Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Merlin: A Herald of the New Age (Preview)

The Camelot Knights stumble across an eerie shrine deep in the forest, its chilling atmosphere betraying a dark history best left undisturbed.

But when Elyan ignores Merlin's warning, his actions spark a chain of events more frightening than anyone could possibly have imagined. Can a grievous wrong be put right? Or will past demons change the future forever?

Preparations Part Two...

A pile of spiffy new editions of the players' introduction to Tekralh arrived (from Lulu) this morning, sporting a delightful picture of a krug (from In The Name Of The King) on the shiny front cover and some miscellaneous sword and armour artwork on the back.

Designed as an easy reference guide for players it is a collation of four background articles from this blog, including the houserules that will be used during play (that is, ones players need to be aware of, such as burning off 'hero points' - not, say, the rules for getting drunk or falling down pit traps, which will only come up under certain circumstances).

Several members of the Tuesday Knights already have an earlier version of this, but that doesn't include as much information about the town where the characters were born and raised - Coggershall.

As much as anything I'm trying to create a sense of place to help better inform the character creation process and any backstories the players may wish to work on.

I've been describing my campaign setting to them as "50 per cent Robin Of Sherwood, 25 per cent Merlin and 25 per cent Game Of Thrones" and while it is by no means an historical setting, I'm striving for a degree of verisimilitude by placing it (in my head, at least) around the early 13th Century - particularly the First Baron's War (1215-1217).

If nothing else this gives me a good benchmark for technology, medicines (there are no clerics here!) , superstitions and costs.

Once the campaign kicks off, I aim to reactive my old Chronicles Of Tekralh blog to record the "in-character action", while this blog will stay primarily geared towards delivering technical details, rules changes, new monsters and treasures etc

Meanwhile, I'm already thinking about a third edition of the guide as managed to FUBAR the paragraph on healing by totally forgetting to update it by taking into account Crypts & Things' excellent addition of "Constitution" damage for heroes.


A sampling of some of the latest figures I've got back this month from Neil at Wilson's Miniatures ahead of next week's Tuesday Knights' gathering to generate characters for my Tekralh (Crypts & Things) campaign.

All being well we should have a full house - Pete, Kevin, Simon, Steve, new recruit Meredith and a return appearance from Nick and Clare - and be able to create a solid group of young adventurers based in Coggershall and ready to explore the sandbox of Tekralh.

This Week Is Getting Away From Me...

For some reason, it's just one of those weeks where my primitive time-management skills have gone out the window - so instead of a high-brow discussion of the latest piece of trash cinema I've seen or game I've played, here below is a selection of pictures of the stunning Hattie Watson (a lovely model I discovered courtesy of Calvin's Canadian Cave Of  Coolness)


I'm kinda hoping that her flame-haired gorgeousness will distract you from the fact that I haven't posted anything coherent or particularly geeky!

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

D&DVD Of The Week: Dragon Quest (2009)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, for my money, legendary mockbuster-makers The Asylum are at their best when they're turning out fantasy movies and while Dragon Quest may not be anything particularly original (it's basically another rehash of the "hero's journey" we all know from Star Wars) it's still a half-decent Dungeons & Dragons-style adventure yarn.

Reluctant, magical-dope-smoking hero Arkadi (Daniel Bonjour) learns from local wiseman Grandfather (Jason Connery) that he is actually the prophesied Keeper tasked with collecting the stones of virtue under the guidance of legendary warrior Maxim (Marc Singer) and his rather tasty protégé, the scantily-clad Katya (Jennifer Dorogi).

Katya - Dragon Quest's eye candy

It's no surprise really that former Beastmaster Marc Singer steals the show with a scenery-devouring performance that blends Mister Miyagi with Yoda and a dash of Basil Exposition - to be honest Maxim justified the minimal cost of the DVD alone and I could easily have enjoyed 90-minutes of his solo adventures!

The Keeper has been called into action because a former colleague of Maxim's, the Darth Vader-ish Kirill (or Krill) - played by X-Files bad guy Brian Thompson - has summoned a wicked (CGI) dragon of smoke and fire to act as his avatar in his (generally unspecified) plans for world domination... and bolster-up his legions of anarchy-spreading Tolfar mercenaries.

There's dragons and there's questing and some other CGI beasties along the way for Arkadi and crew, some running about and some fighting and it's all wrapped up in an easily-digestible 85 minutes.

