Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Metal Earth Religion

Religion is fairly rare in most parts of the Metal Earth.
Why is this?
There are two things to keep in mind the age of the culture in question, and the means of food production.
Big organized religion comes in with agriculture- or possibly just sedentisim (In the upper paleolithic there were several areas of the world that were productive enough to support large sedentary population without the agriculture; for what is worth, these were mostly ecotones). In our world, and in many fantasy settings, agriculture has been around for a comparatively short period of time.

In the Metal Earth agriculture has been around a very long time (millions of years maybe) and, therefore, so has religion. However, in the Age of Lead (and for eons previous to it) agriculture takes place mostly underground and is controlled more by technology than by the rhythm of nature; this is pretty important, because it removes two important tools of control from the priestly arsenal- the knowledge necessary to facilitate agriculture is no longer tied to a calender and the sun, a big focal point worthy of worship, has also been removed from the equation.

Obviously, the importance and dominance of religion varies from culture to culture- and over time. Large disasters can really shake the foundations of religious (and secular) power. It's thought that this sort of power loss occurred during the Mayan "collapse"- and it certainly did occur after the black death in Europe. The Metal Earth is pretty much in perpetual state of disaster. Secular power is on the run, and religion has pretty much moved on without leaving a forwarding address.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, humans are nearly extinct, and are thought to be (through science, sorcery or evolution) the progenerators of all the other races. This undermines any belief in an all powerful/supernatural creator for most groups. The supernatural does exist, and is accepted as real, but it is hardly ever beneficial. Therefore, in most regions and cultures, faith has largely been replaced by a cynical sort of fatalism.

Which brings us to the topic of clerics. despite their rarity on the landscape, players should feel free to play clerics; Taarna from Heavy Metal is perhaps the archetype of a Metal Earth cleric- an ass kicking servant of a forgotten god.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weather and related climatic hazards:

Climate varies a good across the breadth of the Metal Earth, but for millennia prior to the Wars of Unreason (The semi-mythical Age of Gold), there was a worldwide network of weather control stations. Powered by a combination of atomic and arcane energy, this station worked to homogenize climate conditions across the face of the entire world. The system was broken during the war, but normal patterns did not reassert themselves. Quite the opposite in fact- weather went wild- breaking and reshaping the world all at once. Efforts were made by sorcerers and scientists stop this from happening- but if they had any impact it was only to make things worse. Eventually, an ice age commenced- that has never really ended. It also but violent storms are common, which brought with it a modicum of climatic stability. This ice age has never really ended since that time, although there have been some slightly warmer periods. The time of the shattering is long over but extreme weather is more the norm than the exception. You are far more likely to get a blizzard than a light snowfall or a torrential downpour than a light rain, although mild weather is not completely uncommon in some microclimatic areas.

Beyond the extremity of most storms, the breaking of the weather control network and the resultant release of ungoverned arcane and atomic energies into the world’s climate system had other ongoing effects as well: Curse Squalls and Timestorms.

Timestorms are not common, but they do occur with some frequency. Fortunately, most of them occur over water and are relatively if not always, harmless. Timestorms are usually preceded by the formation of dark cloud funnels, which are crisscrossed with purple cloud-to-cloud lightning, as the storm grows in intensity so to do the electrical activity. It is at the peak of the electrical activity that the storm really gets underway. Time vortex open up- sometimes one, sometimes one hundred or more, depending on the intensity of the storm. There are two kinds of Timestorms, takers and givers.
Takers: During a taker storm, things are sucked into the time vortexes and moved to a distant temporal location, past or future- it can go either way.
Givers: during a giver storm, things emerge from the time holes. What kinds of things? Just about fucking anything really, from dinosaurs to toasters to people.
Note: it is entirely possible to whisk a party of adventurers off into time during a taker storm; it is also possible to bring in a new PC (say a 20th century human into the Metal Earth with a giver storm.)

