The King is Dead

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Awesomely stupid Conan RPG idea

If Pinnacle was ever to get the rights to produce a Conan RPG, then they should do a follow-in-his-footsteps Plot Point Campaign like their Solomon Kane release. The gimmick that unites the PCs this time?

They're all Conan's bastard children.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Game Wine: Bending Branch Souzao

Souzao (pronounced to sound like Billy Batson got punched halfway through changing into Captain Marvel) is a Portuguese grape usually used to make port. The flesh of the grape is nearly as dark as the skin, making for deeply-colored, practically opaque wine. I had never heard of it until visiting Bending Branch Winery in nearby Comfort, Texas, but it has quickly become a favorite of mine.

I'm not much of a wine taster yet (but I know what I like) so describing the taste is difficult for me. The label promises blueberries, blackberries, sweet pipe tobacco, white pepper, smoke, and earthy rhubarb. I readily admit to the wine's complexity, but complexity is the reason we drink wine; what other seemingly simple refreshment contains such nuances? I definitely taste the tobacco, smoke, and white pepper. I enjoy wine best when it reminds me of other vices, like spicy foods and smoking. I have no idea what rhubarb tastes like, so I can't comment on that, but I swear I taste a hint of dark chocolate hiding beneath the berries and sin.

While Bending Branch is local, the grapes are not. They're sourced from Alta Mesa, California, and the Silvaspoons Vineyard, specialists in Portuguese varietals. I'm kind of a reverse snob about California wines, so I'm humbled that I didn't realize this until I grabbed the bottle to spellcheck "souzao." Bending Branch is working on growing more of their own grapes, so I hope they're working on a truly Texas souzao. There's a mineral tartness to Texas grapes that I really like.

(Can you believe the spellchecker on this goofy Touchpad turned "tartness" into "grantees?" WTF, HP? No wonder you had to discount these things to $100. I'm glad mine was a gift. Thanks, James!)

I could easily see Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser sipping this in Quarmall. If playing in the Forgotten Realms, Bending Branch Souzao makes a good substitute for Berduskan Dark or the Blood Wine of Aglarond. It pairs well with Rippers, when your Wild Cards confront Dracula, or similar scenes in Solomon Kane. I could easily see it going well with Necropolis as well -- but I haven't actually read that setting.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Anguish in Action

I'm stupidly proud of the Anguish rules, so let's try them out.

Douglas Flynn, a Wild Card who amazingly has the same statistics as a Skilled Duelist from Pirates of the Spanish Main (p. 224), is at a party with the haughty Maestro Sabatini, a Master Duelist extra. Flynn seeks to advance his fame by challenging the older man to a duel, but has so far failed to gain the fencing master's notice.

Round One:
Both characters have Quick and are able to discard Action Cards of 5 or less. Flynn draws a 3 and a Queen. Sabatini draws an 8. Flynn leads with a Taunt (d6) -- "Well met, grandfather! It is good to see an old man so lively in the dance." -- and rolls two 4s; Sabatini resists with Smarts (d6) and rolls a 2. Sabatini stands on his dignity -- "Do you know who I am, sirrah?" -- and counters with Intimidation (d10). He rolls a 2 and Flynn resists with his Spirit (d8); Flynn rolls a 1 and an 11. He is not impressed.

Round Two: Flynn draws a Joker and Sabatini draws a 4 and another 8. "Indeed, you appear to be the sprightliest corpse at the dance," Flynn taunts. He rolls two 4s again but adds +2 for the Joker and +2 for his successful test of will the round before for an 8. Sabatini rolls a 2 and is shaken. He rolls Vigor (d8) on his turn and scores a 7; he is unshaken but unable to act.

Round Three: Flynn draws the king of spades and Sabatini draws the king of hearts. "Have you not heard of me, old man?" growls Flynn, trying his luck at Intimidation (d6). He rolls a 2 and a 3 but still gets to add his +2 bonus from a successful test of will the previous round for a final tally of 5. Sabatini resists with Spirit (d8) and scores a 2. Damn, he's getting the bad rolls! "I am the Maestro Sabatini, the most feared swordsman in all of Westmark!" he snarls. Sabatini rolls a three on his Intimidation roll; Flynn resists with a 7 and 9.

Round Four: Sabatini draws a 10 and Flynn draws a 7. "But perhaps this country bumpkin is new to our city?" the maestro jokingly asks some hangers-on. His Taunt (d10) roll is a 4; Flynn resists with Smarts (d6) and gets a 4 and a 2. He spends a benny and gets a 1 and a 7. Unfazed, Flynn responds "'Tis three months since I came to Westmark and yet I have not heard of you. And hear I thought I'd dueled all the most dangerous blades in Illyria!" He scores another 1 and 7 (+2 for 9). Sabatini rolls a 10.

Round Five: Flynn draws a 2 and the 6 of clubs; the maestro draws the 6 of spades. "You are deaf as well as foolish, child. Run along!" he taunts. He aces and scores a 21. Flynn gets a 1 and a 2. He attempts to unshake himself and scores a 5. He steels himself for another exchange.

