Friday, August 30, 2013

Worldcon 2013

We’ll be at Lone Star Con 3/Worldcon 2013 here in San Antonio, TX on Saturday and Sunday.  We decided on day passes for the weekend because our jobs were in the way on Thursday and Friday (and Monday’s events are pretty boring).  It’s going to be pretty hectic; there’s a lot to do!

On Saturday night and Sunday night respectively, we’ll be cramming into the Grand Salon along with everyone else to see the Masquerade and Hugo Awards, but we’ll probably spend most of the daytime attending panels.  My likely schedule is:

Saturday 8/31

10:00 a.m. — 1 hour
2045 | Happy Birthday, Doc Savage!
Convention Center: 103B Panel, Literature
For a legendary super hero who just turned 80, he doesn’t look a day over 33! Our panel will join Doc Savage historian Anthony Tollin in a discussion of the origins and influence of one of the all time great heroes.
Anthony Tollin (M), Mike Ward, David Liss, Jess Nevins

11:00 a.m. — 1 hour
2160 | Author by Day, Poet by Night
Convention Center: 102A Panel, Poetry
A number of authors are also poets in the fields of fantasy and science fiction. Our panelists discuss current and past masters of the craft and the relationship between genre poetry and prose writing. Is there such a thing as “speculative poetry?”
Nancy Hightower (M), Paul Herman, Juan Perez

Noon — 1 hour
2275 | What Will Replace Urban Fantasy?
Convention Center: 008B Panel, Literature
Cat Rambo (M), Leigh Perry, Susan Krinard, Steven Diamond, Gini Koch
2285 | Poetry Inside Out: Bridging Cultures
through Language
Convention Center: 101B Panel, Poetry
Can you translate extraordinary poems from their original language and reach a new audience? Will a different language deliver the same impact and images?
Emily Jiang, Guadalupe Garcia McCall
2295 | The Howard Boom: Barbarians,
Fanzines, and the 1970s
Convention Center: 102B Panel, Fannish
Robert E. Howard fans have always been vocal, and they took to fanzines during the heyday with aplomb. Battlescarred veterans of the Howard fanzine boom are here to talk about their ongoing involvement in Howard Fandom.
Bill Cavalier (M), Jeffrey Shanks, Damon Sasser, Rob Roehm
1:00 p.m. — 1 hour
2415 | But Why Can’t You See My Genius?
Convention Center: 101A Panel, Industry
Let’s face it; nobody likes rejection, but every writer is going to get rejection letters at some point. Why the rejection? Why don’t they love you? Your work may be wrong for the publisher, may have arrived on the wrong day, or it may simply be the 350th angsty vampire novel the poor sorry slush pile reader has seen that week. How can you turn a rejection letter into a “hell yes!”
Beth Meacham (M), Michael Underwood, Eleanor Wood,
Mary Robinette Kowal, Joshua Bilmes
2440 | I Married a Werewolf:
Paranormal Romance
Convention Center: 103B Panel, Literature
Vampires and werewolves (and sometimes even zombies, as the recent film Warm Bodies showed) are more complex creatures than they used to be. Moreover, over the years, they have become the subject of romance. Why, and in what ways?
Darlene Marshall (M), Carrie Vaughn, Jean Johnson,
Gail Carriger, Charlaine Harris

2:00 p.m. — 1 hour
2510 | Use of Language in Fantasy
Convention Center: 006A Panel, Literature
How do you determine the stye of language to use in fantasy? Do you use archaic language, modern language or poetic language - which works best and in what circumstances?
Mary Robinette Kowal (M), Jaime Moyer, Susan Krinard,
Matthew Johnson, Carol Berg

3:00 p.m. — 1 hour
2635 | The Poetry of Robert E. Howard: The Dark Bard of Texas
Convention Center: 003B Panel, Poetry
Robert E. Howard wrote more than 700 poems in his lifetime. His accomplishments as a poet are often eclipsed by his genre-bending and world-building efforts. But in his day, Howard was recognized as a gifted, intuitive poet.
Bill Cavalier (M), Rusty Burke, Paul Herman

4:00 p.m. — 1 hour
Dinner already?  Just walking around the exhibits and dealers?

5:00 p.m. — 1 hour
2905 | Robert E. Howard: The Weird, West, and Worms
Convention Center: 006B Talk, Academic
Paper session. Jeffrey Shanks and Mark Finn, Independent Scholars, present “Vaqueros and Vampires: Robert E. Howard and the Genesis of the Weird Western.”
And Jeffrey Shanks, Independent Scholar, presents “Evolutionary Otherness: Anthropological Anxiety in Robert E. Howard’s “Worms of the Earth.’”
Donald M. Hassler (M), Mark Finn, Jeffrey Shanks

