Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rant: Nightspawn Update Lang

Once upon a time there was a game called Nightspawn (later changed to 'Nightbane' because Todd McFarlane is a litigious dick) that was a really fun role playing game. Certainly it was better than most put out by Palladium Games, a company well-known for copying and pasting large sections of the rules from game to game even when that meant there were contradictory rules, typos, or confusing references.

Nightspawn was a game set in a modern world where evil matter-manipulating sorcerers of incredible power had staged an invasion of Earth from their prison (a dark and twisted reflection of our own universe) and had replaced powerful humans with evil doppelgangers. It had the evil conspiracy thing going, some magic, lots of monsters - solid stuff.

The goodguys were usually Nightspawn, creatures native to the world the badguys (the Nightlords) are trapped in (the Nightlands... see the pattern?) but that come to our world and take human form - being raised as orphan children with no knowledge of their powers until some traumatic event causes them to change form. The form is something random, determined by psychology and who knows what else, though once set it never changes. They can, luckily, go back to looking human at will. They heal at an alarming rate, have all kinds of shadowy attacks, and they've got some miscellaneous neat powers including the ability to pass through mirrors into the Nightlands. It was a fun game, and I'm often sad it didn't really catch on. Maybe if it had been made by a game company with an editor or something?

Anyway, after playing Nightspawn off and on for a while with whoever was handy, I started a game meant to be a dedicated weekly campaign with a few friends back in 2005. Three of the players were Nightspawn, and one was a critter called a Guardian, that looks like a cross between an albino and a grey alien. I don't know exactly how many games we had - we were playing every Wednesday, but I think 'every' means maybe four times. After that a week came where all four of the players couldn't make it and so as a joke I sent them a summary of what they missed.

After that it got strange, and I won't even go into how the word 'Lang' got tacked onto the end. You probably don't want to waste your energy reading the below, but I have to include it if for no other reason than to preserve it in the Interweb for all time. This blog post is set to auto-publish exactly four years (to the minute) after that first email was sent.

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From: Steven Odhner
To: Jason, Joe, Matt, Monte
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2005 1:57 PM


Hello,

So, I thought those of you who missed the Nightspawn game last night might want a brief summary of what happened:

The adventure started strong, with a round of combat against some hounds. As these were actual hounds (Irish Boarhounds, to be precise) and not the minions of the Nightlords the battle was brief. Jason tried to put the dog's bodies on Monte so that he would no longer be a skeletal bear, but Monte yelled something about fur being murder and broke Jason's arms.

After waiting a few minutes for the injuries to heal, everyone headed to the Nightlands where a fantastic plot was developed to attack King Moloch himself. Unfortunately for the party, nobody could remember which city Moloch was in charge of. Instead the plan was changed and the group went to the first city they could think of. Wichita, Kansas.

The battle was fierce, and everyone nearly died just trying to get to Lord Oobleck (the ruler or Wichita). Encouraged by the usefulness of grenades in the previous game, Matt threw down some explosives to stop the last wave of hounds. While he failed his demolitions roll, the explosion did manage to kill most of the hounds and the few that were not torn apart from the explosion took lethal damage from the flaming bits of Matt that scythed through their ranks.

After drinking a toast to their fallen comrade, the three remaining characters headed into Oobleck's fortress. Jason fulfilled his lifelong dream by slapping the nightlord in the face, and in response Oobleck attempted to turn Jason's clothes into nitroglycerin. He failed his roll dismally, and Jason found himself wearing a frilly pink dress.

Monte and Joe then failed ME rolls to keep from laughing, and all combat ceased as everyone collapsed on the floor and enjoyed a hearty guffaw. Oobleck made his second roll, and Jason was smeared across the walls.

At this point Joe transferred all of his PPE to Monte, who made a 500 point Darkwhip and rolled a natural one. This had approximately the same effect as confusing a lightsabre and a toothbrush. Oobleck marveled at his shiny teeth while Monte's head was obliterated.

Joe, as the last remaining member of the party, was left to handle the nightlord on his own. Without any PPE this seemed unlikely, but it was around then that Oobleck failed his daily Save Vs. Depression roll and turned his own head to cheese. Yes, that's right, cheese. I doubt you would feel good either if you went to all the trouble of becoming a nightlord and they put you in charge of Wichita.

