Monday, June 24, 2019

# 'Mechs Controlled By Local Nobles in 3025

[Three funerals and a wedding in the span of six weeks; that's life, I guess. Sorry for not having this up earlier.]

TL;DR? Houses Steiner, Davion and Liao seem to reckon second-line forces as
70 / 5 + 2 = 16 Davion second-line regiments
50 / 5 + 2 = 12 Steiner second-line regiments
40 / 5 + 2 = 10 Liao second-line regiments
and Marik, Davion and Liao count their nominal regiments as
70 *1.1 + 1 = 78 nominal Davion House regiments
50 *1.1 + 1 = 56 nominal Marik House regiments
40 *1.1 + 1 = 45 nominal Liao House regiments
20 *1.1 + 1 = 23 nominal Liao Merc regiments

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Sleepers of the Second Rune

Will post some BattleTech math Sunday. Meanwhile:

In a Cavern Beneath the Tundra

An enormous chandelier hangs by three chains instead of seven, almost (but not quite) level, with a sarcophagus where each chain reaches the chandelier. Each lid is carved with its own dangerous beast (proud lion, wrathful bear, etc) with different magic (exploding rune for wrath, charm person for lust, etc) on each. Two of the broken chains are tangled up with a lower tier of the chandelier, where hangs an eighth sarcophagus carved with a kingly, innocent, Wish-granting lamb. The other two broken chains [hang down from the chandelier,] swing[ing] free in the darkness.

Someone capable of language and dreaming can attempt to activate the Wish. If they fail, or open any of the sarcophagi, nine-foot-tall mummified paladins rise from the seven beastly sarcophagi to drive them off.

They wield the sarcophagus lids as shields. The chains attach to those lids through pulleys in the bottom of the sarcophagi so, as the mummies move, the chandelier tilts. The mummies are excellent at holding on and can climb up or down any intact chain. (If all seven chains were intact, and all seven mummies were to climb those chains through holes in the roof of the cavern, the chandelier would be lifted towards an easier access point there.)

The Dream of the Lamb

A person activating the Wish enters a trance (perhaps falling from the chandelier) and joins the dream of the eighth sarcophagus.

The dream is of a windowless dome a hundred feet across. A worn but regal paladin sits on a throne whose back is scorched and broken; the throne sits atop a high, many-stepped dais; the dais, the throne, and the paladin contemplate a large rune of purple stone set into the floor. Memories of some ancient calamity drift across the walls like light through a soap bubble, along with images of whatever the other PCs are currently doing in the cavern.

The paladin will release the character from their trance if asked. He will not volunteer to grant the Wish. If the character asks him to grant it, he'll ask what the character's worst fear or nightmare is, because his dream-rune is keeping back something even more fearsome; any fear or nightmare the player offers is manifested and inflicted on the PCs at the chandelier.

If the PC can convince the paladin that their Wish will serve the same ultimate goal as the dream-rune, the paladin will grant it, some of the rune will flake away, and the player character will wake from their trance.

Basic image of the throne and chandelier inspired by one of Pardoe's chronicles; idea of chains as shifty terrain from a Christmas rescue; "tell me your fears" from some episode of Dice, Camera Action; and the whole thing has shades of the Grail from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

As written, this is a "shiny thing" trap that relies on the players risking their lives for something they might not notice or need. I'd be happier adding an extra draw - sticking a minor McGuffin or key among the sarcophagi, making the chains part of an optional path from floor to ceiling, or getting a critical NPC to flee onto it, or something.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Things You Might Find On My Character's Corpse

Ignoring any "normal" equipment and magic items you might expect and sticking to more interesting oddities which may be of some small use.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Hagfish

There is an ooze which basks near recent battlefields, mass graves, and certain cemeteries, absorbing energies which emanate from rotting meat.

The Caravan

A group of traders discovered that, as the ooze moves to a new site, its puddle transforms into a portal big enough and which lasts long enough to drive a caravan through. They became famous for their fast journeys. They grew confident, and complacent, and now their caravan is only found near recent battlefields, mass graves, and certain cemeteries.

If you see them, you may notice that they can't shiver, can't walk backwards, and can't swallow. If you call out to them, they will repeat back to you whichever of your words seem most likely to make you leave. They have no tongues: their throats are full of butterflies, which puppet them, and drink blood. The puppets can kick twice as hard as a rifle shoots, and the swarm is happy to gain more puppets.

