Tuesday, 26 November 2013

World of Statecraft - Diplomacy in the Iron Kingdoms

"Oh hey look, it's an rpg based upon a wargame. Let's all make combat characters, I'll make a tank, you be the party rogue, you can heal, and you with the dual pistols can be the DPS. Remember lets kill everything in sight, grab their gear, sell it and then get some cool mechanika!"

And so begins another lame - yeah you heard it right, LAME! - game of Iron Kingdoms where the aim  is  to just move from combat encounter to combat encounter, trying to press the 'b' button to skip past the GM perhaps trying to portray a story beyond the whole sale slaughter of a tribe of Gatormen, or a gang, or people who while having done something wrong have their own complex moral reasons for doing so.

What ever happened to diplomacy?

In the Iron Kingdoms we have a number of races that are spread across a number of  kingdoms, and there are some very difficult political dealings between them all.

Ord is a major player in intrigue, trying to position itself between Cygnar and Khador so that politically and financially it has the upper hand.

Llael, at least as of 604 AR, is divided into the remaining part of the free kingdom, that which the Khador control, and a part controlled by the Protectorate of Menoth. Of course the politics there  is complex, as the free Llaelese try to win more support from Cygnar, Ord, mercenary armies, the Protectorate, and even those Khadorans who wish to see the kingdom of Umbrey reinstated. Some Llaelese nobles have already fled the kingdom, some have made deals with the Khadorans, hoping to rule their lands as vassal lords, and some have turned to Menoth, since they could have their kingdom back at the cost of being religious converts.

Khador of course must be careful  with their enemies, while  extending favour to pirates and mercenaries in order to have the Cygnaran southern coastline attacked. But they need  to seem threatening to keep up the offensive and fear in the Cygnarans and Llaelese.

Then of course we  have the further complexities of other races at the borders and within kingdoms, the competing religions, and the competition between mystical orders, heretics, companies  and ancient bloodlines.

Politics is a mess!

So say you wanted to run a political game in the Iron Kingdoms, what do you need to do first?

Pitch the game, and make sure you can incorporate most options while still having the advantage of getting to pick the location of the setting.

So first pick a location. Your choice should be motivated by the kingdom the players really like and you like (so compromise), and which caters for the plot you are thinking about. You want pirates and privateers? Then choose a coastal town. Want to deal with trade contracts? Then maybe one of the places in the Wyrmwall mountains. Want to deal with lots of people and kingdoms, then look at Corvis, it's a hub of activity with dwarves, Ord, Cygnar, Llael, Khador, and more.

Maybe you have the idea first. You want intrigue between the the nobles of Cygnar as they try to keep in command of their resources and influence over the King, while also trying to prevent the incursions of Khador. If that is the case then you need to pick a city to set it in.

The Iron Kingdoms is of course already filled with NPCs, Dukes, Kings, Princes, master Alchemists and Arcanists, Captain and Pirates, all of who could be the seed of an idea.

Lets take an example - Ord. Why? Ord is filled with spies working for nobles and King Baird. Plus there is the danger of Cryxian agents and with  Khadoran pirates, and members of the Llaelese resistance, and the Cygnaran Reconnaissance Service. Ord is also has age old rivalries between nobles of Thurian and Todaran descent, in particular the Mateu and Cathors vying for the throne.

Lets now select a city - Berck, in the Cosetio Grav, and which is on the coastline, making is an important port, and one that is not run by pirates. House Mateu is a major influence here, plus there are many other merchant families. We also have the main base for the Ordic Navy,  meaning nobles here will have roles within the fleet.

So now what we need is an intrigue. Let's not target the Mateu since they are a big player in the entire setting and so have a certain inertia to events. Lets create a smaller noble house, that has important holdings. Perhaps they control the wine trade from Llael. But this wine trade is assumed to be how they are sending help to the Llaelese resistance, using the wine barrels to transport messages. But that is the decoy. The real root of messages comes in fine Llaelese lace.

Now of course this noble family may have rivals to trade wine. Their conflict is purely centred on business - which of course gets murky as trade has to flow through the kingdom, and be brought over land or else go through Five Fingers.

So of  course there are a number of players in all of this. There are those in it for the money and business, but there is another noble  family that is looking to weaken their rivals, and part of this involves having a conspiracy with agents of the Khadoran Section 3. Then add to this mix the agents of the King, and how they must act, but in a manner that shows no preference to any family.

Once we have the start of a intrigue we can being to flesh out the main NPCs of the story, who hates whom, who are allied, who is spying on who, what secrets are known and to whom.

And with that we can drop the player group into the game. Lets assume we have a Aristocrat in the group who is attached to the noble family trading in wine. They have a group of PCs with them. They are an entourage/friends. So perhaps another noble, a friend from the Navy, a friend from the university, a well known play-write etc etc.You can have quite some flexibility on characters types even when they need to fit into high society.

Now the campaign begins. Ease them in, let them get a feel for the noble family they are part of first. Perhaps they have to go out and deal with a consignment of goods that have gone missing, and find that there is a issue with the workers, and they are wanting better pay. Or perhaps the consignment was attacked and stolen by trolls.

The next story then is something along the lines of a ghost story, triggered when a family tomb is raided, that unleashes the dead ancestor in the form of a pistol wraith.

After a few stories like this to establish the main thematic elements of the city, and how the noble family operates, what their concerns are, and how the court of the city works, then you can move on to the story that engages the main plot, the intrigue.

The trick to the intrigue is to layer it. You want to have multiple lines of investigation that get built up episode after episode. Each episode either extends or branches the investigation, or resolves some lines. So lets assume the first story you start  involves an attack on numerous caravans of wine. This begins the threat that someone suspects the family and their connection to Llael. The story should lead to an end - for now - of these attacks, and the perpetrator is stopped, but it should only reveal the tiniest bit of information about who that culprits are. Perhaps it is even a decoy.

