December 27, 2011

Give Them Something to Aspire To

One of the best things about epic/high level play (in any system) is the ability to become one of the movers and shakers of their world. The character’s decisions begin to have a visible and persistent effect on the world around them.  The rest of the world starts to look to them for leadership (or fear if they are chaotic/evil enough). The characters become heads of wizard’s circles, kings of nations, high-priests of religious sects and leaders of thieves’ guilds. Even if they make no choices in regards to ruling an organization, they still become the greatest mage, fiercest fighter, most pious cleric and craftiest rogue the world has ever seen.

But now the question is, how to judge when a character can be considered the “best in the world”. Is vanquishing the ancient, evil dragon enough? Defeating a god? Those are singular achievements wherein the characters can feel good about themselves. However, true pre-eminence comes from acknowledgment by their peers. Characters become the best in the world when everyone else says they are.

And this is where organizations come in. If there are organizations within the world that are touted as the being the best in the world, then player character involvement with these organizations will highlight their place in the pecking order of the world.
Or that’s the theory. The mage can not become the head of the nation’s Wizard’s Circle unless there is a Wizard’s Circle to become the head of. Likewise a nation to rule, religious order to head or thieves’ guild to run. In order for a character to become the head of such an organization there first has to be such an organization in existence. Thus it is a good idea to create these organizations at the start of a campaign.

Take a look at your player characters and do some guesswork as to what they would like to aspire to. And then place such an organization into your world. Even if they end up deciding not to head up the organization you had planned for them, the organization is still of use. It can be used as a catalyst for showing everyone the epicness of the player characters by providing adversaries for them to vanquish.

As an example, if you have a mage in your group you could create an organization called the Arcanum. This group would be known as a society made up of the greatest mages in the world. In the early part of the character’s career he may simply aspire to join the group. Once that is accomplished he can start to move his way up the ranks until he becomes its head after some great deed. It would be a sign to the players and to the in-character world that the character is now an important person in the world.

And what if the player has no interest in the Arcanum? Then, as the player character starts to reach the epic levels, he will find himself at odds with the Arcanum and they will end up sending their best to challenge the player character. And after the character defeats the best the Arcanum sent against him, he can similarly declare himself the best mage of the world.

While organizations are the best target for a character to aspire to, they are not required. Sometimes NPC individuals can work the same. If you have set up a single NPC as the best in the world then defeating that person can be enough. A couple examples of this are Elminster from Forgotten Realms or the Dragon from Dark Sun.

The point here is to set up something as the “best in the world” so that when the players defeat/replace them it is a clear sign that they are now the “best in the world”. Player characters can not aspire to greatness unless there is something to show they have accomplished this task. And to do this they need something to aspire to.




December 26, 2011

Wanted: 25

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-A fellow adventurer has been lost in a dungeon crawl. Can the characters rescue him or will they be forced to fight his undead form? Or is he not really missing, but rather has forsaken his heroic ways for a life of evil? Only a dungeon crawl can answer these questions.

December 20, 2011

Pinewood - A Village

This is Pinewood, a lumber community of 50 people.  It was the starting place of my The Children campaign.  It is basic but could be used for any fairly generic village. Feel free to use it as you wish; it could come in handy if you need a village on the fly.
A couple of notes about my write-up. Families are named for the father of the house.  The number within the parenthesis is the age of the person. While I do not make specific mention of it, you can assume the two oldest are a married couple and the rest are their children. You should be able to click on the map to bring up a larger version of it.

 


















Type: Village
Population: 50
Notes: This is primarily a foresting community on the outskirts of Dunwood. All goods are shipped down to the town of Crossroads, which lies 40 miles away, once a month.  It is out of the way and sees virtually no visitors.  The closest other settlement is Woodport, another foresting village 20 miles to the southeast. 

Erlien
Erlien(62), Truda(57)
Erlien is the oldest man in the village, but he still works as a woodcutter.  He is getting slower and less active, but the village still respects his work.

Father Johann
Father Johann(42)
Father Johann is the priest of the Church of the Uni.  He is adamant that his faith is the correct one, but follows the policy of allowing other faiths. [The Church of the Uni believes that there is only one god and that all other gods are just a manifestation or aspect of that one god. As such, the church allows for the worship of other gods as they view it still being a worship of the one god. Feel free to make Father Johann a priest of a god of your own pantheon.]

Gottheim
Gottheim(34), Kirsta(36), Heinz(18), Katrina(14)
Gottheim is what would be called the village blacksmith.  He has limited knowledge of metalworking, mostly in regard to axes and saws.  He can also do a little bit more, like shoeing a horse, but the work is shoddy at best.  He only blacksmiths when it is required and spends the rest of the time woodcutting.

Hann
Hann(37), Anna(36), Amilia(17), Vanea(15)
Hann is the nominal leader of the village, but only because he actually knows how to read and is willing to do the job.  Mostly he is just a good woodcutter.

Heinhardt
Heinhardt(48), Hannilla(42), Rhonea(24)
Heinhardt is a steady woodcutter.  As for Rhonea, the family has lost hope of her ever finding a man willing to marry her.

Jetta
Jetta(38), Georgina(32), Rhon(7), Krist(6), Thudra(4), Luna(2), Dien(1)
Jetta is the best woodsman within the village.  All the youngsters within the village are trained by Jetta at one time or another.

Max
Max(20), Kiertilla(17)
Max is the eldest son of Hann.  Just last year he was married and built his own home.  He is the future of the village and it is in good hands.

Ostad
Ostad(41), Rhondea(38), Than(19), Karl(18), Alheim(16), Truda(10), Kriston(7), Lotte(5)
Ostad owns the Inn of the Osprey, as well as the Stables.  Ostad has been able to quit the woodcutting livelihood and concentrate on his business ventures.  There isn’t much of a market for an inn or stables, but currently he has plenty of money coming in.  Rhondea, his wife, is pregnant again, though some feel she is too old to be carrying this child and fear it will be lost.

Otto
Otto(29)
Otto is a farmer.  He grows a wide variety of vegetables and grains for the village. He is the only regular source of food, but even so it would not be enough without the supplies bought in Crossroads.

