Friday, May 29, 2020

1d20 Character Archetypes for USR Tequendria.

The Eye by Alex Mitchell


Several years ago I wrote a pseudo-review for Tequendria, a Dunsanian Fantasy RPG. In it, I more or less yapped about the things I thought were neat about the game without really adding anything constructive or meaningful. That was perfectly on-brand and remains so, but I've recently acquired a copy of the system which Tequendria runs on- the Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying system. So, I decided to take a crack at making something for the game. Drawing upon Dunsany, Cthulhu Mythos, and a lot of Clark Ashton Smith, I've made a 1d20 character archetype table usable for Tequendria.


 d20 Archetype
 1Acolyte of Nasht & Kaman-Thah
 2Adventurer of Uzuldaroum
 3Auburn Bard of Klarkash-Ton
 4Dim-Dweller of Carcosa
 5Disciple of Eibon
 6Druid of the Averones
 7Drummer of Skarl
 8Executioner of Mung
 9Handler of Pitsu & Hobith
 10Huntsman of Zesh
 11Inquisitor of Yhoundeh
 12Kindler of Gribaun & Habaniah
 13Mountaineer of Mhu Thulan
 14Page-Turner of Trogool
 15Ruffian of Dylath-Leen
 16Time-Shadowed of Yith
 17Trader of Leng
 18Voormi of the Eiglophians
 19Waste-Walker of Bodrahan
 20Weaver of Atlach-Nacha


Acolyte of Nasht & Kaman-Thah

You are servant and devotee to the duumvirate high-priest deities and comedic duo who guard the entrance to the Dreamlands. Your duties have taken you beyond the wall of sleep, and you now walk through the waking world, which feels more like the dream to you.

Starting Specialisms
  • Dream Lore (Wits)
  • Diplomacy (Ego)
  • Occult Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Wine-colored robe
  • Candles
  • Soothing tea
Ability
  • One Step, Not Seventy- When you go to sleep, you and any companions of your choosing may instantly enter the Cavern of Flame leading to the Dreamlands.


Adventurer of Uzuldaroum


You were raised on tales of the splendors of old Commoriom, and bore witness to the Zhaum-infested squalor it has fallen into. There are so many great and terrible things worthy of legend out there, including your own destiny.

Starting Specialisms
  • Tactics (Wits)
  • Boasting (Ego)
  • Athletics (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 3d6 x 10 shards
  • Copper helmet
  • Old maps
Ability
  • Abreast of Adventure- When you are in a settlement and you speak at least one of the languages spoken by its populace, you can learn about nearby points of interest and danger on a Wits test of 4+.

Auburn Bard of Klarkash-Ton

You studied the ornate, bewildering, and occasionally ribald works of the ancient Atlantean priest. You have donned the reddish-brown cloak that honors those drowned old vestments, and gone out in search of more cosmic oddities and distressing beauties.

Starting Specialisms
  • Ancient Lore (Wits)
  • Storytelling (Ego)
  • Friendly (Ego)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Dogeared copy of the Commoriom Myth-Cycle
  • Inkwell and pens
  • Auburn hooded cloak
Ability
  • Compelling Prose- Once per day you can use a selection of the ancient bard's prose to captivate and distract a small audience for up to one minute with an Ego test of 7+.


Dim-Dweller of Carcosa


You were born in that dismal city on the lake, but escaped its fickle nobles and their xanthous monarch. The things you have witnessed and lived with as part of daily life back home can shock and horrify others.

Starting Specialisms
  • Occult Lore (Wits)
  • Unsettling (Ego)
  • Sailing (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Cloudy vial of Hali water
  • Yellow handkerchief
  • Antique stringed instrument
Ability
  • Born to Strange Tides- You can see perfectly through smoke, fog, and clouds.


Disciple of Eibon


You never met the Tsathagguan sorcerer-priest, but you once read an excerpt from the Book of Eibon. That is good enough to keep most people from bothering your study, either by spell or by virtue of them not wanting to be caught anywhere near you when an inquisitor shows up.

Starting Specialisms
  • Magic Lore (Wits)
  • History Lore (Wits)
  • Religion (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • A page of the Book of Eibon written from memory
  • Mummified wand
  • Bat fur robe
Ability
  • Peephole to Cykranosh- Once per day you can open a small portal into Cykranosh, the Saturnian realm of Hziulquoigmnzhah. It is not big enough to enter, but you may use it to ask one question of a Yhdeemian priest with a Wits test of 7+.