Curse Squalls:
Curse squalls (or storms), are far more common than Timestorms, and usually more dangerous. Curse storms look like normal rainstorms (albeit of an extremely violent nature, even for the Metal Earth) except the raindrops have faint green luminescence.
Anywhere curse rain falls horrible shit happens. Sometimes the dead rise from their graves (corpse burning is a near world wide custom due to this). Other times simple field crops mutate into horrible carnivorous plants. Good men caught out in the curse rain sometime turn completely evil. Other times the rain is like acid burning and destroying all it touches. Nobody can say what will happen for certain when the Curse Rain falls, but whatever it is it wont be good. Sometimes these effects last only until the rain dries, or until sunrise of the next day- other times they last forever.
The magical element Arcanum can help protect crops and many other things from the curse rain. Farmers often sprinkle small amounts onto their crops as they plant them, and it is also an integral ingredient in the brick making and construction in general. Arcanum is naturally occurring in many rock formations and can be mined. It isn’t debilitating expensive, but it isn’t cheap either, though. Because of this, despite the dangers sometimes corners are cut- with predictably disastrous results, such as buildings turning into huge carnivorous stone monsters.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

War Worm
AC: 5
Hit Dice 3
Special: See Below
Move: 12
XP: 75
War Worms came to the Metal Earth thousands of years ago as part of a failed invasion from beyond the Dark Boundary (entry forthcoming). The invasion was broken, but many War Worms were trapped on the Metal Earth as a result. In the current day (The Age of Lead), most War Worms serve as mercenaries for evil sorcerers or live as bandits or pirates. Although, they do at times, maintain their own settlements, these usually occupy ruins or villages they have overrun. War Worms make nothing but war. Like the other Worms of the Metal Earth, they eat anything they can get.

Physically they are about five meters in length with putrid grey boil ridden hide. They fight with any available weapon, but their jagged teeth will do in a pinch.

Special: Some war warms still possess the technological weapons their forebears brought to the Metal Earth. These are usually solar powered blasters. These weapons can fire 3 times a day, they do 1d6 damage and negate all non magical/ technological armor types and have a +5 hit against creatures with natural armor- like scales . this last part may create a need for referee adjudication. The to hit bonus should not be in effect against creatures that get their AC primarily from dextarity, like monkeys or big cats.

What I really need to do is come up with a system for dealing with technological weapons vs. archaic armor.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Campaign Two, session 1

First a little background: The Metal Earth has been cooking for years under a variety of names. I finally settled on this name because I was reading a lot of old Richard Corben (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Corben) comics in Heavy Metal (which lead to me watching the movie again- especially the Den and Taarna sequences) when I started to work on this version in 2006. Also I liked the pun.
So anyway, the world has seen some use with at least three different sets of rules: in it's earliest form I used a homebrew, later we tried to adapt Earthdawn to it, but I can't look at those rules without thinking of the setting that is built into them (maybe because it's mentioned about once every five words). The longest game, which took place in the setting pretty much as it stands now, used True20. We'll call that Campaign 1. What we're doing now is Campaign 2 and I'm using Swords and Wizardry, white box.
I'm playing with my two sons who are six and eight years of age. Kids, as it turns out, have no trouble with settings like this one (obviously I'm toning down the Corben influence a little- no weird giant penis bugs, or over-endowed nude pseudo-Aztec princesses, which kind of hurts, really).
The two pc's are an "Army Man" named Sergent Jack, and an amphibian mutant guy known as "The Unknown Warrior" (TUW). They both work for the 21st century US government, and TUW is a product of government experiments. The two of them have been sent into the future to capture something known as the Sonic Cyborg Arm.
By the way, I'm doing a couple of things that are new to me here , I'm playing with kids- which means no chemical enhancement and not so much description of the splatter, obviously; I'm using S&W; and we're playing Jeff Rient's megadungeon Under Xylarthen's Tower- marking the first time I've ever (in 30+ years of gaming) used an adventure I didn't write myself.

So here we go.

