Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Two Columns or Not Two Columns? That's a Good Question.

from Ignite Living

So...  We all "know" the majority of small-publisher RPG material is sold in PDF format for use on computers and e-readers and the like.  We also "know" that the majority of RPG books are formatted in 2-column layout because it looks more professional (and because that's the way Uncle Gary did it).  Two-column format and electronic books don't actually get along that well, but I've been laying out The King is Dead's playtest in that format because it's what I'm used to seeing and because it makes me feel like I'm writing an honest-to-goodness professional-level book.

With all that said, what do you think is the best format?  Please vote in the accompanying poll. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Princess Errant: Duel dans la grande Gallium

A couple of days after the ball celebrating her Grand Tour, Princess Dusk and her entourage set forth for Paris via clockwork ornithopter.  The brass and glass airship (shaped like a huge dragonfly) dashes across the Albion Channel at speeds of over 25 miles per hour, reaching the airfield outside of Paris shortly after dark, just as the gaslights of Paris light up the night.

A tremendous marching band parade greets the princess’ airship, and she is formally welcomed to the country by the Dauphine Celestine (who offers Princess Dusk a 7% solution of cocaine once they’re safely ensconced in her carriage).  The dauphine, Dusk soon realizes, plays at being weary and contemptuous of the spotlight but truthfully glories in it, insisting that the travel-weary Dusk participate in a grand ball welcoming her to Gallia.  Dusk reluctantly agrees and joins the riotous assemblage of Gallian nobles after taking a brief break to freshen up and change.

Dauphine Celestine looks land acts nothing like Kill la Kill's Nui, but they're an awful lot alike anyway.
(Gallia, unlike Albion, is ruled by hereditary nobility (unlike the Albish adopted nobility); the royal house, which practices primogeniture, traces its ancestry back to the water-fairy Melusine.  Actual power was consolidated into the royal hands by the current king’s grandfather, leaving the Gallian nobility as a parasitical appendix, collecting rents from lands they no longer have any hand in administrating while not paying any taxes into the nation’s coffers.  While this aspect of them is offensive to Albish principles, the Gallian nobility is paradoxically progressive in many social issues, tolerating broader gender roles and sexual orientations than most continental regimes.  After all, the heir to the throne is a woman…)

At the welcoming ball, there is an awkward moment as the dauphine tries to (almost literally) push her teenaged brother François into dancing the welcoming dance with Dusk (Celestine being rather narrow-mindedly cisgendered), but the awkward young lad is saved by the intercession of the Marquis Tomás de Carabas, a dashing ailuromorph.  While their initial encounter impresses Princess Dusk, subsequent attempts by the cat-like Casanova to chat her up over the next few days fall flat.  She barely even takes any interest in an assassination attempt against the marquis, chalking it up to the actions of the brutal former marquis that Tomás cheated out of the title.

[This is an excellent example of why you have to be ready to improvise in a duet campaign and also why I make it all up at the gaming table.]
The Marquis was somehow my least attractive Tennant character yet.

Dusk is overall unimpressed by the Gallian nobility and longs to move out of Versailles and stay in Paris, but Dauphine Celestine insists on having a masquerade ball.  Celestine also tries to pawn Dusk off onto the innocent, fabulously rich, and unpopular young Comtesse Martine le Blanc.  Le Blanc, it turns out, has suffered a series of near-fatal accidents recently, always being rescued in the nick of time by her wolf dog Raoul.  The wolf dog piques Dusk’s curiosity by being obviously a wolf smarter than average, but she’s still on the verge of blowing off the comtesse as well when Chief Inspector Jacquard of the Sûreté arrives to announce he has received notice le Blanc will be murdered at the masquerade.

Chief Inspector Jacquard

Princess Dusk has already suspected that Martine’s would-be murderer is her uncle, Merteuil, and is only persuaded to join the investigation because of her curiosity about Raoul and Jacquard’s confession that he also resents his nation’s nobility.  Jacquard is a self-made man who has advanced in his career by almost catching the infamous and suspiciously never-seen burglar Auguste Loup on several occasions – which seems excessively suspicious to Dusk, especially when a friendly bout in the fencing salle reveals Jacquard is adept at ungentlemanly fighting arts like savate.  She decides to play along with the investigation.

