Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Izanami, Queen of Hell (CR 30)

Here is a work in progress of one of the headlining monster for an upcoming, and as yet untitled Black Tokyo bestiary. I'm going to introduce you to Izanami, one of the biggest bads of the setting. She's a CR 30 zombie apocalypse waiting to happen. This is her stat block as I saved it last night. I'll tweak a few things later- I want to modify a few abilities and give her an at-will summons that summons vast hordes of Rotting wights, so if she ever does get to Earth, she spends an hour or two summoning, and has a legion of 20,000 zombies at her disposal. 
PS: I should note that this is the actual Japanese myth! I didn't change a thing about Izanami's origins nor her motivation. 

The Dark Lady Izanami (CR 30)
Medium NE Undead (evil, fire)
XP 9,830,400
Init +6 Senses Darkvision 120 ft, lowlight vision, true sight, Perception +94          
Languages Infernal, Japanese, truespeech, telepathy 500 ft
Aura Shadows of Hell (100 ft, negative and positive energy are inverted)

AC 45 Touch 34 Flatfooted 42 (+2 DEX, +1 dodge, +10 natural, +11 armor, +6 deflection, +15 profane)
HP 74d8 + 1,110hp (1,443 HP)
Regeneration 75 (good and epic)
FORT +25 REF +28 WILL +49
Immune undead immunities, polymorph, Fire, Sonic 
Resist Acid 20, Electricity 20 Cold 20
Channel Resistance +10 SR 28

Spd 30 ft Flight 90 ft (average)
Melee four claws +58 (3d6+1 slashing, 17-20/x4 plus rotting FORT DC 52), four tentacles +57 (3d6+1 slashing plus 1d8 fire plus grab, 15 ft reach with tentacles)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 35th Concentration +93) 
Constant – Freedom of Movement, True Seeing
1x/day – quickened Teleport Without Error
- Summon (CL 35th, 1 Drakainia (B-4) or 1d6+1 Balor (B-1), 100% )
3x/day – Annihilation (W-DC 36)E
-          quickened Inflict Critical Wounds
-          Cascade of Abortion (W-DC 32)E
-          Devoured From Within (F-DC 31)E
-          Summon Monster IX
At Will - Deadly Pleasures (W-DC 29)E
            - Dimension Door
- quickened Deeper Darkness
- Fireball (R-DC 28)
- Orgasm Mine (W-DC 29)E
            - quickened Silence
E = spells described fully in Enchantments of Black Tokyo (Otherverse Games, 2014)

Str 12 Dex 15 Con - Int 26 Wis 28 Cha 41
Base Atk +55 CMB +56 CMD 68
Feats Bleeding Critical, Blinding Critical, Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Wondrous Items, Critical Focus, Critical Mastery, Dazzling Display, Deadly Stroke, Dodge, Exhausting Critical, Gifts of Ecstasy, Greater Spell Focus (necromancy) Improved Critical (claws), Improved Iron Will, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Mastercrafter, Mobility, Multi-Attack, Nauseating Critical, Rending Claws, Shatter Defenses, Sickening Critical, Skill Focus (intimidate), Skill Focus (perception), Skill Focus (spellcraft), Spell Focus (necromancy), Spring Attack, Tiring Critical,  Unbirth, Vaginal Prison, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (claws), Whirlwind Attack
Italicized feats: Races of the Tatakama (Otherverse Games, 2013)
Skills Bluff +92/+96 sexually oriented checks, Craft (blacksmith, woodworking) all at +82, Diplomacy +92/+96 sexually oriented checks, Intimidate +98, Knowledge (arcana, religion, history, the planes) all at +85, Perception +94, Perform (sing) +89, Sense Motive +86, Spellcraft +93, Stealth +79
Gear +5 breastplate, amulet of protection +6, wand of inflict critical wounds (20+4d6 charges)

Environment The Black Else
Organization unique creature protected by an entire nation of elder oni lords and their lesser servants
Treasure triple standard

Special Abilities
            Rotting (SU)
            A creature damaged by Izanami’s claws must succeed at a DC 52 FORT save or begin rapidly rotting from the inside out. A rotting creature suffers 1d3 points of ongoing CON bleed per round, and healing spells and effects have half the usual effect when cast on a rotting creature. The rotting creature is considered nauseated. If slain while rotting, the creature rises in 1d4 rounds as a wight under Izanami’s control; there is no limit to the HD worth of undead that Izanami can control in this manner. Wights created in this manner also apply a lesser version of Rotting (DC 13) to their slam attacks.