A few stories like this should ramp up the intrigue and the investigations  should reveal people to suspect, there should be misdirection and the reasons unclear. Of course break up the plot with episodes that focus on other matters. These episodes could have far smaller plots as you give the players room to tackle the intrigue and take proactive action.

So tools that can help in this?

Index cards of NPCs. Each card lists their goals, their secrets, who they hate and who they love and care for, and what their power base relies on.

In addition to these you should have a web of connections planned out, which details the intrigue and the conspiracies and who are working together.

Also with planning out the campaign and how the story will progress, assume a null hypothesis. This means, if the players do nothing, how would the plot play out as the parties involved in the intrigue act and react. With this plot in your head you can then have some sort of idea what the route of least resistance is - what would happen if the players act, and only react, to events. Then with  that in your head you may have more of an idea how the NPCs will respond to the PCs as they interact with the plot and perturb their plans. If the PCs act in a proactive manner then the NPCs can respond. This then means you have the basis of a plot that allows for an organic evolution of the story to incorporate these more interactive elements.

Of course this means that you should not plan things in too much detail beyond the current part of the story being run. Have more general plans, but nothing too set in stone. This also means for individual parts of the story plan using scenes, not just series of combats.

Political games are hard, that is for sure. But with some good planning, flexibility, and some time to set up the basics of the setting for the story, then you will have enough elements in place to draw into the story as the game continues. In that regard it is more like having a structured sandbox. Of course look to fiction, movies and TV for inspiration for political games. Things like Game of Thrones, The West Wing, House of Cards. All of these are filled with ideas. Even look to other games that cater to this sort of gameplay, such as World of Darkness games.

Finally everything written here can be applied at any level of society in the Iron Kingdoms, be in the criminal underworld, the academic world of universities, business, small towns, large cities, entire kingdoms.

Politics is everywhere and  is full of stories.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Tunnels and Toruk - Iron Kingdoms

Dungeons and Dragons is great, but I'm gonna' stop you there and just say;


There, much better. Shall we continue.

One of the things that seems to turn up, a lot, in talk  about Iron Kingdoms and how either the rules are crap, or that it is very limited in what you can play, or that character combinations possible in the game make no sense.

Well, a lot of this  has to do with trying to treat Iron Kingdoms as just a casual game, that you can just turn up to any old session, roll up a character, and wham, bam, thank you ma'am, your fighting and stealing the loot from those dead Gatormen.

There is nothing of course stopping you from running the game like that, but I feel that there is a lot of assumptions about what the game is. And a lot of this is due to the assumptions and expectations brought over from the wargames.

The Iron Kingdoms is of course set in the same universe as Warmachine and Hordes, and so as an RPG you are playing characters from those warring factions. You could be anything, and as more books come out that list of options expands. So of course people think that the game should be about playing your favourite faction character type - Stormblades, Greylord Arcanist, Elven Mage Hunters etc etc. - and that the game will instantly support your choice, no matter how at odds it is with other player characters, and that you will be just killing and taking their stuff. The expectation that every session should be filled with combat.

Well, step the fuck back and get your head screwed on. Just because IKRPG has a well developed and option laden combat system, which because of the wargame, emulates the feel and mood of that game, does not mean the defacto basis of the RPG is playing your power fantasy, or that is the only way it can be run.

If you want to run, and be involved in, a  story centric game that makes sense, both in terms of the characters involved and why they would work together, you really need to sit down together to figure things out together as a group. The choice of characters is not only to make the game seem plausible and engaging, but also so that it makes the GMs life easier. The GM has may have a type of story they want to tell, and having a group that works together helps make it easier. Of course players should have some choice, but too much choice can be a distraction and more harm than good. This is all about making a group template. Agreeing on character choices so players will have the chance to shine, and  have characters that are  not going to kill each other on sight. Of course Iron Kingdoms has this built in. They are called adventuring companies. They guide you on what sort of groups  of characters will fit together, and what sort of  adventures they will be involved in. You see, sometimes  there is more fun in playing a group, and the group as a whole is the special snowflake, and not  a character in the group.

So in short, talk, talk, talk, talk. Make sure what you want to play, your friends, and your GM wants to run, is the same.

Now the next issue, story vs dungeon crawl.

it can be very easy to assume that if you are playing in a fantasy setting, the default play style is a dungeon crawl where you kill and loot. It is even easier to assume this play style if you think that the rules, since they come from a wargame, are so combat focused, that this play style is the default.

How about no!

I know, I know, wah wah wah, IKRPG has very few rules for social interactions. It's too fluffy on what stat you use for some. The only  people that complain about that are the types that fear GM fiat. They fear that on a whim the GM will fuck them over, and through a social roll rob them of all their stuff. Remember, if it has stats, you can kill it. If it talks to you and doesn't roll dice, it is gonna turn your gear into mushrooms.

There is a reason that players want hard and set rules for social interactions - the players they play with are not  their friends, just people they game with, and so people that more than likely will either fuck them over, or they will fuck over. And the GM is the least trusted of them all!

A lot of this attitude comes from the very 'GM vs them' divide that is assumed in games. That the GM is always planning for a TPK. but I don't subscribe to that. What is the point of planning a story if you are only going to kill them a third of the way through. Remember, you are trying to collaboratively tell an engaging story, with chance and risk put in there to make it less of a Magical Tea Party. So threats should make the story engaging in the present, not just a means to lord over the players as they get crushed.

So how do you get away from the DnD approach. There are a few simple ways, and in fact the published IKRPG material shows it in this manner anyway.

First of all how about having a story that is not focused on war. Set the game before the invasion of Llael, set it  far from the front lines with Khador. Just put it far away from the big wars. Doing so can mean that you can narrow the focus off the world. Many threats and terrors pale into insignificance when you are faced with an army on your doorstep. But if you move the big events and players out of sight, the game can be more about the players and the rather local, small, yet still dangerous threats, that exist in that part of the world.

