Friday, September 28, 2012

Any Requests?

To alcohol!  The cause of... and solution to... all of life's problems!
I have so many ideas for upcoming posts and only so much time:

  • Continuing the "Duelists" series for the Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG and/or All For One: Regime Diabolique
  • Festhall workers of Waterdeep for D&D Next
  • Example "real world" grimoires for Regency/Gothic
  • Random social events table for Regency/Gothic*
  • Revised NPC archetypes for Regency/Gothic*
  • La Verdadera Destreza and other "real world" fencing schools for Pirates of the Spanish Main and/or All For One: Regime Diabolique (as stolen from Skull & Bones)
  • Fairies for Regency/Gothic*
  • Regency/Gothic bestiary (rakehell, ape leader, etc.)*
  • Archetypal NPCs for D&D Next
  • "The Curse of Capistrano," an alternate setting for Pirates of the Spanish Main
  • Additional information on the thirteen families for Regency/Gothic*
  • Infamous NPCs for Regency/Gothic (Byron, Shelley, etc.)*

So... Any requests?

*These are the ones I know I should be working on, but I'm easily distracted and seriously in the mood for some stabbing..

The Corruption of a Young DM

See, I told you the Realms was full of naked chicks!

(from The Drow of the Underdark, Ed Greenwood, 1991)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

RPG Blog Carnival: I Heart Alustriel

My answer is “Because I’m as freaky as Ed Greenwood.”

I kid, I kid…  I know Ed Greenwood has developed a reputation among certain (presumably younger) gamers as a pervert because of his sexualized depiction of the Seven Sisters, Elminster, and the festhalls of the Forgotten Realms, but I doubt he’s as freaky as me.

I kid, I kid!  There’s no way he could be as freaky as me.

The majority of the settings I use are homemade (or might as well be, for as little as I usually use the canon setting of Pirates of the Spanish Mainthough I have to admit my recent campaign was an exception).  Elsewhere on this site you’ll find the development notes for a project currently called Regency/Gothic and the associated setting of Thornshire as well as the pictorial history of a recent homebrew campaign.  The Forgotten Realms are the singular exception of a published setting that I return to again and again. 

Forgotten Realms novels led me to role-playing games, not vice versa.  Before I read Fritz Leiber, before I read Robert E. Howard, before I even read J. R. R. Tolkien, I read the Avatar Trilogy.  Yes, the first epic fantasy novels I read were the original “Realms-Shattering Event,” and somehow I still came back for more.  I followed this up with R. A. Salvatore’s The Crystal Shard and lo! a Realms fan was born!  I soon bought the AD&D 2nd Edition core books, the old Gray Box, and the Forgotten Realms Adventures hardcover and launched my teenaged male friends into what turned out to be a rollicking, picaresque tour of the festhalls of the Heartlands.

What?  We didn’t have girlfriends!

(Festhalls are actually one of the most brilliant, progressive elements of the Forgotten Realms.  I’m not sure what they’re actually like in Ed Greenwood’s home game, but the politically-correct gloss TSR put on them is great.  They’re brothels, but they’re equal-opportunity brothels in a sexually-liberated society; all genders, young and old, enjoy them as a respite from the cares of the world.  They’re clean, they’re friendly, and they let their workers keep their dignity.  They are possibly the most unrealistic concept in all the Forgotten Realms, but they’re a dream I can believe in.)

The 2nd Edition Realms as a whole were filled with a sensuality practically designed to sucker in geeky guys; in addition to the loving descriptions of festhalls in the Volo’s Guide… series, there were Alias and her Red Sonja cosplay, the naked drow priestesses of Eilistraee, and – of course – the Seven Sisters. 

The Seven Sisters were the unaging, beautiful children of the goddess of magic: Storm Silverhand (the one who pals around with Elminster), Quilue Veladorn (the one who was also a drow), the Simbul (the crazy one Elminster dates),Sylune (the one who died re-enacting “Dragonslayer”), Dove (the ranger), Laeral (the one who used to be nuts), and Alustriel. 

Wise, sensual, magical, beautiful... The Lady Alustriel, ruler of Silverymoon, snagged my heart.  She was like a good version of Morgan le Fay, or a sexy version of Galadriel.  In any case, she came into my imagination at just the right moment in my life to stick in there forever – just like some of you remember Farrah Fawcett or Lynda Carter.

I stopped reading Forgotten Realms novels years and years ago.  I stopped buying Realms products years before WotC bought out TSR.  In the years since, I’ve used and re-used my Gray Box, my Black Box, and all of those early modules whenever my imagination has wearied and I’ve needed to go home again.  I’ve played the setting with Dangerous Journeys, Unisystem, and Savage Worlds.  I’ve played it with friends and I’ve played it duet with my wife.  My brief, frustrating experience with 3.5 was set in the Realms, and my new, delightful experience with D&D Next is set there too.  I am practically bouncing off the walls waiting for Ed Greenwood Presents: Elminster’s Forgotten Realms to arrive.   

I play in an established setting because it’s just plain sexy…

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Grimoires Continued

More thoughts on grimoires, their uses, and examples.  And scrolls.

I've been doing the math on the Power Points provided for the example scrolls in Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion; it looks like instant duration powers get enough Power Points to cause their maximum effect but ongoing powers vary between having enough Power Points to last between five and nine extra rounds.  It would make more sense to me if a single duration had been used -- one minute (10 rounds) seems logical -- but I suppose I'll just go with seven rounds/minutes/whatever total for the powers I will hereafter delineate.  (Seven is a nice magical number.) Cost is very simple: $50 per Power Point.

