Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hobbit 3: Rise of Legolas


I went to a matinee showing of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies yesterday, and I have opinions (after the cut)!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Terrible Idea

Elminster knows what I'm talking about.
I sometimes get ideas stuck in my brain, ideas that demand I write about them even when it interrupts the flow of other work I should be doing. I should be writing The King is Dead and then a bunch of mecha/kaiju ideas pop into my brain, or I should be working on the Japan section for Steamscapes: Asia and all I can think about is wuxia instead. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve really, really wanted to write some kind of holiday post (some Rankin-Bass-inspired stats, or a Peter Pan-inspired adventure) but all I can think about is sex.

You see, I’ve got this really terrible idea.

I’ve decided to expand the scope of Wine and Savages to include D&D 5E. My intention, after all, wasn’t to use this blog as only a Savage Worlds fansite, but to use it as a platform to launch a professional writing career. It only makes sense that I try to learn to write for the most popular RPG out there.

That’s not the terrible idea.

As I’ve candidly admitted in the past, Dungeons & Dragons (specifically the AD&D Monster Manual) had a big, weird impact on my sexual development. I’ve got some hang-ups and fetishes that can be traced directly back to fantasy role-playing. I could easily write scores of posts about that stuff.

That’s the terrible idea.

The terrible, terrible idea is to start a second blog, a blog I would call The Blog of Erotic Fantasy or The Erotic Dungeon Master (if either name isn’t taken). I’d write it under a pseudonym (probably “The Erotic DM”) and use it to explore the seamy side of D&D. I’d do a multi-part dissection/review of The Book of Erotic Fantasy and update its contents for D&D 5E. I’d do a pastiche of the Volo’s Guides and delve into more detail about the festhalls of the Forgotten Realms. I’d highlight sexy fantasy art. I’d write terribly personal, soul-baring essays about my mixed-up youth. And I’d probably tackle some actual socio-political issues because I wouldn’t be able to help myself.

It would be a terrible mess.

It would be a terrible, terrible time sink. It would be controversial and polarizing (in no small part because of my sex-positive feminist views). It would probably get me in trouble with Wizards of the Coast (I’d have to declare it a parody site and have a big, ol’ link to the Hustler Magazine v. Falwell stuff). It would undoubtedly get exposed in the end and I’d wind up some marginalized weirdo.

(I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a terrible idea.)

Obviously, I’m not going to do it. For one thing, I wouldn’t be writing a post about a secret pseudonymous project if I was serious about committing to it. For another, I just don’t have the time. It’s tempting, though.

Terribly, terribly tempting…

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

May I Interest You in a Wuxia Character and Some House Rules?

Hero (2002)

Budding Legend
Legendary Human Wild Card (80 XP)

Attributes:  Agility d10, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d8,* Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d10, Intimidation d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Riding d6, Streetwise d6,** Subterfuge d6,*** Survival d6,** Tao d8 (see below), Taunt d6
Charisma: +2; Pace: 6; Parry: 7; Toughness: 7(1)
Hindrances: Curious, Heroic, Quirk (attracted to scoundrels), Vengeful [Minor]****
Edges: AB: Taoist Internal Alchemy, Martial Artist, Power Points (x 4), Taoist Adept, Youxia (Gift of Water - Mind and Body)
Gear: jian (long sword; Str+d8; $300), many-layered silk robes (Armor +1; $200).
Special Abilities
  • Power Points: 30
  • Powers: boost/lower trait (Adept), healing, qinggong (Adept)

*Setting Rule: Substitute for Climbing and Swimming rolls
** Setting Rule: Substitute for Tracking rolls in appropriate terrain
*** Setting Rule: Replaces Lockpicking and Stealth
**** Setting Rule: Storm of Passions – Wuxia characters live tempestuous, passionate lives. They may take an additional Major Hindrance at character creation. [As Super Karma from Super Powers Companion.]