After leaving their time machine, Jack and TUW find themselves on a bleak and blasted plain under a darkening sky. A ruin-covered low hilltop looms in the near distance and the black line of a mountain range can be seen on the eastern horizon. Reports from other Temporal agents have placed the Sonic Cyborg Arm in an underground complex beneath a ruined tower. The adventures decide to climb the hill and check out the ruins.
Searching around in the ruins they find a staircase leading down. The stair ends in a dusty old corridor. Turning on their flashlights they set out to explore the place. walking down the corridor they pass through a t- intersection, but keep on in their original direction.
The corridor ends in a door; TUW opens it, and together, the warriors enter a half collapsed room. Suddenly a giant snake rears up from the rubble- and strikes! A fierce battle takes ensues. Sgt. Jack is caught up in the snakes coils, but TUW draws his vibroblade (which does, 1d6 damage just like everything else, btw) and hacks at the snake. Jack draws a pocket knife and attacks it as well. In no time at all the snake is defeated.
The victors search the rubble.
They find some gold and silver pieces which TUW puts into his bag
The room has several doors, but they pass these up to go back out the way they came in. Once back out in the corridor, they return to the t- intersection. This time they go left and come to another door. TUW pushes this one open. Entering into the room the pair is confronted by a huge ogre. He shouts something unintelligible at them, and- they attack! They both get banged up this time, but are ultimately victorious. The room has two doors besides the one which they came in, one to the north and another to the south. They select the southern door. It has staircase leading down, and that's where we'll leave them for now.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Desert of Rust

The desert at night (Click on pic for full image)

The Desert of Rust:
The area that is now the Desert of Rust was once occupied by a spaceport, and a great city. Once the Earth became a forgotten galactic backwater, the disused spaceport gradually fell into ruin, and, over the course of the following millennia, the city was abandoned. Some say that a great earthquake broke open the city’s power plants, resulting in the spread of harmful radiation which forced the residents to flee. Others say it was a war, or a strange emanations from a alien starship that made the city unlivable. Grumpy old folks maintain that people just got tired of cleaning the place and left. Eventually, however, for what ever reasons, the city was both abandoned and shunned.
The great spires of glass and metal and the massive machines of the city were forgotten and left to rot. Furthermore, the nations of Xurk (the northern continent) and the peoples of the Archipelago of Nom commenced to using the region as a dumping ground for waste- hazardous and otherwise. Despite this, the place gradually became reinhabited, criminals and and renegade autonms found refuge in the collapsing ruin of the place, and fierce strains of animal and plant life evolved there as well.
Time crawled on.
Over the ages, the machines have rusted and decayed, until a thick layer of fine, silty rust lies across the entire landscape. The once great city has all but vanished beneath the red dust. In some places, seas of unbroken red dunes rise and fall from horison to horizon; in others , the remnants of machines and structures great and small thrust up through the dust, like jagged fingers clutching at the uncaring, blood-colored sky.
Deranged mechs, nomadic bands of depraved autonms and mutants wander this wasteland, dwelling in subterranean remnants of the lost city and and even in the open desert, living off dying batteries, dwindling hydraulic fluid and harvesting what metal they can. Huge mechanical worms move beneath the surface; strange beasts of unknown origin and aspect lurk in the red shadows, hungry for whatever sustenance they can find, be it ferrous or fleshy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Ssaur is one of the oldest extant cities on Xurk (the north continent) It is, and has always been the main home of the Shae. the city is divided into four districts, and can only be entered from the outside from the eastern most district: the Horn. Movement between districts is highly regulated. Only Shae, Lizardmen, and Greys are allowed to venture outside of the Horn. Humans are not allowed into the city at all except for in very special circumstances. The island upon which the city is built is generally very hilly; altitude increases sharply as one moves to the west; Stairs are as common as streets in the two lower most districts. Streets and stairs are absent from The Arbors and the High city both- these districts are restricted to higher caste Shae and their servants (mostly lower caste Shae). A closed network of Teleportation disks is the main method of conveyance in these areas.

