Thursday, 13 April 2017

GURPS - Times of Turmoil: Session 1

The Beginning

2 April 2017

Characters:
Thorm - Dwarven exile enlisted in the Imperial Army (around 160 points)
Rowley - Human sergeant in the Imperial Army(around 160 points)
Arakasi - Human monk with mystical abilities and a mysterious past (around 170 points)

The adventurers started out in a caravan bound for the ruined Imperial Capital with bringing supplies and and a company of soldiers to replenish and relieve some of the troops active in clearing the city. The caravan contains an equal number of civilians, some of which are settlers who will be continuing north with the caravan. The caravan stops to rest for a while and our adventurers gossip for a while, hearing rumours of a particularly horrible sergeant being present at the City, that you can't sleep at night around the City because of shrieking ghosts and that someone has been found drained of blood one morning, hinting at vampiric ghosts. Before setting off again, the commanding officer addresses the troops and civilians, telling reminding them that they are here (conscripted) to assist in cleansing the Imperial Capital and surrounding lands and to expect a devastated landscape, dangers, sweat and toil. He finishes with and a warning not to stray from the caravan or the road once they leave the forest.

As the caravan clears the forest, they all see the black and ash grey plains, void of life, stretching towards the City. Some members of the caravan become visibly downcast at seeing the city with its once shining towers now more resembling a burnt shipwreck with broken, stumpy masts. The caravan continues moving onto the blackened plains and does not stop until it reaches the large camp outside the walls. The camp is full of a bewildering number of tents of different shapes, colours and sizes, but the clearly marked roads.

Thorm, Rowley and Arakasi find themselves directed to make camp together with some of the other travellers in an area next to the straight lines of military tents. After setting up their tents and being ordered to help with chores, they finally find themselves sharing dinner and a fire with a number of civilians and soldiers and gossip, brag about old battles and finally settle down to some gambling. Thorm does well, winning some brandy as well as a few coppers while Rowley just about manages not to loose anything. Arakasi sits by the fire, meditating. After a while they all go to their tents to rest, sleeping undisturbed until morning. Seems that the rumour of shrieking, blood sucking vampire ghosts where all a pack of lies!

After breakfast Thorm, Rowley and Arakasi are assigned to go with a long-serving sergeant, his aide (a veteran soldier) and two torch bearers to start clearing out the first floor of a library in the western wing of the palace. They set out through the empty city and arrive at the palace unmolested. Everywhere they go they see soldiers on guard. Arriving at the palace they are directed towards the western wing and get to work.

The Library

The group enters the library which is set on three levels. The ground floor has a main "aisle" leading deeper into the library flanked by rows of book shelves. The levels above are in the form of galleries or balconies which line the room. The stairs are located further inside the room. The sergeant quickly divides them into two groups and have them start searching the rows of book shelves on the ground floor, keeping only a single book case in between the groups, in case of trouble. Our three adventurers go together with one of the torch bearers down one of the aisles, but find nothing of interest. The books are all old, but seem to be in good condition. The group clears a few aisles more, but the dwarf Thorm soon spots something through the gloom (Night Vision 5). It's a dark pile which upon closer inspection turns out to be a chain mail and a sword. As they approach the two items stir and float eerily into the dusty air. The floating sword strikes, but is blocked and quickly shattered by a might blow from Thorms two handed warhammer. The sergeant asks them if they are all right and receives enthusiastic answers.

The group continues to sweep the ground floor and soon come upon two more dark piles. This time Thorm charges one of them before anything can happen, and strikes a pile of chain mail before it has a chance to move. The other one, joined by a helmet, an axe and a sword, attack the fierce dwarf who is soon accompanied by Rowley who starts chopping at the enemy. The torch bearer and Arakasi are guarding the rear. With little warning, a mace comes flying through a book shelf, scattering books as it aims for Arakasi. He is too surprised and does not have time to move before the mace strikes his shoulder. Arakasi is spun around, but manages to strike at the mace with his staff. The mace vibrates from the strike, but goes to attack again. A second strike sends it flying and shatters it against the paved floor. Meanwhile, Rowley and Thorm have made quick work of the other possessed items.

