Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Humanity has been crafting guardian totems since the dawn of time, creating more and more elaborate constructions as the ages moved on. The wooden totem poles in small villages eventually gave way to exquisitely sculpted stone guardians standing atop city walls or massive cathedrals. Each gargoyle is chiseled from stone to be a unique structural feature. The particular form of a gargoyle is entirely dependent on the sculptor and the desires of the patron who commissioned the work. Many different styles of gargoyle have been fashionable throughout history, but most often they incorporate both bestial and humanoid features. 
Gargoyles were meant to be mere decorative fixtures with the superstitious secondary function of warding away evil spirits. As the study of magic developed and the Animator school emerged, guardian statues began to serve more practical uses.

In times of trouble Animators would turn to the city gargoyles for a quick and ready supply of guardian constructs. These strange half-stone monsters are similar to living statues and golems- they are brought to life by Animators infusing anima into sculpted stone. Far more sophisticated than simple animated objects gargoyles tend to have more developed and unique personalities. It is believed that decades of lurking high up on city structures instils a special kind of animating spirit into these constructs. The subconscious fears and dreams of the citizens far below seeps up through the stone, so that an animator simply needs to expend a small spark of anima to 'wake up' these watchful but slumbering guardians. The cumulative imagination of the citizens quite literally inform the personality and behavior of a gargoyle once it is 'awakened'.

 Gargoyles are usually winged but that is not always the case, although non-winged gargoyles would have a considerably more difficult time traversing the city and tend to be even more territorial in defending their ledge or perch than their aerial cousins. Winged gargoyles are unsurprisingly stiff and clumsy fliers, but it is quite miraculous that they are capable of flight at all. Scholars believe the same telekinetic energy that allows animated objects to move  is used by gargoyles to somehow change their gravity. In effect gargoyles are able to 'fall' in the direction of their choosing- laterally or even vertically upwards, this control is far from perfect however and is constantly in conflict with the real forces of gravity acting upon their cumbersome stone bodies.  

Unlike standard animated objects, awakened gargoyles require a degree of mobility and flexibility not normally found in stone. The stoneflesh spell makes this mobility possible, allowing stone to flex and bend without breaking- although superficial cracking will be visible around joints. Gargoyles are notoriously easy to 'awaken' - even tiny amounts of anima being sufficient. The stoneflesh spell is a much more difficult spell to use and expends a considerable amount of arcane energy to maintain. This combination of factors means many supposedly inanimate gargoyles in a city could in fact be fully aware but trapped and unable to move. Frustration after years of imprisonment may explain why there are many known instances of gargoyles acting with violence and hostility. Gargoyles are notoriously difficult to command and prefer to be left to their own devices, very often going rogue and ignoring the orders of their "master".

The first rule of Animating magic is Function Follows Form.  Judging by this law we can see that the personality and behavior of a gargoyle depends largely on it's outward appearance. Therefore a sinister and cruel looking gargoyle will usually act accordingly.  Gargoyles do all seem to have a wide territorial streak, jealously guarding their particular ledge and generally being protective of the structure they inhabit. Some gargoyles enjoy their role as city guardians and have been known to help or rescue citizens in distress. More malevolent gargoyles view the city inhabitants as vermin and inflict casual acts of violence against them.

Gargoyles are fascinating and unique creatures which are very reflective of the society that creates them.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Clone High RPG

So I recently got to flip through Alma Mater: The High School RPG. 

It seems pretty cool. I had read about it a bit before and seems kinda neat. I did a little more research on it and I gotta say I like the idea of a high school rpg game. Judging by the artwork (by Erol Otus) it is meant to be pretty gonzo, but also seems kinda schizophrenic, to me"High School" just seems too broad a topic for an RPG to tackle.

I think you would need to zone in on a specific idea or genre to play a successful high school RPG, perhaps base the game on a TV show or movie set in a high school that the players would be familiar with.