The now hundred-foot ooze coats the caravan's horses and wagons. What look from a distance like poles with pennants are spines, from which butterflies bud in sheets.

The ooze and the swarm are blind but possess an excellent sense of smell. The puppets spread out at twilight, to help the swarm forage; the puppets stand on one foot - with almost weeble-wobble balance - when empty. The ooze absorbs memories from the dead and its puppets can undertake any task those memories would allow.

The Herald

One member of the caravan, instead of becoming a puppet, was warped and sculpted into a misshapen ogre. He reclines on a bed of flying skulls, floating lazily backwards away from the caravan, announcing its presence on his oversized lute [edit: giant harp]. His great size and strength give his songs extra range.

He wears a large bearskin, has grown back the wrong number of arms, and - except for his ooze-filled veins - turns translucent when he casts spells.

Bolder or more desperate merchants sometimes seek him out to negotiate quick passages. He tries to sell them flasks of ooze. 

Certain Cemeteries

Liquefaction marks places where the ooze has puddle-ported - sand boils erupt, and the ground settles and flows unevenly, damaging whatever buildings and roads rest on it.

One town spotted a portal as it was forming and plugged it with debris; they don't realize the plug is slowly failing. Other towns have made their funeral practices more friendly to the ooze, because it preys on undead.

Dragons are cool and all, but other animals are weird too. The puddle-porting is part Nydus Canal and part failed summoning circle, while the traders are inspired by these traders

Edit, May 24th: I have the vaguest impression that the butterflies-in-the-throat are like something I've heard before, and that the ooze's spines are similar to something else I've read before. The wagon train may be similar to a third thing, but all I recall about THAT was that the caboose contained a coffin which slowly transformed its unwilling occupant into a hag or something.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

3025 Heavy Production: FWL vs MW1e

Remember how the Free Worlds League's manufacturing listings only added up to 486 'Mechs per year instead of the 500 claimed in the text? The most popular solution is to add 14 Thunderbolts per year. I eventually came around to that solution too, but now I think it's actually 13 Thunderbolts per year, not 14.
  • The manufacturing chart shows the FWL building only 257 universal designs per year. 13 Thunderbolts would raise that to exactly 270. 
  • The Earthwerks corporate profile mentions Thunderbolts instead of Phoenix Hawks, and the manufacturing chart lists the Phoenix Hawk at 13 per year.
  • When you line the FWL figures up against my figures from the MW1e encounter tables, the Thunderbolt fits perfectly at 13 per year.

From left to right, the Warhammer, Marauder, Archer, Thunderbolt and Rifleman align so perfectly that I have to suspect these values represent their overall, sphere-wide ratios.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Singing Squid, Astral Fish, and Uppity Iguanas

I've been using NASA's "Symphonies of the Planets" as white noise lately, and naturally, it turns one's thoughts to space whales and the like. So picture this:

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Quick note on 3025 production of universal designs

The Inner Sphere and Periphery build a total of 2867 'Mechs per year. Supposing half of those are the the universal designs from the 2nd edition boxed set, then I think their annual production by each House should break down like this:

Total 1433.33 (half of 2867)
Davion 270
Kurita 135 (counting the 270 LAMs at half covers the other 135)
Steiner 270
Marik 270, +51.67 "-M" Variants
Liao 270
Periphery 166.67 (they don't build any other 'Mechs, just the universal designs)

This gives me a few clues about the other Houses. Most notably, it'll help me sort out the weirdness in the Marik production data, and it looks like Aldis Industries of Terra builds something other than Stingers for the Federated Suns.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Skull of God (eruption)

Half a day's travel in every direction from the skull, in sheltered valleys and on high plateaus, stand "the penitents" - closely spaced pillars of soft, dusty stone ranging from two to sixteen feet in height. People avoid them because of their vaguely humanoid shape (and because they make poor construction materials). Small birds, covered in like-colored dust for camouflage, nest among them. No other beasts dare approach.

Halfway up a plateau no one has ever climbed sits a monk, meditating, concerned that the tremors are imperceptibly escalating. The monk will relocate to a ridge only two hours hike from the skull for more direct observation.
The Monk: I had some initial ideas about who this monk should be, but after my talk last time of killing the sun and the moon, it's hard not to go with a monk (hah, that mouseover text) of the sun.

