But where that Sun at tho? And other Important Questions about the Actuality

by Ethan Hudgens Twitter

 

What is The Invisible Sun?

 

The newest creation from the team over at Monte Cook Games isn’t just a Table Top Roleplaying Game. It is an event. It is a mystery that starts with summoning the Black Cube, a nearly featureless cube about 14 inches on a side and weighing more than you’d expect. That’s because along with the four books, maps, boards, cards, character sheets, art books, tokens, and a statuette of a golden hand, the Cube is full of secrets. Lots of secrets.

But let’s talk about Suns. There are nine suns in the Actuality, one of which is the Invisible Sun and radiates magic upon all the other. For those familiar with the Planes of D&D, these are similar but instead of element each represents an Idea, like the Silver Sun is the sun of birth, beginnings, and potential, while the Grey Sun (“our reality” sun) which is the sun of lies, distortion, and illusion.

At the start of the game it is assumed that the player’s characters are Vislae (magic users) all returning to the Indigo Sun (sun of truth) from a brief exile into the Grey sun. So your players get to experience the world with their characters who are re-experiencing it the strange and surreal landscapes.

 

Surreal?

 

Yes, Invisible Sun is a world of magical surrealism, something better seen than described. But in essence it is the taking of the mundane and twisting and distorting it. Most might recognize the melting clocks of Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory. Strange “normal” things that occur in Invisible Sun are things like Key Storms (where keys fall out of the sky), a living bar that is never in the same place twice, and a man who is Monday, the day of the week.

 

You mentioned Secrets?

 

I recently spent two days trying to hardcore casually decode a secret language that adorns many of the pages the book. Some of these “sentences” will direct you to a website with a search engine that demands you fill it with more secrets. Sometimes the cipher just says “Secrets” and you get real upset.

Other than that there are clock puzzles, mysterious symbologies, and just really cryptic red text that says things like “Where do the feelings that have yet to be felt dwell?” There are a lot of secrets, and for me its been like a game I can play while we aren’t playing.

 

Okay, but why is this game special?

 

Aside from the surreal setting, there’s two major elements why this game plays differently than any other I have played: Character Arcs and Development Mode.

Unlike most ttRPGs (including other MCG titles like Cypher System, which iSun draws many of its mechanics from) the major drive for the story is not pre-designed plot beats and stories coming from the GM, but from Arcs that players themselves choose during character creations (and can invest more of later as they become relevant). Invisible Sun is a player character driven experience, where the GM’s primary job is to make memorable people and places along the way for them to interact with. It takes some getting used to, but it makes for a unique play experience.

As does “Development Mode.” Invisible Sun doesn’t stop when your players leave the table. You can keep playing. Whether by meeting in person or playing via text in the Invisible Sun phone app, the game encourages players to continue play by having side scenes of things that they do between sessions (sometimes ranging in weeks to months in a time lapse).

 

These Arcs sound important. Can you give an example?

 

Of course!

Let’s say I want to start a business. Any business. This is the Actuality we could have a business about self-shining shoes, a bookstore that only sells books written by ants, or a taco shop that pulls the exact taco you want from your dreams.
First we have to complete the Opening, which in the case of the Enterprise arc requires that we Draw up a Plan. Basically saying what business venture we want to take and how we want to achieve it.

Next we have a number of Steps that can be completed in any order. So for our Dream Taco stand we’re first going to need to get some financing, find a place to build this shoppe, and then actually build the establishment. For each of these steps completed you receive experience that can be used to improve your character later.

Once each step is complete we come to the Climax. Does our business venture succeed or fail? If we do well, we get Joy for the pride of capitalism. Otherwise we gain a point of Despair. Each Joy and Despair being another type of experience.

And then comes a Resolution where we think back on what we did.
These Arcs can take months of ingame time, but generally should be completed in about five sessions or so. And once you’ve completed an Arc you can “purchase” a new one from the list and continue developing your character!

 

But is it worth the money?

