The King is Dead

Friday, April 8, 2016

Olympus, Inc. is Back!!!

A shadow war lurks just out of mankind’s sight – an ancient war dating back to before the gods first shaped man out of clay. 

Banished to the edges of human consciousness by the primordial Gaia, the Olympians – the gods of Greek mythology – fight an ongoing battle against the monstrous Titans. Their soldiers are demigods, the superhuman descendants of dalliances between mortals and gods. Their battleground is the glass and steel towers, the boardrooms and development labs of the corporate world. 

The shadow war hides in plain sight behind the façade of Olympus, Inc.

***

The relaunched Olympus, Inc. crowdfunding campaign is now live at Indiegogo!

Olympus, Inc. is the brainchild of Gilbert Gallo of Mythos and other RPGs and Charles White of Fabled Environments (makers of fine gaming floorplans and adventure modules). Despite a hiccup with Kickstarter disrupting the previous campaign, they've stayed hard at work on the setting and have now relaunched with a limited-time Indiegogo campaign. The guys have done an excellent job putting together a free primer for the setting and creating some excellent explanations of the pitch. Let me just let them tell it in their own words and pictures:




As you can see, I'm once again among the stretch goal writers. There's only 14 days left as of this writing (and less time than that before it gets steamrollered by Pinnacle's Savage Rifts Kickstarter), so head on over if you're looking for a modern urban fantasy setting with a high-tech espionage/military bent!


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Coming Soon -- The King is Dead: DHAMPIR

cover image not final
illustration from Mary Robinson as Perdita by John Hoppner

A rebellious dhampir approaches the cabal with an astonishing offer: she will trade a key fragment of the Sanguinem Maledicta -- a long-lost ritual that might spell the end of all vampires -- for escape from her vampiric father and her arranged marriage. 

Will the heroes trust the dhampir? Dare they risk the wrath of a vampire lord for such a prize? Can they navigate the treacherous maze of vampire courtly society?

Contains:
  • 6 pre-generated heroes demonstrating the breath and diversity of The King is Dead's secret societies. Each character is presented with both standard statistics and with the optional Horrid Secret Hindrance.
  • Details about Hammerstadt, the capital city of Malleus, and the courts of the four Blood Princes.
  • Examples of the expanded Connections rules.
  • New Edges, Hindrances, gear, and powers!
Coming May 1st!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Listen to Me Make an Idiot of Myself ;)

Cripes, I keep forgetting to post this...


Back on March 18th, I was the guest on the pilot episode for Gamer's Tavern News, a spin-off of the Gamer's Tavern podcast. It was a blast talking with +Ross Watson and Darryl Mott Jr. -- and I was actually a useful guest for the first half hour when we talked RPGs.

Unfortunately, I totally forgot that I don't play video games or even really board game all that much. Volunteering to be on the news episode instead of talking dump stats was a very bad idea -- and it was very much my bad idea. Ross actually gave me my choice of episodes.

Oops.

I had a really good time, though, and would eagerly return. Check it out if you want to hear a Muppet-voiced goofball rant on about 7th Sea's success and how the Rohirrim are the most awesome part of Middle-Earth.

And shill heavily for +Eric Simon and The King is Dead, of course.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Accursed: Bone and Barrow is for sale! Have some bonus material!

 Bone and Barrow at DTRPG
I think my part even got the cover illustration!

My latest piece of freelancing is now available for purchase! 

Accursed: Bone and Barrow is the final book to emerge from the Accursed: World of Morden Kickstarter. Expanding the setting beyond the brief region descriptions available in the core book, each World of Morden volume details two of the nations struggling to fight back against the conquering Witches. Bone and Barrow is split between setting creator Ross Watson's chapter on Cairn Kainen and my chapter on the Outlands.


From DriveThruRPG:


Cairn Kainen and the Outlands were the first casualties of the Bane War. Neither could mount an effective defense against the Witch Armies, though for very different reasons. In both cases, their early collapses provided the Witches with the resources they needed to push the battle into Morden's other surviving nations. 

Now, both regions suffer under tyranny, long after the Witch Council dissolved. Hecate's Oubliette remains in the foothills of the Darkwall Peaks, and her banes prowl the Outlands. The Morrigan has made a new home in Blackroot Wode and collects a steady tithe of new souls to feed her cauldron.

Bone and Barrow provides additional information about the nation of Cairn Kainen and the Outlands that provide a barrier between the Darkwall Peaks and Morden's more stable nations.  It includes a broad range of different adventure hooks for GMs and players looking to explore these specific regions. It also introduces new banes as well as Hindrances and Edges specific to these cultures.

