Monday, March 28, 2011

Weird War II - The Thule Society and the Ahnenerbe

The Thule Society and the Ahnenerbe were both real organizations. The former was a secret society formed in Germany in the dying days of WWI. The Thule Society was created to advance a theory of German racial superiority based on the works of 19th-century mystic, Helena Blavatsky. Though never a large organization, several of its members would be influential in the early days of the Nazi party. Rudolf Hess and Hans Frank were known to be active members, while Dietrich Eckart, Heinrich Himmler, Alfred Rosenburg and Hermann Göring were believed to have had some association. The formal association between the Thule Society and the German Worker's Party (later to become the Nazi Party) was severed at Hitler's insistence in 1920 and the organization was dissolved in 1925. However, one of its founders, Rudolf von Sebottendorff revived it briefly in 1933. The Nazis moved to suppress the organization and von Subottendorff was imprisoned briefly, before being released and fleeing to Turkey. That is where the official history of the Thule Society ends and the unofficial history begins. Rudolf Hess still believed in the theories of the Thule Society, even if the Führer did not. Working behind the scenes for the next several years, he aided the Thule Society, providing documents and money to former members, allowing them to escape Germany and set up branches of the organization in Istanbul and London. During that time, Thule members delved deeper into the occult, learning about sorcery and psychic powers, parallel dimensions and extraterrestrial beings. The mysticism of Madame Blavatsky, the racist theories of Houston Stewart Chamberlain and the speculations regarding Atlantis advanced by Ignatius Donnelly, combined with their own occult experimentation and their sense of betrayal by Hitler, forged a powerful league of sorcerers determined to overthrow the Führer and bring about an Aryan superpower that would encorporate all the Anglo-Germanic nations of the world, including Britain and America.

The sorcerers and psychics of the Thule Society faced a difficult dilemma in the early stages of the war. They wanted to undermine Hitler, but the success of the military campaigns in Poland and France served their interests. Furthermore, what efforts they did undertake were easily countered by Nazi blood mages, who were far more numerous and powerful than the Thules realized. In fact, Nazi occult research had advanced far more than that of the Thule Society. A secretive bureau within the SS known as the Ahnenerbe, created by Himmler, was advancing the theories of the Thule Society far beyond anything that had been conceived of before. Formed in 1935, they had, by the start of the war, made contact and even alliances with extradimensional beings. They had learned much from these entities and their sorcerous knowledge had grown exponentially. Opponents, such as the Thule Society and the Sons of Solomon (descendants of the Knights Templar from which the OSI would be formed), were no match for the sorcerers of the Ahnenerbe. Indeed, only Aleister Crowley, Britain's most powerful sorcerer, had any insight into what the Ahnenerbe was capable of and his grip on sanity was failing by then. Oddly enough, the Ahnenerbe and the Thule Society were working toward the same goal, removal of Hitler and the establishment of an Aryan empire that would span the globe. However, the Ahnenerbe had far more ambition and could see much farther into realms of space and time that were beyond the modest abilities of the Thules. They needed to keep the Führer around for awhile longer until their grand plan could be fully realized. On December 25, 1944 at a place of horror in southern Poland, the first stage of that plan came to fruition.


Miniature Painting 2B

Ok. My wife pulled the rest of the pictures off her camera. These are the ones I worked on Sunday.Most of the guys I paint are use the same colors over and over. greens, browns and black through white - not much color. So with a wizard I decided to brighten him up. I can't say I love the result, but I don't hate it enough to repaint it. I rather wish I had reversed the yellow and purple.

I tried to paint some characters on the scroll. Calligraphy has never been something I'm skilled at and trying to do so on such a small scale, and 3D no less, was really tricky. Just another thing that amazes me about the pros.

I have no idea how the pros paint so well. When I post pictures you can really see every last little mistake. The skin looks chalky, you can see the spots where I've slipped and gobbed one spot and missed another. Their's look spotless with clean crisp lines. I swear they must have an enlarging/shrinking machine that allows them to paint the minis at super size and then shrink them down afterward. Or maybe they use a magnifying glass.