There's a few powers in the main list that don't have scrolls, and some of these are exactly what I think would be appropriate for the ritual magic use a grimoire evokes.  Since the places I am most likely to use grimoires are in a Pirates of the Spanish Main or a Regency/Gothic campaign, I'll also turn to 50 Fathoms and Savage Worlds Horror Companion to fill out the scroll cost/Power Points list:

from Savage Worlds Deluxe...
Cost     Type
$150     Banish* (3 Power Points)
$250     Divination (5 Power Points)
$200     Havoc (4 Power Points)
$150     Mind Reading (3 Power Points)
$100     Slumber (2 Power Points)
$500     Summon Ally** (10 to 14 Power Points)
- $700
$550     Warrior's Gift

from 50 Fathoms...
Cost     Type
$550     Becalm (11 Power Points)
$500     Mend (10 Power Points)
$250     Quake (5 Power Points)
$500     Settle Storm (10 Power Points)
$400     Storm (8 Power Points)
$600     Summon Elemental (12 Power Points)
$400     Water Walk (8 Power Points)
$250     Zephyr (5 Power Points -- though a caster can extend it up to 4 hours by rereading it over and over and over again)

from Savage Worlds Horror Companion...
Cost     Type
$200     Banish Entity* ** (4 to 24 Power Points)
- $1200
$400     Bind Entity** (8 to 24 Power Points)
- $1200
$500     Consecrate Ground (10 Power Points)
$450     Corpse Senses (9 Power Points)
$1000   Drain Years (20 Power Points)
$600     Enhance Undead (12 Power Points; the Zombie scroll allows one to raise 4 zombies, so I built this to match that)
$450     Grave Shroud (9 Power Points)
$550     Grave Speak (11 Power Points)
$200     Nightmares (4 Power Points)
$500     Spirit Shield (10 Power Points)
$650     Strength of the Dead (13 Power Points)
$200     Summon Demon** (4 to 24 Power Points)
- $1200
$400     Summon Spirit** (8 to 24 Power Points)
- $1200
$300     Suppress Lycanthropy (6 Power Points)

* Banish and Banish Entity are the same power for all intents and purposes.  Banish Entity costs more Power Points for more powerful entities; I assume this is to add extra risk and worry to a horror campaign.  I would use Banish in more lighthearted, action-driven campaigns where encountering evil entities is not a primary threat (like most fantasy campaigns) and Banish Entity in campaigns where supernatural evil is more threatening (like Pirates of the Spanish Main or Regency/Gothic).
** This power cost different Power Points depending on the size of the Spirit die of the entity you are seeking to control.  Different-priced scrolls are therefore available.

Example Grimoires

The Holy Bible
Cost: $0 to $85,000 (see below)
Powers: Banish or Banish Entity (see below)

In settings that use Christian mythology, the Holy Bible enables even the most humble soul to stand against the forces of Satan.  Simply reading aloud from any passage works as the Banish or Banish Entity power against minions of Hell; unlike normal grimoires, the Bible is considered to supply as many Power Points as needed.  It can be used by anyone literate in the language it is printed in.  In the modern day, free versions are available for digital download while antique, gilded Bibles can run tens of thousands of dollars.

The Drowned Book of Prospero (for Pirates of the Spanish Main)

Cost: Priceless
Powers:  Banish Entity (30 Power Points), Becalm (15 Power Points), Bind Entity (30 Power Points), Settle Storm (10 Power Points), Storm (8 Power Points), Summon Elemental (30 Power Points).

 …But this rough magic
I here abjure…I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than ever did plummet sound
I’ll drown my book. – William Shakespeare, "The Tempest"
The famous spellbook of the sorcerer Duke Prospero, this tome was believed destroyed by Prospero himself when he left his island but was recovered by the half-demon Caliban in an attempt to learn his former master's arts.  The Drowned Book is heavily water-damaged and imposes a -4 penalty on a user's first attempt to read it.  It contains a unique version of Bind Entity that allows a user to bind the Wild Card air elemental Ariel to her service permanently; Ariel was promised freedom by Prospero and will be a sullen and faithless servant (see 50 Fathoms for air elemental statistics).  The Drowned Book of Prospero also includes much of the duke's learning on elementals (acts as Forbidden Knowledge against elementals) and many... unsavory... details Prospero gleaned from the witch Sycorax about icthynites (acts as Forbidden Knowledge against icthynites; see Savage Worlds Horror Companion). 

Possession of the book would bring great power to the crew who can wield it, but it will also make them the target of governments and powerful individuals who seek Prospero's secrets.  Caliban himself is still alive and seeks to regain "his" book; treat him as a full-blooded icthynite (the years have wrought a sea-change upon him) with Smarts and Spellcasting d8.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I Think I Might Be Doing the Math Wrong

Archie Andrews


Richie Cunningham


Archie Cunningham?

(I finally saw "Rob Roy" last night.  I have no idea why I put off watching it for so long.  I am an idiot.)


Bending Branch Winery's port-style wine is the best Texas-made port I have ever tasted!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Setting Rule - Grimoires

Also some comments about scrolls in Savage Worlds…

Actually, first some comments about scrolls in Savage Worlds. 

I’ve mentioned before that Fritz Leiber is one of my favorite fantasy authors.  I’ve also read a large chunk of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories.  It’s no secret that Leiber’s Gray Mouser and Vance’s Cugel were key inspirations in the development of the Dungeons & Dragons thief class and that both of these adventurers were amateur magic users; the Mouser’s use of a literal magic scroll in “The Lords of Quarmall” is probably the inspiration for the D&D thief’s scroll use class feature.  This can be replicated with Savage Worlds.

