Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Winding Road: Departure

By Frank Gori

Tonight was the most elaborate shell game Malleck would ever play. Tonight a fortnight of planning would either yield its fruit or disaster would strike and lead he and his company to ruin.
In the dead of night he was leading his caravan into the Embassy of Sand and out of the city while four decoy caravans filled with mercenaries left by Hub’s four main gates simultaneously. In the morning another four real caravans would leave with double the usual guard.

Liara and he had dissected the Tradesmen attacks and determined the likely spies and informants.  Most were likely unintentional, which made little difference in the outcome, blood had been spilled and more would be spilled tonight and on the morrow. Information had been carefully dispensed to each suspect and where Mal’s foes struck would expose the guild’s information leaks. In the end it made little difference who was treacherous and who was carelessly incompetent, the result would be blood for blood.

Liara’s goodbye kiss lingered on Mal’s lips, it was filled with an ardor he had longed for but dared not hope. She then whispered in his ear that she knew that another had crept into his heart, that he wasn’t ready to realize that fact yet, that it was ok, and he had her blessing. For the third time since that whisper he glanced at Bellany and felt a twist in his gut.  What that meant would take time to sort out; the only thing certain was that it would be trouble.

One could not afford distraction when negotiating with the Lash-ti-Nowish. The unannounced arrival to the Embassy of Sand to negotiate immediate asylum and passage was a secret kept between only Mal, Laz, and Liara herself. Despite the tight information security, the Lash were prepared for their arrival and ready to negotiate.

For a price they would summon the embassy’s elder Sandkeeper and summon a sand gate to transport the caravan halfway to the Geato Marsh. The cost proposed was safe passage for an additional carriage containing a representative of the Lash and two servants and five favors payable to the Lash representative. That was unacceptable, in the hands of a Lash that would be pretty much ceding command.

“One favor in addition to the passage ,” he replied. After all favors was the Lash’s favorite currency.

“Four favors,” the Lash representative replied.

“Two favors and I want the Lash coming along to agree to follow my orders while on the journey, except when calling in favors of course.” Malleck punctuated the statement with a smile.

“Three favors, agreed on the orders and she gets the honest answer to three questions,” was the Lash’s response. It was an underhanded addendum, a wily Lash could easily wheedle information to gain leverage for more favors. 

“You clearly do not respect me, we will leave by a more traditional route,” Malleck turned away and started gesturing to the caravan. It was a calculated risk, time to see who would blink first. To the Lash’s credit his people were truly turned around and almost through the embassy gate before he broke.

“Wait, it can be one favor and the representative will cooperate, and one truth payable now,” he offered.

Mal spun in his heel and extended his hand, “agreed.”

“Were you bluffing?” It was the Lash’s one question. She wasn’t going to like the answer.

“I was confident you’d stop me, but I was prepared to walk away if you had not. Your elders would have dealt me more favorable terms tomorrow night if need be.” Malleck said it in a flat voice and studied the face of the negotiator. Most would find it hard to tell, but Malleck determined his Lash counterpart was a female, she was also dressed for travel. Her carriage and driver would not be far, and her masked dwarven bodyguard would be the third. “I believe that coming to even a less favorable deal would be preferable to not being to arrange your own passage…” Mal added.

The pupils of her eyes widened a touch, and she tilted her head in a nearly imperceptible gesture of surprise. Malleck could tell she was young by the size of her scales and that gesture alone. The young Lash was being trusted with a negotiation, and she was being guarded by a ronin dwarf contractor.

“You’re a sand oracle aren’t you?” Malleck regretted the question immediately.

“I am. Why would the elders offer you a better price tomorrow, if you came back to negotiate again it would betray your bluff,” it was a good question she asked and because she answered his he was under obligation to reply. On entering the Embassy of Sand one was required to read and understand the Lash’s terms of conduct. It was also why he didn’t ask her name.

“Tonight and tomorrow will eliminate our information security concerns,” Mal replied truthfully because to do otherwise here would forfeit his freedom or his life. The Merchant College boasted a Lash on the faculty, he taught the art of negotiation. Even being schooled by a Lash did not prepare one to negotiate with a Lash when the stakes were high. Mal felt he was on even footing with his counterpart which likely meant he was only slightly in over his head. 

“I assume you are prepared to leave and have provisions, I’d like to be out of Hub before daybreak.” Mal kept his tone even leaving no room to interpret the statement as a question. Volunteering his preference for haste gave his counterpart more information, but also implied a quid pro quo.
“I am prepared, we anticipated the need for haste and the portal will be ready within the hour,” the Lash woman smiled as she added, “mammals call me Salomena.”

