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1  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: How does this idea for a homebrew Mech world on: October 13, 2017, 11:59:52 AM
That's a pretty oddball combination, and it feels like it would take a ton of work to get the Pathfinder characters to feel like mechs.

That said, it sounds like to the reddit user, that's part of the point, so maybe I'm crazy, but personally if I were playing a mech game I'd really want to nerd out over "cooling units, gun mounts, and chassis limitations" - surely designing a mech is a huge part of the fun?

Have you heard of Mechnoir? I think you also need Technoir to run it but even together, they're pretty cheap. It's like a relatively rules-light mech setting.
2  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Designing Bestiaries for your Setting? on: September 18, 2017, 12:05:02 PM
I have a lot of thoughts about this. I may, one day, write a guide to monster design, but here are some loose thoughts. This is just my approach, a sort of "Steerpike's monster-making manifesto"; it's not the only way to make monsters, so take these "dicta" with a grain of salt.

- Monsters should inspire both fear and disgust.

- Monsters must be categorically impure. They must defy the schema we use to make sense of the world. They must mix and mingle things which should be disparate. All classic monsters do this. For example, the vampire mixes life and death, often masculine and feminine, human and animal. Frankenstein's monster: it's a pastiche of different parts, it's living when it shouldn't be. Categorically impure things provoke a sense of revulsion. They're wrong in some way that makes us worry that our whole way of seeing the world is wrong.

- Monsters can be fusion figures or fission figures. Fusion figures combine more than one body. For example, the xenomorph of Alien combines crustacean, reptile, humanoid, insect, male and female, organic and inorganic, all in one body. It also defies the inside/outside distinction (chestburster, facehugger, its weird mouth thing). Fission figures are the opposite: doppelgangers, werewolves, shapeshifters. Multiple identities are distributed across time. Anything which suddenly transforms, or which seems other than it is - that's a fission figure. For example, the monster the Thing of the film of the same name adopts the personae or semblances of its victims, but can be revealed as monstrous (in fact, in its "true" form, it's also a fusion figure).

- Monsters find the root of their fear in their otherness, their difference. This difference can be uncanny or abcanny.

- In the uncanny, we're confronted with some aspect of our psyche we're uncomfortable with, something we want to repress or deny about ourselves. Pennywise of It is like this: It draws on our worst childhood fears, our phobias, our personal vulnerabilities, the things we want to forget or shun, the dark, frightened, primal parts of ourselves. Uncanny things are strange and other, but they're also creepily familiar. Haunted dolls, ghosts of all kinds - anything to do with the past, with time out of joint, with a trauma rediscovered. The crawlers of The Descent are another good example: they're not-quite-human, but they represent our repressed aggression, our appetites, our taboos, our past.

- For the uncanny, try taking human beings and removing something. For example, the Slender Man has no face, the Crawlers have no functioning eyes or language, and the Bodysnatchers have no individuality.

- You can also try adding something or moving something around, as with the Pale Man of Pan's Labyrinth.

- The abcanny is the opposite - the totally inhuman. It corresponds to no aspect of the psyche, nothing we're denying or abjuring or repressing. Cthulhu is the go-to example here, although the Colour Out of Space might be a more pure example. The house in House of Leaves would be another good example. There aren't as many good filmic examples of this because the abcanny in its purest form tends to defy comprehension and representation. The Thing comes close, and some other John Carpenter films also (Prince of Darkness, At the Mouth of Madness).

- To evoke the abcanny, you need something that retreats from view or can't be fully understood or perceived, or something which otherwise seems completely alien. Lovecraftian creatures draw on marine life, gastropods, and insects because these seem the least like us. Slime, tentacles, voids, boneless bodies, exoskeletons - these are good ingredients. For the abcanny, avoid faces, human body parts, anything anthropomorphic.

- Many good monsters have an ecological dimension - including a distinctive way of reproducing, feeding, or growing. 28 Days Later zombies eat flesh and spread their virus with bites and scratches. Vampires need blood and create more of themselves by feeding others their own blood. Xenomorphs use human bodies to incubate eggs, which hatch into facehuggers, which implant new xenomorphs. Slake Moths in Perdido Street Station feed on human minds and process those minds into psychogenic milk for their caterpillar young. Pennywise needs to feed on fear before going into a 27 year hibernation.

- Monsters can represent something else - they can function as metaphors - but they shouldn't be reducible to that meaning. Lovecraft's Shoggoths can be interpreted as a metaphor for proletarian uprising (the slaves who revolt against their masters), but they're not reducible to that class metaphor.
3  Campaign Creation / Homebrews / Re: Midjan-Kar: The In-Between on: September 13, 2017, 10:36:59 AM
I'm really into all of this. Those are excellent names. The Scabbed Prince? That's very good. You could run a whole campaign in the Temple of Solviqa’ad.