Next up is this assassin looking guy. I tried to do some shading on the cloak but it really isn't visible. He was very quick and easy to paint and still looks pretty cool. I wasn't thrilled to discover his arm was a separate piece. I think I have at last mastered the fine art of crazy glue so I didn't get too many grey hairs trying to attach it.

I started to add texture to the cloak but chickened out. Watching the online videos the best way to figure out the lighting is to shine a bright light on the figure, make a note how the light hits the different areas and then paint the shadows and bright spots in. I tried doing that one and hated the result. Now that I'm a little better, maybe I should give it another shot.

Queen Ileosa worked out quite well. Unlike most Paizo minis which I try and paint to look like their pictures I did this one using my own color scheme. I really liked it until I looked at the picture on the Paizo site. Damn professional painters. Anyway, i liked the way the detail work turned out, one yellow glob aside the hair looks great and even the face turned out well. And yes, I don't care that she looks like a Disney princess. That was half the fun.

When I saw this picture I could see that I had messed up the mouth so I have gone back and repainted it. I tried doing a design on the fan but it looked lame so I white washed it and left it as is.

The last guy is a plague doctor from Paizo's second AP, Curse of the Crimson Throne. You can't really see it from this angle but he's wearing one of those creapy plague masks. I like the idea but find his rather static pose boring.

Derobane: I bought more paint colors this weekend on my trip the the Sentry Box.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Combat rogue - critique this build

The goal is to create a character with most of the benefits of a rogue (i.e. skills, evasion, sneak attack) which is still a formidable front-line combatant. My main strategy is to incorporate the sneak attack ability into combat without resorting to invisibility or other magic tricks to deny the opponent his DX bonus to AC. The best approach is to use the feint option. Since the improved feint feat only reduces feint from a standard action to a move action and there is no way currently available to reduce it to a swift action, the character is limited to a single attack per round, so that one attack better be a heavy hit. Here's what I've come up with.

Using a 20-point human build, I generated the following stats: ST 17 IN 14 DX 14 CN 12 WS 11 CH 10 including the +2 stat bonus on ST. I take my first level in rogue with toughness and power attack as my feats. He's going to need the hps since as a rogue, he's going to limited to light armour to use evasion. The power attack will come into play soon. My second level will be fighter. I will switch to great sword and take the furious focus feat. This allows me to enjoy the damage bonus of power attack without the attack penalty and since I'm using a two-handed weapon, the power attack is even more potent. So, already at second level, I'm pounding out 2d6+7+1d6 points on a sneak attack. I take another rogue level next, taking the iron will feat and using rogue talent (weapon training), I take weapon focus (great sword). My fourth level will be fighter again and I take combat expertise as my fighter bonus feat. I also bump up my ST to 18. By this level, my sneak attack damage is 2d6+9+1d6.

Over the next four levels, I continue to alternate rogue and fighter levels. I add improved feint, skill focus (bluff), weapon specialization and I use rogue talent (combat trick) to take the vital strike feat. By 8th level, my sneak attack damage is 2d6+17+2d6+2d6 (assuming a normal weapon). Now, of course, an 8th level fighter could probably do more damage on average and would almost certainly have a higher attack modifier, more hps and better AC, but this character has enough skill points to max out bluff, perception, stealth, climb, acrobatics, disable device and use magic device, and retains evasion and uncanny dodge. So, is it worth it? What could make it better?


Friday, March 25, 2011

Sorcery in Weird War II

Sorcery, as it's presented in the core rulebook of Basic RolePlaying, is actually a small subset of a much larger set of options broadly outlined in the Stormbringer and Elric! roleplaying games. For those familiar with Call of Cthulhu, which also uses sorcery, the biggest difference is the variety of offensive, defensive and utility spells available. CoC tends to view sorcery as something performed under special conditions, requiring detailed rituals and much preparation. Except for a handful of offensive and defensive spells such as the Elder Sign, most CoC spells involve contacting various Mythos entities or summoning/binding servitor races. For this reason, sorcery is a pursuit best avoided by most right-thinking characters in Call of Cthulhu, except in cases of extreme duress. And, of course, the very act of performing sorcery in CoC has a corrosive effect on one's sanity.