            Undead and creatures immune to disease are also immune to Izanami’s Rotting. A creature who makes its FORT Save is immune to Izanami’s Rotting for 24 hours. Remove disease (DC 35) ends rotting, as does Heal.
            Hell Queen (SU)
            Izanami is queen of the dead, mistress of Hell itself. She is immune to melee damage from any creature that has died and returned to life via magic, such as raise dead, resurrection, reincarnation or similar magic. Likewise, she is immune to melee damage inflicted by any kind of undead creature. Such attacks pass harmless through Izanami’s body, as if she were smoke.

            Izanami receives a +20 insight bonus on Diplomacy checks made against Undead; Undead will never attack Izanami unless she attacks them first. Sentient undead are generally helpful, worshipful and obedient to Izanami; she may command mindless undead automatically.

            Shadows of Hell (SU)
            Izanami radiates an aura of darkness and entropy that warps the balance between positive and negative energy. All channeled positive or negative energy unleashed within 100 ft of Izanami is inverted; positive becomes negative, and vice versa. Cure spells cast within this aura become equivalent Inflict spells, and vice versa. Izanami’s spell-like abilities are not affected by this aura.

Unbirth (SU)
            Those trapped within Izanami’s dark, cauldron like womb return to childhood, with all its weakness and powerlessness, eventually dissolving into bloody nonexistence.

Each round a victim is trapped in Izanami’s Vaginal Prison, he or she suffers one negative level. By voluntarily suffering 1d3 points of temporary CHA damage as a swift action, Izanami can inflict additional harm to the victim as an immediate action The victim must succeed at a DC 25 WILL Save or suffer move to the beginning of the previous age category, immediately incurring the physical changes associated with aging. A creature de-aged past the Child category dies instantly and quickly devolves from baby to fetus to zygote to a mass of bloody, stillborn tissue.

            Even if the victim succeeds on their WILL Save, they still suffer 1d2 points of permanent CON Drain.

            Vaginal Prison (SU)
            Izanami’s vulva is an inescapable maw, capable of consuming her lovers whole when she finally tires of them.

            Up to eleven times per day, Izanami can transform her vagina into a tessarect space-fold. If she has successfully pinned a foe her own size or smaller, she may elect to make a second CMB check, as though attempting to pin the opponent once again. If the check is successful, Izanami’s vagina warps and stretches to impossible proportions, swelling her opponent whole.

            Once swallowed, the victim is shunted into a non-dimensional space within her body. While swallowed, the victim is considered grappled, but Izanami is not. In addition, the victim suffers 1d4 points of bludgeoning damage plus 1d8 points of additional acid damage per round. Due to the special nature of Izanami’s undeath, each round the victim also suffers 1d8 fire damage.

The victim cannot break free through physical effort, but may escape by casting any form of teleportation or dimensional travel magic, or by succeeding on a DC 30 WILL save. A freed creature reappears prone and adjacent to Izanami, in a random open square.

Izanami can trap a victim in her vaginal prison for up to 74 rounds. If the victim dies while swallowed, he or she is consumed completely, along with all non magical gear. If the victim is still alive when this enhancement ends, or if the victim breaks free with a successful WILL Save, Izanamisuffers 5d6 points of damage (FORT DC 18 half). She may choose to birth a swallowed creature at any time; any magical items swallowed can be vomited up at will also.

            Izanami was the first woman, the first goddess.
            Joining with her brother/consort/equal Izanagi, she became pregnant, and gave birth to all things, first among them, the islands of the Japanese archipelago. Fire was conceived in her womb, and it burned her alive from within. Izanami died in agony, and from her death urine and boiling, spilt blood, other gods and kami emerged.

            Izanagi descended into the underworld to recover his bride, but was terrified at what she had become- first of the undead, swollen and rotting, charred and maggot strewn, mother of centipedes and demons. Izanagi turned and ran, and his rejection (and his cowardice) enraged the undead goddess; she vowed to kill a thousand men each day. In return, Izanagi vowed to create 1,500 new lives each day, and thus, before he was able to fully seal the enraged Izanami in Hell, death entered reality.