It turns out that Uncle Merteuil is a crony of Dauphine Celestine, and further investigation shows that Comtesse le Blanc is wealthy enough to greatly bolster the waning royal coffers (allowing the royal family to avoid raising taxes on the resentful peasantry).  Dusk wonders why Martine is not just married off to the kindly François if Celestine is after the money, but realizes that would mean Celestine would not directly control the fortune.  She then suspects that Celestine means to aid Merteuil in murdering his niece and then marry him for the fortune, but Merteuil is… um… gross… and it doesn’t seem likely that the fashionable young dauphine would want to marry such a man.  Dusk realizes that Celestine means to murder the both of them and then the le Blanc estates will default to the crown.

Princess Dusk attends the masquerade as the Pendragon, the foundling founder of the royal “family” of Albion, in an excessively clever costume that incorporates actual armor and hides her rapier in a decorative sword; Beatrix the modiste is quite proud of her creation.  The dauphine attends in a similarly-armored costume as Melusine, de Carabas comes as a furry-chested Apollo, le Blanc is Snow White while her uncle is Robin Hood, and a mystery man (whom Dusk assumes is Auguste Loup) attends as a Wild Huntsman wearing an oddly-familiar dog wolf-skin. Dusk certainly seems to finally begin to enjoy herself in this gravel-voiced mystery man’s company.

A seemingly-drunken man in a pirate costume jostles de Carabas; Dusk notices he is armed with two pistols – very real, well-used pistols – and remembers that de Carabas’ would-be killer shot at the ailuromorph.  Noticing that le Blanc and her evil uncle are waltzing together in a false show of familial piety, Dusk concludes that the ex-Marquis is going to “accidentally” shoot Martine and Merteuil while firing on Tomás.  She and the Wild Huntsman move to intercept but are too late.  Merteuil is fatally wounded, but the Huntsman’s cloak leaps from his shoulders to become Raoul the wolf dog, who takes the bullet for his mistress… and then coughs it up, unharmed, because he is in fact a spirit animal.  Chief Inspector Jacquard reveals that he is a practicing shaman and sent the wolf to protect the maiden.

He also reveals he is, in fact, Auguste Loup (which doesn’t really surprise Princes Dusk, but she seems rather happy about the reveal).

Princess Dusk does not dress like Matoi Ryuko.

And then Princess Dusk kicks Dauphine Celestine’s ass.  A dying more-or-less confession prompted from Merteuil allows Dusk to lay the accusation of murder at Celestine’s feet; Celestine replies with a challenge to trial by combat.  Dusk invokes her power of noblesse oblige and leaps into the battle.  The duel is tense, but Celestine is hampered by her ungainly costume, while Beatrix has designed Dusk’s dress for optimum mobility.  Dusk disarms the murderess and turns her over to the King f Gallia for judgment.

The King of Gallia, obese and slow as he may be, is nevertheless a man of honor and condemns his daughter and the ex-Marquis de Carabas (the “ogre” Tomás tricked out of his title) to imprisonment in the Bastille.  Prince François is promoted to dauphin and his engagement to Martine is announced -- with a press-distracting wedding in two weeks.  Dusk will act as maid of honor.  Auguste Loup disappears.

Princess Dusk finds a nice hotel and makes plans to move out of Versailles the next day.  She finds a note under her pillow, though, and goes to it the next day.  It’s an unassuming upscale brownstone, which she swiftly learns is Loup’s secret Paris base.  He invites her to join him on a jaunt to Marseilles, and asks for her advice on his wardrobe.  “Which do you prefer?” he asks, “The red jacket or the green jacket?”

She answers red.

Lupin III as Arsène Lupin by Tojosaka666

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Setting Sketch: Miyamoto Academy Combatters


Fight for your honor!
Fight for your humanity!