Next think about stories that do not have to be focused on killing everything you see. Iron Kingdoms has a lot of room for investigative games. Be it groups of archaeologists delving into Orgoth ruins, Witch Hunters of the Order of Illumination chasing down Thamarite cults, or Zoologists groups on the border to the deserts looking for the beast that has been attacking caravans. All of these things can lead to conflict and battles with monsters, warlocks, ghouls and cults, but the lead up is far more ponderous, more about learning about the why, the who, the where and what cost will your actions have. By not having combat dominate the story you can better use the time to get into character, and immerse yourself in the world, and discover what is unique to it, and what is considered normal. Knowing what is normal is critical if you want to have a sense of shock. Knowing more about the world means also knowing what the characters care about and so what they are willing to risk, and what lengths they will go to save the things they care about.

Linked to this then is character selection. Not all characters in the game need to be focused on combat. Not at all. In fact many characters, even the fights, have their place in numerous social encounters. The big Trollkin is actually the one to turn to when talking to the Trollkin raiders. The Gobber you turn to when you need to talk to the Gobber gang that works the rigs above Five Fingers. So thin about diversity in your gaming  group. You could even play without an obvious 'fighter' in the group, and still have a group that is quite skilled in certain combat encounters.

The other thing to do is to stop thinking about the game as a dungeon, and start thinking about it in terms of scenes. Scenes can be anywhere, such as an inn, a mansion, a laboratory, a library, a dungeon, the plains of Khador. Anywhere. And these scenes could be anything from a one on one encounter between an assassin and a player character, a defence of a cathedral against an army of undead, or the investigation of a murder scene. Scenes are parts of a story, and not always a chance to kill things and loot. Think  about the structure of the story, not just a set of connected corridors. Even old D20 adventures like Witchfire had well defined scenes, with parts that were purely about social interaction and investigation.

Next, add some morality into the game. While IKRPG may not have a morality tracker like World of Darkness, or Unhallowed Metropolis, that doesn't mean you should not be thinking about it. Actions have consequences, both in terms of enemies, the law, and with respect to your soul. Make your players consider their actions - perhaps murdering all the goblins is not the best thing, maybe talk to them.

Forget all the DnDisms. Oh god do this. True magic weapons are rare. Where characters come from matters as much as what race they are. Stop having every little thing trapped with magic or a booby trap. In the Witchfire trilogy there are numerous things you can open and discover, and they are very much hinged on DnDisms. That  trunk in the corner, it has  loot, but it is trapped. That door. Trapped. That other door? Trapped and magically sealed. So many DnDisms are just excuses to slow the players while not really adding anything of really value to the story other than another bland way to harm the characters. So just forget that shit. Have stuff trapped etc where appropriate. Perhaps that item is magical. But make these all rare instances, since it will make them more notable and dramatic when they are triggered. Other DnDisms consist of lots of really lame, very un-Iron Kingdoms, items and magic. Like magic rings, potions and more.

So finally, you want to run IKRPG, and you have read the above. What do you do then?

  1. Have a plot outline for the story in place, or series of stories. Thing big and small plot arcs. Reoccurring villains. Make it like a TV show.
  2. Make the group fit together, and get them to work with what you want to run, as well as running what they want to play. Special snowflakes can really mess up a game like IKRPG, but a group itself can be a special snowflake.
  3. Only have about 1/3 to 1/4 of the story be combat based. Tell the story about why these fights happen, be that due to diplomacy gone wrong, a Lock Stock style gang warfare story, smuggling, pirates etc etc.
  4. It's not about the loot and killing. Get them focused on something more important, like winning contracts for mercenary gigs, or stealing research, or hunting the undead (which means the church pays them and gives them ammo and lodgings).
  5. A lot of stuff happens outside of dungeons! So set the games there.
  6. Think about genre. IKRPG is a big genre mashup, and you can get ideas from anywhere. Want gothic horror for your Witch Hunters? Well watch some horror films and see how you can work those ideas in. Like Sleepy Hollow, or Brotherhood of the Wolf. You want something more war story like, but not just constant sessions of fights. Well how about running a game that looks at the psychological impact of war to the player characters when they are away from the front lines, and how  society treats them. How  about looking to movies like Kingdom of Heaven, or tv like the Borgias for social and religious politics. You want a game about conspiracies and research, perhaps Fringe could inspire you for a game centred around the work of alchemists at the University of Corvis. Want pirates and to look at how they deal with other pirates, trading, privateers, and discovering lost treasure and strange monsters, then Pirates of the Caribbean is great. Hell you want the players to be law men, then watch some cowboy films.

I hope this all helps. Want to ask questions, then hit me up below and I will see what I can do.

Just remember, a story is more than loot, tunnels, and being the biggest badass.

[Actual Play] Iron Kingdoms - Adamantine Will

Episode 4: The Wine of Wrath - part 3

It was afternoon, and Hurst and Gregore were now refreshed and dressed in attire more fitting for the court of the Earl of Grymaldi. Together with Darcey, her father  Dardarni, Darcey's two brothers Vyctori and Vydori, Brother Eckert, and a number of the house guard, Hurst and Gregore rode on horse back into the woods, heading north. While the others were far better hunters with rifles and guns, Gregore had instead chosen to stay with the camp and play cards with  Vydori.

The hunt was a success, and boar and deer were killed. Obviously the hunt could not go too far north, as Eckert finally got a sense of the strange ethereal feeling, something that was undoubtedly due to their closeness to the mysterious Elven kingdom of Ios. In talking with the brother Eckert learnt more about the state of the Llaelese army and their need to hire mercenaries to protect the border of the kingdom from the incursions of Khador. In the privacy of the hunt the Earl, Dardarni explain that much of the current funding problems for the army were down to the politics of the Prime Minister, Glabryn.