            Izanami is the queen of the Black Else, the first and deadliest of all undead. She remains in the Black Else, bound by ancient divine wards that sealed her in the underworld. If she were ever freed to walk the Earth Realm, she would expunge all life from the planet within 48 hours. She is every fantasy of a zombie apocalypse incarnated.

            Izanami appears as a beautiful Asian woman in queenly raiment, wrapped in shadows and steam. However, beneath her dress or kimono, her abdomen and pussy are charred and blackened. Steaming blood drips from her ruined vulva, and the scent of charred pork surrounds her; a lake of hot blood lies beneath her grand throne, the warmest blood in all the Black Else. She moves slowly and deliberately, unhurried and regal, and hiding well the sharp pain walking causes her. When she fights, the blackened, forge-hot steel chains that were once her intestines lash out from her scalded, blistered vagina to drag prey screaming into the cauldron of her womb.

            Though she has never walked the Earth Realm during the life time of the human species, her plans and schemes are many. She seeks human extinction, and delights in misery. To that end, she has bequeathed a small portion of her power to the Ubume Empress, a creature of rages much like her own, and allowed The Empress to corrupt Japan and torment its women. Forced birth pleases her, rape amuses her, especially if it results in a tragic pregnancy or death in childbirth. Izanami despises her own gender most of all- had she been male, she never would of felt the pain of miscarriage and death. Izanami also despises Goryohime, because they die willingly, and become beautiful in their transition to undeath, and being undead girls can never suffer as she did, in a birthing bed stained with blood and fire. Goryohime are in many ways the antithesis of what Izanami has become.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Okay, I just sent the completed draft of Enchantments of Black Tokyo off to Mark about 20 minutes ago.

The manuscript topped out at 246 pages- 243 pages of content minus the cover, OGL page and credits page. About 200 new spells, around 75 new weapons and armors each, plus around 200+ total wondrous items and artifacts. It's a huge, capital C CRUNCHY book.

Last night I did the final layout- basically worked through the same process as all my recent releases. Put on a DVD of cop shows- season 6 of NYPD Blue in this case, create a rough draft PDF and than go through page by page looking for pixelated images, images that pass into the page border or have a pixel of white space between the black border line and the left or right edge of the image, ugly table layouts, ect. This book I wanted to make sure the Spell Resistance listings for all the spells weren't cut off. So for 200 spells, instead of letting the entry look like this
Resistance Yes

because of the word wrap, I had to go through and make sure it looked like
Spell Resistance Yes

Same thing with the weights of the magic items, it was bugging me to see
8 lbs

rather than

Weight 8 lbs

It's not really an error per se, just something I wanted to correct and I think I got 'em all.

Anyway, look for Enchantments of Black Tokyo up later this week.

Also, give me an idea what to work on next. I've got several projects lined up next, but I'd love to hear what you guys would want to see.

Blessed Be,

Monday, August 11, 2014

Two Covers: Enchantments of Black Tokyo

 I've just started laying out Enchantments of Black Tokyo. Right now, I'm about 60 pages in, having completed the front matter and pushed about halfway through the spells. After work tonight, I'm going to lay out the spells starting with "M" onward.

In terms of format, I think I will be selling Enchantments of BTU in a zip file, containing multiple PDFs: The Spells, Magic Weapons, Magic Armor, Wondrous Items and Artifacts. That should make it a little easier on the reader, since each section is going to be fairly weighty.

Here are two potential covers I've designed. Both are pretty solid, and fit with the visual style I've established for Black Tokyo products. I decided to use the top cover for the book- both images are strong and depict what I asked John to provide- an occult battle. I ended up picking the top cover, with the Mortal Kombat style spellcasters, because when I shrunk the two images to 2 inches, which is about the size of an RPGnow preview image, the action and colors 'read' better.

Talk to you later,

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cute Demons in Tiger Panties!

Well, things are getting back under control in my personal life. I’ve just started a new job, with another restaurant, and they already love me like a fat kid loves chocolate.

Right now, I’m waiting on the last few images for Enchantments of Black Tokyo. Soon as I have them, I lay that puppy out, and you’re reading a truly massive collection of spells, magic items and general hentai weirdness on your tablet.