 

Most people look at the cost of the Black Cube and wince at its price tag. The truth of the matter is that if you take your collection of Dungeons and Dragons material, like the three core books, add in a module, some very nice professional character sheets, tokens, and all the spell cards it is actually quite the deal. And unlike many other new RPG systems, this one does a very good job at making sure you don’t leave it sitting on your shelf for too long.

 

At time of posting, the second Kickstarter still has a couple days left to get in on the second printing, so if you’re interested I highly recommend you just go do the thing. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/montecookgames/invisible-sun-return-to-the-actuality

 

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN: MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP
You might be thinking to yourself “I thought this was supposed to be about upcoming releases” and you’d be right; Chaosium is releasing the famous and exciting campaign ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep” for Call of Cthulhu 7e. You might be familiar with older releases (Encounter Role Play did an entire playthrough of it) but it doesn’t yet exist for 7e. The updated release is more than just updated mechanics but also expands on the already fantastic story to increase the horror and adventure (and yes, South America is now a part of the story).
If you’ve wanted to GM Masks up until this point (the updated scenario releases July 1st in its PDF version, later in 2018 in hardcover), you’d have to do all of the conversions yourself (which is, admittedly, pretty easy to do) and you’d be stuck with either the handouts that were given (in my opinion, not as good as they could have been) or hunt down usable fan-made handouts (which exist if you look hard enough); not to mention add any additional story yourself. Player creation could be time-consuming but a good Keeper would’ve made it worth the effort.
Masks is one of the most popular titles for Call of Cthulhu but I feel a little awkward giving any kind of review since I haven’t played the updated version at all, my experience rests with older versions. That being said, I’ll tell you what I do know as has been released.

(from the Chaosium website 6/20/18)
The PDF package will cost USD$59.99 and contains the following electronic items:
Masks Book – Omnibus PDF of both volumes (666 pages)
Keeper Screen PDF
NPC Portraits PDF
Keeper Reference Booklet PDF
Handouts (including Maps & Pre-gen PCs)
Book Cover images x 2
Pre-gen Character Sheets x 10
The two-volume full colour hardback slipcase version will be available later in 2018, retailing for USD$129.99*.

129.99 is quite a lot but you get a lot for your money; and 59.99 is reasonable for an adventure of this magnitude (and it might just be me, but I tend to prefer PDFs), plus purchase of the PDF gives you an instant coupon at Chaosium.com for the hard-cover book (the coupon for the Hardcover, valued at $59.99, will drop the HC to just $70). Just look at the list of included downloads and you can see the value. Now, I don’t agree with everything (Pre-Generated characters seem like a waste to me) but I still feel that this would be appropriate. If you love Call of Cthulhu, and want to play this game updated for 7e, I highly recommend. The PDF will be available at chaosium.com and drivethrurpg.com

For more information on the release of Masks of Nyarlathotep, visit www.chaosium.com; to contact me, you can find me on twitter @mbertolini

GOING BEYOND THE GAME: CALL OF CTHULHU – DEPTHS OF MADNESS

GOING BEYOND THE GAME

 

CALL OF CTHULHU: DEPTHS OF MADNESS

 

I didn’t intend to write another one of these articles concerning the topic; but, if you haven’t already heard, Focus Home Interactive is releasing a video game called Call Of Cthulhu: Depths of Madness based upon the rpg created by Chaosium of the same name (if you haven’t watched Encounter Roleplay play various modules of Call Of Cthulhu on Twitch, you’re missing out).  While not a direct adaptation of any game module you may be familiar with, Call Of Cthulhu: Depths of Madness promises to give players that have played Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu an experience that they’ve come to expect while not forcing away people unfamiliar with the franchise.

In the game, you play as Edward Pierce as he investigates the rise of Cthulhu near Boston, Massachusetts.  The game is a mixture of stealth and investigation in a semi-open world of heavily Lovecraftian themes.

