Ace of Hearts: The Empty Throne

Concept art for The Golden Lion Throne in Dune.

OK, so whores of the Old West isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but in rattling out Ace of Hearts I also figured that it would be a good way of representing a number of other conflicts where social skills and political capital are the currency of choice rather than violence. An obvious choice for this sort of thing is the scheming and conniving that goes on in the courts of the great and powerful. Everyone’s all politeness to each other’s faces while, at the same time, planning to stab each other in the back and manoeuvring for power.

This is a very short version of what will probably become a more full-blown article in Autopsy. These are guidelines, not a complete game substitute/replacement.

Setting
For the purposes of this example The Empty Throne, seat of power for the Imperial Dominion, rests in the capital city of Praxia, atop the Isle of Kings in the storm-tossed coast of Galdran. The Empire’s power is unmatched and unquestioned but the last emperor has died without a clear heir. The players take the place of those who are vying for the position of Emperor and seeking to gain the vacant throne for themselves. Players could take the role of spymasters, nobles, generals, court magicians, anyone who might have a shot – in some fashion – of ascending to the throne.

Victory Points & Game Length

The standard in Ace of Hearts is to play for Players x5 victory points. This is great for the short, sharp, vicious rivalry of the girls in the old west but for The Empty Throne you probably want a longer, more strategic game so I’d say at least Player x10 would be a better way to go.

Locations

  • The Palace is the seat of power, to not be seen here is not to be taken serious (Place 10 chips on The Palace)
  • The Golden Lily is a place where the great and the powerful may go to indulge their vice, whatever it might be. Many back room deals are done here (Place 5 chips on The Golden Lily).
  • The Merchant Quarter houses the great trading houses of The Empire and their support, while distasteful, is vital to anyone seeking the throne. (Place 5 chips on The Merchant Quarter).
  • The Cathedral is the seat of the priestly orders. While officially above such petty things as politics, in reality they can swing things one way or another by making their approval or disapproval implicitly obvious. (Place 3 chips on The Cathedral).
  • The Thieves’ Isles form part of the rag-tag band of rocks that seems to follow in the imperial isle’s wake. The people here exercise little power but can be… useful. (The Thieves’ Isles starts with 1 chip).

Angels & Devils
Players can make these up themselves, though I’ll provide for random drawing in the expanded article. Some examples might include:

  • Angels: Beloved of the people, devout, skilled duellist, dripping with gold, honourable.
  • Devils: Keeps the old religion, bastard son, impoverished house, foreign, honourable (yes, that can be both).

Crises
Again, a full set of these would have to wait for a complete article in Autopsy. So instead I present an alternative to using the card draw.

Each player makes up five of their own crises, writes them down on a piece of paper and folds it, placing them in a pot. Obviously you’re going to create crises that can be solved with your Angels and backstory, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll draw one of your own crises to deal with or that it’ll bear any resemblance to the crisis you made up by the time it can get to you.

Some examples of crises might include:

1. The Emperor had a bastard son that nobody knew about and he is trying to make his own claim to the throne. If people believe him, if people follow him, then you will not be able to claim it for yourself.

2. The Emperor’s journal says damning things about all of you and has fallen into the hands of the Bard’s Guild. All your chances could be dashed to pieces if they start to sing songs or tell tales from the dead Emperor’s memoirs.

3. The Courtesan, Lady Amshaar, has the ear – and other body parts – of many of the most influential courtiers at court. She knows this puts her in a position of power and influence with regard to the succession and has been making overtures that she’s willing to put her weight behind the right candidate, if he can win her favour.

SWING DELUXE

The full and proper announcement – with some pictures and so on to whet your appetite – will come on Monday. They’re all 95% prepared now though so I can tell you precisely what you’ll get for your money.There are only ten sets. One is being saved for Indiecon and one for Dragonmeet leaving eight for general sale.

  • Hand-distressed and SWING liveried blue box containing…
  • Enough dice for five players and Control (red, white, blue, black and yellow).
  • Poker chips for FATE points (same colours).
  • Five copies of the Agent’s Casefile for your players.
  • One copy of Control’s Casefile for Control.
  • Six Agents of SWING branded pencils.
  • Pencil sharpener.
  • Flower Power Eraser
  • Agent’s of SWING badge.
  • Individual adventure seed, unique to each box.

