Thursday, November 1, 2018

What Ho Frog Demons is Out, Here's its Origin Story

What Ho, Frog Demons is out (you can buy it here, print is still in the works).

One thing I can guarantee you about the entire four books of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes series is that while published details can and do vary to protect the wicked they all do represent years and years of actual at-the-table play (above and beyond the many hours of more straight playtesting that comes post-manuscript).

Michael aka Migellito (aka the player of Father Jack of Fever-Dreaming Marlinko fame) relayed a ritual that would happen each and every session of the Hill Cantons weekly game for two years regarding the Frog Demon Temple, which lays just a few miles out of town right on the road to the primetime adventure spots of the time in the Marlinko Canton:
“Chris, every week: "So, you want to go to the frog demon temple?" 
Us, every week: "NO!" 
After about two years of playing and probably more than 50 sessions, we finally say "you know what.. ok, lets go to the frog demon temple". 
We walk up the spooky dead tree aisle to the temple. We go inside the main door. We start down the.. HIRELING DIES. 
We immediately leave the frog demon temple.”

It took another 1-2 years and several levels more powerful before the Nefarious Nine, the Google Plus campaign group that never numbered nine, actually came back to loot and pillage the temple.

In emergent play places and things take on quickly a significance, dynamic, and meaning beyond the design origin. I had never intended the FDT to be anything more than a punctuation in the campaign. Much like the Manor of the Beet God (also presented in What Ho) had intentionally been designed as a “Saturday Night Special”, the kind of self-contained 1-3 session micro-site that MAR Barker threw at players to spice things up between longer explorations.

The original intention of What Ho as a stretch goal was to just throw these sites straight and unadorned at you in a 18-24 page adventure. But like the emergent play of the campaign proper the Hydra Cooperative's publishing mission seems to zig zag and explode out of proportion out of the sheer love of imagining the hell out of things. Untethered by worries about the bottom line we just wanted to make something that blossomed like the play it was based on.

So here we are. The book is out and its busting out of its britches at 114 pages. We threw everything we could at it (a whole Marlinko hexcrawl, tons of NPCs, an infection index, tons of Vanican monsters, etc). If you feel so inclined you should check it out, feel free to mangle it beyond repair. And drop me a line if you thoughts about it (good, bad, or critical I want to hear). 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hydra Cooperative Brings (Mild and Curated) Anarchy to North Texas

Teetering on the edge of a new, start-now, well-paying political job (i.e. demanding AF) I get one last reprieve of gainful unemployment this weekend: North Texas RPG Con.

The sinister heads of the Hydra Cooperative will all be there for our annual face-to-face planning and bull session and of course there will be the usual marathon gaming, corridor discussions, buying sprees, and grogging out with the grumblers. I'm personally jazzed about getting in some games with Merle Rasmussen and his new iteration of Top Secret.

Expect tall tales to be spun.

A list of Hydra things going on:
The Table. As usual we will have a lit table. Also as usual the spot will be as much as an ongoing hangout spot as it is a place to pick up product (or more). We are a friendly crew (mostly) and enjoy seeing fellow malcontents from the internet and readers, so please stop by. Also we will have some new and con exclusive product out.

What Ho, Frog Demons. I will be running a playtest of this still-not-done beast Friday at 6pm. Due to a screw-up the con registration has me down for only four seats though I really am more than fine running double that. So if you want to play in the absurd, kitchen-sink that is the Hill Cantons drop by the Hydra table and I will give you an Electrum Ticket for the game.

Mortzengersturm. Trey Causey will be running his Ozian whimsical newly-released adventure Saturday at 1pm. The adventure has been played the shit out of and seems to bring the fun each time so make sure to check it out.

Paranoia. Humza K is going to be running Paranoia Friday at 1 pm. Humza has some published work with the game and runs a mean anarchic session.

