RPG REVIEW

Issue #45, December 2019

ISSN   2206-4907 (Online)

MONSTERS!
 

Tunnels & Trolls Bestiary …. AD&D Council of Wyrms … C&S Saurians … Role Aids Monsters of Myth and Legend …GURPS Monsters … Monsters and Other Childish Things ... Darkest Dungeon CRPGHyperLite CRPG … Hereditary and Parasite Movie Reviews … Megatraveller 'Blog  … and much more!

 

Table of Contents

ADMINISTRIVIA

EDITORIAL, COOPERATIVE NEWS, LETTERS

MEGATRAVELLER PIRATES OF DRINAX 'BLOG

AD&D COUNCIL OF WYRMS PERSPECTIVE AND REVIEW

SEVERAL MONSTER RPG REVIEWS

TUNNELS & TROLLS 5.5e BESTIARY P-U

TRAVELLER 5.1 REVIEW (PART B)

CRPG REVIEW : DARKEST DUNGEON

CRPG REVIEW : HYPER LIGHT DRIFTER

MOVIE REVIEWS: HEREDITARY AND PARASITE

ADMINISTRIVIA

RPG Review is a quarterly online magazine which is available in print version every so often. All material remains copyright to the authors except for the reprinting as noted in the first sentence. Contact the author for the relevant license that they wish to apply. Various trademarks and images have been used in this magazine of review and criticism.  Use of trademarks etc are for fair use and review purposes and are not a challenge to trademarks or copyrights. This includes Dungeons & Dragons by Wizards of the Coast, Role Aids by Mayfair Games, GURPS published Steve Jackson Games, . Us distributed by Universal Pictures. Cover art of the Planes from TSR. Cover art from Cambridge University "What is a Monster?" research (https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/what-is-a-monster), RuneQuest Con image by Xiomara Akkerman. Troll vital spots artwork by Rob Carver from Tunnels & Trolls main rulebook. Satyr by Aubrey Beardsley

EDITORIAL, COOPERATIVE NEWS, LETTERS

Editorial

Welcome to another issue of RPG Review, now in its 11th year, which is not so terrible for a fanzine. To be sure, this issue is late, very late, but that's not terrible unusual for us. It is meant to come out at the end of December 2019. Let's just say it's a little later that that.

This issue is dedicated to the subject of monsters, a word that is common in RPG history as an antagonist, but which has a deeper meaning for consideration. The word comes from monstrum (moneo- "advice, warn" and -trum, second declension forming instrument nouns), and has been associated with creatures that are large, grotesque, causing fear and awe, “contrary to nature”, and thus were associated with evil. We will see this in English with words like “demonstrate”. Often with the simplistic approach was to assign the position of monster with the tag of “inherent evil”, and of a certain challenge to defeat in mortal conflict. The symbolic perspective that its presence could provide some sort of warning (metaphorical or literal in a fantastic setting) is typically overlooked. This is also the very troubling component that humans and non-human animals born with birth defects were often described as “monsters”. In this “normal is normative” approach, physical differences are evil.

 

But what if we change it around a little bit, and make it so the physical appearance is not so much the defining quality of what is a monster, but rather the moral reasoning that is employed? We can understand this in terms of “monstrous behaviour”, which surely is far more wicked than an ogre-sized humanoid with a big nose. I must take this opportunity to point out some recent remarks from the inheritors of the Judges Guild line and title, Robert Bledsaw II and III can fit into this category. It is certainly one thing to make an inappropriate slip of the tongue, or to make an awkwardly ignorant comment, or even to say something that has absolutely no bad intention but can be interpreted in a negative fashion.

It is a consistent intention of hatred, and a continuing wilful ignorance that leads to remarks of a “Jewish media conspiracy”, a “holohoax” are monstrous,  Bledsaw II and III are monsters, and under these circumstances it is utterly impossible to suggest to anyone that they purchase anything from Judges Guild. . It is also worth mentioning that Judge's Guild ran a Kickstarter for the classic "City State of the Invincible Overlord", which raised pledges of $85,130 in 2014. The last update, of October 30, 2019 included: "These are projects that have been on hold since 2016, but unless I get more funds here, the wait will continue."

 

 
I am sure there will be more to report on this matter in the next issue. In the meantime however, let’s return to the real subject at hand, that being monsters and specifically those creatures of myth and legend, or perhaps even science fiction. Contributing to this issue is the ever-impressive output of Karl Brown, who contributes three major pieces to the journal; a review and perspective of A Council of Wyrms, the AD&D supplement from 1994, a further extension of his ongoing series of a bestiary for Tunnels & Trolls, and, on a completely different tack, part two of his review of Traveller 5.1. On that note there is a return of the Megatraveller Pirates of Drinax ‘blog, which has been absent for several issues - about time for a catch-up!
 

In addition to this we have two computer game reviews by Dorchadas with many monsters by Hyper Light Drifter and Darkest Dungeon, and to add to the multimedia experience two movie reviews by Andrew Moshos, Hereditary and Parasite, which both, in their own way, are monster-themes, albeit in a modern setting. Last, and probably least, is my own contributions to the topic of monsters, being a number of RPG supplement reviews of a monster-bent, starting with a very old classic, Saurians for Chivalry & Sorcery, the three volumes of Monsters of Myth and Legend by Role Aids for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, GURPS Monsters, and Monsters and Other Childish Things.