General Update


For some reason I always thought this picture was from Whoops Apocalypse because to me, it just looks ridiculous.

Let’s give you a general update on what’s going on here at Postmortem.

  • Over and above everything else I really want some people to help with volunteering. So please go and check out THIS post. A good number of people said they’d like to help with demos and things but I’ve only had a couple of bites so far. I’ll try to make it worth your while as best I can. Primarily I’m after people who attend cons and so on and can do games there, but people involved in online gaming via sites and products like Infrno are also sought. I just don’t have the time to do this kind of stuff AND promote, layout, write and everything else. I’m essentially at the very limit of what I can do as a one-man-show, even with the part-time help of a few kindly people.
  • I’d remind you I’m also looking to hook up some deals with other small publishers and direct deals with hobby stores. You can read about that HERE.
  • You can get the cool, groovy, hardcopy version of Cthentacle on proper, awesome cards. More info HERE.
  • I’m concentrating on shorter projects and products for the most part. So there should be a steady flow of ‘stuff’ while longer stuff comes together bit by bit.
  • Big projects currently being worked on are PROJECT, a semi-secret project called Gilder and a social-gaming project I can’t get into too much.
  • Supplementary material for Courtesans and others are in the works, which I’ll have to layout, but that does mean they should be coming along fairly soon.
  • Additional SWING material is in the works, Nefarious (the villains supplement), and Gosh, Spies! (young girl investigators and spies). There’ll be more along as we move forward and likely more adventures, given Snake Eyes has done well.
  • Autopsy 3 will be the last themed and regular formatted Autopsy magazine. After that we’ll be going landscape and using it to polish up and extend blog articles – as well as extra articles – collecting them together and giving them some polish to make them more worthwhile and available for people.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Wormlings

I’ll probably end up writing a few of these and these are sketchy first-pass concepts for what might end up being a ‘book of monsters’. Not a bestiary, but rather a book of strange and individual creatures with attached legends and lore to inspire their use in one-off adventures.

Legend

The old miner coughs a sticky black mess into his handkerchief and leans closer.

“‘Course, the real reason the baron closed the mine ain’t got nuffin’ to do with the gold being tapped out. There was plenty down there last time I was down in the depths. That ain’t it at all. Times of yore there were many peoples besides the ones you know, more than the elves and the dwarves and the short-folk. As man rose up they retreated, into the Earth, into the woods, into the dark and hidden places but you search too far, you dig too deep and sometimes you’ll find them.”

The wrinkled old man unbuttons his shirt, his skin puckered and sagging like a turkey’s neck. Even despite that you can see the crude scars and toothmarks that pock his skin. “They came out of the dark and the deep and they made it darker and deeper. They swallowed up men twice my size in moments and cut them to pieces, dragging them into the earth to their deaths…” He sighs and looks wistfully into the fire, his eyes losing their glitter. “…at least I hope so.”

He turns back to you and buttons up his shirt again, the log fire crackling and sparking as he does so. “We collapsed the mine, but they’re still down there. Riddling the mountain with their tunnels like maggots. It’s only a matter of time before they dig this far and then… and then you’ll all know.”

Description
The ground seethes and wells up like a great boil and then collapses back with a scent of wet earth. Darkness writhes like a living thing out of that pit and amongst it can barely be seen glittering eyes, sharp teeth and pale, serpentine white limbs that writhe like maggots in the dark. A tide of darkness and teeth unfolds from the earth, spilling like a living fluid in every direction and devouring everything before it.

Wormlings attack en masse as a great, cohesive group. They attack under cover of their darkness and in overwhelming force. They die easily, but there’s always more of them. You can beat them back but they well up from the ground in greater and greater numbers from the black stones that mark their home in the Earth. They undermine and tunnel, creating pit traps, dragging their enemies down and never attack senselessly. Wormlings are a force of nature, their numbers and their strangeness in the dark is what makes them a terrible foe, not their individual strength – which is lacking. They’re as merciless as the tide and know no language, trade, surrender or deal.

