Friday, 31 October 2014

Dread - Tower Hack & Homebrew

Happy All Hallow's Eve Everyone! 

I thought now would be an appropriate time to finally publish this draft for a homebrew/hack I've been working on and off for over a year for Dread. Hopefully I'm going to be running a few of these concept for the first time tonight. Enjoy!

Ever since I got the storytelling game Dread, read it, and later played it, I've been considering a way to hack it. Many months ago I acquired a jenga tower that suited my needs, both visually and practically.

I thought I was being so clever with this idea back when I conceived of it up a couple years ago, so you can imagine how disappointed when I saw a popular RPG webcomic had produced a strip containing a Dread variant with similar effect. Great minds think alike. :) I might've been beaten to the punch in this regard, but I'm still going to share my thoughts and ideas:

The Hack:

First, I marked each pieces with a symbol in with pencil.
Imprint each piece with a symbol of some sort. It could be a number, letter, character, sigil, glyph, or any combination of them. The average tower has 54 blocks, making up to 54 possible symbols. This each symbol corresponds with a result on a chart.

Making all of the results negative can make the players even less inclined to do pulls, so averaging the results between 27 positive and 27 negative (even or odd numbers); or having 18 positive, neutral, and negative (1-18, 19-36, 37-54) results can create a better risk-vs-reward dynamic.

If the GM doesn't want to or doesn't have enough material to fill all 54 options, just double or triple them up to 27 or 18 results respectively, and ignore any result that has been pulled before, or use the result above or below it. This option works best for increasing the chance that a more important results, such as clues, might be pulled.

Another way to divide the tower results is between more than one concept. Example: Even numbers are Regained Memories, and Odd numbers are Creepy Effects.

Also, even though 54, 27, and 18 aren't particularly nice round numbers, they can still be fudged for use with tables from other games by stretching or shrinking 54 to 55 or 50; 27 to 30 or 25; or 18 to 20 or 15 respectively. Just ignore results that are out of that range, or substitute your own or others' ideas.

Then I traced over the markings with a wood burning tool.
You can either imprint the symbol on both ends of each piece so the players can see the symbol options before they make an attempt; on the sides so most can be seen, but some will be hidden; or on the tops and bottoms, so the results will be mostly hidden.

Numbers 6 and 9 can easily be mistaken for the other one upside down. Optionally this can be intentionally vague and left up to interpretation; or the Host can choose between either of the results.

Numbers not your thing? The English alphabet has 26 letters, one shy of 27, half the number of pieces. The remaining pieces could be filled out with letters from other real (Greek, HebrewCyrillic, Runic, Egyptian hieroglyphics, etc.), undeciphered (Rongorongo, Vinča, etc.), blissymbolicsalchemical symbols, behenian fixed stars, or fictional alphabets or glyphs. This could lend an mysterious/occultic flair to the tower.

Also 54 is the exact number of cards in a deck of playing cards with the two jokers included, so you could potentially use this tower hack in many RPGs that use a deck, like Savage Worlds or Castle Falkenstein.

The Host can use the examples below to mix up their game a bit, but I do stress that they should not be used with every draw as doing so could spoil the tension of the game. Many results are red herrings that could distract players, but they could also be easily tied into the fiction with a little thought. Still, use them like spices when cooking: just a right amount to give flavour without being overpowering.

Chart Result Concepts:

  • Sanity Loss/Recovery
  • Uncover a Clue/Secret
  • Recall a Lost Memory
  • Creepy/Weird Effect
  • Time Progression, Countdown, or Event Cue
  • Physical/Mental detriment if negative, or removal of a detriment if positive

The assortment of symbols I made for my set. Some are vague, some are obvious in intent.
Here's a makeshift table I created that corresponds to my set. I might get around to filling in the blank results. Feel free to ignore results and send in Suggestions!