Traversing the aisles, the group defeats more animated weapons and pieces of armour and soon finds that they have cleared half the library. They meet up with the sergeant and his team in the middle and are just about to start clearing the other side, when a swarm of weapons and what looks like small dust devils come at them. Rowley is sucked into a dust devil and is spun around and disoriented. The others start attacking the assortment of animated weapons, chain mail and helmets. Rowley soon manages to get his bearing and break free from the dust devil and attacks a nearby floating sword. Suddenly Thorm sees something moving towards them at great speed. It's vaguely human shaped, but larger and coarser. They guess that it is some kind of golem and Thorm charges with a battle cry. Arakasi clears his mind and starts to focus on the quickly approaching shape and a moment later a burst of flame appears around it and implodes. The brick coloured thing reels a bit, but keeps coming. Right then, Thorm reaches what is now clearly a golem, and strikes it square in the stomach with his warhammer. Big cracks appear all the way along its torso and the creature stumbles backwards. The rest of the group are now quickly approaching, but not before the creature can strike at Thorm who takes a heavy clay fist to his chest. This only serves to make him angry though, and with a massive over head strike he finishes the golem which bursts into shards.

This is where we had to break off as it was getting late.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

GURPS - Times of Turmoil: Session 0

I'm starting a new GURPS roleplaying campaign with some friends and thought I'd record the sessions for posterity. Both so that it will be easy to look up what we've done previously and to help us remember.

Session 0 - Characters and setting

The group consists of four people:
The Game Master - Myself
Thorm - Dwarven exile enlisted in the Imperial Army
Rowley - Human sergeant in the Imperial Army
Arakasi - Human monk with mystical abilities and a mysterious past

The world is a Fantasy world with magic, races such as elves, dwarves and orc, is around Tech Level 2-3, which means somewhere around the Iron Age, and the events take place in something akin to the real worlds Roman Empire called the Empire of Baresh. The Empire is slightly more technologically advanced than the Roman Empire and has the added advantage of employing organised magic users in the form of a Collegium of Magic

The Empire of Baresh has been the major power in the area for centuries, enjoying a long heritage of strong rulers aided by capable advisers and ambitious noblemen. Its power is based on three pillars:
  • Might, in the form of its disciplined and professional, but expensive, army  
  • Money, mainly supplied by its cunning merchants who have secured a monopoly on the export of items from the northern realm of the dwarves; and finally
  • Magic, provided by the Imperial College of Magic. 
Province, by province, a great part of the known world (known to the Empire, that is) has come under the rule of the Empire and found life good under imperial protection based on the great Code of Baresh which dictates the rights and obligations of all subjects in the realm.

Times of Turmoil

However, the Empire has seen better days. About 25 years before our heroes come into the picture, the town of Roggle Hill was turned to volcanic glass and a foe popularly called the Terror appeared. This Terror summoned hordes of monsters and waged war against the Empire from inside its most central heartland with the assistance of powerful magic. After a while undead creatures were added to this invasion. During the early war, the Dwarven kingdom in the north provided military assistance and supplied the Empire with quantities of weapons, iron and coal, but the King and his council soon had a change of heart and closed themselves inside their mountain homes, severing all ties to the outside world.
The Elves evacuated all their domains but left their greatest heroes behind to support the Empire in the struggle.
Despite the help of the Elves and focusing all the resources of the Empire on this titanic struggle, it seemed impossible to make headway. Soon, the Imperial Capital was besieged and all hope seemed lost. Then one night, the Imperial Capital and the surrounding landscape was devastated by immense magical force which left the city standing, but eradicated all life and left the city weathered as if hundreds of years had passed and full of violent spirits. After this, the Terror was not seen again and the armies of the Empire started to regain lost ground as the monstrosities now lacked leadership and the support of magic.

As the war against the Terror was brought to an end, the impact of over a decade of war is becoming known:
The Empire has spent all its resources on this one task, drawing upon the manpower, supplies and wealth of all its provinces. As a result, the heartlands are greatly depopulated and most now live in the cities. The outer provinces have been less affected, but have still had to pay heavily to support the war effort.
With the Emperor dead and the administration gone, the Empire is weakened and cannot defend all its provinces. Some regions have already banded together into new kingdoms and principalities for mutual protection while others have become snapped up by active neighbouring realms. To the north, the orcs are making inroads, laying claim to abandoned forts and villages. To the east, the Fen Princes are taking possession of all undefended provinces they can without exposing any weakness to each other. In the south and on the islands, ambitious vice-roys and lordlings are proclaiming themselves independent and on the seas, pirates roam unchecked now that the Imperial Navy is no longer able to protect trade.