Buried deep in the random treasure generation section of the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion is a section on scrolls.  Scrolls, just as in the grand-daddy game of them all, are one-use magic items that allow characters to cast spells without tapping into their own magical reserves.  To quote the relevant section:

The user must have the proper Arcane Background to use the scroll…  To activate a scroll, the reader must use his own arcane skill… The caster need not meet the usual Rank requirement to cast the spell — a Novice character can cast greater healing without difficulty.
The part about using “his own arcane skill” is key.  The way I interpret this is that a character needn’t have an Arcane Background Edge to use a scroll, she just needs the Spellcasting or Faith Skill (depending on the type of scroll).  A character needs to be able to understand the basics of magic use, but needn’t be a full-fledged wizard or cleric to use a scroll. 

(If this isn’t the official interpretation, then I am deeply disappointed in the official interpretation.)

It’s a simple matter of skill point allocation to give your thief (or fighter, bard, monk, or whatever) a die or two in the appropriate skill and claim a background in magical dabbling.  What I wonder is whether the Jack-of-all-Trades Edge would do the same.  This would certainly be appropriate to a number of part-time magic users I can think of – Batman, Buffy, Solomon Kane, the Winchester brothers from “Supernatural” – but I can certainly see the official ruling being against Jack-of-all-Trades including Spellcasting.  I know I’d allow it in my games, but I tend to chafe a little at the limitations on PC strength in Savage Worlds.

The only real problem I see is that scrolls are single-use items and Cugel and the Winchesters use full (and reusable) spell books.  Hmm…

Setting Rule: Grimoires

A grimoire is a book of spells and magical learning that functions as a set of permanent, reusable scrolls.  Grimoires may also be used as tomes to allow trained spellcasters to learn new powers (see Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion) and many in Gothic or horror settings are also works of Forbidden Knowledge with all the bonuses associated with them (see Savage Worlds Horror Companion).  Most grimoires contain only 1d4+1 spells in the midst of all the extraneous information; ancient, powerful grimoires may contain more, but they will be highly sought-after items.

A character with the necessary training may cast spells from a grimoire as per the rules for scrolls (Power Points are provided by the grimoire itself, the reader may not use her own Power Points to power the spell, unused Power Points are lost, etc.) with the proviso that the page of the grimoire used does not crumble into dust after use.  Like most magical items, the grimoire regenerates Power Points (again, see Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion for details).  Each spell listed in a grimoire has its own Power Point pool (see table 7B in Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion), making immediate repeated castings of the same spell difficult if not impossible.  As with conventional scrolls, however, the Power Point totals may vary depending on GM adjudication; the grimoire of a powerful contemporary sorcerer (Aleister Crowley, the Simbul) may have 1d4+1 extra Power Points per spell while an ancient book of eldritch lore (the Necronomicon Ex Mortis) might have 1d6+1 up to 1d12+1 extra Power Points.

Most settings will require users of a grimoire to be trained in the mystic arts.  Some settings may instead allow for characters with appropriate Knowledge Skills (Arcana, Occultism) or simply knowledge of archaic languages (Ancient Egyptian, Classical Greek) to use a grimoire without formal magickal training.  In such a setting, the corresponding Knowledge Skill would be used instead of Spellcasting, or a Smarts roll might be used if the setting only requires knowing the language.  This is appropriate for high-action settings where ordinary people stumble into the supernatural (like in “The Mummy” (1999)) or settings where Edges and Skills are at a premium.  In a setting where true wizards mix with ordinary people in over their heads, it would be appropriate to apply a -2 penalty for untrained use to ordinary people attempting spells; failure might well be catastrophic (“Evil Dead II”). 

Example grimoire:

Umm… Let me get back to you on that.  Most of the spells I’d like in a grimoire are not described on Table 7B so I’ll follow this up on a subsequent post.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Regency/Gothic: Thornshire -- The Thirteen Families

The Thirteen Families

In 1576, Sir Francis Walsingham approached Dr. John Dee with a proposition: train a select group of men loyal to Walsingham and the queen in the use of magic.  Walsingham’s goal was to abet his spy network with individuals learned in Dee’s methods of prognostication and second sight, but Dee saw this as an opportunity to create a new Round Table of magical paladins to fight the encroaching darkness.  Dee not only taught Walsingham’s chosen men how to use magic themselves, but also how to teach it to their descendants.  So was born a secret cabal of occult protectors who still defend England into the reign of George III…

By tacit agreement between the families, the number of households instructed in Dee’s traditions has always been held to thirteen.  The thirteen families are all of old, respectable stock but not nobility in their own rights.  (All members of the thirteen families sign a pact to refuse political power in order to avoid corrupting their art with material concerns, and so every family has its story of a notable member refusing a peerage.)  Intermarriage between the families has preserved the cabal’s secrecy and strengthened its ranks.  Despite this, the actual families that make up the thirteen have changed over the centuries as sons have died before their time and daughters have instructed their husbands in the magical traditions.    

The Standefords of Plumstone Hall, Thornshire, are members of the thirteen.  The other 12 families are:

The Ropers of Atcombe Hall, Barsetshire
            Oliver Roper is the youngest family head amongst the thirteen families, being no older than Rosalind Standeford.

The Coltons of Stanscour Pool, Downshire
            Sander Colton is in his early thirties and already married.

The Aldridges of Tinport Croft, Glebeshire
            Gareth Aldridge is of Rosalind’s late grandfather’s generation, like many of the patriarchs of the thirteen families.

