I know I haven’t blogged about any Cepheus stuff in quite a while. Heck, I’ve been busy. But then this little jewel popped up. And oh man is it good.
Warlords of Atlantis is from Zozer Gamers and they already have a great pedigree when it comes to Cepheus Engine games especially Hostile and Zaibatsu. Warlords of Atlantis is specifically designed to used the rules for Barbaric! In case you haven’t been keeping up, Barbaric! is a very rules lite take for Sword & Sorcery adventures.
It’s mostly a setting book and it’s a really inspiring setting while I was reading thru it, I heard this in my head, “Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of….” Warlords of Atlantis presents a classic pulp style Atlantis that not only brings forth Conan but also Kull of Atlantis and all of those classic Harryhausen movies. The setting is an alternate ancient world with inspiration from so many damned sources. Often, when that’s done it can dilute a setting. But all of those elements are put together with consistency making just a plain cool setting.
This is just plain cool and fresh step away from the usual elves, dwarves and kitchen sink. Don’t get me wrong. I do love playing with the standard D&D races is nice but it’s also nice to have something different.
There aren’t a lot of rules changes or additions. A few spells are changed. A couple monsters are added. Character generations is spiced up with backgrounds that offer up an extra specialization. There is a cool tweak to the Hero Points. You just don’t get them. Warlords of Atlantis takes this metagame currency and makes it part of the setting. You see. Hero Points are a gift from the Gods and they demand sacrifices. Cool right.
But wait there’s more. Want to take some 20’s or 30’s character into the time of Atlantis or may be do the good old Hollow World thing. Yep. There’s rules for that too.
It’s great to see an adventure come out for Barbaric! It’s one those fun games that hasn’t gotten as much love as it should. So what you get for under $2? A nice tidy little adventure.
It Came from the Scriptorium is mean, horror dungeon crawl set in a corrupted abbey. There’s plenty of mean nasty things to rip your head off. This adventure has a strong Lovecraftian vibe going and isn’t your usual just a bunch of undead and monsters that the players have seen a dozen times before. A few times it even slips into an Army of Darkness/Evil Dead tone with some the bits that show up. Yes, I’m trying to do this spoiler free. There’s plenty of weirdness to keep the players on their toes or into a shallow grave.
Clocking in at just 23 pages (including cover and legelese), It Came from the Scriptorium packs in new freaky monsters, villains, and bizzaro magic items. All which can easily be added to add a little more spice to an existing campaign.
While the adventure is technically written for Barbaric!, it can be easily used with Sword of Cepheus or, heck, just tweak it a little bit and you could use it with any of the 2d6 based games.
Because why not. I threw this together for yet another option for Barbaric! It’s just something that hit this morning so I scribbled down some notes. Yes, another random idea.
So first this would replace the standard crit tables but not the additional damage from crits as per the Barbaric! rules. This still adds a whole bunch of danger and dismemberment to combat. On the referee side, I wouldn’t worry too much about a hit location table for each and every monster morphology. Just roll with it.
First the table. Throw 2D:
3: Right Arm
4: Left Arm
5 to 9: Torso
10: Right Leg
11: Left Leg
So what do you with that location? Well, first you can do piecemeal armor. Assume the price listing and optional encumbrance in the book is for a full set of armor. For piecemeal armor, adjust the price and encumbrance based on the percentages used below. Yes, you are going to have to do some math.
Damage Modifier: Any damage that gets by the character’s armor is modified by the location that’s hit and damage effects applied as normal.
As I said earlier, this is just a wild idea that popped into my head. YMMV.
So where does this take my little mind? Well, Cepheus Light is a lighter version of the full Cepheus Engine rules but not any where near as light as Cepheus Quantum games like Barbaric! So why not start with something like Barbaric! and tack on more of the details skills and some other the other mechanics from Cepheus Light plus more tidbits from Sword of Cepheus. I will say this the Quantum games offer much less complex monster stat blocks and thus makes the referee’s life much easier.
And yes. I know Cepheus at its heart is a SciFi RPG and I keep ranting about Barbaric! and Sword of Cepheus. SciFi is sort of my GM blind spot. For some odd reason, I’m just not good at it.