Population: 25k
20% Shae
10% Lizard men
10% Grey
10% Mongrel
40% Minotaur
10% other


The Horn:
The lowermost area of the city is rundown and extremely overcrowded. It contains both entrances to the cities Agricultural caverns (referred to as the Greenshaft), and most of the residents are employed in food production. Hron (similar to manatee, but domesticated) are raised in pools located on the lowermost levels of the Greenshaft. Crime is rife here, and injustice is the norm. A huge Tyrannical Minotaur named Braxis manages the Greenshaft for his Shae masters, and subsequently rules the Horn itself.

The streets of the Horn are little more than muddy alleys winding between closely packed ramshackle buildings of wood, mudbrick and wattle.

The stink is so bad the locals have given it a name: The Waft. Characters who hole up in the horn for any length of time will carry the smell of it (one part bovine, one part rancid vegetable, three parts rotten fish, four parts unknown) for 3-8 days (1d6+2). Furthermore characters who have been there for over a week, will have to make perception (or equivalent) to even know that they smell that bad. Entering other districts of the city smelling of the waft is against the law and will lead to a Level One reprimand (see below). Entering the Haunted wood stinking of the Waft is the equivalent to offering a dinner invitation to every hungry predator within several leagues.

Market Town:
Market Town is where most of the city's business takes place. Higher class artisans and merchants (mostly low caste Shae) live here. The granite cobbled streets are patrolled by squads of Shae guards. Market Town is an exponentially more pleasant place than the Horn. Indoor plumbing is the norm and there are several (racially segregated) public baths. That said, it is far, far easier to get arrested in Market Town. The Circle (the city's ruling oligarchy) has a much firmer grip on Market Town than it does on the Horn, and their wishes are largely carried out by the guard commander and high judge (a Lizard Man) Korid Firescale. However there is a thriving black market in Hron meat (especially the bacon-like Glisglis), magic/tech items and green lingerie.

There is a working Teleportation pool in a disused temple. It leads to similar pool in Shards. Some trade is carried out between the two cities utilizing the pool, but the tariff is so high that many merchants prefer the risks of using one of the thrice yearly caravans to convey their goods.

The Arbors:
The Arbors is a lovely wooded residential area filled with circular clusters of Shae roundhouses. Magically Tame animals and monsters roam at will- and enforce the peace. Shae belonging to the highest seven castes (there are 24 total) live here. There are roughly thirty families livng in the Horn. The members of the so called "Overcaste" are selected from these families- this designation is usually based on Magical ability. Entering the Arbors without special permission will result in an instant Level three punishment (see below).

The High City:
Similar in many ways to the Arbors, The High City is the home of the Overcaste, or the Circle, the city's ruling elite. Members of this "non-caste" and their immediate families are considered to have transcended caste distinction. They display their unconcern for such things by eschewing the color green in their garments and domiciles and living in elaborate rectilinear houses, some of which even have scandalous and decadent features such as stairs and windows. Members of the Circle are Powerful sorcerers
A huge Ziggarut juts above all the other structures in the High City. It is rumored to be older than the city itself. No one, not even members of the Circle, ever talks about it.

The Law:
Sumptuary Laws:
Non Shae are prohibited from living in round structures, owning magic/tech items, anything green (or made from jade), using wheeled carts, congregating in groups of twelve or more and eating Hron (see below) meat. Religion is not completely outlawed, but it is generally frowned upon by most of the city's residents from high to low- as is common all over the ME.

Criminal Law
The Horn is ruled by the law of the jungle, but in the other sections of the city it is really easy to get arrested; guard captains are authorized to pronounce sentence on the spot, and the punishments are harsh to say the least. These punishments come in three varieties:

Level 1: (social impropriety censure). If you talk to loud, smell bad, commit an act of rudeness against a Shae (or sometimes a Lizard Man) or are found in Market Town when you shouldn't be there, you receive a level one punishment. This consists of 10 lashes, six months of penal servitude in the Greenshaft (usually involving the most dangerous work, and branding with a fool's mark (on the ass).