Druid of the Averones


By shadowy arts better left unmentioned and forgotten, you and a small number of your tribe escaped the advance of the pillaging Rómhánacha into Averonia. You are lost and alone, in strange and unwelcoming places, far from a home you can never return to.

Starting Specialisms
  • Religion (Wits)
  • Stealth (Action)
  • Nature Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Oak and mistletoe
  • Sickle
  • Old toadskin book
Ability
  • Moon Door- Once per full moon under the night sky you can open an opaque door through the Aether. Upon entering, you find that it leads to a destination of your choosing with a Wits test of 10+. If you fail the test, it leads you and everyone who enters Somewhere Else.


Drummer of Skarl


Disciples of the enigmatic drummer who stands apart from the gods. They may drum for hours or even days without rest. It is their solemn duty to keep MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI at rest, and they are the sworn enemies of His priesthood.

Starting Specialisms
  • Ancient Lore (Wits)
  • Drumming (Ego)
  • Endurance (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Drum & mallets
  • Bottled thunder
Ability
  • Lulling Rhythm- After 5 minutes of drumming, you can put someone in a deep, restful sleep.


Executioner of Mung


You are a servant of the Lord of all Deaths. He is a busy god, tirelessly wandering the world ensuring that life is unfettered from hands and feet at its appointed time. You don his grim visage and root out those who have evaded the Sign of Mung.

Starting Specialisms
  • Intimidating (Ego)
  • Death Lore (Wits)
  • Athletics (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Skull mask
  • Deep black cloak
Ability
  • The Sign of Mung- You wave your hand before someone, just as Mung, Lord of all Deaths does when sundering life from bodies. Once per day, you gain a +2 to Intimidating. You do not need to intend to kill the target.


Handler of Pitsu & Hobith


You have lived around animals all your life, and they say the favor of the gods who stroketh the cat and calm the dog is upon you. Whether they be for battle, beauty, or burden, you know how to raise, handle, and train all manner of beast. Yet there are still so many more creatures out there to meet.

Starting Specialisms
  • Athletics (Action)
  • Reflexes (Action)
  • Animal Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Tamer's whip
  • Folding chair
  • Animal treats
Ability
  • Friend to All- After 1 hour of interaction, you can befriend any mundane animal.


Huntsman of Zesh


You are at home in the sweltering jungle holdouts, with a spear in your hand and a tracking compy at your feet. But the advancing ice sheet is wiping out the last vestiges of dinosauria, and you must find new grounds in which to track and hunt and feel alive.

Starting Specialisms
  • Endurance (Action)
  • Survival (Wits)
  • Tracking (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Declawed riding raptor
  • Dinosaur leather jacket
  • Trophy feathers
Ability
  • Mimic Calls- You can perfectly mimic the sounds of most birds and reptiles after hearing them.


Inquisitor of Yhoundeh


You are a hunter and priest of the grim elk-goddess, whose sworn enemy is Tsathaggua and whose husband is Nyalathotep. You root out heresy and foes to her cult, ensuring that none may contest her power- certainly not any foul sorcerer.

Starting Specialisms
  • Religion (Wits)
  • Interrogation (Ego)
  • Occult Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Holy symbol of Yhoundeh
  • Manacles
  • Torturer's kit
Ability
  • Sniff out Heresy- After 5 minutes of study and scrutiny, you can tell if someone is lying about matters of religion, lore, or faith.


Kindler of Gribaun & Habaniah


You were touched by fire at a young age. It didn't leave you traumatized or burned- not badly, at least. Instead, it left you with a deep and profound respect for the liminal gods who turn wood to ash and lord over the transitory embers. There are deeper secrets yet unlocked within the lapping tongues of flame- dear flame.

Starting Specialisms
  • Firemaking (Wits)
  • Endurance (Action)
  • Nature Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1/2/3d6 x 10 shards
  • Flask of oil
  • Stoking blowpipe
  • Bundle of firewood
Ability
  • Turn Wood to Ash- After 10 minutes of work, you can start a warm fire almost anywhere, no matter how wet the fuel is.