Without any PPE or a way to cross back through the mirrorwall, Joe wandered lost and alone in the nightlands until he died from eating poisonous berries that he wrongly thought were raspberries. This is extra stupid since, as a Guardian, he doesn't need to eat.

Around this time we broke for dinner, and then returned to the game so I could describe the slow decay of the resistance and the eventual defeat of all that is good in the world.

Hope to see you all next week.

---

From: Steven Odhner
To: Jason, Joe, Matt, Monte
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 3:11 PM


Yo!

I forgot to send the weekly update! Obviously a few of you missed the game again this week, so here's a recap of what happened:

Last we had left off with the death of everyone's characters and the total annihilation of the forces of good. This week we started on a slightly higher note, with a time traveling hooker arriving to warn everyone just before they arrived at Lord Oobleck's fortress. After everyone was warned, entertained, and made their save vs. disease rolls, the hooker left and the players set out to make a new plan, now that they knew the old plan would lead to the eventual destruction of everything they hold dear.

As everyone was already in Kansas, there was very little to do that was of any interest. After spending most of the night making rolls under the 'sing' skill in karaoke bars, Matt impressed enough people that the party was taken to the local radio station for a broadcast. While Matt recorded his new hit single, everyone else took a look around and Jason discovered that the radio station was actually broadcasting into the Astral Plane, where the signals were being modified and bounced back with strange psychic mind-control messages.

Monte, after rolling on his 'Lore: Plot Points' skill, told the group of a magical artifact owned by Lord Oobleck that would allow them to travel into the astral plane to take on these devious broadcasters. Matt, Jason, and Monte all ducked through a nearby mirror to look for the artifact while Joe was left in the radio station by mistake. Unable to cross through the mirrorwall on his own, he spent the majority of the game helping the DJ do wacky voices.

Nervous of repeating the previous game, the Nightspawn approached Lord Oobleck's fortress very slowly and carefully. This time Jason made his perception roll to notice that the back door had been left open, and they were able to enter without facing the armies of evil hounds. Matt stood guard while Monte and Jason searched for the device, but in the end they could only find two-thirds of it. They activated the device, and Monte was splattered across twelve dimensions in a non-Euclidean display of gore. Matt and Jason were safely transported, and set out to look for the fiendish astral radio relay.

After wandering in the astral plane for hours, Jason eventually asked for directions and was promptly eaten. Matt took heavy damage while destroying the beast, and Jason was pretty well digested at that point. The two of them decided they were too badly injured to continue, so they headed home. The wrong way. And were promptly eaten by a Shadow Mantis. The Time Traveling Hooker returned to just before Matt and Jason were devoured, and brought an alternate-dimension Monte. She pointed the group the right direction, and left again.

When everyone arrived at the radio station, it turned out to be just a regular relay, but powered by the souls of the damned. The owner explained that he hadn't intended any harm, but was sold this relay station without being told of it's evil properties. After gathering clues, the group tracked down the real-estate agent and pulled his mask off only to reveal that it was Lord Oobleck himself!
"And I would have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!" He yelled, and teleported back to his Nightlands stronghold.

Eager to destroy him once and for all, Monte and Jason rigged up a 9 Gigaton bomb using the Souls-of-the-Damned power plant in the astral relay station. Matt valiantly volunteered to deliver the device, and headed back to the nightlands in some unspecified way to set the bomb off.

Matt held the Nightlord at bay long enough to sacrifice himself by hitting the button, and Oobleck's fortress was vaporized. The energy backlash also decimated the corresponding area in the astral plane, killing Monte and Jason instantly. The real world Wichita was largely undamaged, and Joe continued to wait in the radio station until he died from eating poisonous berries that he wrongly thought were raspberries. This is extra stupid since, as a Guardian, he doesn't need to eat.

Around this time we broke for dinner, and then returned to the game so I could describe the slow decay of the resistance and the eventual defeat of all that is good in the world.

Hope to see you all on Wednesday!