Pulled # Pulled Symbol Weird Twist
1 'I' / Vertical Bar Nothing Seems to Happen...
2 Chevrons Voices character(s) hear issue from the wrong individual(s); or from the wrong direction.
3 Delta / Isosceles Triangle
4 Diamond within a Square Images (paintings, photosgraphs, statues, videos, etc.) appear distorted or unnatural.
5 Lambda / 'V'
6 Asterism Slowly the location gradually fills with a sort of fog or haze that limits sight, muffles noises, and may also be choking.
7 Ankh Special: Whichever player drew the Ankh has their character immune one time from being removed from play if they knock down the tower. Do not return the Ankh peace to the tower after drawing it; the tower is rebuilt minus the Ankh piece, which is removed from the game.
8 Star of Lakshmi Without reason the character(s) lapse into unconsciousness; upon awakening vaguely recall prophetic, precognitive, or delusional dreams.
9 Eight-pointed Asterisk Insects, vermin, or strange lights are unnaturally attracted to one of the characters.
10 'X' Special: The Host can declare any a single pull attempt by the owner of the 'X' an automatic failure. This declaration can happen only once to each player.
11 Spiral Intense vertigo suddenly grips the character(s), who may vomit as a result.
12 Eye The character(s) experience disturbing visual hallucinations.
13 Skull Special: Whichever player drew the Skull has their character removed from play instead the character belonging to whichever player next knocks down the tower.
14 Trefoil Something hazardous is to be found in this area.
15 Infinity The sound of a distant voice screaming echoes through the air; it sounds exactly like one of the characters.
16 Alchemical Phlogiston
17 Saturn/Lead
18 Spider The character(s) develop an irrational phobia of something (e.g. dark, being alone, spiders, water, etc.)
19 Rongorongo
20 Stylized 'VV' Briefly everything appears artificial or two-dimensional to a character before reverting to normal.
21 Wheel Cross Character(s) get an uncanny feeling that they're being constantly watched, even when alone.
22 Strange Sigil
23 Bullseye
24 Jupiter All text becomes flipped, mirrored, or unintelligible gibberish.
25 Hourglass Any timekeeping pieces and/or electronic devices cease working and freeze indefinitely.
26 Yellow Sign Colour appears to bleed out from the character(s) vision, sounds become distorted, and time itself seems to slow down for a long moment.
27 '?' The character(s) suffer temporary amnesia, unable to recall a critical memory.
28 Crux / '+' Special: The owner of '+' can declare any a single pull attempt by made by any character automatic success (negativing the need for the pull). This declaration can happen only once to each player.
29 Thunderbolt The pressure, climate, or atmosphere rapidly changes, creating weather/climate phenomena
30 'Eye of Fire' The next time a character sees their reflection, it is out of sync, that of another person, or someone/something momentarily appears behind them.
31 Waves
32 Arrow The character discovers an object or item (perhaps bloody) on their person that they have no knowledge of.
33 Crescent No sources of illumination function well or at all in an area.
34 Elder Sign The character(s) receives sudden aches and pains as a near subsonic/ultrasonic vibrations rhythmically grow then fade.
35 Sulphur A disturbing scent emanates the area; the source of which cannot be located.
36 Wheel
37 Room/Container A hidden item, object, or room is discovered, scrawled with a character's name.
38 Dragon's Eye Special: Whichever player drew the Dragon's Eye secretly selects another player's character and privately informs the host of their decision; if the selecting player's character is removed from play, the selected character is removed from play instead of their own, likewise if the selected character is removed from play, the selecting player's character is removed from the play instead. If the tower was knocked down intentionally by either side, both characters are removed from play.
39 Hash / '#' The character(s) begins to notice a surreal repetition in a seemingly random pattern in images, sounds, and/or events.
40 Hand Foot/hand prints or marks appear on surfaces, composed of water, blood, filth, ice, etc.
41 Mask The character(s) feel that someone close to them has been possessed/replaced with a nearly perfect double with malicious intent.
42 Key Every container and/or exit has been inexplicably opened/closed and/or locked/unlocked in an area the character(s) enter/exit.
43 Obelus Suddenly the characters are separated from each other when a darkness falls, doors seal shut, or a structure collapses.
44 Crossed Swords Feelings of deep animosity and/or resentment develop between characters, with or without justified reason.
45 Comet An odd light appears in the distance that moves of its own accord, perhaps directed upon the character(s) ; possibly disappearing/reappearing.
47 Pentacle/Pentagram The character(s) encounter a brief but disturbing out-of-body experience; or are seemly possessed by a maleficent force.
46 Omega A character finds blood on his or her clothes, with no obvious source.
48 Semicircle A once accepted truth turns out to be the opposite.
49 Atom Batteries and powered devices rapidly lose charge and low-tech devices stall/jam/break.
50 Fire The character(s) breaks out a cold sweat despite the cool temperature; or they see their breath in the air despite it not being cold enough to do so.
51 Teste Morte The character discovers an well-known/loved item that belonged to themselves or another character; the character hasn't seen the item since they were young.
52 Chaos Unnerving sounds echo through the air; all noise ceases; or communication devices generate static and/or unearthly voices/sounds.
53 Labrys Axe An item or weapon, appropriate or otherwise, is found in a bizarre location.
54 Oroboros / Ensō The character(s) experience déjà vu; or a witness a recent scene happening in reverse.

Setting Homebrew:

Concept: All of the characters in the story have amnesia, and can only remember a certain number of things from their past, but can uncover more details as the game progresses, both literally and figuratively piecing them together.

The game starts out as normal with the players filling out the questionnaires given to them by the Host. After reviewing the answers as satisfactory, the Host, using a pair of scissors, will cut each questionnaire width-wise into strips containing each question and its answer, hereafter to be referred to as 'memories'. He will do this with all of the questions except for a remainder, (one of which might be the Character's name).

Either randomly or systematically, the Host corresponds each of the 'memories' to a labelled piece of the tower. In game, whenever a player makes a pull, they are given the strip that corresponds to the result they pulled, thus recalling a bit about their background. This recalled memory might not even be one they answered on the questionnaire they filled out!

So to determine the remaining number of 'memories' that should be returned to the players at the beginning of the game, the Host has to do a bit of simple math. First he should take the total number of all the questions and multiply them the number of players. He should then subtract that number by a number that 54 is wholly divisible by: E.g. 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 18, 27, or 54.

That difference is then divided by the number of players, and the result is the number of 'memories' each player begins the game with. To make sure the players have an even amount of starting 'memories', the total number of questions should be wholly divisible by the number of players.

The Host then divides 54 by the selected number, the quotient is the number of the tower pieces that are tied to each 'lost memory'.

Here's an example:
Let's say the game has 3 PC's. The Host decides to give them each a questionnaire of 12 questions for a total of 36 questions. She selects 27 has her number to subtract from 36: The result is 9, which is then divided by the number of players, which results in 3 'memories' returned to each player.

54 is then divided by 27, which is 2, so she decides every 2 pieces from the tower are tied to a 'lost memory'. To make this easier, she writes the corresponding number on the reverse of each 'lost memory' and keeps them nearby face down. As the players pull pieces that match coinciding 'lost memories', the Host hands it to them and they read it only after the pull is completed, successful or not.

Happy Haunting!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Kampi's Saga: First Days

Last entry of Kampi's Saga covered the backstory of my LARP character, Ref 'Kampi' Vandillsson. Today consists of a whole bunch of narrative covering his first week in the world of Medieval Chaos:

A few days following his arrival at Dagger Deep:
Kampi had been hired as a guard/porter for a small merchant caravan that was travelling south from Uberland via Dagger Deep to a place in the south called Helm's Deep. To his fortune, he had been hired on last minute to fill an opening, though he was fairly sure his payment was to be low due to his inexperience with the company; he still didn't fully understand the worth of trade in this land and accepted the only way to learn it was from the bottom up. Still, where he was from, low-work was handled by unpaid thralls, so at least he could afford to keep from starving to death. For the time being at least. 
He didn't talk much during the journey with his travelling companions, instead doing what he thought he did best: listening; both to the conversations within and the sounds outside. He partially hoped this vigilance would grant him a degree of professionalism and reliability with his peers, but it also allowed him time to ponder on the recent events in his life: 
During the past week alone Kampi had survived shipwreck, being stranded alone in a strange land, captured by slavers, slain fleeing from captors, and was returned to life and introduced to the local settlement of Dagger Deep, where he saw many different walks of life, some of whom he met. Before he had time to come to terms with what had transpired, creatures calling themselves valkyrja suddenly appeared in town with a retinue of supposedly dead warriors and demanded several named folk. Obviously not his concern, but the whole event fascinated him: it was said in the sagas of his people that the valkyrja mostly appeared to those whom were slain in battle, but here it was to mortals.