While there are many veterans in the army, everyone in the Empire is tired of war and there are no resources or leadership which can bring about a reconquest. The people of Baresh are occupied by trying to rebuild and resettle all the lands which have been reclaimed from the reign of the Terror. A major effort is now being made to reclaim and cleanse the Imperial City and this is where we join the players.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

A question of design



We are living in a golden age of Simulation and Sandbox Games during which a wide plethora of games have been published on the most strange and imaginative topics. Today you can do everything from Mining and Crafting to living as a slice of toast. While still in development, Besiege has gathered quite a following, offering the player the ability to construct siege equipment and other mechanisms of destruction
and then unleash them in a series of scenarios designed to test both the players ingenuity and ability. The player might reasonably be expected to draw inspiration from historical designs, perhaps building a ballista (picture, above), a catapult or perhaps a battering ram, however, sometimes players will show a glimmer of creativity and originality. Sometimes, the results are very different from what you were expecting...

In the video below we see a person identifying as Aber Lichthausengof showcase one of his original designs called Omnibox. It's shape is reminisce of a Borg Cube, however, I have never seen a Borg Cube move this gracefully to the music of Franz Liszt. Please enjoy responsibly.



Thursday, 8 October 2015

How the mod "A New Dawn" for Civilization IV made me a barbarian

Introduction

A New Dawn
Rise of Mankind: A New Dawn for Civ IV is a total conversion mod which affects almost every part of the game, partly using their own ideas but also adapting ready-made modules such as the Revolutions mod. By adding new technologies, religions, mechanics and nations they have managed to produce an exciting new beast which plays similarly to (Beyond the Sword) BtS, but which adds many more strategical and tactical considerations that the end product feels new and fresh, not to mention challenging.

A tale of three cities

For hundreds of years my mighty kingdom had ruled a significant corner of the known world, keeping both friends and foes at arms reach. However, because of the penalties associated with controlling too big an empire without sufficient administrative technology I was forced to abandon my usual position of Enlightened Despot, honed through many hours of BtS, in favour of the role of the Bad Guy.

Every journey begins with a single step

At first, I felt that my neighbours were keeping at a reasonable distance, leaving me plenty of space for expansion. However, as the centuries passed, their settler voyaged ever closer to my small, but peaceful realm consisting of three cities.

This would not do. A king must protect his borders and ensure that his people live without fear. The kingdoms Sphere of Influence and the peace inducing, neutral borderlands must be preserved. No man in an island, but the people sleep sounder knowing that no armies can sneak up on them unaware. At this point I turned to my Military Advisor and asked where the cutting edge of military research was at the moment. His reply was "horses". The docile animal shown to me was not so impressive while grazing, but when a rider mounted the beast the combined effect was stunning. This would give us an advantage over our enemies both in power and mobility. This would form the basis of a mighty host with which to secure the surrounding plains from encroaching invaders.

Surround and destroy

A new mechanic which is added by the mod is that of encirclement. It goes something like this: The more you can surround your enemy, the greater your attacking bonus. Having units on horseback means that you can take full advantage of this fact. How convenient that our army is made up of almost all cavalry!

As soon as my mighty host rode out onto the plains it was clear that the enemy would not be able to protect their plethora of newly founded cities. Their roads were poor, their defences weak and their soldiers spread out. Feigned attacks would draw the defenders away from vulnerable cities and then the riders would swoop in for the kill.

A desolate landscape

High horses of morality and the fall into depravity

In a normal game of Civilization IV my Enlightened Despotic avatar would benevolently spare the lives of the citizens and Welcome Them with Open Arms to my kingdom built on Tolerance, Equality and Freedom. The only consequence for my ever growing empire would be some temporary financial difficulties due to the increase in administrative costs, while the cities grow enough to pull their weight.

Not so in A New Dawn.

Here, every city has a rebellion-meter which upon conquest would start to rise and rise until the cities break away, spawning huge armies as they do. While I could probably handle the new cities rebellion in the short term, it would put a serious strain on my core cities as well, perhaps enough to make them rebel as well.

Knowing this, my rule took on a much more barbaric and sinister nature. No longer did my cities produce taverns, fountains, scriptorium or any of the other excellent buildings which the mod adds. My once blooming kingdom turned its industry and efforts to just training more and more soldiers with which to scourge the plains and keep my enemies at bay. No stone was left upon stone, no lives were spared. All captured cities were put to the torch in the name of distrust and fear of rebellion. Soon ruins marred the once beautiful country side and only the wind can be heard roaming fields which were once filled with growing crops and blooming orchards. To tread this desolate landscape only leads to a meeting with the veiled riders simply known as The Swift Death.

