Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Monster Man Contest II: Winners!

The second Monster Man contest called on listeners to create monsters based on neural-network-generated names. You can see all the entries here. The votes are in -- I've received votes by email, on G+, and here on the blog, and it was tight, but we have winners!

Tied for second place: 

The Owlborn by Luke Slater!

A fairy-tale horror monster with some classic weaknesses and a cult of brainwashed woodland folk surrounding it.

The Unicorn, Black Willow by Daniel Lofton!

A fun environmental and aesthetic twist on a classic D&D / fairy-tale monster.

And finally, our grand prize winner:

The Wendless Wolls by James Baillie!

A second win for the winner of the first contest! The Wendless Wolls combine a fun background, an adorable image, and an unusual twist relative to other humanoid tribes.

I'm going to be on holiday throughout the end of August, so those prize packs should be heading out in September. I'll be in touch to get addresses and so on. Congratulations to our winners and thank you very much to everyone who entered, voted, or supported the contest. A very special thanks to our sponsors: the Hyqueous Vaults, Spes Magna Games, and Diplomatist Books!

Monday, 16 July 2018

Monster Man Contest II: Entries!

This page features some of the entries for the second Monster Man contest. It doesn't include entries sent to me as an external link, so if you want to see all of the entries, go to this page here.

Cloud of Chaos by Roger Duthie (illustrated by Roger, Amy, and Elodie Duthie (age2))

The "Cloud of Chaos" is a manifestation of a cross-dimensional shift in magical energy, where magic is drawn to the corporeal plane by the, usually sudden, presence or absence of magic in some form. It is generally thought to exist due to the excessive use or blending of magic, although it can also be created after the sudden death or dimension-shift of a powerful magic user. It is also thought that a cloud may form as a result of magical shock or magical pressure gradients within the multi-planar system. Similar to air which rushes to fill a vacuum, or sea fog rolling in to shore due to the differences in temperature and humidity between land and shore. The chaos cloud accumulates in the corporeal plane for reasons that only the well versed in multi-dimensional magi-physics can hope to comprehend (i.e. mostly only those whom are considered completely mad). It is typically a mixture of magical forces, hence the chaotic description given to the phenomenon. The cloud might have mutational or necromantic properties, or even have the ability to heal creatures which are engulfed.

Conditions for the creation of a cloud of chaos may include, for example:
  • the aftermath of a pitched battle where powerful battlemages were present
  • the sudden, unexpected teleportation of a powerful sorcerer to a distant realm, or nether-dimension
  • the experimentation of a novice magic user with magic more powerful than their ken
  • the deliberate creation of a cloud by a summoner wizard
  • the creation of a small chaotic cloud by a circus entertainer using a simple cantrip

Once it has manifested, from afar, a cloud resembles a regular cloud, mist, fog or smoke, but it may have some striking colouration: very dark and brooding, a mix of bright neon hues, or like a astronomical nebula. The properties of the cloud from within can vary depending on the mixes of magic that the cloud imbues.
Its size can vary greatly, from a few centimetres across or less, to the size of an entire city. The extent of the cloud will be dependent on it genesis: the aftermath of a battle between powerful mages may cause a cloud the size of a valley; the unexpected teleportation of a sorcerer may cause a large brooding cloud around the high tower on the crags from whence they were transported; a failed magical experiment causing small puff of smoke; or a human-sized cloud can be deliberately created for storage in a bottle or magically bound within a lamp.
Its behaviour is unlikely to follow the normal laws of physics and it may even seem to possess a pseudo-sentient character - being able to follow an individual like a dog, or be able to choose one dungeon corridor over another, or fight against a wind to stay stationary.
The games master should choose whether a cloud has a given set of bizarre characteristics or determine them randomly. The process of random generation will be dependent on the game system used. A table with some ideas is given below; of course, this should be expanded by the GM or ignored completely:
  1. Mutational: will mutate living creatures within the cloud; roll random mutations for living creatures within the cloud (if your game system has a handy mutation table, you're all set!); all mutations will persist even if the cloud is dispersed, but can perhaps be cured if the game system allows
  2. Void: creatures within the void will experience a lack of sensation, like they are in a place devoid of stimulus (e.g. black void, or white void)
  3. Time-warping: time runs backwards in the cloud; players within the cloud still get older, but exit the cloud at an earlier time
  4. Portal: the cloud acts as a bridge between random locations in space and time; this could lead to transportation to other places near the original place, or on other continents, other planets or even other planes of existence.
  5. Necromantic: the cloud raises the dead
  6. Elemental: the cloud exhibits extremes of elemental character: extreme cold, extreme heat, water, sand, plant growth, ...; the games master can choose one or randomise one, or randomise a new one every so often to keep it interesting (which is the most chaotic way, anyway!)