Filmed in the deserts of California and interspersed with stock, aerial footage of sweeping landscapes, Dragon Quest quickly shakes off its early fairy tale vibe and moves into full-blooded swords and sorcery territory delivering very little we haven't seen before but with an innocent, cheeky charm that makes it enjoyable nonetheless if you are open-minded to what it has to offer (and let's be honest you have to be reasonably open-minded knowingly sitting down to watch a movie from The Asylum).

Zombie Sense Poll Results...

The polls have closed and 67 of you wise souls shared your opinions on the crucial topic of "how do zombies sense their prey".

Sound was the runaway sensory success with 44 per cent of the votes, followed by smell with 20 per cent and then sight with 17 per cent. "Other" was fourth with eight per cent, closely followed by "sixth sense" with seven per cent.

tonybro001 came up with the interesting suggestion of "echo location", explaining that "that's what all the moaning is about. The zombie shamble is their sweep technique" while David said: "I always go with a sixth sense life detecting ability. Zombies will always be drawn to the highest concentration of life in an area."

Going into the poll, I guess sight and smell were my favoured options, but as several people pointed out a lot depends on your apocalypse-of-choice as to how the zombies turn out.

Tim Shorts said: "The basic zombie has to rely on smell, à la The Walking Dead and Night of the Living Dead. Then you got your more advanced that seem to have all their senses going so you can kick hearing into it, à la 28 Days Later. Then you have the bad zombies, the ones that feed off the psychic energy when a person dies. These guys don't eat the flesh they just absorb the life force so they can continue on going."

This latter zombie style, Justin S. Davis suggested, is the one from the movie Lifeforce - which I mainly remember for the naked vampire chick.

Thanks, as always, to those who took part - either voting or leaving comments.

Crypt Closing For Pre-Orders On Friday!

The advance order window for the excellent Crypts & Things - a swords & sorcery reworking of Matt Finch's Swords & Wizardry - closes on Friday.

If you get your order in before that date you will also receive a free copy of the Blood Of The Dragon sandbox adventure setting, otherwise you will need for the general release after Christmas to purchase the adventure.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Merlin's Miscellany: Part Four

The Black Knight
(from Excalibur)

A black knight is a wraith; an angry spirit of a powerful warrior raised from the dead through the foulest of black magics, who will only stop his pursuit of vengeance when his objective has been achieved or he is felled by magical weaponry.

He appears as a knight dressed in dark chainmail, a tabard and dark, battered helmet, wielding a mighty two-handed sword.

A black knight's favourite tactic is to issue a challenge to single-combat to those who are friends of his target first and attempt to draw out his desired victim after he has made them suffer through the deaths of their friends.

The wraith can talk, but his voice will be gruff and unrecognisable as his original voice, and should his helmet be removed the face underneath is sunken, discoloured and monstrous.

Although essentially an undead killing machine, a wraith retains a fair degree of his human intelligence and is not stupid. He can be patient and calculating and will abide by any codes he followed when alive, comfortable in the knowledge that he cannot be beaten.

#ENC: 1 (summoned creature)
Size: Man-sized
AC: 5 [14] (Chainmail)
HD: 10
Saving Throw: 5
#ATT: two-handed sword (1d10, +2 to hit/damage, due to strength and +1 to hit/damage from combat styles = 1d10+3 damage at +3 to hit)
Move: 12
  • Damage Immunity: any damage caused to him by a non-magical weapon or a magical spell cast by a human magician is discounted (even though he appears to have been wounded; there will be no blood). As a member of the undead, the black knight is also immune to sleep, charm, hold etc magic
  • Combat Styles: Unarmed combat (1d6 with fists/feet) Weapon Master (two-handed sword), Grandmaster (two-handed sword)
  • Multiple Attacks: Against creatures of one HD/Level or less, a black knight gets 10 attacks per round.
CL/XP: 15/2,900

Musical Monday: Dungeons & Dragons songs by Allie Goertz

Above - Tonight (D&D song), below Song for Ulvaak.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Last Few Hours To Have Your Say...

Tick, tick, tick... the minutes are slipping by as we head towards the closure of the Zombie Sense poll - where I gauge public opinion on how you reckon zombies sense their prey (or, if you are a gamer, how you run it in your games).

This whole discussion came about after it was pointed out The Walking Dead appeared to be contradicting itself in its approach of how zombies track the living.

In the first season Rick and Glenn's big idea to avoid detection was smearing themselves in zombie guts (so the zombies couldn't smell them), but then in the tense opener of season two, survivors were able to dodge detection by simply hiding under cars.