Statistics

AC: 14
Hit Dice: 1d8 (5hp)
Attack: +1
Movement: 120′ surface, 10′ burrow.
Number of Attacks: 2
Damage: 1d4 (hooked bronze daggers).
Morale: 8 (Even when driven off, they only
Special Abilities: Unnatural Darkness, surrounded by writhing, living shadow that grants +2 AC in the dark and can only be dispelled with artificial or magical light.

Urban Faerie: A Strange Piece of Ass

Source ‘elvenporn.com’ – No, seriously.

Background
The courts of the fae have split into the Seedy and Unseedy factions. The Seedy faction follows Oberon in trying to adapt to and understand and integrate with filthy human society while the Unseedy faction tries to hide and eke out a living alongside the humans but out of their sight, keeping many of the old ways and the places.

Oberon and the Seedy faction has been very successful in integrating with humans and Oberon’s favoured make a decent living in the mortal world by modelling for naughty fantasy art and appearing in fantasy films as extras. There’s a line, however fuzzy, between integration and exposure and Oberon tries to keep an eye on this despite the distractions of his lovers. What’s even more important to him is that those who follow his example find their work and their magic through him, so he can take his cut.

The internet is a great tool for faeries and filthy humans alike, but Oberon worries that it’s undermining him and threatens to expose them too soon, too quick. Mostly, however, he’s worried that he’s not getting his cut.

The Royal Mission With Which you are Charged
Oberon issues a summons to the faeries to meet him at his court. His current court is established in a large house in the San Fernando valley area of Los Angeles with a big private garden and an enormous, phallically shaped swimming pool. It’s a party every day with all the excesses of the Playboy Mansion with none of the ‘taste’. Oberon has all the aesthetic sense of a colourblind magpie on magic mushrooms and revels in the kitsch. The pool is full of naiads and other water sprites and satyrs and other sexy faeries frolic shamelessly throughout the gardens.

Oberon’s throne room is a big room with mirrored floors and ceiling. He reclines upon a gaudy red and gold throne surrounded by his sycophants and the walls are decorated with Vallejo-imitation fantasy art that makes the friezes in Saddam’s palaces look like fucking Michelangelo.

Oberon will explain the situation, which is roughly as follows:

  • Faeries are going into the saucy art business for themselves outside his wise oversight.
  • This is bad.
  • This is bad because he’s not getting his tithe.
  • This is also bad because without his wise guidance they risk exposure.
  • He is particularly worried because some of them have been making contacts and earning money through 4chan and similar sites, fulfilling the peculiar fetishes of the people that frequent them.
  • Given the nature of the net and of the pseudo-hackers that inhabit many of these places on the net, Oberon is worried – perhaps rightly – that someone’s going to get exposed even more than they intended and that someone will realise it’s not just a normal human in a rubber suit.

In order to fix this problem Oberon promises to shower them with gold (no, not in that way you filthy bastard) and to owe them a really big favour if they will only:

  • Find out who has been exposing themselves and teach them the error of their ways.
  • Destroy as much of the data as possible.
  • Track down their human contacts and put the fear of the fae into them.

Busting the Ring
The faeries involved aren’t exactly being careful and should be easy enough to find. Make up two or three of them and give them different situations, just to keep things interesting. Perhaps a Satyr lurking on chatroulette from his apartment, a sex-shop sprite and a genuine internet troll squatting in a motel with wifi access.

They’ll all protest that Oberon is being unfair to them, they may try to run, they may try to convince or persuade the other faeries of their way and I suppose that might work, but they’ll bow down to enough pressure in the end. Of course, that doesn’t solve the other problem either way that things shake down. The human part of the equation still needs to be dealt with.

Recovering the Data
Whichever way you look at it the risk of being properly unmasked by humans, particularly filthy perverts with precious hacking skills, is an issue. Either they need to have their data deleted and their computers destroyed long enough for the problem to disappear, or they need to be intimidated, killed or otherwise dealt with in whatever twisted way your gang of little faerie bastards wants to.

Playing to fat and lonely hacker/anime nerd stereotypes is good for a giggle here, but throwing in something a little different like a sexy cosplayer just to confound expectations would also be good.