 

Mention must also be made that this is the second issue of RPG Review with “Monsters” as its main subject matter. Issue 20, way back in 2013 was a “Monsters and Aliens” issue (http://rpgreview.net/files/rpgreview_20.pdf) which included reviews of Monsters! Monsters!, the AD&D first edition Monster Manual, the AD&D second edition Monstrous Compendium, GURPS Aliens, Hunter : The Reckoning by White Wolf, Anaxial's Roster for Hero Wars, and Call of Cthulhu's "Malleus Monstrorum". In addition there was an article for aliens in Eclipse Phase, an Over The Edge scenario "Bunnies & Burroughs", a Pathfinder Planescape NPC Modron "The Administrator", a Tunnels & Trolls Bestiary for F-G, a selection of classic monsters for OpenQuest (and RuneQuest), Monsters by Email, Stalked by Death for Star Frontiers, Lizardmen in Space 1889, and three monster-and-alien based movie reviews; Epic, Monster University, and Star Trek Into Darkness.

 

And that will bring us to a conclusion of this issue. I will take the opportunity to announce the main topic of the next issue, being various incarnations of FUDGE and FATE RPG systems. Every so often we dedicate an issue to a particular game system. In the past, for example, we’ve had special issues for D&D, D20, GURPS, RuneQuest, and we have been somewhat remiss in not having one for FUDGE and FATE. Given the many interesting variations that have come out for these games and not to mention the massive influence that the latter in particular has had on narrative play, it will be quite exciting to see an issue dedicated to the game.


Lev Lafayette (lev@rpgreview.net)

Co-operative News

The Annual General Meeting for The RPG Review Cooperative, Inc. was held on Sunday 12th January 2020 at The Rose Hotel, Fitzroy, which indeed was a fine a sensible location to hold it, rather than trying to get it done during Arcanacon itself as we foolishly did last year.

 

Shaun Hately retired from the committee this year and he is deeply thanked for his contributions. Elections were held for the new committee which looked a little bit like the old committee: Lev Lafayette as president, Michael Cole as vice-president, Liz Bowman as treasurer, Andrew Daborn as Secretary and with Adrian Smith, Karl Brown, Andrew McPherson, and Pete Tracy as ordinary committee members. Adrian is our West Australian representative, and Pete is new to the committee.

 

The following are our extremely exciting committee and financial reports.

 

Committee Report

 

The RPG Review Cooperative held its founding meeting in December 2015, and was subsequently incorporated by the State of Victoria on January 7th, 2016. The following is a review of our fourth year of activities. All activities have been in strict accordance with our objectives. The committee members for 2019 were Lev Lafayette (President), Michael Cole (Vice-President), Andrew Daborn (Secretary), Liz Bowman (Treasurer), and Andrew McPherson, Karl Brown, and Sean Hately (ordinary members), with Karl taking up the role of Diversity Officer.

 

In the past year, we have published three issues of the RPG Review journal (Issues 42-44 inclusive), with issue 45, the December 2019 edition (Issue 45) coming soon. This constitutes 192 pages of gaming material, with interviews with Jeff Barber of Biohazard Games (Blue Planet), and Jason Durall of Chaosium (Deluxe Basic Role Playing). We also had a special print edition for Issue 44, coinciding with RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under IV. Copies of this print edition are available to all members of the Cooperative, gratis. All copies of the ISSN-registered RPG Review journal have been submitted to the National Library of Australia. The RPG Review website received 41,586 unique visitors in 2019, a decrease of 17%, with the top downloads for RPG Review being Issue 37 receiving 1767 downloads, Issue 41 receiving 1276, and Issue 6 receiving 1080. These are the PDF downloads only, rather than any views of HTML pages.

 

The Cooperative has also published (mostly) a monthly newsletter for members and potential members, 'Crux Australi'. This newsletter has outlined the various RPG campaigns being run by members, which increased from 27 to 38 this year, increasing life members from 6 to 8. There are 182 subscribers to our newsletter, Crux Australi, up from 173. The opportunity is also taken here to mention the loss of a foundation member, Rick Barker, who joined our hobby quite late in life and passed away at 72 years of age. Through Karl Brown, the Cooperative's Diversity Officer, a survey of readers and members was undertaken and reviewed according to various ABS categories.

 

Continuing with our existing services, the Cooperative has also organised about visits to the Astor Cinema as a regular non-gaming social event, along with what is now our annual BBQ. In addition, the Cooperative offers an online store for members to sell their second-hand or new games to the public. We also provide various IT support mechanisms (github, mailman mailing lists etc) with hosting donated from one of our members.

 

Following the establishment of an RPG library for members in April 2016 we reached some 350 items by the end of that year, and by the end of 2019 we had a very substantial 723 items. This year we have 743 games, 95 magazines, and 3 fiction works, totaling 841 items, with a very substantial donation from Nicholas Moll, along with notable donations from Gareth Hodges and Rodney Brown. For game authors, we also offer discount ISBNs which we gain an advantage from bulk purchasing. This year the Cooperative published the first supplement for "Papers & Paychecks", "Cow-Orkers in the Scary Devil Monastery".

 

The single most important event for the Cooperative in 2019 however, had to be our organisation of RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under IV, held at the University of Melbourne. The two-day conference, which included Jason Durall as an international guest (who also hosted a special session of Call of Cthulhu at the former Kew Asylum), and saw over fifty people in attendance and sponsorship of prizes Chaosium, along with game sessions of RuneQuest, Pendragon, HeroQuest, and Glorantha 13th Age, Khan of Khans, Glorantha The Gods War, and History of Peloria, a two-round auction, and panels on Glorantha game systems and Glorantha the setting. In addition to the RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under, the Cooperative also participated in Arcanacon with both a panel speaker and holding a second-hand stall, which was noted in particular as being one of the most popular events at the convention. It was after Arcanacon that we purchased a Square Credit Card reader that proved very popular at RQGDU IV.

 

At the 2019 AGM the association set several objectives for the year. It is pleasing to say that we have completed all of them, with only RPG Review itself - a target of four publications and three being released - falling short. We have increased our membership, expanded our library, released new publications, held and participated in conventions, and have a very good financial position for a relatively small organisation. 