A Private Detective, Edward Pierce is a mission to find the truth behind the death of an acclaimed artist and her family on a backwater island. Pierce is used to trusting his instincts, but with whale mutilations and disappearing bodies, this is only the beginning as reality becomes skewed. As your investigation leads you closer to the sphere of influence of the Great Dreamer, you will start to doubt everything you see. You will have to find balance between your own sanity, and your determination in finding out what lurks in the shadows – as they say that madness is the only way that can bring you to the truth.

Focus first announced the game’s development in 2014 and the first trailer was shown at E3 in 2016.  The game had been scheduled to be released in late 2017 but was delayed to 2018.  As of yet, an official release date has yet to be set.  However, if you’re excited about Focus’ new endeavors into some Lovecraftian themes and rpg gameplay, consider some of Focus’ other games: Vampyr (June 5, 2018) and The Council (March 15, 2018).  If I had to speculate, I’d suggest that Call of Cthulhu will either be released sometime around Halloween or Christmas, depending on what other titles are going to be released around that time.  Or, Focus could surprise me and be released on some random date.

The biggest influence of gameplay will be sanity, and how the loss of sanity affects everything else in the world; an aspect of games that has rarely been successful.  Since you’re an investigator, your sanity will determine whether or not your investigation is headed in the right direction.  You won’t necessarily be able to trust your own eyes as the things you see might not be real; though you will believe what you see to the point that you could develop new paranoias that can betray you or even hurt you.

 

If you haven’t checked out Encounter Roleplay on Twitch, you can find it <a href=”https://www.twitch.tv/encounterroleplay” target=”_new”>here</a>.

 

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN: MORDENKAINEN’S TOME OF FOES

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN

 

MICHAEL BERTOLINI

 

This series will give you insight into games and expansions that you might not have ever heard of before.  Most of these titles are exclusive to certain online retailers and can be applied to games that you currently play or add more to your home-brew games.  If you know of a book or game that’s just released or about to be released let me know; @mbertolini

 

MORDENKAINEN’S TOME OF FOES

 

“Discover the truth about the great conflicts of the D&D multiverse in this supplement for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.”

 

That’s the tag-line for Wizard of the Coast’s book, ‘Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes’, to be released May 29th; it might be a supplement beyond the core rules which will likely appeal to DMs more than players, but it will bring into focus the current multi-verse.  Every iteration of Dungeons and Dragons has involved a shift in the multi-verse in some way; previous editions of the game have hinted at it in various books that the DM could use to bring players into The Forgotten Realms or Gray  Hawk, but these are books that are not only meant for players to know about (and use beyond aspects of character creation) but experience.  Almost every player of Dungeons and Dragons has heard of Mordenkainen, and players can even get some of these books (and the knowledge they contain) in various Dungeons and Dragons games (Volo’s Guide to Monsters).  There’s no reason to think that Tome of Foes and Guide to Monsters will be much different aside from the focus of observation; Tome of Foes will focus heavily on the Dungeons and Dragons multi-verse and likely concern itself with many of the popular monsters we’ve seen from there aside from any new monsters it introduces.

Despite what you might be thinking right now, this article is not entirely about Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes; I am going to visit one of the monsters from the past of Dungeons and Dragons that originates from the multiverse yet has gone on to fill our imaginations and homebrew games over the past few decades.  Specifically, I’m going to to discuss a monster that hearkens back to the start of Dungeons and Dragons; The Balor.

The Balor is a fiend, huge in size, from the abyss.  It doesn’t wear armor but relies on its natural physical defense to give it an armor class rating of 19 (not to mention immunities to Fire and Poison).  It can fly much faster than it walks and it possesses enough HP to make some adventurers question their decisions to bring them face to face with such a creature.

However; the Balor can be defeated.  It is weak to Ice and Lightning magic, as well as most weapons, and though physically strong it is cumbersome and its size can be used against it by resourceful players.  It won’t be an easy fight, and the chances of a TPK (Total Party Kill) are high, especially at a low level, but victory can be achieved by any players willing to embrace the fire that envelops the Balor.

