Thursday, November 30, 2017

Water Your Garden

Water Your Garden

As much as anyone subscribes to any philosophy in a mundane life, I try to live out the teachings of the stoics. One of the central concepts to stoicism is the acceptance of what you can and cannot control. In an age of over consumption of media and information, taking control of your inputs is an important step towards more gratifying, less stressful, and (perhaps) a richer life.

I'm in a place in my life where I drive a lot and most of the media I consume comes in the form of podcasts. I easily listen to 5 or 6 a work day. Originally I was going to write a comprehensive list of things I like, but I settled on just podcasts because I feel I have more authority to give a recommendation on them. I've avoided mentioning the trite and well known shows in favor of lending some spotlight to some more modest gems.

The format is as follows: Title, Host/Studio/Station: Brief description, and game-ability score (1-5)

99% Invisible, Roman Mars: A look at all things design and applying design based principles to real world problems. 1

Gastropod, Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley: Food through the lens of science and history, often with a specific food for each episode. 2

Heaven's Gate, Glenn Washington: Examination of American cult of the same name, lots of interviews with surviving members and hosted by a former cult member. 4

Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam: NPR's psychology podcast. Lots of great guests and examples of psychological principles in society. 1

Imaginary Worlds, Eric Molinsky: Multifaceted look at modern fiction and its interface with other parts of our culture. Has a lot of modern authors on. 4

LeVar Burton Reads, LeVar Burton: Short stories read by a classic reader. The stories vary in content, but all are pretty excellent. 3

Love and Radio, Nick van der Kolk: Raw stories told in a stream of consciousness format. These are all utterly captivating. 3

Mission to Zyxx, Audioboom: Improv comedy, in space! Its actually really very funny. 5

More Perfect, Radiolab: Deep looks into specific US Supreme Court cases. Not very gameable, but very well researched. 1

Myths and Legends, Jason Weiser: Stories researched, adapted, and retold. Some of which annoy me, but its part of keeping old stories alive. so thats cool. 3

Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Christopher Lydon: Sometimes really boring, sometimes wonderfully insightful interviews. His interviews about artists specifically are great. 1

The Allusionist, Helen Zaltzman: A hard look at language. 2

The Heart, Kaitlin Prest: Intimate stories about life and love. 1

The Memory Palace, Nate DiMeo: Vignettes about characters, places, or events from history. Lovingly crafted and brief. 4

The Sporkful, Dan Pashman: Food show centered on interviews with celebrity chefs/not chef celebrities. Actually really delightful. 1

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Voyage of the Void Seeker: The Set Up

The whole idea for this came from seeing this piece at a street fair in my town. I met the artist, got this piece, and hung it on my wall. Its been staring at me, asking to be used...

In a recent post condensing all of my Ánemos writing into one place I had a dense little mess of the going-ons in the Scattered Sea. There was mention of "the long-thought-lost Magi Trophonious the Fool has risen out of the depths on the back of a Kētos and is looking for a crew to sail with him to the bottom of the Abyss". This is that adventure hook explored, and incidentally my first adventure to be published on this blog!

You can get it here, on this blog, as I write it. When it is all done, I will compile everything into a PDF for easy download.

(I'm relatively new to this. There are some bad-ass writers out in the DIY/OSR blog-o-sphere that I admire greatly and get a lot of inspiration from (you can see their blogs on the right panel of this page). This adventure was written as my entry into the published adventures of the DIY RPG scene, but this is the effort of one person that is doubtless in need of editing. If you have comments and edits I'd love to read and incorporate them.)

Bon voyage!

Source unknown

The Set Up

The party is going to start in the City of Twins, Diopolis, the largest Island State in the Chalcis Chain, seat of the Chalcis Alliance of Protection (CAP).

The city spans two islands, Euboea and Boeotia. The story goes that the islands where once one, but the Goddess of the island had a mental break and two personailites and two islands formed, creating the Euripus Strait over which the longest bridge in the world spans. It is home to the Counsel of Magi and a number of famous wizards and enchanters, and one of the only places in Ánemos that the secret techniques of making Wyrships are known and practiced.

While not as militaristic as their main international competition the Republic of Minoa or the Comitia Tributa of Arsuf, Chalcis is full of her own dangers. Magi are cunning folk, and work in slow and subtle ways to ruin each other and turn the world to suit their needs. Intrigue lurks in the steamy halls of every bath and rumors rip through the City of Twins like the breath of a zephyr.

Trophonius arrived in the Euripus Strait that bisects City of Twins strapped to the back of a Ketos, a massive whale like creature. The Ketos has strange structures of seaglass and clamleather affixed to it, apparently enabling Trophonius to live comfortably upon the beast. The event has the city's rumor mills working triple time, its a nice diversion from the news of titanic horrors ravaging the outer reaches of Chalcis, but also worrying because most of the CAP's war bands are out on their Wyrships fighting the monsters.