Vote now (voting booth over on the right hand column of blog, and don't forget to post your own theories either in the comments here or under the original article)!

Painting Bukowski...

Painting Bukowski (Time Lapse- Flip Video) from Adam Stone on Vimeo.

Although I haven't read any Bukowski for years, he remains one of my favourite authors, with his gritty, honest, self-deprecating style having long served as an inspiration for many of my own fumbling attempts at short story writing (don't ask, it wasn't pretty... and they, and my old Amstrad, are long gone).

It was an American friend of Matt's - back in the late '80s, I guess - who introduced us to the unique writing (and poetry) of the original "dirty old man", Charles Bukowski.

The first collection of his work that I read, The Most Beautiful Woman In Town And Other Stories, remains the book I have bought most copies of over the years... because I kept lending it to people and never getting it back!

Star Trek Month: The Birth Of Slash Fiction...

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Merlin: Lancelot Du Lac

Over Agravaine's objections, Arthur declares that he is going to marry Gwen. Naturally it doesn't take long for this news to get back to Morgana who immediately hits on a scheme to prevent a serving girl from sitting on "her throne".

Morgana discovers how to bring back Lancelot from the Land Of The Dead, only it isn't truly the noble knight, but a shade of his former self - which Morgana is able to "program" to take advantage of Gwen's fondness for Lancelot and seduce her away from her future husband... on the eve of her wedding day.

When I first heard that Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera) was coming back, I was so hoping for a budget-busting expedition by Arthur, Merlin and the knights of Camelot to retrieve their fallen comrade from the Land Of The Dead.

However, it is of course wrong to criticise a story for what it isn't - when clearly this was the plan all along. It's just a shame that the bulk of the Lancelot-Gwen-Arthur love-triangle (a core element of Arthurian legends, like Excalibur, the Round Table and The Holy Grail) was compressed into this single episode. The romance has been hinted at before and suggested, but Gwen was never with Arthur in those earlier stories.

It was also a pity that this hurried re-igniting of their passions was driven by a magical enchantment, rather than a development of Gwen's true feelings (obviously that would have taken too long - it managed to fill the entire, single season run of Camelot earlier in the year), which rather undermined the true gravity and betrayal in the original story.

That said, although Lancelot appears to have been written out of the series (although, I guess, there's nothing to stop him coming back again... perhaps as himself this time!), Lancelot Du Lac remains an open-ended episode with several plot threads left dangling, such as the magical bracelet and Gwen's ultimate fate (not to mention Merlin's clear knowledge of Agravaine's duplicity that he seems to be doing very little to expose).

But despite my disappointment with the hurried structure of the story, it still elicited some incredible performances from Angel Coulby (Gwen) - who I was not particularly impressed by in the early years of the show - and Bradley James (Arthur). The grief and conflicting emotions were clear for all to see when Gwen and Lancelot were caught smooching.

Of course, Arthur never questioned the fact that his uncle burst into his room declaring "there's something you've got to see" - it was a rather obvious set-up!

A key episode in the season, and an important turning point for all the characters, but it just felt as though writer Lucy Watkins had been tasked with too many plot points to squeeze into a 50-minute episode.

I wonder though if the BBC were also having their doubts over the strength of this episode as the official Merlin website - instead of featuring a key image from the episode on its front page - just has a generic cast shot (still including Uther!), there was no preview clip released this week and while the site did include some promotional wallpaper/stills quality control was clearly a bit off as this one got through:

The red lasso was my handiwork to highlight the authentic shirt and sunglasses being worn by a member of the crew, clearly visible in the background!

I do wish the BBC would put as much enthusiasm and attention into promoting Merlin online as they do Doctor Who.

Woola... And More!

John Carter's faithful six-legged Martian calot companion Woola is among the latest half-dozen enticing images released for Disney's forthcoming live-action John Carter movie, ahead of a new trailer which is due next week.

Check out the other pictures over at SlashFilm.

The movie is currently scheduled to open on March 9, 2012, and I, for one, am very excited and looking forward to a tidal wave of publicity - and spin-off merchandising - after the Christmas holidays.

Death of a Ghostbuster...

Ladies & Gentlemen, Christmas Is Coming...

It's almost December, can you believe it? Where has 2011 gone?

