Sunday, November 11, 2018

Formian Insectoids Breeding and Usage

This post details the ways in which Formians use other insects to do their work.


Formian Insectoids Breeding and Usage
Given the time that they have spent as nomads following the destruction of their Hiveworld, it should come as no surprise that the formians possess little by way of manufactured artifacts. Outside of their elaborate stoneships, in fact, they seldom use any tools or other equipment. Instead, the formians rely on specially bred insects to handle many routine tasks. What is more, they've even prepared some strains for use as weapons on land or in space.
Presented below are recommendations for ways that insects detailed in the various Bestiary supplements can be used by the formians.
  • Ankhegs (Bestiary, page 15)—Bred as attack animals, these insectoids are also prized for the acid that they produce, which the Formians harvest for alchemical experimentation.
  • Giant ants (Bestiary, page 16)—The Formians use these pony-sized insects as beasts of burden, for hauling materials and equipment.
  • Army ant swarms (Bestiary, page 16)—These are a potent weapon for the Formians, and they have devised various implements for catapulting them aboard enemy aetherships.
  • Fire beetles (Bestiary, page 33)—The Formians use them for illumination.
  • Giant mantises (Bestiary, page 200)—These are favored pets of the Formians, who view these insectoids with something akin to religious adoration.
  • Giant wasps (Bestiary, page 275)—Those of the mud dauber variety are prized by the Formians because they help secure passengers aboard stoneships for long-distance voyages, such as when vessels are being launched toward new solar systems for exploration.
  • Giant bee and giant queen bee (Bestiary 2, page 43)—In territory controlled by the Formians, these insects are used to produce food, in the form of honey and royal jelly.
  • Goliath stag beetle and slicer beetle (Bestiary 2, page 44)—Both of these varieties are bred for use as attack animals.
  • Giant cockroaches and cockroach swarms (Bestiary 2, page 58)—These insects also serve as weapons when unleashed upon enemies.
  • Hellwasp swarm (Bestiary 3, page 146)—The Formians are intrigued by this vicious breed of wasps, spawned on another plane, but as yet have not tried to collect them for use in battle.
  • Giant locusts and locust swarms (Bestiary 4, page 183)—When they decide to conquer a world, the Formians use these insectoids to attack and denude enemy territory, consuming any possible food for opposing armies.
  • Locust plague swarm (Bestiary 5, pages 192-3)—This is the most fearsome weapon in the Formians' arsenal, a mass of voracious insects that can destroy almost anything in its path.
  • Knight ants and megapon ants (Bestiary 5, page 16)—These advanced breeds are used as guard animals in Formian hives.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Traitor's End Review

This scenario, Part 6 of the Return to Freeport campaign, was released back in October. It is the finale for the series, following the PCs as they return to Freeport after their big fleet battle to seek the traitor who was colluding with the Mazin invaders. 

On a positive note, it features a solidly written investigation that can succeed via multiple paths and that takes the PCs to numerous interesting locations throughout the city. The author did a good job of creating new locations, ones that are different from the usual tropes of the docs, taverns and the like. The scenario also includes a chase scene, using rules from the GameMastery Guide, and the combats feature a variety of interesting opponents. There's a good puzzle, too, which something that I think not enough scenarios feature. Finally, part of the adventure includes a celebration of Drac's Fall, which can be an homage to previous PCs who participated in the original Freeport trilogy. 

Being critical, I think the scenario feels a little disconnected from the previous ones, since the big engagement with the Mazin has already been foiled. There's a solid threat presented by the primary antagonist, and the end location makes for a dramatic confrontation and battle. Even so, the fact that it takes place on a shadowy demi-plane that seems like Freeport is a little weird, given that there's already an alternate version of the city—Freetown—existing in the Abyss, as detailed in the adventure Hell in Freeport. I also worry that some of the scenes don't take into account flying characters, which seem to be pretty common at high levels. 

All in all, I think it will be fun.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018


This post introduces a new faction for use with the Sixth Gun RPG, a group known as the Sisters of Salem.


The production of a stage play has its own kind of magic, being a combination of emotional acting, elaborate costumes and scenery, music, and even special visual and auditory effects. What few people know, however, is that some theater troupes push beyond such imaginative magic into the actual practice of the arcane arts, using full-blown sorcery to gain influence over the audience. Such is the case with a group known as the Caliban Company, which is a front for a coven of witches.

Galveston, Texas
The Company's theater, modeled after the Globe Theatre in London, is located in the bustling city of Galveston, Texas, on the western side of town.

The New World Theater
Refer to the map below for the following location details.