The troupe returned back to the manor for dinner, with the boar they had killed being the main meal. In the opulent hall of the Dardarni manor house the troupe were treated to a example of what life was like for a noble like Darcey and her family. The table, laid  out and tended to in an immaculate manner, was covered in succulent dishes, and they were served dish after dish of food. Spring vegetable that had been preserved using alchemical salts, fish brought all the way from Ord, fine cordials and wine, fruits in jelly, steamed clams and sweet pastries. But in all of this Hurst was watching, paying attention, taking in all the details of the meals and the servants.  One of the servants was out of place. His gait was wrong, he held himself wrong. To a less perceptive person this may have been missed, but this servant just seemed - relatively speaking - clumsy.

Intrigued, Hurst excused himself, and as he went forth to relive himself, he instead sought to follow the servant. He waited just near the kitchen, hiding behind a curtain, listening for any sign of conspiracy. But there was nothing, just talk of more wine being opened.

Hurst waited for the servant to return to the hall and then went to follow him back. But he was stopped as he heard someone behind him. He turned and was faced with the madam of the household, Madam Rosaline. She was dressed in a black dress, that by Cygnaran standards might be considered fine attire, but for the Llaelese was just work  clothes. She enquired why Hurst was at the kitchens, and he replied he was a bit lost. She then directed him and asked if he wished for coffee to be served.

Hurst returned to the table and the meal was finished, and the dinner party moved to the salon where they could smoke and enjoy some wine, whiskey and coffee. On the way Hurst spoke to the Madam once more, and enquired about the servant. She confirmed he was new, and had only been hired three months ago. Gregore also tried to talk to one of the servants, a young girl, but he was brushed off, with her explaining she is already betrothed.

In the salon there was some more conversation, with Eckert explaining to Dardarni that they feared that there may be Khadoran agents in the town or in the wedding party. Dardarni brushed off the threat, but Eckert could tell there was more going on.

After the others had retired for the evening, Darcey, Vydori, and their youngest  brother, the groom, Vyhn, and Gregore sat in salon playing cards, and Hurst took the chance to ask about the servants. Vydori was not very aware of the coming and goings of the house, but the young Vyhn, a more bookish and shy man, did not the new arrivals within the house staff, and they surely had not been in the house for more than 2 or 3 weeks. Now that had Hurst worried. Was Rosaline also a suspect? Hurst asked Darcey who on the house staff had been in the house longer than the Madam, as it turned out the Madam had joined the house staff 3 years ago. But the house gardener, Fargus, had been there since Darcey could remember. A brief walk through the house gardens in the misty night, and a gift of cake and wine made Fargus warm to the Hurst and Eckert, and the gardener confirmed that the new faces in the household had only been there in the last couple of days.

Unsure how to act, or even who to suspect, Hurst and Eckert returned to their rooms for the night, as the wedding was tomorrow. But Hurst, still curious, wanted to look around, and so sneaked to the servant's quarters to see if he could find something out, anything. He was sure he had been quiet. But then so was his attacker. He turned to witness a figure in black lunge at him, only to dive past and wrap a garotte about his throat. Hurst gasped, the wire cutting into his windpipe and blocking the circulation. He struggled for his dagger, but seeing as he had only moments to act he dropped the knockout grenade he had brought with him. The fumes almost dropped both himself and his attacker, and in the confusion he drew his dagger and lashed out. It was the same one he had taken from the Orgoth tomb in Widower's Wood. The blade cut and the blood caused this dagger to now glow faintly, the Orgoth runes giving off an unearthly green glow. The attacker, seeing his opportunity gone, and that Hurst was about to cry out, dove through the window, shattering glass everywhere. Hurst looked out and watched the black cloaked figure disappear into the night.

Friday, 22 November 2013

[Battle Report] The Purification of the Cursed Woods - 25pts Menoth vs Circle Orboros

Protectorate :

5 Cinerators
4 Choir of Menoth
Exemplar Errant Seneschal

Circle Orboros:

Feral Warpwolf
Winter Argus
Feral Geist
3 Warpborn Skinwalkers
3 Gatormen

The Battle Field:

On the Protectorate left flank were woods, a large swamp that lay in the Circle side of the battle field, and smaller swamp pools around it. On the right side of the battle field was a ruined entrance to a temple, and some patches of broken masonry which acted as cover and rough terrain.

The Protectorate had the Seneschal on the left flank, looking to make use of the woods and swamps as cover and to out flank and harass Kaya. The Crusader stood ready to use the swamps to channel the enemy towards him, with the Repenter acting as a lure. The Cinerators were aligned to the right of the Repenter, forming a solid line, with Kreoss and the Choir behind the Cinerators. Finally the Vanquisher held down the right flank, looking to use the rough terrain to slow the enemy so it can lay down enough fire power.

The Circle from the Protectorate left consisted of the Warpwolf and Argus, the Skin Walkers with Kaya behind them, the Winter Argus and then the Gatorman Posse.

The Battle:

The Protectorate marched forward, looking to close the range in order to soften up the enemy. The Repenter surged ahead looking to lure the enemy forward. The Seneschal ran up the flank, also looking for an opening. The Choir sung their hymn of Passage. Kreoss called upon Lamentations to lock down the enemy magic and cast an aura of protection on the Cinerators.

The Circle moved forward, the Gatormen using the rubble for cover, and also aided by the swirling mists. The rest of the battle group moved forward, seeking to ensure Kaya was protected. Kaya gave the Skinwalkers the gift of stealth.

The Seneschal moved forward and fired at the Argus with his crossbow, taking first blood. The Cinerators also moved onwards ready to take the charge of the far more mobile enemy, and the Choir blessed the warjacks with Battle Hymn. The Vanquisher moved on and fired at the Winter Argus. The shot was true thanks to focus it had been given. It used the second focus it carried to cause horrific damage to the beast, killing it out right. The flames from the explosion hit one of the Gatormen, the Skinwalkers and Kaya, setting them all ablaze. Kaya redirected the damage from herself onto the Warpwolf. Being on fire was a serious problem for her. The Repenter also tried to ignite more of the Circle forces, but failed to hit the Argus with the gout of flame. The Winter Argus then stood once more, its corpse now animated by the Feral Geist.