The Wexleys of Rawdon Sands, Glenshire
            Gabriel Wexley is the most serene member of the older generation.

The Somervilles of Ringoke, Loamshire
            Valentine Somerville is a member of the middle generation, Wymond Standeford’s brother-in-law, and uncle to Rosalind and Pierce.  Loamshire borders close on Thornshire.

The Warrens of Barnnash Heath, Mertonshire
            Lucius Warren is a near neighbor of the Standefords the opposite direction from Loamshire.  He is a member of the younger generation

The Dodsworths of Tamgree Grange, Middleshire
            Conrad Dodsworth is a member of the older generation.

The Doves of Dunwort Green, Mortshire
            Eyre Dove is a member of the middle generation.  He is unmarried but has a dark reputation among his peers.

The Durhams of Stonean, Naptonshire
            Ulrick Durham is a member of the older generation.  His dealings with the occult have marked him more than many of his peers.

The Ayres of Sculmere, Radfordshire
            Janus Ayres is the diplomatic (some say conniving) senior statesman of the older generation.

The Symons of Eltby Chapel, Stonyshire
            Simon Symon laughs at his name as much as anyone.  He is the merriest of the middle generation and a good friend to Wymond Standeford.

The Hearnshaws of Knightsward, Wordenshire
            Wentworth Hearnshaw is a member of the younger generation.  His parents perished when he was young and he is the most driven of the thirteen patriarchs.  He is known to fund many charities in the East End of London and spends much of his time in the city.

[All of the above information is subject to expansion and clarification as the story sees fit.  I still haven’t made up my mind how balanced gender politics are in this particular setting, so some of these men may find themselves women -- or at least get powerful dowager aunts and mothers.  The names of the shires are all taken from Wikipedia’s list of fictional counties; most are from Agatha Christie, so obviously I won’t be using them in the final Regency/Gothic product.  Wentworth Hearnshaw is, admittedly, a complicated joke but how could I resist when I randomly generated “Wentworth” and “Knight--?”]

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More Thoughts on D&D Next

I signed up for the D&D Next playtest mainly out of morbid curiosity, but I’m really digging it.

(Yes, I know this makes me a terrible traitor to Savage Worlds, but if Sean Preston can write his own game and “Wiggy” Wade-Williams can get on the Ubiquity wagon, then I figure a schlub like me is fine.)

I got started in gaming with AD&D 2nd Edition and all of its different saving throws, bend bars/lift gates chances, and non-weapon proficiencies.  A few years of chafing against the restrictions of class and level (even with kits) drove me screaming into the welcoming arms of d6 Star Wars, and then on to Storyteller, Unisystem, and Savage Worlds.  I flirted with D&D 3.5 after becoming a fan of “The Order of the Stick” and bought the 4E Red Box for the counters and maps, but I never thought I’d actually enjoy playing a class and level game again.

D&D Next is a much more carefree system than any version of Dungeons & Dragons I’ve ever played.  It is explicit and reiterated in the playtest documents that DMs should feel free to make judgment calls, to use or discard optional systems, and make the game their own.  The basic mechanic is to just roll against a target number with a bonus based on the relevant ability score (Strength, Dexterity, etc.); this is used for saving throws, skill checks, and whatever else the DM deems necessary.

Like that vaunted Original D&D I read about on the OSR blogs, there isn’t really a skill system; if the DM feels the need to make you roll for success, all you need to do is roll an ability check.  If you implement the Backgrounds and Specialties, then your character gets access to a set of three skills that she gets a bonus on.  We played our first session without using the optional Backgrounds and Specialties and it was quite successful; we played our second session with them and it was even more fun.  Significantly, despite the fact that three of the four PCs has the Stealth skill and the fourth did not, all four player characters were able to sneak around together quite easily.  Even with Backgrounds and Specialties, you don’t have to have a skill to use it.

My favorite fantasy writers are Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, so it’s important to me that a fantasy game system be able to mimic their relatively low-magic stories.  For whatever perverse reason, none of my players has chosen to play a wizard or cleric yet so I can report that low-magic games work just fine with D&D Next.  Honestly, I’d love to start testing out the magic system at this point (because, even more perversely, my favorite setting is the high-magic Forgotten Realms), but I don’t want to play a DMPC wizard to do so.

Speaking about magic, I like how the “rest” and “hit dice” mechanics remove the need for clerics to be walking medicine chests.  I know there’s gamers out there who feel this somehow violates the verisimilitude of the game – how can taking a breather let me recover from getting chopped up by a great axe? – but the important thing to remember is that hit points are abstract.  They are not necessarily wounds.  They also represent fatigue, luck, parrying, and all that might prevent you from receiving an actual wound.  That’s why adventurers get more hit points as they level up, as they get better at avoiding death – and that’s why taking a breather let’s you keep fighting.  It’s just like in The Fellowship of the Ring when it looks like Frodo was killed by the orc chieftain in the Mines of Moria but it turns out his mithril shirt stopped the spear.  He just takes a short rest and keeps going.


D&D Next is a great game for casual role-players.  There’s not a bunch of counter-intuitive rules to memorize, there’s no skill lists to master, there’s very little math, and character creation and advancement are very straightforward.  Most of my friends aren’t really gamers -- several of them still have trouble telling different dice types apart – but they like getting together to wander the caverns of Blingdenstone and kill orcs.  I hate to admit it, but I think D&D Next is going to be my go-to system for gaming with friends for awhile.