The Birds: I like these birds as the iridescent embers of a failed wish spell, ineffectively pursuing their task in perpetuity, but I also want them to be pieces of the "penitents'" souls so as to imply that a legendary Phoenix is a piece of the Skull's soul.
I'm of two minds about the terrain immediately around the skull. On the one hand, if it's flat and frozen, then the eruption could shatter it and make new hills and a lake where there were none before; on the other hand, having rivers and ridges already there would give the players some choice of where to weather the event. Plus ships would get stranded upriver, bridges would be knocked out downriver, and the river could run backwards for a ways. 

[The eruption is a great image, but it's more of an interruption than an adventure. Haven't worked out the larger scenario to drop it into yet.]


Friday, March 8, 2019

The Aurigan Trail

From 2800 to 3000, hundreds of nation-states rose and fell in the Periphery, only to be replaced by still other powers, many no larger than a single world or continent (P1e, p125). By the end of the 30th Century, there were more than 60 known small kingdoms and principalities ringing the Inner Sphere (MW1e, p8). Both their numbers and their relative strength are in constant flux (MW1e, p135).

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Inner Sphere Population in 3025

Turns out I accidentally hid Le Blanc when I pieced my map together, so I fixed that and did some other cleaning. Full size available here.

I don't think it's a secret that BattleTech's map is based on England's. Probably not a rectilinear projection like the one for 1974-1996 that I colorized below, though... I wish the "warp" tool in my old free version of photoshop would let me anchor points after I've stretched them. My .psd file is here if someone else wants to fool around with it.

House populations are based on those same English regions, too. Didn't find 1980s figures online so I'm using a 1988 World Book Encyclopedia.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Dumbest Trap I Still Use

[Edit, Feb 12: Sleepy writing was bad writing. Now edited for spelling and clarity. /Edit]

The simplest version consists of a couple-three ropes (one for your feet, one or two for your hands) suspended across a chasm full of spikes; on the other side the path turns out of view, and only once across can you see that it leads down to the pit. Crossing isn't terribly difficult except that you have to attempt it again on the way back (and again every time you fall).

This is from years and years ago when my group was in a rut where they expected every challenge they encountered to be mandatory and mission-relevant. I usually include it in a biggish complex where there's other opportunities for curiosity to pay off, but I do sometimes like it as filler in smaller sites too, especially if the PCs can fly or have video drones they want to show off.

I've not tried this yet in 5e. It'll be tricky to get the DC right, [s]ince a Rogue doubly proficient in acrobatics can roll ten or more point higher than the other PCs. Maybe a low-middling roll means you fall on your first crossing and a high-middling roll means you don't fall until the [return] crossing? Then roll anew after you fall?

I like the rope bridge as a way of cluing the PCs into an NPC party being ahead of them. The NPCs made the first rope bridge, plus a second rope bridge going further, except they cut the second one from the far side so that its ropes now hang down in the middle (forming the path up from the pit).

Besides spikes I've used sleeping lions, rocky rapids, and terracotta soldiers holding spears - anything to make it less likely the rest of the party can just pull their friend back up. A player on Uncle Matt's channel related the idea of a pit which narrows to where a falling character takes damage and gets stuck and then gets attacked by otherwise easy to evade/defeat vermin.

Haven't tried a swarm of living spikes. Got to integrate it with volcano sharks and sinkholes somehow.

Ideally the chasm shows enough other dungeon features (tunnels, balconies, bridges, courtyards, chimneys, bulges, buttresses, etc) for the players to deduce the overall shape of the dungeon and plan their movements more effectively. Also fun [to put] murals or other optional clues [on the same wall the PCs start from, so they can't see it unless they cross and then look back].

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Skull of God

I'll return to dissecting BattleTech math soon, I promise.

A few years back, in our Pathfinder campaign, I added a gargantuan skull to our game world as a loose connective element between plot lines. (The next DM in rotation graciously agreed to place it in his city quest*.) Ideas have continued to accrete to it, taking up too much of my brain, and I need to exorcise them. Exorcism below the cut.

They're all pretty great, but I just cannot stop laughing at the mug.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Six Weeks of Events-

-if the players do nothing to change them. I kinda like the simple D&D seed better than the longer BattleTech ones.

Started with the event tables in the first edition Mercenary's Handbook and MechWarrior RPG. Not really satisfied with the results (my ultimate goal is to enable domain building in a randomly generated war front), but I think they're good enough to hang a short campaign off if I need to.

(Events below the cut.)