Level 2: (petty theft, murder of a non-Shae, unauthorized possession of contraband) Same as above, except it's a year in the Greenshaft, the brand goes on the transgressor's forehead, and the criminal is expelled into the wilderness at the close of the sentence, forbidden to return to Ssaur.

Level 3: (Grand theft, public drunkeness, murder or assault of a Shae or any of their agents, wearing green in public) Simply put they drop you down into the so called bottomless pit on the Isle of Solitude. No one has ever returned; therefore branding and flogging are considered redundant.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teleporation Pools

Once, long ago, the far flung regions of the Metal earth were connected by a network of teleportation pools. Traders and travelers journeyed via the pool system, utilizing submersible barges to pass through what was known then as The Between Sea. The trip was so short, though, that in most cases, teams of swimmers, usually comprised of Reptarch Longfin (now thought to be extinct), could tow all but the largest items from place to place. Able bodied humanoids of every race had no trouble making the trip. Like so much else, this golden time is all but lost to memory- today, most people don't even know the pools exist.

During the current time period The Between Sea is tainted and unsafe for travel. Huge undead angler fish, known as ghostfins prowl the waters, as well as a host of other evil and undead creatures. Distances seem longer as well. What once took but a few moments now requires hours- or longer. The pools are still usable, but the passage is very dangerous, and few who enter the water came out.

Pools range from about the size of bathtub to slightly larger than an Olympic swimming pool. Many cities have them, but few residents- even those in charge, know they exist. Evil creatures such as the Changers and the Slavers of Gear make use of them to further their vile and twisted schemes.

Aside from the large-scale pool network many large sites featured closed networks of pools. These may or not share the taint of the open Between Sea.

Sample Player Character Races

Timmy of the Wastelands

...First there came the humans, risen from the primordial muck in a time so distant that it is not even a memory. They made the others, some by accident, others by design. But the humans were wicked and red handed, as cruel to their servants as their foes. A day came when the other races banded together and threw down their masters. A terrible war ensued. human power was broken, but with it, so was the world...

-A fragment from The Wall of Loss at Ssaur.

Mutants, Mongrels, Cyborgs and Freaks:
These are perhaps the most common residents of the Metal Earth. Almost anything goes, all sorts of strange twisted creatures live and mingle among the more pure strain races. The social status of such creatures is variable- often completely dependent on how strange they look. Character generation for each of these would have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.


The most exotic and least common of the races. Human diversity and flexibility are legendary; this very real aspect of the race, coupled with their extreme rareness has made them an object of distrust. If plague spreads, or there is an earthquake or a rash of bad weather, or if the soup is scalded and the cheese is hard, chances are, if there is a human about the blame will be cast in their direction. That said, most of the denizens of the Metal Earth go their entire lives without seeing any humans at all- and many beleive they have gone extinct or never really existed at all.

Some myths suggest that the other races are descended from or were outright created by humans. As in times past, human customs and mores vary widely from group to group, however, humans of the Iron Time tend to avoid large racially diverse cities, and are more likely to be found in small, often hidden woodland settlements.

Human Options:
• Anachronism: this is a human from another time, perhaps the twentieth century, or the age of sail- or really any time at all.

• Untrained: The character will progress to level 1 of a (martial) class of his/her choice after earning 500 XP- theses XP don’t vanish, though, and the character will still progress on to level 2 after gaining 500 more XP for a total of 1000. This is option might well lead to unbalanced parties- but the Metal Earth isn’t about balance, so piss off.

• Mur Madlings (see below) are humans- with one notable difference; they can tap the Arcane power source without a visit to the fountain. If anything, they are even less trusted than run of the mill humans.