(Unless I can talk them into giving Regency/Gothic a try!) 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Regency/Gothic: Thornshire -- The Fishers

The Fishers of Lampstorth Manse (near Thornton)

The Fishers are the only titled family in Thornshire (though even they are not members of the peerage) and so it falls on them to be leaders in society.  This is greatly hindered, however, by reversals in their fortunes over the last decade that have left them one of the poorest of the Thornshire gentry.  Sir Carson Fisher, Bart., strains his meager resources to maintain his family’s status, but the strain is beginning to tell.

Sir Carson is a barrel-chested, spirited man; he has always been eager to share his largesse with his neighbors and it pains him that he now has to pinch his pennies.  Sir Carson’s wife, Prudence, is a prim and hardy Scot whom Sir Carson married for her dowry; unfortunately, that dowry has been devoured over the years and no more money is forthcoming from her family.  His elder son and heir, Cyril, has inherited his mother’s primness and none of his father’s generosity; more than anyone in Thornshire, he stands on ceremony.  The younger son, Edmund, is on leave from the Royal Navy; he has survived numerous battles over the years, but has never captured a prize.  The youngest child, Constance, is an embarrassment to her family; she is the very model of a bluestocking – pinch-faced, bespectacled, and never hesitant with unneeded advice from a lifetime of reading.

Regency/Gothic: Thornshire -- The Colbrans

The Colbrans of Follyfad Manor (near Evanhollow)

It speaks much of Nicholas Colbran’s amiability that the lecherous adventures of his son Usher haven’t resulted in the Colbrans being ostracized from Thornshire society the way the Lovells have been – or perhaps it is simply a matter of the double standards of Regency life that a rake goes unpunished while a bastard is shunned. 

Follyfad Manor is aptly named; the house and lands were renovated during the last century and contain numerous examples of “follies:” artificial grottoes, a hermitage, fake ruins, etc.  Usher Colbran often invites his seedy, boot-licking friends from Thornton and Evanhollow to outrageous parties on the manor grounds; it is the wonderment of the shire that Nicholas Colbran allows this.

Nicholas Colbran has a quirky sense of humor; being ambidextrous, he will sign his name with either hand as the whim suits him.  He has been known to be rather short with his servants, and this seed of a temper has bloomed in his son, Usher.  Usher is sly, quick-tongued, handsome, and quick to temper (but only when he has the advantage; he is thoroughly intimidated by William Brightmore and Stephen Griffith).  Lysandra, Usher’s twin sister, is pretty, flirtatious, and a little uncanny.  Despite her many beaus in Usher’s circle, many of the eligible bachelors of the Thornshire gentry keep her at arm’s length.

Regency/Gothic: Thornshire -- The Griffiths

The Griffiths of Calewell (near Scardale Forest)

Evan Griffith was another of those members of the Thornshire gentry who died of the recent plague.  His son and successor, Barnaby Griffith, is an energetic man who always seems to be juggling multiple projects; clearing the overgrown woods around Calewell House and organizing a village constabulary to deal with the bandits in Scardale Forest are his latest endeavors.

Barnaby’s mother, Maud, is a pious woman who nevertheless is plagued with ill-luck.  If she hadn’t such a vigorous constitution, she might well have been felled by a household accident or influenza by now.  Stephen, her middle son, returned from Waterloo with medals of valor and a wild gleam in his eye; he spends his days hunting and riding in the company of Dominick Brightmore.  Broad-shouldered Michael Griffith, the youngest son, is the vicar of Thornton; like many clergymen of the area, he sees it more as a gentleman’s vocation than a religious man’s calling.  Maud’s youngest child, Melissa, is an inveterate gossip who has set her cap to catch the best prize she can – whether that is the infatuated Dominick, the contemptuous William Brightmore, or some other local scion.  Melissa is also – by default of not being snobbishly intellectual like Constance fisher nor irrepressibly flirtatious like Lysandra Colbran – the female best friend of Rosalind Standeford (Robin's character).

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Forgot This Was Coming

Seriously, I totally forgot.

Regency/Gothic: Thornshire - The Brightmores

(Spoiler-free for Robin)

The Brightmores of Brinry Manor (near Polborn Bottom)

Within the last few years, a plague struck Thornshire and carried off several members of the older generation of the Thornshire gentry.  Sir Peter Brightmore, a dutiful physician who had aided mad King George III through one of his earlier fits, did his best to comfort the families of the ailing, but died himself when his curricle rolled over in the treacherous crossing at Polborn Bottom.

His heir, William Brightmore, is broad-shouldered, handsome, and wicked.  He disdains the country life and spends most of his time in London where he is rumored to be a habitué of gambling hells and bordellos.  William’s mother, Isabel, seems to live in fear of him though she continues to be a busy member of the Thornshire social scene (and is astonishingly lucky at cards).  His younger brother, Dominick, is an affable, sharp-witted hussar lieutenant who is attracted to the gossipy Melissa Griffith.    

Friday, September 14, 2012

Regency/Gothic: Thornshire

Panorama of the Peak District from Wikimedia Commons
 So I canceled the King Arthur vs. Dracula game because it was just too off-track and randomly generated a new setting.

What?  "Randomly generated?"  Yes, pretty much.

I used the lovely Regency Name Generator and Regency Place Name Generator at the unfortunately-no-longer-updated Stuff and Nonsense to generate a cast of characters, the brilliant You Inherited an Estate, But There's a Problem... and Dark Secret tables (and a little bit more from the What Type of Haunting is Afoot? table to fill in some of the estate results) from Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque to create some complications, and some bits and pieces of the Fantasy Character Generator Toolkit from PEG to flesh out some details.  Mix in some Jane Austen, Bronte sisters, and a crappy hand-drawn map and -- voila! -- a setting  that forces me to be creative but keeps me from wandering off into Knights of Pendragon territory.