Malleck smiled back. Salomena would hold her leverage on him for as long as possible. She would manipulate every conversation she had to gain information and more an advantage. Based on the resources committed, the Lash had an interest in Tribute, the mining town that was the intended destination of this caravan. Mal needed to know what that interest was, and he needed Salomena to use her favor before he got the caravan there. Mal resolved to make the road a meandering path the winded its way slowly to the destination. Mal had sacrificed too much to gain the contact and contract rights to negotiate with the rumored loyalist mining community. He would not allow the Lash to compromise the promise of that market, the price he paid was too bloody and high.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Coming Soon

Coming Soon…
By Frank Gori

Hey gang,
Clockwork is resuming posting as of today. We took a hiatus to sort some organization things out and to tend to various projects. Scott and I are published now and John will be in February. We are also bringing in new contributors and I will now be taking lead on Clockwork’s project management.

Ok, so what will change?

-Images will be there to highlight our posts and help readers with a frame of reference for their imaginations.

-Crunch and mechanics will be more common.

-We will release player focused and GM focused content.

-Our release schedule will be a little more frequent, though Mondays and Thursdays will remain stable.

-New talent. We are recruiting and we have some potential new contributors coming soon.

-The general look of the site will likely change soon as we wish to feature some awesome art.

-Hyperlinks will be throughout our articles for easier reference.

-We have a new end goal, to produce a gameworld you can take to multiple systems.

New Winding Road resumes Thursday, then on Monday we start a 5 part series on Dragons!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Secrets of Desylinn: The Elemental Alignments

by John Belliston and Frank Gori

Alignment works a little differently in Desylinn. Here's an introduction:


The world of Desylinn is much too new for Law and its opposite Chaos to have codified as other worlds know them. The world does not divide along the same ethical and moral lines but along elemental ones. More than just the fundamental building blocks of creation, the seven elements pulse and surge through all of creation. The effects of the seven elements are most commonly seen in the array of magic that course through the world: from the sorcerer’s vicious fireball, the clerics healing shadow, and the witches’ harmful light. The elements however go much deeper than that, making up each individual’s very being and influencing their personality.

In game terms this means that each Character has two “Soul Elements” one taken from their race and one chosen by their personality. The seven elements, as well as their sub elements and personality descriptors are as follows:

Fire- Ash, Flame, Smoke
Amorous, Destructive, Gluttonous, Passionate, Warm, Wrathful

Wind- Gust, Breeze, Vacuum
Adventurous, Flighty, Hopeful, Manipulative, Needy, Transitive

Water- Ice, Steam, Water
Adaptable, Emotional, Perky, Pliable, Temperate, Volatile

Earth- Metal, Stone, Wood
Balanced, Fortitude, Generous, Stable, Stubborn, Unyielding

Light- Beam, Glare, Corona
Aggressive, Intellectual, Inquisitive, Inspiring, Relentless, Truthful,

Shadow- Rejuvenating, Consuming, Deceptive
Deceptive, Empathetic, Nurturing, Passive, Private, Quiet

Magic- Soul, Arcane, Sympathetic
Creative, Impatient, Madness, Mysticism, Unpredictability, Wisdom

During character creation players may select which of the two racial elements is dominant and which element is the character’s soul element, which can be any element. The soul element cannot be changed once selected, and is the core of the character. Racial elements can be changed with time and focus, which is represented by leveling. How the two alignments interact to help define the character is up to the player, though the soul element tends to be dominant. From the list of both elements pick two personality descriptors from each, which will be the dominant traits you roleplay. Players can change the descriptors anytime they and their GM feel is appropriate.

For example: Jim decides he wants to play a Krishtog Bard. Krishtogs have the racial elements of Wind and Water. Jim feels that Wind aligns more with the adventurous spirit he wants to portray with this character and writes down the two descriptor words he feels most appropriate (Adventurous, Manipulative.) He may now select any soul element he wishes. Jim feels Fire is most appropriate and selects that as his soul element again transcribing two descriptor words for roleplaying focus (Destructive and Passionate.) As Jim sees it his bard takes to the road a lot and doesn't really look at the long term consequences, always trying to live life to the fullest.

While using this system a player cannot change their soul element, they can change their racial element and what descriptors are dominant based on how the player wants to roleplay the character in a scenario and through level progression.