Round Six: Flynn draws a Joker again and Sabatini gets a 2. After waiting for the toadies to stop laughing, Flynn taunts, "I hear quite well, and yet I've never heard of your prowess." He gets a 1 and 5 for a 7. Sabatini scores a 5. "Continue this and you will needs taste my blade," Sabatini threatens. He scores an 8 but Flynn rolls a 3 and a 10.

Round Seven: Flynn gets a Jack and Sabatini a 9. Flynn taunts again (as Sean gets tired of writing dialogue) and gets a 5 and 3 for a 7. Sabatini gets a 1 and then a 2 on his Vigor roll.

Round Eight: Flynn has an ace and his opponent a king. Flynn taunts again with a 4 and 7 for a 9. The maestro scores a 3 and is shaken again! He is mentally Fatigued by the ceaseless sniping! Finally! On his own action he attempts to unshake but is now at a -1; he scores a 6 (for a 5) and is unshaken but unable to act. He does not recover his level of fatigue. He would have to leave the scene to recover.

Round Nine: An ace for Flynn and a 9 for Sabatini. Flynn continues to taunt because his opponent's Spirit is higher than his Smarts and scores a 2 and 8 (+2 for a 10). Sabatini sputters in rage as he gets a 5 and is shaken again. But his Vigor roll is a 5 (-1 for a 4) and he is unshaken.

Round Ten: Jack for Flynn and Queen for the maestro, so Sabatini attempts a taunt of his own and gets a 4 (-1 for a 3). Flynn resists with double 3s and the older man's wit hits home. Flynn rolls a 2 and 5 (+2 for a 7) and Sabatini rolls a 3 (-1 for a 2). He is shaken again.

Round Eleven: Flynn gets a 7 and Sabatini a 6. Flynn rolls a 2 and an 8 for 10. Sabatini resists with a 3 (-1 for a 2) and is shaken again. He is now Exhausted by the constant harping of this young jackanapes and is a -2 on his rolls. His Vigor roll on his action is a 1 (-2 for a -1?).

Round Twelve: A king for Flynn and an 8 for Sabatini. Flynn rolls a 2 and a 4 (+2) and gets a 6. Sabatini rolls a 3 (-2) and is shaken again. Since this is the third unbroken shaken result in a row, he takes another level of fatigue and is Incapacitated.

He slaps the young upstart with his glove. Flynn whispers in the master's ear "Dawn at the abandoned monastery" and smiles as his opponent storms out of the room.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Setting Rule: Anguish

Setting Rule: Anguish (New Hazard)

Tests of Will

...To make a test of wills, the character makes an opposed roll against his chosen target. The defender uses Smarts to resist Taunt, and Spirit to resist Intimidate.

A success means the attacker gets a +2 bonus to his next action against the defender during this combat. A raise on the roll gives the attacker the bonus and makes the defender Shaken as well. This can be a great setup for an attack, a trick, or even a second test of wills if the first one didn’t get a Shaken result.
[Savage Worlds Deluxe, pp. 75-76]


In some Savage Settings, words cut as deep as steel. It may be scheming courtiers in Heian-Kyo or catty debutantes at Almack's, but they'll use Intimidate and Taunt* to defeat their foes as decisively as any swordsmen by inflicting Anguish on their opponents.

Anguish is a Hazard -- a source of Fatigue, just like Bumps and Bruises, Hunger, and Thirst. In non-combat scenes, successive Shaken results in tests of will inflict Fatigue on the target, as the emotional stress and mental anguish eventually result in Incapacitation.
  • Recovery: Fatigue levels from Anguish are recovered immediately in the next scene. Individual Game Masters may wish to require the player to run an Interlude or otherwise soliloquize as their Wild Card comes to terms with the source of their Anguish.
  • Incapacitation Effects: How a character Incapacitated by Anguish reacts will vary dramatically depending on the setting. A Regency gentlewoman may literally faint, overcome with emotion. A Baroque period courtier may retreat from Versailles to plot vengeance from his or her country estates. A Tokugawa era samurai may challenge his opponent to a duel -- or even lose his cool entirely and draw his sword in the Shogun's presence! In any event, the character Incapacitated has "lost" that social encounter and must leave the scene.
Example: Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are having a tiff. Darcy taunts Elizabeth about her prejudice towards him based on their first meeting; he scores a raise and she is Shaken. Elizabeth, being a healthy young woman accustomed to long walks in the countryside, scores a raise on her Vigor roll and is both unshaken and able to act normally. Darcy would need to score another Shaken result against her in order to inflict Anguish upon her.

Elizabeth taunts Darcy about his overweening pride; she scores a raise and he is Shaken. Darcy fails his Vigor roll on the following turn. Elizabeth scores another raise (getting to use her +2 bonus from her successful Test of Will in the previous round) and now the Anguish of this argument has Darcy Fatigued. If Darcy is Incapacitated in the following rounds, he will be forced to confess his love for Elizabeth and then immediately flee the scene.

Anguish can be combined with Social Combat as characters interject personal attacks in order to weaken their opponents' arguments. Doing so imposes a multi-action penalty, though the result may be worth it if the opponent misses an entire round of the argument (or two, or three) trying to recover from Anguish.

