Tuesday 16 January 2018

Interview with J. Laakso

Today we are talking to J. Laakso, owner of Vault 0.

So, for full disclosure, the readers should know that J. is my brother.

Without further ado.....

How did you get into gaming? And what are you doing now?

There was that time when kids were playing cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, and those sorts of games.  And there were those of us that wanted to be adventurers, so that what's what we did.  Inspired by Lord of the Rings and similar fantasy works, we made up our own stories and acted them out.  Then along comes TSR and publishes a system for fantasy adventure, and it would be an understatement to say that I was pretty drawn to it.  Queue years of playing, writing adventures, gaming groups, and late-night game sessions.  Yeah, I really got into it.  It started with Dungeons and Dragons and went from there.  So many game systems, but I wanted to play them all.

In more recent years I hadn't been gaming so much; life gets in the way, you move around, work long hours, lose track of gaming groups, whatever.  But I'm back to working on adventures.  I have a son that's an avid gamer, and they're waiting for me to run some Call of Cthulhu, DCC, and now MCC.

You supported the Mutant Crawl Classics Kickstarter. What do you think of the system?

Well, as much as I was into D&D, when TSR released Gamma World it really pulled me in.  I'm a huge fan of the post-apocalyptic setting, so when Goodman Games announced the Kickstart for Mutant Crawl Classics I was pretty excited.  It hearkens back to when I first got into gaming and cracked open that box.  Like DCC, MCC isn't rules-heavy.  The PDF is pretty big, but it doesn't spend pages on complicated combat systems or detailing characters to the nth degree.  It leaves room for the players and especially the gamemaster to flesh things out.  It keeps it simple and fun.  There are world details included, which I may or may not use.  Personally I tend to like to create my own world setting, but I can see where GMs would prefer to create the adventure within the world and not a whole world itself.  Goodman Games is pretty good about leaving the game more open to it's users.

Can you tell us a little about Vault 0?

Years ago when I went to my first science fiction convention, costuming was pretty normal though nothing like it is today.  My first costume, in keeping my love of post-apocalyptic worlds, was based off of Road Warrior in the Mad Max movie series.  Taking parts off an old car, I made myself a "road trash" costume.  Nothing that would win awards, but I enjoyed it and it got a few compliments.  And so my venture into costuming began.

Then one day I found myself suddenly laid off, and seemingly unable to get work in my field.  Sometime earlier I had made a Vault Dweller suit based on the video game Fallout.  My first recreation I found to be a disappointment since I tried using a premade boiler suit coverall for the base, which failed to look quite right.  A stickler for details, I looked to the in-game stitch pattern and made my own template and sewn a new suit from base fabric.  And I found some new ways to add the little details like stripes and numbers.  And it occurred to me there are probably other people out there that felt the same way - wanted something that matched the game better.  So I set up shop.

I've sold a fair number of those suits along with some other standard recreations from games and television, as well as a few custom things for people.  I do a lot of shows now, and I carry a lot of cosplay accessories - props, wigs, make-up, etc.  Online sales are great, but the shows are what keep me going.  Meeting the people and attending the conventions - that's the fun bit.

You also do some work with gaming and science fiction conventions. What's that like?

It's a labor of love.  I enjoy the convention scene a lot, and it's surprising what goes in to putting on a show.  Sometimes it seems like your show is only as good as the worse thing you do, and people can be pretty quick to jump on you if something goes wrong.  And there's a mob of social media always waiting to chime in.  But you do it for those who do enjoy the gatherings of similar-minded people, and for a fun time.  I mostly work with non-profits, and no one I know is bound to get rich working on these things.  

There is something to be said to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and working with conventions is certainly that.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

A new day, a new year.  I have plans to do a lot of conventions this year, and work behind the scenes on a few.  With Vault 0 there's a lot of work to do - expand the line, expand the website, and getting ready for the next show.  It never stops, and a small business isn't something you can get too complacent with.  But every sale brings a smile, and every time a customer says something nice about what I'm doing it reminds why I do it.

And, of course, I'm looking forward to a lot of gaming this year.

Monday 15 January 2018

Child of Light

Episode 61 of Spellburn included the announcement of the Stephan Poag Dungeon Denizen contest winner from Episode 58. The winner was the excellent The Lumonculus, created by Tim White and Connor Stone.  You can find it here!

Congratulations Tim and Connor!

