The Ubiquity proofs are in and it looks great! So without further ado, The Queen of the Orient, a sourcebook for 1930s Shanghai, is now live as an ebook and (for Ubiquity) print on demand book from DriveThruRPG! The physical book is $19.99 and includes the ebook and accompanying map downloads; the ebook and map are $9.99.

The Fate proofs should be here tomorrow, and unless there is a serious issue, we should see the Fate version up for print tomorrow night.

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A note on the map — there’s no print version right now because the size of the thing is not supported by DriveThruRPG’s POD service — it’s a whopping 86×55″! You could possibly find a local shop that could print the thing as a poster.

The Queen of the Orient features information on the history of the city and the three municipal entities — the International Settlement, the French Concession, and the native City Government of Greater Shanghai. There is information on the infamous Green Gang (Qing Bang) that ran much of the crime in “the most dangerous city in the world”, as well as their opponents: the yakuza, the Triads, and  the Shanghai Municipal Police.

Crime is a close cousin of espionage, and Shanghai was a hot-bed of that. Chinese communists and Soviet allies, the Nationalist government of the Republic of China, British intelligence, the Japanese kempaitai were all active in the city. Everything you need to create a living, breathing Shanghai for your 1903 pulp game is here.

Here are the links for the Fate version and the Ubiquity version.




The proofs for Thrilling Action Stories! are on their way to me. If they look good, a print version of the first adventure bundle from Black Campbell should be available in a few weeks. There looks to be some f#$@ery about whether I can have this set up as part of the bundle, so there may be a delay if I have to talk to the folks at DriveThruRPG about making this a completely separate product.

Publish and learn!

thrilling action stories

Our Dungeons & Dragons game had it’s big finale (for now) with the characters at the River Styx, a waterfall dropping into a strangely — one might say “deathly” — still pond. They had just defeated a devil intent on stopping them from getting this far, and only a half mile away, over a hill, a massive battle between the forces of good and evil was unfolding on the beach, where the Archangels Michael and Gabriel were leading their meagre number of angels against a hellish horde of hundreds. (Oooo! nice alliteration!)

They were confronted by the four elemental “Guardians of the Shadow” — the veil separating the various planes of existence: water from the pool, fire from a forest fire that had been set during their fight with the devil, an air elemental they could barely see, and an earth elemental that had plucked himself out of the cliff face. Things were looking grim, as the players had blown a fair bit of their spells, command dice (Marcellus was out of arrows for the Bow of Indignance), and ki points…then Anathema dropped her hood and showed herself to the creatures, which promptly stopped their advance. But why..?

“I live here,” she told them. The pressure was not off, however, for the real foe had arrived — Satan and a few other devils dropped toward the pool and were promptly attacked by the guardians and the party. The air elemental was quickly dissipated by Satan, using weather control. The other devils were attacked by the fire elements, but they were immune to that; the water elemental grabbed one and pulled it under the pond. The rest of the team got involved and the fight was fierce, with Satan and his sidekick knocking the characters around. Icio the monk was several times knocked into negative territory — the first time I had assumed him dead at -10HP, but the 5th edition rules apparently make death even more remote. He would got healed to a few points in the positive and then knocked back down to -11, healed again to 3HP. Carrus went head to head with the sidekick devil and got banged up pretty badly, but with Marcellus’ aid they finally whooped the creature. At that point, in response for the last fight where the devil they’d run off had chopped the horns off of his helmet, he gouged the horns off of the devil as replacements.

While all of this violence was ensuing, Augustinian was desperately trying to finish the banishment spell for Satan — one that, if he was reading his Enochian right, would lock Satan in Tartarus. He was distracted twice, having to restart the spell, and using a syncretic version that called on Jesus and several Roman gods to do the deed. Calvinus the Bard, sensing they weren’t winning the fight, started his own song — the song to destroy the Shadow and open the paths to other planes.

Toward the end, it was apparent that Satan was too much for them. Icio was desperately calling for God’s intercession…but there was nothing. Michael and the other angels were fighting, or dead, on the other side of the ridge. Then his prayer was answered…but not by whom he expected. Through the waterfall strode a man, 20 foot tall if a foot, older but with that wiry-looking musculature. Black armor shot with red highlights. A strange head-hugging helmet that hid most of his features, save the Fu Manchu beard and the bright blue-gray eyes.