6:00 p.m. — 1 hour
3050 | Beyond Godzilla vs. King Kong: Monsters of Japan and the Americas
Convention Center: 103B Panel, Media
Both East and West love monsters. The ghostly Japanese creatures known as yokai are many and varied, and have a broad Western analogue in cryptids such as the Sasquatch and the chupacabra. The giant city-smashing kaiju, well the West has a few of those as well. But what are the differences, and what are the similarities, between these monsters? Why do adults still love monsters, and what do monsters mean when they appear in fiction, film, or folklore? Come and find out!
Seia Tanabe (M), Masao Higashi, Toh EnJoe

7:00 p.m. — 1 hour

8:00 p.m. — 3 hours
7:30 p.m. — Doors open
3105 | Masquerade
Rivercenter: Grand Salon Event, Events
Come join aliens, scientists, and fantastic creatures who are invading us - Deep in the Heart of Texas. Watch the most inspirational and wondrous costumers of our world as they show their stuff on the biggest stage at LoneStarCon 3. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and we will start at 8 p.m. to highlight the creativity of our friends, starting with Young Fans and following them into the night with costumers of all levels. The show will also feature our Special Guest, Leslie Fish singing her stylings and magician Drew Heyen in an interactive show with some of you, our audience. Wear your costume and someone may also want to take your picture! This is a show for all.
Paul Cornell

Sunday 9/1

10:00 a.m. — 1 hour
3355 | Autographing
Convention Center: Exhibit A Autographing
Amanda Downum, Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Anne Hull, Jack Skillingstead

11:00 a.m. — 1 hour
3440 | Co-Ops, Unions and Classes
Convention Center: 101A Panel, Art
How to find the right artist support group. What are the different types available, online and in real space? What should you look for? What makes a good fit?
Bridget Duffy (M), Maurine Starkey, Alan F. Beck,
Mitchell Bentley
3445 | Disaster and the Literature of the Supernatural
Convention Center: 101B Panel, Literature
The inexpressible damage done to Japan by the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami of 2011 is but the latest in a long line of disasters. The relationship between natural calamities and literature of the supernatural has never been so profound. We will use both visuals and commentary to describe the current state of the damage done by disasters, and will explore the relationships between disasters, traditional ghost stories and the literature of fantasy, as well as Japan’s unique folk cultural traditions. We will present graphic
images of unusual Japanese spirits, demons, and monsters.
Masao Higashi (M), Toh EnJoe, Seia Tanabe

Noon — 1 hour
3515 | Reading: Charlaine Harris
Convention Center: 001AB Reading

1:00 p.m. — 1 hour
3690 | Crowdfunding: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Convention Center: 008B Panel, Real World
Crowdfunding is an easy way to raise money or is it? You still have to solicit and work at it. What works, and what is going to fail? What should you look out for? What are the sites to use, and to avoid?
Howard Tayler (M), Tobias Buckell, Christopher J. Garcia,
Catherynne M. Valente
3705 | The Wild, Weird, and Wonderful Westerns of Robert E. Howard
Convention Center: 102A Panel, Literature
At the end of his life, Robert E. Howard was making good money writing humorous, and also very dark, westerns. In fact, westerns abound all throughout Howard’s short, intense career. Our panelists talk about everything from the hilarious Breckinridge Elkins series to the deadly earnest story, “Wild Water.”
Dennis McHaney (M), Jeffrey Shanks, Mark Finn, Dave Hardy

2:00 p.m. — 1 hour
3820 | Fantastic Victoriana: The True Roots of Steampunk
Convention Center: 008A Panel, Literature
Where did Steampunk come from? Was it Jules Verne, or the Wild Wild West? Our panel of experts will kick it around and come up with a must read list of titles for newcomers or long-time fans alike.
Jess Nevins (M), Drew Heyen, David Boop
3755 | Kaffeeklatsch: Catherine Asaro, Steven Brust, Mary Robinette Kowal
Riverwalk: Riverview Kaffeeklatsch

3:00 p.m. — 1 hour
3935 | Getting Research Right in
Historical Fiction
Convention Center: 008A Panel, Literature
How much research needs to be done when writing a story set in an historical period? How far can you stray before readers will notice? Do the readers care, or even know enough to care?
Rick Wilber (M), Laura Frankos, Barbara Galler-Smith, Harry Turtledove, Kay Kenyon
3955 | Reading: John Scalzi
Convention Center: 102A Reading

4:00 p.m. — 30 minutes
4030 | Reading: Mark Finn
Convention Center: 002B Reading
4:30 p.m. — 30 minutes
4130 | Reading: Mary Robinette Kowal
Convention Center: 002B Reading
4:00 p.m. — 1 hour
4110 | The Sundering — Splitting D&D Down the Middle
Convention Center: 204B Presentation, Gaming
Jon Schindehette talks about D&D’s new story arc, and how it is going to be experiences in a transmedia context. From the world building, to the story development, to the actual execution of the story.
Jon Schindehette

5:00 p.m. — 1 hour
4155 | How to Extend Your Book Beyond the Page into Social Media
Convention Center: 006A Panel, Industry
Karen Anderson (M), Jaime Moyer, Gabrielle de Cuir, Lee Harris