---

From: Steven Odhner
To: Jason, Joe, Matt, Monte
Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2006 11:07 AM


Hello,

This is getting tiring. For the third week in a row, all four of you have failed to show up to the game. I've been forced to not only GM, but run all of your characters as well. That's in addition to the NPCs of course. I can't begin to tell you how difficult this has made game night - I spend all night making rolls for everyone and deciding what everyone would be doing, and Amy just doesn't get it - "If you're the only one here," she naively asks, "Why do you have to go through all this talking and die-rolling? Can't you just decide what happened?" Sigh. Some people will simply never understand.

Hopefully we can work through this, but in the meantime here's an update of what you missed last night:

Last week we had once more left off with the death of everyone's characters and the total annihilation of the forces of good. This week started with a familiar face as the time traveling hooker arrived to warn everyone just before they delivered the 9 Gigaton Souls-of-the-Damned bomb to Lord Oobleck's fortress. After everyone was warned, entertained, and made their save vs. disease rolls, the hooker left and the players set out to make a new plan, now that they knew the old plan would lead to the eventual destruction of everything they hold dear. Again.

After picking up Joe from the radio station waiting room, everyone decided they wanted to just stay away from Lord Oobleck. Their attempts at killing him had resulted in the defeat of the resistance twice, and this seemed pointless since he would eventually kill himself if just left alone. As usual, nobody could drive anything but a motorcycle and the group was short by one, so they went to the Greyhound station to get Joe a ticket. While the group waited to see Joe off on the bus, Jason made his perception roll to notice that a large number of Hounds had gone into the men's restroom and had not come out. Jason ran into the restroom quickly followed by Matt and Monte. As they entered, however, the floor swung open from their weight and dropped them into a hidden chamber beneath the Greyhound station. The floor swung shut again as Joe entered the restroom. As his weight was not enough to trigger the device, he was left staring at an empty room. Thinking that his teammates had once again forgotten that he could not mirrorwalk and had crossed over to the Nightlands without him, Joe flipped off the mirrors and stormed out.

Meanwhile, Matt landed on a Hollow man, popping it out of its fake human shell. Monte then landed on the bug, popping its slimy innards out. Jason landed in the bug goo. There was a fifteen minute debate caused by this, with Jason arguing that as he was the first through the door he shouldn't be the last one to land. Matt started calling Jason a wimp for caring about landing in bug goo, so Jason rubbed some on Matt's face to "see how he likes it". Matt responded by trying to beat Jason to death. Attempting to break the fight apart, Monte got into the middle and only managed to make things worse. The combat went on for nearly two hours of real time (that's fifteen seconds game time) and finally the dispute was resolved without anyone dying, although everyone was critically low on SDC.

It was about then that someone finally made their perception roll and noticed that that huge group of Hounds was still standing right there. Normally this would have been the end of the game, but the Hounds also had been failing their perception rolls so they were unaware of the players. After resting for a few minutes to get healed up, Monte started beating on the Hounds while Matt and Jason searched the area. The hounds miraculously continued to fail their perception rolls and stood idly by, unaware that they were being killed by a large skeletal bear.

After a thorough search, Jason and Matt discovered a forty-foot wide hallway leading down into some subterranean tunnels. In a rare burst of thoughtfulness, they agreed that it would be best if they went upstairs and found Joe before continuing. Sadly, Joe's bus had already departed.

Then Matt wanted to take a smoke break. This required me to go to the store and buy cigarettes, and then come back to the apartment so I could go outside and smoke for Matt by proxy. As I have never smoked before, this involved a lot of coughing and hacking. Between the internal fighting, the cigarette run, and the recovery time required for me to be able to breathe again, we were running late on the game. We broke for dinner, and then returned to the game so I could describe the slow decay of the resistance and the eventual defeat of all that is good in the world.

After a little while of this I realized we hadn't gotten to that part yet, so we backtracked some and eventually remembered what had been going on. By this time we were running really late, so I replaced the intricate and clever maze filled with fascinating puzzles and traps with a simple hallway leading right to the main plot. Since (by skipping the maze) we had missed out on a large part of the exposition I had a lone doppelganger waiting halfway down the hallway to just explain everything to the players so they wouldn't have to waste my time by figuring anything out for themselves. Sadly, Monte killed the doppelganger before even entering the hallway.