My own entry, the Child of Light, is reproduced below, because you can never have too many monsters. I had done a bit of research and discovered that Poag means "Child of Light", which was the basis of the creature.

I would also be very interested to see what other people came up with.

Child of Light

Child of Light: Init +3; Atk slam +4 melee (1d8+2) or light cone (special); AC 15; HD 3d8+6; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP photonic sonar 100’, detect magic 1,000’, consume magic 30’, light cone 60’, regeneration, undying, power spellburn; SV Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +3; AL C.

The Child of Light is a strange creature that dwells deep beneath the ruins of the ancient citadel of Poag. It is partially organic and partially silicon-based, gaining energy from telluric radiation through crystals in its head and from magical emanations through two branching antennae-feelers that grow from its shoulders. These feelers allow the Child of Light to detect magic (spells or items) within 1,000 feet. It is attracted to all forms of magic, and no magic functions within 30’ of it (including magic cast outside this radius which then would otherwise take effect within it). The Child of Light consumes this magic, which is immediately restored outside of this range.

The creature is blind, but can sense even very small amounts of light with its skin. It uses light generated by its cranial crystals (or other sources), giving it a form of “photonic sonar” that allows the Child to “see” within a range of 100’, beyond which it is completely blind. Its rocky hide grants it a relatively high AC. The Child of Light regenerates 3 hp/round when within range of a source of light or magic that it can detect, and 1 hp/turn when away from such an energy source. The creature itself cannot be killed by any means known to mortals.

The Child of Light’s most powerful attack is a cone of light 60’ long with a 30’ base. Any creature caught within this cone must succeed in a DC 10 Fort save or be partially blinded for 1d5 rounds (-2 penalty to attack rolls) and a DC 15 Will save or suffer one of the following magical effects (roll 1d7): (1) Strength reduced by 1d3 for 1d5 rounds, (2) affected by an enlarge spell with a spell check result of 1d16+6, (3) ultraviolet radiation causes 2d6 damage, (4) Agility reduced by 1d5 for 1d7 rounds, (5) affected by a sleep spell with a spell check result of 1d24+2, (6) obtain a perfect tan, or (7) compulsion to draw causes a -1d penalty on the dice chain to all rolls until the character has spent at least 10 minutes completing a sketch. Note that spell effects do not allow additional saves after the spell check result is rolled, and any misfire or corruption affects the target, not the Child of Light.

Finally, anyone within the ruins of Poag may call upon the Child of Light to fuel spellburn. When a character does so, roll 1d7 and consult the following table:

1d7      Spellburn Result
1                Incandescent light pours from the caster, illuminating everything within line of sight as though it was daylight. Creatures within 30’ of the caster must succeed in a DC 15 Reflex save or be blinded. Blinded creatures must make a DC 10 Fort save or be permanently blinded; those who succeed are blinded for only 1d5 rounds. The caster gains up to 4 points of spellburn at no additional cost.
2                The caster’s skin blisters and bubbles with extreme sunburn. This is expressed as Strength, Agility, or Stamina damage.
3                The Child of Light grants up to 10 points of spellburn without attribute loss, but consumes the magical energy needed to cast the spell. The spell cannot be cast again for a full 24 hours per point of spellburn. Even additional spellburn cannot restore the spell during this time.
4                The Child of Light grants up to 10 points of spellburn without attribute loss, but the caster is blinded for 10 minutes per point of spellburn taken, and has a -1d penalty on the dice chain to all attack rolls (due to double vision) for 24 hours thereafter.
5                The Child of Light consumes the spell energy. Nothing else bad happens, but the spell does not go off, and the caster’s attempt is wasted.
6                The Child of Light consumes magical energy from the caster, expressed as 1d3 points each of Strength, Agility, and Stamina damage. The spell check is not improved.
7                Not only does the Child of Light grant up to 10 points of spellburn for free, but for every point not used, the caster heals 1 Hit Die in damage, up to his maximum hit points, once the spell is cast.

Thursday 4 January 2018

Gary Con X Scheduling

My games for Gary Con X have been scheduled!