There is more to the multi-verse than the abyss; and it will be up to books like Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes to get us deeper.

Map Download – The Floating Isle

The Floating Isle

“Sometimes you just need to get away from the world.”

By Ethan Hudgens   Twitter   Website

Download

The FloatingIsle.jpg

“I don’t rightly know how it happened.” Ms. Annette Bridgemire scratched her head. “One day I was wishin’ to see the world an’ the next I were above it like now. Good weather usually up here. Sometimes we dip juss below the storm to get some water for myself an’ Bessy over there. Bessy’s my cow. Think she’s gotten used to this whole thing too, though she didn’t make milk fer at least a month after the ‘Upsidaisy,’ as I like to call it.

“So when we’re goin’ over the ocean there’s good fishin’ and sometimes on festival days the island gets low enough for me to drop down the ladder like the one you climbed up on. So all things considered its a pretty good life up here. Don’t gotta deal with crows, or my papa tryin’ to get me suitored up. Just get to do my farmin’, my fishin’ and my dabblin’ in the ar-cane arts.”

Call to Adventure: “Detox”

An Adventure Hook Written By: Dice Prophet

Type: Dungeon Crawl, Bug Hunt, Comedy

System: D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder

Ideal Party Size: 4-5

Recommended Levels: 3-6

Concept

This adventure is a twist on a common side quest: exploring the sewers! The deep and dark places of the world are often chock full of the same predictable beasts, such as spiders, rats, and the occasional ooze creature. But what if the sewers were suddenly flooded with the contents of an alchemist’s laboratory?

Alchemists are the mad scientists of the adventuring world; they concoct the powerful and often unstable compounds that can give adventurers the edge they need to survive. By simply imbibing an alchemist’s brew, one can be healed of all wounds, protected against most damage, granted the might of an bull, or given the agility of a cat. Alternatively, a tiny bottle could also hold the most potent toxin, an acid that could eat through stone, or an explosive surprise. Now imagine what would happen to the conventional subterranean ecosystem if all denizens were suddenly exposed to a wave of miscellaneous potions, oils, and extracts! It would be absolute madness!

That is where the quest begins. A local alchemist has been mindlessly dumping their failed experiments, excess reagents, and miscellaneous mixtures down the drain. This had the unfortunate side effect of contaminating the usually docile vermin that inhabit the sewers. Magically modified creatures have begun to emerge at an accelerated rate, terrorizing the populace. Chaos bubbles up from the depths, and those brave enough to venture underneath and purify the corruption can prevent trouble from spilling over!

Introduction

Read the following flavor text to the player characters at the beginning of the quest:

“Weeks ago, an alchemist’s lab was raided and quarantined by the local authorities. The owner had been illegally dumping their reagents into the general sewage system in an attempt to circumvent proper magical disposal methods and shave off costs. The resulting cocktail of magical-imbued chemicals has altered the denizens of the underground, turning them into dangerous, never-before-encountered monstrosities!

Although the origin of the contaminants have been stopped, there has been no decrease in the appearance of mutated creatures emerging from the sewers and wreaking havoc! A massive reward is promised to adventurers strong and courageous enough to investigate the source of the ongoing infestation.”

Setup

Denizens of the Deep

The basic template for every encounter is simple: take a commonly-used subterraneous monster, and modify it by applying an alchemical compound.

Perhaps the players encounter some rats, but they’ve recently drank Potions of Invulnerability and must be avoided until the effects wear off. An alligator may have accidentally imbibed a Potion of Flying, and is now hovering through the corridors, snapping at unsuspecting prey. The players could get stuck inside a Gelatinous Cube, but the acidic properties have been completely neutralized by the presence of a powerful base, and the creature poses more of a locomotive hindrance than a threat to their well-being.

Experiment with whatever combinations are suitably hilarious or mechanically interesting, to keep the players guessing on what they will have to fight next. But try to not repeat combinations.

