ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
gladiatorI'm delighted to announce that the rulebook for Weird of Hali: Roleplaying the Other Side of the Cthulhu Mythos is now finished in working draft. It's kind of chunky -- 107,000 words, 500 pages in double spaced manuscript format -- but then that's what you get when a rulebook has to include three different systems of magic, not to mention rules for mad scientists, car chases, nervous breakdowns, and what happens when your character starts turning into something other than human. A first pass by the publisher, and by an old friend of mine who's played RPGs since D&D was this neat set of additions to Chainmail, turned up a few problems that were readily fixed, and now it's ready for the next stage of the process: playtesting. 

I have three Games Masters lined up to do the initial playtesting, but I'd be willing to see several more give it a spin, I want to make sure all the remaining bugs in the rules are caught in advance of publication, and playtesting to destruction is the best way to see to that. Interested? Let's talk. 

A couple of points: 

First, some things are fixed. The rulebook uses the Mythras system, and the license that allows me to use that system permits things to be added to the simplified Mythras Imperative rules but does not permit anything in those rules to be removed or changed. If you don't like d100 games, or some other aspect of Mythras aka RuneQuest 6 irritates you, that's unfortunate but it's not going to change. Similarly, the revaluation of all values central to the game (and the novels) -- the idea that the Great Old Ones are the old gods of nature and it's the people who are trying to destroy or banish them who are the real threat to all life on earth -- and a good deal of the setting details are also not going to change. 

Second, no, you don't have to have read any of the novels in my tentacular fantasy series The Weird of Hali in order to play, or playtest, this game. It's the same fictive world and the same broad situation, but the goal is to make the game an independent entrance to that fictive world, not just a derivative of the books. 

Third, I'm working on a mini-adventure module, The Tablet from Sarkomand, that I hope to include in the rulebook, and that will also need to be playtested, but it's got some weeks of hard work ahead before it's complete. I'd like to have the rules tested by Games Masters who can improvise or draw up their own adventures for Weird of Hali. One potential incentive is that the publisher has told me he's very interested in publishing adventure modules and supplements for Weird of Hali and other games of the Mythras family; if you're interested in turning your passion for roleplaying games into a source of pizza and beer money, this may be your entry...

So let the games begin. Ave, Cthulhu! Ludituri te salutant! 
ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
Cthulhu in SpaceWell, the manuscript for Weird of Hali: The Roleplaying Game is in the publisher's hands as I write this. I had enormous fun with the project, since the hard work of developing game mechanics was already taken care of -- it uses the Mythras Imperative rules as its basis, via a license from the developers -- and so it was just a matter of figuring out how to make sorcery work more or less the way it does in the novels, working up stats blocks for a lot of eldritch critters, fitting in rules for mad scientists, and tinkering with such other details as will make for more entertaining play. 

I'll be putting out a call for GMs willing to playtest the draft system as soon as the publisher has the chance to go over the rules and make sure there are no obvious howlers, and once it's been playtested to destruction and all the problems fixed, it's back to the publisher and on its way into print. I'll keep everyone informed. 

In the meantime, though...

I think I've mentioned here more than once that I'm fond of old-fashioned science fiction, the sort of thing that populates the solar system with intelligent beings and provides ample opportunity for adventure on the grand scale -- swordplay along the Grand Canal of Mars, monstrous critters in the jungles of Venus, derring-do on the moons of Jupiter, and more. That's something that would make a very fun setting for roleplaying games, and indeed something that could be added onto a game of Weird of Hali or Mythras itself.

So, having discussed the idea with the same game publishing company that's bringing out Weird of Hali and gotten an enthusiastic response, I have a new project. The working title is Eldritch Worlds, and the goal is to catch the spirit of the spookier end of interplanetary science fiction -- not horror, which doesn't interest me, but weird fantasy, which does. Imagine for a moment that C.S. Lewis, Clark Ashton Smith, and C.L. Moore -- all of whom wrote excellent stories of the kind I have in mind -- got mildly drunk together at a science fiction convention in 1952 and decided to create a shared solar system; that's kind of what I'm thinking. 

In the same spirit as my previous requests for help, though, I'd like to ask any of my readers who are minded to assist to search their own memories of classic science fiction and help me fill out some of the details. The first question to settle is...

In classic science fiction, how many ways are there to get to another world? 

I've thought of the following so far: 
  • Spacecraft using currently available technology
  • Spacecraft using technology from a lost civilization of the past
  • Spacecraft using extraterrestrial technology (and possibly crewed by aliens)
  • Teleportation device or spell
  • Trans-dimensional gateway or portal
  • Device or spell for transferring consciousness to a body on another world
  • Intervention by a deity, Great Old One, or other superhuman being
...but there are doubtless others, and I want to give GMs and characters as many options as possible. How do you want to go to Mars? 
ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
Herbert WestGot another favor to ask of my readers. I'm closing in on the completion of the first draft of Weird of Hali: The Roleplaying Game; I've finished the rules for character generation, combat, all three kinds of sorcery, greater and lesser tomes, moon paths and standing stones, sanity, the lack thereof, and what happens when you spend too much time hobnobbing with ghouls; the Creatures section at the back is crawling (not to mention oozing, leaping, flapping, swimming, and lurking) with a world-class collection of eldritch critters -- and yes, fans of Yag-Kotha from "The Tower of the Elephant" will find other members of his species present and accounted for; I've got a few other details to plug in, but there's one serious gap remaining...