Mountaineer of Mhu Thulan


Your rugged homeland has become an icy frontier thanks to the unrelenting advance of the glacier from beyond Polarion. With the ice sheet come many unspeakable horrors, and fighting off or at least avoiding them has become the main focus of daily life among the mountain tribes.

Starting Specialisms
  • Climbing (Action)
  • Survival (Wits)
  • Monster Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Heavy fur hat
  • Sign of the White Sybil
  • Nipping flask of alcohol
Ability
  • Cragborn- For any test of balance or vertical movement, reduce the difficulty by one step.


Page-Turner of Trogool


You traveled south of south, to the Rim of the Worlds beyond which lies only the Beyond. There, you witnessed Trogool who is neither God nor Beast, turning the pages of night and day. Now you bear a lesser tome out into the worlds, to record all that is seen in preparation for THE END.

Starting Specialisms
  • Ancient Lore (Wits)
  • Writing (Wits)
  • History (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • A decreasingly blank tome ending in 'Mai Doon Izahn'
  • Black ink and glue
Ability
  • Peel Back the Margins- Once per week you can peer back into the black pages of the unreturning past for a single piece of random, forgotten lore.


Ruffian of Dylath-Leen


You are a tough who frequents the wharves and taverns of the black basalt port-city. You work hard, play harder, and fight hardest in the dark streets of that thin-towered place. Others might find you uncouth, but you know what it takes to survive.

Starting Specialisms
  • Gambling (Wits)
  • Athletics (Action)
  • Intimidating (Ego)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Dirty coat
  • Dice
  • Thagweed pipe
Ability
  • Black Galley Breeze- You are not affected by noxious and revolting smells.


Time-Shadowed of Yith


Your day was progressing as normal, until all of a sudden it was five years later and you woke up in a poorhouse for the mentally ill. The only explanation for it is recurring dreams of alien vistas among primordial jungles, and a cyclopean cylinder-library of frightening age and size.

Starting Specialisms
  • Ancient Lore (Wits)
  • Investigation (Wits)
  • Unsettling (Ego)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Maddened scrawlings
  • Torn straightjacket
  • Empty scroll case
Ability
  • Trivia out of Time- Once per day, you can recall a minor snippet of eldritch, forbidden knowledge learned during your cushy captivity in Pnakotus with a Wits test of 10+.


Trader of Leng


You are one of the denizens of strange and far-off Leng. The lords of the moon have deigned you worthy of representing their interests abroad, and so you have been garbed to hide your hooves and horns, and taught to smile in such a way that does not reveal your too-many teeth. Wealth awaits.

Starting Specialisms
  • Bartering (Ego)
  • Jumping (Action)
  • Appraisal (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 3d6 x 10 shards
  • Ruby dust
  • Ivory flute
  • Lumpy turban, tiny shoes
Ability
  • Piping at the Moon- During a clear night under a full moon, you can play a hideous song by flute which attracts the attention of a passing Black Galley on an Ego test of 7+.


Voormi of the Eiglophians


You are a howling, three-toed, umber-furred Voormi. Your kind are feared, reviled, and hunted for sport. Your mountain warrens have been ransacked, your people driven to the four corners beyond the high crags. But you have survived on less than nothing before, and you will not settle for it again. Father Toad watches over you.

Starting Specialisms
  • Climbing (Action)
  • Jumping (Action)
  • Cave Lore (Wits)
Starting Equipment
  • 1d6 x 10 shards
  • Bone totem
  • Filthy waistcloth
Ability
  • Eyes of Voorm- Generations of living underground have honed your senses to the subterranean world. You can see perfectly in the dark.


Waste-Walker of Bodrahan


You hail from the City of Caravans' End, yet its surrounding deserts are your home. You were raised on the tales of camel drivers and elders in the markets, and you have sought out the wonders of the Desert of Deserts ever since. Mirthless Ranorada calls.

Starting Specialisms
  • Survival (Wits)
  • Desert Lore (Wits)
  • Endurance (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 2d6 x 10 shards
  • Cerulean headscarf
  • Extra-large waterskin
  • Walking stick topped with an eye
Ability
  • Desert-lashed, Sun-kissed- You are not affected by mundane heat.


