Monday, 17 August 2020

[OSR] Real places in RPG [5]: Fingal's Cave

 Fingal's Cave

Fingal's Cave is a sea cave on the island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, which is uninhabitated and known for its natural acoustics. 

It is formed entirely from hexagonally jointed basalt columns, which are similar to the Giant's Causeway's (in northern Ireland).

The cave is named after the hero of an epic Poem by James Macpherson, and is supposed to have started building the giant's causeway between Ireland and Scotland.

"Fingal's Cave on Staffa - photo by dun_deagh (Flickr)


Our human relationship to caves has always been very dualistic: It was probably the first habitat where our ancestors took refuge, but it is also a place where one of our oldest enemy reigns quite undefeated: Darkness.

It is no wonder that our first instinct as a human when encountering a cave is to want to secure it, from wild animals, enemies, or even bad weather. 

Does our survival instinct want us to purge that dark place? Is that the reason why dungeon delving is so popular?


The Island of Staffa, belonging to Scotland, is unsettled.

Is it because of the Cave?

Is it unsettled or unsettled by humans?

What could live here?


My first association with this place was that it must be a troll's lair.

Probably a troll eating lots of fish, since there seem to be no source of mamals-meat in the vicinity...

But I imagine hardy settlers trying to conquer this island only to be gobbled by this ancient troll. Who amasses the belongings of the settlers in his cave... Which in turn brings more adventurers to his door.

A kind of antic "delivered food service", on a very unregular basis.

Pirates' Lair

Those villains might even be of the lazy type:

Everybody knows it's not safe to sail in sight of the desolated island of Staffa, but it is a much shorter route to reach Ireland, so audacious captains may try their luck to gain half a day of sea time (this is completly invented - just so you know).

Since the island is supposedly deserted, if a fake lighthouse at night seem to shine on the island, captains tend to think they have arrived in sight Little Colonsay and its quiet coves...

What happens next is a boat stranding on shoal, and a horde of pirate coming to finish of the crew.

The pirates then move their loot into the labyrith town made of cave complexes carved of the basalt.

Sea singers

A very old and interesting part of marine folklore, sea singers can be great enemies for a seafaring party. They don't have to be bad per se, though. But they also can be flesh-eating manipulative merfolks that look pleasant to the eye.

What happens if a PC falls in love with one of those "monsters"?

And what do you do with the offspring?

In any case, if there is treasure at Fingal's, king of the Sea-Elves, to be found, you'd better have a lot of potions of water breathing at the ready.

Door to another place

A cave can also be an entrance. It could lead to different kind of places:

  • A volcanic underwater realm bathed in warm slightly sulfuric waters, where alguae produces light and filter the water. What civilization could live down there?
  • The lair and resting place of a gigantig sea serpent. It attacks a ship from time to time, but it also feeds the Jörmungandr, the world serpent that prevents the oceans to fall of the edge of the earth.
  • The entrance to the watery part of the underworld, where you need to go if you want to petition a drowned person. And you really need to ask Captain Ahab how he tamed that megalodon that is drowning the fleet of good King Agassiz...


Since I post these musings under the tag of OSR, i might give you a table.

Some of the ideas are taken from the article, other are new stubs to kickstart your imagination (if the picture was not enough)

D20 What is this place?
1 Entrance to a secret pirate society
2 Lair of Jörmungandotir, offspring of the World-Serpent
3 Antechamber of the court of Fingal, king of the Sea-Elves
4 Marketplace for humans and an underwater civilisation
5 Lair of an immortal fishing troll, last known companion to Sherkhan the Mad Archmage
6 Slumbering place of Fingal the Accursed, formerly builder of bridges between continents
7 Door to the murky and dark underwater underworld
8 Lair of a vicious and tidiness-obsessive Water-Dragon
9 Church of cultists praying to the deep ones
10 Place where sea singers come to the surface to seduce land-dwellers
11 Door to an underwater volcanic realm of wonders
12 Birth place of the Cyclop, son of Poseidon
13 Laboratory of a crazy geomancer - with a love for basalt (and golems)
14 Basalt portal leading to the alien quarter of a dwarf city
15 Reunion place of the Assembly of the Masterless Basalt Golems
16 Abandonned empty mining site of black pearls and basalt soul-stones
17 Entrance to the Basalt-Labyrinth where lay the wellspring of stone-to-flesh-water
18 Entrance to the palace of the Medusa, owner of the last teleportation circle
19 Former abode of the demigod Basaltus and lobby to his Forge
20 Sea-faeries bank of the lost memories. Each one is stored in a basalt column

If you need crazier results, roll a few D20 in order and make it the history of the place. Good luck tying up those lore tidbits together.