With no knowledge of the plot, the characters marched into the main chamber and proceeded to throw Lord Oobleck through the Mirror of Arzt. Had they had time to go through the maze, or talk to the doppelganger, or whatever, they would have known why this was a really bad idea. As it was, they were completely caught off guard when a hole was torn in reality itself. All of Kansas was sucked through into oblivion, and the players were instantly killed except for Joe, who was sitting happily on the Greyhound bus eating some poisonous berries that he wrongly thought were raspberries. This is extra stupid since, as a Guardian, he doesn't need to eat.

Around this time we stopped for another cigarette (they're really starting to grow on me!) and then returned to the game so I could describe the slow destruction of the planet Earth and the eventual collapse of the entire Megaverse into a pan-dimensional singularity.

See you all next Wednesday!

---

From: Steven Odhner
To: Jason, Joe, Matt, Monte
Sent: Thursday, January 19, 2006 10:16 AM


Hello,

Well. Week four without anyone showing up. In addition to this putting a strain on my marriage, it's also bad for my health; I end up eating two entire large pizzas to make up for the fact that none of you are eating. Then my chest feels tight, and my arms tingle. Amy has declared that she won't be staying in the house on Wednesdays anymore, because she just can't bear to see me talking to myself and eating for five anymore. I hope you guys are happy.

Obviously, last week we had once more left off with the death of everyone's characters and the total annihilation of the forces of good. This week followed the now-familiar pattern as the time traveling hooker arrived to warn everyone just before they chucked Lord Oobleck through the Mirror of Arzt. She brought Joe with her, and did her best to explain something about the structural integrity of the universe. After everyone was warned, entertained, and made their save vs. disease rolls, the hooker left and the players set out to make a new plan, now that they knew the old plan would lead to the eventual destruction of everything they hold dear. Again.

It was rapidly decided that the plan did not need too much modification at this point, so long as they didn't smash the mirror. Instead, the group charged into the main room and confronted Lord Oobleck without damaging any magical artifacts. Lord Oobleck, confronted with certain defeat, failed his save vs. depression roll and tried to turn his brain to chocolate pudding. He rolled a natural one, and the Mirror of Arzt was turned to pudding instead, at which point the time-space continuum failed it's saving throw and was torn asunder.

As the TTH had been trying to explain, the tampering with time travel, the use of the device that jumped everyone to and from the astral plane, and the messing around with the magic mirror had weakened the universe to the point where the tiniest little push could cause a collapse. The pudding-mirror right after another appearance by the TTH was the straw that collapsed the camel's back into an unstable waveform.

The TTH materialized and attempted to stabilize the universe, and was eventually able to save some part of reality after Matt and Joe both made successful "Lore: Dimensional Flux Mechanics" rolls. TTH had to physically hold the universe together, but in order to rebuild reality properly she needed some spare parts that she had left in the back of her Time Traveling Love Machine, a large van covered inside and out by shag carpeting. The players split up into two teams; Monte and Joe would protect the hooker, while Jason and Matt went to get the parts.

Jason and Matt were forced to battle fierce otherworldly creatures, things of nightmare that were only able to exist through in reality's weakened state. Beings that looked like ducks with teeth, giant versions of Rosanne Barr that could breathe fire, and Einstein's zombie.

Meanwhile, Monte and Joe didn't really do anything. I hadn't expected anyone to volunteer to stay and protect the hooker, and I didn't want to slow down the game by having more combat than necessary. Instead, I had them just find some food and water for her.

Matt and Jason finally reached the Love Machine, only to find that the universe's condition had affected it as well; it had come to life and was reaching out shag-carpeting-tentacles to ensnare passerby! Matt valiantly sacrificed himself to the beast so that he could throw the tools and spare parts out to Jason, who lit the monstrous vehicle on fire and watched as the carpeting burned. Matt was actually pretty much unharmed at this point, and would have been fine if not for the explosion that resulted from the highly potent Time Travel fuel exploding.