1. Entry
Broad double doors provide an entrance to the theater. They are locked at times when no rehearsals or performances are taking place (details); otherwise, they are open to the public.

2. Courtyard
This open area has no roof overhead, and the floor is nothing more than packed earth. Visitors may pay a much smaller sum to stand here, and such individuals are known as groundlings.

3. Gallery
Most of the people who attend shows at the theater stand in this area, with a railing in front of them and a roof over their heads. There are also stairs that lead up to the second and third levels.

4. The Stage
This area is raised five feet above ground level. There are a number of trapdoors that provided access to the under-stage area, along with doors leading to the backstage part of the theater. What is more, a curtained alcove provides an area for actors who need to make dramatic entrances during particular scenes.

5. Backstage
During productions, the actors and stage hands who are involved can ready themselves back here, and a show's director is almost always present. The ground level opens directly onto the stage, while the second level features a balcony for certain dramatic scenes. The top level is generally used for storage, including old costumes and props and the like.

6. Under-Stage
In order to make certain special effects work, there are a number of trapdoors that lead down to this area. The spiral stairs from the backstage area also lead down here. 

The Sisters of Salem and the Caliban Company
As European explorers and settlers began exploring the North American continent, they opened up myriad opportunities for those who were willing and able to take advantage of them. Indeed, many were able to find their place in a new society, one that was—in theory, at least—less bound by ideas of class, religion, and other cultural biases. Adding to that sense of optimism was the fact that a woman was the supreme sovereign of England—Queen Elizabeth, who commanded artists such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe; an occultist like John Dee; and exploring sea captains such as Francis Drake, Martin Frobisher and Walter Raleigh. One could be excused for thinking that the horizons of possibility in women's lives were expanding beyond anything previously known. 

The truth, however, was something different. Many of the settlements in this New World were founded by people with conservative outlooks, such as the Puritans who made their colony in the Massachusetts Bay area. That led to an unfortunate incident in which a few young women who dared to dabble in the occult arts were charged with witchcraft, arrested, brought to trial, condemned and executed for their supposed crimes. While the men in charge of that colony were eventually criticized for causing more than a dozen executions, they faced no punishment. To those women who were seeking greater freedom and self-realization, the message was clear: the New World was shaping up to be very much like the old one. 

In a show of solidarity with their slain compatriots, some of the women founded a secret society that they called the Sisters of Salem. It is dedicated to preserving the study of magic and promoting the discovery of new relics and lore. At first they were forced to keep their activities complete hidden, but before long they devised a means of operating more openly—by founding a traveling theater company. That allowed them to move about with greater freedom, and to conduct some of their studies under the guise of research for various productions. Eventually the established a permanent base of operations, the New World Theater, modeled after Shakespeare's Globe. They named their group the Caliban Company, funding their eldritch investigations with profits from the staging of entertainment.

Profiled here are just a few of the prominent individuals who are part of this organization.

Zerelda Williams, the Scholar
If anyone can be called the leader of the company, it is Zerelda. She is the one who chooses the plays to be presented, researches them and then plans the productions. To that end she is almost always caught up in one text or another, be it eldritch in nature or something mundane. It's said that Zerelda hails from back east, and can trace her lineage to Salem at the end of the 17th Century.
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Investigation d6, Knowledge d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Spellcasting d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Sorcery), Ghost Sight, New Power
Hindrances: Bad Eyes (Minor), Small
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10; Powers: Detect/conceal arcana, dispel, grave speak, speak language
Gear: Comfortable clothing, various books, magical trappings and writing materials

Sophie Delacroix, the Dancer
The daughter of former slaves, Sophia grew up steeped in voodoo. At an early age she experiences having a loa take over her body, being “ridden” by it while dancing in a ritual. With that foundation, she began training for combat, and eventually found that she excelled at it. Thus she performs as a dancer for the Company, but also provides protection for her Sisters.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Notice d4, Stealth d4, Throwing d6, Voodoo d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Voodoo), New Power
Hindrances: Impulsive, Obligation
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10; Powers: Armor, Deflection, Smite
Gear: Elaborate but loose-fitting costume, pair of knives (Range 3/6/12, Damage Str +d4+1, RoF 1), conjure bag