Ruprecht
Ruprecht(52), Hannra(27), Karea(6), Mhars(4)
Ruprecht is the only villager not born here. He was once an adventurer, but retired long ago.  While he has some money he now embraces the life of a woodcutter. 

Tana
Tana(34), Willa(28), Erik(11), Dierhard(9), Bernrich(8)
A woodcutter.  During his spare time Tana makes furniture, specifically rocking chairs.  The few chairs he makes during the year are sent along when the lumber is taken to Crossroads. 

Van
Van(23), Marilla(24), Frank(1)
A woodcutter.  Frank was born with a deformed left arm and since the birth the parents have become withdrawn from village social activities.

Walther
Walther(21), Rhon(12), Uwe(11)
Walther’s main responsibility in the village is to transport the monthly delivery of wood to Crossroads.  Several of the villagers assist him and the trip usually takes 3 days to complete.  When not making the monthly trip Walther spends his time taking the cut wood out of Dunwood and getting it ready for transportation.

Wilhold
Wilhold(25), Kirstilla(18)
Wilhold is the son of Heinhardt.  He is a competent woodcutter.  Kirstilla is expecting their first child.

Luthor
Luthor is a very powerful mage.  He has taken it upon himself to educate some of the children in the village.  He has done much for the village including providing a steady water well and other benefits.  As for his past nothing is known.

December 19, 2011

Wanted: 24

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-If the military is recruiting groups of civilian adventurers to do some scouting, it can only mean a couple of things. One is that they deem it too dangerous for "regular" scouts, two that they may not want to be associated with the scouting missions and want plausible deniability. Either way, these could be some exciting scouting missions into enemy territory, perhaps for a potential attack into another country or to head off an invasion. Will the military allow the group to live after their usefulness is done and they have gained some knowledge of what is going on? Only the DM can decide that.

December 16, 2011

How to write an EPIC! adventure (Deja Vu)

There has been some talk lately about how to make and run Epic adventures. A lot of these points can be used for every edition or game system. Of course, most of these discussions have been on the mechanical side of the issue; how to balance the numbers to make it feel epic, how to make it so the monsters are not pushovers. However, there has not been a lot of talk about what goes into the story part of an Epic adventure, how to build the feeling of EPIC!

All too often DMs simply throw bigger monsters at the characters and call it EPIC! More hit points and damage dealing does not make EPIC! Sometimes the DM will put the characters in exotic locations and call it EPIC! Simply going to another plane is not enough to make it EPIC! Sure these things are part of being EPIC! but it’s a matter of magnitude. There are a few things to remember if you want to build truly EPIC! adventures.

-Make it Big. Players don’t fight a Roc - They fight the biggest bird on the planet, one that blocks out the sun when it flies nearby. One that nests on the highest mountain of the world. Everything is the biggest it can be. The monsters are bigger than anything else the characters have fought before. They go to the highest and deepest places in the world. Go Big!

-Make it Unique. The characters will do things no one has ever done before and no one will ever be able to do again. They will kill the one and only King of Rocs and after they do that, no one else will ever be able to do it again, because it will be dead. No one on the world has ever scaled the highest mountain on the world, but the characters will. Sure, others might be able to do it after the characters do it, but the characters will forever and always be the first to have done it.

-Make the Stakes Big. What the characters can win or, and perhaps more importantly, what they can lose are both big in scope. They don’t get a magic item as a reward; they get Doomsinger, the Apocalyptic Sword, as a reward. The characters do not save villages from kobolds, they save worlds from alien invasions. If the characters fail in their quest worlds die, millions of people are lost.

By keeping these concepts in mind you can easily adapt other adventures into something EPIC! Have an old module sitting around where the party must defend a village from raids by infiltrating an orc cave and killing the hobgoblin chieftain? Take the adventure and EPIC! size it! Instead of saving a village, they are saving the Last Bastion of Magic from the Hordes of Demon-Orcs who are trying to steal the last of the magic in the world. Instead of infiltrating an orc cave, they are assaulting the Iron Citadel of Magma at the core of the planet. Instead of killing a hobgoblin chieftain, they are killing the Spirit of the World itself which has been corrupted by Orcus.

The underlying concept here is to take everything to an extreme. Do this and you will be able to design awesome EPIC! adventures. Also capitalizing everything helps…and exclamation marks!

December 13, 2011

Messing with Resurrection

In most fantasy worlds there is a method of resurrecting the dead. The methods used are fairly straight forward. Here are some alternate ways to handle the concept of death, specifically after-death, the resurrection of characters. Note that these are world/campaign changing concepts; as such, incorporating these ideas is something that should be decided during world creation.

Reincarnation
When a person is raised from the dead they lose their original body/race. Instead they are always raised into a new form/race. A DM can take a look at earlier editions of D&D for random reincarnation tables or can look at a 4E reincarnation ritual I did in an earlier article.
Legend: The gods keep the original mortal form as servants while the soul of the character is given a new form.

Animal Companion
Almost everyone in the world has a non-combat animal companion. When a person dies his soul goes into his animal companion. From there the person can be raised from the dead as per normal. The only real problem is when a person loses his animal companion; in this case a soul passes on without any chance of future resurrection.
Legend: There have always been mortal ties with the animal/spirit world. This is another way they are bound together.

Undead
When any sentient being dies, they rise as an undead. These undead however, are free-willed as they are not created through necromancy. However, they are susceptible to beings that can control undead.
Legend: Long ago a god created the Planar Shield which prevents souls from passing on to the Outer Planes. Thus souls are forced to remain in their bodies as undead.

Combat
When a resurrection is cast upon a person’s mortal body, the character must fight a spirit being on the spirit plane. Failure in this fight could mean the resurrection fails or that the character comes back to life with reduced stats.
Legend: The gods do not like the souls in their possession being taken from their realms. This is their attempt to prevent this.

Balance
This is not a new idea; it has been mentioned before on the blog-o-sphere. The concept is simply that when a person is resurrected someone else in the world dies. This is a random choice and rarely, if ever, would come into play from a character's viewpoint. However, the concept may cause some moral dilemmas for the characters to work with.
Legend: There are a finite number of souls allowed in the world and a cosmic balance must be maintained.


December 12, 2011

Wanted: 23

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.