In BRP and Stormbringer, sorcery is more common and has no sanity implications, although the requisite POW score is prohibitive, ensuring that sorcerers are a rare breed. There are three main types of sorcery and typically, a high-level sorcerer will be adept in all three. These are spells, runes and summonings. Spells represent the default form of sorcery, the type to which most low-level sorcerers will be limited. Spells have the advantages of being quick to prepare and demanding modest power point expenditures, although durations are quite short. This is the type of sorcery used most often in combat.

Runes, as the name implies, require the preparation of an inscribed symbol which will trigger a sorcerous effect when certain conditions are met. Runes can persist for days or even years until triggered, making them useful for setting traps. Some runes duplicate the effects of spells, while others offer unique options such as wards or alarms. Most forms of Lawful sorcery are runic.

In game terms, summonings work just like spells, except they are more detailed and require greater preparation. In that respect, they are similar to Call of Cthulhu sorcery. Sorcerers can summon demons or elementals. There are also some necromantic summonings which allow a sorcerer to summon spirits to inhabit prepared corpses or even living hosts. In the latter case, the spirit of the victim is destroyed and the summoned spirit takes possession of the body. The newly-created undead is then bound to the service of the necromancer. Summoned entities are often bound, either in their living state or as the animating essence of some powerful magic item. The summoner has to spend enough power points to define the summoned creature. A fully-formed demon servant will be more costly because points will have to be spent to define physical characteristics such as STR, SIZ, CON, DEX and Move as well as POW and INT. Such a demon would require far more power points than even the most powerful sorcerer would have available. Therefore, a means of storing power points is needed to cast summonings. This requires significant preparation. Also, binding demons, elementals and undead requires the sacrifice of POW points. This is a particularly demanding requirement and one only considered by truly powerful summoners.


More on allegiences

In the previous post, I talked about earning points in allegiences in order to define your character's motivations. Now I'll discuss what sorts of actions earn those points. As one might expect, it is easier to earn points for a Chaos allegience than either Law or Balance. Betrayal, wanton violence and vandalism are all ways that can potentially earn Chaos allegience points. Another way is the use of sorcery. Sorcery is inherently Chaotic, although there are a handful of Lawful spells and runes. Ironically, even the casting of Lawful sorcery can earn Chaos points, unless the sorcerer atones afterwards. A sorcerer with a Lawful allegience has to walk a fine line, using his powers reluctantly and always mindful of his allegience budget. Needless to say, demon summoning and necromancy are extremely Chaotic forms of sorcery and should never be pursued by Lawful sorcerers.

Law stresses self-discipline and respect for authority. A character with a Lawful allegience will depend on skills rather than sorcery or supernatural aid. Advancement of skills to high levels will earn Law allegience points. Other Lawful actions include obeying one's superiors and destruction of obviously Chaotic constructs such as summoned demons and animated corpses.

Balance is, perhaps, the most difficult path to follow. It demands much of its followers, including, sometimes, the ultimate sacrifice. An adherent of Balance must be merciful and a defender of the weak. He must resist both tyranny and anarchy without resorting to either. He may use sorcery as long as it serves the greater good, but must never dabble in summoning or necromancy. Any effort on the part of a character with a Balance allegience, either through the use of sorcery or skill, that prevents death and destruction will be worthy of allegience points.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Allegiences in Weird War II

Basic RolePlaying does not use an alignment system the way Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder do. Rather, a character has multiple allegiences and builds up points in them depending on his actions. To use D&D as an example, the GM might decide to create five allegiences; Good, Evil, Law, Chaos and Neutrality. A character would typically start out with 1d6-2 pts. in each and then gain more points in one or more of the allegiences through the campaign. If one allegience exceeds any other by 20 pts. or more, that allegience becomes dominant and may attract the attention of powers who share that allegience. For example, a novice cleric of a lawful diety might not attract much notice from either his god or the hierarchy of his church. However, if he acts in an exemplary fashion and accumulates a lot of points for his Law allegience, he may be rewarded for his piety. Of course, if he acted in a chaotic manner and his Chaos allegience began to overshadow his Law allegience, the resulting attention he would receive would not be welcome. Furthermore, when a character reaches 100 pts. in one of his allegiences, he may be approached by a supernatural agent to recruit him to serve as a champion for some diety or similar powerful being.