Margaret Jameson, the Artist
Although one wouldn't guess it by looking at her, this woman was raised on the American frontier, often surrounded by native people. He father is a famous painter and collector of Indian artifacts, and she followed him from post to post. In doing so she learned to connect with the spirits, and now brings that knowledge to share with her Sisters, whom she also serves in painting, sewing and the like.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Healing d6, Knowledge d4, Notice d6, Streetwise d4, Survival d6, Tribal Medicine d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Shamanism), New Power
Hindrances: Curious
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10; Powers: Elemental Manipulation, Light/Obscure, Spirit Walk
Gear: Comfortable clothing, knife (Range 3/6/12, Damage Str +d4+1, RoF 1), totem (buffalo pouch)

The Inn at the Sign of the Masks
While the New World Theater provides a source of income for the Sisters of Salem, as well as a source of funding for its activities, most of the members reside at a nearby hotel, the Inn at the Sign of the Masks. It takes its name, naturally, from the famous symbol of the theater—two masks, emblematic of comedy and tragedy. Indeed, it can be recognized by a large sign hung out front, bearing those visages along with its name. 

The Inn itself is two stories in height. The first floor has a broad main room (1) filled with tables and chairs, and with a bar along the inside wall. Behind the bar a door leads to the kitchen (2), and further back to the pantry (3). There are also two small rooms (4) available for gatherings that require a little more privacy. 

Two stairways lead from the main room to the upper floor (5). Most of the rooms there (6) are furnished with a bed, a wardrobe and a small desk. There are also some rooms with two beds (7) for families.

Typical Inn Employees
Only some of the women at the Inn know about its connection to the Sisters of Salem. Those who are aware, in fact, likely came to work here in the hope of being accepted into that organization and, thus, to begin their own occult studies. Others are just ordinary women, some of whom also work for the Caliban Company and hope to gain fame through the theater.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Knowledge (Area) d4, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Stealth d4, Streetwise d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Alertness
Hindrances: Curious
Gear: Comfortable clothing, miscellaneous personal items.

Life at the Theater and the Inn
The Sisters of Salem and the Caliban Company can be used to introduce all manner of plot elements for adventures and campaigns; detailed below are just a few of the possibilities.
  • The PCs could just be paying a visit to the theater when they recognize that strange powers are wielded by the proprietors.
  • One of the PCs might be a perfect fit for playing a given role, and thus be recruited to become involved in the production.
  • When a murder occurs, the PCs could be called upon to help solve it. Failure could lead to the Sisters being unfairly persecuted, but success prevents it.
  • Given their interest in occult relics and lore, the Sisters could recruit the PCs to help them recover a particular text or item. Such, in fact, is the case with a certain obsidian mirror kept in a Mayan temple down in the Yucatan Peninsula...
  • Of course, the Sisters are also skilled at discovering information, and thus could be a useful resource for the PCs, too.
  • The same can be said for the Sign of the Masks, since it sees all manner of travelers passing through the city, bound inland to somewhere in America itself, or preparing to sail for some other part of the world.
  • Given the history of shipping in the region, it's a safe bed that at least one wrecked ship can be found nearby, its cargo hold filled with all manner of valuable goods, secret information, and the like...
  • It turns out that Angelica Smith, whom many believe to be an ordinary frontier doctor's wife, is a former Sister of Salem, but one who sought to use her magic for gaining power over others, and thus was expelled from the order.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

PDF #13

Here's a link to a PDF compiling the most recent articles and stories.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Shobhad Oasis

Given their nomadic lifestyle, the shobhads do not build large structures in the manner of the kasathas; rather, they dwell in tents made from the hides of the creatures they use for mounts, always moving from place to place. While their migrations are difficult to predict, chances are good that they settle around the numerous wells that they have found and dug throughout the desert.

An Oasis
A typical shobhad encampment has three major features. In the center of everything is the well, a broad circular excavation that can be covered with a protective tarp, and with a four-legged structure raised over it to protect against blowing sand when it's not in use. That structure includes a block and tackle with a rope for lowering and raising large buckets. Spaced around the well are large pavilion tents, each home to either a pair of warriors or a family. Finally, the shobhad's mounts are tethered in a location such that the tents provide some protection against blowing wind and sand.

Shobhad Nomads and their Mounts
Refer to page 242 of Bestiary 4 to find stats for typical shobhads, and to page 83 of the Bestiary (using the ankylosaurus) for their mounts. A previous article has stats for the sergeant and clan leader.

Using the Oasis in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
This location can be used in all sorts of adventures, including a few of the following possibilities.
  • Characters seeking to meet with a raiding party or clan—for mercantile, diplomatic or other purposes—would likely find them at just such an oasis.
  • As the source of gunpowder, the shobhad have a valuable source of income—not to mention one that they jealously guard.
  • The PCs could always find the inhabitants slaughtered, either by a wild beast or by some other type of enemy.
  • As nomads, the shobhad look down on, and thus are more likely to end up in conflict with, the monastic kasatha.
  • If their water sources were ever threatened, it could rally the whole shobhad clan for battle.