I was very pleased to see this week a new surge of interest in my two role-playing community table projects: What Has The Rag And Bone Man Collected? and/or What's In The Cards Of The Deck Of Many Things? Thank you to all those who have taken part so far and if you haven't yet: what are you waiting for?

And the good news keeps on coming with the arrival of another new recruit to our big adventure:

* Dangerous Brian of Dangerous Brian - A Gamer's Blog (a chronicle of his "experiences in the murky world of 'old school' roleplaying, wargaming and miniature painting") and Terminus Omega (15mm wargaming and roleplaying in the Mass Effect universe).

Friday, 25 November 2011

HOUSERULE: Literacy In Tekralh

In my upcoming Tekralh campaign for Crypts & Things, a character's literacy depends a great deal on class, social background and intelligence.

Anyone with an Intelligence of 9+ has the potential for literacy.

Those who use magic are automatically literate.

A thief must make a STAT check of 4d6 vs WIS when first created to see if he had the good sense to learn to read.

There is a popular misconception that 'thieves cant' is not a written language, however thieves (and beggars) well know it can be a code of secret signs or symbols left outside certain houses or locations giving hints to the building's protection, worth, traps, guards etc

A high class fighter will automatically be literate, while all other fighters must make the same WIS check as thieves (above).

Any character that has chosen the barbarian class/background will be illiterate.

Fleamarket Friday: Two Worlds Coming To DVD... Whether You Want It Or Not...

Some of you may remember my - possibly delusional - excitement at discovering Uwe Boll's finest film (in my opnion) In The Name Of The King was getting a sequel... well now In The Name Of The King 2: Two Worlds has trailers and a DVD release date.

Ex- special forces soldier Granger (Dolph Lundgren) finds himself transported to the magical kingdom where the original In The Name Of The King took place and discovers that his arrival is part of an ancient prophecy.

This soon-to-be-cult classic is released on DVD, in the States at least, on December 27.

(from original In The Name Of The King)

King's Call
2nd Level, white magic spell (as per Crypts & Things)

The wizard attunes himself to (ie. nominates) a person who then becomes "under his protection" - the subject doesn't even need to be aware that he is covered by this boon, although he and the wizard must have at least met face-to-face first.

A wizard may attune himself to one person per five experience levels he has attained (if he goes over the limit, the connection is broken with the earliest target the wizard has under his protection and so on).

Should the target of the spell, regardless of his physical proximity to the wizard, suffer CON damage of any kind, the wizard will instantly know. He will have a fleeting vision of the target and be left with the knowledge of exactly where the wounded person is and how to reach him as quickly as possible.

This knowledge stays with the wizard for one month or until he and his target are reunited.

Fleamarket Friday: Get Your Sith Together...

The perfect companion piece to Daniel Wallace's amazing deluxe Jedi Path book, Book Of Sith: Secrets From The Dark Side gives the other side of the Star Wars story, by allowing us an insight into the minds of evil Sith lords through the ages.

Shame it's not out in time for Christmas (Jedi Path was one of the highlights of my Christmas last year), but I guess February isn't that long to wait and it's currently on pre-order at Amazon for £47.82 (and I wouldn't be surprised if that price drops between now and the release date).

For further insight into the book and its contents click here.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Reckon You Can Write RPGs?

One of the UK's top roleplaying publishers - Cubicle 7 - is looking for freelance writers to contribute to its game lines, including Doctor Who, The One Ring, Primeval, Pathfinder, The Laundry, Call of Cthulhu, Starblazer Adventures, Legends of Anglerre and Victoriana.

If you are interested, the company website advises that you:

"...send us your writing CV, a sample of your work (we’ll look at the first two pages of what you send us), and a short (equivalent to one side of a sheet of Letter/A4 paper) e-mail covering:
  • A brief summary of your writing experience
  • Your familiarity with our games (including which you like best and why)
  • What you are currently playing (needn’t be a C7 game)
  • Your favourite game genre
  • Your favourite movie and book
  • Your dream game writing project
Please e-mail your application, along with your pay rate expectation (in US cents per word) to:"

Good luck!

Resurrecting The Dead In Tekralh...

Bringing the dead back to life is not a "service" that mainstream religion in Tekralh offers, and should the player-characters seek to resurrect a fallen comrade they will need to track down a willing black magician or powerful witch willing to risk calling on the dark forces necessary to perform such an act.

It isn't a question of simply saying a few words and waving their hands over a dead body either, but a lengthy ritual with great cost - and not something to be entered into lightly.