 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-Is he a harmful villain or only a seducer of other men's wives and daughters? Is this reward because he has harmed someone's person or just their pride? What will the characters do if he comes to them for aid?

December 6, 2011

4E and Game Empowerment

The subtitle to this article could easily have been How the DDI Character Builder is Ruining 4E. While there is some more ammunition for the 4E haters out there and this article can be construed as some 4E bashing, I first want to say that I really do love 4E. The things it has brought to the gaming table, such as exciting and dynamic combats, ease of adventure creation and the ability for the party to work together, far outweigh its negative aspects. That being said, there is some implementation of 4E, specifically the Character Builder that is driving people away from 4E and diminishing the game.

A couple of definitions for ‘Empower’ are… 
- to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means.
- the giving of an ability; enablement or permission.”


December 5, 2011

Wanted: 22

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-A magical warhammer. Could it be something more? An artifact of ancient lore? Some research may reveal there is more to this item than it at first appears. And what use will it be put to by those who are offering the reward?

November 29, 2011

Getting Rid of Equipment

Of late, I have been gearing up for my Stargate campaign (Spacemaster system) and I have been going over the equipment lists for it. In particular, I have been looking over the gear Bundle lists from the AEG Stargate SG1 game system. And then I began to compare these to the TV series. And then to any TV/Movie of the same genre. And I determined that they do not use equipment lists.

We have all seen the montage wherein the hero starts packing his overabundance of weaponry; sheathing knives, jamming clips into guns, spinning revolvers, cocking his shotgun, etc. But we never see the equipment montage; cleaning the lens of the binoculars, booting up the PDA, sharpening the pencils, slamming the batteries into the flashlight, coiling up the rope, sighting the compass, etc.
And that is because, equipment that does not affect combat is boring

November 28, 2011

Wanted: 21

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-The Cat nomer could apply to the fact he is in fact a werecat. Dirk is an agent for an enemy government sent to spy. Investigation of the charges will reveal it occured to a government official with access to sensitive govenment documents detailing troop movements and codes. Pursuing this reward will drag the party into an adventure of espionage and double-dealing with a lycanthrope at its center. Are they ready for that?

November 23, 2011

How to Plot A Novel/Campaign in 5 Steps

While doing some research on yesterday’s article about to how to take the World of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron and turn it into an RPG campaign setting, I came across the author’s blog. Of particular interest was a post she made on How I Plot A Novel in 5 Steps. While there have been other articles detailing how writing novels and RPG campaign design are very similar, I still enjoyed her thoughts and felt there are a lot of good points to be taken away from her post. You can find the article here.

I’ll copy over some of the better parts and take a look at them from the point of view of someone working on designing a campaign for their RPG game.

November 22, 2011

The World of Eli Monpress

Like most RPGers I like my fiction. I can get into a good sci-fi, fantasy or modern thriller book. Often there are things I can use in my own games, either for a one-shot adventure, or ways I can add to my own ongoing campaigns. And sometimes I like a book enough to want to play in that world as a campaign of its own. The books of Eli Monpress is one of those worlds.

If you are unfamiliar with the books of Eli Monpress they are a series of books (three so far) by Rachel Aaron. They are firmly in the fantasy genre. They take a wonderful and refreshing approach to the fantasy setting. And there is much to steal from the books for one’s own settings. I’ll outline some of the best parts…

November 21, 2011

Wanted: 20

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-Even if no one in the party does not speak elvish, they may have come across an NPC who does, or they may go out and seek to find an elf.
-Why is someone looking for a translator? Perhaps he has an elvish document that leads to an ancient ruin ripe for plundering (for which he will need a group of adventurers). Perhaps he has captured an elf and needs to pry some secret knowledge from the elf. Either way, this will doubtlessly lead to further adventures.

November 18, 2011

Who was the One?

The other day on Facebook (yes, I still use Facebook) I received a friend request from someone I hadn’t heard from for over 25 years. I immediately confirmed, but right thereafter I began to think about all the things we had done together in high school. And then it hit me, he was the person who had introduced me and my friends to role-playing games.

He was one grade ahead of us, but we all knew each other from mutual interests; fantasy, science fiction, computers. And then one day we went over his house after school and he introduced us to D&D. And of course we loved it. We all became hooked and would play whenever we could; we even took a senior skip day and went to the local park to play all day long. Soon thereafter we quickly tried other RPGs, such as Villains and Vigilantes, Traveller and Gamma World. I’ve been playing ever since and covered a wide range of game systems since then, but it all started with that one person and D&D.

Who introduced you to role-playing games? Are you still in contact with them?

November 15, 2011

Nine Hallmarks

With one of the latest WotC setting books, Neverwinter Campaign Setting, they included Nine Hallmarks of a Neverwinter Campaign in the Introduction. Basically this is nine points that define the campaign setting and help make it unique. To be honest, some of the points can be seen in many other settings, such as Myriad Possibilities, but they do help keep in mind the theme and direction of the setting. This helps a person who wants to run a Neverwinter campaign remember the important things that make up the core of the setting. They did the same thing with the Darksun Campaign Setting book.

I like the concept of the Hallmarks of a campaign. A list of core concepts that help define a setting. In fact, this could be applied to game systems as well. Basically a list of the things that make the campaign or system unique. They can include unique setting concepts or how the rules interact with the setting.

I also like the fact there are only nine points. This helps to crystallize the most important things about the setting/system. Many settings have more than nine unique points but by limiting the number to nine it helps to narrow down the most important points. As a side point to this, if a person is designing a new setting/game system and they can not come up with Nine Hallmarks, perhaps their setting/system is not strong enough to stand on its own.

November 14, 2011

Wanted: 19

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-This is a dangerous man and pursuing him will be an undertaking. He will have demons at his command. He is wearing a symbol and is likely part of a larger organization.
-What are his goals? His offense is not helpful. While consorting with demons is not a pleasant thing, he doubtless has evil plans that will harm the common folk. Perhaps he is planning to overthrow a government or, even worse, he may be seeking a way to allow the demons of Hell an easy gateway into our world.

November 11, 2011

Do Character Powers Define Role-Play?