Mission Accomplished
Oberon’ll be happy enough provided the humans are dealt with and doesn’t much care how. If he doesn’t find out – again – about faeries playing on the side that’s not as big a concern, even though he hates it and will feel betrayed.

New Item: Bag O’ Gremlins
This battered and frayed laptop bag writhes and twists when you’re not looking and makes distracting noises that make you think you’re getting a tweet, facebook update or a text message. With the expenditure of a charm and a loud shout of ‘FOR THE LULZ!’ it unzips and unleashes a raging horde of tiny gremlins who make a b-line for any power sockets or data ports and infiltrate all the computers and mechanical devices within a building. If unleashed on the internet they can take down a whole site and all its subdomains for 24 hours. Which is a great way of channelling people into checking the status blog for the site or causing a big fuss.

TrollSpace

Cover from Deathstalker Rebellion

Some vague ideas have been forming about doing a Sci-Fantasy sourcebook for Tunnels & Trolls. I’ve been trying to organise my thoughts (since Specialists had such a nice reaction from people) and here’s some of my initial thoughts on the direction it might take and some notes on themes and ideas that might enable you to make a start of your own based on what I’ve put here.

TrollSpace
Tunnel’s and Trolls remains fresh and interesting and beloved in part, in my opinion, because it just doesn’t take itself seriously. T&T remains whimsical, fun and simple. The best indication of the whole game line for me has always been in the name of the spell ‘Take that you fiend’ which just sums to all up for me.

In making any TrollSpace game setting and rules supplementation to the standard T&T game you’d have to work pretty hard to keep that whimsical nature to the game and not let it get too serious. Any rules changes would have to perpetuate and extend the feel of T&T without overriding or destroying it.

Sci-Fantasy
Sci-Fantasy would seem to be the sweet spot for any SF version of T&T. It’s much more open to the whimsical silliness and allows you to make it into more of a melting pot of ideas and fun silliness. You want a gang of Space Amazons mounted on giant mutant parrots? You’re good to go. There’s much more room for variety and much less expectation on behalf of the players that anything has to make any consistent sense.

7th Edition (30th Anniversary) Basis
Well, it’s my favourite edition and it’s the one I’ve written bits and bobs for before so… why the hell not eh?

Wiz = Psi
Purely a thematic thing really. ‘Psi’ sounds much more ‘sciency’ than ‘Wiz’. The powers would be changed from the current spells, but would probably cover much the same ground. It’s really just an aesthetic thing.

Character Types
Prole
The SciFan equivalent of the Citizen class and pretty much the same.

Crook
The SciFan equivalent of the Rogue class. Rather than having access to psi abilities, they’d get an additional talent – on top of Roguery – at character generation. Access to ‘wild’ psi abilities would come by spending talents, for those who wanted it.

Soldier
The SciFan equivalent of the Warrior class. Identical really.

Mystic
The SciFan equivalent of the Wizard. A Psi-specialist. Otherwise the same.

Specialist Brute (Str)
The equivalent of the Brute type in my Specialists book.

Specialist Protector (Con)
The equivalent of the Defender type in my Specialists book.

Specialist Gunner (Dex)
A stealthy sniper/survivalist, the equivalent of the Ranger type.

Specialist Daredevil (Spd)
The equivalent of the Swashbuckler type in my Specialists book.

Specialist Zen-Tech (Int)
The equivalent of the Tinker type in my Specialists book. Rather than particular devices a Zen-Tech would be able to enhance weapons, starships and equipment in various ways.

Specialist Mystic (Psi)
The equivalent of a specialist wizard, a natural psi who doesn’t need training but only has access to a particular arena of psi talent.

Specialist Chancer (Lck)
The equivalent of the Trickster in my Specialists book.

Specialist Commander (Cha)
The equivalent of the Leader type. Otherwise unchanged.

Specialist Exemplar (All 12+)
The equivalent of the Paragon role. Again unchanged.

Next time: Some ideas on Kin equivalents for TrollSpace.

Ian’s Updates

(Eventually we’ll wean him off prostitution and get him writing about strippers or something…) 😉Courtesans

 
Tough Justice
Shadow World
Doxy