Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Spiral

Junji Ito is one of the Greats

Over at From the Sorcerer's Skull, Trey has posted about small-scale mystery sandboxes.  This is a thing that several of us in the online Nightwick group have often discussed.  Infamous artist, blogger, and Star Trek aficionado Huth has a kind of dream campaign he says is based off the structure of Junji Ito's Uzumaki.  Since he has not done a post on it - despite several requests - I've decided to tackle the issue myself as best I can.

The idea is that the weird happenings in a small town are based around what Huth refers to as a "core phenomena" - a weird thing that causes the secondary weird things the PCs investigate and lends them all a loose theme.  In Uzumaki this is the town's connection to a "spiral curse."  In Twin Peaks this would be Bob or the Black Lodge. It is the innermost layer of Sandy Petersen's proverbial onion from the Call of Cthulhu corebook.  Deciding what the core phenomena is is the first and probably most important step to setting up one of these types of campaigns.

The core phenomena should provide a loose theme for all of the sub-mysteries.  I say "loose" because I feel like if you make it too thematic you will end up in a straight jacket.  The Spiral Curse in Uzumaki provides for a wide variety of bizarre effects including people merging together and mosquito-women.  The spiral is involved conceptually with each, but its a broad enough concept that it can work for multiple things.

The core phenomena would ideally provide a kind of mini-apocalypse that destroys the mini-setting in some thematically appropriate way.  All of the sub-mysteries hint at the nature of the core phenomena and when the core phonemena is revealed its conflict with the characters will destroy the setting either literally or by removing the threat.  This apocalypse could be an actual destructive event (like in Uzumaki) or it could be something more subtle.  Take for example the town of Deer Meadow in Fire Walk with Me.  The guys at RLM convincingly argue that Deer Meadow is what would happen to Twin Peaks if Bob's corruption is allowed to spread throughout the town.  It is not something that would make the news in the way Uzumaki's does, but it is its own kind of apocalypse.

The structure of such a campaign beyond the core phenomena is perhaps the biggest sticking point between Huth and me.  Huth has tried on a few occasions to do one where everything is a big web of relationships.  The sub-mysteries all occur simultaneously and the sandboxy nature is enhanced by the players being able to access any part at any given time.  It most closely matches the circular model of dungeon design described by Melan (though with facts instead of corridors and rooms).  This sounds great, but each time I have seen him attempt it we floundered and spun our wheels.  Perhaps mastering this would be the best form of the game.

The half-assed version I would argue for is closer to Melan's "branching" dungeon, but in reverse.  Each component part is fairly linear with a couple of branching paths that connect it to neighboring mysteries (just one or two so that the connections don't get too crowded).  All of the branches are accessible at any time but they are ultimately a line pointing to whatever layer of the onion they uncover.  This should be less work for the GM while still getting the overall idea of the campaign across.

I have wanted to try such a campaign with my Lerouxville setting.  When I ran it long ago I had not hit upon the idea of the core phenomena nor read Uzumaki.  I think it suffered as a result, but since I'm currently in the midst of a Nightwick Abbey game and am running a location hopping Delta Green game for my home group, it seems like it might be a while before I can try my hand at a better version.




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Nightwick Looking for Players

My Nightwick game on G+ continues to chug along, despite occasional interruptions from wild hairs and things.  We have a quorum nearly every week, but we're still a bit thinner on the ground than I'd like so...


Do You Want to Die in a Hole?!
Nightwick Abbey has lain in ruins for almost two centuries.  Built by power hungry knights and mad wizards, it now is home to only ghosts and goblins. Peasants refuse to work in the shadow of the ruined church, and at night eerie lights issue forth from its depths.  Many have tried to wrestle gold from the crypts which lie beneath, but few have returned.  Are you brave enough to seek your fortune in a demon-haunted dungeon?

A ConstantCon game using the Swords and Wizardry White Box

Play is from 1:00 - 4:00  CT every Saturday. 

This is not a FLAILSNAILS game.  You'll need a new guy for my precious-setting-shithole-hellscape.