Honnouji Academy from Kill la Kill
True Cross Academy from Blue Exorcist
Miyamoto Reformatory Academy looms on a hill above the bustling Tokyo suburb of Musashi City. A towering mishmash of Baroque, Brutalist, and Gothic architecture, it is a fortress subjugating the city below. The students and faculty of Miyamoto Academy are held in reverence and dread by the town folk, appeased and feared like rampaging gods.   Miyamoto Reformatory Academy is home to the worst delinquents and most sadistic teachers in all of Japan, the preternatural fighters known as Combatters.
Statue of Miyamoto Musashi
Fueled by the Five Elements of Power – magic, miracles, psionics, super powers, and weird science – Combatters have emerged from the youth of the world since the 1950s, increasing in number as the decades have progressed until they threaten the world with their inhuman fury and strength.  The United Nations Security Council established the Reformatory Academy program in the 1980s, creating quarantine schools where teenaged Combatters could battle amongst themselves under the watchful eyes of mature Combatters who have learned to control their powers and rage.  Now, as a new and idealistic generation of Combatters are inducted into Miyamoto Academy, the Reformatory Academy program itself faces challenges from within and without.

The new students come from all walks of life, but all are marked by the strange powers and uncontrollable fighting spirit of Combatters.  One might be an A student who has dabbled in the mystic arts to boost her grades while another might be a dropout who is the reincarnation of a Buddhist warrior monk.  The class president might be a powerful mentalist who uses his psionic powers to dominate the class.  One pair of rivals might be a second-generation superhero and a genius inventor who fight over the affections of the most innocent girl in school.  All of them, though, have been forced to attend the mysterious and terrifying Miyamoto Reformatory Academy and must discover its secrets to survive to graduation.

Who are the shadowy forces that seek to use the Reformatory Academies to their own ends?  What secrets will the new students discover about their powers?  Where will the trials of tournaments of Academy life lead their destinies? Why does the future of all mankind rest on the shoulders of these children?  How will the purity of youth defeat the compromises of age?


Miyamoto Academy Combatters is a tournament fighting setting for Savage Worlds inspired by such high school manga and anime as Bleach, Blue Exorcist, Cromartie High School, Great Teacher Onizuka, Kill la Kill, Project A-ko, Ranma ½, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Tenjho Tenge.

Requires: Savage Worlds Deluxe

Compatible with: Fantasy, Horror, and Sci-Fi Companions OR Super Powers Companion.

Player characters are students at the Academy who have just transferred in at the beginning of the school year.  All player characters receive an Arcane Background (Magic, Miracles, Psionics, Super Powers, or Weird Science) for free (or the Super Powers Companion version of Super Powers as per that book).  As infamous delinquents, all player characters begin at Seasoned. 

New Setting Rule: Psyche-Out

Combatters challenge their foes head-on.  Every fight begins with a Social Combat in which the Combatters may attempt to psyche each other out.  Players should role-play out the exchange of insults and boasts; for every on of their opponent’s Hindrances they manage to invoke, the players gain a bonus to their social attack roll (+2 for a Major Hindrance and +1 for a Minor Hindrance).  The winner of the Social Combat may choose to either have her opponent begin the fight Shaken or begin the fight with a Wild Attack that leaves her opponent with a reduced Parry; the winner of the Social Combat may choose the result after initiative cards are dealt.
Kill la Kill
Blue Exorcist
Project A-Ko

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Princess Errant: Cabbages and Queens