The flames were now a serious problem as they immolated the Gatorman, and dealt even more damage to Kaya, who again passed it on to her Warpwolf. The Skinwalker however shrugged off the flames. Kaya empowered the Warpwolf and Argus with the Argus animus, enabling them to move unhindered. The Argus paralysed the Seneschal with its Doppler Bark, and the Warpwolf used this to its advantage, charging through the swamp and savaging the soldier in its massive jaws. The Skinwalkers charged the Repenter, their halberds cleaving through armour and metal limbs, crippling the machine, save for its cortex and flail. The Gatormen also charged and attacked the Vanquisher, just doing enough damage to cripple the massive flail of the steamjack.

Kreoss saw his chance, moving forward and calling on the power of Menoth, forcing all but Kaya to their knees. He sent a stream of fire at the Warpwolf, before the Crusader engaged it, pummelling the beast into the ground. The Cinerators and Vanquisher eliminated the Gatormen and animated Winter Argus, the Geist materializing before the holy warriors. The Choir moved to support Kreoss as the Skinwalkers were a threat.
Kaya had only a few chances to defeat Kreoss, and with out another warbeast her feat was not able to gain her the required fury needed to real off enough attacks. Kreoss had seriously neutralized her magical prowess. Never the less the Argus moved forward and tried to paralyse Kreoss. It failed, and so Kaya, unable to channel enough fury to cast the spell and enhance it, and hoped to hit. She hit and wounded Kreoss. The only hope left was for a Skinwalker that was able to reach Kreoss. Charging was not an option due to the Choir, and so it advanced to strike Kreoss. It hit, but failed to harm Kreoss enough. With that the might of the Menoth army turned on Kaya, with the Cinerators cutting her down.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Darker Days Radio #53

Darker Days Radio #53


Chris and Chigg are joined by the illustrious developers of Demon: the Descent - Matt McFarland and Rose Bailey! The hosts don't pull any punches as they explore the concepts of the newest Storytelling game. The nature of the Unchained is discussed, as well as their place in the New World of Darkness cosmology. Special attention is paid to the new Identity mechanic, and how it affects character backgrounds and ongoing stories. On the secret frequency, Chris takes us to the blasted reactors on Chernobyl, where a strange new fungus has emerged. Finally, the show closes with some discussion of Blood & Smoke and the upcoming Dark Eras book.

Be sure to check us out at http://www.facebook.com/DarkerDaysRadio or our Google Plus Community at https://plus.google.com/communities/104221086985174488220. Be sure to subscribe through iTunes! 


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Kayazy Assassins

So not my best work ever, but they I think I got a bit bored of painting them. The hoods are custom green stuff to give them a more Assassin's Creed look to them. They should feature soon in my Khador army and in IKRPG.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

[Actual Play] Iron Kingdoms - Adamantine Will

Episode 4: The Wine of Wrath - part 2

Outside in the mist, stalking the docks, were the Gatormen. The dark of night, ad the gloom and fog made what was already a dangerous situation much worse. Darcey needed the light to be able to hit the beasts with her rifle. Hurst, knowing this had a plan. He rushed out the door of the inn and slung a cinder bomb grenade at the Gatorman, engulfing it in fire.

The light from the flames revealed another of the Gatormen and another, but the third one wore a necklace of skulls and feathers. A bokor. It lifted the severed arm of one of the towns folk and drank the blood from the ragged stump. Darcey smashed the window of the inn and fired with her rifle, blasting out the brains of the burning Gatorman.

Gregore had already been at the front door and charged another of the Gatormen, his great sword hacking the beast and decapitating it. Brother Eckert also moved to support Hurst, calling down the might of Morror to smite the beasts.

The Bokor bellowed and an even larger Gatorman emerged from the mists. But magic was at work, as cruel runes appeared about the Bokor. The mist thickened and the Gators retreated and hid in the fog and night.
Hurst flung another grenade, hoping to immolate another of the monsters, but the grenade bounced and fell in the swamp, exploding with just a fizzle and pop. Hurst battled against the Gator that charged him fending off the beast and again made short work of it.

The bokor charged out of the swamp waters, its halberd carving into the meat of Hurst's leg. Its toothy snout snapped at Hurst, snarling and roaring. Hurst ducked and fought back, and gave Darcey an almost point blank shot, the blasted the brains out of the beast's skull. There was just the larger creature to fight. Eckert blasted the foul creature with a blaze of holy light, but it did little. The huge lizard, the Chieftain, stormed forward, crashing onto the docks, and with a sweep of it's massive halberd sent Hurst flying against the wall of the inn, leaving him a bleeding crumpled mess. Darcey fired but her shot bounced of the leathery hide of the monster, and Gregore engaged it, using a flurry of blows to hack at it. But still it stood. Eckert raised his staff and hammered down on the Chieftain's skull and the creature slumped down dead.

Looking over the bodies Hurst found that the Chieftain carried a leather sack, and within in were the rather fresh remains of a man. He also had with him a note, that had the name of the boat that they were travelling on, and a pouch of gold crowns. This was the remains of a messenger sent to hire the Gatormen to kill the troupe. The man also had some keys with him, keys stamped with the seal of Corvis University. Hurst was perplexed, but it was clear someone wanted them dead.

The towns folk were grateful for the defence of their town, and in gratitude they rewarded them with gator skins, fashioning a pair of boots for Darcey.

The journey continued for the troupe, leading them up the Black River, and away from the Bloodsmeath Marsh, and into the Kingdom of Llael and to the capital, Merywyn. The great walls of the city gave way to the river front palazzos, and decadent decorations on the homes, and the extravagant attire of the Llaelese. Their tall hair, gaudy coats festooned with gems, the wide dresses with their panniers.