I’m going to break the Enchantments of Black Tokyo sourcebook into what I feel are fairly obvious chapters: spells, wondrous items (itself broken into three subheads: consumable magic items, wondrous sex toys, and regular wondrous items, due to the MASSIVE size of this chapter), magic armor, magic weapons and artifacts (also broken into two subheadings: major and minor artifacts). A smaller chapter will deal with new archetypes, sorcerer bloodlines and the like.

So today, you’re getting a preview of each chapter. A new spell, some new wondrous items, weapons and magical armor. The image on the page was the inspiration for the new spells; there’s a ton of similar anime homages scattered throughout this book, and hopefully you’ll have some fun hunting them all down.

Expect Enchantments of Black Tokyo soon.

Oni’s Pelt
School transmutation Level alchemist 2, cleric 2, druid 2, sorc/wiz 2, witch 2
Casting Time one standard action
Components V, S, M (blood, teeth or nail clippings from an Ironclub Oni)
Range touch
Duration 1 minute/level (D)                 
Saving Throw WILL negates (harmless) Spell Resistance yes (harmless)
            A phantom tiger pelt appears, sheathing the recipient’s body, and their face flushes bright red, and their lips curl back into a snarl. This spell provides a male recipient with a +4 equipment bonus to Armor Class, and a +2 morale bonus on Intimidate checks and saves against fear.

A tiger pelt bikini appears on a female recipient, and provides her with a +3 equipment bonus to Armor Class, and a +2 morale bonus on Bluff checks, saves against fear and REF Saving throws.

Oni’s Pelt, Mass
School transmutation Level alchemist 6, cleric 6, druid 6, sorc/wiz 6, witch 6
Range close (25 ft + 5 ft/ 2 levels)
Targets one creature/level, no two of which can be more than 30 ft apart.
            This spell functions identically to Oni’s Pelt, except that it affects multiple creatures, each according to their own gender.

Dark Lolimon Card (Cn)

Aura moderate transmutation CL 10th

Slot none Price 2,500 gp (DC 21) Weight negligible
            This collectable game card depicts a little loli girl dressed in a costume that is supposed to make her look fearsome, but only accentuates her butt. The Japanese text gives in-game stats for fearsome horrors like werewolves, dragons and demons, but their roles are played by petite seductresses in fantasy cosplay.

            If the Dark Lolimon Card is torn and tossed in the general direction of a creature, that creature is affected by baleful polymorph. On a failed save, the creature becomes a Small Humanoid with 1 HD and 9s in all ability scores and no special talents or abilities. The creature speaks one language spoken by the person who tore the card and shares his or her alignment. Her skimpy clothing resembles her previous form in some manner.

Requirements Scribe Scroll, baleful polymorph

Dying Girl Panties

Aura moderate transmutation CL 5th

Slot belt Price 18,500 gp (DC 28) Weight negligible
            These bruise-purple silken panties have a little grey skull decoration on the gusset, and the English motto “Die a little death with me” printed repeated along the waistband. Goryohime often hand stitch these panties as a gift for young girls who have experienced the noose dream- giving them a chance to experience existence as a Goryohime undead temporarily before committing to the noose forever.
            Upon command or at need, up to three times per day, the wearer may call upon the panty’s magic to be transformed via undead anatomy I. While in this form, she becomes immune to suffocation, death effects and the sickened and nauseated conditions and gains lowlight vision. This form may be maintained for up to three minutes per activation. The Dying Girl Panties will always transform the wearer if daily uses remain when she is targeted by a death effect or begins to suffocate.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Items, undead anatomy I, creator must be a Goryohime
Cost 9,250 gp (DC 25)

Kirishitan Crucifix

Aura moderate evocation CL 5th

Slot none Price 4,500 gp (DC 23) Weight 5 lbs
            This ancient crucifix is a relic of the Edo-Shogunate period of Japanese history, when Kirishitans (Japanese Catholic coverts) were actively persecuted. This large, heavy crucifix is gilded and unlike Western crucifixes, it depicts a seated figure, who might be the Buddha, but is instead an atypical depiction of Christ. This figure is seated in the lotus position at the center of the cross’ arms.
            The Kirishitan Crucifix is an extremely large holy symbol, usually held aloft during a holy procession. If this crucifix is presented as a holy symbol by any Christian or Gothic Christian Cleric channeling positive energy, the cleric rolls D8s rather than D6s to determine the channeled energy’s efficacy.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Items, Knowledge (religion) 5 ranks, ability to channel positive energy 3d6
Cost 2,250 gp (DC 21)