A few weeks ago, the blog Gaming Tonic wrote an article on the subject on the overwhelming choices that exist for certain RPGs, specifically Pathfinder and 4E; though to be honest many of the inherent points made within the article apply to any edition or RPG system. The basic premise of the post is that despite there being a large number of choices, in the end all the choices tend to boil down to a select few optimized builds. It then went on to proclaim that these builds inhibited role-playing since they are always the same build and thus the characters created were all the same and thus were played the same each time.

Even if I took more or less away from the article than was intended, for me it still brought up the question of…do character builds dictate role-playing of the character?

November 9, 2011

Presidential Candidates as D&D Character Sheets

I am not a political person at all, but I do like amusing and mainstream accounts of D&D. Here is a website that did up a bunch of the Presidential candidates as D&D character sheets. I'm sure there is some political bias on the part of the author, but a lot of it is funny nevertheless.

http://www.funnyordie.com/lists/e0cb0351f6/presidential-candidates-explained-through-dungeons-and-dragons-character-sheets?playlist=featured_pictures_and_words

November 8, 2011

Where Did the Dungeons Come From?

Dungeons are a staple of most D&D campaign worlds. However, when it comes to world-building, why were the dungeons originally built? Why are there so many dungeons for the player characters to explore? It is a good idea to contemplate the idea of where the dungeons came from during world-building as the answers can add a level of “realism” to a campaign world and also provide adventure ideas down the road.

Here are some rationalizations for the existence and proliferation of dungeons. It is assumed these dungeons were initially created in ancient days.

November 7, 2011

Wanted: 18

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.




 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
-A simple but effective entryway into an adventure killing orcs and taking their stuff. Sometimes that is all the players want to do some nights and if they pick up on this poster they are letting you know this is what they want for the evening.

November 3, 2011

Supervillain: Rabid

Rabid

Gary Thom has the ability to control and enhance animals. He is a freelance contractor willing to do anything for money. He often teams up with others. He keeps a variety of animals at his apartment, some fairly normal and some exotic. He has also been known to use animals from local zoos on occasion.

Some of his animals are Birds (Blood Hawk Sentinel), Spiders (Deathjump Spider, Spiderling), Snakes (Deathrattle Viper, Sail Snake, Viper Swarm) Dogs (Dire Wolf, Pack of Hounds), Cats (Tiger). These animals (and their above normal stats) should be considered to already have been driven into a frenzy by Rabid. In any encounter with Rabid it should be assumed he has enough animals with him to bring the encounter up to a full encounter.

November 2, 2011

Supervillain: Headache

Headache

Georgina Lewis is a mild telepathic. She discovered her powers as a youngster in school when they came to the forefront while being harassed by the other girls. Since then she has learned to channel her powers in all the wrong ways, using it to hurt other people, much as she was hurt as a teenager. It is possible she could access other telepathic abilities if she focused and explored outside her usual ways and means, but she seems content to only use her abilities to hurt others in the most unsubtle way possible.

November 1, 2011

Supervillain: Volcano

Volcano

Sid Mann is a big guy. He came from the school of hard knocks, mostly as an instructor. He has learned to use his size to his advantage. When he discovered he could summon fire, things got even better. Now he uses his prowess to his advantage, even if that means others have to suffer.

Volcano can summon fire, but for now he does not know how to cause it to shoot. Instead he usually simply makes his fists fiery as he punches the lights out of whatever steps in his way.

Volcano hires himself out to anyone that will hire his muscle. He knows he is muscle and does not delude himself into thinking he is anything but. However, this does not mean he allows himself to be taken advantage of.


October 31, 2011

Supervillain: The Burning Man

No adventure this week. In fact, this will be the last week for my superhero posts...until such a time I write more up. Next week I'll be going back to my regular articles and opinion pieces on the wider spectrum of rpgs. For this week I'll be posting some loose supervillains I have lying around.

The Burning Man

Vincent Poor was in a horrible fire where his powers of fire manifested. Unfortunately he nopw perpetually burns (most of his flesh burned off). It’s driven him insane. If he needs to move among the general populace he must wear a complete fire suit. Usually he is just in his normal form, but some organizations have given him experimental power suits; some to try and control his fire and some to augment his fire abilities. Thus he sometimes can be found working for other supervillains.

He has also been known to create fire minions, especially as he learns more about his powers. He can quickly summon fire elementals and a DM can add some level appropraite fire elementals to an encounter with The Burning Man to create a complete encounter.


October 28, 2011

Supervillain: Quickchange

Quickchange

Richard Cartman is a smart person, just not smart enough to pass the final exams for his doctor’s certification. Not having a lot of options, he was out of money for more school, he became a street doctor. Without a license he would practice medicine in the poorer areas of the city, mostly illegal abortions and similar things. It did not net him a lot of money but it did keep him fed. It was during this time he discovered he had the ability to alter people. The effects were not for long, so it did not give him a new lease on becoming a doctor, but he did seek ways to use it to help him make money. Eventually this all led to his joining the Venture Group, a mercenary company.

Supervillain: Lethe

Lethe

April Mendez fell in with the wrong crowd when she was young. They would rather sit around and smoke than become invested and pursue anything of value. Some were rebelling, some were just lazy, some were looking to escape; April just wanted to feel like she belonged somewhere. They took to robbing the poor to get more to smoke but she was eventually caught. She was sent to a juvenile center where she became even more withdrawn.

It was there her powers of being able to make others forget began to manifest. The Venture Group took notice of her and recruited her for their powers-for-hire organization. While she is still withdrawn and listless, that is starting to change as she is starting to feel like she belongs. While she is not a bad person at heart, she is willing to do almost anything Venture Group asks of her.

October 27, 2011

Supervillain: Sense

Sense

Susan Ford learned of her powers slowly. At first things just seemed weird, people around her at school having problems hearing, vision blurred or numbness. Unknown at the time, it was during times when she was stressed. No one made the connection. Then on one particularly stressful day she wished ill upon some bullying kids and it came true when they were struck blind (though the person did eventually recover). Realizing she was the cause she was horrified by what she had done, yet she told no one.

In an effort to understand what was going on she experimented slowly learning what she was capable of. She learned she could affect the senses of a person, with the effects being temporary. However, she put this down to an anomaly and didn’t use the powers against another person again, burying her abilities.