In settings that track social status -- such as Iron Dynasty and Pirates of the Spanish Main -- being publicly incapacitated by Anguish results in loss of Fame or Reputation. It can be recovered through dueling or humiliating the opponent in a test of will on another occasion.

Dreadful Anguish

In some settings, such as Regency England and Heian Japan, Anguish can be particularly deadly. The GM may require a character Incapacitated by Dreadful Anguish to make a Vigor roll before the next scene. Success indicates the Wild Card is fine; a failure indicates the character has contracted a Short-Term Debilitating disease; a critical failure means the disease is Minor Debilitating Long-Term Chronic. (See "Disease" on page 87 of Savage Worlds Deluxe.)

Dreadful Anguish can also be combined with Dramatic Tasks. A character may write a spiteful letter as a Dramatic Task, taking five "actions" to write the letter and requiring a minimum of five successes in the skill or skills used to compose the letter (there is no reason the writer could not switch back and forth between Intimidate and Taunt). If the writer fails to reach five successes, he or she gives up the attempt in frustration, unable to find the right way to express him or herself. Action cards are drawn as usual; club cards represent an attack of writer's block while jokers grant a burst of inspiration. The scores for each "action" should be recorded; they are what the defender will roll against when he or she reads the letter. Incapacitation resulting from an anguishing letter forces the same Vigor roll against disease as Anguish gained from a face-to-face encounter.

*And Persuasion if the setting has an Edge like Pirates of the Spanish Main's "Seducer."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I wish...

I wish I'd written this awesome post at Comics Alliance about Larry Hama's "G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero" comics (the one true G. I. Joe continuity).

And I wish I'd written Robin's previous post, because it was awesome.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Being the Single Savage

As Sean has already discussed, he and I play a lot of solo games. He is the main GM and I am the main player. However, that does not mean I am off the hook. As the only player, a lot rests on my shoulders, more than if I was in a group. When the single player can pull it off, she will be richly rewarded. It is all about communicating and playing into the GM (basically, working with what they give you and redirecting it in your chosen direction). However, too often, it is hard to communicate and redirect without stopping play and saying, “Hey, I want this.” This creates a difficult track for the player to navigate, but one we can successfully do if we know what to do.

So, what can we do to make things go right? 
  • Communicate your needs and wants before game play and find a shared direction.
  • Help define the game, such as setting, characters, style, etc.
  • Be willing to take over on occasion. You may not be the GM, but sometimes you need to tell stories and involve the GM’s favorite characters.
  • Help advance the plot. When you want something to happen, it is best to take actions to make it happen. Also, when it is possible and you feel comfortable, take actions as well.
  • Be flexible. Be willing to work with what is thrown at you.
It is what makes everything work these days, and in a situation where nearly everything is based on communication, it is crucial. The first step is pre-game communication. Both parties need to make it clear what they want. If you want the same thing, that is great. If you don’t, you’ll need to compromise. And do not say, “You get to choose this time and I’ll choose next time.” One of you will not be happy with this, so it is best to figure out what both parties want. So talk things over; discuss what you want (what you must have, what you’ll give up, what you’ll tweak, etc.). If you start from a shared place, it works better.

This follows along with communication. Not only do you want to be clear what you want, you need to decide what sort of game you are playing. This needs to be a shared responsibility. True, the GM is likely to take charge, but if the GM doesn’t ask for your input (mine always has a “twenty questions” for me), then you need to make your voice heard. You both need to be clear on the type of game, what the setting is like (physical and mood), how are the characters that people this “world.” If one person is not on the same page, then any attempts later will clash, and the game will quickly deteriorate. The main goal: flesh it out as a couple.

Taking Over
A lot of players in single player games aren’t comfortable running the game. For me, I need to plan and figure things out in advance. This means I need free time to do this. Well, it’s hard enough for me to find time to write blog posts, so planning a game is out. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help. There are times when I can drop hints, details that build my character. These are often great seed ideas for the GM (if he remembers them). In my last game, I talked about my character’s past. Well, many of those issues created new storylines, and in one case, was my deus ex machine. Every little bit helps. And what’s best, you may get what you want if you leave the right clues.

Advancing the Plot
Sometimes, the story just isn’t going anywhere. If you have any idea, present it. So your GM doesn’t have a plot for tonight, think about what your character wants or needs to do and set that in motion. You may need to take over a bit, playing GM at first, but a good GM will figure out where to go and bring in the right characters in no time.

And of course, when you want something, and can choose it, do so. Don’t let the situation make you feel you have to do what the GM wants. In most solo games, there is always flexibility (my last point), so a good GM can deal with your change. If he can’t, then don’t be afraid to run things for awhile.

Be Flexible
You are not going to get what you want, but you can get close. Be willing to give up something for a night and go with the flow. Of course, going back to communication, let the GM know after the game so your concerns can be dealt with before you pick back up.

Also, be willing to let the situation take over. Let the moment play out and don’t worry about its effects. I find this the most difficult. I will get hung up on the details. Sometimes, we just have to let go. Thankfully, my GM reminds me.

What’s next? Be aware of the problems that WILL occur and be prepared to deal with them. But I’ll save that for next time.