From Merywyn they boarded the 'Metal Rose', a steam train, with first class tickets. The huge engine hurtled through the Southryne countryside, and onto Rhydden. The journey was a perculiar change of pace for many of the troupe, as they enjoyed hearty warm meals in the dining car, the finest Llaelese wine, and the best service from the servants of the train.

After the first day on the train, and with a stop for a refuel of water, Hurst was walking the length of the carriages, stretching his legs, when he noticed, in the back most first class carriage, a bloody finger print. He was then met by one of the occupants, who introduced himself as a member of a travelling troupe of performers, the Hellequins of Merywyn - and that they were heading to a wedding to perform at.
Hurst was perplexed and concerned.

Part 3

Hurst returned to his cabin on the train and sat and spoke with the others. It was clear he needed to test the blood, that he had taken a scraping of. Performing a few alchemical analytical tests the blood was from a man, who had died within the last 5 hours, and that the victim had been drugged with a sedative. The blood sample had turned green and foamed with the reagents in the test tube.

Given the evidence, they needed to find out if anyone was missing. Darcey took the chance to ask around the dining car of the train, while Gregore tried his luck in the lower class carriages to the rear of the train. Eckert would speak to the train conductor. 

After asking around it was clear no one had spotted that anyone was missing. They needed another plan. At the next refuelling station Hurst would fumigate the carriage, to make it appear it was on fire, and in the confusion snoop about.

His plan work, using a vapour to steam and cloud up the carriage. People exited, worried about the apparent fire. Hurst slipped into the performers' cabin and looked around. Nothing. Not a single thing to incriminate them. But Hurst had been caught red handed by the train guards and the conductor. The very formal man, dressed in the train companies uniform, was unimpressed by this case of burglary on his train, and would not stand for it. While Eckert was able to talk the man down, Darcey was unimpressed that she had to bear the humiliation of the event.

The train arrived in Rhydden, which compared to Merywyn was a far more simple city. Smaller, and less gaudy, it was quaint and pleasant, even in the cold of the early Spring. They could see the start of the intimidating woods that led into the elven kingdom of Ios, and could see the fields had been ploughed and the vines yards were ready for another season of grape farming. For Darcey this was a home coming and brought back happy memories of her mother.

Gregore was met as he exited the train by a man who greeted him with a simple phrase, 'In Corvis I hear that many people must walk in the fog', to which Gregore replied, 'Ah but they are ghosts who we call friends'. He shook the hands man and excused himself.

Gregore and the man, who wore extravagant clothing expected of a Llaelese merchant, walked some way, finding a secluded park. With no one in ear shot the man introduced himself as Cisban, a agent of the CRS. He explained that he required Gregore to ensure a secret message from New Umbrey made it to the court of the Duke of Voxsauny. It was critical to ensuring that the Llaelese can root out their own traitors.  Of course that means the Gregore must also look out for agents of Section 3, the Khadoran secret service.

The next day the troupe took a carriage on to the town of Grymaldi, and to Dimiani estate.

About half way along their journey they were met by three mount men, dressed in regal Llaelese military garb. One of them took off his bicorne and was recognised by Darcey. it was her eldest brother, Vyctori. As the horsemen and carriage continued along Vyctori hand to the carriage occupants two bottles of wine from the estate and talked about how he had been in the north on the border to Khador, and that there had been more cuts to the military in favour of funding mercenaries.

They passed through the town of Grymaldi, and could see that even the town had decoration up, and flowers blooming, no doubt due to alchemical  salts used to help them flower in the cold Spring. But it was here in the quiet township that Hurst's keen eyes spotted something. One of the performers, and now were seemed to be one of the townsfolk. This was bad. He explained what he saw to the others, and Gregore realised that the performers must have been Khadoran spies.

At the Dimiani estate, Dardani di Dimiani, Earl of Grymaldi, stood awaiting for the carriage. He was dressed in a military uniform and heavy fur coat, with his greying hair cut short and his a trim goatee. Upon arrival he greeted all the troupe and his daughter. After a brief discussion and pleasantries they were then joined by Vydori. Vydori compared to his brother and father was far more flamboyant and was smoking from a cigarillo, cracking jokes at Darcey's expense. But that did not stop her running into his arms and hugging her most beloved brother.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Darker Days Radio Presents - Forgotten Lore #5

Contains - a Vampire: the Requiem short story by Sam Handley, Promethean: the Created NPCs by Travis Wilson, and a Vampire: the Masquerade essay by Mike Andryuk.

If you want to submit articles for our next issue, the theme will be "Demons".

Join us on FacebookGoogle+Twitter, and follow our blog.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Why I use Google Plus aka Stop your moaning about a free service changing - they owe nothing to you!