Environmental Hazards

Like most sewers, any water sources found are either fetid, diseased, or downright deadly to the touch. They may also obscure whatever enemies the players will face, whenever appropriate.

However, some pools can also be saturated by helpful compounds. Perhaps one of the levels have been entirely flooded, but the water contains so much Potion of Water Breathing that it is literally impossible to drown in it. The contamination can be both a benefit or a hindrance to the party, depending on whether or not they can correctly identify the liquids they find.

Development

The Toxic Dragon

At the lowest depths of the sewers there is a creature that is a living amalgam of all the contaminants. This putrid mass of caustic material takes the form of a large black four-legged beast with translucent green wings. The toxic dragon viciously prowls the dark, consuming all that it can catch and spewing forth more mutated terrors from its body. This creature is the newfound source of the contamination.

The toxic dragon awaits at the deepest level, and serves as a final boss for the dungeon. In regards to monster design, it is mechanically a Black Pudding, with the same hit points, properties, and defenses. But also possesses the physical appearance and locomotive abilities of a Black Dragon Wyrmling, and displays animal-like intelligence. Like any creature, it will defend itself and its lair ferociously. Tactically, it seeks to kill and consume rather than negotiate or take prisoners.

Museum of Magicks – Arcane Sheath

Museum of Magicks – Arcane Sheath

A collection carefully curated by infamous adventurers that include everything from battered trinkets to divine instruments of the gods.
by Mack Eaton    Twitter

What once held a legendary Archmage’s blade now lies vacant, forgotten in the attics of an abandoned mage’s tower. Waiting for someone, anyone to offer it their blade. The sheath has no master, but when offered companionship it may choose to favor the actions of she who carries it. The sheath is finely crafted out of leather with gold stitchings holding it together and a large teardrop sapphire near the tip.

The Arcane Sheath accepts any sword or dagger of medium or small size, and grows or shrinks to fit a blade that would not normally fit. When a weapon is unsheathed it is enchanted for a short duration, imbued with the magics of the sheath. At first the sheath decides the magic imbued, but the sheath may attune itself to the wielder depending on how it feels about them as it is an intelligent item.

Unattuned

When unattuned the Arcane Sheath enchants a weapon when it is unsheathed, providing a bonus 1d8 damage on the next attack that succeeds. While enchanted the weapon counts as a magical weapon.

The type of damage is determined by rolling on the following table:

Roll Damage Type Description
1 Acid The weapon emerges from the sheath with a green liquid seeping from the metal of the blade
2 Cold A slight chill can be felt as the blade is removed, frost covering the blade from hilt to the tip
3 Fire As the blade is removed a roaring flame comes with it, dancing on the sword as it is swung around
4 Force The blade glows a pale white and emits a humming as it moves through the air
5 Lightning The sound of crackles can be heard as the blade is removed from the sheath, lightning forking off of the blade as if it were its own contained thunderstorm
6 Necrotic A dark fog surrounds the blade and faint wails can be heard as it is moved about, like the pleading of souls from another world

Attuning

To attempt to attune the sheath to its owner it must be in their possession for a minimum of a month’s time and they must be a wielder of arcane magic. To make an attempt the wielder must make a DC20 Intelligence (Arcane) check once per week after the first month of owning the sheath.

Characters who have cast a level 2 or higher Arcane spell while in possession of the sheath get Advantage on this check. The attunement check takes place during spell preparation, the sheath observing the caster intently.

When attuned the caster may select which type of damage the sheath imbues when the blade is drawn. In addition the caster may summon the sheath if it is within sight, the sheath soaring through the air to the caster’s side.

Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything “Selections from DM’s tools”

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything “Selections from DM’s tools”

Chapter 2 of XGE concerns additions to the 5e ruleset as well as some new items to assist the DM. Some are long and exhaustive sections, such as the encounter tables, and others are just short little paragraphs concerning small but interesting concepts. Most of these on their own are not enough to make an article, but together they can make a nice list of new features.