Operation Unfathomable. Jason Sholtis will be running Sephilax Must Be Destroyed on Thursday at 6:00 pm set in the Odious Uplands, the wilderness stretch goal from the Op U. Totally prejudiced as an editor of that supplement, but it's a very typically weird and wonderful adventure area from Jason.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Frog Demons are Coming Y'all (Eventually)

So the long and short of the update on What Ho, Frog Demons (the fourth of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes series) is that we are right in the middle of the editorial process. The ever-versatile Luka Rejec has jumped over from the illustration side to being the chief editor and just when I thought I was catching a break from the ever-demanding eye of Robert Parker I find myself wading through a 21-point revision list for the manuscript.

Punchline: What Ho is going to take a month or three longer---but it will be tougher and stronger for it.

So in the meantime here's some actual gameable content, one of the lesser tiers of the eponymous critters (the full version comes complete with a random generation system based in freakish real world adaptations to create your nightmare). Also Luka being Luka some sketches of anuran fiends are already percolating through the ether here are some.

Frog Demonettes/Žába'dabel Nymphs
No. Enc.: 1d6 (3d6)
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 2 (claws or barbed steel darts)
Damage: 1d4 or 1d4+1
Save: D2
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: XI
XP: 60
Like many extra-dimensional xenoforms the Žába'dabel as a demonic race both mirror and defy natural ecology. Frog Demonettes, the lowest of the three basic types—one hesitates to call them life-cycle stages as they seem to lack rhyme or reason alternately evolving or devolving at seemingly random intervals of their millennium-long lives—is a uniformly female-appearing race of man-sized, lithe, pastel-skinned bipeds with short stubby tails.

Though the Frog Demonette is not as intellectually well-rounded as the larger, more mutated Oorhi, they are quite cunning and love tinkering. This dovetails nicely with their typical caste role as trap setters, sanitation maintenance specialists and unionized builders of the grotesque, baroque floats that grace the annual Benighted Parade of Weltschmerz in Peklo, their home dimension.

Frog Demonettes can cast Mend and Push spells once a day. Admittedly a power that will see little use in combat with PCs.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hydra Needs Editors

A good kind of problem to have, but our happy little creator-owned outfit the Hydra Cooperative has enough projects going right now that it is looking for both line and copy editors for freelance project work.

Qualities we are looking for:
1. Done editing work previously on a professional or volunteer basis. Bonus points for having done it in a gaming context.

2. Have an interest for the DIY and OSR gaming scene (broadly speaking) and pushing that design vision.

3. Are familiar with the work of the Hydra Cooperative (Strange Stars, the Slumbering Ursine Dunes series, Ruins & Ronin, Weird Adventures etc).

4. Understand the balance between the interest of the readers and the aesthetic vision of precious snowflake designers.

5. Understands and respects the need for making deadlines and general timeliness in publishing. Communicates proactively about potential conflicts and delays.

If interested drop me a private email at kutalik at the gmail dot com to talk details. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Peklo the Hot Hell: a Brief Tour on Ten Electrum Pieces or Less, Part 1

One hell is really insufficient for the inimical side of the Hill Cantons' cosmology. The reality of the Cold Hell readers of Misty Isles of the Eld have experienced, What Ho, Frog Demons explores some adventurable connections to that other fell dimension, Peklo or more baldly the Hot Hell.

I have cut the long willow branches from their tree and dragging them thrice around where the red bull stomps the tall rye, I have made loving supplication to God S-d. Erecting the lead barriers and donning the Suit of Containment and issuing the mutterings of the Vulgar Hyperborean words of protection, I can tell finally of Peklo.

The Ludicists maintain that Zem, is just the dream projection of a great and cosmic game. That is of course heresy vile and ill-informed, but like most corruptions of the mind has an element of Truth in its inception. When great Overgod floated across the void, his ship left a wake from Demonspace. How natural, how predictable, how convenient, that it was that the ego-drunk Demons with their great arrow-like vessels penetrating the heavens would also follow shortly in their vessels.