Deba Bocho

Aura strong transmutation CL 10th

Slot none Price 7,600 gp (DC 25) Weight 1 lb
            Deba bocho are a type of Japanese kitchen cleaver with a shovel-shaped blade, primarily used to cut the heads off fish. The magical versions of these blades have an even sharper edge.
            The Deba Bocho is a +1 keen, mighty cleaving dagger. It also provides the owner with a +4 bonus on Profession (chef) checks if he primarily prepares either fish or occult dishes.

Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, divine power, keen edge
Cost 3,900 gp (DC 23)

Aura faint enchantment CL 3rd

Slot head Price 7,200 gp (DC 25) Weight negligible
            This attractive amber beret is trimmed with black, and depicts a golden shield crest bearing the Clovers Academy’s motto. The Academy often bestows such golden berets upon particularly heroic students as a reward for valor above and beyond the call of duty.
            Three times per day, when acting in defense of innocents or opposing evil, the wearer may choose to benefit from Gallant Inspiration. If the bonus provided is +8, the beret flies off and lands in an adjacent square.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Items, gallant inspiration
Cost 3,600 gp (DC 22)

Clovers Academy Uniform

Aura faint conjuration CL 3rd   

Slot armor Price 3,000 gp (DC 22) Weight 2 lbs
            The Clovers Academy uniform is a somber black school uniform trimmed with gold, and decorated by a black and gold checker pattern crest on the blazer’s breast. Girls wear canary yellow ties and black skirts, while males wear black slacks.
            The Clovers Academy Uniform is a +1 School Uniform. While wearing the uniform, the character automatically stabilizes.

Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, stabilize
Cost 1,500 gp (DC 19)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sorry For the Recent Lack of Posts

As the title suggests, sorry I haven't been posting much this July.

It's been a rough month. I found out that my current employer was intentionally not paying me for all hours I worked, and was taking some rather suspicious deductions out of my paycheck, so after a nice shouting match with the company's district manager I had to find another, hopefully more honest and honorable, employer.

Also my mom is having some rather serious health concerns.

Plus, and this is the least of the problems, my laptop died and I had to purchase a new one.

So naturally, you can see why I haven't been doing too much work on Enchantments of Black Tokyo.

However, I'm coming out the other side of this tunnel of woe, and Enchantments of Black Tokyo will be ready for sale as soon as I get a few last pieces of artwork. After that, I want to put out a Print on Demand version of the Nemesis Bestiary series, a new bestiary for Heavy Future, using a mix of John's art and relevant stock, and some other stuff.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Use This In Your Games: The White Mage Cleric Archetype

I'm getting ready to release the Enchantments of Black Tokyo mega-sourcebook, and I thought I'd preview one of the new caster-class archetypes from the book: The White Mage. This rebuild of the Cleric is a very simple but comprehensive archetype that makes the class play like the venerable 'white mage' of JRPGs like Final Fantasy.

Give it a read, play test it a bit, and if you like feel free to include it in your OGL works. Unlike other Black Tokyo content, the White Mage is completely non-erotic, and is based more around gaming tropes than hentai or folklore.

Cleric: White Mage Archetype
            The White Mage archetype creates a protective and compassionate master of positive energy, abjuration and healing. The archetype has its origins in JRPGs, particularly the long running Final Fantasy series and its many imitators. White Mages are more similar to Shinto shrine maidens than they are to the heavily armored, crusading templars that inspired traditional Clerics.

            Weapons and Armor Proficiency
            The White Mage is proficient with no form of armor and with no type of shield. If the White Mage chooses to wear armor, she suffers a chance of spell failure equal to the armor’s standard arcane failure chance. Effects that reduce arcane failure chance also reduce the White Mage’s divine failure chance.
            The White Mage is proficient with simple weapons and with her deity’s favored weapon.

            Spell Focus (abjuration)
            White Mages gain Spell Focus (abjuration) as a bonus feat. This ability replaces the cleric’s normal Weapons and Armor Proficiency.