DCC—Prince Charming, Reanimator: Thursday at 2:00 PM, 4 hours, Space FORA-325 - 5 tickets max

DCC—The Falcate Idol: Friday at 11:00 AM, 3 hours, Space FORA-326 - 5 tickets max

DCC—Silent Nightfall: Friday at 3:00 PM, 3 hours, Space FORA-325 - 5 tickets max

DCC—Thirteen Brides of Blood: Friday at 7:00 PM, 3 hours, Space FORA-323 - 5 tickets max

DCC—Goblins of the Faerie Wood: Saturday at 3:00 PM, 4 hours, Space FORA-327 - 5 tickets max

DCC—The Thing in the Chimney: Sunday at 10:00 AM, 3 hours, Space FORA-325 - 6 tickets max

Free Monsters!

The original Monster Manual boasted "OVER 350 MONSTERS" for your game. While I am only halfway there in terms of free content, my last update just hit 175 distinct entries.

Among them are old favorites like the Aboleth, the Otyugh, the Rhadogessa, and the Sahuagin, but there are also a fair amount of creatures from classic programs and movies, like the Amatons, the Daleks, and the Troopers from Stargate. Robert E. Howard is recognized with statistics for Conan and Breckinridge Elkins, while Edgar Rice Burroughs also sees stats for Tarzan.

If you need stats for a Giant Mutated Turkey, a Cyclopean Deep One Pugilist, or a Potted Plant for your home adventure, I've got you covered.

If you want to use some of these stats commercially, contact me. If you need more free monsters, head over to Appendix M.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Tales From the Thousand Lakes

This album cover was suggested by Doomsayer. Interestingly enough, when I was deciding on album covers to inspire Dungeon Crawl Classics content, this is one that I had considered, but had put on the back burner as being difficult. I wasn't sure what inspiration I could glean from its ominous artwork. Whether or not I rose to the challenge is something the reader will have to determine.

Before we dive into the cover, a confession. If you listen to the Sanctum Secorum podcast (and if not, you should), you are aware that Bob Brinkman always has interesting musical picks for each work discussed thereon.

I am no Bob Brinkman.

If you listen to the Drink Spin Run podcast (and, again, you should), you will note that, when I was a guest, I had been listening most recently to the soundtrack to Moana. My musical tastes run from classical to Iggy Pop, but there is a lot of 80s pop and even country in there. Most of these albums aren't really on my radar.

I am devising material based on the covers plus a little very basic research. And, yes, I have made use of YouTube to give the albums a listen-through or find related videos.

If you run into me at Gary Con or elsewhere, though, I am not going to be able to discuss these things intelligently. Seriously. You are, gentle reader, are to a person all cooler than I am.

Without further ado....

Kala Vale and the Thousand Lakes

The village of Kala Vale is located in a region known as the Thousand Lakes, where waterfalls, rivers, ponds, and freshwater lakes both great and small are found among the high hills and mountains. Everywhere there is the sound of water, running and falling, from spring to autumn. Even in the depths of winter, water runs beneath the ice. A few warm days can lead to a sudden thaw, and those traversing the straight path across previously-frozen ice can find themselves immersed in frigid waters without warning.

Deep magic runs with the waters of this land. Runestones give hints of lost spells, or mark the focal points of arcane powers. Here music has power, and many of the region's legendary figures sang and chanted to shape their adventures as they would.

Many are the mysteries of this land. A few of them are described below.

Mårtenson's Ring of the Eagle's Shape

This curiously carved ring is made of finnstone, a blue-green material with a slick texture not unlike that of soapstone. It has been carved with many strange runes and sigils from Elfland. Whoever wears the finnstone ring and knows the hidden song of Mårtenson may take a sea-eagle's form, for as long as he wills, but each time he does so, some portion of his soul remains in that form.

In sea-eagle's form, the PC has exceptional eyesight for spotting creatures when flying. He can fly at a rate of 60', and has an AC of 14. The character's gear and accouterments within 5' of his body transform with him; larger items must be dropped or carried. Magic items retain their effects unless they must be manipulated in some way, but armor loses its normal bonuses. A sea-eagle can make a claw attack for 1d3 damage, and, if diving from at least 50', has a critical range increased by 2 (i.e., a level 1 wizard would crit on 18-20, and a level 1 warrior on 17-20). The character can only cast spells which do not require a human voice or somatic component.

Each transformation to sea-eagle's form requires a DC 10 Will save. On a failure, the character takes 1 point of permanent Personality damage and must roll 1d5 on the table below. Rolling the same result multiple times has no additional effect, but each time the character gains a new result he is reduced by -1d on the Dice Chain when making further Will saves due to transformation.