Email me at evanDOTvanDOTelkinsATgmailDOTcom if you're interested.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Planets of the Habin Sector

A hyperspace lane chart of the Habin Sector


Kaabla is gas giant that houses a rebel listening post on a rocky moon. The base is only staffed by a handful of rebel intelligence officers, and if discovered they are more likely to abandon it than fight (at least at this juncture).



Habin is to Santorini what Tatooine is to Tunisia. It's also the capital of the local Moff and acts as a resort world for several Imperial officers. The planet is 90% water but is covered in large-ish islands that house imperial villas and small cities. The largest island, almost continent sized, is home to the capital and the Imperial garrison. The native humans and alien populations appreciate the business but are largely considered second class citizens.



Dostroth is a cavernous rock of a planet that acts as the primary Imperial fortress in the region. Rumors say it houses an alternate cloning site from the clone wars, and that may explain the number of stormtroopers. Recently military buildup at Dostroth has been oddly high, even for a sector so near contested space. Operatives at Kaabla believe an Imperial official may have arrived their recently.


Urruro is the site of TaggeCo's current operations and the chief producer of weapons and walkers in the sector and one of the largest in the midrim as a whole. The air has been rendered almost unbreathable except by certain alien species and so a respirator will be required at all times.


Itan the location of much of TaggeCo's operation during the Clone Wars. Now it is a nearly uninhabitable wasteland of garbage deposited by both TaggeCo and the Imperial forces. It is still inhabited by groups of scavengers and those too destitute to move.


Veno is a slate gray world that acts as an Imperial Dungeon Planet. 


Diteen is a world that consists of a gigantic, acidic ocean, few islands, and the terraformed bubble-cities of the "natives."  Why the aliens who make this planet their home would've chosen such an inhospitable world to colonize, and to do so in such a strange way, is unknown.



Tortera is a jungle planet and home to several small pirate fleets that plague the system. So far they have been wise enough to avoid TaggeCo and Imperial ships and thus have avoided the jackboot.

Briefing from General Dodanna


As many of you know, the Empire has been quiet in most sectors since the destruction of the Deathstar; however, what some of you may not know is that there has been a significant military buildup in sectors bordering the Outer Rim. We believe the Empire is preparing to knock out pockets of resistance there so they do not have a chance to join the Alliance. This must not happen.

To prevent their takeover of the Outer Rim, we are deploying you as a small strike team to the Habin sector. Until reaching that sector, you are to avoid all contact with the enemy. Once their, your primary mission is to make contact with local rebel cells, criminal organizations, and other potential dissidents and either convince them to join the Alliance or make them sufficiently indebted that they can be relied upon in future operations.

Your secondary mission is to sabotage Imperial efforts in the region and the work of TaggeCo and its subsidiaries. I don't need to tell you that the Tagges are powerful figures in the Empire, and that their industries do much to power the Imperial war machine. Some of you have felt the effects of TaggeCo on your homeworlds. However, this sabotaging should not be done at the expense of the primary mission. Your goal is to secure allies not enemies.

Your tertiary objective is to provide funding to the Rebellion as best you can. Any materiel that can be secured would be most useful to our war effort and can be securely given to the listening post at Kaabla.

Your first task should be to make contact with Borba the Hutt and his base of Goti Station. Unfortunately, few know the hyperspace travel routes to reach it and thus you will need an informant. Fortunately, our agents at the listening post in Kaabla have set up a meeting with a potential informant on the planet of Habin, the capital of the sector. You are to proceed there with all speed and have this meeting.

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

News from the Dark Country January 1393

Under the watchful eye of Kozel, the locals made the proper rites to "St Santa Claus" and managed to avoid the depredations of the Pestilence Man another year. Huthmas has now come and gone and things are relatively calm in Nightwick itself, though news and supplies continue to be scarce.