I hope this place has jogged up your imagination and that you will use it in one of your games.

If you do, i'd be glad if you could leave a comment to tell the adventure.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

25 years of my gaming history

 25 years of my gaming history

The blogosphere (or at least some of the great people I'm following) have all started to speak of their old characters. Read slugs and silver's "30 years of gaming characters" or Throne of salt's "all my other characters"

Since it says a lot about your gaming history, I've decided to follow that trend and speak about my characters too.

But since I mainly was a DM all my life, i'll also speak of the campaigns I've led.

An overview of my RPG chelves

The beginnings

I discovered RPGs as an early teen age (13 y.o.) in the middle of the 90ies in a game club in the vicinity of my home town. It was half an hour of bus ride to get to afternoon of wonder.

I remember playing TORG as my first RPG and it was mind-blowing. I had read loads of game books (thx Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone, and their translators) but the pace and the infinite openness of RPGs was an horizon widening discovery.

Sadly, a satanic scare about RPGs broke out in France, and my parents were not ready to let me go play with strangers.

Since no friend was ready to be a game master, and I was not allowed to play outside my home, I had to become a DM to be allowed to play. Took me a few years, to be honest...

My best friend was on a regular basis at the gaming club, but was happy to play with me after school. My little brother wanted to try (he probably played his 1st game with us at age 10 or 11). So the 3 of us began to play about thrice a week after school for 2-hours sessions.

We played a long campaign of fantasy with the BaSic system (a french porting of Call of Chtulhu for fantasy, leaning on stormbringer, but not as broken - %dice based). The second adventure had introduced a good dragon, that became the patron of the group.

We had fun. Lots of fun. And the amount of laughter coming out of my room at that time soothed my parents about the influence RPG-games were having on us.

The campaign was not really one, it was a succession of fantasy scenarios published in Casus Belli, THE reference rpg magazine (still to this day) in France. But the scenarios were not all for the same game, so I had to adapt stuff to fit them into my gaming world (we played scenarios for : AD&D, warhammer, Elric/Stormbringer, the BaSic system, and probably others i've forgotten)

In the end, I tired of that world, mainly because the characters had become really strong and I wasn't able to present them with decent challenges (I was dependant on published scenarios, completly unnable to write my own adventures, and high levels adventure are still a problem for me to this day).

Late Teens

Around 16 y.o. i started introducing my "Magic: the gathering"-crowd to RPGs, using the BaSic system in other published worlds (an X-files setting, a series-parodical cop setting [cops on roller-blades in California], a cloak and dagger setting).

And then came my first everlasting love: The D6-system and "Star Wars 2.5 revised and expanded".

From that point on, we played a lot in galaxy far far away, but alternating with the other stuff.

By then, my parents had started to accept RPG as an acceptable hobby, and a turning point came when i met an "old childhood friend" (apparently, we were buddies when we were 3 to 6 year s old) whose parents were colleagues of mine.

We were both into RPGs, and his parent's home was considered "safe territory" to mine. Soon, me and my best friend joined his gaming group of 3.

At last I was again a player !

We played mainly Mutant Chronicles, in a detective agency kind of way. My Character was filthy rich (due to an error of the DM, I had started the game with a social status of 12, when the scale actually went only up to 10), and started with 60 Millions brotherhood crowns, and earning money as the main focus of the campaign...

Let's say the character was problematic for the DM, even if I had been very cooperative (I wasn't in for the money but for the thrill), and soon had to die.

One of the other players was already creating his own games, which we played too.

Expatriation and early 20ies

2 years later, we all went to university, splitting the gaming group. My best friend and the game creator were studying in the same town, though and continued to play together, 1 on 1.

For my part, I moved to Germany and made an horrible GMing experience, due to my non-mastery of the language. So for the next few years, I'd only play when back in France with the 2 others that were also playing together.

I'd came in the summer and we'd play everyday (better said every night) for a month. There we played a few campaigns, and the game creator friend was the DM.