New Edges

Arcane Background (Taoist Internal Alchemy)
Arcane Skill: Tao (Spirit)
Starting Power Points: 10
Starting Powers: 3

Taoist Internal Alchemy is the mystical art of balancing one’s chi. It is a difficult and demanding study that requires supreme self-knowledge and respect for the natural world. By attuning their minds and bodies, Taoists may attain incredible abilities and even immortality.

Imbalance: When an internal alchemist rolls a 1 on her Tao die (regardless of her Wild Die), she is automatically Shaken. This can cause a wound.

Taoist Adept
Requirements: Novice, Arcane Background (Taoist Internal Alchemy), Fighting d8+, Tao d8+

As Adept, but substituting Taoist Internal Alchemy for Miracles. In a Chinese wuxia setting, the standard Adept Edge may be considered to reflect the Buddhist martial arts tradition of Shaolin while Taoist Adept emulates the Wudang Sect (also known as the Wu-Tang Sect or Wu-Tang Clan).

Game Masters may either substitute the new power qinggong for speed in the list of powers Adepts and Taoist Adepts may activate as free actions, or simply add it addition to the powers listed in Savage Worlds Deluxe.

Requirements: Novice, Spirit d6+, Fighting d8+, Code of Honor, Martial Artist

Youxia are the wandering heroes of wuxia fiction and legend. Youxia have forsaken the communal ties of Confucian Chinese society to instead seek personal enlightenment and perfection. They travel the land training in their martial arts and Arcane Backgrounds, seeking to become Masters.

Forsaking society, the youxia instead adopts the Code of Xia, a set of principles shared by all of the martial artists that brave the outlaw life. This outlaw world of martial artists is known as the jianghu or wulin; it is both a source of friendship and rivalry for all who dare to live by its code. The Code of Xia is both harsh and empowering; it demands a hero live by the following principles:
Benevolence: Youxia should defend the weak; heroic youxia believe this requires serving the humble, while villainous youxia believe it means controlling them.
Courage: Youxia are brave in the face of danger; this doesn’t mean they have to be foolhardy, but many are.
Glory: A youxia may not necessarily seek worldly fame, but she does seek the respect of her peers; like an Old West gunfighter, the youxia cannot back down from a challenge.
Individualism: The youxia must follow her own code first and foremost; lord and family come second. This emphasis on the self places the Code of Xia at odds with societal norms.
Justice: Heroes pursue justice against those who prey on the weak, while villains see this principle as an excuse to avenge crimes against themselves. Youxia of all stripes are compelled to address slights to their honor.
Loyalty: While loyalty to the emperor, lord, and family is unimportant to many youxia, loyalty to one’s friends, master, and students is a core of their beliefs.
Poverty: A youxia needn’t turn her back on material wealth, but it must never be her overriding motivation. Many youxia lead lives as landless wanderers, owning nothing more than their clothes and weapons.
Truthfulness: Heroes equate truthfulness with honesty and fairness in their dealings with others, but villains only see the value of truthfulness as being true to themselves.

Because of their reputation as protectors of the weak (and as fearsome martial artists), youxia gain a +2 to Charisma. They may also choose one of the following benefits:
Gift of Metal - Heirloom Weapon: The youxia possesses a named weapon of astonishing strength (similar to the Green Destiny from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). She gains a weapon that is +1 to damage and to hit.
Gift of Water - Mind and Body: The youxia has trained her mind or body to exceptional levels. She gains +1 die in a single Attribute.
Gift of Wood - Well-Trained: The youxia has studied with a master of incredible skill. She gains a single Combat Edge of Seasoned Rank (for which she must qualify normally).
Gift of Fire - Reputation: The youxia is well-known in the world of martial arts. She gains the Connections (jianghu) Edge.
Gift of Earth - Well-Equipped: The youxia has accumulated more gear in her travels than most of her fellows. She starts with three times the normal starting funds

New Power

Rank: Novice
Power Points: 2
Range: Touch
Duration: 3 (1/round)
Trappings: Chi mastery, wire-fu, the Matrix

Qinggong allows a character to run up sheer surfaces and make impossible leaps. Heroes can run across the tops of bamboo forests, the sides of buildings, and even water.