6:00 p.m. — 1 hour
4255 | Robert E. Howard at the Ice House
Convention Center: 006A Panel, Literature
Howard was an amateur boxer, and wrote mountains of boxing stories. No kidding! Here’s a rare opportunity to hear about the boxing canon of Robert E. Howard from the editors of the 4 vol. series currently being published by the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press. Warning: attending this panel may cause an outburst of laughter, followed by a burning desire to read Howard’s boxing stories.
Jeffrey Shanks (M), Patrice Louinet, Chris Gruber, Mark Finn

7:00 p.m. — 1 hour

8:00 p.m. — 3 hours
4315 | Hugo Awards Ceremony
Rivercenter: Grand Salon Event, Events
The Hugo Award is the only major science fiction award that is voted on by fans around the globe. Join us as we honor our nominees and winners Sunday evening in the Grand Ballroom. The ceremony starts at 8:00 PM, doors open at 7:30 PM.

11:00 p.m. — 3 hours
4350 | Steampunk-themed Late Night Dance
Convention Center: Ballroom A Event, Dance
Swing out or get down and boogie with the band that’s taking the Steampunk dance scene by storm. Scott Bradlee (of Bioshock Infinite renown) and his Postmodern Jukebox ensemble transform the pop-chart hits of today into the anachronistic party favorites of a yesteryear that never was! This is modern pop reinvented with a classy, retro edge. We’ll wrap up the convention in high style with this cut-loose late-night club dance.
Post Modern Jukebox

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The King is Dead: Libertines and Liberated

Becoming a vampire means the death of life as you have known it; becoming a vampire means that one is cut off from the act of procreation.  While many vampires claim that drinking blood is a sensation more exquisite than the base pleasures of the flesh, mortal satirists immensely doubt it.  Regardless, the unliving upper crust of Society disdains mere fornication and turns to elaborate tortures and other unnatural means for their pleasures.  The Church of Sathaniel, in turn, preaches hatred of the flesh as part of its support of the monarchy.

The nobles of Malleus are obsessed with the purity of their bloodlines – in terms of both literal genetic inheritance from parent to child and in metaphorical inheritance from master vampire to servitor.  It is not enough to simply be a vampire; one must also be physically descended from the right people.  The mortal descendants of the vampire lords are expected to produce the next generation of children before they are given the gift of immortality. 

Noblewomen live practically cloistered lives before their marriages; many actually are placed in nunneries where they are taught nothing but prayer and music.  Even as the Illuminated champion for equal rights for women and middle-class maids and matrons debate the latest in philosophy and science, the daughters of the vampires are used as pretty pawns to secure allegiances amongst the king’s sons and their descendants.  Rare is the lady of the blood who is given the blessing of unlife before she has whelped and reared a half-dozen aristocratic brats.     

Male vampires can’t have get erection.  Their hearts are dead, their blood does not flow, so they have no apparatus to engorge the male member.  Because it is impossible to impregnate a woman after becoming a vampire, it is the duty of every nobleman to sire children beforehand.  Knowing that immortality also means neutering, it is the pleasure of pre-vampiric noblemen to fornicate as much as possible.  While the not-dead-yet female members of the aristocracy have their virginities better guarded than a Lochlander’s gold, the young men patronize actresses and courtesans, bawdy houses and bordellos. 

Yet More Secret Societies of Malleus

The Balefire Club
A gathering of libertines run as a mock occult society, the Balefire Club appears to outsiders as simply yet another of the putrid excesses of the nobility.  The truth is that it is a honey trap for disaffected still-living nobles, a means of both discovering their secrets and seducing the few worthy ones to the Glorious Revolt.  The Balefire Club mocks Sathaniel with white masses where the communion is drunk in wine instead of blood, bread is shared instead of flesh, and it all ends orgies of that most life-affirming of physical acts.  The club welcomes men and women of all ranks, daring adventurous noblewomen to sneak out of their cloisters, shocking decadent noblemen out of their self-satisfied ruts, and enabling poor seditionists to seduce the nobility into paying for their own destruction.
Archetypes: adventurer, atheist, imposter, poet, rakehell, seducer.

The Sorority of Belquis
Named for an ancient queen of the Morgenland who worshipped the deified sun and tamed ifreet and jinn, the Sorority of Belquis is dedicated to spreading the message of empowerment amongst women of all classes.  The society neither preaches nor desires that men become subject to women, but it does demand that women make their own choices and that their voices be heard.  Sisters of the Sorority have infiltrated nunneries, practiced back-alley abortions, and helped battered wives emigrate to the Colonies.  The Sorority is naturally the target of suspicion and misogyny; even some male members of the Illuminated recoil from what they misperceive as a message of women’s dominance.  Surprisingly, one of the most prominent members of the Sorority of Belquis is technically male – the transvestite spy Ritter von Noe – but the Sorority refuses to discriminate.
Archetypes: adventuress, apostate nun, midwife, scholar, suffragette, transgendered.