Kampi had been slain twice more that day when men who were once-dead-but-still-dead rose up against the living; perhaps the tales of the aptrganga were also true to some extent. Twice more Kampi had returned to the land of the living, a confusing and painful process that he sought to avoid in the future.
Kampi thought long and hard on what this all meant against his previous beliefs on death and the afterlife during the long, uneventful journey to Helm's Deep.

Upon cresting a hillock, Kampi's eyes widened with wonder as they fell upon the great city below him. He had heard tales of giant towns to the south, but had never seen them with his own eyes. He could scarcely believe the sheer size and splendour of Helm's Deep, and briefly forgot himself until the words of his employer drew him back in. As the company wove its way along the increasingly crowded road toward the huge gated entrance, Kampi's spirits lifted; A town this immense must have anything a man may need; he thought. He kept close to his company as it made its way through he gate and toward the market, lest he be swept away by the throngs of people.

The market was awash with crowds, and all sorts of sounds and smells, both familiar and strange, pervaded the air. Kampi forced himself to keep from distraction and his mind on the task at hand as he hauled the goods he'd been transporting for his elven employer into a tall building made of wood and stone. Once all the goods had been stored, he lined up last with his peers as their employer handed out payment along with his thanks.
When he reached Kampi he handed him half a dozen coins and spoke that his company would be leaving from this spot back to Uberland the morning following; he had proven his worth as a porter and was welcome to join them if he wished. Kampi thanked the elf-man as they all went their different ways. 
Resting his tired, sweaty muscles in a quiet corner of the market for a brief moment, Kampi carefully looked over his payment: one coin was made of gold, two of silver, and the rest copper. His stomach growled and he realized he had not eaten for over a day, when he consumed his last stale flatbread. He had some business he wished to take care of, but knew it was best to have a full stomach before undertaking any task, and what better way to find the value of this coin then by buying food? 
Kampi spent some time browsing various vendor stalls, and to his surprise discovered many of them served prepared food. Back home, one would acquire items to cook ones own meal, but it did make sense in this city since there was little room to set up a personal cooking fire anyway. But the mongers' asking prices did reflect the convenience of ready to eat food. 
At last Kampi could not abide his hunger any longer and settled on spiced boar meat served upon a slice of crusty bread for a silver coin. He filled his drinking horn with a thin ale costing one of his coppers and downed it in a single gulp; it tasted stale and bitter but it helped alleviate his thirst. 
Finding another quiet spot, he took a large bite of his fare and nearly spat it out! He was not used to such spice and briefly wished he hadn't downed his ale first. Once he managed to choke down his bite, he chuckled to himself: the whole thing reminded him of when Kail, one of the trio of warriors that had recovered him from his death a few days ago, had offered him an odd fruit covered with a thick, ochreous hide. He was not accustomed to such strong flavour at first, but found he liked it. 
That in turn reminded Kampi of one of the reasons he came to this town apart from employment. He quickly finished his food in smaller bites and found the spiced meat to be delicious; he could get used to such fare, if he could afford it this is. Kampi then struck off on his first task.

Kampi made his way through the dense mass of folk in search of a merchant who dealt in weapons. The crowd did not bother Kampi much, he was used to spending many a week sailing on a cramped drakkar, pressed against fellow crew-members. A twinge of sorrow plucked at his heart when he thought of his recent shipmates, lost to the sea when their drakkar capsized in a fierce maelstrom.
He prayed to his gods that he was not the only one of his folk who made it ashore alive, and that those who did not had brought gold with them so the sea goddess Rán would be pleased with their gift, grant them a place to rest in her hall, and perhaps a seat feasting at table of Ægir. 
Kampi turned his attention back to his task: as far as weapons, he had but the single sword he had taken from one of his slaver captors. Though not familiar design, Kampi new firsthand it was of decent make. But it was not his own through spoils of victory but more so of theft, and he considered that one of the reasons why he felt no attachment to it; it was not his by true right. Still, a weapon is a must amongst his people, regardless of profession.

He stepped into a building that looked promising.

After his eyes adjusted to the dim light, Kampi gazed upon the racks and shelves stacked with various tools of war, along with many other goods. There where many different types, makes, and designs; and several he did not recognize at first as a weapons. He narrowed his focus to the main weapons used with a shield by his people: axe, spear, and sword: 

Obviously a shield is of real use in combat when paired with a weapon; it may protect one from harm, but alone it cannot remove threats. The store had shields of many strange shapes, but few of the simple round design Kampi was familiar with. 
The axe was the poor man's sword: usually easier and cheaper to make than a sword because it used much less iron; the shop carried mostly long, two-handed designs or bizarre double-bitted varieties. These had the disadvantage that one could not use a shield effectively when wielding such a broad weapon. Of course one would have to have a shield to begin with... 
Kampi was hoping for a spear; a weapon that benefited from being shield-less by keeping you out of your opponents' reach in the first place. It was also the favoured of the chief god of his folk, Wodinaz. If a foe does manage get in close, then one could be in trouble, thus the trick was to keep them at bay. Sadly to his dismay, none of suitable length were to be found here; rightly so thought Kampi, they're relatively inexpensive. 
Finally the sword. Kampi already had a sword and there was no chance he could trade his current blade for a better one. Maybe for a smaller weapon like a seax or dagger, but he wasn't enthusiastic about losing the reach granted by the sword.