So obviously there has been a ton of vitriol over Google+ recently,  in particular how it has now been used as a the comment engine for Youtube. Of course this anger (internet fury no less) has spilled over to every other social network, and of course that means places like Facebook and Tumblr. It also means the classic catchphrase “Google Plus is a ghost town” pops up.
“In reality, according to a study made by the Global Web Index it turns out that Google Plus is actually the second largest social network with over 359 million monthly active users.”
That is a big number, because people are using the embedding Google+ id you have for your gmail, to access their photo hosting services, Google Drive, and many more other things than just a place to post memes and wax lyrical about how some company changed a service you don’t pay for.
"For the results I am using Google Analytics and am looking at a two-month period for more consistent results:
  • Average visit duration – That has to be the metric where Google Plus really shines in comparison with Facebook. Whereas visitors from Facebook spend 3 minutes and 53 seconds on average when they land on Reviewz N Tips, Google Plus users stay 6 minutes and 20 seconds on average. Now that’s an almost three minutes of difference – quite a number!
  • New visits – Facebook wins that one with a value of 59.34%. The new visits from Google Plus on the other hand are lower with almost 14% and come at 45.65%. You might look at this from a positive angle as well though. Although Google’s platform seems to deliver less new visitors, it might be an indicator of more loyal visitors, who don’t just come and go.
  • Bounce rate – Lower bounce rate means that visitors engage with your blog and don’t leave from the same page they landed on. And that is another win for Google Plus – 67.63 compared to Facebook’s relatively high value of 77.64%.
So what it turns out?
Based on the above observations, it seems like Google Plus is actually a pretty good place to get proper engagement and quality traffic that doesn’t simply flow from one side to only leave from the other without any interaction.”
I can support this too. The engagement on my G+ posting compared to Facebook or Tumblr is far superior. People actually comment. Plus the right sorts of people comment. I get feedback. And if I get trolled, well I can block and report people.  That is because G+ has asymmetric interaction. I can post  stuff publicly or to select people. People can follow me, and see my public stuff, and I don’t have to follow them. G+ supports hastags. And it has communities, that you set up and just share to. Plus it is integrated  with what was once called Picasa (which is why a lot of photographers like using G+ as the photo hosting is good).
All of these things above are why G+ to me is a great social network, and not a ghost town (I have more followers there than here or Facebook, and a good number of them are writers in the industry I am a fan of). It also means the podcast I host has a greater, and better, interaction with our listeners.
In a lot of ways Google+ has element of Tumblr (funny pictures and it natively supports animated gifs unlike Facebook), has circles and asymmetric sharing and interaction (like Livejournal had, and Facebook copied), you can use hash tags and make quick updates and check ins (like Twitter and Tumblr). But the main thing is for me G+ is a social network I interact more with - because I am interacting with not the people I know in real life, but who are making meaningful contributions  and comments on the things  I am interested in. It means what I go to look for there is not what I go to look for on Facebook or on Twitter or on Tumblr.
Now for the kicker. Youtube. Recently, before the comment update. I imported the podcast I host to Youtube. This meant I wanted to make a Youtube channel. I started with my own personal channel, unlinked my G+ account from it, made the channel so that both I and my co-hosts could manage it, and that the channel was linked to the G+ page for the podcast (so pages are more like corporate pages that are co managed by different  G+ users). End result? I can in fact comment on Youtube videos as either myself, or under the guise of the Youtube channel.
My point with all this is that there are a lot of myths out there about G+, and how it works, who is using it, how big it is. For me personally it has led to a lot more engagement from the people who are into the same sort of niche things that I am into. G+, with my podcast page, podcast community for our listeners, linked to our Youtube for the channel, and the blogger page for the channel, has meant for a seamless interaction between myself and our listeners at all levels.
So while change is difficult, and change can be annoying, and in your own little world, where you are famous for 5 minutes because you post videos using a service - which you don’t pay for - you may not see the initial benefits. However, they are there, and there  are fun and interesting things you can do, if you are willing to cut through the media hype and myths.

- Chris

Sunday, 10 November 2013

[Battle Report] The Battle of Dragons Fall Plain

25 pt Battle Report - Skorne vs Everblight

Skorne - Hexeris and the Kingdom of Shadows

Lord Tyrant Hexeris
2 Cyclops Savages
Titan Gladiator
Two 6 man units of Praetorian Swordsmen
Aptimus Marketh
6 Paingiver Beast Handlers

Legion of Everblight - Lylyth Blighted Hunting Party

4 Shredders
5 Blighted Ogrun Warspears
Blighted Ogrun Warspear Chieftain

The force of Everblight advanced, with Lylyth and her Carnivean and two of the Shredders lurking in the woods. A building and a stone wall lay ahead of them beyond the woods. The Forsaken advanced, syphoning fury from the Carnivean, the arcane energy building in the creature's Blight Shroud. The Ogrun on the left flak advanced up to the woods and waited.

The Skorne had already benefitted from the forward deployment of the Swordsmen, and now those men were taking up position behind the wall and on the other flank, behind a hill, with the woods beyond them and the Ogrun. Already Hexeris's spells were enchanting the army. Death March ensured the right flank Swordsmen had some advantage against the Ogrun, while the Gladiator was already linked by Soul Slave to Hexeris. And of course Hexeris was empowering himself with Psychic Vampire, hoping to wear Lylyth down. Gladiator ran forward, near to the wall, riled and enraged. The Cyclops advance forward, one ready to counter charge anything that attacked the Swordsmen near the wall, while the other positioned itself to block charges at the Titan. The Paingivers advanced, ready to enhance the beasts. Hexeris final moved forward, and using the Titan as his eyes and ears invoked his spell of Obliteration at the Carnivean. The blast hit, deal cursory wound to it and a Shredder.

While first blood was to the Skorne, the first kills were to the Everblight. The Ogrun charged, and those that could see engaged the Swordsmen, throwing the spears and killing four of the men. But this was no loss to the Skorne, as their souls were snatched away by Aptimus, the black stone head now glowing with hellish power. The Carnivean charged, engaging the Swordsmen at the wall, immolating a number with a gout of fire from it's snapping jaw. The Shredders also charged but did little as they fought against the Swordsmen, the wall hindering them. The two other Shredders moved to defend the Carnivean that now faced off against the Titan. The Forsaken advanced and was now fully empowered.

Thanks to the souls of the dead Hexeris's spells were easily empowered and sustained. The Swordsmen faced down the imposing Orgun Cheiftain, slicing away with their blades. The other remaining swordsmen faced off against the Shredders and dealt what little damage they could. The Paingivers whipped the warbeasts into a frenzy, and the first Cyclops charged and cut down the Shredder that blocked the Titan from the Carnivean. The Titan bellowed, seeing it's chance and charged the Carnivean. Tusks and fists pummelled the Carnivean, leaving it barely standing, oozing ichor. The last Cyclops saw its open opening, and charged the other Shredder that blocked it from the Carnivean, but thanks the the long cleaving blade it was able to strike out and cut down the Carnivean and the Shredder. Hexeris devoured their fury, rendering their power wasted for Lylyth. With the battle line now clear, but with the beasts in danger of the Forsaken, Hexeris channelled his power through the Titan, and cut down the Forsaken in a blast of Soulfire. A subsequent blast of energy from the Titan was Hexeris casting the Obliteration spell at the Ogrun Chieftain, slaying the monster.