1d5 Effect
1 The character refuses to eat any food other than fish.
2 The character blinks far less often than normal.
3 The character has a tendency to stare at others.
4 The character's preening behavior reminds onlookers of a bird cleaning its feathers.
5 The character has a marked preference for being outdoors under an open sky.

If the character's Personality falls below 3, he never transforms back to human or demi-human form. After 2d6 rounds, the character is lost forever to his new form. The finnstone ring falls to the ground as the character flies away to live the remainder of his life in the wild.

At the judge's discretion, the character's allies may undertake one or more adventures to restore the lost character's humanity. Such an undertaking is fully in the nature of DCC's Quest For It ethos, and would require, at a bare minimum, locating the lost character in sea-eagle form and destroying Mårtenson's Ring of the Eagle's Shape to release his soul. Indeed, some say that the great bard-wizard Mårtenson of the Keys was lost to his ring, and still haunts the world in avian form.

The Drowned Maid

The ghost of a fair young maiden wanders the shores of Tomi Lake, north of Kala Vale. This unfortunate maid slipped into the cold gloomy depths through a crack in the ice one black winter day. She appears now fair but cold, with skin that is bluish-white. Seldom does she appear as a wraith, and often she is mistaken for a living maiden, solid to the eye if not to the touch.

The Drowned Maid seeks forever her lost lover, although she can no longer remember his face. It is said, in folklore, that she was drowned  on her way to a tryst with the youth. Some say he sought for her high and low through the Land of the Thousand Lakes. Others say that he was with another, and that the Drowned Maid was a suicide.

This spirit is drawn only to those young men with exceptional good looks, or who have a Personality of 13+. She seeks only to draw them to her, but her touch causes 1d12 cold damage each round. Only when her one-time lover, reborn into a new body, willingly comes into her clasp and speaks her name can the Drowned Maid be laid to rest.

The Drowned Maid: Init +2; Atk incorporeal touch +1 melee (1d12 cold); AC 10; HD 2d12; hp 15; MV 30' or fly 40’; Act 1d20; SP un-dead traits, immune to non- magical weapons; SV Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +3; AL C.

Holopainen's Lost Ship

Somewhere amid the Thousand Lakes, an ornate anchor of black iron rises up from the water and rests on land. Its chain leads below the surface to the lost ship of Holopainen Ironhand, a reaver of great renown, whose heavy metal axe of meteoric iron, Esa, remains the subject of many legends in the Land of the Thousand Lakes.

Holopainen's ship, the Darkland Queen, is said to be carrying many precious things ravaged from the gorefest of the Chaosbreed in lands to the east. Should the ship ever be recovered, who knows what treasures weigh it down?

According to legend, the winged witch Louhi brought Holopainen low. His ravagers, the Chaosbreed, drowned in the waters of a many-leveled lake, amid waterfalls and ringed with hills. At least one artifact was lost with the ship: The Sampo, which takes many forms, and which brings good fortune to whomever can keep it.

The Blessed

Perhaps the Sampo brought fortune to the Chaosbreed even as they flailed beneath the waters of that unknown lake. Perhaps the malice of Louhi transformed the warriors of Holopainen. Or perhaps some other story is true, but the waters where the Darkland Queen was lost are now  inhabited by creatures which call themselves the Blessed.

The Blessed are amorphous things with dark leather skin, capable of growing any number of limbs, either jointed or tentacular. Most of the Blessed are man-sized, hinting at a perhaps-human origin. Others have grown to a colossal size. All hate human life - perhaps because they were once human, or perhaps because the harpy-witch Louhi nursed dark emotions within them.

The following represents a typical member of the Blessed. Larger ones have far more impressive statistics.

The Blessed: Init +3; Atk claw +2 melee (1d3+1) or bite +0 melee (1d5); AC 14; HD 1d8+4; MV 20’ or swim 50'; Act 2d20; SP regenerate 1d3 hp/round while alive; SV Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +0; AL C.

The Finnish Connection: As a side note, The Land of a Thousand Lakes is Finland, and this album takes the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, as its inspiration. Amorphis is a Finnish heavy metal band. I have a family connection to the Finns who settled the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan. I hope, therefore, that I have done at least a halfway descent job at threading the album cover, the lyrics, and strands from the Kalevala into gameable material.