            Channel Energy (SU)
            The White Mage must channel positive energy, and must be any non-evil alignment. The White Mage may also expend a daily use of her Channel Energy to create a White Barrier, described below. 

            White Barrier (SU)
            The White Mage can summon a gleaming ivory wall of force that protects her friends. Glowing Goetic mystical diagrams and holy sigils appear in the air around the White Barrier, hinting at its amazing protective properties.

            The White Barrier is a powerful abjuration effect that protects its recipients from physical and occult harm. The White Mage creates a White Barrier as a standard action, and doing so expends one of her daily uses of Channel Energy.

            The White Barrier remains in effect for a number of rounds equal to the dice of the White Mage’s channel energy class ability. Thus, a 9th level White Mage Cleric, who channels 5d6 points of energy, creates a White Barrier that remains in place for 5 rounds.

            The White Mage can extend the White Barrier to protect a number of allies equal to 3 + her WIS modifier. The allies must be within 30 ft of the White Mage and she must be able to clearly see them, though they can move out of this area once the White Barrier is created.

            While the White Barrier is active, recipients gain a deflection bonus to AC equal to twice the dice of the White Mage’s cleric channel energy class ability. Furthermore, they gain Spell Resistance equal to 10 + the White Mage’s cleric class level. The White Barrier is an abjuration effect with a caster level equal to the White Mage’s class level.

            White Mage Spell List
            The White Mage is dedicated to protection and healing.

            Remove all direct damage inflicting spells from the Cleric’s spell list, such as Flame Strike, as well as any spell with the Death or Evil descriptors.

            The White Mage gains access to all abjuration spells from any arcane spell list. These are considered divine spells when cast by the White Mage.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

First Time GMing: RIFTS

            My first time gaming was also my first time GMing, by the simple expedient that I was the one who owned the rulebook. My first RPG was RIFTs, purchased ahead of  the bigger name Dungeons and Dragons because of the awesome ads Palladium used to run in Marvel Comics, the ones that (very briefly) described the game with an accompanying illustration of either a pack of Dog Boys led by a Coalition Psi-Stalker or one robot crushing another robot’s skull. Yeah. I had no idea what Line Walkers, Juicers, Crazies or Dog Boys were, but they sounded a fuck of a lot more exciting than fighter, mage, thief.

            This was sixth or seventh grade, and for my first session, it was just myself and a single player, my oldest friend, Erik. The next year we’d find some other folks to join the game, but we played one on one for a while. Looking over the rule book, we both decided that for our first time out of the box, we wouldn’t try playing in Rifts Earth, just because that was a whole lot of cultural and world information to keep straight, all the while learning the basic mechanics of the game, and the whole concept of role-playing games in general. So I cobbled together a homebrew world, which was in many ways a precursor to Otherverse America.

            At this point, neither Erik nor myself had read any William Gibson and didn’t know the word cyberpunk, but we’d both seen plenty of James Bond movies, Robocop and very recently, a bootleg VHS tape of Bubblegum Crisis, and that was what I was going for. So first game session, and I’m homebrewing a campaign world. I decide it’s the 2020s, and Erik’s character (a high tech private detective type) would be infiltrating a mega-corp. His character by the way was another homebrew, if a fairly minor one- a City Rat’s skillset and outlook, equipped with a set of SAMAS powered armor, because we both really wanted to try out all the cool equipment.

I’d just finished reading Michael Crighton’s Rising Sun, and I stole the novel’s Nakamoto Tower setting and related mega-corp as the villains. The basic premise: Nakamoto was on the verge of a technological break through, and a rival mega-corp wanted the tech, and wanted Nakamoto’s own research sabotaged. In other words, the prototypical cyberpunk plot, but it worked.

Anyway, I learned my first lesson of GMing that day, that the players never do what you expect them to do. Once Erik’s City Rat was assigned the mission, I expected he’d either barge in guns blazing or else stealth his way in. Instead, he did something fucking absolutely brilliant. Using a false identity and some of the advance he got for the job, he simply rented some office space in the Nakamoto Tower! Now, while he was still several floors away from Nakamoto’s secured research facility, he had a legitimate reason to be in the building. He made up a dummy corporation on the spot, even hired a cute secretary to keep up appearances (and yes, later in the session he had a chance to bang her. In my defense I can only saw we were both 12, and hey, I previously mentioned James Bond movies as an inspiration for the mission, right?).