Mad scientists. 

Lovecraft made ample use of them in his fiction, and I've examined the research programs of his fine contributions to the field -- Herbert West, Dr. Munoz, Crawford Tillinghast, Charles Dexter Ward, and the nameless orderly whose telepathy machine had such unexpected results in "Beyond the Walls of Sleep;" I've taken similar notice of Jean Averaud, whose intriguing sonic device features in Clark Ashton Smith's "The Devotee of Evil': I've pored over the journals of Dr. Raymond and Dr. Steven Black, who feature in Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan" and "The Inmost Light" respectively; and of course studied the grand old man of them all, Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Any self-respecting game based on the weird-tale genre, even if it's turning that genre on its head, has to have ample scope for eccentric researchers in isolated country houses or concealed laboratories in urban basements, hard at work on some project that will shake the world if it doesn't blow them to smithereens first. 

to the laboratoryGetting the concept is easy enough; getting the details, a little less so. As with other items in the game, I need a good 1d100 table with plenty of options -- if at all possible, 100 of them -- to serve as a random mad scientist research projects generator, for those GMs who want to go that route, and a source of inspiration for those GMs who want to stock an adventure with a mad scientist or two and can simply glance down the chart to see what crazed scientific venture sounds like a good addition to the game. The examples cited above give the following projects:
  • reviving the recently dead
  • maintaining life in a corpse
  • perceiving the unseen realities that surround us all (via radiation)
  • reviving the long dead
  • making telepathic contact with another mind
  • tuning in to the vibrations of pure evil
  • perceiving the unseen realities that surround us all (via surgery)
  • extracting the human soul
  • manufacturing life from not quite raw materials
Commando CodyTo that I would certainly add:
  • traveling to other planets
(Space travel just hasn't been fun since it got co-opted by huge government programs, you know.) 

But there are plenty of other options, enshrined in old movies, pulp stories, and other suitable pop-culture sources. For copyright reasons, anything first published within the last couple of decades probably won't work unless it's riffing off something well established in the weird-tales genre. On the other hand, anything that dates from the days of black and white movies, pulp magazines, or the like will be particularly welcome. 

So, tentacle fans -- what do you want to see the mad scientists of WoH: the RPG busy cooking up in their laboratories to the discomfiture of player characters and the Radiance alike? Enquiring (if decidedly crazed) minds want to know...

ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
down the tunnelI'd like to ask for some assistance from those of my readers who are into roleplaying games (RPGs) -- specifically the grand old-fashioned variety that involves a group of players sitting around a table as their imaginary alter egos move cautiously down a tunnel, listening intently for the rattle of six-sided dice that warns of a wandering monster...

A while back there was a certain amount of talk on this journal about the possibility of using the world of my fantasy novel series The Weird of Hali as the setting for a RPG. I'm pleased to be able to say that at this point it's not just talk. I got a polite no thank you from Chaosium, the company that owns the Call of Cthulhu game -- no surprises there, but I thought it was reasonable to talk to them first. Apparently the stars are right, though; maybe a week later, I was contacted by a smaller RPG firm that's interested, and so Weird of Hali: Roleplaying the Other Side of the Cthulhu Mythos is now under development. 

The company in question has a house system -- they're one of several firms that's licensed the Mythras fantasy RPG system, which cognoscenti will know was originally going to be the 6th edition of Runequest. Under the terms of the license, I can't change the rules or mechanics of the basic Mythras Imperative system, but I can add additional rules to my heart's content. I don't mind the restriction, as the rules as given are straightforward and intuitive to use -- you can download a set from this page if you're interested -- but the question of what to add is on my mind, and I figured I'd ask my readers for help here. 

If you've used Mythras, Runequest 6th edition, or any of the burgeoning family of d100 roleplaying games -- or for that matter, if you've done other kinds of roleplaying games and have things you especially love and hate about rulebooks for RPGs -- what would you like to see in a Weird of Hali RPG? The game will be set in the modern world, and characters will start out utterly clueless about the Great Old Ones, the elder races, the real history of the world, and especially about a secret and powerful organization nobody is willing to talk about -- an organization that seeks to impose its bloodstained utopian fantasies on the world once and for all, and will stop at nothing to get its way.

As your characters flee for their lives across the witch-haunted Massachusetts landscape, or venture into a vast and sinister house that one of them has just inherited from a mysterious great-uncle, or head into the swamps of tidewater North Carolina looking for a graveyard where legend has it that a stair leads down to unknown things, or jump down from a helicopter near a research station in Greenland where strange things have been happening...what do you want the rules to do for you? What skills should your characters be able to have, what problems in the  rulebooks need to be patched, what really cool things did a GM you know add to that really memorable Runequest game two years ago? Tentacular minds want to know...

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ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)John Michael Greer

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