Accursed provides additional details about the setting used in this scenario, and is required to fully make use of the game mechanics presented. Savage Worlds and the Savage Worlds Horror Companion are also required. 


Bone and Barrow is a really special project for me. If Savage Insider was where I broke in and Steamscapes: Asia was my big break (HUGE!), then Bone and Barrow is the project that let me know I really made it. It was a blast unraveling the threads Ross and John Dunn wove the original Outlands description out of, weaving in my own ideas, and finishing a chapter they both enthusiastically approved (and which required minimal editing). I would eagerly return to write for Accursed again.

In fact, I enjoyed the project so much, I overwrote by a few hundred words. Therefore, to celebrate the book's release, here's some bonus material I couldn't fit into my word count!

from the Seaharrow section

Child of War [Minor}

The Bane War lasted for decades. Some children were born into the war, growing to maturity and dying in battle without ever knowing a day of peace. Some of these children even became Accursed.
A character with the Child of War Hindrance may be the child of foreign mercenaries or of native Morden blood. As long as he can remember, he has held a weapon in his hands, slept in the caves of refugees or the trenches of soldiers, and dined amidst the dead and dying. He is an outsider among outsiders – uneasy with open laughter, unwilling to make friends, unable to accept peace.

The character suffers a -2 penalty to Charisma. This penalty can stack with the penalty from Outsider or the optional penalty imposed on all Accursed when dealing with normal humans. 

from the Riverspring section

Riverspring Hindrance

Ash Sickness [Minor]

The ash juniper is an evergreen tree pervasive throughout Riverspring and spreading far into the surrounding lands. While its berries are used for flavoring distilled alcohols and pickled cabbage, the tree is generally considered pernicious because of how quickly it grows and the disease it brings. The Springfolk burned the forests to keep the ash juniper away from their villages, but the devastation of the Bane War means the tree now grows rampant everywhere.

From early autumn to late spring, the fine, ash-like pollen of the juniper hangs heavy in the air of Riverspring. Characters who suffer from ash sickness must make a Vigor roll every day they are exposed or gain a level of Fatigue. A dose of the Alchemical power rejuvenating draft banishes the Fatigue for an entire day. 

from the Deepshadow section

The Legend of the Lingerer

Some say that only five hundred ninety-nine Shadow Riders died during their last charge. One knight – rumored to be the youngest scion of the mac Cavendish clan – lingered in bed with her sweetheart, reluctant to go to her death. She arrived on the battlefield in time to see her companions swallowed by the fog, but reached the enemy too late to join them. Instead, she was captured by Hecate’s forces and transformed into a Shade.

The Lingerer survived the Bane War and won her freedom. The Lingerer has utterly embraced her Witchmark, becoming a wrathful specter riding a ghostly pale horse. Now she hunts her former companions across the blighted plains of Deepshadow, bringing justice to the quick and the dead.

Deepshadow Edge

Swift Tracker

Requirements: Seasoned, Riding d6+ or Survival 6+, Tracking d6+

Years in the saddle chasing bandits or following wild wisnetski herds have taught this character how to keep a sharp eye out while on the move. Watching for dust clouds and listening for vibrations in the earth allow the hero to follow a trail for at least five miles before needing to make another Tracking roll.  

It's pretty cool to see monsters I made up illustrated so deftly!


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Some Ersatz Races for Your Galaxy XXX Needs


Like 11,000 other gamers out there, I backed John Wick's mega-successful Kickstarter for 7th Sea 2nd Edition. I only learned about 7th Sea a few years after it ceased publication, so I don't have much personal connection with the material or familiarity with Wick as an author, but I figured I had to keep up with what other authors are doing in the Early Modern conspiracy/swashbuckling genre.


After familiarizing myself a bit more with the man and his work, I have to admit that I've suddenly become a John Wick fan -- particularly of his still-in-development space opera game Galaxy XXX. Part Star Wars, part Star Trek, and a big part Barbarella, it's a game where conflict is resolved either through space battles or sex scenes, and that suits me pretty damned well.



The preview of the game contains a small sampling of possible player character (and presumably NPC) species, but I didn't really like the "cat-person" species contained therein (it was too much cat and not enough person). As I started statting up my own cat-eared humanoids, a couple of silly ideas popped into my head so I thought I'd post them to keep my blog active for the hell of it.