Weaver of Atlach-Nacha


You were caught in scintillating strands one night, while crossing over into dream. Rather than wrapping you up and divesting you of your bodily fluids, the Spider-God(dess) seeded your brain with eggs of inspiration that hatched into textile brilliance. You make works of silken beauty now, and find yourself unable to resist weaving deeper and more licentious webs of deception across the world.

Starting Specialisms
  • Weaving (Wits)
  • Seduction (Ego)
  • Stealth (Action)
Starting Equipment
  • 3d6 x 10 shards
  • Caged spider
  • Drop spindle set
  • Silken vest
Ability
  • Dreamcatcher- You can see, sift through, and steal dreams from a sleeping creature by waving a piece of your own weaving over their head (or other equivalent appendage).

Monday, May 18, 2020

Goblin Brain: Swagbucks is the Dark Souls of Data Theft.



Wow. It's weird watching half of the planet suddenly adjust almost perfectly to your lifestyle and schedule. Everyone is staying indoors to the point that socialization, days of the week, and even sunlight are foreign concepts. How's it feel in my world? Regardless, I hope that all of you are safe and sanitized out there, dear Burrowers.

I hear stocks are skyrocketing for xylospongia and votive statues of Cloacina lately, if any investors are listening.

I've been making changes in my existence as well, lately. I honestly can't remember if I have or haven't mentioned it on the blog previously, but for a few years now I've been combating my perpetual unemployment with internet surveys and consumer marketing offer nonsense. Or at least, I was. As of a few weeks ago, I can say with a mixed but mostly positive bag of emotions that I have finally quit SwagBucks.

To those of you who know what that is, you can probably stop reading/listening to this post right now.

To you lucky masses who've never crossed paths with it, I have a story to tell you.

Swagbucks.com is an American rewards portal and customer loyalty program operated by a bunch of soulless husks who go by the name of Prodege, LLC. Prodege has had several projects past and present, but Swagbucks is by far the biggest. Think of it as a relic of the early 2000s internet ad revenue boom which has been struggling to adapt and survive ever since that busted. Swagbucks is a website where you earn SwagBucks, shockingly enough.

They're a virtual currency that can be spent through the site store for various rewards, the biggest attraction being store gift cards of varying sizes. You can also spend them to play the minigames hosted on the site, which include periodic spin-the-wheel and bingo games that give you more SwagBucks or other rewards to spend elsewhere.

One SwagBuck is equal to approximately one cent in US dollars, which means that the site really should have been called SwagCents instead. Or maybe they could have worked in some kind of obnoxious pun like the currency being SwagCents and the site being SwagSense. Ehh?

Gods, I hate myself...

Okay, so, SwagBucks are basically the in-game currency used to fuel micro-transactions in an online game, if for a moment you'll bear with me in stretching the definition of "game" to include mind-numbing drudgery through endlessly repetitive tasks amid thousands of other bored, apathetic non-entities. It's like a generic MMORPG with no action bars and fewer errant messages about dancing naked in Goldshire- well, ideally fewer.

You earn SwagBucks by doing the offers on the site, which include anything from printing coupons, to signing up for websites, to watching "curated" video playlists, to taking aforementioned surveys. And, excluding certain once-every-few-months offers where you can make double or more back on a ten or twenty dollar purchase, they are all of them hellishly frustrating and underpaying. Every last one of them is an exercise in Sisyphean futility, because it seems like the entire site is designed from the ground up to frustrate you into quitting.

Coupon and signup sites frequently fail to communicate a completed task back to Swagbucks for the promised reward. Playlists stretch themselves out longer and longer until you have to have your  browser focused for an hour or more just to earn two cents. Deals with third-party sites will hold your earned SwagBucks for ransom until a certain time passes, usually to prevent people from cancelling subscriptions, but then find some other way to invalidate your claim on them. The so-called "team" competitions turn the normally placid subreddit into a truly frightening pit of vitriol and middle-aged, suburban entitlement. The mini-games are more rigged than the prices offered by Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler. The offers to download and play mobile games up to X level or building upgrade often have time limits on them that make actually accomplishing the offer impossible without spending more money on in-game boosts than one would make through Swagbucks doing the offer F2P. The weekly trivia game is hosted by a rotating group of company members who act as the closest thing to a human face for all of Swagbucks, so naturally they all have that kind of detached, desperate-to-appear-excited look that people get when there's a gun pointed at them just out of frame. The site's own apps consume so much processing power that they can overheat your phone, and in fact I had to retire one phone because the non-removable battery started to swell and expand to the point that the screen and volume buttons got pinched by the warping chassis until they malfunctioned and forced whatever inane pop culture news drivel they were currently displaying up to max volume- which in the depths of my cynical paranoia I also believe to have been the site's intent.