Aftermath

Of course, this is just a game.
No lives have been lost, no real cruelty committed.
What has happened though, is that a mod has given me a new experience in which I was forced to go out of my comfort zone and re-examine how I use a feature which in the Vanilla game were merely a convenience for when "the AI settled in the wrong place" or "the game is nearly over". By introducing limitations, such as the revolution counter, the character of the game changes and controlling territory becomes more difficult. Leaving it at that would of course be fine, if a bit shallow. However, the mod also introduces a set of new rules for forts which enables them to exert control over the eight tiles surrounding it. In addition, soldiers can claim space and will hold it for as long as there is a unit to occupy it. Thus a new layer of strategy is created where forts and armies are placed in order to claim resources, city sites and create buffer zones.

If you feel as excited about this as I do, go check out the mod at their website:http://anewdawn.sourceforge.net/

Development is ongoing and the mod forum is very much alive.

Let's Play Crusader Kings II - The Bosonids Part 6 and Closing words

Closing Words

Sadly, I never got to far into my campaign as the more-or-less good Bosonid-family. Mainly I have been distracted by illness in my family which has affected us all greatly. Thankfully things are getting better although it will continue to be a struggle for my family.

Part 6 - Going Forth

What is in a name?

The unhappy lord of Monaco
After the events of last episode we find ourselves in the position as lord of Nice which has the monastary of Nizza as its capitol. This means that, since we are a duke rather than bishop-prince, we do no collect all the taxes due to us. This quibbling about titles forces us to find ways of remaking it into a proper feudal province by rather unsavoury means, in this case murder. Luckily for us the province contains the castle town of Monaco, unluckily for the lord of Monaco we need his title to convert the province. That means he has to go. The man is childless so upon his death the title will revert to his liege, ie. us. It is with a heavy heart that the Duke signs the assassination order since the man we are about to have killed is a staunch supporter of our reign.

Rebels abroad and abound

While we have been busy ousting useless vassals and ordering assassinations, some vassals in Lotharinga has been grumbling about their liege and his intention of letting his son take over when he dies. This grumbling has now reached a fever pitch and resulted in open rebellion which splits the country into two camps: one supporting the current heir and the other fighting to put an elective monarchy in place. However, this faction is rather small and will find it a difficult and lonely battle.

Lotharinga is not alone in acquiring rebels. A small Christian uprising in the mountains of the Pyrenees threaten the Muslims on the Iberian peninsula. Though small, this might nudge Asturias to declare war on the Umayyad and start the Reconquista.

"Magyars feel hungry, settle to farm."

While one kingdom is in turmoil another is forming: The Magyars have ceased their roaming and have settled around the Carpatian mountains, creating the kingdom of Hungary. The country is precariously positioned between Bulgaria in the south and Great Moravia in the north-west and will have to work hard to survive since they will find no allies in their neighbours who are Orthodox and Catholic, respectively, while Hungary follows the Tengri beliefs.

Hungary

In other news Boson, our heir, has come to us with a request that we find him a suitable bride. The young man is apparently itching to start a family and continue the fine traditions of murder and intrigue of his grandfather! So be it, we shall send out for portraits of the most eligible girls in all the Christian kingdoms and find one to match our young suitor

As the portraits start coming in on wagons, I realise that our king has two daughters one of which would make an excellent wife for my grandson. However, she is only 14 years and my impatient boy will not wait for her to mature and a betrothal would surely mean that the king will come back the day before the wedding and suggest that it be matrilinear and refuse to go through with the original wedding plans. Besides, Italy is agnatic and so there is no inheritance to be gained from marrying them. Still, she could be all right for one of his siblings to establish an alliance... But to find young Boson a mate we shall clearly have to look further afield.


Friday, 29 November 2013

Let's Play Crusader Kings II - The Bosonids Part 5

And so it came to pass...

... that in the year 867 the count Boson realised that life is short and that he had yet to make his name immortal.

We find the count in his chambers, contemplating his fate.

"Becoming more learned would surely increase my reputation, but is it enough to cement my legacy? I think not. The Bosons in ages to come shall remember me not just as wise, but also as the forefather who expanded our lands and, so to say, gave it more mass! Perhaps the king would consider making me a Duke as well, if I become powerful enough? But where to start...


We'll take that county with blood and sword!
Venaissin, home of Count Tour de Pin
My neighbour, Count Tour de Pin, has always been a craven pig. His people would most likely welcome a change of leadership. It so happens, as well, that I have a cousins mothers something-or-the-other who was a relative of the late count of Venaissin. Clearly the county should have been given to me when he passed away! I must consult my Master-at-arms about the condition of our levies..."

This the count did and the armies were found to be ready. However, with the declaration of war in the hands of Tour de Pin and the soldiers marshalling in all towns a courier from the king arrives. Can it be that the king has decided to interfere?

The best laid plans...