 

Financial Statement

2019 Profit and Loss Statement

 

Income

 

 

Membership

505

 

PDF Sales

97.90

 

Stock Sales

180

 

RQG Con (Registrations, Auction)

5462.87

 

Subtotal

6245.77

 

 

 

 

Expenses

 

 

Administration (Registration, PO Box, Internet)

 

210.98

PDF Royalties

 

73

Annual BBQ

 

100

Library

 

40

RQG Con (GoH Airfaires, Con Expenses)

 

5561.48

Subtotal

 

5985.46

 

 

 

Surplus

260.31

 

2019 Balance Sheet

 

Assets

 

Bank

6614.13

PDF Account (DriveThruRPG and DmsGuild)

262.80

Library (Estimated value from 742 games, 95 magazines)

8000

RPG Review (Issues 40 and 44, c85 copies)

425

Book stock (Estimated at 200 spare copies of Papers & Paychecks)

2000

 

 

Liabilities

 

Kickstarter (Estimated printing cost for Cow-Orkers supplement)

2350

 

 

Capital

14951.93

Notes: Bank balance includes RuneQuest Glorantha Con Trust of $3915.39

 

 

RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under IV


The RPG Review Cooperative hosted RQG DU IV at the University of Melbourne on November 23 (Sat) and 24 (Sun), with each day running from 10am to 5pm in the afternoon, and fully catered. In terms of total hours, this was about a 1/3 longer that the previous convention last year at Kyral Castle in Ballarat for the same price, although one must quickly add that the Ballarat convention did have the excellent stream of castle activities (including the unforgettable joust!) and some rather impressive food. This was of simpler fare, but with a community just as enthusiastic.

 

Whilst a full review and report will be in the next special conference issue of RPG Review in 2020, a short report is provided here here. The Convention included two major gaming sessions, with each scenario able to be run separately but in a combined and sequential manner. The scenarios, "Last Night of the Vigiles and A Branch of Evil", was produced with statistics for RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha, Pendragon, HeroQuest Glorantha, and 13th Age Glorantha. In addition there were boardgames for Khan of Khans, God's War Glorantha, and History of Peloria.

 

The convention featured two major panel discussions, RuneQuest and Other Systems in Glorantha, and Secrets of Glorantha, along with a special presentation by International Guest of Honour, Jason Durall, on Writing for Chaosium. In addition there were two auction sessions and a silent auction for a rare pre-print copies of Gods of Glorantha and the Red Book of Magic provided by Pete Tracey.

 

Letters

 

I was just now reading the Glorantha/Pendragon scenario in issue 44, and found that the last paragraph of page 36 cuts off in mid sentence.

"A single page, from the back of the book, has been torn out and cannot be located (this page will reveal how the "

Any change to get the missing text, please?

Otherwise a most entertaining issue!

 

Andreas Davour

 

 

Hi Andreas,

Thank you for the kind words.

You're quite right, I noticed that the error, too! After it was printed, of course.

The sentence should continue.

"... other members of the Society have been accurately determined by Erastus, using various spies on his suspects".

All the best,


Lev Lafayette

 

 

 

MEGATRAVELLER PIRATES OF DRINAX 'BLOG

with Andrew Daborn

 

 
 

Farewell an’ adieu to you ladies of Spain,

For we’ve received orders for to sail for old England,

An’ hope very shortly to see you again..."

A traditional shantie for when homeward bound.

 

103:117 Theev - Early the morning after...

Mira Silverhand, under interrogation from Vinny and Pytor agreed to work with the Drinax privateers for the life of Redthayne, leading the two ships to Redthayne's hideout.

 

110:117 Palindrome

The Skopa and Mercifuge approach Redthayne's hideout, and once again the silver-tongued crew manage to talk the maverick pirate into joining their ranks. The 200dton Far Trader, Janal Tork joins their regatta!

 

The Janal Tosk and Mercifuge, with attending crew are now part of the company and added onto the payroll.

 

The first order of business is to resolve Redthayne's bounty. Jacob suggests that Redthayne travel to Thalassa and bring Dr Thorkan, much wanted geneticist to Torpol, thus winning their favour.

 

After some negotiation the new group of ships leaves for Salif-Homestead-Thalassa.

 

117-120:117 Salif

The ships arrive at the desolate planet of Salif, with surprisingly we managed starport. Buying up whatever freight they can, 26 dtons for Homestead and 12 dtons of 2D images of speculative cargo for Thalassa.

 

127-131:117 Homestead

The ships pass on to Homestead, a much greener planet. Their they drop off their freight and buy 30 dtons of live quail for transport back to Salif.

 

138-141:117 Thalassa

After making a small profit on their investment in 2d images (blueprints and technical readouts - not Hiver porn...) the Skopa lingers behind with Vinny, Anya and Jacob first hunting down and then recruiting Dr Thorkan to their ranks with promises of tenure and lucrative contracts with Torpol free from the bureaucratic miasma of Thalassa.

 

Feeling pretty pleased with themselves and managing to out-run the planet's air-defence, the Skopa is about to jump out at the 100D mark, following Janal Tosk and Mercifuge who have left for Homestead.

 

Nearing their jump point the pirates are intercepted by a mercenary patrol cruiser and ordered to stand down.

 

The Skopa will have to fight it's way past the military ship to escape the system!

 

"I am sorry to see you here, but if you had fought like a man, you needn't be hanged like a dog."

- Anne Bonny to "Calico Jack" Rackham in prison after he had decided to surrender to pirate hunters instead of fight.

 

Thalassa (Suspicious to Hostile) - 141-145:1117

Defeated The mercenary ship G4S-09 and accepted surrender of crew and prize. Ransomed ship and crew back to the interstellar security company G4S for 13.874Mcr. G4S attitude towards pirates is now Hostile.