Also, the nature of the cloud can change on a whim, every so often (e.g. D10 combat rounds/D6 minutes/at the GM's will), roll a die: on an odd result, re-roll on the table above. This is optional. To remove a cloud, there are number of methods:
  • magic: a fairly powerful wizard may know the way to disperse the cloud in a safe way; a planar-rift spell or certain element spells (air/ice/...perhaps others...) might suffice; depending on the size of the cloud, the magic may have to be more or less powerful
  • containment: a small cloud can be contained physically - e.g. within a sealed room
  • time: the cloud may disperse over time as the magic fades. A rule of 10 seconds per cubic centimetre would mean a small puff of chaotic smoke would disperse within seconds, a human-sized cloud would last about 5 days, a cloud atop a wizard's tower may last a decade and a vast city sized cloud may last many millennia, causing stark changes to the landscape it has consumed.
  • magical weapons: edged magical weapons may be able to slice the cloud. This may allow portions to be collected in receptacles for later use.

Stats for this entity depend on your game system and the nature of the cloud. Its strength may be negligible (it is a cloud with no form), its agility either negligible or anything up to very high (reflecting the ability to react to attack or capture), its intelligence would be fairly low in all cases as it only possesses pseudo-sentience (i.e. no more than animal-like intelligence). Its magical presence is very high, which might make a difference to a stat line.

Other ideas:
  • the cloud could take human form, this might be gigantic in size (i.e. they might be giants!)
  • the cloud could take the form of a beast which is on another plane of existence
  • the cloud might take on intellegince and an agenda, reflected by a magic user associated with the manifestation (e.g. a sorcerer trapped on another plane) or a random being trapped on another plane
Dunebat, Giant by Ben Paulson

Health: 4 Monster Rating: 6 # of Dice: 1 Personal Adds: +3

These dog sized bats hang from the ceilings of caves and tombs found in deserts. Sentient and wickedly clever, they covet all sorts of gems and gold commonly held by adventurers. As a result, Dunebats tend to congregate in one darkened, fearful room of their home and send scouts out into their dungeon. When a scout sends word of coming adventures, the Dunebats use their mimicking voices to set the stage, drawing the adventures over with cries for help. Then, when the adventurers arrive, the Dunebats will open their eyes in unison, and put on theatrics. The room, now lit up only by a thousand tiny gem-red eyes, will let out screams, the laughing of devils, the grumbling of mummies and the rattling of chains.

Most adventurers will run for their lives and conveniently drop their treasure. Those that keep their
senses and light a torch will learn that Giant Dunebats are actually a type of extremely lazy and
surprisingly cute fruit bat. Seeing as that they are unable to fool the wise adventuring party they trade
instead – fruit and coin for information on the dungeon, magic items and of course impersonations of

local celebrities and political figures.

Lycanthrope, Wereladoo by Daniel Lofton

ARMOR CLASS: by armor type or 10 (in bowl of ladoo form)
MOVE: 12" or none (in bowl of ladoo form)
HIT DICE: 4 + 1
% IN LAIR: -
DAMAGE/ATTACK: by weapon type or curse
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Hit only by silver or +1 or better magic weapons
ALIGNMENT: Neutral or evil
SIZE: S-M (by race) or S (in bowl of ladoo form)
 Attack/Defense Modes: Nil/nil

The origin of the wereladoo can be traced back to a spiteful warrior, who jealously poisoned the ladoo served at the wedding of his unrequited love. After the crime, on the fourth day of the waxing moon (and each after that) he turned into a bowl of ladoo. Since that time the wereladoo curse has spread in the following manner. The ladoo smells and tastes bitter to those of good alignment, and sweet to those of neutral or evil alignment. If all the ladoo in the bowl are consumed before the dawn, the curse is transfered to any who ate them. The original cursed individual will reappear wherever the bowl is when the dawn comes. Wereladoo can be cured by casting remove curse on the affected individual.