I'm really into settings with a vertical dimension, too. You mentioned this is a 5th edition setting. Are you using the core races or homebrewing new ones?
4  Campaign Creation / Roleplaying / Re: Steerpike's Hex Campaign on: August 30, 2017, 01:40:33 AM


A question though, why does the city end immediately at its walls; why no slums just outside? I assume it is because the city is totalitarian and can enforce the law against people trying to build shanties.

There's actually some shanties in the lower right hand corner, but I picture the city as sort like a 17th/18th-century European city in style. Looking at period maps, many such cities seem to be mostly surrounded by farmland outside the walls rather than massive shanties.

For example: Milan, Amsterdam, Berlin. Even the massive Paris has a mostly agrarian hinterland.

That said, there would be laws about just building rampantly, though I don't think that makes the city totalitarian. It's a representative democracy with a parliament and an executive council with 6 years terms. Partial suffrage (casters only), so not a totally "just" city state by modern standards, but not a dictatorship either. There was a period where the whole city was ruled by a kind of mage-emperor, whose fortress, Delirium Castle, can be seen in the southeast (he retreated inside after a rebellion against him, and has not come out in centuries).

There are scattered villages and towns throughout the surrounding area.


Also, does it have old and new walls as it grew? If so, where are the ruins of the old walls and why is it not growing any more? I know you take attention to age in the structures and worlds you build (figure I just missed something since I am not too familiar with your Hex world).

You can actually see some old walls in the district of Catch-All in the southwest, which has been converted into a quarantined district for the city's magically ill. These were more for a small walled portion of the city rather than the walls for the entire city, though. Again, looking at period maps of those old cities, not all of them seem to have a ton of old walls.

I do imagine that the main walls themselves have shifted over time. But this is a very magical city, so when they need to expand, city wizards enchant the bricks to disassemble and reassemble themselves, duplicating as necessary.

The city could certainly grow beyond its current walls in the future, just as the walled cities of Europe did, but of course the walls are useful for protection against various enemies/monsters in the countryside. This is an era of rather horrible mundane and magical warfare, as the ruins to the southwest hint at.

Presumably if we fast-forwarded a hundred years the city could look pretty different; right now the idea is that it's undergoing the beginnings of a magically-fueled version of the industrial revolution, so the population could become a big concern. Right now there's a lot of protest in the city over humanoid labour being given to reanimated workers (i.e. zombies), bounds demons, and clockwork automata being developed by the gnomes of Mainspring.


And garbage and inhuman/human bodily waste? Does it all get dropped in the Radula river?

Some is dumped in the river, some is transported to cesspits outside the city, lots of garbage gets put in the Midden (a scrapyard/garbage-tip), and some is used as raw material for transmuters to turn into useful material.


Also, I probably missed it, but where does potable water come from? Priests creating water? Wells? I do not see aqueducts except one by Sawtooth Sound on the far right (possibly). Where are entrances to sewers? Really, I ask these questions because you're so great at what you do, does not matter if it does not have it or not, but wanted to ask.

Water comes from the endless magical storm in Downpour Heights, which then pipe it throughout the city. Those aqueducts are actually carrying water away from the city to fields and farms as irrigation. The storm is magically silenced outside the district.

There are also wells here and there, and there are some waterworks in the Swelter which help supply the (mostly poorer) south side of the city with water.

I honestly didn't worry about drawing tiny manhole covers everywhere, but there would be plenty all over the place.


Are there crypts in the city?

There's a ton of crypts in the city, especially in the south under the graveyards, and in fact there's a massive megadungeon sprawling beneath it; Enigma Heap is the sort of "outer extrusion" of this megadungeon, the Old City.


Did you plan this city before you began drawing this, or did you just wing it, and slowly grow it outwards?

I planned about 90% of it, writing out descriptions of all 36 districts, and I sketched out where each would be, but there was some improvisation and moving things around as I went, too.
5  Campaign Creation / Meta / Re: My Fate Core houserules on: August 27, 2017, 07:19:35 PM
As I do still definitely want to run Alptraum for you (and, eventually, others) using Fate, I'd be curious to hear about how the game goes. Are you running it based out of another site, or just through IRC? Skype?
6  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Louisiana: The Vampiric State of America on: August 27, 2017, 09:54:06 AM
So here's a fun idea: when the veil of darkness falls, it falls on both Louisianas, the parts controlled by the Confederacy and by the Union. Vampires take back New Orleans, but there are Union survivors trapped in the city. It's now years later, but there's a kind of anti-vampire resistance founded by the former Union soldiers in New Orleans and elsewhere.
7  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Louisiana: The Vampiric State of America on: August 26, 2017, 11:33:42 PM
Can the vampires use the darkness to expand their territory?
8  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Louisiana: The Vampiric State of America on: August 26, 2017, 02:21:11 PM
I assume Louisiana is still a slave state in this timeline. New Orleans was the biggest slave market in America and slavery was an absolutely massive part of the state's economy.