Mentor Species
The mentor species began exploring the galaxy millennia before humankind discovered zhuntech, and used their knowledge to shield the younger species from predatory peers like the Cinereal. When the SPIN was founded, the mentor species assumed the role of elder statesmen in global politics. Unfortunately, this tends to make them arrogant in dealing with the younger species, leading them to manipulate SPIN politics to fit the mentor species’ sense of entitlement. 

Bittles
Trait Bonus:
+2 Talk or +1 Action and +1 Talk
Benefits: Adorable, Iron Teeth, Superior Olfactory Glands
The diminutive, three-eyed Bittles once waged mighty wars that shattered stars and destroyed empires, but they long ago set aside conquest to instead shepherd species new to the galactic community. Gourmands of the highest order, they are eager to explore new species culinary delights.

Casterboroi
Trait Bonus: +2 Talk or +1 Talk and +1 Tech
Benefits: Cunning Linguist, Fast Talker, Technically Advanced
Physically identical to humans aside from some quirks of internal bioiogy, the Casterboroi claim to actually be the zhun – or that they will be the zhun once their mastery of zhuntech allows the Casterboroi to travel in time and seed the universe with zhuntech.

Hephaistion
Trait Bonus: +2 Tech or +1 Talk and +1 Tech
Benefits: Opposable Thumbs, Strong, Technically Advanced
Tall, severe, and vaguely resembling the elves of ancient Earth literature, the Hepahistion are one of the youngest mentor races – discovering zhuntech only a few centuries ahead of humanity. Their particularly repressed socio-religious philosophy made them late adopters of henta. 



Outlaw Species
Some polities and species reject the SPIN Declaration of Rights, embracing torture, slavery, and even genocide. Some rare, few members of these outlaw species reject their native cultures and embrace the ideals of the SPIN, studying henta, and even becoming Voyeurs, but most have no affinity for henta.

Cinereal
Trait Bonus: +2 Tech or +1 Tech and +1 Sneak
Benefits: Bipedal, Network, Tech Specialist
The gray-skinned Cinereal are as old and advanced as the oldest mentor races, but their vast experience has not brought wisdom or compassion. Driven to the edge of the galaxy by the expansion of the SPIN, the Cinereals still abduct and abuse less advanced species just as they did humankind long ago.

Dredlox
Trait Bonus:
+2 Action or +1 Action and + 1 Talk
Benefits: Armored Hide, Technically Adept, Tentacles
Xenophobic, genocidal cyborg horrors, the Dredlox were locked in a seemingly-endless war with the Casterboroi until the rise of the SPIN shattered their war fleets and sent the survivors into hiding. Despite centuries of mental conditioning, some rogue Dredlox still harbor shreds of empathy. 

K’rgHan
Trait Bonus:
+2 Action or +1 Action and +1 Tech
Benefits: Bipedal, Strong, Warlike
A humanoid species evolved from their native planet’s top mammalian predatory species, the K’rgHan adhere to a philosophy of strength and self-interest that puts them at odds with the SPIN. Some few K’rgHan have defected, seeing in henta a truer realization of their culture’s ideal of self-mastery.

Peer Species

Humankind has many peers among the participants in the SPIN. Some are relatives of homo sapiens – genecrafted subspecies and uplifted Earth animals – while others are utterly alien. Some are even, in a sense, humanity's descendants, such as the various AI species that call the galaxy home.

NekomiTrait Bonus: +2 Sneak or +1 Sex and +1 Sneak
Benefits: Agile, Flexible, Sensual
Nekomi appear primarily human with feline traits such as cat ears, fur-like body hair, and tails. A genecrafted offshoot of humanity, they – like the many other human subspecies and Earth-animal uplifted species – usually reside in human-controlled star systems.



Okwoos
Trait Bonus: +2 Tech or + 1 Action and +1 Tech
Benefits: Opposable Thumbs, Strong, Superior Olfactory Glands
Tall, shaggy hominds resembling gangly, long-furred apes, the Okwoos were saved from enslavement by the SPIN. They are technically proficient despite their wild appearance; some even say they can smell a faltering field inhibitor before it explodes.


Reldals
Trait Bonus: +2 Sex or +1 Sex and +1 Tech
Benefits: Henta Adept, Sexpert, Synthetic
Androids originally created as companions for deep-space explorers but later given legal status, Reldals have found their programming gives them a natural talent for henta manipulation. Able to upload their consciousness into the Galactic Web in case of physical death, Reldal Voyeurs take on some of the most dangerous assignments.



from Barbarella by Jean-Claude Forest

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Buy This Thing Richard Woolcock Wrote!