There are rumors that some particularly evil wereladoo have learned to control the curse and can transform at will to try to tempt the unwary.

Smashing the bowl of a wereladoo will kill it instantly and it will revert back to its humanoid form.
If a character of good alignment contracts the wereladoo curse their alignment changes to neutral.

Man Can by Christopher Cale

For Fighting Fantasy
Skill: 6
Stamina: 6
Attacks: 1
Habitat: Store Rooms
Number Encountered: 1-6
Type: Mimic
Reaction: Hostile
Wits: Average
Size: Small
Damage: 1
Treasure: Rations.

The dreaded MAN CAN lurks in dungeon store-rooms, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting adventurers and devour them. These small creatures look like ordinary food cans, until an unfortunate adventurer gets too close to the shelves they are roosting on. They are surprisingly resilient for their size, due to their armoured bodies, but can be held at bay by strongly presenting a can opener.

The MAN CAN is typically encountered when an adventurer decides to search a store room; 1 to 6 of them will suddenly reveal claws and fangs and leap on the adventurer. The adventurer must successfully test their LUCK or lose 1 STAMINA per MAN CAN. They must then fight them off as normal. Once the MAN CANS have been defeated, the adventurer may take them as Rations. Each MAN CAN becomes one Ration, though the adventurer will require a can opener to be able to get into them. The cans have no labels and have a roughly equal chances of being beans, peaches or spaghetti hoops.

Unicorn, Black Willow by Daniel Lofton

Frequency: Rare
MOVE: 24"
HIT DICE: 5 + 2
% IN LAIR: 10%
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-6/1-6/1-12
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Good
 Attack/Defense Modes: Nil/nil

This unicorn is dark brown to black in coloration with a mane consisting of thin, leafed willow branches. Its horn is shorter than that of the standard unicorn, curves upward slightly and resembles dark, twisted wood. Black Willow Unicorns are found in swamps and wetlands and are the protectors of these fragile ecologies. As such they are much more fierce and territorially protective than a normal unicorn. When in these environments they have 15% spell resistance. They may allow themselves to be ridden by druids or dryads. Black Willow Unicorns are immune to poison and may cure poison at will, with a touch of their horn. Possession of a Black Willow Unicorn horn renders the bearer immune to poison.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Monster Man Contest II: Questions!

With the Monster Man Contest II underway, I have received some questions about the rules. Here are the answers, which I will also add to the original post when I get a moment.

Who has the publishing rights to my entry? 

You do, of course! I'm not intending to publish these, except insofar as putting them here is "publishing" them -- it's just a fun exercise in community creativity.

Can I publish my entry on another forum, blog or website and just send you a link instead of emailing you? 

Certainly; please do!

How many times can I enter?

Let's say up to three entries per person, but no one contestant can win more than once -- in the unlikely event that someone places in the top group with multiple entries, I'll just count whichever one has the highest number of votes.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Monster Man Contest II!

OK, so last time I said I would run a second Monster Man contest it ... basically didn't happen. I was too busy to promote it effectively and I only got a handful of entries, and I just let it slide. But no longer! Monster Man Contest II is in full effect, and there are fabulous prizes to be won! How would you like ... a print copy of The Hyqueous Vaults? Or a £15 gift certificate to Diplomatist Books? Maybe you'd like a collection of monsters from Spes Magna Games? Or a special monster surprise from yours truly? Well, all you have to do is make a monster!