There was a campaign in the world of the "dark moon chronicles", where I played several Priests of the Light (they had a tendency to die quickly and I wanted to continue playing that character, so it was only kind of reseted).

They all had german sounding names.

We also played a very long "mafia bosses" campaign in the world of "Blade Runner" (the friend had literally expanded the universe with several binders of background).

My character was Jose Maria de la Suerte, a small time dealer that the next day was in charge of the whole weapon smuggling and illegal resale of weapons in California. The Cartel I was working for, was a mexican Cartel, organised as a family organisation.

I tried to run my part of the organigram as a business, was always broke, not completly ruthless, but very pragmatic [yes, I sold flame-throwers, grenade-launchers and war weapons to an apocalypse cult].

It was a lot of fun, and to this day "De La Suerte" is a famous character in our extended gaming group.

We also played a very long-running campaign of an urban fantasy game of that friend's development. Mainly based on werewolf's principle of Umbra and Wraith's principle of invading nothingness (or annihilation).

We played spirits that lived outside the material plane (behind the gauntlet in WoD terms), but could interact on earth when possessing a host.

There were 22 Clans, each based on one of the major Tarot arcanas. I had randomly pulled a "Hierophant" character, who was an expert in the magic of pacts and metaphysical links (that were needed to control a body on earth).

This game was heavily based on esoterism and we learned a lot about this. From Kabbalah to chinese spirits, there is a lot of obstruse arcane knowledge to learn.

The campaign was a search for orbs that could control Dragons (asshole-y ultra powerful creature of the Ether) and went on for at least 5 summers.

My character lost a bunch of human hosts, but always made it, even if often it was just "nearly made it".

We had a lot very intense moments and we always hope we'll continue playing that campaign, but the GM lost nearly all his sparce notes when he definetly moved out of his parent's.

Mid 20ies

After a few years living in Germany, a guy moved in in our student co-living flat. And he was an RPG enthusiast. And a DM.

Soon, 3 guys from the flat and a few from outside were playing after I re-tried to lead a game in German. Which worked much easier with 5 years of living in germany and playing with germans than with only one year of german residency and playing with erasmus exchange students.

I ran a few Mutant Chronicles games that were quite borderline (adult stuff included - violence, sexuality - Stuff I wouldn't play without an X-card nowdays) and the other guy started a round of the Dark Eye.

And I remember fondly my character, a priest of the commerce god (also god of thieves), which i played like a priest of turbo capitalism, pushing everyone in the direction of making a quick buck, as long as their were paying their tithe. To me.

I even had started to write the Character's story as an epic poem. It's still somewhere on my google docs.

This was renewal in my RPG practice... Suddenly I had realized I could play in German. And lead games. And introduce new people to the hobby. Which was arduous in a language university with 90% ladies that were very seldom geeky...

But it was a restart.

Then came the clone wars and after binge-watching a few seasons, I decided to tinker the old D6 system and DM a jedi-only Clone wars campaign.

It took a while, my jedis found the trail of a mega-laser in construction by the separatist and did all they could to get their hands on the technology, but also not to have it fall in Palpatine's hand (they had had a precognition that the mega-laser design would one day blow Alderaan to pieces). Players knew, even if their characters were only suspecting Palpatine to be a Baddie™.

This is one of the few campaigns that i did bring to an end and I'm extremly proud of a few really nice moments in this campaign (best moment for me as a DM: Playing Jabba and his protocol droid - babling something in Huttese and interpreting it to the characters was really funny)

I even had developped Achievments™ for the campaign, like you find some in video games... (click the link to watch them. They are in German, though)

That's the time I started writing RPGs in response to creation contests in short periods. Like 3 weeks to write an RPG. I could not find the time any more nowadays, but i loved it and the emulation around the community of creators all in the same boat...


After 15 years in the town I studied, seeing generations of students coming and going, i moved myself to the next town to avoid an hour of commuting.

And then I was, again, without a group.

There were Magic players at work, I soon introduced them to RPG, first with shatterzone, then with a D6 adaptation of Birthright, where we played a loooong campaign.

Then came D&D5, and they loved it (i had gifted the starter set to one of the new players that was interested in DMing).

They started playing without me (they were flatmate and I was not always available on short notice). They were also students, for the most part, and had much more free time that I did.

One day, I just left the group, unable to keep up with their gaming rhythm without alienating my GF.