The King is Dead: A Glorious Thing To Be the Scarecrow King

Beyond the Pale to the south sits the Darkmoor.  This wilderness of bogs, mires, and granite-topped tors is home to very little modern human habitation, but boasts numerous ancient cairns, menhirs, and standing stones.  Mystically-minded members of the Glorious Revolt and desperate criminals are some of the few humans to inhabit the area; the vampires largely avoid it due to the lack of prey, but some people claim the area holds stranger horrors – werewolves, wights, and wyrms amongst others.

Beyond that lies Kernow.  Once an independent Kimmerian kingdom, Kernow has been assimilated into Mallean culture for nearly one thousand years and few local peculiarities still linger.  Since the Kernish isthmus is the westernmost extent of the isle of Malleus, it is a natural haven for smugglers and pirates arriving from the colonies.  The town of Pennsans, in particular, has become a pirate haven and a division of the Royal Army under Major General Garnet has been dispatched to pacify the town.  The major general has taken his bevy of vampiric “daughters” (truthfully, his several times great-granddaughters) with him to Pennsans; they’re looking forward to the holiday.

Another Secret Society of Malleus

The Red Brotherhood
Few societies active in the Glorious Revolt would consider the Red Brotherhood to be part of their conspiracy -- the Bloodstained Blade and the Illuminated in particular consider the Brotherhood to be as bad as the vampires – because the Red Brotherhood is a fraternity of criminals and murderers.  Composed of pirates, robber-knights, and smugglers, the fraternity enforces a rough code of honor that boils down to “brethren shall not prey on brethren.”  While essentially egalitarian (indeed no other society save the Wild Hunt has such a mix of races, and the Hunt has fewer women or as many former gentry), the Red Brotherhood has no interest in the higher goals of the Revolt; they don’t even particularly care to see the King Wilhelm overthrown since they’re doing just fine thumbing their noses at him.  The Glorious Revolt begrudgingly makes use of the Red Brotherhood when needed to smuggle arms and ash wood into Malleus; it would be a hero indeed who could persuade this army of cutthroats to take up the Revolt’s cause.
Archetypes: buccaneer, fence, highwayman, pirate, robber-knight, smuggler.

The unofficial leader of the Red Brotherhood in Malleus is the Reverend Kristoff Thorndyke, a former pirate turned smuggler turned highwayman also known as Feathertop for the weird, scarecrow-like mask he wears to protect his identity.  Reverend Thorndyke is a bitter, nihilistic man with a pitch-black sense of humor; his fiancée was taken off by a vampire when he was young, and now he preaches subservience to them during the day and undercuts their power by night.  If there is any hope of persuading the Red Brotherhood to actually embrace the Glorious Revolt, it could well begin in Thorndyke’s parish of Rum Marsh. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The King is Dead: There May (or May Not) Be Monsters in the Lochs

Lochland was an independent nation until 1715 when the Deircc – MacFindlay of Moray, the Red King – was slain by a highlander uprising led by the Clan O’Nail.  Rather than freeing Lochland of vampire rule, this instead led to Wilhelm the Everlasting laying claim to Lochland through his treaty with MacFindlay and invading the country.  The invasion has exacerbated differences between the southern lowlands of Lochland and the northern highlands and the nation is now at war with itself.

The lowlands of Lochland are essentially Mallean in culture and language.  While the lowlanders certainly have their own unique dialect and brogue, their customs and fashions ape the fashionable of Hammerstadt.  Most Lochlander nobles have kin at Sownfield Palace and civilized Lochlander high society is practically indistinguishable from Mallean.

The capitol of Edenesburch, located near the south of Lochland, is an old city frantically trying to modernize.  The process began under the late Deircc -- embracing modernity as his traditional-minded countrymen turned against him – and has been accelerated by the influx of young Mallean nobles who have come to Lochland trying to prove themselves worthy of their ancestors’ blood.  The city is a center of banking and fiscal philosophy where the upper and middle class mingle freely, but that’s more due to overcrowding than social equality.  Edenesburch is still a nearly medieval warren of wooden buildings leaning precariously against each other, with streets filled with filth, and the looming black crag of Rook Castle looming above it all.

Glesga, west of Edenesburch, is a growing port city.  Significant amounts of trade from the Colonies – particularly tobacco – makes its way through the city, and the enriched middle class has taken to building grand houses for themselves that look almost like ancient Remulan or Akhaian temples.  A disaffected Illuminated occultist, Gideon Moriskentänzer, has begun pushing a philosophy of anarchism that has attracted converts from the Star’s Children and other secret societies; his talents are prodigious, but some worry he will collapse the Glorious Revolt into a madness and terror.