Her life went on and eventually she found herself in an abusive relationship. On one particularly bad night she snapped and instinctively used her power to destroy the sense of her boyfriend. This time the effect was permanent. She realized she should feel remorse but she did not. The authorities had no clue she had anything to do with his “illness” but someone had an idea she was responsible. That someone recruited her into the Venture Group, a super-powered mercenary group.

Her power is fairly potent and its only true limitation is her own imagination as to what she can do. As time goes on, and she experiments more, the effects she will be able to cause will be become even more varied and of increasing strength.



Supervillain: Bonegrinder

Bonegrinder

Chuck Brown was always a strong person. In school he was used to getting his way with his strength. After school he went into boxing but it was determined he had powers so was barred from the sport. From there he went into sports entertainment wrestling as Bonegrinder. He was never very popular there, so his contract expired without being picked up again after one year. It was after that he was approached by the Venture Group to work for their mercenary organization. He has been there ever since.

October 26, 2011

Supervillain: Timeout

Timeout

Jason Sikes was an accountant for one of the money management companies that misled their investors with false progress reports. At the behest of his boss, Jason was part of the misinformation. However, he was a low level accountant and when the feds came down hard he escaped the dragnet, mostly by turning state’s evidence against his former employers. It was while he was in a holding cell that he discovered his new powers of being able to slow time. Finding himself out of a job and not likely to be able to find another one, as well as having new powers, he accepted the job offer from the Venture Group.

Superorganization: Venture Group

Venture Group

This is a mercenary group of individuals with powers. While they skirt the edges of the law, so far they have always managed to stay clear of any serious repercussions. They usually hire themselves out to high paying nations. Any wrongdoing is blamed on the hiring country, as they allow for plausible deniability. Rumors persist that they have engaged in crimes, but even if that were true it would not be something they instigated; it would be in the course of working for someone else.

Current membership includes:

Timeout- Speeds up and slows down time.
Bonegrinder- Brute strength.
Sense- She attacks the senses.
Lethe- Makes people forget things.
Quickchange- Swaps abilities and stats.

October 25, 2011

Supervillain: One

One

One mind, one world. That is the philosophy of Warren Bond. He wants to bring peace and security to the world and his belief is that there is only one way to do that. People must come together to one way of thinking. His way of thinking, since he is obviously the better mind. The old ways have not worked, only his one way can lead the world out of its despair into a new world.

Warren Bond is able to manipulate machines. He is constantly equipped with state-of-the-art technology. In fact, he leveraged his abilities and formed the Bond Corporation. For many years it was a leading technology manufacturer until it was discovered it was a front for One. Since then the company has dissolved, but One managed to become extremely wealthy before that happened.

One should be considered an Epic tier villain. Characters should not be able to physically go toe-to-toe with him until they are themselves nearing the end of an Epic tier campaign. If he is encountered before then it will be against his minions or the characters will have to defeat him in ways other than a direct confrontation. One is capable of creating a wide variety of devices; if he needs a certain device it can be assumed he can build it.



October 24, 2011

Superhero Adventure: An Old Dawn

An Old Dawn

One (a major supervillain) comes looking for the characters. Apparently one of his plans worked, worked too well. As he explains to the characters, One was able to gain control of the majority of the nuclear weapon systems of the major world powers. Then he launched them which caused those he did not control to also be activated. Nuclear rain fell upon the Earth destroying civilization and humanity. Those that did not perish in the immediate blasts fell to the nuclear fallout thereafter.

One felt remorse, loneliness, regret. He has sent himself back into the past, the character’s time, and is asking them to stop him. To this end they must disable the devices he has set up to control the nuclear weapon systems. He provides them with a hand-held device that can detect the control devices if they are close by (10’). They will need to do this by going to each world power and either asking for their aid or, at the most extreme, disable the device themselves by force.

The devices have already been planted and are set to go off in one week.

October 21, 2011

Supervillain: Alienist

Alienist

As Sigmund Freud developed his theories in Austria he gathered a set of followers who studied and debated his theories. Among them was Charles Braun. He was fascinated by the concept of transference, in particular countertransference. Whether it was his research or the manifestation of a power, but Charles eventually found he could literally enter the mind of another person and control their actions. At first he did it as research but eventually his own sense of reality became twisted. Taking over other people’s minds and bodies became exciting and exhilarating. Then came the day he realized he was getting older and that he could extend his life by permanently taking over a person’s body. Since then taking over other people’s bodies has become a way of life for him.

Alienist does not have stats as per a normal NPC. He has the stats and abilities of whatever body he has taken over. Each turn he can dominate a person as a Standard, At-Will power. If the target has powers then (save ends). If the target does not have powers, then they get no saving throw.

October 20, 2011

Supervillain: Wormfood

Wormfood

Wormfood is a mass of sentient hive worms. He does not know how he came to be; one day he simply existed with self awareness. Soon thereafter he had his first contact with a human being and upon touching, he instinctively moved into the human. From there he took over control of the body, able to access the various functions of a human body. He also found he could interact with human society. The problem was that the body soon deteriorated within a year, so he took to claiming new bodies as needed.

He eventually found Alienist and together they formed the Bodysnatchers, a duo who specialized in kidnapping people. However, while he can take the form of a body, he is still a mass of worms and each battle he finds himself in causes the loss of some of his mass and each time a part of himself died as well. He has now approached the time where it is getting harder to maintain himself and his bodies. In effect he is dying and he has no idea of how to stop it.

October 19, 2011

Superorganization: Body Snatchers

Body Snatchers

This is less an organization than a duo of crime. The Alienist and Wormfood have made a criminal living at kidnapping for money. They have a near flawless record for getting away without any contact with authorities or apprehension. Unfortunately, they sometimes kill their kidnapping victims; sometimes by Wormfood because he can’t really help himself and sometimes by Alienist because he enjoys it.

The secret behind their success is that they both are able to take over bodies. Their normal methodology is to get close to the victim and then take over the body. Then they simply walk out as the person and hide until the ransom is paid. Likewise, they collect their ransom by taking over various bodies as they carry the cash away, easily evading the authorities.

Their presence has been rare of late. Some speculate that they have either retired or died off. In fact, Alienist has been captured and imprisoned by the Russians and Wormfood is simply old and dying. If Alienist were to gain his freedom, he would seek a replacement for Wormfood and start anew.