In my upcoming Weird War II campaign, I will be using the Law-Balance-Chaos allegience system introduced in the Stormbringer role-playing game. Although, Good and Evil are not explicitly represented in this arrangement, it is generally accepted that the closer one gets to perfect Balance, the more "Good" characteristics one displays. Extreme Law is oppressive and hidebound, while extreme Chaos is anarchic and destructive. To illustrate this, I have created a graph showing where all the various powers in the campaign fall along the Law-Balance-Chaos axis:

As you can see, I've added a Good axis projecting from Balance. I define Good as respect for life and beauty and a capacity for self-sacrifice. Those organizations that demonstrate such qualities tend to cluster close to Balance, while the more evil and destructive organizations tend to find themselves at the chaotic or lawful ends of the scale.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Miniature Painting part 2.

We had another painting party last Saturday. I finished 2 on Saturday and finished 4 more on Sunday (see next post).

Since my last painting blitz the second batch of miniatures arrived and there were some really nice ones in there. However, I decided that I wanted to try our a couple techniques and this Gray Maiden mini was a good place to start.

Somethings turned out really well. The sword looks great even though I got rather lazy with it. The detail on the shield was crazy hard and I missed some spots so lets just call it the worn look. As for the armor itself I love the way the detail pops out from the armor wash but it made everything too dark. I think I know now how to pop the detail without blacking everything out but I'll have to try it on a different piece.

With this bard I really wanted to get the hair right. Last week I discovered among my wife's vast collection of crafty stuff a bucket full of inks. Although it worked out pretty well, her inks are not the same as the other inks I have. They take hours to dry and and until they do dry they bleed into any paint that comes near them. After playing around a bit I got the color I wanted but it took too long and isn't really viable.

Nothing really special about this mini but I like the gold trim on the boots. It makes me wish I had a busty pirate wench miniature. My wife took these pictures on her fancy camera which is why they are lot nicer then the first batch. She is going to photograph the rest later and I'll post them when she does.

Lastly here is another shot of the minis I painted last time. I got tired of waiting for her to process the picture so I took my own. As you can see, she a much better photographer than I am.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chronicles of Future Earth....more tasty goodness

I'm happy to report that, despite my initial concerns, the first supplement for The Chronicles of Future Earth has already been released. Although only available in pdf format from, The Chonicles of Future Earth - Children of the Worm is an excellent little contribution to the setting. It includes a short adventure, but the real value of the publication is the added crunch. A new race, the P'Tek (aka Troglodytes), an Esteri race of subterranean humanoids, is detailed as well as their primary diety, Babisiya, the goddess of darkness. Several cool new demon powers and spells are also provided, including necromancy spells adapted from the old Stormbringer rpg. This is hella cool for me, because I recently bought a pdf of The Bronze Grimiore from the Elric! edition of Chaosium's Elric of Melniboné rpg. This book introduced necromancy and it is excellent. Seeing at least some of that stuff showing up in Chronicles makes me even more excited about the setting.

