Wednesday, January 26, 2022

2022 Squarecrawl: B05 - New Dezoris

Here's the starting town for the "squarecrawl" I showed in a previous post. This is the information that would be available to the players; other details would be uncovered in play, although there are some hints in here for sharp-eyed detectives. None of which is massively important; this should be a home base for adventures in the wilderness, rather than a source of adventure itself.

B05: When minions of the plague god razed Dezoris (A05), the survivors fled to the east and camped within the protective walls of an ancient ruin. Over decades, this camp became the town of New Dezoris. Closer to the river and with the protection of the walls, this turns out to be a much better location for the settlement, although some elderly residents still miss their old homes.
  • The wall is constructed of an unknown white material. It is smooth and unblemished and runs in a perfect ring around the town, apart from one wide opening in the south.
  • The population of about 400 runs the town via a council of 11, chosen by lottery each year. Living in New Dezoris for 90 days earns you a place in the council lottery. Important matters are often decided by a vote of the entire official population. Old Dezoris was run a by a noble class; the current population, in general, prefers the new system.
  • There is a mill, a small dock just outside the ringwall, two trading posts, a forester, and a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • The most popular inn is The Roaring Mug, which is of average quality. It is known for the many decorative pelts and skins hanging from its walls, and the innkeeper offers a free drink and meal for anyone that can bring in a -- hunted -- pelt that he hasn't seen before. The speciality is deep-fried crow.
  • The town's other main inn is The Jar & Raven, which is of fair quality.
  • Both inns field teams for the local tavern brawl league. As expected, both teams consider the other a rival, but there is also rivalry with the teams of Drogan's Pass (D02).
  • There are no temples in New Dezoris, but there is a small shrine to Tyrest, the god of justice and patron deity of Old Dezoris; the young priest wants to consecrate this shrine with a religious festival but has not yet received permission from the council.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Let Me Be Your Phantasy

I finished Phantasy Star!

It only took about 30 years.

I'm pretty sure Phantasy Star was the first computer role-playing game I encountered. The genre wasn't common in the UK in the 80s, I think because tape was the medium of choice for home computers and most of the big name rpgs were released on disk, and because console rpg releases were spotty in Europe until Final Fantasy VII crashed in and changed everything. I got my copy of PS at some point around 1992, second hand and without a manual, five years after the Japanese release, from a fellow called Graham, who operated a "computer club" from a converted stable, and yes, in hindsight the whole thing seems a bit dodgy.

I have no idea why I picked Phantasy Star up. I hadn't heard of it, and I wasn't into rpgs in general at that point, beyond the Fighting Fantasy phase every 80s kid went through. Whatever the reason, I fell in love with the game, and despite having no manual, and with no coverage in the magazines of the day -- because, remember, it was five years old and it was all about Sonic by then -- I somehow muddled through. I remember getting about halfway through the game when the save erased itself; it wasn't the battery because I started again and the saves were fine. A mystery for the ages.

(I also played it for hours in a bedroom that my father was painting, so I always associate the game with the smell of paint, and vice versa.)

I didn't finish that second play either, because I became distracted by other things. The PlayStation came out. I discovered actual tabletop rpgs. I mutated into a hormonal teenager. Beer. Girls. And so on.

In 2009, Phantasy Star came out on the Wii's Virtual Console, and I gave it another try, this time as a sort-of-professional. I didn't finish it that time, either, which is probably a breach of journalistic ethics.

Later, I got it as part of a collection of old Sega games for the PlayStation 3 and decided that this time I would complete it. Reader, I did not.

This chunky fellow is standing right on top of a hidden trap door. Does he set it off?
He does not. Unfair, I say!
And then in January 2022 something in me -- possible because we recently had our kitchen painted; that smell! -- made me try again, this time via emulation, and in four lengthy sessions, I did it. I finished Phantasy Star. I didn't get every character to level 30, but there's no difference to the game if you do so, so I'm happy to let that go. I did defeat the "impossible" Saccubus, which I had done only once before in my many, many playthroughs, so I'll consider that an achievement.

But finishing the game at all, after a literal lifetime, is what's important. Well, not in fact important, obviously, but you get my meaning. Important to me. Phantasy Star has been part of my life for so long, always there, from when I was a child, discovering the world of console gaming, to when I was -- briefly! -- a computer game journalist, and now as I turn grey and withered, as an actual games designer, albeit in a different medium.

Will I go back and play it again? I'm not sure I will, in part because I've seen everything it has to offer over my many attempts, but in part because I always put off playing the three sequels until I finished the first one.

The road, as they say, goes ever on.

Monday, January 17, 2022

"Hex" Is Latin for "Four"

I spent a couple of hours in the evenings last week putting together an old-school "hex" crawl setting. Here's the player map:

The starting town -- New Dezoris -- is at B05 and there's a six by six area in which to roam around in the first few sessions. After that, the players will have to explore and fill in the map for themselves. Old-school!

I won't post the complete map, just in case I get it to the table some time, but you can always email me -- look to the top-right -- if you want the whole thing.

Why is it not a proper hex map? I've never liked hexes. Don't know why!

Monday, January 10, 2022


This is all based on me misreading (Sir) Ian Livingstone's handwriting on this map.

RUST MINOTAURS, also known as "IRON BRUTES" by northern folk, are aggressive and terrifying hybrids of -- wait for it -- minotaurs and rust monsters, although they seem to take more of their characteristics from the homicidal bovine side. Those ever-clueless sages speculate that the iron brutes were first created by a mad wizard, but that's their excuse for anything they can't explain, and is probably a result of professional jealousy.

RUST MINOTAUR: Armour 15, Move 120’, 6* Hit Dice, 27hp, rusty horns or weapon +2, Morale 12.

Rust minotaurs can attack with either their horns or a weapon, not both, in a single Round. The iron brute's horns destroy metal at a touch. Magical armour and weapons get 10% resistance per "plus" of enchantment.

The rust minotaur can metabolise enchanted metal and convert it into temporary armour plating, taking the form of hexagonal metallic scales. Every "plus" destroyed by the creature's touch, is converted to a point of armour, which erupts from the monster's hide a Round after it is absorbed. This bonus armour flakes away after a day.

If you are playing Troika! or a similar game of fantasy fighting, then you can use the following statistics:

Initiative 3
Armour 0 (but see below)
Damage as Weapon or Rusty Horns

If a Rust Minotaur hits with its Rusty Horns attack, the target takes no damage but instead loses 1 point of armour, to a minimum of 0. If the armour was magical, the iron brute gains this point of absorbed armour at the End of the Round. These bonus points of protection have no maximum, but on the plus side, they disappear after a day. Good luck!

Monday, January 03, 2022

No Way, Jose

Spider-Man: No Way Home is great fun, surprisingly touching in places, and even a bit sad, but in a good way. It makes less and less sense the more you think about it, but gets by on momentum and a big heap of charm. It's probably the best of the MCU-Holland series, and overall is the fourth best Spider-Man film, but Into the Spider-Verse remains king of the arachnids.