE CHILDREN OF ASSHUR (fragment)

Of all the fragments in this collection, this is the one I wish I knew the full story of the most. The story just gets going before it ends.

While enjoying the hospitality of a kind tribe, they are killed by unknown raiders, who end up taking some of Solomon’s possessions…including his staff! Solomon is both angry and curious, so he tries to find the people who attacked the village. He comes upon a strangely clad warrior outside a massive walled city, in a style that does not match the local architecture. They fight and Solomon barely kills him before losing consciousness.

Solomon is captured and taken into a cell, where his wounds are bandaged and he is fed. He realizes that this is some sort of colony of the Assyrians that has survived from Biblical times to the modern (well, modern to Solomon) day. Suddenly, there is an attack by a large force of Africans and in the chaos, Solomon is able to escape in the chaos. Then the story ends. GAHHHHHHHHHHHH! So much set up and then no payoff!

SOLOMON KANE’S HOMECOMING

This poem comes in two variants, but it is essentially the same story.

Solomon returns home after his travels in Africa and, after hearing that a woman named Bess (possible love interest?) has passed away, decides to retire from adventuring. However, once again, he hears the call and heads out. With that, the tales of Solomon Kane end. He walks off into the sunset alone, with naught but his faith, his weapons, and the clothes on his back.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Are these stories perfect? No.

Are these good pulpy fun? YES! YES! YES!

You cannot go wrong picking these stories and reading them. While from the same author, they are different than the Conan stories, so be prepared for something a little slower paced. I am a little uncertain why these stories are not mentioned by name in Appendix N. Maybe the timeframe is a little too far in the future for the kind of game most D&D games tend to be? In any case, CHECK THESE STORIES OUT. Now that I have finished these, I am not a comic book guy, but I might check out the Solomon Kane comics, if they are faithful to the source material. Are they worth looking into?

solomon_kane_by_jdillon82

Solomon Kane Retrospective – 5th Post

The first post is here.

The second post is here.

The third post is here.

The fourth post is here.

We are almost there. One more post after this and I will be through all the Solomon Kane stories, at least those written by Robert E. Howard.

HAWK OF BASTI (a fragment)

While wandering somewhere in Africa, Solomon meets up with someone from his martime past, Jeremy Hawk. Apparently, Jeremy has a plan to topple a nearby African kingdom and install himself as king (again). All he needs is a gun, which Solomon has. Jeremy plays on Solomon’s nobility of character by mentioning the suffering that the locals endure under the current regime, and somehow convinces him to come along with this strange quest. Jeremy meets up with some warriors, kills one, and convinces the others to fight with them. Then it ends. Not too much to say, other than this had a lot of potential. Jeremy and Solomon are contrasted in this story as two sides of the same coin. From what I can tell, their past is a little sketchy. Solomon cleaned up his act, but Jeremy sank into the depths of depravity.

THE RETURN OF SIR RICHARD GRENVILLE

Richard Grenville was a real historical figure. Per Infogalactic, he died fighting the Spanish in a great naval battle. In the past, Solomon sailed with him.

The poem begins with Solomon sleeping and he is awoken by Sir Richard. A horde of naked men are coming for his blood! The two fight off the attackers and then Solomon is left alone in the jungle. Did a man come back from the dead and help Solomon? Or is it just a figment of Solomon’s imagination?

WINGS IN THE NIGHT

Yes, this is the story I talked about with JimFear138 when I filled in at the last minute! You can listen to the podcast here!*

While trying to get away from some cannibals, Solomon comes across a dying man who is able to mention a priest named Goru who tied him up and left him to die. Even the man’s own brother helped tie him up. After telling Solomon this, he dies. Solomon, once again, decides to avenge this man.

At night, he is ambushed by the cannibals, but while fighting one, the man is torn away from Solomon and disappears into the night sky. The man’s comrades flee and Solomon is alone again. The next day, a strange man-size bat-man-creature thing attacks him. It tries to carry him off, but Solomon kills it and plummets to the ground.

He awakens in a village being tended to by Goru, the priest that tied up the man at the beginning of the story. As he recovers, Solomon is told how the winged creatures love to eat people and are essentially “farming” the village for food. The man from the beginning was simply an offering to the creatures.

The village is safe from the nearby cannibal tribes, but the protection costs the death of many of their own. Also, there is a tale of a great hero N’Yasunna who traveled on a large war canoe in a great bitter lake and fought the winged creatures. Solomon ponders this and realizes that Jason of Greek myth, who fought harpies, actually existed…and so did the harpies!

The village asks Solomon to help fight the monsters and he agrees. Unfortunately, everything goes NOT according to plan and the entire village is wiped out. Solomon is the only survivor. In this moment, we see Solomon finally break down. His normally cool exterior is gone and all we are left with is his rage, his anger, and his vengeance. If I may quote Romans 12:19 from the King James Version of the Holy Bible,

for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord

Solomon is not having any of that. He will be the instrument of vengeance for this poor, forgotten village. No one will ever hear or no of his deeds; he could walk away and no one would ever know. But Solomon is a man of honor and loyalty. He is heavily wounded after the village attack, so he makes a trap.

He builds a hut and lures the harpies in. Then he sets it on fire. They burn.

Elmo

Artist’s representation of Solomon Kane praising the Lord after defeating the harpies.

Even in the midst of his triumph, Solomon humbly gives his victory to God. I do not know Robert E. Howard’s personal religious beliefs, but he writes a darn good Christian character. Solomon is flawed, but displays virtue in most of his actions. Solomon is played straight with his faith. No snark, no heavy-handed sermonizing, just a good, honest story.

When reading these stories, I am sometimes distressed by the fact that there is not much today (outside the Pulp Revolution) that is in the same vein. It is outright criminal that these kinds of stories are not taught in schools! Whenever someone laments the fact that young boys are not reading, I want to take this collection of stories and shove it in their face. TEACH THIS! Not that “Magic Barrel” story I vaguely remember about a rabbi trying to get married. I guarantee that they will come back begging for more if the teachers assign boys to read some Solomon Kane.

It’s almost like the public schools are not designed to teach or instill a love of learning, but to indoctrinate…but that’s crazy talk…right? Right?

Sorry for the rant. Have a great night!


* It is hard to listen to one’s own voice.

New Date for Playtesting

I am going to try to playtest ‘Demons in Space’ again.

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Consider this a communication post

Number of Players: 4 to 6

Date: August 12, 2017

Time: 6:00 PM Central Time until no later than 8:00 PM

How: Roll20

Download: The playtest version of the game PLAYTEST 2 of Demons in Space and a Standalone Character Sheet

Make a level 1 character
– Roll 3d6 down the line…the way God and Gary Gygax intended.
– Spend up to 50 LT on gear. (Only weapons allowed at start are pistols, shotguns, and double-barreled shotguns).
– We’re doing ascending AC.

Want in? Contact Me: Comments here, @NotJohnDaker on Twitter / Gab, +TheMixedGM on Google Plus, or email me at themixedgm@yahoo.com (Please don’t dox me and show up at my front door)