Actually, a huge question here is whether the vampires have recaptured New Orleans from the Union, who took it in 1862. There there were "two Louisianas" throghout much of the Civil War since the Union-occupied parts of Louisiana were declared a part of the United States rather than simply occupied Confederate territory. If the Union has lost New Orleans, that changes the whole tide of the war enormously. If it's 1910 I assume they have retaken it by now?

If vampiric Louisiana keeps slavery, and especially if they retake New Orleans, I can see a lot of vampires just feeding on slaves. Free citizens might still have the Blood Tax (for a really good version of this idea check out The Scar), but slaves seem like a "good" option for the vampire bloody supply. Horrible, of course, but so was slavery.
9  Campaign Creation / Roleplaying / Re: Steerpike's Hex Campaign on: August 25, 2017, 05:06:19 PM
...and it's a poster now.

10  Campaign Creation / Roleplaying / Re: Steerpike's Hex Campaign on: August 25, 2017, 01:35:05 PM
Some more details:

11  Campaign Creation / Roleplaying / Re: Steerpike's Hex Campaign on: August 25, 2017, 01:20:04 PM


I must question your sanity.

It probably wouldn't be the first time?

It took me about a year of drawing, but yeah, entirely drawn by hand, and slowly assembled. It probably took something like 200+ sheets of paper, I'm not sure how many it ended up at.
12  Campaign Creation / Roleplaying / Re: Steerpike's Hex Campaign on: August 25, 2017, 11:44:18 AM
I finished a gigantic map.

It's easily the biggest map I've ever made.

I'm planning on making it into a giant poster for use in the game itself.

13  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Setting Seeds; Evil Gods on: August 14, 2017, 10:34:23 PM


Mostly the "it's okay to murder, lie, cheat, steal ..." that they preach makes them evil. These devils are more like the "I'm not going to do what you say" style Satan, not the D&D Lawful Evil type devils.

So that's pretty interesting; it suggests that the gods in this setting aren't interested at all in dogma or doctrine. This would seem to suggest that organized religion devoted to them would be essentially non-existent, and they'd be opposed to hierarchical societies of all sorts. Big, organized cities, empires, and hierarchical societies full stop would consequently tend to be secular (possibly militantly so), provided everyone knows that the gods are real and opposed to rules and order.

I think one thing to figure out is whether the good gods are dead or just never existed. Those are two pretty different cosmologies.
14  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Setting Seeds; Evil Gods on: August 14, 2017, 12:32:43 PM


For me, the question inspires a setting where the forces of good were overwhelmed and defeated. The devils rose from hell and conquered the world. Heaven retreated. The people of the world worship the devils because they give power, because why worship the old gods who abandoned you? The devils don't tell you what not to do, they tell you what you can do. It is ultimate freedom. If you're lucky, they'll even treat you okay as long as you continue to follow them.

Hmm, so how are the devils actually evil? If the devils aren't interested in curtailing human freedom or providing restrictive dogmas, but will reward followers with power... are they especially capital E Evil here? In D&D Alignment terms this sounds a lot like Chaos as opposed to Evil.

I do like the idea of a Manichean universe where evil wins, though.

I think a lot is going to depend on how interventionist the deities are, how the afterlife gets run (and whether there is an afterlife), how the evil deities view human beings, and in general what the metaphysics and cosmology of the setting are like.

The evil gods might see mortals as beings with great potential - maybe especially evil souls get elevated to demonhood on death. In that case, individuals might really strive to new heights of cruelty and worship the evil gods in hopes of divine reward. Or the evil gods might act like Milton's Satan, and be jealous of humanity and want it destroyed and mutilated, so everyone loathes the evil gods and is just constantly fleeing their wrath. Or they might act more like Lovecraft's Great Old Ones and not care at all about humanity, or view human souls as nothing more than tasty snacks, and the material plane as a handy soul-larder.

Are gods in this setting "powered" by faith, as in Planescape or American Gods? If so, they're going to want lots of worshipers performing sacrifices and rituals, so they'll be more inclined to reward or spare the faithful, and also more inclined to persecute non-believers. But if they don't care about faith or followers, mortals are more likely to be ignored, or treated as playthings.

Where does the material/mortal plane fall in the cosmology? Is it at the centre of everything, or is it one of myriad important planes? If it's the former, I can see the evil gods caring a lot more about what goes on there - taking an active hand in conquering it or installing their religions. But if it's just some podunk backwater reality that thinks it's important, the evil gods might not really care much about it.
15  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Setting Seeds; Evil Gods on: August 13, 2017, 10:59:10 AM


How I handle this in my settings is that the gods themselves can't intervene in the choices of mortals. They can certainly tempt or inspire them one way or the other, but they can't force them to do anything against there will.

I think that's a fine solution, although I would then get persnickety if Clerics are a thing (divine magic = intervention, no?).

For me it's less like "why don't the gods force everyone to be good"? And more like "why did the gods create such a badly flawed world full of badly flawed creatures"?
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