The King, may he live for ever, has not in fact decided that he desires my head on a silver plate. Instead he's decided that it should bear a silver coronet. In other words, he has given me the title of Duke of Provence.


With this new title on my luggage I am no longer at war with de Pin since he has effectively become my vassal along with the bishop of Nice, who was presented earlier. Whether the title was a result of the king wanting to spare his people the bloodshed or if he had in mind to make us a duke all along we shall never know. While patience is one of our virtues, we were not patient enough and thus will never find out. What we do know is that our new vassal, de Pin, hates our guts because of the war declaration. I foresee treachery down the line from this man... Unless...

The plot thickens

Look at that sly bastard; you can't trust him!
Count Tour de Pin
Rather than have a troublesome vassal such as de Pin plot and intrigue against us we will attempt to bring harmony to the realm by getting rid of him. We quickly form a plot to have his lands revert to the crown, which of course is Duke Boson.
Since Bosons skills at subterfuge vastly outstrips those of that bearded oaf de Pin it takes little time for us to find enough support to send a little letter showing him the impossibility of remaining in his current position. After a few days of private deliberations the count sends a reply. He accepts our demands for the good of the realm and will retire to a county in Aquitaine where he will serve a new master. As a last sign of defiance he adds that "His new master knows to value his vassals more than his last.".


After this successful coup there is some grumbling in the ranks about the duke holding rather too many holdings for a man of his stature. The general opinion seems to be that some of the counties should be given to loyal vassals.

Loyal vassals? Nonsense, I say! Insubordination is what this is. The ringleader is the dastardly Prince-Bishop of Nice. Fortunately he is a man of no great skill at intrigue, just like Angilbotto Tour de Pin. After a few well chosen words with my other vassals a letter phrased much the same as that sent to Angilbotto is carried to the ruler of Nice. He is a man of character though and refuses to give up so easily. War is declared and our armies marshalled without delay. Our spies count the enemy forces at around 300 men which is less than half of our 800 man strong army. Not even their advantageous terrain will help them. Battle is joined on the 25th of May as our valiant shieldwall fords the river and push up the steep hill supported by the archers on the right flank who send wave after wave of arrows towards the enemy. Our foe cannot hold under the furious onslaught of our men and soon signals the retreat. All but a small fraction of the fleeing soldiers are caught and the way to Nice lays open. 

The following siege is both short and bloodless since the garrison only consists of 17 old warriors who quickly yield at the sight of such a mighty host. The Prince-Bishop had indeed put everything he had into the main battle and has no reserves left. With the victory complete and all-encompassing we personally take possession of the final part of our dukedom. The good duke Boson returns to his capital Arles in Provence with a feeling of accomplishment, having doubled the size of his demesne and fought a successful war to establish peace and prosperity throughout his lands. However, it will be difficult duke Boson to manage them all himself and we will have to either find trustworthy noblemen to rule the lands in our name or find some way to improve the administration through research or further education. There is also the possibility of doing nothing and handing over the resulting troubles to our heir who promises to be a most competent ruler.

All this and much more in the episodes to come!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Let's Play Crusader Kings II - The Bosonids Part 4

Count Boson - A New Beginning

Welcome back to the Dark Ages!
I have now confirmed that there are indeed issues with playing old save files in the new patch by wandering the halls of the Paradox Fora and leafing through the tomes and commentaries displayed on the shelves. The main issue seems to be with levies and income not matching up as they should and so we will be starting over. Happily we haven't even started properly and will not loose any progress.

"I feel like a new man!"

With the new game comes a new count, or at least the same count with new abilities and traits. To save some time I've prepared two scrolls with the details of the two most important characters, namely the count himself and his heir.

Count Boson the Elder

While our two main protagonists are still much the same there are some notable changes. Our notably just count has had a change of heart and has become a lustful man with substantially weaker abilities compared to his earlier self. The new count is still rather diplomatic but has lost all his acumen and has thus a poor hand with money. The only two improvements to be found are to his skill as a commander of battle and his learning. However, they are still not close to making the family proud.

Boson the Younger
While the old man has been weakened as a result of the change, the younger man has become stronger. Our new Boson Bosonid is an even more well versed than his old self and while he has lost some skill at intrigue he has gained a considerable amount of learning and so has become a most worth heir. However, to his sins must be added the new hairstyle which looks a lot like a modern combat helmet.


The Stage is once again set

It is now time to finally start this Let's Play and see what our fate in this new world will be. Ignoble defeat, imprisonment and obscurity in the annals of time or a glorious future with the name Bosonid echoing between the four corners of the Earth? It is all in our hands!