The rare resurrection ritual counts as a seventh level black magic spell (and thus requires a magician of, at least, 13th Level to perform).

Once an agreeable sorcerer has been found, the player-characters must ensure that the deceased has been dead for less than (21 minus dead character's Level) days for the ritual to even stand a chance of working.

A living sacrifice is required of a beast or beasts (or servants, hireling etc if the player-characters are feeling particularly amoral) with a particular connection to the deceased (e.g. his horse, his hunting dogs etc) with a total Hit Dice equal to half the character's Level at time of death. If there are no 'willing' sacrifices with an actual connection to the character then any large animal/monster may be substituted as long it reaches the Hit Dice requirements.

The ritual may then begin.

It lasts 1d12 hours (per attempt, as per Tekralh houserules for magic use; ie. casting a spell is not an automatic action for wizards etc. To correctly cast a spell, the magic-user must roll 4d6 vs (INT plus his LEVEL minus the level of the spell). A failure doesn't forfeit the spell, just means he must try again next round. If all four dice come up sixes, then he has suffered a "magical mishap" and must roll on that random chart.) - the DM needs to keep note of how many 'attempts' are required to complete the ritual.

At completion of the successful ritual, the formerly dead character is restored to life with a reduction in both his CON and WIS of a permanent minus one (-1 to CON and WIS).

However, the resurrected character must immediately make a STAT check of 4d6 against his WIS+LVL (with WIS temporarily reduced by an additional minus one per attempt after the first that the ritual took to complete).

A failed check means the character has come back "not quite right" and must roll 2d6 against the chart below:

2. Character is a vegetable, with zero INT, unable to move, think, communicate etc for himself. If unaided will eventually die (again) after 2d6 days.

3. The resurrection was not complete and the character is now a member of the undead (and can be turned as a creature with hit dice equal to his level). He no longer requires sustenance or sleep, does not breathe etc but his skin will take on a greyish pallor and his CHA is immediately halved because of the unnatural aura he exudes. His STR rises by two points and he is also immune to mind-affecting magic, sleep spells, illusions, charms, paralysis, poison, death magic etc Over time his skin will contract over his bones and begin to flake off. Once he reaches 12th level his alignment switches to chaos and he becomes a lich (see the S&W rules for his powers then).

4. For the rest of his "new" life, the character is plagued by nightmares and paranoia. Halve his normal healing rate (e.g. two hours of rest/sleep to regain a Hit Point, four days of rest to restore a CON point etc) and reduce WIS by a further two points and CHA by one point.

5. Character has no recollection of his life after adolescence - no idea who all these people are hovering around his bed, how he died, who he has met, where he has been etc Starts again at first level with zero experience points.

6. The character returns with a long-lasting depression due to fleeting memories of being in a place of comfort that conforms to his vision of the afterlife (be it a warrior's mead hall, a sumptuous palace filled with virgin servants etc) For a year and a day, the character will make all die rolls, skill and STAT checks at -2, will never exhibit enthusiasm, will shun the company of his peers (especially those he discovers were responsible for his return) etc

7. Character's features become sunken and 'haunted' and he has an aura of 'death' about him that permanently reduces his CHA by two points.

8. Character is possessed of an excessive joie de vivre and feels the urge to live life to the full; indulging in all that is best in life - as much food, drink, sex and violence he can get involved in. For the first 1d4 months after his return he will enter all combat as a berserker (+2 to hit, but -2 AC; followed by an hour of rest during which all actions are -2).

9.The lack of oxygen to the character's brain during the resurrection process has left him with severe brain damage, halved his INT score and caused him to lose 1d3 Levels of experience.

10. The character has come back as a ghoul - over the next 1d4 weeks he will notice that his taste in food has changed to just raw meat, in another 1d4 weeks he will be craving human flesh and he will find himself becoming sensitive to daylight, 1d4 weeks later he will be unable to operate in daylight (being totally blind in normal sunlight and finding his skin incredibly irritable), however his finger nails have started to lengthen. After another 1d4 weeks, his fingernails will be like talons, able to scratch for 1d4+1 damage. Despite his cannibalistic food habits and light-sensitivity, the character retains his intelligence and awareness.

11. The character has returned to life, but his soul has remained in the afterlife. He is thus without a soul to temper his actions (see below).