October 18, 2011

Supervillain: Bloodvine

Bloodvine

Gregory Desmond was a world renowned botanist. He had some uncommon ideas, including that plants were sentient much the same as humans or animals, it was just that they had no way to communication with us. Eventually his ideas began to take a more radical turn as he began to splice human genes with plants, specifically his genes. Whether his theories were proven right or not is up for debate, but the plant, a creeper, did gain sentience. It also killed him shortly thereafter. Since then Bloodvine has existed with a hatred of humans but with the intellect of a human.

Bloodvine usually is accompanied by controlled plants. Add appropraitely level plants to any encoutners with Bloodvine. It should be noted that Bloodvine does have the ability to dominate human beings as well as plants, thogh this is not an ability he is aware of until later in his career.

October 17, 2011

Superhero Adventure: Garden of Evil

Garden of Evil

The town of Warren Township, in New Jersey (pop. 14000), is having problems. Specifically, the entire town is under the control of Bloodvine. Bloodvine has finally figured out he can control people as well as plants; though actually, he is using his plants to suborn the minds of the people. The FBI (and now military) is aware of the situation but the last tactical team they sent in with plant killer did not come back; this makes three teams lost. In the mean time Bloodvine has been spreading. The next option is to bomb the town out of existence, but that would not go well in the presses so the FBI is looking for other options. They go to the characters.

October 11, 2011

Supervillain: Steel Bullet

Steel Bullet

Miguel Henrique can move metal with his mind, basically a telekinetic who can only affect metal. In fact, whatever he is trying to move must be composed primarily of metal or his power will not work. Thus he is not able to move people by their belt buckle.

He is your typical hothead who uses his powers to show his power over other people. He plays into the tough guy image, but in fact, he tends to try and keep clear of those evenly matched with himself. Right now he is the leader of the biker gang, the Ghouls. He, however, has been known to take other jobs and has worked with other villains in the past.

October 10, 2011

Superhero Adventure: Return of the Spirit King

Return of the Spirit King

The Spirit King was a villain from long ago. His ability to communicate and control the spirits and ghosts of this world gave him tremendous power. He used this power over others. He was defeated several years ago fighting against other people with powers out to stop his wickedness. He was killed during the battle when the spirits he controlled broke free and tore him apart in revenge for all the evil he had made them do. The world was happier for his passing.

Perhaps reports of his demise were premature. People and families have been disappearing in the area where the Spirit King once operated. Spirits have been seen walking the streets. People fear the worst.

October 4, 2011

Supervillain: Sawbones

Sawbones

Dr Theodore Dicena could have been a surgeon that helped the world. For a time he did just that, serving as a field doctor for the army. Sadly, he saw one too many mangled body brought to him for repair and something snapped. Since then he has made it his life’s goal to create the perfect, and most resilient, human form possible. To the detriment of humanity he uses people as material for his experiments. Unfortunately, his experiments thus far have created nothing but abominations.


October 3, 2011

Superhero Adventure: ORB

ORB

Sawbones has a new experiment. He is looking into regressive research, wherein the human body is regressed to an earlier form of evolution. He feels he can then take the best parts, the parts that helped push the species forward, and reintroduce some of the human components that have been lost since time and medicine has “weakened” humanity.


Part One
The players are called to the Rock Institute, a research facility on AIDs. Some creatures with powers are attacking the place. When the characters get there they will have a chance to fight some of Sawbone’s Abominations (see the chart at the end for possible opponents). After they clear up the fight they will learn Sawbones has made off with a bunch of technical research.


September 28, 2011

Supervillain: Ifrit

Ifrit

Ifrit was summoned from his home plane to our world by Sha’ir, a summoner of Jinn. Ifrit proved far too powerful for him and easily broke his bonds. Since then Ifrit has made his way through the world, doing much as he pleased. Eventually he ran afoul of some of the more powerful heroes of this world and was beaten in a straight-up fight.

Since then, Ifrit has taken a new approach. He has become a criminal mastermind who leads forces of crime. While he still enjoys the occasional act of “getting his hands dirty”, he lets others take the fall while he continues to reap the benefits.

His goals at this point appear to be nothing but the accumulation of wealth, though with his new found power of organization, he may soon take his interests in new directions, such as control of other organizations and politcal groups.



September 27, 2011

Supervillain: Marid

Marid

Marid is a jinn recently summoned by Sha’ir, a member of the mercenary group known as Jihad. Marid managed to break free and gain his freedom. He is relatively weak currently, but as time goes on he will quickly become more powerful. (His stats below are for right after he was summoned. He will in a very short period of time rise in level, eventually slowing down once he reaches 25-28th level.) Eventually he will become a major villain. Marid is an Elite, but he is able to create water elemental creatures to assist him (choose approapriate level water elemental monsters) and they act as supplemental forces. He should be considered a Solo encounter.

Marid is a natural enemy of Ifrit. Once they realize they are on the same world they will constantly be drawn to fight each other, both physically and through proxies. Their conflict will be a source of many potential adventures.

September 26, 2011

Superhero Adventure: Bodyguards

Bodyguards

Hakeem al Din is a Muslim moderate, outspoken in his call for unity of mankind. For his ideals on the rights of all men, regardless of their faith, to live and prosper, he has long been targeted by extremists. And yet his influence continues to grow. There have been several attempts on his life and he has withstood them all; many see this as a sign he is blessed and thus his words carry more weight. Every failed assassination attempt bolsters his cause.

He is now making his way to the United States to garner more support and money. Anticipating further attempts on his life the government has asked the player characters to act as his bodyguards while he is within the States. Of course, this wouldn’t be worth writing up as an adventure if there wasn’t going to be such an attempt.

September 21, 2011

Superorganization: Aphotic Accord

The Aphotic Accord

This is an evil organization whose goal is control from behind the scenes. Their normal methodology is to gain control over individuals through a variety of means; bribery, blackmail, threats, impersonations.

The Accord is broken into several different branches. Each has control over certain areas and methodology.

Ebon- Logistics
Dusk- Violence
Obsidian- Science
Onyx- Money
Raven- Face/Leadership
Stygian- Occult
Sable- Seduction

September 20, 2011

Supervillain: EM

EM

EM is a sentient electromagnetic field, accidently created by Professor Adrian Richie. One of the Professor’s first acts after the “birth” of EM was to try and shut down the “haywire field” not realizing the field was now sentient. EM did not look kindly upon this attempt upon his life.

EM is able to control electrical devices and animate them. EM himself has no physical body but rather inhabits a host electrical device. From there he can control other devices that use electricity. So far, it has been noted that his control has a range of about 50’. EM is also able to generate an electrical stasis field.

Defeating EM is not usually a matter of beating him up, but rather a skill challenge as the players try to remove EM from whatever device he is hosting within.



September 19, 2011

Superhero Adventure: EMo Birthing

EMo Birthing

Professor Adrian Richie is a chemist. He has dedicated his life to the study of electromagnetism, but he comes at it from a chemical approach. Similar to how electricity can be produced chemically, he has spent years trying to do the same thing but in the field of electromagnetism.

Recently he has gone missing. His daughter Elena Richie regularly meets him for dinner once a week but he has missed the last two meetings and she is now worried. She has, of course, called him but he can be forgetful and distracted at times, so she didn’t worry too much the first time he missed their dinner. However, now she is worried.

The Professor has done some high-level work for the government so they had mandated some defenses be installed in his lab area, such as the Inverse Field.

September 15, 2011

Superorganization: FBI:PB

FBI:PB

This is a branch of the United States FBI, specifically the Powers Branch (yes, it is called the Peanut Butter division by some). It was set up expressly to deal with national crimes involving those with powers. This includes crimes committed by those with powers as well as crimes against those with powers. To help augment their non-powers they have been given several ROC Suits (Rigid Offensive Combatants).

• Executive Assistant Director Gerald Horowitz- Oversees the branch.
• Associate Executive Assistant Director Edward Rupert- Assistant to the Executive Assistant Director.
• Countermeasures Division Officer Sam Simmons- In charge of tactics and deployment against those with powers.
• Materials Officer Madge Swift- In charge of the ROC Suits and other “gadgets”.
• Genetic Materials Officer Hugh Wright- In charge of power studies; this includes cataloging power types and those that use them.

ROC Suit
These are Rigid Offensive Combatants or combat armor. They are in use throughout the United States police forces, including the FBI. There are a few sprinkled throughout some other US government branches, most notably the military and CIA. They are very expensive to make otherwise there would be even more in use.

For now their primary use is in dealing with those with powers. They are issued in Mark versions, with the Mark I being the first to be produced as a non-prototype model with successive Marks being released thereafter. There are some rumors starting to spread of newer designs that are more militarily oriented, some that focus on stealth and some that can be operated either by remote control or through a sophisticated software program.


September 14, 2011

Supervillain: Chindogu

Chindōgu

He creates strange, almost Rube Goldberg, devices for hire. He is amoral and is willing to hire out and make anything ask for, no matter the consequences to others. Given the right resources he can make almost anything, but actually needs initiative; he generally lacks goals (other than accumulating money) and needs someone else to give him a project.

His base of operations is usually filled with bizarre traps and defense systems. He has also managed to create a substance, which he calls Referite that reflects anything that strikes it. His lairs are usually covered in this material given him unparalleled protection.

Typical encounters to be found in a Chindōgu Lair:

-Riddle of Horror. Characters encounter a riddle next to a button on a box. If they answer correctly and push the button they get something that lets them pass on, such as a key. Otherwise oil sprays out of the box in all directions and then lit matches fall from the ceiling.

-Set of Fear. The characters reach a room where they must reach a hatch at the base of large pit. The pit is filled with acid. Also in the room are stray components of Referite. The players must construct a machine that will carry them down into the pit and allow them to open the hatch. Give them a real erector set.

-Parts of Fright. The room is filled with random construction parts, much like a large erector set. After a couple of minutes in the room, the parts will pull themselves together into Erector Constructs and attack.

-Shadows of Dismay. This large room is filled with pillars and statues and is lit by torches along the walls. The shadows that are cast are not really shadows. They are in fact pits painted to look exactly like shadows.

-Balls of Terror. The walls and floor of this large room are filled with strange contraptions; they look much like large Mouse Trap constructions. As soon as the aprty enters the doors shut and balls start to run through the contraptions. Roll for initiative and when it’s the contraption's turn one or more balls will set off something dangerous that attacks the party (a ball hits a lever that sets off a flame thrower, a ball knocks loose an iron that falls on a character, etc). This is a Skill Challenge as the character work to disable the set of contraptions.

-Floor of Dread. The floor is trapped such that certain tiles will explode. Which tiles will explode changes each turn.

-Corridor of Doom. This long corridor is a series of dangerous things. One section is super-cold, one shoots flames, one has blades on the floor/walls/ceiling, and one has the floor coated in Tabasco sauce. Normally this wouldn’t be a major problem but at the end of the corridor is a contraption that shoots out one or more long cables (made of Referite) that entangles a character and proceeds to drag them down the corridor. There is a set of bars after each section which only opens after a cable has been shot down the hallway. At the end of the hallway it is possible to shut off the contraption, but there is also an Erector Construct here.

-Niche of Death. Something the characters need to progress (such as a key on a string) is at the back end of a narrow and deep niche. If anyone jostles the string or steps on the floor, the walls slam shut causing a good bit of damage.



September 13, 2011

Supervillain: Gestalt

Gestalt

Gestalt is an amalgam creature born during the last days of WWII. Majdanek was a concentration camp in Poland. Estimates figure over 70,000 people were killed here during the war. The spirits of many of those killed would not go on, lingering over the horror that was the extermination camp. In June of 1944 the Soviets were moving rapidly toward the camp and the Germans were forced to flee. One officer, Sturmbannführer (Major) Karl Weiss refused to leave, as he felt this impinged his honor, and took his own life as the Soviets came within sight of the camp.

The death of Karl Weiss, along with the thousands of angry spirits, created the being known as Gestalt.

Gestalt is now driven by fierce anger and revenge. It lashes out at all living things. At times personalities will overcome the others and actively pursue a plan, though these times are rare and often interrupted as other personalities hold sway at different times. It is during these times of faint lucidity that Gestalt becomes truly dangerous.



September 12, 2011

Superhero Adventure: Brain Loss

Brain Loss

Gestalt has come up with a new plan of revenge. Gestalt believes it can travel back in time if it has enough power and believes this power can be gained from the minds of others. And when it means minds it means the literal brain.

Gestalt is a purely psychic entity and part of its consciousness has determined that using more brain energy will augment its own abilities, so much so that it will be able to travel back in time and kill Adolf Hitler, the cause of so much of its pain. Thus it has begun a program of taking brains from people. Fortunately for the rest of the world, the personalities willing to follow through on this plan are not always in charge of the gestalt, so Gestalt is moving slowly, though has been picking up pace recently.

Thus far no one knows Gestalt is behind the killings, but the FBI is aware of the string of killings. They have deemed this a case of a serial killer and have given him the name of the Mind Killer.

September 9, 2011

Supervillain: Jahar

Jahar

Jahar is physically the weakest of the Jihad. However, he more than makes up for this with his ability to confuse and dazzle his enemies. Jahar is faithful, but he is not a fanatic. He believes religion should be a choice not a mandate. However, he is loyal to his fellow members of Jihad.

Supervillain: Shaitan

Shaitan

Shaitan is an overlooked sin of the Jihad. To the outside world Shaitan is a human who can assume the form of his enemies to better destroy them, but the Islamic organization Jihad knows that Shaitan is a demon and a creature of sin. However, they value his power too much, so for now, they are willing to turn a blind eye to his origin and some of his more wicked acts. For now they control Shaitan through the Crimson Eye, an artifact to which Shaitan’s soul is bound.

Shaitan himself is seeking to sow as much discord and despair throughout the world and feels the Jihad will allow him to do just that. He knows there are rules for working within the Jihad organization and he is willing to follow them mostly. However, he is also constantly looking for ways to push those boundaries without upsetting them too much, as they have the power to send him back to Hell. If he could find a way to break their hold over him, he would do so in a second and make his own way through the world.

September 8, 2011

Supervillain: Sha'ir

Sha’ir

Sha’ir can summon jinn to do his bidding. The jinn he can most easily summon is his Gen, a small imp. During combat Sha’ir spends his time controlling and giving orders to his Gen and allows his Gen to provide support for the rest of his group. Sha’ir can summon other, more powerful, jinn but ever since he summoned Ifrit he has been loathe to try it again. Perhaps once he has gained some more experience he will resume his conjurations.

Sha’ir is a member of the Jihad. Part of him is not happy with the mercenary aspect of the group, but he understands why it exists and can accept it, even if it does not bring him happiness.

Sha’ir considers the summoning and release of Ifrit as one of his biggest failures. He is willing to work with people he normally would be opposed to if they can aid him in ridding the world of Ifrit.



Supervillain: Mamluk

Mamluk

Mamluk is a member of the Islamic mercenary company, Jihad. He has several tattoos on his body that is the source of his powers. Mamluk was raised in the Islamic faith but drifted away when he was young. He eventually took part in much sin and debauchery, including the sin of having tattoos applied to his body. When his powers manifested he took this as a sign from God that his sins were catching up to him. He soon thereafter renewed his faith and his previous life of sin has led him to be very hard-line now.

There are some fundamentalists who say that while keeping tattoos is acceptable within the Islamic faith as they are forgiven their sins upon becoming a Muslim, there are some who say that Mamluk is continuing to sin by using the tattoos. For now, Mamluk ignores them.



September 7, 2011

Supervillain: Faris

Faris

Faris is a member of the Jihad, an Islamic mercenary group. He is known for his martial prowess, particularly his speed and precision. He primarily uses a short spear as his weapon of choice. He has built a blue light into the head of the spear in an attempt to mislead his opponents into thinking the spear is the source of his powers. After his enemies direct their attacks on the spear he falls back to his daggers or hands to inflict the same damage.

Faris likes to dart in and out of combat. If he is fighting another melee opponent he likes to move into melee and then move out after, so they have to expend a move action to get to him. If he is engaged with a ranged attacker he prefers to stay close for possible opportunity attacks. However, if he can attack a ranged and then move out of line of sight he will do so.

Superorganization: Jihad

Jihad

Jihad is an organization of Islamic fundamentalists with superpowers bent on disrupting the control of the satanic forces of the West. Or at least that is what they try to portray themselves as. In reality they are a bunch of mercenaries. While they are willing to take on Islamic causes, they only do so for money.

So far they have not been willing to fully engage the West and its superheroes. In truth it is because they see no profit in it, though that may change if they are paid enough. Word is spreading that they fear the Western superheroes and there may come a time soon where they will need to run some attacks against the West or be unable to find any work at all.

Current membership includes:

Faris- Martial warrior with speed and precision.
Mamluk- Wears tattoos that give him specialized powers.
Sha’ir- Support that uses his Gen to aid other team members. Summoner of jinn, but he has not done so since he summoned Ifrit to his and the world’s detriment.
Shaitan- Demon. Brute.
Jahar- Bedazzles and confuses the enemy.

September 6, 2011

Supervillain: Set

Set

Whether it was an instinctual calling, an ancient plan, residual reincarnate knowledge or pure luck when Seth O’Malley picked up the Was Staff of Set and was transformed into the superbeing known as Set is unknown. Whether or not he is the actual Set from millennia ago or some crazed person with powers is unknown, but his power levels are high. For all intent and purposes he is Set and some say that if he has the powers of a god then he is a god.

Set works as a mastermind with the usual goals of domination. He has managed to gather a world-wide cult, the Cult of the Jackal, to do his bidding. Set is able to control his Cult in two manners. For the more intelligent and able followers he rewards them with power; for the rest he takes their mind and turns them into enthralled minions.



September 5, 2011

Superhero Adventure: Garden of Eden

The next few weeks will see some superhero adventures appearing on this website. On Mondays I will post the main adventure, with the following days being taken up by supplemental information such as details on villains, organizations, etc.

Garden of Eden

An archangel, Gabriel, has appeared before the world and has opened the way into the Garden of Eden for true believers to enjoy. This Garden is a thing of beauty among the desert. It lies within the Ash Sharqiyah section of the Rub' al Khali Desert, near the triple borders of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.