Trophonius calls his "vessel" the Void Seeker, what nickname have the citizens of Euboea given it as it rests in the shallows waiting for its master's call?

1d10 Nicknames of the Void Seeker:
  1. Hubris
  2. Catharsis
  3. Thalia
  4. Apotheosis
  5. Exodus
  6. Moira
  7. Ananke
  8. Halcyon
  9. Abyssinia
  10. Gravitas
Trophonius has made it clear that he does not plan to stay in the city for long, just long enough to find himself a crew and stock the vessel for a long trip.  What does he tell people that his mission is?

1d6, Trophonius's Stated Goal:
  1. To find the source of the titanic sea monsters terrorizing Chalcis and destroy them if he can, looking especially for heroes and madmen
  2. Uncover and mine Orichalcum nodules at the bottom of the Sea, looking especially for deep water miners and alchemists
  3. He seeks to find the corpse of a long sunk vessel with a belly full of treasure, looking especially for scavengers and demolishonists
  4. Wants to find and pass through the Gates of the Underworld to be reunited with the soul of a dead lover from his youth, looking especially for grave robbers and those that speak with deamons
  5. To kill a god by severing their connection to wellspring of divinity, looking especially for blasphemers and the morally bankrupt
  6. To reach the Bottom, looking especially for companions and thrill seekers
In addition he is hiring: Sea grass gardeners, artisans (bronze smiths, cordells, leather workers, glass blowers), cartographers, navigators, biographers, musicians, cooks, cabin boys, harpooners, quartermaster, boatswain, surgeons, and a few swabs.

Those that knew Trophonius recall his many bad habits, addictions, and general uncannyness. What are his flaws?

1d10 Bad Habits:
  1. Chews with his mouth open
  2. Doesn't cover his mouth when he sneezes
  3. Has bad body odor/terrible breath
  4. Bites his nails
  5. Refuses to make eye contact
  6. Mummbles
  7. Poor posture
  8. Fiddling with his beard and hair
  9. Always humming to himself
  10. Picks his nose/ear wax
1d10 Addictions:
  1. Alcohol (wine)
  2. Opiates (opium)
  3. Salty Snacks (smoked sardines)
  4. Sweets (candied dates)
  5. Tea (green)
  6. Hallucinogens (sea slugs on the eyes)
  7. Gambling (dice)
  8. Stimulants (carrow root)
  9. Inhalants (smelling salts)
  10. Chewing gum (sap of the drakon blood tree)
1d10 Weird Detail:
  1. Continuously has teeth falling out, never runs out
  2. Tattoos that dance and flow on his skin
  3. Eyes never look in the same direction
  4. Hair and beard are made of sea weed, he keeps them wet
  5. Robes change from slate grey to azure to match the character of the Sea
  6. Weird Pet (1d4: giant hermit crab, several goofy seagulls, an animate pile of sand, a very old sheep)
  7.  Voice echoes no matter his soroundings
  8. Seems to always have the hiccups, though he will deny it
  9. He can't hear rhymes
  10. Poorly hidden gills

The movers and shakers in Diopolis don't believe a word Trophonius tells them, they are sure he is up to something more sinister. The party happens to be in right place at the right time, someone needs something done aboard the Void Seeker and they are asked to help. The following motivations can be for the whole party (especially easy if part of an ongoing game), or to make things interesting each party member could be given a motivation secretly as the game begins (easy if this is the first adventure a party is taking part in).

 1d10 Party Motivations:
  1. Spies of the Chalcis Alliance of Protection, defensive information and an assassination team if there is a threat to the region uncovered
  2. Lackeys of the Counsel of Magi, sabotage Trophonius' reputation and steal his arcane secrets
  3. Members of the Guild of Scalers, representing the Guild's trade interests in the virgin markets of the Deep Sea
  4. Agents of a society of theological scholars, learn more about the Mythic Underworld
  5. Hired by Trophonius from a mercenary company (1d3: Stellar's Jays, Stormking Mountain Battalion, Black Sails), hired muscle
  6. The party are Secret Merfolk, aboard to ensure the safety and secrecy of their underwater citadels
  7. Ascetics, seek yet uncontacted Spirits of the depths and ingratiate themselves with them
  8. Daemon Binders, CHAOS
  9. Vagabonds that lied their way in, murderhoboism
  10. Classic 20,000 Leugues Under the Sea start, hired to hunt a sea monster nearby and it turns out its the Void Seeker causing trouble. After sinking their ship Trophonius invites them in and the adventure begins...
And so, the crew is set, provisions are loaded, and the Void Seeker is bound for the depths!