He had come here to exchange the bandit's blade for a cheaper weapon and get some coin for the trade; and after browsing the wares Kampi figured he might have to settle for smaller blade. But doing so might only jeopardize his livelihood, but also his future position as a caravan guard; no merchant worth his weight would hire a guard armed only with a knife. On the other hand, Kampi desperately needed money, and unless he was going to take up idle banditry or challenging the honourable to duels for death or profit, a sword would help little in a non-martial career. 
Kampi was just about to enquire with the merchant about a trade when something caught his eye: hanging from the wall on a thong of leather was something hafted like a handaxe, but it's head was more similar to a woodworker's hammer on one side and a miner's pick on the other.

Aye see dat yer interested in dis war hammer?” Said the portly shopkeep as he took the weapon down off its hook and extended it to Kampi. “Yes... I've heard of them, but never seen one.” Replied Kampi as he took the weapon and made a few light swings, testing its weight. It felt good, very good, similar to a handaxe he once had. 
“De 'ead 'n' spike punch drough armour.” Said the shopkeep. “Anyding from basic lead'er to maille to full plate. A piece may turn a blade edge, but it canneh stop de weight behind a decent blow from one of deese beauties. Break de bones undernead, or a least knock dey teed out!” The shopkeep grinned, showing a large gap in his mouth where his front teeth used to be. Kampi smiled and nodded. 
Something inside told Kampi to get this weapon. He wasn't sure if it was because of the similarity and weight to an axe, the somewhat merciful prospect of disabling rather than killing a foe outright, or the darker idea of causing undue suffering through shattered bone and ruptured gut rather than a relatively quick death by blade. 
It certainly would be just as effective wielded against lightly the armoured, as well as beings whom clad themselves in thick metal plate; Kampi had seen a both in this city and in Dagger Deep. The war hammer's reach was shorter than the sword he had acquired, but not by much; it measured about his arm minus his hand in length. The fates had led him here, so it must be ordained. Plus did not the mighty god Thonar wield a hammer in battle? 
Kampi spoke: “Yes. I like this... war hammer. I have this to trade for it.” He drew his sword and extended the hilt to the shopkeep, who took it, swung in experimentally, and then closely examined it. “Good weigh'. Nice make. Decen' condition.” Said the shopkeep who then scratched at his balding head with an pondering look upon his face before speaking again. “Yeah, I'll straight up 'rade you fur dis. We 'ave a deal?” 
“Hold a moment.” said Kampi. “That doesn't seem a fair trade for the amount of steel between the two. Granted I am turning in something previously owned, but I was hoping I'd get a little coin to return for this trade.” He motioned to several smaller blades on display. “Which of those do you consider of equal worth to trade this sword for?” 
The merchant strode over to the blades, considered a moment, selected one and handed it to Kampi. “Dis one.” he said. Kampi felt its weight; honestly not too light, nor too heavy. “How about this then: we place this blade upon one side of the balance over there. Upon the other, we'll place that loose war hammer head I see sitting upon that bench. The difference between the two is how much coin will be paid. Fair?” The shopkeep scratched his pate for a moment and then nodded in agreement.

Both parts were placed upon the balance; much to Kampi's relief the blade outweighed the head, but not by much. The merchant then began to add coins to the blade side until the balance was equal. “I dink de difference is nine and twenty coppers worth. Fair enough?” 
“Thank you good man, we have a deal. Make it twenty-seven for indulging me.” The portly gent counted out the coins, handed them over with the hammer, and thanked Kampi for the business. Kampi holstered his new weapon on his belt and smiling, strode back out into the market.

Content with his trade, Kampi pondered on his next course of action. The interaction netted him more coin to barter with but still left him with a decent weapon. He now moved on to his next task: working to fulfil one third of the trice-bound oaths to each of his redeemers. 
The vows he personally swore before his gods consisted of three parts: an oath of tribute, an oath of service, and an oath beholden to their longevity. Unfortunately his duty to his own base needs meant he was unable to fulfil the last two on account of not being present with his any of his redeemers. In fact, several times during his journey to Helm's Deep he had prayed to the Norns that they may see fit that none of his trio would fall to an ill fate during his absence; it would be a further great dishonour to himself if he wasn't present to aid those he already deeply owed in their time of need. 
But he would seize this opportunity to at least attain worthy tribute! Kampi pledged as he started to slowly walk the market, considering options. The gift of coin, though useful, lacked a personal connection, and expensive gifts may have value but no intimacy; not that Kampi could afford such luxuries at this time anyway. Practical presents were in order, but Kampi came upon a problem: at this time, he knew very little about those he was oath-bound to beyond their base profession and skill; their interests, trades, beliefs, loves, fears... 
Kampi felt shame at this but it deepened his resolve to learn more about his companions when he returned to Dagger Deep. For now, he would attain something worthy to fulfil his oath of tribute to each of them. But what? His eyes traced around the market square. He seemed to find himself back where the majority of costermongers had their carts set up, hawking their fruits and vegetables. 
As Kampi's gaze fell upon a barrow filled with caskets of golden-hued apples, a notion came upon him: In the sagas of his people, apples were commonly associated with youth, for the goddess Idthuna carried an magical eski made of ash wood. Within it contained apples blessed with granting youth (for the gods age like mortals, be it slowly by mortal standards), and relied on the apples of Idthuna to remain forever hale and youthful.  
Kampi couldn't keep from grinning like a fool; what nobler gift for his redeemers than a symbol for eternal youthfulness? He strode over to the cart, plucked three of the nicest apples he could find, and was about to hand over the requested coin to the monger when something caught his eye: sitting in a smaller basket were several small orbs he wouldn't have recognised before until very recently, when Kail had shown him the ochre-hide fruit he called an 'Or-An-Jeh'. 
Kail had said that it held mystical properties that kept mariners and the like from illness when on long journeys. Kampi surmised it might have something to do with the strong flavour or perhaps the bright colouring of its skin; in fact, Kampi kept the dried hide from the 'Oranjeh' they shared for good measure ever since.
Kampi scooped up the fruit and thought: For his gladiator friend, this is a more fitting gift than an apple. He returned one of the pomes back to where whence it came, paid the merchant, and tucked away the gifts in his bag, deeply satisfied with his acquisition.