The Land

Thornshire is located somewhere in the Peak District of central northern Britain.  It is defined by Scour Moor to the northwest (notable landmark: the towering crag of Scourmore Head), Pennybury Heath to the northeast (notable landmark: the cromlechs of Brig Cairn), Scardale Forest to the southwest, and Bolingforth Wood to the southeast.  The small Polborn River zig-zags through the center of the Thornshire valley, broadening into surprisingly treacherous shallows in Polborn Bottom.  The village of Stockburn Glebe stands in the shadows of the moors, the town of Thornton straddles the best bridge across the Polborn in the middle of the vale, Evanhollow Village sits north of Bolingforth Wood, and remote Scardale Green sits surrounded by the forest.

The People

Thornshire is dominated by a small group of aristocratic families:  

Wymond Standeford (Benjamin Whitrow as Mr. Bennet in 1995's "Pride and Prejudice")
The Standefords of Plumstone Hall
Robin's character is Rosalind Standeford of the Standefords of Plumstone Hall.  Their family home sits in the shadow of Brig Cairn.  Her father, Wymond Standeford, is secretly a notable occultist -- a kind-of local Sorcerer Supreme -- charged with protecting the area from supernatural threats.  (He probably belongs to a secret cabal started by Doctor Dee or something like that; I'll flesh that out more when they go to London for the Season.)  He has trained both of his children to succeed him; Rosalind has a higher aptitude for magic, while her charming younger brother Pierce is more hands-on.
Pierce Standeford (Dan Stevens as Clerval, "Frankenstein" (2004))

The Landons of Presbottle Abbey (Stockburn Glebe)

Benedick Landon is the last of the Landons.  His mysterious secret is the first Robin has resolved.  Shortly after receiving the estate from the Tudors during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry Landon was approached by a mysterious "Master Nicholas" who offered him the ability for Henry and his descendants to watch over the state and guarantee the continuance of the bloodline unto the seventh generation.  This, of course, involved turning Henry and all his descendants into "Worms of the Earth"/"The Shadow Over Innsmouth"-style goblin things after they died.  As Benedick was the seventh generation, the mad goblins began swarming out into the open to harass his staff and try to persuade him to join them in the darkness of the family mausoleum.  The goblins have been sealed by iron and prayer into their tunnels beneath Pennybury Heath, but it is impossible to say how long this will last.  Benedick Landon (the seventh generation himself) has fled to London (in January, well ahead of the fashionable time) to seek a wife and break from his family curse.

The random results I rolled for the Landons were:
Status: Gentry (untitled aristocrat)

Estate: Haunted (army of the fallen)
Secret: Arcane Meddler (called up something they can’t put down)
Head of Household: Scion
Father: Julius (killed by raiders -- interpreted to mean the goblins slew him when he tried to protect the child Benedick from their influence)
Mother:  Iola (died of plague)
*Scion: Benedick Landon (treated fairly by parents, Bad Luck, +1 Vigor, Elf Blood +2d Shooting)
Siblings: none 

(As you can see, I interpreted that "army of the fallen" result rather loosely; when I saw the "Arcane Meddler" and "Elf Blood" results, I immediately thought of Bran Mak Morn for some reason.)  

Matthias Lovell (Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff, "Wuthering Heights" (1992))
The Lovells of Briarcliffe (near Scourmore Head)

Robin/Rosalind has also gotten some ways into discovering the secrets of the Lovells.  It turns out that handsome, dark, and moody (but good-hearted) Matthias Lovell is secretly the lovechild of Marko, a headstrong and dangerous gypsy.  The Lovells have been increasingly excluded from Thornshire society in recent years because of the obviousness of Matthias' illegitimate parentage.  While he was secretly abusive toward the boy in his youth, Valerian Lovell always publicly supported "his" child.  Now he has begun muttering about leaving the inheritance to someone else... 
Status: Gentry
Estate: Unfashionable
Secret: Changeling [I did literal fairy changelings in the previous campaign, so here I decided to be more metaphorical.] 
Head of Household: Father
Father: Valerian (alive and in good health, Bigot)
Mother: Faith (alive and in good health, Brawny, Arcane Resistance)
Scion: Matthias Lovell (locked in cupboard as a child, Phobia/Minor: Claustrophobia, Alertness, +1 Vigor, Brawny)
You probably shouldn't read the rest of this, Robin.

 The rest of the families haven't gotten much screen-time yet, so they only exist as notes.

The Brightmores of Brinry Manor (near Polborn Bottom)
Status: Knight
Estate: Contaminated (something causes all there to sicken and die)
Secret: Gambling Debt
Head of Household: Scion
Father: Peter (died in work-related accident)
Mother: Isabel Brightmore (alive and in good health, Luck - +1 Benny, +1 vigor)
*Scion:  William Brightmore (feared and avoided by parent, Brawny, +1 Strength, +1 Smarts)
Siblings: Dominick (brother, encouraged by parent, +1 Smarts, Luck, soldier)

The Griffiths of Calewell (near Scardale Forest)
Status: Gentry
Estate: Hazardous (located near dangerous woods, bad weather, etc.)
Secret: Blasphemer
Head of Household: Scion
Father: Evan (died of plague)
Mother: Maud Griffith (alive and in good health, Bad Luck, +1 Vigor)
*Scion: Barnaby Griffith (treated fairly by parents, Ambidextrous, +2 Vigor, )
Siblings: Melissa (sister, encouraged by parents, +1 Strength, Bigot), Michael (brother, treated fairly, +1 Strength, clergy), Stephen (brother, idolized, Berserk, Quick, soldier)