With a success, the recipient may move up to her normal Pace either vertically or horizontally, as long as she ends the round on a horizontal surface that she would normally be able to stand on. A character may run while practicing qinggong to increase this distance, suffering the usual -2 running penalty to other actions. On a raise, running is a free action and incurs no penalty.

A character may also use qinggong to pounce on an opponent. By sacrificing 2” of movement, the character leaps higher to gain momentum. This adds +4 to the character’s attack roll and damage, but the character’s Parry is reduced by -2 until her next action.

Another Crappy Map

Zhàndòu, City of Warriors
That map post I put up last week was surprisingly popular, so I thought I'd post another map for the hell of it. This is Zhàndòu, a wuxia-themed setting I created for Savage Insider. I expect that when the "Taking Action" issue is printed, there will be a much prettier version of the map in it; I gave permission to Vickey Beaver to have someone else redraw it because I suck.

I mean, look at that river! Rivers don't have up-and-down waves! What the hell was I thinking?! And why didn't I draw it all the way down the map? Why didn't I label it with its name?

I'm not going to go into any detail about it because that would give away the article. One thing I am specifically  proud of though is that I don't actually describe all of the locations in the article. I deliberately left the tofu shop and ruined temple as mysteries for the GM to fill in, which I think is an awesome, punk rock, DIY thing to do.

(Or not.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The King is Dead: I Do Not Claim to be a Mapmaker

I've never really drawn a lot of maps in my GMing career, but I find myself in need of one for the The King is Dead playtest campaign I'm running these days.

This is Hammershire (almost called Thornshire, again), the new base of operations for the heroes.  It is a wealthy, vital county that is nevertheless basically a backwater because it's way up in the hills and just a bit too rustic for vampire tastes. Any resemblance to the Texas Hill Country is completely deliberate.

The majestic River Hammer begins here in the lofty Gianthalls Mountains before it winds its way into the lowlands and the sea; one could take a boat all the way from Thornburg to the nation's capital of Hammerstadt. The county is otherwise dominated by the broad, low hills of the Dimmsmoor, the pine forest of the Dammerungenwald, oak forests (the Feywald, Buckwald, and briar-infested Thornholt), the deep and cold Grostlake, and the ragged granite Broken Hills. The misnamed Boggan Stream (it's more of a river) marks the border of the shire.

The area was a key holding of the resistance during King Wilhelm's conquest, so an excess of vampire families were awarded lands in Hammershire in order to help put the rebels down. Senior branches of the Borgoff, Durward, and Stenzgard lines hold castles, while junior branches of the Elbourne and Karnstein families have manors. As is typical of the nobles of Malleus, most of the actual vampires spend their time attending the king in Hammerstadt, leaving their dhampyres and thralls to run the estates. When they do visit, the vampires prefer society in the town of Thornburg to the seclusion of their estates. Only Duke Lothar Eligos von Stenzgard remains at his castle year-round, and he became quite the hermit when he entered his sixth century of unlife.

Since this is a really, really informal post, here's a bullet list of bullet-points on the locations:

  • Thornburg: Not quite a city, this large town is the first/last place riverboats can safely navigate the Hammer, and has built its wealth on the river trade. It is home to the local bishopric and has a large castle. Important products are lumber, gold, and wool.
  • Lesser Thornburg: Is technically a newer, different settlement from the town, but it all just kind of blends together.
  • Dimmsdale, Woldham, Duncote, and Aldfield: Small farming and/or shepherding villages.
  • Richstead: A town that serves as a base for gold miners exploring the Gianthalls. It is also becoming a tourist spot as the inhabitants of Malleus begin to embrace the new fashion for mountain climbing.
  • Maldon: The second-largest town. Produces iron and wool (the gold in the mine is largely played out).
  • Mittelham and Rammston: Market towns in the midst of the shire's largest concentration of farms.
  • Bogganford: The ford itself has always been chancy, and the town has never grown to its full potential. Most of the traffic -- even from neighboring Rothenshire just across the Boggan Stream -- usually takes the King's Road through Bendingham instead.
  • Bendingham: The gateway to Hammershire is an unremarkable place.  Its attempts to remake itself as a picturesque spa town have been unsuccessful. 
  • Laketon: Home to a thriving fishing community and a minor logging industry.
  • Oddsglen: More logging camp than town, the community is considered a mite uncanny by the rest of Hammershire.
Crap, I just realized I forgot to put a key on the map.  The weird domed buildings are churches and the crosshatch-looking marks are farmland.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The King is Dead: Fencing/Martial Arts Schools