One of my favorite high school TV shows was Clone High. It was a very funny cartoon show which was tragically cut short after only one season. I think an RPG game set in the Clone High universe (or at least a parallel universe) would be very fun.  The basic premise of the show is set up pretty well in the opening theme song lyrics:
Way way back in the 1980's
Secret government employees
Dug up famous guys and ladies
And made amuzing genetic copies
Now their clones are sexy teens
Now they're going to make it if they tried
Loving, learning, sharing, judging
Time to laugh, and shiver and cry

Time to watch,
Clone High
Energetic and engaging
Clone High
Our Angst is Entertaining
Clone High
Our Lives are Never Boring
Who am I?

There's a place that you can go to
And it's never very far
Famous people you can live through
If you don't know who you are
Why, there is so much to live up to
Expectations are so high
I'm not crying
It's my contacts
There must be something in my eye

You all must watch,
Clone High
Insipired and organic
Clone High
Possibly dramatic
Clone High
More fun than watching static
Where am I?
Clone High

Time to laugh, and shiver and cry.

I'll see you at
Clone High
I can't esacpe my name
Clone High
That's the price of fame
Clone High
Life is just a game
That's why...

Clone High

It is honestly a pretty silly show, but there is an interesting softer side about coming of age and living up to unrealistic expectations. The main protagonist of the show- Abe Lincoln, lives in the shadow of his genetic self and worries he won't be able to measure up to the original ( he also has an irrational fear of the theater). I think it would really fun letting the players pick their favorite historical figures to play as high school students. 

As a GM I would get a huge kick out of populating the rest of the school with other historical figures.  You could either play a famous figure toward their stereotypes- like making Genghis Khan a football jock or go the other way and reverse roles- have Marylin Monroe be an unpopular geeky type.

And always lurking in the background of whatever crazy stuff is happening at the school there should be a shadowy and evil government plot brewing, with mad scientists and super mutants.

Anyway- Clone High is cool.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Had a much better St.Patrick's day this year. I saw 21 Jump Street with some friends and with my pretty girlfriend. Cheers everybody!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Renegade + Paragon

Most folks have their own opinions on alignment and how it works in their games.I personally really like the alignment system from 4th edition D&D. What I want to talk about today though is the morality options available in a game series called Mass Effect (available for console and PC).

In the Mass Effect series players talk on the role of Commander Shepard, a human fighting to defeat the Reapers- a species of enormous sentient machines which are bent on eradicating all intelligent life from the galaxy. The cool thing about Mass Effect is that as Commander Shepard you are forced to make moral decisions constantly.  These decisions often have far-reaching effects and can alter game events drastically.

The two morality paths are Renegade and Paragon.


Compassionate and heroic actions. Lawful good doesn't mean lawful nice-  Shepard is a badass who is absolutely dedicated to his mission.


Apathetic and ruthless actions. The stakes are just too high- failure is not an option, sacrifices have to be made to ensure the success of the mission.

From the Mass Effect Wiki:
"Unlike many contemporary roleplaying games (video games) that represent morality as a single sliding scale of good and evil, Mass Effect keeps track of the Paragon and Renegade points on separate scales. A good action will not make up for an evil one; therefore, being nice occasionally will not stop people from fearing a killer or remove the reputation of an unsympathetic heel, but nor will the occasional brutal action significantly damage the reputation of an otherwise upstanding soldier. This also means there is no gameplay-driven motivation for avoiding a particular type of action."

This leads to players choosing the option that feels right for "their" Commander Shepard. I normally play a character who is very Paragon oriented, but I didn't hesitate for a second when a quick-time event popped up on screen- giving me the option to viciously attack the mercenary captain I was having a conversation with. A young girl's life was at stake and I felt like my Shepard would be ruthless to save her.

Although this may seem like a pretty narrow set of choices it is very much in character with the game background and makes a lot of sense within that context. I think this is a pretty good demonstration that the important thing about a alignment/morality system is that it fits the feel and flavor of the game being played and not how it looks "on paper".

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spooky Stuff

I love these pictures. They blew my mind when I was a little kid, they were in my house on the covers of Halloween music record albums. All these awesome spooky monsters depicted all mashed up together was really inspiring.

 Look how awesome these pics are.

 Love those creepy jailed monsters.

My favorite part is the guy with the giant bloody axe striding through a graveyard at sunset. Such a great scene. I wish there was a good rpg game I could use to explore the creepy- horror castle genre.