 

Homestead (Tolerant) - 152-159:1117

The fleet regrouped and refuelled before jumping to Salif.

 

Salif (Suspicious) - 166-173:1117

30 dtons of quails sold at Salif (60,000cr).

 

The Baron sends 1.3875Mcr on his ImpEx card to King Oleb of Drinax as tribute.

 

At the shipyards the Skopa was booked in for major repairs to the J-drive, M-drive, hull and weapon hardpoint costing 7.5Mcr.

Officer Elie, Engineer Manya, Lt. Col. Lyonid and his marines remain with the Skopa to guard the ship and fly her back to Drinax after repairs are made.  Lt. Col. Lyonid has a thorough training program for his marines. Officer Elie estimates that the Skopa should return to Drinax system by 260:117

 

The renamed pirate vessels leave the Skopa and travel on towards Torpol.  The 400-tonne Mercifuge is renamed the Kirov Ushakov. The 200-tonne Far Trader, the Janal Torsk, becomes Anatoli Bugorski. Remaining crew are evenly mixed and split between the two ships. Absolutely no mutiny is reported.

 

Number 1 (Suspicious) - 180-184:1117

Freight from Salif dropped off making 85,000cr gross profit.

 

Noricum (Hostile) - 191-196:1117

The fleet briefly survey the capital planet, previously known as Sindal, before refueling and jumping out.

 

Borite (Tolerant) - 203-207:1117

The fleet briefly scout for Oghma pirates and finding none, refuel and jump out.

 

Torpol (Unfriendly to Neutral)- 214-221:1117

Freight from Number One dropped off making 84,000cr gross profit.  Feryk Redthayne is brought before the authorities of Torpol with Dr Thorkan and a biological specimen from Thalassa.  Vinny, Anya, Pyotr and Jacob manage to convince Torpol to drop Redthayne's bounty in exchange for access to the bio-tech Dr Thorkan has to offer.  After some wrangling Dr Thorkan is contracted out to Torpol to develop their next generation of floating cities! Torpol and Clarke drop all charges, scrapping the bounty, and are left with a  favourable impression of the Drinax crew.

 

There is much planning of new ship lanes and actions:

 

The Skopa (Скопа); Harrier - gunboat being repaired at Salif

George Gamow - rented out to technology company from Drinax working in Torpol

The Potemenkin plus Eisentsein boat - base yacht - (Drinax to Pourne to Clarke to Drinax)

The Flaming Lambourghini, plus boat Slippery Nipple - acquired yacht ship (Drinax and Torpol)

Kirov Ushakov - 400 tonne salvage hauler with guns (Khusai to Asim to Drinax to Pourne)

Anatoli Bugorski - Far Trader going to Blue for psionic institute

 

Next step, break Ogmha's piracy of Marduk and Borite!

 

"When the Moon is in the Seventh House

And Jupiter aligns with Mars,

Then peace will guide the planets

And love will steer the stars..."

 

- 5th Dimension

 

Blue (Suspicious) 228-249:1117

After much data analysis Jacob and Vinnyy concludes that there is a hidden psionic institute on Blue, in the guise of The Viven Burr Institute, a languages school with a youth detention wing...

 

Disguising themselves as Drinax nobles on safari the team skirt past the more unfriendly of the planetary officials.  A pleasant jaunt through the beautiful, if tainted, wine-making region of Blue takes our crew to the mountain monastery-fortress and the entrepreneurial welcome of Professor Harre.  A certain amount of double-speak and prospectus perusing eventually led to an acknowledgement by their host of a more advanced 'practical' curriculum.

 

The terms are set: 5000cr for a two week analysis of psionic potential, and for those wishing to go on, a three month intensive course to explore unlock the potential of their minds, for a mear 100,000cr per applicant.

 

While the whole team undertakes the analysis (costing 25000cr), only Jacob and Lena, Pyotr's marine p.a., show significant potential worthy of developing further.  The neophytes remain on Blue (costing 200,000cr) and the crew return to the 'Anatoli Burgoski' in orbit setting course for Drinax.

 

The Psionic Training Course will last four months, finishing in 361:1117, the last week of the year.

 

Torpol (Neutral) (256-263:1117)

The 'Anatoli Burgoski' skips through Torpol with some haste, not keen to remind the natives of the recent acts of piracy.

 

Drinax (Haven) (270-277:1117)

Leaving Torpol the 'Anatoli Burgoski' returns to Drinax, to rest and recuperate. Somehow Ferrik Redthane gets an ermine trimmed cloak and busies himself with promenading the halls and generally being embarrassing.

 

Kasiyl finds himself his old corner near a heat vent and naps.  The crew have a relaxed day of shore leave.

 

The period of peace is short lived however, barely have reports been submitted to the Throne or new orders issued to the company when Lady Anya received a curious request.  A midnight black microcomputer, somehow smuggled into her personal luggage comes to life. A hologram of a humanoid figure, features concealed behind a silvery mask appears and relays this message:

 

+++Greetings. Your presence is requested - discreetly - on Tech-World, where matters of mutual interest and profitability may be discussed. We offer you this gift as a mark of our respect, in the hopes of future friendship.+++

 

There is a little dramatic static then the message ends and is replaced by the likeness of a droyne, a short pterodactyl-like humanoid who reports his name is 'Mal' an AI with deep knowledge of social sciences.

 

With good happen-stance High Psychopomp Harrick is due his yearly check-up/debug and is in-system awaiting escort to Tech-World.  The Prince's yacht 'Stanislav Petrov', with a contingent of bodyguards jumps alongside the far trader. Harrick chooses to travel with the 'Anatoli Burgoski'

 

With little fanfare the convoy embarks for Tech-World.