News has come from the south though. It seems Marta the Black, one of Arnawald's most trusted lieutenants and one of the few Women-at-arms in the World of Knightwick, was slain in a skirmish with Yimsleyians near Knightpath. Five separate men, each identified as Yim Yimsley, have hanged for the crime.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Karslish Encounter


O, Sire! O Sire! I'm afraid of your way.
O, Sire! O, Sire! I'm afraid of your way.
Your mind is to ramble and lead me astray!
- A Karslish Balad

The Outlandish Knight (HD 6+1 AC 18 ST 12 Move 12, Only hit by +1 or better weapons or cold iron) can be found in a sea-cave in hex XXXX.  He lairs there with his six drowned brides (HD 2, AC 16, ST 16, Move 12, Undead) who wish they were somewhere else.  If encountered in the cave he will strike out madly with a +2 greatsword (+3 to damage due to his maddened state).  If the cave is found at night, when he is out wandering, the brides will try to ambush and drown victims in nearby eddies.  

There is a 1 in 6 chance that he will be in any nearby coastal village the players are visiting, courting a lady with his charm ability (may only be used on one victim at a time, lasts until dispelled).  He will persuade these women to steal their parents' money and horses and come with him to the seaside, where he promises there is a boat waiting.  There never is.  Women so tricked are added to the drowned brides.  For each drowned bride the Outlandish Knight has he gains 1 HD.  While he has a charmed victim he gains +1 to his HP.

The Knight appears as a knight of the Northern Isles, but with finely polished silver armor with a ghastly visage.  If his helmet is removed his misshapen elf-head is revealed and any charm effects currently active will be dispelled if the victim is able to see him.  His brides appear as beautiful women with damp hair clad in wet gossamer.  Striking them is like striking cold steel.

In his sea cave he has accumulated a small treasure hoard from his victims.  Notably he has enough fine clothes to be worth 6,000sp, and 300gp in coins.*

*Note: The Nightwick campaign uses a silver standard.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Star Wars: War on the Frontier

This is a revamp of my War on the Final Frontier campaign for Star Wars.  I did a Star Wars pitch after seeing the Force Awakens, so it seems natural I should do one after seeing Rogue One.



The year is 5 BBY.  The Galactic Empire is approaching its zenith and the Galaxy is in the midst of the Dark Times, but the Empire has not yet gained control of certain corners of space.  The Outer Rim, ever lawless and independent, has proven a tough nut to crack, even for the crack Imperial Navy.  However, their expansion into this region has been aided recently by the acquisition of nine systems known as the Habin sector, after its capital.  This sliver of space will prove vital to imperial operations as it will serve as the primary root for materiel from the Core and also has an industrial planet of its own.

The players are members of Rebel Intelligence.  Their mission is to head to the Habin Sector and make contact with any criminal organizations or potential rebel cells there.  They are to persuade these entities to join the Alliance or, failing that, make sure that they are sufficiently indebted that they can be relied upon for "favors" in future operations.  As a secondary goal, they are to sabotage whatever Imperial projects they can, but not at the expense of the long term operation.

Their cover is to be bounty hunters and merchants in the hope that this will provide them an "in" with meeting the local criminal organizations and give them significant room to move within Habin society.  Execution of the functions of these covers will be necessary to maintain them, but in a sector so close to the Outer Rim, it should be easy.  The players are encouraged to remember that the long term mission of alliance building and intelligence gathering is paramount and will require sacrifices.

Rebel brass believes the first organization you should contact is that belonging to Borba the Hutt.  He supposedly operates out of a deep space station known as Goti Station, but its current whereabouts are unknown.  An informant has promised to reveal its location for 10,000 Imperial Credits.  He wishes to meet at a warehouse on Habin.

Notorious murder and criminal Dr. Evazan has been sighted in the system and both Borba the Hutt and the Imperial Security Bureau have placed sizable bounties on him.  Interestingly, the ISB bounty specifies that he must be brought in alive.  Getting the bounty for him could prove useful for future operations in the sector, but he may know information that may be useful to the Rebellion.

Spies at a listening post within the system report that the garrison on the fortress world of Dostroth has been recently reinforced, and rumors persist that it is due to the arrival of a high-ranking Imperial official.