Sir Isaac Newton Fights Crime!

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My friend Scott posted something on facebook about Sir Isaac Newton's battle against a counterfieter. Apparently, he was in charge of the mint for a period of time and had to battle against a very skilled and intelligent counterfeiter. This lead to a brief discussion about using this a source material for stories. One of the suggestions was the possibility that his alchemy research actually bore results. A group of commenters posited a steampunk world where Sir Isaac Newton serves as a detective, or at least continues his role at the mint.

This led to the following ideas in my de-sugared brain:

  • The counterfeiter, William Chaloner, develops a semi-functioning philosopher's stone to make gold coins.
  • The philosopher's stone is essentially a battery with an insane amount of energy, thus providing the energy required to change lead to gold. (After all, you have to add protons to change lead to gold, so we're going nuclear!)
  • To produce the philosopher's stone, Chaloner develops a type of diamond anvil that compresses tiny sheets of tin or pewter into a super-material that converts mechanical energy into chemical energy.
  • This machine uses a massive hydraulic device to produce the force large enough to perform this change.
  • Chaloner walks on a platform that slowly descends three stories. The sheets of tin/pewter are placed on top of the diamond anvil on the other cylinder. Although the other cylinder is several feet in diameter, it only raises less than 1/4 of an inch. The diamond anvil itself is very small due to the price of diamonds, but the resulting supermaterial can be stacked together to create a powerful battery. It takes quite a bit of time to create one battery.
  • The battery is only good for one use, but that one use generates eight to twelve pounds of gold.
  • In theory, it can be recharged, but it would take quite a long time using waterwheels or various other techniques available at the time.
  • Sir Isaac Newton improves upon the battery, but find that it can power all manner of things for a very long time (years).

The linkdump approches. Sources are named.

Here are the links of supporting information. Yes, this is still not entirely possible according to the known laws of the universe, but it is at-least a bit more plausible to me:

Book about Sir Isaac Newton working at the Kings Mint.

A look at Alchemy, thanks to Khan Academy.

Wikipedia's thoughts on energy storage.

What is a diamond anvil actually? (My diamond anvil is loosely based on this.)

The source of my idea for the battery.

Resource for diamond cutting information.

And, of course, hydraulic machinery.

Chew on that for the weekend. Maybe I can work on it in December. 🙂

Reading Material Week of October 17th

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I read a lot of random things to help generate ideas. Here are the things I have been reading in the past week:

[contentcards url="http://monstersandmanuals.blogspot.com/2015/08/instantiations-from-other-worlds.html" target="_blank"]

You need something from other worlds that is different from typical D&D Outer Planes stuff? There are so many adventure seeds that come to mind from some of the creatures I've generated with this.

Steel Miner

The Steel Miner has been seen from time to time near the entrance to the mine. Encounters are rare as the mine has been closed for several years, but some foolish souls visit from time to time hoping to glean a bit more silver from the depleted cavern.

It is described as a ghostly metallic man with thick arms and legs trudging through the tunnels. It disappears by going through a cave wall. A few have attempted to attack the creature, but any non-magical implements pass through the shadowy figure.

It is believed to wield several powers, but the most notable is the beam of burning like that comes from its mouth. Using the beam, the lumbering man carves deep gouges into the cave walls. It is believed that the apparition is searching for another vein of silver.

Steel Miner: HD 5; AC 2 [17]; Atk Beam of Light (2d6+2); Move 6; Save 12; AL N; CL/XP 12/2,000; Special: Darkness 15' radius, Feeblemind, Magic Missile, Polymorph Other, Telekineses, Can only be harmed by magic weapons.

[contentcards url="http://www.unifon.org/pages/unifon-characters.html" target="_blank"]

Who doesn't want to make cool inscriptions? I am thinking about using this font for White Star or magical circles. One of the things I like about it is that this could be a system that the players could learn over time. For someone with a thief, I would pass along certain clues as they got closer to 9th level.

Snowflake Settings! (Couldn't create a content card for this, so go read hillcantons.blogspot.com for everything. Really. Go. Now.

Long live the Snowflake Settings! Holy cow, I come up with a new one every month or so, but only sketch out many one every two years or so.  I look forward to more settings like this. Maybe I will eventually finish one. 🙂

[contentcards url="http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/latinlanguage/qt/LatinMeter.htm" target="_blank"]

Latin meters strike me for all the vocabulary words in here. In a perfect world, I would write spell descriptions based on these meters (changing long/short vowel to stress/unstressed).

Anapest Animal Growth

Spell Level: Druid, 5th Level; Magic-User, 5th Level
Range: 120 feet
Duration: 2 hours

Up to six creatures grow to the size of a troll. While it lasts they hit hard, double dice of the norm.

I do not always hear the rhythms correctly, so feel free to correct any errors.

[contentcards url="http://bxblackrazor.blogspot.com/2015/10/48-pages-to-glory.html" target="_blank"]

Forty-eight pages is a noble goal. I would love to make my game that uses six-siders and a deck of cards into only 48 pages.

[contentcards url="http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/37916/roleplaying-games/universal-npc-roleplaying-template" target="_blank"]

I think about stuff like this to help me organize all the time. I still have to chew on this. I love the idea, especially the note that an NPC really only needs one mannerism.

[contentcards url="http://rumorsofwarcomic.com/2015/10/revisiting-three-hundred-sixty/" target="_blank"]

Making 360 locations feels to me like an massive sandbox. Would I make that many locations into a railroad? Still so much to ponder on this one, too.

That's what I'm reading this week. This is an irregular type of post, so I may not make another one of these until November.

Remember the Gazetteers?

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One of the thing about the Northern Reaches is that it had a DM book and a Players Book. I don't have all of them, but if memory serves, this was the only one that had more than one country detailed. I thought about this earlier tonight when I was working on a project.

When I was in high school playing my version of D&D, the Gazetteers felt like so much boring reading with no real value. I loved reading them and thinking about the stories that could take place in these various places. The issue was that I didn't feel like I could do the setting justice if I put it into the games I ran.

In my defense, I was 16. Still, I'm the same person that played Spelljammer without any 2e books and a mishmash of various editions + Dragon magazines. Why on earth did I get the sudden concern over playing "by the book"?

What I enjoy about rulesets and sub-systems is that they are tools to help me play my game. The settings books at that time felt like places to tell a story according to specific constraints. Some of the constraints did not fit into my game, so I tossed out most of it.

These days, I see similar books that seem to fit between a setting and a module. Anomalous Subsurface Environment feels like one of them. You're in the future, a city is laid out, there are lots of new creatures and all kinds of new devices. I feel like I could put Denethix in my game. More than that, I could just take out the city and just do the module, even with the lasers and robots.

The Grognardia review says it best:

... we get lots of random tables and adventure hooks rather than pages of historical and cultural information that serve no immediate purpose.

So while I am toiling away on a creature book, I begin to see connections between the various monsters. A series of images of giants make me wonder what kind of place would exist to deal with these massive creatures? My brain delighted in thinking about the backstory, history, and all sorts of neat story ideas featuring these giants. Maybe they are descendants of the Greek Titans. Maybe they are servants of evil gods sent to lay waste to the earth. Maybe they found a cache of growth potions.

After about an hour, I realized that as much as I wanted to write a Gazetteer type of book to explain these giants (and lots of other creatures), that I was about to create something that the 16 year old me would never use. Read? Oh my, yes, but not for a game. It's true that I can work my way back to random tables and adventure hooks, but I'm in the place now where I want to convey a sense of different without the story getting in the way. In other words, the setting where these giants exist is different, but not so much of a special snowflake setting that they cannot exist somewhere else.

I read a review of Slumbering Ursine Dunes and found a description of something different, but useful. One line from the review stuck out to me:

No verbiage is wasted on things that will never interface with play.

Finally, someone has put to words what I was thinking almost thirty years ago. Slumbering Ursine Dunes has a new class, tax-collectors, magic devices, and a solution to uninteresting elves. There are places to visit that aren't detailed into a series of keyed rooms or hexes.

If I were to write a mini-setting, a gazetteer, or interesting hex-crawl, it would look a lot more like S.U.D or A.S.E and less like some of my favorite reading material as a kid. I'd make sure to present the bones of new classes, new monsters, and unique locales to be sure. More important, though, would be a list of adventure hooks as well as a way to generate your own. After all, it is not about my vision for a perfect fantasy setting, it's about evoking possibilities and providing tools to fleshing out those possibilities.

Where does this leave me several hours later into working on this project? Two new classes, a handful of new spells, unique creatures, and just enough info to let you know that this isn't just another faux European place. The only jargon I've got so far are the names of the gods, a city name, and a word for a massive giant-killing crossbow. The names of the Gods matter to Clerics because you get three or four extra spells available to you depending on the god you serve. The giant-killing crossbows matter because giant attacks happen more than would normally happen rolling against the encounter table. The names feel a bit Phoenician/Roman/Punic, but creating a character is still rolling 3d6 in order, buying some gear, and walking out of town to seek your fortune. If you want, you can generate a name that sounds Phoenician/Greek/Roman, etc, but if you want Bob the Bold, go for it!

Just don't call the tricherabishtra a big freakin' crossbow. Maybe a trichee, if you're a local. 🙂