Over the next few days, he was able to gather tons of intel on the Nakamoto corporation, and even ship his SAMAS into the building, piece by piece, in boxes of office equipment and crates of furniture. When it came time for violence, instead of having to fight his way into the secured skyscraper, he already had his powered armor ready to go, right inside the opposition’s security cordon.  

            The violence also taught me my second lesson of GMing- sometimes you don’t need to roll for every attack or skill check, and sometimes you have to houserule something that’s missing. A powered armor dog fight over the streets of future Los Angeles, between Erik’s SAMAS and a pair of Nakamoto Flying Titans ended with one of the Titans scragged outright and the other ejecting from his blasted armor at the last possible second and trying to escape on foot. (My first houserule: that rather than dying when his Flying Titan got down to zero MDC, the pilot could eject, mainly so Erik’s City Rat would have a chance to interrogate him).

            Erik took the opportunity to question him. Oh yeah, did he ever. Ejecting from his SAMAS either out of some misguided sense of fair play, or because SAMAS versus unarmored human is too easy a fight to satisfy, Erik’s character tackled the fleeing pilot on a rooftop. He ended up sitting on the pilot’s chest, a Wilk’s laser pistol pressed to the pilot’s head. The interrogation that followed was VERY successful, and after it was all over, Erik decided to blast the guy. Because it was my first game, and I didn’t know any better, I had Erik roll to hit.
            The guy dodges.
            Erik shoots again.
            The pilot (who has a 6 ft dude squatting on his chest and a laser blaster more powerful than a tank gun pressed to his temple, mind you) dodges again. The fuck? We both have this look on our face, like we can’t believe this is happening. I realize that given the power of the laser weapon, the rooftop beneath this guy’s head is cratered, but he’s managing to squirm out of the way of every blast.

            We both start flipping through the rule book. Aren’t there any rules for point blank shots? Can’t I just kill this guy? We spend like 10 or 20 minutes looking for some kind of common sense rule about instant kills and point blank shooting. Finally I make an executive decision that yeah, Erik can just blast the pilot in that situation. He puts the pilot out of all our miseries, and I think at that point, even the pilot was relieved.

            After holing up somewhere to fix his damaged SAMAS, Erik’s character began the climactic assault on Nakamoto. (Fixing the armor was another thing I had to houserule. I just said that after a few hours of hard work, his SAMAS was back to like ¾ its maximum MDC.)

            The next few battles were a lot less memorable than the execution of that poor pilot, but were fairly satisfying to a pair of blood thirsty young gamers. The climactic twist, which I’m still fairly proud of, was the tech the Nakamoto mega-corp was working on was afterlife research. Basically, they’d created an enormous artificial rift to what they were hoping was heaven and were sending in robot probes to map it. The way I ended up describing the portal- a big metal ring with glowy tech bits- was pretty similar to the stargates from the eponymous movie and TV series (though that was a few years off at the time). Anyway, Erik’s assault destabilized the portal, and some kind of demon stepped through- I got some good use of the random demon table at the back of the Rifts corebook building that thing.

            By the time that first 4-5 hour session wrapped up, the Nakamoto Tower was in flames, Erik had a CD full of stolen data to give his employers, his SAMAS was scragged beyond repair, and his City Rat walked, scraped and cut, into the LA sunset with his arm around his secretary.

            After that, we started a fairly long running series of Rifts campaigns that ended spanning most of our high school and our college years. It wasn’t quite a contiguous campaign, as I’ve always focused on shorter, single story arcs. We’d play out one storyline for a couple of months and than wrap it up, beginning the next with (usually) different characters on a different part of Rifts Earth. The world was big enough we could shift focus whenever one of us bought a new sourcebook and given the way Rifts characters worked, leveling up wasn’t really a major consideration.

The “series of mini-series” approach worked well, and defines my style of GMing to this day. I’ve never actually had one of those epic 15 year D&D games a lot of gamers talk about, and I’m somewhat in awe of gamers who do.