The highlands -- filled with brochs and lochs, dark forests and fairy glens – are not civilized.  The Lochland highland clans eke out a living grazing shaggy cattle on the highland pastures – or stealing the cattle from each other, the same way they’ve been doing since Kimmerian times.  The Clan O’Nail urged the highlanders into open rebellion in 1715 and 1745, but now the clans are caught in a bitter guerilla war against the invading bloodcoats.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The King is Dead: Give Me Gonzo or Give Me Death

I could insist that The King is Dead is a very serious setting with a very serious political message and everyone should take it very seriously.  I could do that, or I could acknowledge that one of the main influences on this setting is a movie with a set piece fight scene where a supposed American Indian kung-fus a bunch of guys with Wolverine claws and the final fight is against a guy with a crazy anime-style bone whip-sword.  I think I'll choose the latter.

Savage Worlds Arcane Backgrounds in The King is Dead

All five core Savage Worlds Deluxe Arcane Backgrounds are available in The King is Dead.  If you have the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion and you really, really want to use the new ones in there, then by all means do so.  I'm not going to stop you; I just think we don't need them.  By the same token, characters made with the Super Powers Companion are on a completely different scale than "normal" Savage Worlds PCs, so only use that if everyone in the party is making a Super Powers character.

I think that using Power Points really balances characters with Arcane Backgrounds versus those without them.  ABs eat up a lot of Advances when you use Power Points -- you not only have to buy the Arcane Background Edge and the corresponding Arcane Skill, but you also have to decide whether you want more Power Points with that Edge or if you're going to get the New Power Edge -- so players have to judge whether they want to be merely Arcane powerhouses or if they want to be better-rounded.  You can't raise a mob with Damage Field, and you really, really might want a nice rampaging mob on your side if you storm the Hammerturm.

Arcane Backgrounds in the world of The King is Dead

My initial reaction to Magic is that it's the one Arcane Background I would like to ban, but that's dumb.  Kabbalism and other forms of occultism were actually pretty popular in the 18th century; there was a huge fad for it in Venice, which Casanova exploited to his advantage.  Le Chevalier d'Eon has freakin' Robespierre tracing magic glowing spells in the air!  So, yeah, magic works the same as always.

The Church is in cahoots with the vampires, supporting their reign by preaching the doctrine of Sathaniel, King of the World.
Sathaniel looked out upon the troubled world, and saw that man needed stern guidance and judgement.  "Oh Lord, hast thou forsaken them?" he cried.  Then he appeared to the daughter of the king and offered her his blood...
Hordos 3:16

Good guy miracle workers either worship the Pariah (a mysterious apocryphal demigod of peace and equality), foreign and pagan gods, or simply dedicate themselves D&D 3.x style to a cause or principle.  I see no danged reason to not have adepts in The King is Dead; heck, it's practically required by the source material.

Cruthin Spirit Warrior
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d8, Faith d8, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Survival d6, Throwing d4, Tracking d6
Charisma: -2; Pace: 6; Parry 6; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Vow/Major (Rid the Colonies of rule by the vampires), Illiterate, Loyal
Edges: Adept (punches & kicks are Str+d4), Arcane Background (Miracles)
Special Abilities:
  • Power Points: 10
  • Powers: Boost/Lower Trait (a confident smile or intimidating stare), Deflection (blinding speed and agility; self only)
Gear: Axe (Str+d6, Range 3/6/12), pair of daggers (Str+d4), ₤250

Isn't Boost/Lower Trait awesome?  Whenever he needs to be better at something, this Novice Mani clone can just give himself a boost, and when he's fighting a gang of thugs he can drop their Fighting Skill (and thereby their Parry scores) down with a sneer.


I don't yet know if fairies actually exist in this setting yet, but people born with the Second Sight certainly believe they have fairy blood.

Super Powers
Why not?  Call it exposure to the Newtown Weald meteorite, fairy blood again, vampire heritage, or just don't explain it at all.  Whatever you choose, the core AB: Super Powers is pretty well balanced... except maybe when you have Boost/Lower Trait as your power.  20 Power Points to toss into that whenever you want?  Sick!

"Gifted" Adventurer
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills:* Climbing d4, Boost/Lower Trait d6, Fighting d4, Gambling d4, Healing d4, Investigation d4, Lockpicking d4, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d4, Stealth d6, Streetwise d4, Taunt d4
Charisma: +4; Pace: 6; Parry 4; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Curious, Greedy/Minor, Poverty
Edges: Arcane Background (Super Powers), Attractive, Very Attractive
Special Abilities:
  • Power Points:20
  • Powers: Boost/Lower Trait
Gear: Dagger (Str+d4), lockpicks, ₤25
* You can't Boost a trait unless you have it, so it's better to have as many as you can get.
Weird Science
Just look at the top of the page.  I think we can all agree we need that in The King is Dead.  Also, why don't we just use Weird Science for alchemy?  They basically work the same.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The King is Dead: Plotters and Rebels

Here’s the thing: the Illuminati were the good guys. 