I've used the word very sparingly ever since I read the TVTropes article about it, but by far the most egregious problem is with the surveys.

Swagbucks only produces and controls a very tiny number of surveys. The vast majority of them are trawled in from their partner sites all across the internet, which means that information is decentralized and disjointed in the worst possible way. When you click on a survey in the list you're sent to the site where it's hosted, where you usually have to give your pertinent information- age, gender, state, household income, employment, family members, etc. Ideally, the site then takes that information, decides if you're a good match or not, and then either sends you to take the survey proper, or back to the landing page for more surveys.

Of course nothing is ideal in this world, and it's far more likely that you'll be pushed forward into a survey that you have nothing meaningful to contribute to. This usually ends in your disqualification (unless you get real good at making things up on the fly). That would be fine, if not for the fact that surveys will often disqualify you at the very end, once you've already answered everything and are expecting your pittance of twenty SB or so.

Even if you aren't a car owner, your survey on cars and vehicle shopping habits is dragged out to 99% completion before they yang the rug out from under you. They then, presumably, take all the information that you have them and sell it somewhere else, because my email account was perpetually flooded by things I had never signed up for- don't worry, I was "smart" enough to use a dummy account. Then you get thrown back to the landing page with nothing but a one or two-point disqualification bonus to sooth your virtual walk of shame.

Disqualification points for failed surveys sounds like a saving grace, and for a while it was- it really was. I still look back fondly on the balmy days when I first started using Swagbucks and I could make as much as five dollars a day off of disqualification points. I would just plug away at the list, control+clicking hundreds of them into separate tabs and then going through the one or two pages of preliminary questions they asked before booting me. It slowed my browser (and the rest of my decade-old computer) to a crawl, but it felt good and pretty handily reached my daily earning goals- did I mention that this place has Frigging daily quests?

Unfortunately, my success with disqualification farming was kind of a bug. I don't know when the site implemented it, but around the time they realized that they were bleeding money (by which I mean actually having to award some of it semi-regularly), Swagbucks implemented a five-disqualification maximum per day. Yet, somehow, this limit did not automatically apply to every account. Their janky site was set up in such a way that some accounts were limited, while others were not, and it only gradually became the case for all new accounts to come under the limit. This limit also reduced the points earned from disqualifications, so when my account was eventually, inexplicably given the limit all of a sudden, I was staring at a max of five cents per day.

Fortunately, I had already exploited the ever-loving crap out of the bug by creating three separate accounts to get DQs and do playlists with. I had three different machines running all day every day, sometimes overnight to collect as much of that sweet, sweet SB as I could. In this Dark Souls world of painful victories and data theft, I was the one lobbing firebombs at the Capra Demon from outside its fog wall. I was the one using the stump next to the Giant Seed tree to jump up onto the Pickle-Pee roof to grab a Covetous Silver Serpent Ring before I even hit the High Wall of Lothric. My monthly participation bonuses were in the teens, and at the height of my success I was earning over a thousand dollars a year.

Yes, I know, that's a hell of a lot of work to put into not working.

Eventually the limit was applied to all three of my accounts, and then from there my options for surveys and offers dwindled to stark nothingness as the site went through another months-long contraction, at which point I finally had the sense to rein it in a little. I continued to use the site after that point, but not with the same wasteful hyper-focus as before. I tried my hand at freelance around that time, and while I definitely made less money overall, I opted for the fresh hell instead of the old, stale one.

Last month (at the time of this recording), I finally quit Swagbucks entirely. I used the last of my SBs to purchase a few more Visa digital cards, and then I deleted all of my remaining accounts. I was in such a hurry to be free of it that I didn't even check my profile page to see how many bucks I'd accrued over the years- though whatever number it was would have been a dubious honor to know, in hindsight.

I wish I could say that I did this just as I made some sort of personal breakthrough and got a minimum wage job in fast food customer service or some other prestigious American institution, but no such luck yet. My writing is still... serviceable, kind of? So I'll see where that takes me for the time being.