12. The character did not come back from "the other side" alone, but has brought with him a malign, non-corporeal, supernatural entity. The exact nature of this is determined by the DM as suits his current campaign standing, story ideas etc

  • Becomes  "evil" in alignment  (as well a shift in attitude this will also play out in what magical items he can use, and depending on what class he is it could also strip him of some powers and abilities).
  • Loses all empathy and emotional attachment to others - be they family, friends, cute puppies or mewling children. His only interest is in himself and will only act to further his own cause and fill the 'emptiness' they have inside  (which is usually through self-gratification, sex, schadenfreude, power etc). Although soulless, he is not stupid and will stick with his team-mates as long as it serves his best interest. However, he will think nothing of selling them out if a better offer comes along.
  • Devoid of conscience, a person without a soul is cruel, mean and vicious without concern for others' feelings, taking what he wants when wants it.
  • Suffers -2 CHA as gives off an air of cold, detachment.
  • Gains +1 to hit in combat as there's no longer a sub-conscious concern about hitting the wrong person, getting in the way of colleagues etc
  • Also gains a +5 bonus on any skill checks that involve telling lies or any saving rolls against fear.
  • Immune to supernatural attempts at draining levels, causing fear, mind control, sleep, charm, or possession. Or any other magic that specifically or implicitly targets the soul.

Philip Reeve Events In London...

Top author, and friend of this blog, Philip Reeve can be found at two events in Central London on Thursday, December 8.

Firstly a book-signing at Foyles in Charing Cross Road between 5pm and 6pm, then he pops over the road to Blackwell's where he is participating in the bookstore's Steampunk event, from 7pm until 9pm.

For more information visit Philip's blog.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Keeping The Peace In Coggershall...

The Town Watch - Arnald de Cobham, Walter Whyte and Ethelbert Groby
Security in the Coogershall is provided by a three-man "watch force" who patrol the town in eight-hour shifts (supposedly - although more often than not you can find one or two of them drinking in The Rising Sun).

Constable Skipwyth
At each shift-change, both the incoming and outgoing guard are supposed to report in to the Constable at Ravenmoon Castle.

The watch is actually looking - although not too enthusiastically - to recruit a fourth member.

The watch answers to Constable Walter Skipwyth, who is stationed up at the castle, where he oversees the gaol, which is maintained by Olyver the gaoler.

Main forms of punishment for most crimes are fines, time in gaol or time in the stocks - although the exact nature of the punishment is up to the whim of Baron Tiberius or his castellan Greyjoy, whichever hears the case when the prisoner is brought before them.

Olyver The Gaoler
People arrested by the watch are generally escorted up to the castle and handed over to either Skipwyth or Olyver for detention in the castle's gaol before being brought before the Baron, or his representative, whenever the next court session is scheduled.

What passes for a trial is Skipwych explaining what the prisoner has done and the Baron passing sentence. Occasionally the prisoner may be asked questions and sometimes even witnesses called.

Depending on the whim of the Baron or Greyjoy - particularly, if the person on trial is a woman - slavery is always an alternative to the harsher punishments. The criminal will be held in the castle's gaol until the slavers pass through (they tend to sail up and down the River Shale) when the criminals will be sold off - and any funds accrued will go in to the Baron's treasury.

On one side of the town's market square stands the stocks and pillory, in which criminals are placed, while at the other side of the market is the less frequently used executioner's block.

Death is only called for when the crime is treason (which you will soon discover is actually quite a broad charge!), murder, rape or desertion.

At the crossroads just north of the town stands a large tree which is used as the official "hanging tree" where thieves and murders are strung up once caught and tried.

If a criminal is spotted committing an offence, the townsfolk of Coggershall are obliged to start a "hue and cry" - a public call for all able-bodied men and women to assist in hunting this villain down. Should the criminal flee the town, a member of the watch may form up a posse comitatus to pursue the outlaw wherever he goes. Calling a false "hue and cry" is, itself, a criminal offence.