I’m still gaming via VTT’s so anything that is more rules light with quick character generation is the sort of thing that I’m looking for right now. I’m still brainstorming this whole idea which is why I’m posting. I’m sure folks have an opinion out there.
First, Quantum games don’t really have Attribute scores for the characters. This is handled via Skills and Traits. So add Attribute score. Now, working via a VTT (and with gamers who have never played a Cepheus (or it’s progenitors) normal character generation would (IHMO) really bog down. Quantum games just give a pool of Skill points to distribute. Much quicker but there’s a very limited number of skills. So my initial thought is to run with a template approach for skills. Pick this career and boom there you go then use discretionary Skill points for additional terms in a career. I’d limit to only three terms and have something for changing career paths. And just do one big Events Table for anything interesting that could happen.
This is just the kernel of an idea that’s bouncing around inside my head. I don’t how far I’d run with it or maybe change up the whole thing. Just throwing it out there.
Yes, it’s time again for me to start thinking about what to run next. I know that my little gaming group is only a few sessions into the 5E game but I always start planning months out. And there’s a lot reasons I’m doing it on this one.
It’s all about really coming to grips about what I really like. I’ve always leaned more towards Sword & Sorcery and coloring outside of the lines just a bit but never going full Edgelord. Never go full Edgelord. I really love house ruling, kit bashing, and just tweaking rules. And lastly. 5E is just really loosing its luster for me. Sure, when it first came out. I liked it. And I still think it’s a good game system for a vanilla modern D&D setting. But I just think it won’t work that well with kind of game this going to turn into.
I went a long time without going “Oh wow! That’s cool.” But a few publishers really sparked my imagination. Planet X Games with the Phylactery Zines and Magic & Shit; the wild and crazy adventures by Dark Wizard Games; the Black Label adventures by Art of the Genre; and finally the recent Kickstarter for Hypreborea. To put it simple, these folks are talking my language. A little pulpy, grind house, B-Move Inspired weird fantasy material with a dark sense of humor without going full on Edgelord. So I have to fully admit that this sort of thing is right in my wheelhouse.
My first step is come up with what game I want to use the foundation/chassis to build this campaign around then start adding bits and pieces to make the characters fit the setting/genre.
I know I’ve ranted a lot about Barbaric! And it has a lot going for it. It’s an easy system for new players to pick up. Character generation is very quick and easy. And it’s cheap. (I won’t need to be asking players to shell out a bunch of money). There a couple of things going against it. Most of my players are only familiar with d20 based games (especially 5e) and I have so much material that based on old school d20 games on hand. I suppose I could convert the adventures and stuff. But it add another layer to any GM prep time and, well, I’m lazy. And I’m not sure how well it would work for a long term campaign.
I’m also looking at White Box. So it fulfills the cheap for the players and d20 based. The rules are very simple and I’ve done plenty of hacks on them. The only minor thing is converting monster damage and spells from later editions like BX or even AD&D. It wouldn’t be that hard. So that’s a definite possibility.
Swords & Wizardry has been my go to old school game for a long time. Some of the group even played in Blight Campaign. Easy to house rule and convert on the fly. The monster stat blocks are really easy to use and there are ton of monsters available. So yeah there’s that one.
Old School Essentials/Labyrinth Lord OK, these two are basically the same game. I did run a Labyrinth Lord game for the group and they liked it. I do have to say that OSE is the old-school darling of the day and is laid out and organized much better. Lamentations of the Flame Princess also basically has many of the same rules and some interesting spells.
Hyperborea has taken a lot my attention of late and the setting itself is very close to whole vibe I’m going for. While there are some extras from AD&D era, I don’t think it’s anything really overwhelming.
These games for me start with the best frame works to start working from. Sure I do love me some Dungeon Crawl Classics and Castles & Crusades does have a special place in my heart. But so much of what I’m planning is a total Franken-Game. Grabbing the best bits from various games or just being inspired by them. So yeah there will bits and ideas from all of the above but right now I’m trying to think which one I’m going to hack apart and put back together with the extra ideas and inspiration. What’s strange is that I’ve already got 40 pages of notes that I’ve copied and pasted from old house rules, random ideas, and various inspirational material. So needless to say, the final setup will have a bit of a different vibe going for it.
So I guess this really long post is a gigantic teaser about what’s coming up here on the blog and maybe on my Patreon.
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