Sunday, 21 December 2014

Necromantic Bumpercars

Play Cave Evil at a big group event. Someone is going to be eliminated in the first half an hour, and it's a ninety minute game, they need somewhere else to go. This is good game design.

Page six of the rulebook: "You are now an evil wizard!" Yes! You are an evil wizard. You absolutely are. You are a necromancer. You dwell in a crushed complex of ancient necropolises, a geologically-compacted strata of aeon-dead hell cities, a seeping place of hellfire and gore floods and liquid madness slime. Your servants are demonspawn and necromonks. Your nemeses are other necromancers.

Relatively this means you're an ethical everyman. If a gorebeast eviscerates an undead mammoth in a cave and no-one is around, does it make an ethical difference? (This fits in with the brutal metal aesthetic - an ethically quarantined zone of mindless violence perpetrated on the mindless and the violent, a reflexive self-punishment of the brutal by the cruel, the kind of self-contained atrocity that makes moral opprobrium infantile and claims of rebellion laughable.)

Production values are just high enough that you won't chunder. Once you pop the pieces they won't fit back in the box. If you want a board printed on board, not paper, that's sold separately. The money's gone on the art. Every card has a unique monochrome illustration of bones and gore and pseudopods and tusks, and there are about 666 cards.

It plays as you expect it to play. The really good news - you can dig tunnels. Thank Christ. This shouldn't need explaining. Spells are equippable items, and the ability to carry items, use them, and cast spells are all separated out. This creates monsters who can cast spells but need a friend to hold them, and also allows for items like carts (bone carts, gore carts), which carry other items and are obviously brilliant. Also some items are statted up as monsters so they can affect the movement speed of the unit they're in or take up space in an army or wander around on their own. The random event cards can stack as deep as chaos permits. In the last game everyone had to pass a minion to the player on the right - then a traitorous monk murdered its master and Neil was eliminated from the game.

The game uses d12s because fuck the system. I have been misusing the timer for the game and failing to summon the Great Old One early enough. My favourite is obviously the Black Old Goat - once summoned he runs around the table auto-tunnelling new sections of the board and obliterating anything he touches.

One of the necromancers you can choose to play as has the ability to split into two smaller wizards. It is a constant dilemma.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Book Weevils

When the first Rust Monster was created by Vorn in the chemical wedding of Primordial Iron and Primordial Rain, disjunction entered the cosmos. The Hanged God of Murderers and Chieftains perceived a future without metal, in which the feeble bureaucrats and their papyrus-and-charcoal remembering cloths would rule a world of miserable clay and straw. He feared this gross inversion in which the strong would bow to the weak and the sword would crumble before the stylus. Most of all he abhorred the libraries, those gatherings of remembrance cloths in which the weak schemed and plotted, spreading their minds across pages and pages of incomprehensible marks and generations of never-communing bodies, and feared that without the righteous vengeance of angry iron these blasphemies would spread throughout creation.

In his rage he made the first Weevil and their papyrivorous breed has persisted since.

Book weevils are no stranger to the libraries of the world. Not only do they feast and breed among the stored knowledge of centuries but their shells can be ground to create a potent and long-lasting ink - ironically, many book weevils dine on paper imbued with the ground hides of their ancestors. Book weevil shells are worth three times their weight in silver to an antiquarian, scholar, priest or wizard to create this ink.

To protect their precious knowledge from book weevils, a wizard may wish to prepare the spell Protection from Weevil. This is a level one spell and cannot be memorised or cast, though a wizard must record it in a spell book. The wizard writes out the spell as a scroll using ink made from book weevil shells, then inserts it among the bundles of books he is protecting. Book weevils will be drawn to consume the scroll sheet before any other paper, and will wither and die shortly afterwards. The spell will protect 500sp of books for one week per level of the caster - it could protect a larger library for a shorter time, or a small library for a long time. At the end of this time the scroll is completely consumed.

If a book weevil eats a spell scroll or spell book other than Protection from Weevil it undergoes a metamorphosis. It gains HD and an INT score equal to the highest spell level it has consumed, swelling in size and mutating rapidly as it absorbs the magic. In addition it gains the one-use ability to cast any spell it has eaten, just as if it were using a scroll. Its ability to make good use of a spell depends on its INT score - an INT 2 weevil casting "Identify" will not have much success.

If a weevil consumes any of the following spells it gains the ability to use them once per day, unless it consumes the spell again, in which case it gains an additional use:

  • Bookspeak
  • Light
  • Spider Climb
  • Speak with Animals
  • Stinking Cloud (projects from the butt, like a bombadier beetle)
  • Explosive Runes
  • Web 
  • Secret Page
  • Dig
  • Cloudkill (projects from the butt)
  • Speak with Monsters
  • Permenancy
The spells a book weevil can use are visible on its shell, though only a Magic-User using Read Magic will be able to tell what they are at a glance.

A dead book weevil that has not cast all its spells has several uses. Segments of its shell casing can be used as spell scrolls for the various spells it has yet to cast. Alternatively if the casing is ground up into an ink it is worth 200sp of components for preparing scrolls or transcribing spells per level of unspent spell on the weevil's casing. A weevil with nine HD and nine levels of unspent spells on its casing can be used in a Summon ritual to guarantee an audience with an avatar of the Hanged God. You don't want to do that, though.

Weevils despise denizens of frozen, northern countries (with which Vorn is associated) and artists who labour for many hours to produce beautiful books, and will do everything they can to consume their precious works.