The second most common of the mammalian races, Grod are horned and tailed humanoids thought to be a hybrid of Humans and Minotaurs, or perhaps humanoid offspring of Devilgoats. Some scholars believe that Grod are a mixture of humanity and infernal sources. All this is, of course, mere conjecture.The truth is lost somewhere in the mist of time. Grod are largely urban and often dominate the political structure of multiracial settlements.
Advance as fighters. +1 CHA. Advance as fighters. Special attack Gore 1d6+ STR mod, must have a running start, no running start horns do 1d4 dmg.

The most common of the mammalian races. Minotaurs, along with Leafeaters (see below) make up the foundation of most large settlements. The last great empire, which was destroyed during the Wars of Unreason, (see below) was dominated by Minotaurs. Minotaurs along with Leafeaters make up most of the agricultural peasant class on the Metal Earth. Minotaurs have an odd fascination with mazes and labyrinths, so much so that even the home of simplest farmer is likely to feature twisty corridors, fake doors, and dead end passages.
Advance as fighters. -2 CHA, -1 WIS, +2 STR. Special attack: Gore, DMG: 1d8 +STR (with running start) 1d6 without running start.

The Reptarch are a saurian species that come in two varieties, Leafeater and Speartooth, of the two only the second is a suitable player character choice. All Reptarch are born as sexless herbivores, at the age of twelve they either sex or remain neuters, no one knows why. Sexed Reptarchs are known as Speartooth and unlike their unsexed counterparts, they eat meat- and if rumors are to be believed, sometimes it is the meat of Leafeaters. Speartooth are both more intelligent and more aggressive than Leafeaters, and they run Reptarch settlements. Although Reptarchs are occasionally found living in heterogeneous urban areas and villages, they more often keep to homogenous agricultural settlements.

Advance as fighters. +1 Str, +1 Con, -1AC (with descending AC=better), Breath Weapon once every 10 rounds for a maximum of twice a day range 10'/level Damage 1d6 +lvel- as missile attack.

Bipedal constructs of wood stone and metal, almost certainly created by humans for some forgotten war. Autonms are nearly as rare as their creators, and often travel in their company due to a special affinity the two groups have for one another. Unattached Autonms wander the world as mercenaries or adventurers.
Advance as fighters, +3 to STR or CON (player's choice of how to divide these up) -3 CHA. -2 AC.

Thought to be only slightly less elder than the humans. Shae are sorceress being who tend to live in urban environments. They are often associated with magic and science both. Like a Mur Madlings, Shae can draw upon the arcane power source without a trip to the fountain. Appearence wise shae look very much like humans except they lack all body hair.
Advance as magic users- level limit 6, and then as fighters with no further spell progression.
Racial ability: Short Range Teleport (50' line of site, twice a day.)

Another human hybrid, that occasionally even live among humans, and are often lumped in with them by the ignorant. Beastkin are more savage in appearance and more physical than humans in general. They are, however, more likely to live as a minority underclass in cities dominated by the other races.
Advance as fighters. +1 STR or CON (players choice), +2 DEX, -2 CHA -1 WIS.

War Ape:
Huge horned Simians from the tropical jungles of the sweltering southland, War apes sometimes travel in the settled lands working as mercenaries, bodyguards, or even just as wandering adventurers.
Note: The Hindrances listed in the Savage Worlds stat block should really come into play whichever system you are using.

War Apes advance as fighters. +2STR, +2CON, -2CHA, -2WIS.
Special attack: Gore, DMG: 1d8 +STR (with running start) 1d6 without running start.

A word to referee's about customizing the setting-
The Metal Earth is fucking huge, far larger in land area than our earth- how much larger? Nobody knows. Why is it larger? Fucked if I know; it just is. Now, fuck off and get over it. The races listed above are only suggestions, one could easily change them out for different races. That said, the list might prove useful for any GM who needs to fill a tavern or a city- or you can just use them as suggested. After all, it's your world. Bitch.

Anyway, I'm thinking of changing the racial bonuses out with a minimum attribute prerequisite system, but I'm undecided. I like idea that anyone can be whatever they want, and the prerequisite system messes that up.

Whatever- these races are just samples.