 

Hilfe (Hostile) (284-290:1117)

A brief stop over in Hilfe to refuel, (a full tank of unrefined hydrogen for 15000cr, perhaps three times more expensive than one would expect).  The planet is torn apart by endless sectarian wars and there is little trust of travellers. The people here are tough and born of war. Pytor supposes that they would make an excellent army and spends a little time bribing local officials (5000cr) to put the word out to local militias looking for work.

As the 'Anatoli Burgoski' and 'Stanislav Petrov' leave orbit a number of eyes track their progress with interest.

 

Tech-World (Neutral) (298:1117)

The ships jump in and with little fuss arrive at Tech-World a mostly rust-red and barren planet, with one huge ultra-tech city like an unblinking eye on it's surface.

 

On landing, through what appears to be a nanotech wall, an angelic android is awaiting on their pad. Harrick's eyes show recognition - "Sophia!"

 

A flight of steel eagles tearing by

The ripped-silk screaming of the rendered sky

Flame on through sound and make time fly

What a good way to go

What a good way to go

In the aerospaceage inferno

 

- Robert Calvert

Tech-World (Neutral) (298-299:1117)

With the seraph shaped android 'Sophia' as their guide the crew are shown the wonders of the Tech-World space-port plaza! All the TL15 capitalist fantasies one could wish for!

 

Anya get's her hair done, which with a little effort can change length and colour at will. Piotr buys a new glaze on his uniform, which now seems to match the colours and textures of any background it is held against.

 

Harrick, and his retinue disappear, presumably to get his oil changed.

 

Sophia then leads our shoppers 'down Plot Lane' to a mysterious meeting in a secluded warehouse.  There they meet the governing committee of Tech-World, (Drs Hodal, Astor and Darke) who have a proposition:

 

Tech-World is under the protection of GeDeCo, help us to break free of them by getting us protection!

 

Provide for Tech-World:

Regular shipments of cheap Basic Consumables, Basic Raw Materials, Biochemicals, Petrochemicals, Radioactives and Uncommon Raw Materials.

At least four System Defence Boats or equivalent, massing at least 300 tons each.

Protection against any reprisals from GeDeCo.

A contract that ensures that Tech-World will be free to carry out any sort of scientific research without restrictions, even in sensitive fields like psionics or artificial intelligence (Dr. Darke has some really interesting theories about silicon lifeforms on Cymbeline...).

 

Tech-World will then become an untra-tech ally of the resurgent Drinax.

 

A few hours later, whilst sleeping on this proposal the heroes are interrupted by Hodal who announces that Dr Astor has been infected by nanotech, after an accident at one of her labs. He informs then that she seems to have gone mad and escaped on a stolen starship, carrying a nano-plague with her!


Investigating her lab seems to indicate sabotage, and a phrase 'Shield Church' etched into the wall. Accompanied by Lemuel Vinus, Astor's assistant the heroes race back to their ship and chase after the stolen far trader, the Lord Gerald’s Fancy , only to see it jump out before it can be reached.

 

After discussions with Lemuel, and some deduction of Astor's neutrino trail, the crew determine she is heading to the Exe system, on a path to Neumann.

 

Exe (Tolerant) (307:1117)

Another week, another interstellar gas station. The planet of Exe Prime is a dead rock, with a toxic atmosphere and a large orbiting space-port that services the Aslan-Imperial trade lanes.

 

Somewhere in this system is a clue to the nano-plage ship and the errant Dr Astor!

 

And while these steps have been vital to our national defence, they're really only a beginning.

 

They're only a beginning of meeting the rising security threats our nation faces in space today and in the future. As President Trump has said, in his words,

 
 

"It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space."

And so we will.

- Michael Pence

 

Exe (Tolerant) (307:1117)

It has been a long day. The crew of the Anatoli Bugorski swiftly identify the gas giant - Artobin - as a potential hiding spot for Dr Jali Astor, the fleeing nano-freak/scientist.

 

Scanners initially find no trace of Lord Gerald’s Fancy, but did intercept Vagabond Soul, a powered down and Farfar trader in a decaying orbit around the planet. Intrigued, and finding eight faint life signs a boarding party headed by Lord Piotr, is mustered and investigates.

 

The apparently nano-haunted ship rapidly turns deadly as the party is ambushed and there is bitter fighting with Piotr throwing grenades around with impunity.  Captain Tryst freezes in the middle and is rescued from certain death by Lt. Sabryn Rock's quick thinking. Piotr trips over an important clue indicating that Astor may be going to the Mirage system (0509 Gazulin), not Neumann as previously presumed.  A noble sacrifice from Dimitri Molotov allows his crewmates to escape without him.

 

Vinny assists in coordinating the retreat with pinpoint scanning of the ship.  "They're coming through the walls!" Gunner Reza's sharp skills drill an errant zombie with the ship's lasers as it crawls over the Vagabond Soul's surface after the fleeing marines. A weapon turret is prematurely melted in an expensive collateral incident.

 

Lady Anya carefully scans the nano infection risk on the returned marines, but finds no cause for alarm. With a lull in the fighting gunner Reza, a keen self-promoter, then contrives to tow the plague ship out of the gravitational well of the gas giant, buying time to plan a second assault.

 

Frustrated by the loss of one of his crew Captain Redthayne demands to join the second assault alongside his marines and Piotr.  Forewarned is forearmed, and the marines fight fearless, but are bottlenecked and Captain Tryst is exterminated horribly in front of the Baron.  Sabres flashing in the thin atmosphere and emergency lighting, the remaining crew cut down the hideous remains of the infected crews.