During that time, we fell into a pretty regular Saturday night game, fueled by McDonalds dollar menu burgers. Our group included everything from mega-damage fairies to borgs, Sunaj Assassins, and Glitterboys to dragons to three flavors of Juicers to a hapless Conjuror (from Federation of Magic) whose powers were so completely and hilariously useless in a MDC environment that we nicknamed him the “Aquaman” of the group. The groups Dragon was being played by this rather portly powergamer (of course), but he was responsible for the most memorable line I’ve ever heard uttered in all my years of gaming.

The group had been chasing one particular Juicer through the West Virginia wilderness for a couple of sessions. Sometimes the Juicer had the advantage and singlehandedly kicked the group’s ass, sometimes he had to run like fuck. But he’d managed to really get on the group’s nerves, and had blown up their transport a couple of sessions prior. Eventually, the group (which didn’t include any Wilderness Scouts or woods savvy characters, if I recall right) gets hopelessly lost in the woods and eventually stumbles across the Juicer’s lair, at something like 6:30 AM. They find the Juicer’s ATV parked outside this old, pre-Rifts bunker he was squatting in.

            The Dragon, he tells everybody else to wait in the tree line and he strides up to the ATV in human form. Everybody knows something is going to go down, but dude’s a Dragon- whatever he starts, he’s going to be more than capable of handling. We don’t know how right that assumption is. So the dragon unscrews the ATV’s gas cap, and still in human form, spits fire right into the gas tank.
            KA-BOOM! Parts of that ATV reach low Earth orbit!

            And the Dragon’s just standing there, naked now, because all his human clothes burned away, but the fuck does he care- he’s a Dragon. The Juicer comes roaring out of his hidey hole, dressed only in his drug harness and his undies, twin laser pistols in his hands. And I see the Dragon player’s eyes light up.

            “You mean his head’s exposed?”
            Just pure glee in this fat man’s voice. Like a kid at Christmas, and I acknowledge that yeah, this guy is pretty much naked. And on Rifts Earth that’s a very bad thing.

            “Throwing stones.”    
            Okay. For those of you not familiar with the game, throwing stones is probably the weakest of the new combat spells introduced in the (fuckin’ awesome) Federation of Magic book; it’s like a MDC version of magic missile from D&D; does piddling damage, but pretty much always hits. The Dragon didn’t want to show off, he later explained, with that same grin. So one casting, one tossed magic pebble, and you had a Juicer missing his head and most of his shoulders. Bye-bye, recurring NPC.

They all come up to explore the bunker. Inside there’s a bed, the Juicer’s armor on the floor beside it, a television playing cartoons and a bowl of cereal still cold on the table. The group did give me points for verisimilitude.

Anyway, one final Rifts anecdote. A couple of weekends ago, I ventured into the civilized lands of San Antonio for a weekend with my old friends. Among other things, I hit up a lot of Half Price Bookstores while I was there. I lost most of my Rifts books over the years- my time in the Navy cost me a lot of my collection, as did a few moves and some drama between my brother and his ex-girlfriend- drama which ended with the ex making off with six boxes of RPG books and graphic novels I had entrusted my brother with. So I’ve been trying to recollect what I’ve lost, and one of the books I scored this trip was Rifts: Lone Star.

My friend Erik and his girlfriend (who is curious about RPGs and might try one the next time I’m in town) were with me. I was flipping through the book when I came across the Wayne Breaux illustration of the infant Dog Boys playing with the female. I smile- I’d forgotten about that one.
“Hey, look,” I say, holding the book open to the page, “canine kindergarten.”

The look of horror on their face was hilarious. Both Erik and his girlfriend got this look of visceral disgust. His reaction was priceless, because he’d killed quite a few Dog Boy soldiers in his years gaming with me.

            “Ugg…. I knew they had Dog Boys, but….”     
            “Yeah, man, that’s how they train ‘em. Kinda cute at that age, aren’t they?”
            And Erik’s looking at me like he’s not sure whether to feel guilty about blasting Dog Boys by the dozens back in the day, or wishing he’d blasted more of them.

            His girl friend, meanwhile, is just baffled. Why are there dog people in this book? I explain that this one country in the game makes dog-men to be super soldiers, that they’re kind of like bipedal drug dogs. She agrees that sorta makes sense but that canine kindergarten picture is creepy as hell- it’s right in both their uncanny valleys.

            I fucking love Rifts.