The Colbrans of Follyfad Manor (near Evanhollow)
Status: Gentry
Estate: Haunted (Phantom Coach)
Secret: Debauched
Head of Household: Father
* Father: Nicholas (alive and in good health, Ambidextrous, Berserk)
Mother: Katherina (died of plague)
Scion: Usher Colbran (treated fairly, Quick, Berserk, Ambidextrous)
Siblings: Lysandra (sister, treated fairly, Arcane Resistance, Ambidextrous)

The Fishers of Lampstorth Manse (near Thornton)
Status: Baronet
Estate: Meager Resources
Secret: Fratricide
Head of Household: Father
* Father: Carson (alive and in good health, Brawny, +1 Spirit)
Mother: Prudence (alive and in good health, Fast Healer, Orc blood –Hard Case  +1 vs Fatigue)
Scion: Cyril Fisher (treated fairly, Bigot, +1 Spirit)
Siblings: Edmund (brother, treated fairly, +1 Vigor, Bad Luck, sailor)), Constance (sister, disgrace to parents, +1 Smarts, +1 Spirit, a bluestocking)

I've definitely got ideas on how to handle the other families.  William Brightmore is begging to be the setting's George Wickham.  Stephen Griffith's Berserk Edge suggests he's haunted by post-traumatic stress disorder from Waterloo.  There's a lengthy entry for the Black Coachman in the Savage Worlds Horror Companion that I'm eager to use, but I haven't decided if the Colbrans are the victims or the perpetrators of the haunting.  I don't know if the fratricide is in the Fishers' past or future, but I do know their meager resources strain their standing as the highest-ranked family in Thornshire (I'll probably wind up ignoring Prudence's Orc Blood).  And I know that all the Bigots mean that maintaining social standing in the neighborhood is pretty tricky.

What I need to come up with now is some random generators for social and seasonal events -- and weird things that do not necessarily involve the main families.  I'm looking forward to finding out what Thornshire has to offer.   

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Speak Out With Your Geek Out: Lupin III

Most of my Lupin III collection (I left out most of the toys)

It doesn't come up very often on this blog, but I'm an anime fan.  I have been since "Battle of the Planets" premiered stateside, but it wouldn't be until a couple of decades later that I would discover my all-time favorite Japanese import: Lupin the Third.

How to describe Lupin III?  James Bond meets Inspector Clouseau?  Matt Helm meets Bugs Bunny?  Sergio Aragones draws "Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD?"  Manga-ka Monkey Punch debuted the character in 1967 -- the same year that James Bond came to Japan in the film of "You Only Live Twice" and a glut of wasted talent spoofed the spy in the original cinematic "Casino Royale" -- and the British spy seems more obviously to share DNA with the Japanese character than the French burglar Lupin III claims as his ancestor.  Lupin III has cool gadgets, drives fast cars, and pursues beautiful women while fending off international assassins, but he has more fun than Bond ever did.  Lupin III, you see, is a free-spirited criminal mastermind, not a civil servant.

I first encountered Lupin III in the wake of "Princess Mononoke"'s 1999 USA release.  Everyone wanted more Miyazaki, so a dub of "Castle of Cagliostro" wound up at our local video store.  It was not an auspicious introduction; "Cagliostro" is rightly regarded as an animated classic, but it makes no sense at all if you don't already know the characters.  It wasn't until Adult Swim premiered the second TV series in 2003 that I got a proper introduction to Lupin III and his cast.  It wasn't long before a hanuman criminal called Monkey Mask worked his way into our Land of Eight Million Dreams game, and the rest was history.

I've bought most of the stateside Lupin III releases: the DVDs from Discotek, Funimation, and Geneon, the manga from Tokyopop, the soundtrack albums, and the videogame (which I suck at).  I don't have the boardgame yet, but that's on the Xmas list and I eagerly anticipate further releases from Discotek (someone please release the rest of Shin Lupin Sansei; we know Geneon dubbed the whole series).  My impression of Tony Oliver's Lupin III voice has become one of the staple character voices I use at the gaming table and no campaign feels quite complete without using it at least once.

I love the free-wheeling id Lupin III represents.  I can't honestly say he's nothing like the real me, but he's certainly the me I never dare to truly be.  Carefree, sex-obsessed, foolish, brave, brilliant, and sentimental, Lupin III is many things -- but mainly he's one of my favorite characters of all time.


I prefer to create Savage Worlds characters using the same character creation rules as PCs, but Lupin III breaks all laws

Attributes: Agility: d12, Smarts: d10, Strength d6, Spirit d10, Vigor d12

Skills: Boating d8, Climbing d10, Driving d12+2, Fighting d8, Gambling d8, Intimidation d8, Lockpicking d12+2, Notice d8, Persuasion d10, Piloting d12, Repair d8, Riding d6, Shooting d12, Stealth d12+2, Streetwise d10, Swimming d8, Taunt d10, Throwing d10, Tracking d8.

Charisma: +2, Pace: 8, Parry: 8, Toughness: 8.

Hindrances: Arrogant, Curious, Delusional (Minor: Fujiko loves him), Greedy (Minor), Loyal, Poverty

Edges: Ace, Acrobat, Ambidextrous, AB: Weird Science, Charismatic, Combat Reflexes, Common Bond, Danger Sense, Elan, Fleet-Footed, Gadgeteer, Great Luck, Harder to Kill, Improved Block, Improved Dodge, Improved Extraction, Improved First Strike, Improved Level Headed Improvisational Fighter, Jack-of-All-Trades, Marksman, New Power(s), Professional (Driving, Lockpicking, Stealth), Quick, Quick Draw, Scavenger, Strong Willed, Thief.