The remaining part of the day saw Kampi inquire about future employment in Helm's Deep, but to little success. The trade he knew best, woodwork and carpentry, was, as nearly all artisans were, controlled by guilds. If you weren't a member of the appropriate guild in this town, there was little chance of finding legitimate work in your given trade; and illegitimate work runs several risks if one was to be discovered operating outside guild regulation.
Joining a guild was an option, but the process was long, time consuming, and certainly not conducive to those who desperately needed employment, like Kampi.
The fact that most of the streets Kampi had so far traversed in this city were lined with a liberal amount of beggars seeking alms might further lend credence to the power of guild rule. In partial jest, Kampi considered that he may be forced to do the same with his own bowl after a few weeks of unemployment would make him gaunt and filthy enough to benefit from charity, and thus run the risk of violating the unseen rules of a 'thieve's guild'. 
After little success in the artisan quarter, Kampi made his way to the harbour district also known as Water Gate, seeking a job in the second and third best trades he knew: seamanship (particularly as a ship's carpenter) and general labourer. 
The harbour's scents filled Kampi's nose before he reached the dockside, and the crying to gulls and the clamour of mariners and dockworkers filled the air. All shapes and sizes of craft of unrecognisable design filled the port, few similar to the shape of the knarr, byrding, karvesnekke, or drakkar of his homeland, but none of obvious Nordthfolk make. Kampi was dismayed by this; he had hoped to find a vessel with obvious ties to his people, but it was not to be. 

Still, resolved Kampi, a ship's a ship; the basic principles are the same and I'm more than willing to learn any innovations of craft and marinership
Unfortunately for Kampi, the remainder of the day was a fruitless as his time spent amongst the artisans: no work was to be found; not particularly because of guild rule, but all the captains he spoke with already had a full complement for their vessels and the port merchants had many a stevedore to shift goods. 
Exhausted, Kampi found a relatively quiet side-street when dusk fell, leaned himself beside a several wooden crates, took a moment to place his valuables underneath the stack (lest he be robbed during his slumber), and allowed a fitful sleep to take him.

The light of early dawn found Kampi as he awoke shivering. With numb hands he checked his person and hidden stash; nothing untoward seemed to happen to him that night. The sun made it difficult to tell the hour in this land, but to his best reckoning, Kampi felt he had an hour or so before the elf had said his caravan was to leave north for Uberland. 

Beating his limbs for warmth, Kampi stiffly stood. His impromptu bed did little to relieve his soreness and his stomach growled with hunger. The streets of the city where desolate at this hour, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle the day before.

A few pedlars were hawking their wares and Kampi purchased some dried foodstuffs to break his fast and prepare for the journey ahead, along with a woollen cloak of good quality for his single gold coin; though this land was considerably warmer than he was used to, the nights were still chill and the season was turning towards winter.
Kampi lingered around muster point the elven merchant had mentioned, and was beginning to worry that he had missed the caravan when several folk he recognized approached with an empty wain. 
After exchanging brief pleasantries, their employer emerged from the building they had ported goods into. Following the directions he gave Kampi and the rest of his colleagues hauled goods from the structure into the wagon, and once it was full, shouldered their own load. 
From then on the company made their way out of the city of Helm's Deep and began the trek north. Kampi was pleased to hear they were to make a brief stopover in Dagger Deep for a few hours as their caravan was to pass though it to Uberland; there he hoped to see his redeemers, deliver their gifts, and aid them to the best of his ability. 
Despite all the hardships that happened recently, Kampi felt optimistic about his fate in this new world...


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Kampi's Saga: Backstory

Last entry of Kampi's Saga, I went over a bit of the development and kit construction for my first Medieval Chaos LARP character, Ref 'Kampi' Vandillsson. Today I submit for parties interested, his backstory, as told from his lips:

"My tale is a long one, are you sure you want to hear it? Very well, I will tell it to you:
"My family was originally from a small village in the land Nordthheim, known as Hvitberg. I was the only son of Vandill, a carpenter by trade, and a young maiden named Deirdru, who was originally a thrall from the Keltlands before she was granted freedom. When I was young, my father Vandill was displaced and exiled by a warrior named Frann, who then married my mother. When I was about fourteen-fifteen winters old, the three of us packed our belongings, boarded a knarr, and sailed across the sea for many weeks to a Nordthfolk settlement in the Keltlands my people called Hængvik. There we dwelt somewhat peacefully with the local Keltfolk, and I even adopted some of their styles of dress and spoke in their tongue. 
"Frann was a member of the the local chieftain's hirdth, so at times he was away viking, but when he was able, Frann had taught me how to wield the three weapons used with shield by our people: the axe, the spear, and the sword. Unfortunately my training did not avail me when our village was beset by marauders late one night whilst Frann and most of the other fighting-men were away on journey. Our folk managed to drive off the horde, but whilst I was keeping our homestead from being set aflame by a group of marauders, one of their blades had slashed deep across my belly. 
"Such a wound was considered fatal by all but my dear mother refused to accept it as such. She knew some ancient runic charms and had secretly practised seidth, a form of sorcery that is taboo amongst the men of the Nordth. It was by her tender care and magics I was kept from dying an unworthy death by a helsótt and my soul from crossing into Helheim, the realm of the unworthy dead. 
"Many seasons later, I was selected by Bragi Wulfsson, our jarl who was going a viking, to be apart of his crew. I then experienced life outside my village, which was mostly by the trade of a carpenter up to that point. After a successful voyage, to honour me, my jarl presented me with a drinking horn made of auroch and banded with gold. The gods seemed to be smiling upon me for the time being, but perhaps the Norns had other plans… 
"The past few years became difficult for the settlement; spoils had grown in short-supply locally or were now too well-defended from our raids, and our folk where forced voyage further south to find new plunder. Recently, during such an expedition, our drakkar came upon a calm, fog-filled sea and we became hafvilla; lost I think is your word for it; for a nearly fortnight. Whispers drifted amongst the crew that we had entered into the realm of mists, Niflheim in my tongue. We made sacrifices to the gods of the weather and the sea: Ægir, Njordth, and Thonar; but perhaps we offended them because suddenly we where beset by a terrible storm. The sea swelled, bore a great maelstrom as you call it, and our drakkar was tossed and torn asunder by its fury.  