Sleep

New rules for sleep include simplification on how a character awakes from unconsciousness, including loud noises, taking damage, or if another character takes an action to rouse them. Pretty straightforward and I don’t think too many people had a problem with this prior to XGE.

Next is something new and that is optional rules for sleeping in medium or heavy armor. If you finish a long rest wearing those you only regain a quarter of your hit dice and you don’t remove any levels of exhaustion. These rules are pretty brutal and I am glad they are optional. I think taking account of your players wearing and removing armor during a rest is a bit pedantic, but I bet there are some DMs and players out there who are looking for a more hardcore experience who would enjoy this limitation.

Tying Knots

Being captured and tied up is a pretty common experience in DnD and XGE adds some additional rules to untie a knot. The creature who creates the knot makes an intelligence (sleight of hand) skill check (notice it is Int and not Dex!) and that sets the DC to untie the knot with an Int/sleight of hand check or a dex/acrobatics check. This is a good use of the skill with different abilities rules variant and makes a lot of sense when you consider that the strength of a knot is dependent on the knowledge of its creator and not their dexterity.

Adamantine Weapons

Adamantine is a rare and strong metal that makes a wonderful set of armor. In the DMG it is listed as an uncommon magic item that turns any critical hit against the wearer into a regular hit. This is a strong ability and will absolutely save your character’s life. XGE adds adamantine weapons to the game. If a hit is scored these special weapons always strike with a critical and make for an unbelievably strong item. Double damage at every hit and in my games we have a d100 table that the players roll on when they score a critical hit to add some flair and extra effects to make it special. Adamantine weapons cost 500gp more than usual and it makes no difference if it is made entirely of the metal or just coated with it.

Falling

Falling is pretty simple in 5e: for every 10 feet you fall you take 1d6 bludgeoning damage, up to a max of 20d6. XGE adds a couple of new options for falling creatures. The first is rate of falling. This assumes the character is falling from such a great distance that it takes more than one turn for the character to hit the ground. When you fall in such a manner, you instantly descend 500 feet. On your next turn if you are still falling you will fall an additional 500 feet at the end of your turn. This gives the character a chance to take an action, I’m assuming something to halt their descent or teleport somewhere else. Secondly it adds some rules for flying creatures who end up falling. A flying creature begins to fall if it is unable to move, is knocked prone, or if its speed is reduced to 0.  To give a flying creature a better chance of surviving a fall than a non-flying creature, simply subtract the creature’s flying speed form the distance it fell before calculating damage. This gives them a chance to “glide” or otherwise maneuver in flight before actually impacting with the ground, assuming it is not unconscious or otherwise incapable of moving.

 

These short paragraphs are novel additions to the game, and even though none of these are necessarily huge impacts in terms of rule changes, together they create some new options for DMs to help run their games.

Journey in Middle Earth: Episode 3 Recap

Click here to return to the Season 4 Recap page.

Click here to find the Character Sheets of the Show.

  • Episode 3

It is the year 2946 of the Third Age, and the lands east of the Misty Mountains are a stir. From the cloud-shrouded peaks above the High Pass to the spider-infested gloom of the forest of Mirkwood, paths long-deserted are trodden once again. King Bard sees his new kingdom surrounded by good fertile land to be settled, but the Desolation of the Dragon left terrible scars on the world, and all the old maps were burnt. He needs heroes to go out and map the borders of his new kingdom, and an ancient Elven village lost in Mirkwood, Redvale.

The Fellowship of the Dales arrived at the ancient Elven site of Redvale, only to find the cast out adviser, Rycroft, at the scene. She and her men had been digging up the long dead Elf, Nestrien, looking for something. As the Party arrived, Arvelan’s presence (and his ancient Numenorean blood) drew dark spirits and a Barrow Wight to life. Fleeing from its terror, the Fellowship captured Rycroft and brought her back to the Elven King’s Halls to await a meeting with Thranduil.