During their brief existence, the historical Bavarian Illuminati championed eliminating superstition and prejudice, reducing the abuse of power by governments, and treating women as equals.  If you’re opposed to those goals, then you’re a primitive screwhead and I don’t have anything to say to you.  The rampant primitive screwheads of the time – including the Roman Catholic Church (which still has a lot of primitive screwheads in it) and proponents of Enlightened Despotism (all the science of the Enlightenment but none of the democracy!) – outlawed it and the society died.  Late 18th century conspiracy theorists then blamed them for the French Revolution, but – again – unless you’re some kind of primitive screwhead then you should at least applaud the goals of the French Revolution even if you deplore its excesses. 

So, yeah; they were the good guys.   

Since the King is Dead is all about anti-monarchist conspiracies, it behooves me to create some secret societies for player characters to join.  Both Honor + Intrigue and the Savage Worlds setting Rippers provide guidelines for rules for secret societies, but I don’t have those books handy so I’m just going to write up some descriptions.

Some Secret Societies of Malleus

The Bloodstained Blade
The greatest fencing masters of Malleus secretly belong to an ancient order of adepts – weapon masters who have sworn themselves to worship of the Pariah, the enemy of Sathaniel slain by St. Kerioth.  These anti-Sathanists dedicate themselves to painful regimens of exercise and meditation that allow them to move faster than the eye can follow, deflect bullets, and cut the very air itself – but only as long as they remain dedicated to the Pariah’s message of peace and brotherhood.
Archetypes: duelist, fencing master, heroic highwayman, wanderer.

Clan O’Nail
The O’Nails are a mad band of separatists from Clavus and Lochland (the pseudo-Scotland part of Malleus I haven’t written about yet) who support the claims of Jacob O’Nail, a pretender to the throne of Malleus who claims descent from the ancient Kimmerian royal line obliterated by Wilhelm the Everlasting.  Not all Clavish or Lochlanders would claim membership in the Clan, but sympathy for their cause runs high.  The Clan O’Nail is not popular amongst the other secret societies because of their adherence to fairy superstitions and monarchism, but they seem to lead charmed lives.
Archetypes: bandit, bard, bogtrotter social climber, highlander. 

The Illuminated
Formally “The Society for the Illumination of the Dark,” the Illuminated is one of the most radical and also most popular secret societies.  They have members amongst the planters of the Colonies, the merchants and artisans of the cities, the gentry of the Pale, and the adventurers of Hammerstadt – which is surprising, given that they preach not only the destruction of the vampire aristocracy, but also the abolition of slavery, the equality of women, and the rejection of the Church.  Membership is theoretically open to anyone who accepts their ideals, but the majority of Illuminated are gentry-class and middle-class Malleans.
Archetypes: adventurer, philosopher, poet, rabble-rouser, spy, statesman.

The Star’s Children
About two decades ago, a meteorite fell to earth outside the Mallean hamlet of Newtown Weald.*  It was a seven days’ wonder and people flocked from all over the surrounding countryside to see the glowing stone.  Now young men and women conceived by those who visited in that first week are displaying incredible abilities: inhuman strength and stamina, mesmerism, pyrokinesis, the second sight, telekinesis, telepathy… even flight.  Feared and hated by vampires and superstitious mortals alike, these young outcasts are reaching out to each other and the siren call of the Glorious Revolt.  Perhaps the victory of enlightened thought will see them accepted into society?
Archetypes: masked vigilante, mesmerist, strongman, superhero in a tricorn hat.

The Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt is more a loose social network for the sharing of monster-killing secrets and survival tips than it is a true secret society.  Members may be from as disparate backgrounds as the native Cruthin tribes of the Colonies, the lederhosen-wearing Nachtwald peasantry, or even Südlich warriors from the Undiscovered Lands; they have invented a secret sign language taught only to members to share their knowledge.  Because the Wild Hunters are largely scandalous in upper-crust society, they often form partnerships with members of other secret societies to hunt their quarries; pity the fools who think these canny warriors are mere “noble savages.”
Archetypes: frontiersman, kung-fu kicking native warrior, naturalist, poacher.

Zunft von Hohenheim
Founded two centuries ago by alchemist, astrologer, and occultist Bombastus von Hohenheim,** the Zunft is one of the oldest secret societies aiding the Glorious Revolt.  Changing lead to gold is merely a metaphor for something greater; the goal of alchemy is material social progress.  The secret proddings of the Zunft have led to many of the seemingly banal advances in technology available in Malleus -- gas lighting, intricate clockwork, steam engines – as well as more miraculous uses like healing draughts and smoke bombs.  Many in the Zunft von Hohenheim are cautious of the radical actions of the other societies, but they at least support their principles.
Archetypes: alchemist, astrologer, inventor, mad scientist, mountebank, occultist.

*The Wold Newton meteorite fell in 1795.  That’s still part of the 18th century; it counts.