+Richard Woolcock, the inestimable Savage Worlds mechanics guru behind the Savage Stuff blog, has written an Accursed one-sheet adventure now available at DriveThruRPG: The Dark Queen's Gambit. Amazing me to no end, it incorporates some of the lore I created for the setting that will be found in the upcoming Bone and Barrow supplement!

(Which, to be honest, is mind-bogglingly surreal to me. Somebody else using something I created? I feel like Neo after learning kung-fu.)

If you didn't back the Accursed: World of Morden Kickstarter and you'd like an inexpensive preview of what the expanded Outlands feel like -- and a kickass adventure from one of the best Savage Worlds bloggers -- then pick up Richard Woolcock's The Dark Queen's Gambit!

From DriveThruRPG:

Dark Queen's Gambit

The Witchmarked heroes discover a village in the Outlands destroyed by banes harboring a lone survivor. They must uncover the cause of the damage, rescue any other survivors, and try to put a stop to the banes responsible. In the process, they may uncover a new plot that the Dark Queen, Hecate, has already put into motion.

Dark Queen's Gambit is a 1-Sheet style scenario that focuses on the adventures of a band of Witchmarked heroes in the Accursed game setting. The adventure may be played as a standalone, or it may be used with the Plot Point Campaign included in Accursed. The adventure features brief scene descriptionss, with necessary game mechanics and opportunity for tasks that can be resolved in a variety of ways.

Accursed provides additional details about the setting used in this scenario, and is required to fully make use of the game mechanics presented. Savage Worlds and the Savage Worlds Horror Companion are also required.

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/176499?affiliate_id=10771

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Ennui of the Eternal GM


Self-reflection is awful and beautiful. In the time since deciding to step away from D&D 5e and go back to running Savage Worlds, I’ve spent a lot of time navel-gazing, wondering why I’m so eager to just chuck the campaign under a bus, searching for the truth of my own motives. I’ve realized that a big part of it – A HUGE PART OF IT – is simply that I’m depressed about my character.

Anyone who followed this sordid tale from the beginning might remember that this Forgotten Realms campaign originally started with me alternating DM duties with another player. Each of us had a player character we ran when the other person was acting as DM, and whom we shunted to the background as when we ran the game. That plan imploded due to that player’s personal issues, leaving me as the sole DM and my PC as a permanent DMPC, capable of delivering needed exposition and contributing to fights, but unable to really advance his own goals and desires...

Because that would be cheating (and I've got a real problem with cheating in D&D).

And because that is actually really, really boring. 

During a hiatus with the group, I continued running the same campaign as a duet with Robin (the long-term plan was to just make it an alternate universe if we ever got back to the group campaign). I kept my DMPC in as a supporting character, completing by DM fiat some of the character goals I was hoping to achieve in play (like making love to Alustriel). In the end, though, none of it was actually fulfilling.

I wasn’t achieving anything. I was just handing it all to myself. My fantasies weren’t being fulfilled because they were all happening offstage. They weren’t “real.”

I’ve been gaming for over 25 years. My sessions as a player probably average out to once per year. My entire gaming career has been about telling other people’s stories and empowering their characters. 

I’m fine with this most of the time. I like being a GM. I can get pretty antsy when I’m not running the game. It bores me when I play one character for too long because I’ve got a lot of character voices and I like showing them off. World-building and creating mysteries are tons of fun. I am overall very happy with my decades of being a GM.

This time, though… This time I was really invested in my PC. I really enjoyed the sessions I just got to cut loose and play him to the hilt. Relegating him to the role of Basil Exposition, holding him back to let the “real” PCs take center stage, has been really, really depressing.

As in mood swings. As in pervasive sadness for hours on end. As in, “I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and sometimes that leads to periods of depression.”

And, as usual, identifying my illness at work and isolating the causes of the attack has helped me conquer it. Writing this probably kind of silly-sounding confession is making me feel better already. I feel a little guilty about letting feelings like this contribute toward ending a campaign other people were enjoying, but it’s not like my depression is the only reason to call quits on the game. And it’s not like my deeply-held dissatisfaction with the whole thing was helping make the campaign good.

In any case, this is the nail in the coffin for A Gleam of Silver. I can’t go back to that campaign and face the specters of lost opportunities. It will be better by far – for everyone – to start a new campaign, one in which I can keep myself solely in the GM role.

Though maybe I should look for a game to join as a player, too.