"I know not how long had passed floundering in the water before I had washed ashore onto this strange land. My fellow sailors must have been caught in the goddess Rán's net because it seemed that I alone survived the wreck. It was not long before I was set upon by crude folk whom meant to take me as a slave; without a weapon or shield to defend myself, I was quickly overtaken. 
"I was marched wrist-bound for several days through the wilderness. Upon the third night I saw my chance to escape; I had no desire to spend my remaining days as a thrall, and when my guard and I were alone together and he was distracted, with my bound hands I briskly drew his sheathed sword from the scabbard at his hip, struck him down, and fled into the woods. 
"His companions quickly pursued me into a moonless field before I had the chance to remove my bonds. Thrice I took a spear point to the gut but managed to wound the wielder on his forearm, buying me the chance to flee, but his comrade must have hefted an axe through the air in my wake, for I recollect a terrible blow to the back of my head. I faintly recall staggering for the tree line, and I collapsed beyond the edge of it as colour began to bleed from the world and my ears pounded with the sound of my struggling heart. Soon all was still. 
"That was the first time I died. I do not not know so much, but rather feel that my soul was waiting for something. To perhaps be recovered by the valkyrja if it was worthy enough to join the einherjar in Valhalla or Folkvangr, or to be collected by Hel herself to dwell in her underworld with the rest of the dishonoured. 
"But neither arrived, and by powers I do not fully understand, life was breathed back into my body and my soul returned. I started awake, blinded by sunlight, my joints screaming with a pain of stiffness. I could make out three silhouettes standing close to me, asking questions in a tongue I knew. My mind leaped to the thought that my captor's had discovered me and still desired me as their slave despite the trouble I had caused. I raised the sword I still gripped in my stiff, still-bound hands defensively, stumbling back further into the brush on weak legs before collapsing again. 
"Through my own bleary eyes and calm words from the group, I soon realized that they were not of the same party that had me as their prisoner: their dress was different and countenance much more pleasant. Two females and a male made this trio. The man removed my bonds after their assurances that their intention was non-violent and that slavery was punishable by death in this land. I quickly decided that these three were a sign from the gods, for three has a powerful magic within it; I am thrice oathbound to each of them and obligated by my honour to repay their mercy in anyway I can. 
"They led me to the local settlement called Dagger Deep, and there I continue my further adventures in this strange land…"


Friday, 10 October 2014

Kampi's Saga: Concept, Development, and Kit

Today will be my first full entry of Kampi's Saga, a sort of design diary/character journal for my first live-action roleplay character in the fantasy realm of Medieval Chaos: Ref 'Kampi' Vandillsson, devotee of Wodinaz.

Character Concept

Based upon my initial read-through of the career trees and classes in the Players Handbook, I was originally going to make a Rogue character, but further consideration of my enjoyment of the combat we practised at Vanguard Training the past couple months meant that most Rogue characters aren't as martial compared to other classes, at least the concept I was going for (think Solomon Kane). One the other hand, I'm not a particularly good fighter and most of the Fighter classes held little interest for me mechanically. So after rethinking my interests I decided upon a Divine Caster, with long term plans of becoming a Cleric after being an Acolyte.

I think this may be the closest visual where I'd
like Kampi's concept to end up.
Acolytes (and their high guild offshoots, Paladin and Cleric) are the more martial of your Divine Casters, as opposed to the more magic-heavy Priests (and their offshoots Bishops and Cardinals).

I think tend to initially gravitate to rogue/thief-style classes in most fantasy RPGs, but I think I enjoy playing Clerics the most: Healing, Spellcasting, Heavy Armour, and all that delicious RP potential from having a dedicated Deity. Not so much Paladins, which tend to have way more restrictions and thus seem always similar to me. Clerics can be of any walks of life and have all sorts of philosophical viewpoints. Paladins tend to be archetypical, not so much with Clerics.

So Kampi, as he is commonly known as, is this at his core: a Viking warrior and true believer of the gods of his people. Thus he's heavily based upon Old Nordic culture and belief, with a bit of Celtic influence.

I even made his name reflect such: I based the first letter of each part of his name around my own acronym: RKV. Each component follows similar Old Norse word use: Ref means 'Fox'. Kampi is his nickname, which means 'Whiskers or Moustache'. Lastly, 'Vandill' (which is similar to my own surname Vandall) means 'Sword'. The suffix of '-sson' belongs to an Old Norse naming convention still used in Iceland: essentially the name of my father; ergo 'son of sword'.

You can see how much thought I put into this, and how forever lost I am.

Development References

Aside from seeing recently the wicked Vikings exhibit at the Royal BC Museum, and browsing the internet, there's a couple books I've read that further helped me get into the mindset of a Norsemen and build Kampi's backstory and beliefs:
  • Viking: The Norse Warrior's Unofficial Manual by John Haywood: This excellent book covers all the basics of the Viking Age and has been an invaluable resource developing Kampi.
  • GURPS Vikings, Second Edition by Graeme Davis: Although an RPG book, this title has a good collection of info on everyday life on vikings, not just gods and raiding we all know.
  • D&D's Legends & Lore and Deities and Demigods contains useful information for the construction of Kampi's beliefs in gods and cosmology.
  • Mythology by Philip Wilkinson & Neil Philip, and Mythologies of the World by Max S. Shapiro and Rhoda A. Hendricks help round my knowledge of Norse myth. I'm a big fan of mythology in general, and Kampi allows me to bring that interest into character.