Low Gravity on this Alien World?
Page 31 of the Aethernaut's Handbook provides rules for the effects of a low-gravity world on ranged combat, movement and the like. What is more, the description of the shobhads from Bestiary 4 describes them as coming from a such a planet. With that in mind, the GM has a few options for running adventures on this world.
  • It could have standard gravity, and thus would ignore the notion that shobhad longrifles only function on low-gravity worlds.
  • If it is a low-gravity world, then the PCs would receive notable (and potentially dramatic) benefits while visiting it.
  • There's also the question of the kasatha, who may or may not be natives of this planet, but have likely grown accustomed to (and thus have been weakened by) the lack of gravity.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Formian Sentryship

Third in the series is a sentryship.

The next large type of stoneship is this one, which measure sixty feet in width and ninety in length. It features the usual fore section (1), including the navigation sphere. Aft of that is a broad open chamber (2), which is home to the myrmarch that this ship carries. From there the myrmarch commands the crew of workers and warriors. Four smaller tunnels lead out to spaces for weapons emplacements (3), two facing forward and two facing out to the sides. Larger passageways lead back to the quarters (4) for the crew. Finally, in the aft section (5) there is room for cargo along with rear-facing weapons emplacements. 

Formian Sentryship
Colossal space vehicle
Squares 216 (90 ft. by 60 ft.); Cost NA
AC 2; Hardness 8
hp 4320 (2160)
Base Save +0
Maximum Speed 180 ft. (magical); Acceleration 30 ft. (magical)
CMB +12; CMD 14
Ramming Damage 12d8
This vessel, carved from an even bigger asteroid, has a forward control station, with the myrmarch's quarters behind it. There are four compartments for weapons emplacements, along with quarters for the crew and an aft area for cargo and/or more weapons.

Propulsion magic (100 squares of energy lines, 2000 hp)

Driving Check Profession (pilot) or Use Magic Device

Forward Facing the ship's forward

Driving Device navigation sphere

Driving Space the square or squares occupied by the pilot with the navigation sphere

Crew 5 (not including weapons crews)

Decks 1

Weapons Four large weapons in the forward emplacements (two firing forward and two out to the sides); two large weapons in the aft compartment (that only fire toward the rear)

Ships' Compliments
Each of these vessels is usually crewed in the following manner.
  • A scoutship is crewed by a patrol of 3-12 formian workers. It is used for exploring new locations when a hive is seeking new territory.
  • A slaveship is commanded by a taskmaster and crewed by a band of 3-15 workers and 5-8 warriors. It is used for finding and binding new servants.
  • A sentryship is commanded by a myrmarch and crewed by a platoon of 7-18 warriors and 6-12 workers. It is the primary ship of the line for the formians' navy.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Formian Slaveship

Here's the second formian vessel, the slaveship.


The slaveship is larger, being fifty feet wide and seventy feet long, with three distinct compartments and almost a fourth. The fore compartment (1) is very similar to that of the scoutship, boasting the peforated viewport and the navigation sphere. This is where the formian taskmaster can usually be found. Aft of that is a broad circular tunnel (2), which is cut with niches for the warriors that the vessel normally carries. In the center of the ring is a storage area (3) which houses the slaves that the taskmaster takes from visited worlds. At the stern of the slaveship there is another compartment (4) that can be used for cargo and/or weapons, and that has niches for the workers who assist the warriors and taskmaster.

Formian Slaveship
Colossal space vehicle
Squares 140 (50 ft. by 70 ft.); Cost NA
AC 2; Hardness 8
hp 2800 (1400)
Base Save +0
Maximum Speed 180 ft. (magical); Acceleration 30 ft. (magical)
CMB +10; CMD 16
Ramming Damage 10d8
This vessel, carved out of a bigger asteroid, has the forward bridge section, along with a ringed corridor with niches for the warriors, a holding place for slaves, and an aft section that combines cargo space with quarters for the workers. It, too, has a perforated viewport and movable walls in the aft for loading and unloading.

Propulsion magic (60 squares of energy lines, 1200 hp)

Driving Check Profession (pilot) or Use Magic Device

Forward Facing the ship's forward

Driving Device navigation sphere

Driving Space the square or squares occupied by the pilot with the navigation sphere

Crew 6 (not including weapons crews)

Decks 1

Weapons Two Large direct-fire siege engines positioned in the stern; they may only fire out the aft end.