Pluto had arrived to defend his kingdom. The characters and the god fought Satan for a few more rounds before Calvinus and Augustinian finished their spells at the same time. As they were well outside of their level of mastery, they both rolled — Wisdom for the cleric, Charisma for the bard. They both rolled 23. Good enough for the spells to happen, but not good enough for their not to be unseen consequences. Satan seemed to smear through the air, right through the waterfall, crying out the whole way. Then everything disappeared in a blaze of multicolored light!

From the beach where the battle had been going against the angels and Christians, they saw the bubble of bright light explode up from over the ridge. Then devils started dropping as lightning blew them apart. Earthquakes started to break the earth and the sea swallowed hundreds of the Goths and nephalhim (tiefling) that were fighting with the demons. Out of the sky, riding a lightning bolt came a huge giant of a man, strong, middle-aged, and armored for battle. With him, a red-haired goddess in shining armor, her shield and spear at the ready. A man similar looking to the first rode horses made from of sea-foam out of the ocean. Arrows rained down from the sky as a man and woman, similar in look rode in on a chariot pulled by fiery horses.

The demons and their army broke and ran for it, leaving the Old Gods triumphant, and a few of the angels alive to take to the skies, and ultimately, Heaven which they had been denied by the Shadow for so long…

We ended there for the night, not knowing if the characters were alive or dead, or what was in store for this version of the 4th Century. Considering I didn’t really have a plan beyond a more gritty and historically based game, this wound up going fairly well: We had a nice combination of imperial politics, battle scenes, bad guys, religious debates, and a denouement that actually went the way I kind of wanted it to.

Afterward, I pitched the idea of the new “volume” in the Hollow Earth Expedition game and was pleased when they seemed amenable. So next week, if all goes well, we may have a new ’30s pulp game to play for a while!

I haven’t done a good spy fi game in about a decade, mostly because the “War on Everything” hasn’t made the world a place where that kind of heroics feels possible. After watching Kingsman: The Golden Circle on Tuesday, I kinda want to give it a whirl…

I think the main thrust has to be a similar conceit — a private intelligence agency that operates outside the law because the politics of nations is such they can’t or won’t protect people from villains in our midst.

So, as we get closer to the end of this chapter…volume…whatever of our Dungeons & Dragons campaign, I’ve been giving thought as to “what next?” I have some idea of what i want to do with the D&D game, but it’s not really been thought out beyond this point. Moreover, I’d really like to get some pulp action, which lead me to start working on idea for the next stage of the Hollow Earth Expedition game we put on hiatus earlier this year.

We ended on a pretty setting changing note: the Inner World was some kind of ancient prison built by gods(?) to hold in all manner of things. When the Great Machine that held the world inside the Earth in a pocket dimension of sorts was turned off, this Inner World slipped loose and eventually — inverted into a world of its own — sat in the same orbit as Earth, trailing some distance our world.

It’s a pulp game, so the hows, why, and do you mind if I don’ts do not matter…we have a Second Earth.

So, the ideas: there should be two sets of characters, one on Earth and one on “Atlantia”, as the place is being called by the scientific community. I like this, but as I think about it, I suspect leaving the old characters to be NPCs if an when they are discovered is a better way to go.

Second, the passage of the worlds, which were not quite in dimensional synch with each other means that some of the things from the Hollow Earth were deposited on the Surface World, and some people and things from Earth were transported with Atlantia. This would allow for the new players who weren’t there for the first campaign to be thrown into this new world without knowledge of what came before.

I mentioned that the Second Earth came through our world on the Pacific side, so most of the effects were felt in the Far East and South Pacific. Why? Because that’s where 1930s pulp stories often had the weird stuff happening: new islands with dinosaurs, half-man creatures in China and Tibet; on Atlantia, a missing Japanese Imperial navy task force…

Third, both the German and American expeditions to the Hollow Earth escaped with their Atlantean flying saucers. That means the Nazis and Americans are feverishly trying to reverse engineer the technology of the Ancients. And now the once-secret Hollow Earth is there for everyone to see 20 degrees trailing Earth…

I’ll be jumping the timeline three(ish) years from 1933 to 1936, to give the various powers a bit of time to come to grips with the tech and the new world. There’s best way to go, I think  — 1) World War II will happen later or not at all, as Atlantia captures their attention, 2) a “space race” to get to Atlantia and discover its secrets with a Rocket Ranger kind of quality to it.