 

At some point in the midst of the fighting Vinnyy notices that Jali's ship,  Lord Gerard's Fancy, jumps system at the 100D mark from Artobin. There is little option for immediate chase.

 

With Lady Anya tending the the scrapes and cuts of the surviving crew the two ships limp to Exe up-port to claim their salvage rewards and plan their next move.

 
 

"Space is infinite, it is dark

Space is neutral, it is cold

Stars occupy minute areas of space

They are clustered a few billion here

And a few billion there

As if seeking consolation in numbers

Space does not care, space does not threaten

Space does not comfort

It does not speak, it does not wake

It does not dream

It does not know, it does not fear

It does not love, it does not hate

It does not encourage any of these qualities

Space cannot be measured, it cannot be

Angered, it cannot be placated

It cannot be summed up, space is there

Space is not large and it is not small

It does not live and it does not die

It does not offer truth and neither does it lie

Space is a remorseless, senseless, impersonal fact

Space is the absence of time and of matter"

- Hawkwind

 

Exe (Tolerant) (307-308:1117)

Somewhere out there is a crazed Dr Jali Astor with nanites and some bizarre plan on her mind.  In the balance is the life of a brilliant scientist, and an alliance with the most technologically advanced world in the sub-sector! The crew must tack her down in the Mirage system.  Plotting the most reasonable path for a similar ship to them the crew plan to follow the Hirate trade route to Imperial space.

 

Cordan (Suspicious) (315-317:1117)

While gathering supplies the Anatoli Burgoski come across an Aslan cruiser is standing off with Florian traders, trying to use the gas giant to refuel.  There is an increasing presence of small time traders gathering around the planet. Alya and Vinnyy manage to persuade the Aslans to stand down long enough for ships to fly under her guns and scoop the much needed jump-fuel.

 

Wildeman (Neutral) (324-324:1117)

"They say Wildman system is haunted!" - a particularly crusty spacer once told you...

Before jumping to Fist and into the Imperial Domain of Deneb, Redthayne - aware of an Imperial bounty on his ship - re-programmes the IFF transponder with an alias, 'John Murray Spear'

 

Fist (Tolerant) (331-332:1117)

A somewhat soft border to the Third Imperium, known for it's six colossal nickle-iron fist shaped asteroids! Nobody bats an eyelid when the legitimate far trader jumps in, refuels at one of the gas giants and leaps out.  Nobody asks questions and it is easy to pick up supplies.

 

Imissa (Suspicious)  (339-340:1117)

This is where the real border is, Imperial Naval base running regular escorts for the megacorp convoys to the Hirate.  The pirate ship sails through with surprisingly little issue... for now. Redthayne is keen to spend a little time as possible here and pushes the crew to refuel quick sharp.

 

917-857 (Tolerant)  (347-348:1117)

Nothing here, just the Anatoli Burgoski and a handful of other lost souls passing through.

 

Saurus (Neutral)  (355-356:1117)

Over the last two months Asaf has been running an increasingly elaborate campaign of practical jokes against Maryana. Apple-pie beds, space weevils in her vacc suit, swapping out the salt and sugar, there is nothing he won't stoop to!  The usually stoic Maryana is a boiling inferno, kept only in check by the full schedule of routine maintenance and continued professional development.

Online e-war and community radio training programs have kept her fury focused, while Asaf's enquiring mind went into programming his heartbreaker MUD. Redthayne's masterly timetabled education program for the crew has significantly reduced the heavy drinking, knife fights and dance-offs.

 

Darchona (Tolerant) (363-364:1117)

Water world. They prefer it if you steal the hydrogen from the gas giant, not the ocean.

 

Susanawo (Tolerant) (006-007:1118)

 

The crew celebrate the annual new year Holiday in J-Space. There is more drinking. The party mood is somewhat soured on the arrival in Susanawo system, home to an infamous prison colony. No chance of running into ex-crewmates here though, the penalty for piracy in Imperial space is death.  Sullen, the crew make swift progress through the system. No authorities seem to be looking too closely here and there are no problems moving on.

 

Mirage (Suspicious) (14:1118)

11 weeks and 5 days (1968 hours or 118080 or approximatly 7084800 seconds spent in a maddeningly tiny merchant starship stuffed full of increasingly bored killers with nothing but a privilaged doctor, a baron and a brace of scientists for entertainment...) later the John Murray Spear arrrives in system and touches down on Mirage Prime on the third day of GodCon!


The space-lanes are busy with ships of religions, cults, denominations and sects from across the sector.

Initial communication with port authorities seems not to get far - they seem to have other things on their mind.

Equally, contact with the delegation of the Shield Church brings little joy, but does introduce the venerable Archon Dreek.


The crew make contact with representatives of the Psychopomp of Clarke who help reunite the crew with Jacob Ondracek, newly awoken psionicist. The pirates identify the 'Lord Gerald's Fancy', parked in a dirt at the far end of the makeshift downport that has grown up alongside GodCon.


Jacob's mind probes and Vinnyy's scans identify faint signs of life, both inside and out of the ship. A brief forey finds a naked man who says he is a driver for Dreek's party. Realising that there has been a classic swicheroo the crew race to get to Dreek at his condo, before Dr Jali does.

 

Dr Jali is somehow intercepted and reasoned with, somewhat. There is an intense standoff, words are exchanged. Jali explains why she wants Dreek's nanites.  Dreek, however rushes in ready to clense with fire... Anya and Piotr double team Dreek, pinning him down and 'extracting' a sample of nanites from his supply.  Whith this present, Jali leaves with her assistant Lemuel in tow.

 

A furious Dreek stakes a 1MCr bounty on Jali's head, desperatly trying to regain control of the situation.  In the distance 'Lord Gerald's Fancy' lifts off.