Kit Overview

Here's a basic overview of the kit I've currently assembled for Kampi, from left to right, top to bottom:

  • Tasselled touque/chullo cap: I might opt for more appropriate headgear in the future, but for now I quite like this thrift-store find. I'm also considering a helmet for both IC/OOC protective reasons.
  • Large hooded hoodie: front pocket removed, beads added to drawstrings, and embellished with a few slash and stab marks sewn up with runes: The longer phrase says "May Eir keep this soul from Hel." stitched in elder furthark, and the three short marks are the names of Kampi's oathbound in younger (long branch) futhark. I might adorn the edge of the hood with more runic in the future.
  • Acrylic sweater: I wanted to do the whole Monty Python and the Holy Grail trick and find a used sweater in the ideal style and spray-paint it silver to make cheap faux chain mail. The Missus' came across this thrift find instead and I didn't even need to paint it! I turn it inside out because the inside knit pattern looks more mail-ish. Currently not apart of my kit until Kampi has an IC reason to have heavier armour.
  • Charcoal cloak: A simple 5'x5' piece of a very nice wool-based fabric. I wear it on cool nights post-mission Viking/Saxon-style with the opening over my weapon arm. I currently pin it with the Celtic penannular brooch I got for the Missus a few years back from Gaukler Medieval Wares. Am currently seeking my own brooch closer to the style/size I'd prefer. Another thing I love about this cloak is that it doubles as a pillow/blanket when I go camping. The Missus found some fox fur that we're going to eventually add as trim around the neckline.
  • Antler pendant: My much more talented, better-half carved a valknut into it, the holy symbol of Kampi's chief deity: Wodinaz.
  • Hard-leather vambraces and fingerless gloves: The bracers keep my forearms protected and were made by local artisan Labyrinth Leathercraft; they were also the last pair in my small arm-size so they were on sale. The gloves help me keep a better grip upon my weapons and protect my hands a tiny amount from strikes.

  • 'WorkmanUtilikilt: A birthday gift many years ago from a best friend. I was super excited when I realized it was perfect for my lower apparel needs; it allows for much mobility and customization. Main pockets are currently empty but I may start to keep Kampi's prayer/notebook in one (a small, brown leather-bound, hand-binded journal by another Victoria artisan, Spellbinding Books; for $19 a pretty sweet purchase for a custom journal). I keep my weapon slung in the adjustable tool loop on the right-side of the kilt.
  • Plain canvas messenger bag: I've had this bag for years, it's perfectly sized for porting around items I can't fit upon my person, such as:
    - Waterbottle.
    - Drinking Horn. Boiled and waxed for use. Decorated with 'gold' band.
    - Potions.
    - Various foodstuffs wrapped in parchment paper and tied up with twine.
    - Misc. Goods.
  • Bandoleer belt with leather pouches: The belt itself I picked up off of a VSE vendor a few years ago for steampunking. The two conjoined pouches are World War era from an military antiques place I also acquired years ago for steampunking; the single one I found in Mexico years ago; I keep a wrapped lighter in its external pocket and a small torchlight clipped to the belt for when I cast the Spark and Ray of Light spells respectively. The pouches contain naught but empty tins right now. I also hang a wooden mallet upon the belt (speaks of Kampi's background as a carpenter/woodcarver and has possible future use with the Repair Armour ability). I used to hang some rabbit fur from the belt to cover up the Utilikilt logo until the hide ripped. Seeking solution.
  • Sporran: Can't own a kilt proper without a sporran, even if it is a contemporary kilt. I acquired this sporran online the year after I graduated high-school, before I even had my Utilikilt and was rocking a kilt-skirt like a fool. The sporran currently contains a comb made of horn, a partially used tall candle, and small wooden bowl with lid (once held shaving soap); inside the bowl is a variety of sentimental/found items: dried orange peel, a sprig of long fur/whiskers, some fabric scraps, bone dice (2d6), a glass bead, and a squat beeswax candle.

  • Weapons; I currently own two: the first is a Calimacil two-handed studded club (known as The Dentist); it's length is a little too long to justify its use as a starter weapon for human peasants in MC, so currently I use a shorter Calimacil warhammer (Percefer) as my main. I'm planning on acquiring/making a staff/spear/polearm in the the future, and possibly a shield. I've been borrowing my friend's Epic Armoury 'Gobbo' latex shield for Vanguard Training, and it hangs easily from the left-side clip of my kilt. Also the nice thing about a shield is if I use the larger club as my main, I can tuck the smaller warhammer behind the shield grip for easy access if I become disarmed or an opponent gets in close and I need a shorter weapon. Right now I can't weild shields as a peasant/apprentice, so I'm debating if I want to get a Gobbo-style, the slightly larger Ironshod, or the full punch-grip Viking shield in the future.
  • Pair of foam shin/knee guards: I got them unused and cheap from a thrift store following particularly harsh training day at Vanguard had caused my right ankle to swell up from all the bruising I sustained upon my leg. Currently I don't use them, but I intend to when I get into heavier combat. Although bright red, they are hidden perfectly when I pull my kilt hose over-top or under pant legs as an NPC.
  • Kilt hose and woollen socks: I wear two pairs of socks, I helps fill out my boots and cushion my feet/shins a bit.
  • Shin-high, leather Demonia 'Gravel' boots: Steel-toed, good tread, and studded; this pair of heavy metal boots I've owned for a long time and are great for MC. The only downside is that because the way they're built they're not really that waterproof, but I'm seeing if I can rectify that.
As you can see, I'm attempting to keep Kampi's visual pallet limited to black, silver, greys, and browns. Grey is a colour/shade associated with Woden/Odin and thus Wodinaz, so I'd like to incorporate that as much as possible.

This all for this entry. Have any tips on developing one's character in a LARP? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Medieval Chaos - Impressions

Howdy everyone!

It's been a while since I posted any sort of entry here. Nearly all of my free time during the past few weeks has been occupied with roleplaying; and not of the tabletop variety as usual, but of the live action kind.

You see, I finally got to get out to Medieval Chaos with a few good friends and experience the whole thing. And it was just that, an experience. Months of attending weapon practice at Vanguard Training, viewing photos, and pouring over the Player's Handbook doesn't adequately prepare a new player for the sheer awesomeness that is MC.

For the past three weeks I've been able to attend MC each weekend (first three events are no-charge for newbs, then it's $10 each; $5 for members), and after three sessions, I feel I've acquired a good grasp of it. I'll try to briefly summarise each weekend:

September 19th-20th - First Weekend

Prior to the event on Saturday, the location was open to players to spend the night on the huge acreage of what is known as Dagger Deep. My buddy Ash, with permission from the property owners, would run a Book n' Dice Night at least once a month, where players would eat, drink, and occasionally play tabletop games, and some of them would then camp out under the stars.