Our D&D game has been having a series of fits and starts as several of the players are away, seemingly every week, and that has been slowing the denouement of the current campaign. The players had found themselves engaged with one of the major henchmen and personal foil for Icio the Monk. Said foil was dispatched with aplomb, as a villain you’ve built up over a while always seems to be in role playing games. (After 30+ years, I’ve realized players usually will chew up your big finale, but it’s the little milk run you threw in on a night you didn’t have much that normally get characters killed.)

We opened with Calvinus the bard, still staunchly a Roman pantheist, getting a dreamtime visit from Kore, the goddess of the Underworld. After a millennium of being stuck with her husband, she is ready to escape. More, she thinks the Shadow — the veil that separates the various planes of existence — should come down. It’s not just that Satan’s plan for the monsters in Tartarus is going to lead to inevitable destruction on Earth, but that Pluto sees the use of the same army to stop Satan and preserve his rule in Hades (and keep the other gods at bay) is likely to have the very same result. She gives Calvinus an offer he’s unlikely to refuse — save the world from the Christian anti-Christ, release the gods back into the world, and possibly stop the spread of Christianity, which Calvinus is against for personal reasons. As a cherry on top: she will give him the most beautiful woman in the world…

Icio meets with the angel Michael, who it appears increasingly likely is his father despite God’s injunctions against angels having relations with women. (Yes, it’s in the Bible…) He tries to find out ther truth, but Michael tells him to focus on the task — finishing God’s enemies at the River Styx. Preserve the veil, and with the army of faithful that will be waiting for him, and Michael’s bring a choir of angels, they can defeat Satan. Just one thing…they need a human to cast the banishment. (He doesn’t explain why.) They need Augustinian to believe in Christ and to use his power to rid them of Satan and his minions.

They arrive in the Peloponnesus under an expanding storm cloud. Lightning and rain are lashing the area, and in the east, where Corinthus is, there’s a strange flickering light…is the city on fire? On the beach, they find a crowd of thousands of people, recently fled from Corinthus before Satan’s hordes. They are waiting for Icio, the Warrior of God! Hundreds of demonic things, a thousand Goths and nephalhim [tiefling]) invaded the city and are coming this way. They are only a two hour hike/climb from the beach to the River Styx, which they can see tumbling down the sheer cliff of Mount Aronia. Marcellus and Carrus prepare their men, and organize the faithful into units and formations, even the women and children. Augustinian and Icio, along with Calvinus debate what they should do: Icio wants to stay with these people and fight, but Augustinian thinks they can do more by keeping their eye on the prize. Stop Satan, save the world.

The characters eventually light out of the camp under a spell of invisibility cast by Anathema when Michael arrives with his angels to meet the overwhelming force of hellish creatures advancing on their position, and they race to get to the river. They are spotted by one of Satan’s scouts (a horned devil from the Monster Manual) which led to the main conflict for the night. The creature proved to be a challenge to the characters. Several of them got fried by the devil’s hurl fire, including Augustinian, who was badly injured. Spells had little effect, and Marcellus was having trouble getting hits with the Bow of Indigence. (Crappy rolls were translated into the bow fighting Marcellus a bit because he was not succumbing to its corrupting influence.) There was a great moment where Carrus the dwarf, took a running sprint up Amathema’s back to get a good jump at the devil, where he got a crit on the creature’s junk.

The use of fire spells led to the forest being on fire around them, and eventually — badly mauled — the devil flew off to warn it’s master, rather than get killed. They hired the last bit with the forest behind them burning and arrived at where the river dropped into a placid pool. The waterfall made almost no noise, and there was no sound of birds or creatures, just the trumpet blasts of Gabriel in the distance — each blast shattering devils in mid-air. Fireballs, lighting, very very frightening…only a mile or so away, thousands are dying in an apocalyptic battle, but at the pool, all is quiet but hardly serene. The storm overhead is not raining here. The wind isn’t blowing. Anathema announces they’ve arrived…

At that moment, the water ripples and a gigantic thing, make seemingly of water rises out of the pool. A section of the cliff face breaks loose, a warrior of stone. The forest conflagration behind them whips out a swirling figure of fire. And a wind begins to stir…

The Kidemones tis Skias — the Guardians of the Shadow — have arrived…

The Fate version of The Queen of the Orient has been approved and a proof copy is on route. After I confirm there are no glaring errors, it should be ready for sale.