 

In South Australia I was born

To me heave away, haul away

In South Australia round Cape Horn

 

We're bound for South Australia

Haul away you rolling kings

To me heave away, haul away

Haul away, you'll hear me sing

We're bound for South Australia

- Traditional Shanty.

 

Mirage (Suspicious) (014-016:1118)

Emboldened to chase the fleeing Dr Astor and her assistant the team refuel with haste and head for Neumann chasing the bounty on Astor's head, if nothing else.

 

Fintor (Neutral) (023-026:1118)

The travellers pass through the Fintor system swiftly, unimpresed by the dustbowl that is the primary planet.

 

Peridot (Neutral) (032-034:1118) and Iscand (Neutral) (045-048:1118)

Both these systems immediately feel more Imperial that the majority of these backward borderlands.  Huge military vessels of tens of thousands of dtons dominate the naval bases here and to the trained eyes of Piotr these are Imperial battle groups on manoveurs preparing for war.

The scuttlebutt at the fuel pump in Iscand is that the majority of the sector fleet has travelled coreward to defend against Zhodani and Vagyr incursions into Deneb.  The bar staff, ground crew and attendants who will talk are unanimously more fearful of an Aslan invasion from spinward across the Reach...

 

Neumann (Suspicious) (041:1118)

The far-trader wisely skips past the forbidden 627-301 system and jumps to Neumann, the destination!

 

The pirates make their was directly to Neumann, to the primary planet. Tens of billions of people crowd into the shining cities of Neumann. Here is technology at its height – buildings float on gravity platforms, servitor drones flit through the crowds, and every imaginable wonder is at hand. If Gazulin with its museums and fashion houses and high culture is the Paris of the Trojan Reach, then Neumann is a million Akihabaras crammed onto a single world, a cybernetic hive of virtually infinite complexity. Everything is incredibly clean and precisely organised; it is a world of straight lines and engineered curves, of polished metal and chrome.

 

Out beyond the hermetic perfection of the steel cities is the swarm zone. Ships descending to Neumann usually switch off their external cameras, to avoid showing visitors the disturbing view. More than half the planet is covered in swarm-zone. Imagine a churning ocean of grey goo that boils and sets and sublimes once again, shifting shape and colour and state faster than the eye can follow. Forms emerge out of the churning slime, then fall back again, dissolving. Buildings, structures, machines- people too - are partially born out of the formless chaos and then vanish again, leaving parts or traces of themselves behind to be recombined again. This is the aftermath of the grey goo disaster that wiped out Neumann’s golden age. This is what the Immortal Protector guards against.

 

The decent to the surface is interrupted by traffic control, who becoming increasingly suspicious dispatch a heavily armed system defence boat after them.  Some phenomenally impressive piloting and atmospheric skimming give the ship enough time to get to the location of Astor's ship.

 

A node, atop a fortress against the grey goo seas beyond it's sun-gun defended walls. Beside a far trader, two figures stand arguing furiously with each other. the pirates arrive to find loyal assistant Lemuel trying to prevent Dr Jali Astor from releasing her improved nanites into the node, and thus the grey goo. He insists that this will cause a huge backlash as the hostile nanites become increasingly hostile threatening all people on this planet.


Jali, merely screams at him that he is wrong, and that her calculations are correct. She pounds furiously at a keyboard on the node intent on completing her input. Jacob, fellow scientist, tries vainly to reason with Jali, could she test some of her nanites on a small sample of grey-goo? She aggressively rebukes him. Lemuel tries to persuade the travellers to stop her, but sensing that they are unsure tries a new tac.  He draws a previously hidden fusion gun and claims he is no other than the Immortal Protector, Saviour-God of Neumann.

Further confused by this new revelation the crew interrogate both antagonists, Jacob probes their minds and the others question the two. It appears that there are two options, to allow Jali to release her nanites, or stop her.

 

In the paralysis of the moment Lemuel/Immortal Protector levels his gun and screams his intent to destroy Jali.  Jacob quickly shunts his gun from his hands with the very power of his mind. He drops his hold on the gun and leaps towards Jali pinning her to the floor in a strangle hold.

 

Jali screams, realisation on her face. She tells the pirates that it was none other than Lemuel that sabotaged her work on Tech World. He is responsible for this all! Ever heroic Vinny lays down a fortuitously precise burst from his smg, knocking Lemuel down.

 

Jali staggers to the console and continue.  There is one less player in the game, but the stakes are still high. Through bloody lips Lemuel pleads with the crew that Jali must die to save Neumann.  He explains that he in deed planned this from the beginning but she did not do a good enough job of reworking the nanites.

 

Lemuel tells them that Jali has only a 40% of succeeding, not nearly high enough odds to risk the fate of a world on surely!

 

As the team ponder their next move, high over the sounds of crashing nanite waves comes the roar of a gunboat. Either way. This is going to end soon.  Jali screams that she is nearly finished, and the pirates decide.

 

With a final keystroke the nanites are released into the goo.  The nanotech swarm slows, then begins to act with purpose. Slowly, it begins to restore the structures it pulled apart. Building that were devoured centuries ago reform, like seashells left behind by a retreating tide. In other places, the characters see the swarms build up human corpses, layer by layer, shaping bones, then laying muscle and fat and nerve tissue down, creating perfect corpses of people who died 1500 years ago.

 

Jali is grabbed and the crew board both ships, clumsily lifting them both off the planet, as the incoming customs ship slows and hovers on the horizon, apparently paralysed by the events unfolding on the ground.

 

As the two ships begin to gain altitude the ripples of what they have done begin to play out. Patches in the grey goo see become islands and slowly reach out to each other to form cities, highways, spaceports, monuments of a bygone age.