Lylyth was now out in the open and in danger. She invoked her feat, empowering her hunting party.. She needed to hurt the enemy as much as possible, and so sent a volley of arrows and magical blasts at the Titan. The Warspears acted, and charged the Skorne warbeasts, and hail of spears cut them all down. But of course this only served to empower Hexeris. The dead beasts and Swordsmen served only to empower Hexeris and Aptimus. Aptimus advanced to her and channelled the Soulfire of his master at the enemy warlock. Hexeris also saw his chance, and advanced up the hill, and seeing Lylyth undefended rained down his Soulfire on her, and reduced her to a smoking heap of flesh.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

[actual play] Iron Kingdoms - Adamantine Will

The Wine of Wrath - Part 1

The witch hunters of the Order of Illumination remained in Five Fingers for a few days more, waiting for news from High Captain Kilbride regarding the whereabouts of the rogue arcane mechanik, Rustiban Vandred. They got their reply - in the form of a certain gobber with a message - Smek.
Smek explained that Rustiban had been found and had been spotted conversing with another mechanik, McGreedy, of McGreedy's Clockwork Emporium, situated on Bellicose Island.

With Smek as their guide the group of hunters to shop, the hope being that McGreedy would help them locate Vandred. The street, being centre for trade, was busy, rowdy, and chaotic. But even in the flux of people, Investigator Beck Hurst was able to spot that McGreedy's was being watched. He pointed out the rough looking gangsters to Smek, who nodded and drew the group over to a liquor vendor. There in the cold damp they drank the warm syrup liquor and listened as Smek explained to them that the gang was the Scarlet Skulls.

Given the apparent danger, Hurst and the aristocrat-hunter, Darcey de Dimiani, sneaked into the back alley, escaping the view of the gangsters, and slipped into the back of the shop. They found the place in complete disarray, with the back of the shop serving as a workshop and small forge, and the front a spare parts and clock work shop. Hurst put his keen eye to work and was able to piece together events. There was recent blood stain on shop desk, and the draws had been pulled out, including the paper work. Darcey found in the pile of coal a hand, reaching out and grasping. It was McGreedy, and in his hand was a scrap of fabric. Hurst was able to find a secret cabinet and within another ledger. Within was a the most recent upcoming sale, Rustiban Vandred. But there was also other information. There was an envelope, signed 'DC', and with it a note of credit. Whatever the item was that was being paid for was to be picked up today by Rustiban. There was also a diagram of the item. And orrery, and one that seemed to map the moons of Caen and more. The design was not something Hurst had seen in Wester Immoren, nor did it look Orgoth. But they did have a ship name, the 'Frozen Cannon'. In the forge and workshop there still pieces that matched the orrey, and the strange runes that covered it. Hurst also quickly performed a test on the 'DC' signature. The chromatography was similar to his own writing ink. A writing ink that came from Corvis, and from the university. 

Darcey and Hurst left the shop and together with the others they kept watch over the shop and the gang. The gangsters seemed concerned, as if expecting something. And after 3 more hours they left. Something was wrong, as the witch hunters also expected Rustiban to arrive. Gregore was sporting for a fight and suggested that they follow the gang, but Brother Eckert called for patience. They waited some more, and then the Scarlet Skulls returned in force, but led by a figure with a strange gait and form, and with what were obviously the dead, though well concealed. Eckert, blessed such as he was by Morrow, could see the signs of magic at work, and necromancy. Eckert then realized the nature of the necromancer - a Satyxis. They waited and watched, and watched the necromancer leave, apparently angry. Gregore demanded that they follow, but Eckert warned against it. They were few against the numerous followers of Thamar and the forces of Cryx who undoubtly lurked on this island. Instead they would go talk to the captain of the Frozen Cannon.

The sun had almost set, and a cold wind blew in from the north, but the deck of the Frozen Canon was alive with gambling and singing. Khadoran singing. Much to Eckert's chagrin, the ship was a Khadoran privateer, captain by Captain Durga, and ex-Khadoran naval officer. With a little persuasion the gruff man explained that he had sailed to Zu, the tropical continent, and from there he acquired the Orrery on behalf of Vandred. Vandred and McGreedy has arrived yesterday morning to pay for the item. It was now clear that Rustiban has left for Corvis.


The band of witch hunters had been back in Corvis for a couple of weeks so far, and Hurst was certain he had seen the signature before. There was no sign of Rustiban in the city. Their trail had led them to nothing, and they still were tasked with recovering the Witchfire and Alexia Ciannor. They group was once more called by the master of the Order chantry. He was aware of the upcoming wedding of Darcey's brother, and so asked that the others, on behalf of the Duke of Corvis, that they act as envoys and take a wedding gift.
With their rather more quiet mission, the group took a steam barge, and with them the Duke's present, a writing desk, and left for Llael, and the city of Rhydden in the duchy of Voxsaunny. Their journey up the Black River, and through the bayous of Bloodsmeath Marsh, and eventually stopping at the decrepit and mouldering riverside town of Bloodsbane.

The town was nothing more than elevated decking and a few dozen ramshackle wooden sheds that barely withstood the cold and the mist. With the gruff greeting of the port master they were directed to the town inn for a night's rest.

Within the inn, little heat came from the fire, the locals drank the foul smelling frothy brew, and the inn keeper, a wiry old man, sneered at them. The food was barely edible, consisting of a broth of chewy fish and vegetables.

The night drew on, and the locals left, and then, in the dead of night, there came a gutteral scream. The group took up their weapons and looked out the windows of the inn. In the mist they spied something they had seen once before in the sewers of Corvis - a gatorman. But rather than just one, many lurked in the mists.
The door of the inn slammed open, as Gregore hefted his broadsword. 'Come and get it fiends!'