**Yes, I’ve just used part of Paracelsus’ birth name, but who could resist “Bombastus?”  Also, Full Metal Alchemist author Arakawa Hiromu was obviously alluding to the historical alchemist when she named the Elric brothers’ dad “Hohenheim,” so it’s perfectly legit for me to use the name too.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

The King is Dead: This Grim, Unpleasant Land Part 2

Sownfield Palace -- the residence of King Wilhelm the Everlasting, vampire monarch of Malleus – sits just outside Hammerstadt.  The king’s body has been changing over the last two hundred years -- he has lost all his hair, his eyes have sunken while his talons have grown, and the smell of putrescence clings to him – and so ashamed he ordered the construction of a new court removed from the prying eyes of mortals.  The innocent-sounding name is in fact a grim reference to the six hundred and sixty-six prisoners who were offered as human sacrifice to Sathaniel for the king‘s protection and were buried beneath the foundations and lush gardens of the palace when construction began last century.  Sownfield Palace has no indoor plumbing.

North of Hammerstadt sits the ominous edifice of the Steinheng, a prehistoric circle of standing stones whose origins have been lost to the ages.  There has been a great deal of interest in the ancient Kimmerian ancestors of the Malleans in recent times – due in no small part to the recent discovery and publication of the poems of the Kimmerian bard Osean – and certain mystically-inclined supporters of the Glorious Revolt wonder whether Steinheng’s mystic powers could be used against the vampires. 

Beyond the Pale to the north lies Brustlager, the most industrialized city in Malleus, home to coal mining, shipping, and textiles.  The city exists in a strange middleground between progress and squalor; gaslamps illuminate the streets but that only serves to shine a light on the mangled factory workers in their slums.  The threat of new mechanical looms taking jobs away from skilled workers has sparked protests and sabotage.  Captain Redbreast, a charismatic highwayman, has raised a band that destroys looms and harrasses industrialists; her actions have sparked debate between those factions of the Glorious Revolt that favor the free market or the social contract.
Beyond the Pale to the west lies the Nachtwald, a dense and ancient forest feared by mortal and vampire alike.  While a few highways have been cut through the wood and villages have grown up along the roads and the forest’s edges, little attempt has been made to clear the woods or settle further in.  Vampires fear that the ash tree still grows in the depths, much to their peril, and deputize fire wardens to seek out and burn its groves.  Mortals, though, fear the bandits who lurk in the Nachtwald’s depths and plague travelers (as well as the ancient bogeys of fairies and monsters).  Noble-minded highwaymen act as couriers and recruiters for the Revolt, while poachers venture into the forest’s depths to hunt for ash wood.  At least one laboratory of the Zunft von Hohenheim is hidden in the Nachtwald as well.

to be continued...

The King is Dead: Son of Hollywood History

Cripes!  I forgot a bunch of stuff -- including several movies I own!

More Movies I Own or Have Seen

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Screenplay by Charles McKeown & Terry Gilliam
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Honestly, there's not much to swipe here -- after all, the POV of The King is Dead is pro-Enlightenment -- but who can't enjoy this film?

The Duchess
Screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher, Andrew thomas Jensen, and Saul Dibb
Directed by Saul Dibb
Keira Knightley plays Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, in a brutal biopic that shows just how terrible life was for women back then, even at the top of the social ladder.  Did you know that the Bavarian Illuminati believed in women's rights? 

Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters
Written & Directed by Tommy Wirkola
This movie desperately wants to be in the same league as Army of Darkness and just doesn't quite cut it.  Arguably the wrong period again, but useful for the crazy witch-hunting clockpunk weapons.

Jack of All Trades (TV series)
Written by Eric Morris
Produced by Sam Raimi
Bruce Campbell as an American spy/masked highwayman in a crazy, anachronistic setting in the vein of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.  Blackbeard!  Ben Franklin!  Verne Troyer as Napoleon!

Monty Python's Flying Circus
Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin
Specifically Dennis Moore (Episode 11 of Series 3) and The Golden Age of Ballooning (Episode 1 of Series 4).  'Nuff said.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Screenplay by Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger, and Tom Tykwer
Directed by Tom Tykwer
Based on the horror/magical realism/suspense novel by Patrick Süskind, it's the story of a man with no body odor who decides to create the world's greatest perfume by killing beautiful women.  The novel is so popular (amongst a certain set of people, at least) that it's inspired five different songs! 

Be warned that I have only ever listened to the Nirvana song and I put these links in without watching the clips.
"Scentless Apprentice" by Nirvana
"Herr Spiegelmann" by Moonspell
"Red Head Girl" by Air
"Du riechst so gut" by Rammstein
"Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met)" by Panic! at the Disco

Screenplay by Rémi Waterhouse, Michel Fessler, and Eric Vicaut
Directed by Patrice Leconte
A lowly country squire comes to Versailles to plead for funds to save his villagers and gets caught up in the backstabbing games of one-upmanship the nobles play.  A great example of why you should hate the aristocracy.

Rob Roy (1995)
Screenplay by Alan Sharp
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
A lowly Highland clan leader comes to Edinburgh to plead for funds to save his villagers and gets caught up in the backstabbing games of one-upmanship the nobles play.  A great example of why you should hate the aristocracy that features a truly awesome climactic duel.