But before that i had played a few interesting characters, one rogue particularly comes to mind, who was very good at speaking with others and had created a company of mercenaries around our group, and died a few time, assassinated in his sleep, betrayed by an NPC. RIP Hjalmar !

And then there was an half-orc fighter playing dumb, but considering himself a Poet. His gimmick was that he tried to ride all the most dangerous creatures we fought. There was even a (young and week from malnutrition) dragon, he rode.

Since then, I've reduced my amount of gaming rounds from twice a week to once a month.

But I also started creating more stuff to compensate. Writing, layouting, illustrating.

And I love it too. I hope I'll find time to playtest all my projects, in the future.

And publish a game, at last !

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

[OSR Sci-Fi Horror] Presentation of Alastor 55

I've teased some Art and told you i'm working on a new project:
With a friend, we are writing a new OSR rpg. Actually writing 2 versions of one RPG : one motorised by the black hack and another based on Microlite 5th.
I'm in charge of a lot of things, from the microlite 5th adaptation of the system to layout, but also artworks.
I've found a way to create easily and quickly art that I deem good enough for an OSR publication, and I wanted to share some with you.

The Pitch:

The "Ravenium Rush" brings hundreds of new settlers on the "Satanic Planet", but only a few will survive the horror, the demons, and the corporate greed... Will you Crew survive, die in the dirt, or thrive in this sick atmophere?

The Setting:

Alastor 55 is an outer system moon, that was colonized by a satanic church, long ago, and went missing from the human sphere, during a big "Colonies vs Earth"-independance-war.
Much later, when the United Earth Nations discovered Ravenium on Alastor, a black cristalline fuel for black hole jumpships, they tried to re-colonize the moon and discovered a world in shambles: internal strife, feuding satanic sects, technology set back in the 19th century. And DEMONS! A lot of them, with all the slaughter, orgies, gore and unethical behaviours bound with it.
In the middle of the war between all these factions, the U.N. and the corporations, are poor settlers that came as a last chance to escape the misery of life on the planets and moons of the solar system. Thinking that the demons and the black magic were rumors, like the U.N. pretends.
Poor people...
You are a Crew, freshly arrived on Alastor and you'll need a few credits to survive in the protected corporate enclaves. But maybe you 'll strive in this atmosphere of conflict, betrayal and ever present death.

The Art:

I've developped a few images, that might or might not make it into the book.

The demons:

(I have already shown them all but two)
They were the start of the project, and i'm not yet sure to use them all...
But since i'm getting better, there will be more to come, same style and same Modus Operandi.

The firedemon


Wreaking mayhem and playing fire in a plaza? Yes, that's a typical fire demon

The Chainsaw-Massacre-Demon

This is probably not gonna be our Cover. This is the first art piece I created. But it's too recognizable from heavily copyright protected material. Sad, i really love it...

The quick and agile Demon

Most of the life on the planet is settled deep under the earth. These swift jumpers are rarely seen not in packs, and are a bane for travellers.

Demonic Infighting

Demons would not be demons if they were not bickering amongst each others. It's always a good thing for the colonist when they steer their anger at each others...

The Succubus

Who said all demons had to be ugly and spooky?
If there are orgies with demons on Alastor, I hope for the population that a few demons (independently of their gender) are good looking too. And manipulative. Evil anyway...

The tunnel confrontation

Alastor 55 is an ice moon, where hairy demons feel at home. Unless some pesky humans starts to crawl out of their warm underground arcologies...

The Origins 

(I don't want to use the word "race" in a Sci-Fi context)

The Patrolling Cyborg

Cyborgs are human brains implanted in a robotic body. There is no reason for anxiety, they are mentally stable and not prone to PTSD or loss of humanity. Never. Not at all. Remember these are the good guys.
And good guys go to bars, don't they?
This one doesn't drink, but likes to watch humans off-guarded by alcohol consumption...

The sad Cyborg

Why is he sad? He's working in one of the few places over the surface of the planet, at the equator.
Well why do you think he's sad? Maybe because he has to freeze his balls off to keep the privileged arseholes protected


Right now, I'm working on the careers (which is the ingame name for the classes), and there will be 8 of them:
Captain, Investigator, Medic, Occultist, Psiker, Scoundrel, Scientist, & Soldier.

I've already 3 pictures of classes, but i'll post them as a bunch when they are all ready...
Probably the next post