Here are the rules:

1. Go to this article about D&D monster names created by neural networks.

2. Pick a monster such as the Slug, Spectral or the Mommy, Greater

3. Create a Monster Manual-style entry for your chosen name, with a description and stats for your favourite edition of D&D. Or your favourite RPG, whatever it might be. I'm not the boss of you! If you want to add a picture, that'd be double cool.

4. Send it to me by July 14th. You can email me (gonzohistory@gmail.com) or share it with me on Google+. 

5. I will post the entries here and ask listeners to vote on them by August 1st, choosing the top three entries. 

6. I will create an episode of Monster Man for the winning monsters. Winners will also receive a print copy of The Hyqueous Vaults (with removable cover!) and more. And everyone who reads this will get tons of fun monsters to read about and enjoy!

7. You can enter more than once if you like, but you can't win more than once.

And that's it! Go make some monsters. Share this contest with your friends; the more the merrier.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

New year, new campaign: the Great Mutant Caper

My ongoing campaign of the post-apocalyptic RPG Other Dust is ... well ... ongoing! In the last few sessions, the players have been solving a murder mystery and looking for a treasure map. This culminated in a heist at the closest thing a junkyard bartertown has to a luxury hotel. I decided to set the whole thing up with miniatures, because representing multiple different things going on simultaneously is an important part of the heist genre. 

The hotel and its compound.
The caper-comedy genre is one of my comfort zones, I think, and part of that is because it's possible to introduce consistent genre elements in a way that's still surprising. I decided to just make a quick random complications table that would let me keep things moving without having to plan everything out in advance. I rolled once every so often to get things like "a vehicle arrives" or "unwanted social interaction" or "room service!" just to keep the NPCs moving around the space.

A consortium of investors try to get Jeb interested in their new product. 

The law! The red-robed junkborgs, merciless enforcers of The Perfesser's law, turn up when Jeb sets off the alarm.

Twiggs spots lizardy medical genius Patches tampering with the ingredients outside the kitchen.

Twiggs fails to talk his way past the housekeeping staff.

Our heroes(?): L to R: Jaime, Twiggs, Jeb, Reesix

The night manager is having a pretty bad day. 

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Another thing I'm working on

Last year when I went to Salute, I mentioned playing in a game refighting the battle of Lodi Vecchio. This was a lot of fun, but it also wasn't just any Lion Rampant game, it was part of an ongoing project exploring the relationship between medieval history and wargaming. I'm happy to say that the project is now in its second phase and I'm helping out with the web aspect.

So check out Gaming a Crusader Castle, won't you? There'll be more stuff going up on there in the coming weeks as we create scenarios, write articles and more. We'll be going to games shows throughout 2018 and 2019 to show off the Byblos Castle keep model by Supreme Littleness Designs and also to run some games using a range of different historical systems, starting with Claymore 2018 in Edinburgh.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

In the meantime

A lot of my time lately has been taken up with various projects that I have either talked about here or will hopefully talk about soon. But I haven't stopped playing games! Despite my enthusiasm for Ghost Archipelago, many of my local gamers remain devoted to Frostgrave, and that's fun too. We've been playing a lot lately at the games night hosted by a local book store. In fact, their games selection is pretty good -- and as a Cambridge University alum, I'll get a discount, at least as soon as my alumni card arrives. So that's pretty good!

Anyway, I've created (or more accurately recreated) a Frostgrave warband and returned to my age-old practice of just getting my butt kicked. We usually manage to get two tables playing at once, so here are some photos from the most recent event -- they're mostly the other board, since the lighting was better over there.

A cultist sniper takes aim high above the battlefield.

There's something sinister about these nuns. 

This player's warband is made mostly of classic Citadel models.

Most of the shots of my table came out a little blurry, but it looked OK on the night. 

Although we did eventually take out this warhound, he earned his kibbles, holding us off for several turns.

My apprentice and his team spread out among the ruins to look for ... "clues."

I love the variety of colours on these cultists; mine are very drab. 
Anyway, I'm having fun and really pleased with the effort a big book store is making to cultivate its gaming community. It's mostly board games there and a little D&D, but we do make a fun spectacle. People often come by and ask what sort of game we're playing; I should put together some starter warbands for kids or whatever.