The Three Musketeers (2011)
Screenplay by Andrew Davies and Alex Litvak
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
The wrong period yet again, but it features the kind of clockwork/proto-steampunk tech that I imagine Weird Science will produce in The King is Dead -- which is why this version of The Three Musketeers is on the list and other versions aren't.  Also, Milla Jovovich's Milady is a great inspiration for female PCs in the setting. 

Screenplay by Jeanne Labrune and Tom Stoppard
Directed by Roland Joffé
Gérard Depardieu plays François Vatel, chef to the Prince de Condé, who is driven to desperate and dishonourable action to help the Prince appease Louis XIV.  I just watched this over the weekend; it's again the wrong period (I got my Louis mixed up) but it's also again a greate example of why you should hate the aristocracy.  Even though Malleus is pseudo-England mashed with pseudo-Germany, I have to remind myself that's only for linguistic simplicity and that I'm writing about how much I loathe the French aristocracy as much as anything else.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The King is Dead: This Grim, Unpleasant Land

Malleus is a large island with a land mass of approximately 175,000 square miles.  It is surrounded by hundreds of smaller islands that hug its cliffs and coasts, including the subject island nation of Clavus.  The continent of Incus – home to a baker’s dozen of competing nations – lies to the east. 

(Malleus itself looks suspiciously like Great Britain if somebody laid modern Germany over where England is supposed to be, while Clavus looks suspiciously like a sideways Ireland and Incus looks like somebody cut Germany out of Europe and shoved France backwards to fill in the space.)

Approaching Malleus from Incus across the Mallean Channel first takes you past the Kaiser Island and the Claws, a group of deceptively pleasant-looking islands with broad beaches on their southern sides and steep cliffs on the north.  The beaches, however, are only the most visible part of dangerous shoals that fuel the local industry of wrecking.  The inhabitants of Kaiser Island and the Claws are roundly despised by sailors of all nations who accuse them of using black magic to pull in unwary vessels and blame the Clawfolk’s wall-eyed look on mating with fish.

As one reaches Malleus proper, one first beholds the gleaming heights of the Pale Cliffs of Port Dour.  The town offers a safe and excellent harbor and passengers with little luggage might wish to disembark to take the mail coach to Hammerstadt as the River Mürrisch is not navigable to ocean-going vessels.  Those involved in the business of the Glorious Revolt will find allies among the smugglers of the town, but the young and beautiful should be careful of the panderers who work the inns and taverns, hunting for fresh virgins to offer the vampires.

Of course, panderers also work the dockside taverns of Hammerstadt, but the hustle and bustle of industry there means that they are far easier to dispose of – a sharp crack to the head from a hammer or belaying pin and a leech’s pimp becomes just another anonymous body in the pounding flow of the River Hammer.  (While the river has lost much of the thundering force it is born with at the triple waterfalls that give it its name by the time it reaches Hammerstadt, it is still swifter and more deadly than the Thames.)  The docks of Hammerstadt are an exotic maze to newcomers, filled with people from all over the world: black-skinned Südlich, red-skinned Cruthin from the Colonies, and yellow-skinned Orientals mix amongst the Occidental sailors and merchants from all over Incus.  Iron collars cover the Südlich sailors’ throats; there are no vampires south of the Middle Sea and they will not suffer themselves to be taken by the dead.

Hammerstadt is the capitol and greatest city of Malleus; here one finds the cyclopean cathedrals of Saint Kerioth and Westenmeister where the bishops preach the all-consuming power of death, the Diet where those vampires who take an interest in politics gather to play with lives of millions, the grim edifice of Hammerturm where political prisoners are tortured, and the palaces of the king and his sons whose candlelit halls are filled with the laughter and sighs from masques and orgies.  Naturally, the capitol is the playground of the aristocracy, dead and not-yet-dead alike, so it is filled with nocturnal delights – bordellos, coffee houses, night-blooming gardens, parks, and salons – and the hundreds of thousands of mortals needed to provide those pleasures.  Here those gallant adventurers  who dare to bait the tiger in its lair send coded messages with decks of cards and seduce the seducers to discover their secrets.

Beyond the city lies the Pale, the broad swath of largely deforested (and therefore lighter-colored) countryside where the farms of the nation lay.  Running in a ragged crescent from northeast of Hammerstadt to southwest of the city, it is filled with scores of small villages answerable to absentee vampire barons and counts.  Actual government of the villages falls to local squires – landed gentry trapped uncomfortably between the commoners and the nobles – who anxiously await the capricious arrivals of their masters, not knowing if this time the vampires will take their blood tax from the villagers or demand it from the squires’ own children.  With their greater wealth and opportunities for education, the squires form the backbone of the philosophical and scientific secret societies.

To be continued…

Wine and Savages Team Now Co-Lead Developers for Savage Rifts®

While most interested parties already know this, Robin English-Bircher and I have combined forces with Sean Roberson as Lead Developers...