 

The Tale of the Immortal Protector

 

Once upon a time, the scientists of Neumann believed that machines could solve all their problems. They built thinking machines to do their thinking for them, and building machines to make everything they needed. Their whole world became one great union of machines, and people just seemed like an unnecessary distraction.

 

Then something went wrong. The building machines turned on the people, and went mad. They killed billions and billions of people, dissolving them into goo and using their remains to build more building machines. The thinking machines could not see a way to solve the problem, and kept thinking and thinking until the building machines devoured them too.

 

Now, one of the people killed in that plague was a woman, a traveller from afar, named Nuwia, and as she died, she called out the name of her lover. That name is forgotten, for now we know him only as the Immortal Protector.

 

Then the Immortal Protector came down from the stars, in a ship of silver fire. He was a wanderer and a hero. Some say he was the last Emperor of the First Imperium, exiled from his throne by the Solomani upstarts. Others say he was half-human, and half-Ancient, that his mother was an archaeologist who found an Ancient tomb on a deserted dead world. Whoever he was, he was a man without peer.

 

He stood eight feet tall, and wielded a FGMP in each hand. He burned back the swarms with the fury of his fusion guns, and fought his way to the last laboratory. There, he found more slumbering swarms, and – for he was as great a scholar as he was a warrior – he commanded the swarms to block the building machines from encroaching any further

onto Neumann. The surviving scientists were made to swear an oath never to interfere with the protections set in place by the Protector, and he established the Shield Church to watch over his work. So it is by his grace that everyone on Neumann lives to this very day!

 

Neumann (Suspicious) (041-043:1118)

A momentous day for Neumann.  The tide turns against the grey goo!  As was foretold by the Psychopomp of Clarke! Making use of the systemic shock caused by their actions the crew of the John Murray spear act swiftly.

 

Lemuel Volin needs little prompting to reveal himself to the confused crowds as the Immortal Protector!  Within minutes he is shaking off the mortal wounds inflicted by Vyyny's SMG and is in a planet wide address clad in Piotr's second best dress uniform. In the chaos sown by the release of Dr Jali's cure power structures of Neumann gladly exalt Lemuel as their leader.

 

"A strong hand in a time of disorder" is the mantra of the day.

 

Under cover of all this two rather battered far traders, with relief crews scoot out of orbit and make the jump.

 

Lemuel's bloodied and bullet ridden cloak lies on the floor of the sick-bay. A discarded relic.

 

Peridot (Neutral) (050-053:1118)

Fintor (Neutral) (060-063:1118)

Mirage (Suspicious) (070-073:1118)

John Murray spear's crew reunites from shore leave.  Brief espionage assignments the crew took on indicate significant fear among the hight and mighty, gathered for GodCon '18. The Archduke's fleets are leaving their bases and travelling to the Corridor to defend against fighting from the civil war, and the threats of Zhodani, and Vagyr.  This leave the to Trojan Reach poorly defended against Aslan incursions, which everyone is predicting are about to start.

 

Susanawo (Tolerant) (079-082:1118)

Darchona (Tolerant) (089-092:1118)

Saurus (Neutral) (100-103:1118)

Ardasii (Neutral) (110-113:1118)

Imisaa (Suspicious) (120-123:1118)

Fist (Tolerant) (130-133:1118)

The ships leave Imperial space.

 

Wildeman (Neutral) (140-143:1118)

In Wildeman a drunken belter / dwarven prospector, propositions the crew.  Klim Gobbo claims he stumbled upon the hidden base of the dread pirate Captain Tamby Dour, famed for terrorising the shipping lanes a century ago.

 

Gobbo will show the crew of the John Murray Spear where the hidden base is, if they find Dour's last surviving scion.  Goob explains that Dour's treasure vault is in the base and Gobbo with split the contents with them if they bring the last scion to unlock the NA encrypted door...

 

Goob hears that Dour spent much of her time on Theeve.

 

Cordan (Suspicious) (150-153:1118)

The garden world of Cordon Prime has a reputation for cut-throat politics. The ships pass swiftly on.

 

Exe (Tolerant to Friendly) (160-163:1118)

With some ease the crew manage to find a representative of Lord Gerald's Fancy and arrange a modest salvage fee. Careful examination of the dozen or so staff on this gas-station indicates a business opportunity.  With a fistful of credits and the promise of regular entertainment shipments the ground-crew are bought.

 

Tech-World (Neutral) (170:1118)

After 127 long days, Dr Jali Astor is returned to her planet, her colleagues, her family.  The relief and gratitude shines from the faces of the remaining councillors.

 

What of the promises made to Tech-World of defence and supplies in their secret attempts to leave the clutches of GeDeCo? What of the Aslan threats? What of the promises made to the people of Borite?

AD&D COUNCIL OF WYRMS PERSPECTIVE AND REVIEW

by Karl Brown

Council of Wryms by Bill Slavicsek for TSR 1994, and 1999. Though long out-of-print the boxed set is still readily available for purchase as a pdf at a reasonable price. This article based on a review and conversion to D&D 5e I produced on the fan forum The Piazza

http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=103&t=18746&sid=b2f7952c0e2066a5a53a1148ded1ff92

 

Abbreviations: 1e: first edition of AD&D, 2e: second edition of AD&D, 3e third edition of D&D, 5e: 5th edition of D&D, CWA: Council of Wryms Book 1, CWB: Council of Wryms Book 2, CWC: Council of Wryms Book 3, C#: Council of Wryms boxed set card, DMG: Dungeon Master’s Guide, MM: Monster Manual, WOTC: Wizards of the Coast.

This classic setting from the 2e era enabled people to play dragons in D&D for the first time. PC dragons begin as hatchlings and grew to ancient wryms over a campaign spanning centuries. While the general idea was a great one, the boxed set was plagued by a number of issues. That said the setting and it’s author had a major impact on future editions of D&D.