Power Points: 10, Powers: Confusion, Disguise, Dispel, Entangle, Fly, Teleport

Equipment: Walther P-38 (2d6+1, range 12/24/48), throwing knife (Str+d4, range 3/6/12), one or more wacky devices

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Concur (About Hot Babes)

Black Vulmea has another brilliant post -- this time about gender and ethinic equality in gaming and loving things that don't quite match your own principles.  I completely agree and must also recommend reading the post at Social Justice League that prompted it.  That said, I have a couple of caveats:
  • In this day and age of anorexic supermodels, I think loving Frazetta's fat-bottomed girls is practically a mark of feminism in of itself.  (OK, maybe not, but still...)
  • As someone who has been Scott Pilgrim (dating someone too young for him, unconsciously hurting everyone around him), I have to say that Ramona's dismissal of her relationship with Roxy as "just a phase" is devastatingly realistic.  I've dated women like that; they are real. 
  • Honestly, Shane, is the cover for Kyla Kidd really appropriate?  I'm also uncomfortable with the covers of most of the Savage Worlds genre companions.  It's kind of bizarre that the superhero is the best-dressed version of the redhead.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To Clarify...

I miss this guy:

Not this guy:

Not this guy:

And definitely not this guy:

This guy is the one I miss:

Duelists: Academia de Hierro

As a distraction from the setbacks with Regency/Gothic, here's some duelists for the Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG:

Dario Rico Arena

Skilled Duelist
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d8, Guts d6, Intimidation d6, Notice d6, Shooting d6, Taunt d6
Charisma: +0, Pace: 6, Parry: 7 (8 against a single opponent armed with one weapon), Toughness: 5
Fame: +5
Hindrances: Arrogant
Edges: Fencing Academy (Academia de Hierro), Florentine, Riposte, Two-Fisted, Wall of Steel
Booty: 60 pieces of eight
Gear: Rapier (d8+d4; +1 parry), main-gauche (d8+d4)

The reckless son of a Cuban plantation owner, Dario haunts the streets taverns and bordellos of Havana living off his allowance and the money he makes from dueling.  His mastery of the two-handed style of the Academy of Iron means he is equally comfortable fighting single opponents and gangs.  His ability to fight four men at once makes him dangerously arrogant.

Juan and Pedro Martinez

Master Duelists
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d12, Guts d8, Intimidation d10, Notice d8, Shooting d6, Taunt d10
Charisma: +0, Pace: 6, Parry: 12 (13 against a single opponent armed with one weapon), Toughness: 6
Fame: +25
Hindrances: Code of Honor
Edges: Acrobat, Combat Reflexes, Fencing Academy (Academia de Hierro), Florentine, Improved Block, Improved Frenzy, Improved Riposte, Improved Sweep, Quick, Quick Draw, Two-Fisted, Wall of Steel
Booty: 1500 pieces of eight, +1 Fighting & damage Toledo steel rapiers
Gear: Rapier (d8+d4+1, +1 Parry), main-gauche (d8+d4)

The twin masters of the Academy of Iron bristle when newcomers remark on the similarity of their style to those taught in Florence and Paris -- and they defend their honor with Spanish steel!  Even the most dangerous pirate crews should be careful to challenge the brothers Martinez; fighting back-to-back, the twins could easily stand against an entire crew!

Reach House Rule for Savage Worlds and D&DNext

I don't use miniatures anymore because I feel like they slow down the game, but I'd like to be fair to those smart enough to carry a pike to a swordfight. How about this?

*In Savage Worlds, weapons with reach effectively grant the Quick Edge to their wielder (re-draw any action cards of 5 or less). I hate Edge bloat, but I really think Savage Worlds could use more equipment bonuses.

*In D&D Next, using a reach weapon grants advantage on initiative rolls. (This might actually be in the badly-organized rules, for all I know.)

Nice and simple, right?

Sunday, September 2, 2012


* Our little two-person Regency/Gothic playtest is really, really not going right.  I can't say it isn't going well because there's been some fun romance and adventure and I've gotten to tap into my long-disused knowledge of Arthuriana -- but the fact that I just used "fun," "adventure," and "Arthuriana" to describe the game sums up all of the problems right there.  I just haven't mastered the tropes of the Gothic well enough to enact them in a way that provides a satisfying ending to a night's gaming -- a satisfying ending that enables us both to get up for work the next day without nightmares and angst.  That is, admittedly, going to be a challenge.  I acquired a copy of GURPS: Screampunk based on the review at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque; I think it will be every bit as helpful as the review describes. 

* We played D&D Next with some friends a week ago.  I really liked it.  The advantage/disadvantage mechanic is simple and fun.  I'm sure I'll come to loathe levels and classes again as I always do, but it was an amusing diversion and I'd like to play more of it.  Maybe Robin and I can play a low-level Waterdhavian swashbuckling game when I get Ed Greenwood Presents: Elminster's Forgotten Realms on my birthday.

* Chisholm Trail Winery kind of sucks.  The wines were always a bit odd, but these days the only ones even worth tasting are their Lenoir-based wines -- and those are definitely an acquired taste.  Plus, their grape stomp is seriously underwhelming.  Bleah!  Becker Vineyards is, as always, the best grape stomp around.

* You know who I miss?

This guy:

 Seriously, Marvel, bring him back.

Fast and “Fury”-ous

Evil Beagle recently provided me promotional copies of Leonard Pimentel’s Magnum Fury and Six-Gun Fury . No expectation of a review wa...