For example: Jim’s Bard is now 5th level and the campaign is settling in Hub and becoming an urban campaign. Being Adventurous and Destructive has put the Bard in jeopardy often and led to some near death experiences. Jim decides he wants his Kristog to evolve and learn from his mistakes by changing his alignment. He starts by changing the dominant descriptors of his soul element of Fire to Amorous and Warm. Jim also wants to change his racial element from Wind to Water but cannot do so until he levels up! For now he changes the descriptors to Hopeful and Needy feeling they align more closely with where he is going with the character.

Detect evil, detect law, detect good, and detect chaos are replaced by detect soul.  This spell functions like detect evil, except that it detects the auras of a specified element (chosen at time of casting), rather than evil auras, and you are vulnerable to an overwhelming aura if it shares your soul element.

Here is a list of suggested Soul Elements for the Pathfinder Standard Races:

Dwarf: Earth, Light
Elf: Water, Magic
Gnome: Wind, Water
Half-Elf: Shadow, Water
Half-Orc: Fire, Earth
Human: Water, Fire

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Winding Road: Old Friends

by Frank Gori

Bellany released her bowstring a couple of seconds before the seemingly innocent carpenter expertly turned into a throwing motion. The arrow struck just above his collarbone just as his arm started forward.

Bellany already had another arrow knocked as she scanned the street for the other three Tradesmen. From the peripheral she saw Dab’s massive form charging the assassin carpenter down, just as she noticed the gardener’s hedge trimmers were actually double edged. She fired another arrow in his direction just before she felt a sting then telltale cold numbness on her right shoulder blade.
Without hesitation Bellany leapt off her third story perch and twisted around midair for a look at her assassin. She almost missed placing her feet correctly at the first intervals as she repelled rapidly down to the street.

A scream from the street confirmed the Tradesmen struck while she was distracted but the poison in her shoulder wasn’t the only thing making Ballany feel numb at the moment. Jax sent Galladee after her!

Galladee was a Krishtog female with an unfortunate singing voice. She could dance in a manner that would take your breath away and she was one of the most skilled infiltrators in the guild. Galladee took her natural talents and developed her skills as sharp as any blacksmith. She was one of the guild’s top earners and invested that income right back into her craft.

Bellany and Galladee trained under the same guild masters. They learned the art of dance and the 
precision of inches together. Theirs was a friendship forged by sharing the same kind of scars and succeeding in the same demanding difficult trade. They cried together as girls, shared drinks and contracts together as adults. Bellany felt stung by the betrayal, she’d never have taken a contract on Galladee.

Bellany locked her rope harness about a floor short of the ground and dropped her bow. It landed in the net Gallade had enchanted invisible. Galladee was one of the few people Bellany confided in, she knew Bellany’s tricks and Bellany knew hers. Unfortunately they were somewhat evenly matched under normal circumstances, but hanging from a rope with her right arm rapidly going numb Bellany had the unsettling feeling she was out matched. It left her with one play.

“Really Galladee, you’re going to side with my ex,” Bellany kept her voice casual, despite the rising heat she felt from her womb. Her son to be had a temper.

“I’m going to take you in Bell, you can make it easy on both of us and just give up,” Galladee replied in her croaking tones. Three limbs casually braced the roof top ledge and she had one of her javelins in her free hand.

Bellany did her best to tune out the commotion on the street. Without her spotting, those Workman Guild hack assassins called the Tradesmen were going to take a toll. Unfortunately, Bellany had her own problems at the moment.

“You shadowed them, Bellany nodded toward the street. Followed that quad knowing I’d set up to cover,” Bellany didn’t have to try hard to sound impressed. “Why’d you take the job, I thought we were friends?”

“Couldn’t resist, Bell. You were always the favorite, and I wanted to know who was better. Besides 
it’s a non-lethal, boss wants you alive. Now give up, I got you lined up for a good throw, dart poison has you down an arm, you’re dangling on a line I can cut, and that net there below you is made of enchanted spidersilk. Face it you’re caught.” Galladee was confident, even pleased with herself. Bellany wondered if they had ever truly been friends or if she was just too isolated in her old life.

“Yeah, seems like you got me, but you forgot about something,” Bellany smiled a tight malice laced smile at her old friend.

“What’s that,” she replied.

“I made new friends,” Bellany replied.

Galladee turned just in time to look her death in the face. Bellany felt some of the warm splatter of her old friend’s blood as Zool’s blade struck true. Her head fell into her own net trap, and Zool caught the body and dragged it onto the roof. The fire of emotions swept over Bellany for a long moment. She felt angry at the betrayal, worried about the poison and if it’d effect the child in her womb, but mostly she felt the shock of loss.

Bellany wept as Zool pulled her back up the building, her tears mixing with the blood splattered across her face.

Monday, November 18, 2013

An Announcement

Readers and friends we here at Clockwork Chaos have had something very exciting happen recently. We've negotiated an arrangement with to produce original 3rd party content under their new banner!

This will mean that in the next few months we will be slowly releasing the crunchy rules details we have otherwise been holding back.

We'll be starting with a series of Classes of Desylinn books and going from there. Be prepared to see our alternate Alignment and Magic systems being posted up on this very website in the next few weeks as well as continuing our Iconic line.

We'll also be extending our Open Call and looking to give new blood the chance at playtesting work and exposure.

Watch us closely.

Things should get interesting.

-John R Belliston Old One of Artistic Direction

Monday, November 11, 2013

Iconic Bard: Tog'gin

by Frank Gori


The Mage was waving his hands and speaking some nonsense when Tog’s thunderstone bolas hit him. They swiftly entangled his arms and clapped together in a percussive sound that in all likelihood left the ears of Tog’s target ringing. The quad of brute squad bruisers that accompanied the two hired Mage’s Guild security specialists ran in Tog’s general direction. They managed to trip on the well placed wire and set off the smokesticks and land in the caltrops that the Krishtog had scattered a few minutes ago in stealth.

Tog murmured a few choice phrases and gestured with his palm towards his foes and gently blew over them. Glittering motes of irradiance fanned out and stuck true to the brutes that dared pursue him. Another gesture commanded the small air elementals he had summoned to attack his enemy caster. Tog had about a dozen more loud and flashy tricks to draw out all the security for the warehouse and the local watch after him. He had set traps and hired a few locals to do seemingly simple tasks that would confound and draw attention away.

Tog loved nothing more than the thrill of a crowd, or in this case a blood thirsty mob. He is leaping, climbing, swinging, gliding, and swimming and tonight would, with any luck, test all his abilities and skills. He’d prove himself worthy of his own crew and score a nice cut of tonight’s take, it made him feel like singing.

On the surface the Music Guild is about entertainment: to those in the know it’s a den of spies and thieves. The truth is less delineated than all that, some like to be both performer and thief, taking in the admiration of the crowds by day and robbing them in their sleep.

Tog’gin grew up in the anarchy of the Krishtogalog like most Krishtogs. He had a natural gift of song that was hopelessly average in his community and considered a fine and rare gift anywhere else. Unlike most Krishtogs Tog craved both a sense of structure and the thrill of being the center of attention. He was lucky to be noticed by a Music Guild talent scout.

Now Tog’gin has the honor of being one of the opening acts for Jax, and he’s well on his way to earning the right to run a crew in the evening. Leading a double life is easy when to the outsider all Krishtog pretty much look alike.

Tog’gin is a bit of an adrenalin junkie and seems to like to take big risks, trusting his planning and varied skills to get him out of tight spots. The few times that hasn’t worked magic and the natural charms of being a bard have.

On one hand the guild sees Tog’gin as a liability having a public face and taking such risks can only be effective for so long. On the other hand Tog’gin has repeatedly brought in highly profitable scores and earned a reputation among his peers as being a shrewd and wily planner.

Recently Tog has begun opening for Jax, some say it’s because Jax’s advisor wants a closer look at the up and comer. Others have speculated that Jax might be fostering some professional jealousy from the diva like bard.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Winding Road: The Ambush

by Frank Gori

Dab tried to stay alert this time.
It had been a rough week of ambushes and assassination attempts just trying to acquire the necessary supplies for their journey. Bellany and Zool called the assassins The Tradesmen. They were great at blending in, striking, and fleeing, causing the caravan damage in their wake.

Dab was learning that the great guilds of Hub were more interconnected then one might otherwise perceive. While the Merchant's Guild itself was supplying the majority of the personnel and physical goods for the journey, Malleck still needed various jobs performed by the Workman's Guild, tools from the Blacksmith Guild, and the Mage's Guild was for the most part necessary for magical supplies to ease the road.
One moment a group of roofers were working on a building across the street, then the next they were shooting at you with poisoned crossbow bolts. Malleck tried sending intermediaries unaffiliated with the caravan, but The Tradesmen always struck anyway. Malleck tried disguising people, again the Tradesmen struck. They targeted anyone going on or helping with the expedition and Dab had yet to spot one before they struck.