I was totally for this for a couple reasons: First, I hadn't been camping in over half and decade and was seriously hankering to do so; second, it seemed like an excellent way to be introduced to the layout of the Deep before my character was brought in.

So I booked the date off work, bought a few camping supplies, and set to work developing my character and his gear (referred to as their 'kit'). On the day of, I caught a ride with a few friends up to North Cowichan, and they gave me a tour of the grounds before I pitched my tent.

Nobody ended up playing any games that night and mostly splintered off into groups to discuss various In-Character (IC) and Out-Of-Character (OOC) things, so I mingled with a few before I retired to my tent for the evening.

The next day, after I stowed my tent and gear, I changed into my character: Ref 'Kampi' Vandillsson, whom I'll detail in a later posts. I registered as a new player, signed the appropriate wavers, and then entered fully into the world of MC.

Kampi with two of his redeemers:
Sprig in the front, Kail behind.
Photo Credit Damian Lucas-Ray Joulie
IC, Kampi's introduction went brilliantly. The gist was he was found dead in the bush by a trio of adventurers, who then revived him, freed him of bonds, and brought him to the town proper. Kampi feels thrice oathbound to each of his redeemers, which I figured would be a good tie-in to MC.

OOC, I sort of ended up an unbridled peasant for most of the remainder of the day when the players I had been attached to had their own business to take care of as NPCs in the upcoming mission or whatnot; not seeing familiar faces had me wander a bit on my own with few to answer any IC/OOC queries I had. It made sense though IC that Kampi would be a bit overwhelmed with everything that had transpired, this wasn't a huge problem. Still it would've been nice to have a 'guide' of sorts.

The mission (the primary overarching story of the day, which usually involved the most combat) was mostly plot/roleplay-based, which Kampi had little part of beyond observing and later being slaughtered several times by raging zombies.

Kampi taking a moment to comb his facial 
hair and ponder recent events.

Photo Credit Damian Lucas-Ray Joulie 
At the beginning of post-mission, as it is called, saw me back at my ride waiting for my friends, when my friend David stopped by and asked me how my first day was. I told him my concerns and he understood them well. He informed me that Ash and his wife usually attended post-mission IC for a few hours, and he asked Sarah who just arrived (whose character Sprig was one of Kampi's trio and is the apprentice to David's character Relan) to escort me as Kampi about the Deep for any post-mission hijinks. Sarah apologised that she didn't realize initially it was my first day at MC as she recognised me from Vanguard so she thought I was accustomed to the ways. No harm, no foul. :)

This helped me grasp a bit better some of the nuances of MC, and I had some decent roleplay.

All in all, I'd say my first day at MC was both over-and-underwhelming for reasons. Still the experience as a whole was positive because I wanted to return the following weekend; and so I did.

September 27th - Second Weekend

The following Saturday brought me back to Deep. This time it was my friend Max from Vanguard's first time at MC, and being somewhat familiar with the ins-and-outs I kept him with me most of the game as we roamed the Deep for a glove I had lost OOC-and concurrently-IC, and had a good time interacting with each other and other characters.

Hog-Eye Johnny!
Sometime before conch (the signal used to summon all players to muster OOC at a site known as woodhenge for mission briefing) we met with the other players who were playing the opposing NPCs for the day and changed into our appropriate kits: Zombie Pirates! I also shared the 5L jug of non-alcholic grog I had made the evening before with our team to good reception.

Playing an NPC is a good role for a new player; it introduces the basics of combat, and one doesn't have to worry about being killed because you usually have various ways of returning from death. The downside to being a zombie is that you're somewhat limited roleplay and interaction-wise. Still much fun was had.

After mission Max and I then spent most of our time in the tavern conversing with other characters, acting drunk, and sharing the jug of cider Kampi had picked up escorting a caravan to Uberland (a.k.a Duncan). OOC I'd received so much positive feedback on my grog/cider recipe, which tasted like apple pie to many, and that I was told I should bring it in the future and sell it for daen (the in-game currency). This is something myself/Kampi is deeply considering doing in the future, as long as the profit meets/exceeds the costs of making and toting the jug around...

Verdict: A much better day at MC than my first. :)

October 3rd-4th - Third Weekend

This was an excellent weekend for me. Again I was able to attend Book n' Dice Night (which again, sadly, had no games which was a bit of a bummer for me; gaming in any form helps me break out of my introvert-shell, but no biggie. Camping was even more fun since there was no fire-ban this time, I got make a few changes to my gear, and try out a new sleeping cot I had picked up: it was worth the added weight comfort-wise though I'm still looking to lighten my kit as a whole since I don't have my own vehicle and need to port my gear to and from my rides.

The following day I helped haul and stack firewood for daen and good exercise, and then I had the opportunity to spend the whole day as Kampi having excellent interactions and RP with many characters pre-mission.

During mission I avoided most of the combat for IC reasons. I then attached myself to my buddy Ash's relatively new character (The Pict) when Kampi had the chance, and spent the remainder of most of the mission tagging along with him before the final confrontation between the PC forces of Dagger Deep and the invading NPC forces Northbrook. Kampi aided a bit during the final battle, but was slain when he was magically Held by a sneaky goblin and killed by a death knight. In the end, the forces of Northbrook where routed, and the denizens of the Deep victorious!

No photos of Kampi this day, he was too busy hiding in the bush, and with good reason too:
Look at the enemy force! Photo Credit John Marusiak
Post-mission had Kampi share a drink with his new comrade, and then the two roamed the lengths and breadths of the realm looking for trouble and in search of the members of the magic college of Illodia for several reasons.

After much walking and fruitless searching but excellent RP between Kampi and the Pict, Ash and I returned to late to Victoria utterly exhausted from the day. Best day at MC yet, and it looks promising for even better! :D

There's only a bunch of weekends remaining before MC shuts down for the season, only to reopen April next year; aside from the weekend coming up, I hope to attend as many as possible!

To The Pain!