My one beef with Children of the Worm is that it is only available as a pdf. While it is probably not long enough to be a stand-alone print publication, it has clearly been ready for some time to have been released so soon after the first book. This leads me to wonder if this was material that was intended to be part of the original setting and was later edited out in the interest of achieving a particular page count or price point. If so, it's unfortunate. I would have gladly paid a few more dollars to have this material included in the original setting book. Hopefully, sometime in the future, Children of the Worm will find its way into a print format.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Pathfinder Gunslinger v.2

Paizo has released a revised playtest of the Gunslinger class for the upcoming Ultimate Combat release. Most of the changes seem fairly cosmetic. Notably, the class is now a base class rather than an alternate fighter class, but given how different the two classes were to begin with, it didn't seem as though the ability to alternate fighter and gunslinger levels freely was going to be very attractive anyway. The biggest change, as far I can see, is how they dealt with problem of really expensive guns in the hands of really low level characters. A 1st-level gunslinger with a 1,500 gp musket is asking for trouble. The solution the designers decided upon was to give a starting gunslinger a broken gun that only the character himself is able to use properly. To others (except those with the Gunsmithing feat who could fix the gun), the broken gun is just scrap metal. Not the most elegant solution, but probably the only way to keep guns expensive, while still allowing a low level character to own one.

Not surprisingly, the firearm rules themselves are largely unchanged. The design team made it clear with the original playtest that the firearm rules were not subject to playtest. So, the rule about guns being used against touch AC remains as do all the potential pitfalls associated with it. They have added an expanded list of guns to choose from, including advanced guns such as revolvers and rifles. While I have no problem with 15th-century matchlocks showing up in my fantasy rpgs, I'm less enamoured with the idea of 19th-century sixguns. Like everything, it's up to the DM, but I would certainly keep guns fairly low-tech in any game I was running.


Monday, March 07, 2011

Rippin' on Magic: the Gathering

Zack and Steve at have taken a break from the endless ridicule of tabletop rpgs and lay a beatdown on Magic: the Gathering. Richly deserved, in my opinion.

Magic: the Gathering


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Miniature Painting

Derobane was nice enough to come over last weekend and while his spawn played with my spawn we did some painting. I recently put in a big order for minis and the first batch had arrived. There were a bunch I was dying to start painting.

So while DB worked on a few Nazis, I got to work on this piece. This is Eando Kline, the star of the first series of fiction in the Paizo Adventure Paths, and a key NPC in the Serpent Skull AP. I had not painted in months and this mini was pretty straight forward. I was quite happy with the face although I was kinda sloppy in a few other spots.

Derobane was kind enough to leave his painting supplies behind when he left and yesterday I ignored my wife and children and worked on a few more pieces.

This is a piece I've always liked. I can't see me ever using it for anything but there you go. I got a little experimental with this one. I thinned the paints and tried layering and it worked out pretty well. I let my wife and daughter pick out the color scheme for the outfit. The hair was a bit of an experiment that I wasn't completely satisfied with. When I do hair, it never looks quite right. I got some nice shading effects on the skin but I still have to master doing it on fabrics. Looking at the picture I can spot a mistake but I guess I should put the critical eye away and just enjoy it. This one turned out better then most.

The next Mini is another Paizo mini. This is Shalelu, elven ranger and a minor NPC in the Rise of the Rune Lords and Second Darkness APs. I tried something different again with the hair (green ink) and although it turned out darker then I wanted, it works. Overall, I thought this one turned out quite well. I'm not sure if you can see it in the picture but it looks like she has white eyeliner. Not what I was going for but it was even on both sides and I decided I liked it. I tried shading on the cape and it really didn't work. My attempt to fix it didn't go so well either. Rather then repaint the cape I just left it as is. If I wanted perfection I'd never finish.

The last one is the Red Mantis Assassin, another Paizo mini. I really like how the ink was able to pop the detail on the armor but it made the red a little darker then I intended. Still how many assassins would walk around in bright red armor, right?

I also spent about an hour yesterday gluing the minis with multiple pieces together. My least favorite thing about painting the miniatures is assembling them. I have no patience for it. I only got the epoxy working once and that was after Derobane told me his trick (mix and let it start to dry before applying). I tried Crazy Glu yesterday I still had to hold one piece for 15 minute before it set (getting evil looks from my wife the whole time since it was supper time). Everything is assembled now and maybe next weekend I'll consider painting some of those ones as well. Seltyiel has some crazy detail work including a fiery familiar. On second though I'll save him until I get better.