The Sunlord in His Wisdom sternly warns us of the trap of timelines, intoning of expository history and the senseless capitalizations of portentous proper names but suffice it to say there was a time of Conflict between Overgod and the voyaging Captains. Overgod held his own trapping the inimical encroachers to an infinite in-between plane of psychic friction: the fell place we now know as the Hot Hell.

Lower and Upper Hell
The Two Hells each have their own two hells. Much like our world the Hot Hell is divided between a flat bedrock of daily existence and an upper firament. Unlike Zem with its orderly domed heavens and neatly bounded earth, the Lower Hell and the dark inky void Upper Hell are said to run dizzingly, terrifyingly infinite.

Upper Hell is a lifeless zone, a place of transit (astral flyover country if you will), eschewed even by the Captains. The void is punctuated here and there by the running lights of the hulking, ruined Vessels and cold rocky orbs. It is known to run over the Cold Hell, a pocket dimension closer and more imbued with its substance.

Lower Hell in comparison teems with demonic ecologies. While universally unpleasant and over-warm, the Lower Hell is a bewildering patchwork of fiendish bio-climes fecundly blossoming from the psychic projections of the deep anxieties, ugly archetypes and ego excesses of the adjoining dimensions. Here is the Malachite Scarp, a vertigo-inducing narrow-ledged cliffscape of barely perched stork-legged backward facing demons raised by the pure might of petty insecurity. There the polished bronze phallic towers and monstrous hot pink orchids of Vulvak, the Archtownship of Unsubtle Imagery.
Also striking are the teeming, squalid squatter cities thrown up around the wrecked hulks of the Vessels (more about those later). Lording over each vessel-city are the silver-suited Captains with the castes of the Crew eternally jockeying from the flaming-eyeball headed engineers up to the gargantuan, multi-headed Officers.

And those are just the thematically discernible sections, some areas seem to be a confusing stew of jarring elements. Great barb-vined patches of demonic tubers nestle up against tarpits filled with lamprey-faced life coaches, cellophane forests, and dung warrens of cold-calling bivalve psychic marketers.

In the Next Part we get into some of the hot spot (no pun intended) sites of Peklo.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Thin-Skinned Monarchs, Ugly Doublets, War-Bears on the March: News from the Hill Cantons

And now the News from the Hill Cantons...
Late Sunlorday residents of Marlinko were surprised by the sudden plastering of a 72-panel wall-poster onto the Tomb of the Town Gods-- penned no less by our most puissant and august new Overking, Radulf II, himself. The surprisingly verbose and sharply-worded jeremiad is a rebuke to the passing words by Mavo the Elder, a local junior master in the Illustrious Workers of Wood. 

Mavo in comments at his guild meeting had stated “for the record” that the new monarch's claims that a 1,100 foot-high wooden scaffold would be constructed for the overking's Build the Ziggurat project was “a physical impossibility with our current construction methods.” After 48 panels of detailed derisive comments leveled against every individual member of Mavo's kin for 13 generations, our beloved monarch gently corrected the record with a firm and dignified assessment that He is in fact “quite amazing in his mastery of zigguartry and civil engineering...and that a single wart on my dog's teat has more comprehension of these matters than Mavo has learned in his lifetime.”

A showdown in the petty kingdom of Pohansko seems eminent. Riders from the eastern wilds say that two of three columns of war-bears are now in striking distance of the little client state after mastodon-ambush and cave-exploration delays along the way.

Break out the ugly velvet doublets and mustard yellow cloaks of mourning for the Sunlord is nearing his annual wintry vacation with the dead Hyperborean gods. Traditionalists are warning Cantoners not to go soft on the time-cherished practice of taking a favored toy of the children in their lives and replacing them with burned beets. “Spare the beets, spoil the child.”

Goatherds in the hills north of Revoca town have noticed a “totally unremarkable and hitherto unfound small valley choked with green tube like plants and slender clusters of rusting iron pagodas.” Surely the slivovce is flowing early and freely in that Canton this time of year.