Jason, wounded and burnt, barely made it back to the group alive only to find that they had been relaxing and eating pie. Jason took a piece of pie as well, and the TTH was just about to start on a more permanent fix for reality when she keeled over and died. "What?" Joe asked, "Was she allergic to raspberries?" At this point it dawned on everyone that Joe had once again mistaken poisonous berries for raspberries, but this time had doomed them all as well. As Monte, Jason, and Joe started to feel the effects of the inescapable poison, the last shred of reality that had been held in place only by the TTH came unraveled.

Around this time we broke for dinner, and then returned to the game so I could describe the slow decay of reality and the eventual dinosaur evaporator spoon. Pygmy Littlebottom at onto jester speak!

---

From: Steven Odhner
To: Jason, Joe, Matt, Monte
Sent: Friday, July 6, 2007 1:27 PM


Hello,

For the 80th week in a row, nobody showed up. Granted, it was the Fourth of July and people wanted to see fireworks, but still. I would have hoped for some more commitment to the game. Eighty consecutive weeks of no-shows can really get to a guy. To be fair, for a good sixty-something weeks I myself stopped attending, which made it really difficult to figure out where we were when I started running the game again. A lot can happen in sixty or so game sessions.

Having patched the plot together as much as I was able, I continued for a few months without updates - but with us hitting the big Eight-Zero I thought it was about time to let you know what has been going on every Wednesday night.

Not surprisingly, last week we had once more left off with the death of everyone's characters and the total annihilation of the forces of good for the seventy-fourth time. Yes, there were six sessions in there somewhere that did NOT result in a complete clusterfuck. And you missed them. Try showing up some time.

Anyway, this week started with the ATTH showing up and warning the party about the effects reading the Ancient Tome of Unimaginable Horrors, and thus forewarned Monty threw the book into the fireplace where it let out terrifying bursts of green flame that seemed to reach for the players as it wailed in an inhuman voice. Jason roasted marshmallows over it. Having warned everyone, the Alternate Time Traveling Hooker entertained the party and left. As usual, everyone made their save vs. disease rolls - but for the first time Matt actually rolled a one. After consulting my chart, I broke the news that he now had pan-dimensional crabs. Everyone else backed away from him a little, and then set out to make a new plan now that they knew the old plan would once more lead to the eventual destruction of everything they hold dear.

Joe, having frequently been left in the Nightlands to die, requested that the group try to stay on Earth. The others immediately agreed, and slipped me notes under the table saying that they wanted to head to the Nightlands as soon as Joe wasn't looking. Trying to keep everyone together, I had a large group of Hounds burst in to the haunted mansion and attack. My plan was somewhat unsuccessful, as everyone but Joe simply retreated to the bathroom and hopped through the mirror. The Hounds took Joe captive, and through some rather vague but evil process hinted at in one of the sourcebooks, converted Joe to the Dark Side.

Meanwhile Matt, Monte, and Jason all wandered the streets of the Nightlands version of Grand Rapids. (Yes, the group did eventually escape Wichita somewhere around game seventy.) After killing some random Doppelgangers, the group formed a plan to expose the Nightlords to the public. It was a really awesome plan, but I won't bother getting into it here because just before getting started on it Monte suggested another option: robbing a Ferrari dealership and racing around shooting at each other. You can guess which plan Matt and Jason wanted to go with.

After securing the cars, it was decided that for a more "Road Warrior" feel it would be best if they could race around in the Nightlands. To take something that large over, however, requires MASSIVE amounts of PPE. Jason called Lord Oobleck on his cell phone, and asked him to stop by Grand Rapids for something "Really Important". Finally feeling needed after years of neglect, Lord Oobleck teleported over and offered his assistance. Matt snickered and mumbled something about Lord Oobleck being useless, and Monte told Oobleck in the most condescending way possible that he had been called by accident and that someone like the Dark Lord of Wichita was really out of his depth in something like this. Failing his save vs. depression roll, Lord Oobleck turned his own head into a stuffed duck. Monte, Matt, and Jason attempted to seize on his PPE, doubled at the moment of his death, but Evil Joe got the drop on everyone and sucked up the energy instead, channeling it into a shadow blast powerful enough to incinerate an entire city block. Jason and Monte were reduced to ash, or vapor, or whatever. Whatever kind of tiny scattered remains darkbolts leave behind.