Fencing Lessons
Despite being an unathletic nerd, I’ve never been much into wizards. I vastly prefer swords to sorcery, and I’m a little disappointed that the majority of the players in my current The King is Dead test campaign chose to play magic-users.  I can’t blame them, though; taking an Arcane Background is basically getting several more Edges for free, and the only penalty is that you have to use a special Skill to utilize those Edges.

Which gives me an idea for fencing/martial arts schools…

What if each school used a special, separate-from-Fighting Skill and gave access to an increased number of Combat Edges?  Something like this:

Turner School of Fencing*
Skill: Turner Fencing
Starting Edges: 3
Available Edges: Block/Improved Block, Counterattack/Improved Counterattack, Elan, First Strike/Improved First Strike, Quick.
Allowed Weapons: Rapier, Saber (short sword)

In order to utilize the bonus Edges from the school, the hero would have to use the specialized skill (not Fighting). When she took additional Combat Edges, she could choose from the allowed Edges for the school and use those with the specialty skill, or take them as “generic Combat Edges” and utilize them with Fighting. Perhaps the starting Edges wouldn’t require meeting the usual requirements, too…


In any case, it’s a thought.  I’ll have to put a bit more thought into it before I utilize it as a rule for The King is Dead (or write a Savage Insider article), but I think it has potential.
*Hilariously, there actually was an 18th century fencing school led by a Will Turner -- in New York City!  Weird…


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Steamscapes: Asia -- Strider

Strider has been published! If you're a Steamscapes: Asia backer, you should have an e-mail waiting for you with a link to download the PDF.

This is my first time writing a long-form adventure, but I think I did a pretty good job. (I certainly hope I've picked up something after 25 years of gaming.)  I'd love to hear your feedback, though, so please feel free to comment here or on Google+. Send me an e-mail if you like!

Steamscapes head honcho Eric Simon tells me he's pretty pleased with the whole thing.  I'm happy to hear that, given that I kinda tweaked things more in the wacky, weird direction mind brain goes...  

Eric kindly calls it a mini-campiagn, but I'd say it's more just an old TSR-style adventure. In either case, it's 27 pages of NPCs, new equipment, plots, and random encounter tables that should hopefully add up to a month's worth of gaming sessions.

It's a cross-country quest and a murder mystery rolled into one.  There's a robot geisha, a steam-powered mecha, and chanbara-style wandering swordsmen to be found within.  There's gratuitous Seven Samurai and Godzilla Easter eggs. Some of the weirdest figures in Meiji Japan make appearances -- including Saitō effin' Hajime.

As part of the whole sales pitch, I promised that I would also convert it to Deadlands and other Savage Worlds steampunk settings.  That will probably just take the form of blog entries providing converted NPC stats and (minor) setting tweaks.  I really need a break after busting my butt to get this written over the last three weeks, so expect those to start in December. In the meantime, if you're the publisher or writer of a Savage Worlds steampunk setting, please consider the cross-promotional benefits of providing me with a copy of your setting book. :)  The only ones I've actually got are Deadlands Reloaded and Gaslight 1st Edition.

Eric says he plans on publishing it commercially after the backers have had a chance to enjoy it for a bit. We're happy to take any feedback you want to give on it to make it better. I implore you to leave comments!  How will I ever learn otherwise?