Crime & Punishment

Treason and Sedition (punishment: execution - head will be boiled and then displayed outside castle as a warning). Anything that be construed as a direct threat to the king or stability of the country or taken as part of a plot or plan for rebellion or aiding a foreign power:
  • No one may wear a mask or false beard in public (except on prescribed holidays).
  • No one, except a member of the royal family, may wear the colour purple.
  • No non-knight may wear plate-mail armour within the town limits.
  • No non-knight may ride a horse within the town limits.
  • No-one may touch the king's personage or property without his express permission.
Petty Crimes
  • Rumour-mongering - one hour in stocks/pillory (-1 CHA for a week).
  • Minor fraud (e.g. using forged currency) - one hour in stocks/pillory (-1 CHA for a week).
  • Dealing in rotten/stolen goods - one hour in stocks/pillory (-1 CHA for a week).
  • Drunkenness - a night in gaol.
  • Calling false hue and cry - three hours in stocks/pillory (-1 to 3 CHA, recovers at a rate of one point a week)
  • Failure to participate in a hue and cry - a night in gaol or a 2gp fine.
  • Not keeping a bucket of water outside your home in the summer, in case of fire - 2gp fine
  • Not keeping the roadway outside your home clean - 2.5gp fine
  • Carrying entrails and blood of butchered beasts through the town by day - 1.5gp fine
  • Disagreeing with a court verdict delivered by the baron of his castellan - 20gp fine
  • Selling of alcohol from your home without a sign up outside - 6.5gp fine
Violent Crimes
  • Carrying a blade longer than the distance between your elbow and your wrist within the town limits - 5gp fine or six days in gaol.
  • Drawing blade, but not drawing blood - 10gp fine or 12 days in gaol.
  • For drawing blood - 20gp fine or 40 days in gaol.
  • Striking with fist, but not drawing blood - 2gp fine or eight days in gaol.
  • Striking with fist and drawing blood - 4gp fine or 12 days in gaol.


Punishment is hanging, unless the villain seeks sanctuary in the church of Mythra, where he may stay unmolested for up to 40 days (in prayer and carrying out menial tasks for the priests).

After that time he may surrender himself for a trial or forfeit all his worldly goods and make for the nearest port, where he will leave the country, never to return (if there is a war going on at that moment, this is a good time also to enlist as all previous crimes are overlooked if you sign up for a seven-year 'tour of duty' in the king's army).

Theft charges can also be ameliorated if, while the criminal is in jail awaiting trial, his friends and family come before the court offering to pay restitution equal to the amount stolen (or the return of the goods), plus a fine equal in value to the amount stolen. This debt must be settled within 30 days or the thief is off to the hanging tree.

This is purely a sampling of the laws (and punishments) of Tekralh and is by no means a comprehensive coverage.

Happy Birthday, Doctor, Here's £50,000 For Charity!

Doctor Who
celebrates its 48th anniversary today and one lucky fan has won himself Matt Smith's Doctor costume, as worn in The Doctor's Wife and Night Terrors... in exchange for a £50,000 donation to Children In Need.

The costume was put up for auction on eBay by the BBC during the Children In Need telethon last Friday and ended last night, having attracted 101 bids.

The prize lot includes The Doctor's tweed jacket, jeans, shirt, boots, braces, watch and bow tie, as well as a script of the Children In Need sketch signed by Matt Smith.

For £50,000 I'd hope for a personal delivery by Matt Smith (via TARDIS) and at least a snog from Karen Gillan! Rachel was relieved to discover that it wasn't me who bid the £50,000 though!!!

Meanwhile, celebrations of the 48th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who include the launch of a Daily Who Review over on Siskoid's Blog of Geekery, a daily (chronological, episode-by-episode) breakdown of all the Doctor Who stories since 1963.

I cannot recommend highly enough this new feature (which will echo the style of his comprehensive Star Trek coverage) as Siskoid writes about Who in a far more erudite and well-informed way than I ever could.

And, unlike my own coverage of the Classic Era of Doctor Who, at least there will be some order to his critiques - rather than my scattershot (when I can afford the DVDs) approach.

I shall be reading these with interest.

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Peoples Of Erph... The Rheuma

The Rheuma – a transient people, found in small communities and caravans across the northern reaches of Vallon, Kalevala, Pohjola and even on the wild plains on the far side of the Dragonspine mountains.

They are masters of the horse and caravan. Hardened survivors, they relish life and are renowned for their wild dancing and drinking as their martial cunning and sly wits.

It is not unknown for Rheuma caravans to be welcomed into isolated, cold, northern towns in exchange for displays of exotic dancing and magic tricks. However, their exotic nature also makes them prey for unscrupulous slavers and so the Rheuma are often as suspicious of civilized folks as they are of the Rheuma.

In more romantic cultures they are called: “The People of The Wheel”, because they are always on the move and have no permanent homes – except their caravans – or cities.

However, according to Valoise lore the Rheuma were once a mighty civilization, in the mythical Age Of Elves or even earlier, but turned their backs on Mythra and became the first people to openly worship The Great God T'Ao. For this Mythra and Mother Issus cursed them never to have a homeland again and so they began their long journey to redemption.

A Dancer
It is also claimed that Rheuma females (especially dancers) bewitch civilized males, kidnap them and corrupt them into their un-Mythraic ways. Naturally men (and some women) are more than willing to pay large sums of gold to see them dance.

More level-headed scholars suspect that this legend was created to demonise The Rheuma, who are known to worship strange gods - unfamiliar to the Mythraic Pantheon - and practice fortune telling and prophesy outside of the confines of "normal" religion.

Because they are always on the move, the Rheuma are also a good source of news, folklore and stories from across the enormous region they traverse (whether this is reliable or not is another matter and probably depends on how much you paid for the information).

While most Rheuma Clans act quite independently of the whole, they all tend to gather every three or four years for a large festival, where the Ducja (Leader of All Clans) sits in judgement over any disputes. The current Ducja is called Alba, and he has held that title for 12 years.

Ducja Alba

"Always watch your purse when trading with a Rheuma"
– old Valoise proverb.


At  creation, Rheuma characters gain +1 DEX, +1 CON and -2 CHA (other nationalities instinctively don't trust them - no non-Rheuma will take orders from a Rheuma), height-wise they receive the same modifiers as the Valyards and hair colour is predominantly black (roll 2d6 - 2-8: Black, 9-11: dark brown; 12: light brown).

Rheuma Dancers
They can belong to any character class, but traditionally rely on lighter armour (no Rheuma would ever be seen wearing plate mail, for example), shorter weapons (again, traditionally single-handed blades or clubs) and are fine archers with non-mechanical bows.

All Rheuma have, at least, a basic understanding of animal husbandry, horse-riding and cold weather survival. Many are also proficient in matters of business (e.g. haggling, accounting etc) or entertainment (playing musical instruments, storytelling, singing and/or dancing).

A Late Addition To Deathstalker Week: Barbarian - The Last Great Warrior King (2003)

A strange one this, although you'd expect nothing less coming from the stable of Roger Corman. The 2003 movie Barbarian (with its totally meaningless subtitle of The Last Great Warrior King) attempts to be both a remake of, and a sequel to, the original Deathstalker (although without mentioning the name Deathstalker at all).

The protagonist of this 90-minute oddity is not only trying to retrieve the same three magic items as Deathstalker did (the Sword of Justice, the Amulet of Life and the Chalice of Magic), but is also facing a villainous wizard of the same name, Munkar, who has - once again - organised a tournament to find the best warrior in the land.

The faux Deathstalker here is the most-well groomed barbarian in cinematic history Kane (former Mr Universe and American Gladiator Michael O'Hearn, and also, almost certainly, none of the people on the DVD cover), a love 'em-and-leave 'em wandering rogue who - for some inexplicable reason - gets drawn into saving the princess (Irina Grigoryeva) and restoring her father King Kandor (Yuri Petrov) to the throne after he was usurped by Munkar (Martin Kove of Karate Kid and Cagney & Lacey fame).

However what makes Barbarian its own, bizarre, entity is the introduction of Kane's sidekick, Wooby (Yuri Danilchenko), a cross between an ewok and a child in a rubbish Cowardly Lion Halloween costume, who squeaks and wobbles his way through the plot until the movie's climax, where he disappears off and is never heard from again.

A bevvy of Ukrainian lovelies add the eye-candy and random topless moments, although as well as recycling the plot of Deathstalker, Barbarian also digs up vast tracts of old footage from the original film - mostly around the all-important banquet/orgy scene where not only does the Pig-Man appear once again but we also get the strange sight of the true Deathstalker (Rick Hill) watching the events unfold from the sidelines as well as a return appearance by the scrumptious Codille (Barbi Benton)!

However, this is even more surreal as an opening exposition flashback suggests that the events of Barbarian take place generations after Deathstalker - the "timeline" is even broken up with images of Roman soldiers - although there is never any suggestion that Barbarian is supposed to take place on our world!

For all this random weirdness, lacklustre dialogue and variable fight choreography, Barbarian still stands head-and-shoulders above Deathstalker II - Duel Of The Titans and that's even factoring in Wooby, who I'd heard was on a par with Jar-Jar Binks.

I'd take Wooby any time over Jar-Jar, at least he has some uses (he knows healing magic and is probably quite warm for those long, cold nights out in the wilderness).

Eternals (2021) + Spider-Man (2021) + The Matrix (2021) +The Batman (2022)


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