In case it wasn’t obvious from yesterday’s picture post, Princess Errant won.  While I had idly described it as set in a fairy tale world with 17th century parallels, within minutes of starting character creation, I was giving Robin’s PC a clockwork tutor (with the stunningly original name of “Sir Gearheart”) and a lagomorph (half-rabbit) modiste (named Beatrix, of course).  The world has quickly taken on an odd, Oz/Wonderland/Disney steam-fantasy mashup quality that I didn’t expect.  I’m really surprised at myself.
World-Building Discoveries
Princess Dusk (Robin’s player character) hails from Albion, a united British Isles in a parallel reality I’ve just decided to call Earth-161.  It is a green and pleasant land devoted to the arts, the sciences, and social justice.
Like Alderaan and Naboo, Albion is an elected monarchy – but with an extra-twisty twist.  The nine Royal Families of Albion (from which monarchs are popularly elected) are comprised entirely of orphans, a tradition dating back to the founding of the realm under Arthur the Foundling, and the inheritance of titles by biological children is strictly forbidden.  Each Royal Family is permitted no more than nine members (though their attendant households are, of course, much larger); when a family member dies or leaves the family, a lottery is held amongst the nation’s orphanages and a child of no less than five years old and no more than ten is randomly selected to fill the vacancy.  This means that the Royal Families are a distinctly heterogeneous group, comprised of humans of all races and even having a smattering of morphites (half-humans).  

(Royal Family members who wish to have children are required to abdicate their position.  They are pensioned off with a noble title that lasts only their own lifetime; their children are granted the title of baronet, but that only lasts the children’s lifetime.  Pensioned nobles receive a stipend equal to half their royal allowance; their children receive half of this half-allowance and their grandchildren are expected to have turned the wonderful opportunities of a debt-free lifestyle into establishing careers for themselves.)

The monarch of Albion (currently Princess Dusk’s sponsor-mother, the alternate-reality Freddie Mercury known as Queen Freddie) is an absolute dictator, but is expected to get the approval of Parliament for significant executive orders.  Raised as wards of the state to serve the state, the Royal Families are civic-minded and beneficent.  The royal orphanages of Albion are as comfortable and nurturing as possible, but even the best orphanage is not a home; every member of the Royal Families has experienced this, and remembers need and want.  It is a rare royal indeed who turns his state-sponsored education and lifestyle to malevolent ends.

Also, the guiding principle of the realm is ethical hedonism, which – now that I know it exists – I realize is the guiding principle of my life.
Earth-161 is primarily inhabited by humans, who absorbed the indigenous fairy population millennia ago (resulting in a propensity toward magic use and wild, anime-colored hair), but it is also home to several other sentient species.  The most common are morphics, animal/human hybrids of various breeds and species.  Ailuromorphs (cat-people), dracomorphs (dragon-people), lagomorphs (rabbit-people), lycomorphs (wolf-people), susimorphs (pig-people), and vulpimorphs (fox-people) are common throughout Europa.

The origin of morphics are lost to time, but it is evident that their human side is the baseline from the way they are integrated into human society.  Despite their obvious physical differences, morphics do not (on the whole) form separate nations of their own, though a distinct morphic subculture is present in some nations.  In Albion, morphics are fully integrated with the rest of sentient society; several members of the Royal Families morphics.

Of course, Albion also grants full citizenship to sentient automatons…

The Story So Far…

Princess Dusk is turning twenty and it is time for her to start her Grand Tour.  The tour will take her around the continent of Europa (and possibly beyond, but I’m not sure yet) and allow her the possibilities to both live a year or two of wild excess and also learn more about the larger world and her place in it as a leader of Albion.  She will be accompanied by her automaton tutor, Sir Gearhart, and her modiste and lady-in-waiting, the lagomorph Beatrix Cottontail.

(Beatrix practices Mod Magic, a derivation of Weird Science that blends arcane symbology and alchemical materials into the ability to imbue clothing and tools with magic.  She is also a fully-certified clockworks engineer!)

After a heartfelt talk about her responsibility to have fun with her sponsor-mother, Queen Freddie, Princess Dusk goes to attend her going-away party at the Royal Alberic Hall.  Riding past adoring crowds in a carriage drawn by two snow-white Megaloceros, Dusk arrives at the hall and is greeted by the assembled Nine Families. 

(The event, by the way, is also a charity gala where commoners can buy tickets to view the assembled cream of Albionian society.  Essentially, the citizens have their own party going on in the circles and gallery while the Royal Families gather on the arena and stage.)