Clearly the Merchant's Guild had spies within, but that was hardly Dab’s department. He was guarding this transaction which was the only thing that somewhat worked. Malleck was resolved that if the Tradesmen would not cease the attempts to harm the caravan then they’d pay a blood price for every attempt. Even expecting trouble the bastards were hard to spot.

By the time it was sorted out who needed killing, most Tradesmen ran. They used smoke sticks, flash powder, and caltrops but still Dab usually got a hold of one. The Tradesmen always worked in a group multiples of four, or quads (which apparently was the term even when there was sixteen of them.) Losses didn’t seem to daunt them, despite having traded an equal number of lives from their ranks to the losses they inflicted the kept coming. It was a bloody week roughly two dozen people didn’t see the end of and Dab was getting weary of it.

Mal, Zool, Bellany, and Snook were the only reliable spotters they had. Everyone was on alert, but being alert didn’t seem to be enough. 

Despite his resolve, Dab found himself reflecting on Laz. Laz seemed preoccupied and edgy lately. Perhaps understandable given the circumstances, but there was something akin to the skinny boy that helped him stand up to the street toughs despite clearly being terrified. Laz was the kind of guy that threw his best punches when he was scared to and if Laz was scared there was good reason to be…

An arrow interrupted Dab’s thoughts, “Dammit,” he said aloud in exasperation. The carpenter with the arrow perforating his throat was the obvious target, which Dab found himself charging. This time he took a moment to focus and noticed a customer in the grocer stand not very far behind the carpenter reaching into a canvas bag. The customer was too calm in the face of violence, Dab squared his shoulders and lowered himself further in the run.               

In the last second he pulled wide of the carpenter and pushed with all his bulk and muscle. The shopper had raised a crossbow out of the bag and lined it to someone in the caravan.

“Not this time,” the carpenter flew into the field of fire just as the bolt flew clear of the crossbar. If the carpenter survived Bellany’s shot, he’d likely not survive this one. Dab made eye contact with the crossbow woman just as a stream of Marta’s energy bolts twisted around the obstacles of the grocer stand and slammed into the would be assassin.

Dab followed that up with a throwing axe, before turning around to see who was next. A gardener had an arrow through his eye and some attention was further ahead of the wagon at some fleeing foe making it four.
Dab’s eyes swept back to the caravan, one of Zool’s Blacksmith’s had a bolt in his buckler. That made this attack three of them for none of theirs, perhaps the next Quad would think twice.

The scuff of boot on cobblestone to his left was Dab’s only warning. On instinct he punched out to his right before dropping into a roll to his left. His fist connected and he managed to trip his other attacker into a tangle with the first. They set up in his flanks invisible, likely from a potion or some dust.

Dab managed to get back to his feet before his attackers which afforded him a few seconds to scan the area and get a lay for the battlefield. Aside from the two, the shopkeeper held a wand over the not quite dead crossbowman and she had already apparently used it on the carpenter who was downing a potion and had already retrieved his weapon. The five on one would for a short time wouldn’t be so bad, but a glance over at the supply wagons now shrouded in mist, indicated a caster focused on cutting off reinforcements.

They used magical resources to isolate him and get the advantage of first strike. They counted on that being enough, they counted on taking him down, but they didn’t count on a loose cobblestone ruining their stealth. That was their mistake.

Dab touched his new ring and said the command word that would make his skin stone hard and enhance his already impressive ability to take a beating. In all likelihood they assumed they had the advantage with numbers, the reality was they were outnumbered and attrition favored Dab. Laz would be annoyed he used the charge up already but being captured or killed was probably worse. It also made his priority to take down the casters as the other four would have a hard time damaging him.

Dab ran at the shopkeeper first. Barreling past his assailants allowed them to take swings on him and were he not protected he’d have paid a blood price. As it was the minotaur barely felt the blows. A crossbow bolt bounced off his chest before he closed on the wand wielding shopkeeper who now had a blue disk of energy in front of him.

Dab let go. Let go of the dozens of half remembered beatings in the course of a battered life, let go of the frustrations of a lost career, let go of the anger of being separated from his only childhood friend, let go of being tortured. He let all of that go in a raging flurry.

When the fog cleared a few moments later they found Dab covered in blood on his knees. Five foes lied broken and dead.