Matt miraculously made his dodge roll, and only lost his lower half. As he tried to crawl to safety to regenerate, however, he was seized by the twisted mandibles of the pan-dimensional crabs which, having absorbed the energy from the darkbolt, had grown to an incredible size. Matt was torn apart by the beasts, causing passerby to make vows of chastity lest they catch some sort of Space Herpes or something. Then they were eaten by the crabs. So really, that whole vow thing didn't help any.

Realizing that his vengeance was complete, Joe attempted to commit suicide by eating poisonous berries. Not surprisingly they turned out to be regular raspberries, and Joe was unharmed. Until he was eaten by the crabs. Which he was.

Around this time we broke for dinner, and then returned to the game so I could describe the slow decay of the resistance and the eventual defeat of all that is good in the world by Matt's giant pan-dimensional crabs.

---

From: Steven Odhner
To: Jason, Joe, Matt, Monte
Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 6:22 PM


Hi guys,

As some of you know, I had a busy day last Wednesday because after work my family came over for Christmas Eve and then Amy had to rush to the airport to take a redeye to Miami. What you may not realize is that during all of that I also ran absentee game 157 of our Nightspawn campaign.

Yes, it's still going, you ungrateful pricks. Anyway, I need you to get caught up with things because I'm hoping someone will show up for our special New Year's Eve Game One-Fifty-Eight. It's going to be epic. I myself will not be able to attend because I'll be at a New Year's party, but after all of this time I figure it's the least you could do to cover for ME.

The previous week we had left off with the death of everyone's characters and the total annihilation of the forces of good. This week we started on a slightly higher note, with the alternate time traveling hooker's bastard son (from a previous encounter with Jason's character that later never happened) arriving to warn everyone just before they assaulted Fort Knox. After everyone was warned, and everyone but Jason was entertained and made their save vs. disease rolls, Jason's bastard son left and the players set out to make a new plan, now that they knew the old plan would lead to the eventual destruction of everything they hold dear.

Now no longer having a use for the blimp, Matt and Joe hid it at Mt. Rushmore for safekeeping while Monte and Jason retrieved Lord Oobleck's animated severed head from the Ape Cult in case it would come in handy. Since it was Christmas Eve I tried to steer the group towards a holiday-themed plot I had prepared - it only took three tries before the group stopped killing the exposition-carrying innocents on sight. Exposition Guy number four stepped over the bodies of the others and explained that an important shipment of supplies needed to be taken to a Resistance stronghold in the Nightlands, but the Nightspawn that knew the location needed to lead the way. His Morphus form looked like a reindeer with a red nose. I'm so fucking clever.

Things started off well. Monte, Jason, and Matt headed into the Nightlands to meet up with Rufus and forgot Joe entirely, but because I expected that I let Joe play as Rufus. He started to lead the caravan through the Nightlands, and I threw in a few harmless random encounters for flavor. The first two were roaming patrols of Hounds (0-30% on the table) and the third was a Lizard King (40-45%). Nothing too exciting, the group handled it really well healed from the minor injuries quickly. The problem came on the fourth random encounter, when I rolled 00 twice in a row. Consulting the table showed "Lord Moloch". He turned the entire caravan to molten lead with a thought, and then as it flowed around the characters like a river of pure fiery pain he turned it to steel. Firmly encased, the characters were not able to properly fight back, nor would they have had any hope of winning anyway. Lord Moloch spent the next few hours slowly turning parts of the characters into random elements like a child with some sort of chemistry set geared towards sociopaths. It was around then that I seriously questioned the wisdom of including Moloch on that random encounter table at all. I made the damn thing myself, I don't know what I was thinking.

This left only Joe's actual character who escaped unharmed until he died from eating poisonous berries that he wrongly thought was decorative mistletoe. This is stupid since, as a Guardian, he doesn't need to eat. This is also extra stupid because there's no good goddamn reason to eat mistletoe even if you do eat - and even when it's not deadly poison it's still likely to induce vomiting and cause diarrhea.

Around this time we broke for dinner, and then returned to the game so I could describe the slow decay of the resistance and the eventual defeat of all that is good in the world.

Hope you can all make it on Wednesday!