She is first compelled to dance with the popular, scene-stealing, and regrettably selfish Prince Adric, who dresses like a visual kei star.  Adric teases her with tales of his own popularity in Europa and generally tries to make her uncomfortable, but Princess Dusk puts him in his place.  They dance a riotous, acrobatic tango.

(Yes, Adric’s name and reputation for brattiness were lifted from the Doctor Who companion.  The resemblance stops there.)

She next dances with the quietly self-assured dracomorph, Prince Brolly.  Brolly gives her sounder advice and confesses he will miss her terribly.  He obviously has romantic feelings for the princess, but since part of the entire concept behind the Grand Tour is to experience love’s delights and miseries, he cannot press his suit.  They dance a tender waltz.

(I pulled the name “Brolly” out of the deep recesses of my mind.  It turns out it belongs to a Dragonball character.)      

Finally, she takes a turn on the floor with her totally platonic friend, the gender-flipped Prince Jocasta, a member of the Royal Unicorn Guard.  Jocasta is a few months younger than Dusk and would prefer they tour the continent together; Jocasta worries about the reception her unusual gender identity might have abroad.  They dance a bouncy, joyous country dance.

Aside from Adric’s usual absurdity, the night goes swimmingly.  Princess Dusk returns home and prepares for her flight.

Yes, flight.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Time to put my thinking cap on...

+Robin English-Bircher and I have been playing a weird little InuYasha-ish Japanese gods duet for a bit, but it seems to be coming to the end of its natural lifespan.  Duet games tend to burn out really quickly -- at least, they do when I run them -- because the condensed nature of character growth and frequency of play just fast-forwards through the plot development.  Now I need a new duet setting.  We've played multiple The King is Dead duets and Robin (rightfully) wants something more romantic than giant monster fights, so I need to come up with some pitches:

Elminster's Ecologists
Genre: Fantasy
The Forgotten Realms' answer to Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin is a ragged team of druids and rangers who try to study animal-intelligence monsters and relocate them away from populated areas without resorting to using deadly force. (It wouldn't actually have anything to do with Elminster; the title's a pun off some supplements Greenwood wrote.)

Fab Flannel Five
Genre: Modern
What if Jem and the Holograms and Singles had a baby?  A story about the glamorous side of rock stardom, full of improbable band battles and over-the-top melodrama, set to the soundtrack of our twenties. Between fighting their heroin addictions and saving whales, our Doc Martens-clad protagonists are winning surfing contests and solving crimes.

Pride and Kicking Ass
Genre: Wuxia
Pride and Prejudice set amidst the anachronistic, fantastical jianghu underworld of  martial artists and vagabonds.  “Elizabeth Bennett” is the daughter of a small-time -- but well-respected -- kung fu master.  Her life is turned upside-down when "Mr. Bingley" arrives to take over his post as the Imperial governor, accompanied by the frustratingly accomplished martial artist "Mr. Darcy" and the dashing but ambitious military officer "George Wickham."  (There might be hopping vampires and nine-tailed foxes, but I'm not sure.)

Princess Errant
Genre: Swashbuckling/Fantasy
In a vaguely 17th century fairy tale realm of elected royalty and anthropomorphic animal-people, the adopted daughter of Queen Freddie is about to embark on her Grand Tour.  Duels will be fought, loves will be won and lost, and a princess will find her prince.

Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Beyond the mundane realms lies a world of magic, liberal arts, and substance abuse.  Borrowing the college-centric Setting Rules of East Texas University, this would eschew the Buffy-style grounding in realism for a college populated by vampires, werewolves, witches, and other monsters.  Think Rosario + Vampire Goes to College.

Travis University
Genre: Modern Horror
Or we could take the ETU Player's Guide and use it to make up a "haunted UT" equivalent to ETU's "haunted A&M."  It would have a better arts scene...


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mecha Kaiju Sensō Tai!!!: Don Figueroa

Finding figure flat-ready art for super robots has turned out to be tougher than finding it for kaiju.  Here's some pretty pictures by Transformers artist Don Figueroa that fit the bill: