Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Link: P. N. Elrod's "Quincey Morris, Vampire"

I have, unfortunately, been too busy with work over the last couple of days to write up a proper Halloween post of my own.  (Thankfully, said work has given me plenty of time to think about The King is Dead and I feel a renewed dedication to that project.)  So instead I offer a link to P. N. Elrod's website and an excerpt from her novel: Quincey Morris, Vampire.
Quincey P. Morris is the character almost everybody except Francis Ford Coppola likes to leave out of their Dracula adaptations.  I can almost understand why; it's a little weird that there's a Texan cowboy running around this Gothic horror novel, but that's what makes him great!  He is so completely out of sync with the rest of the novel.  I mean, he dies in a knife-fight with the king of the vampires!  How awesome is that?

(Someday I want to write an ass-kicking rewrite of Dracula in the vein of those sexed-up versions of Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights -- a version that shows Van Helsing as a competent medical man and explains some of Morris, Holmwood, and Seward's adventures together.  Eff you, Leslie S. Klinger.)

Anyway, I haven't actually read the novel or even all of the excerpt because I just found out about it two weeks ago.  I haven't found a paper copy and I just discovered this excerpt today, so hopefully it doesn't suck.  I know it's one of those sympathetic vampire stories some people hate, but i like that sort of thing.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The King is Dead: Some Edges

Ben Franklin totally had the Eureka! Edge

Blood Immunity
Weird, Novice
You are immune to the effects of drinking vampire and dunpeal blood.  You cannot gain any boost to Strength and Vigor from drinking it, but you also cannot become addicted to it as is the fate of most moroi.

Professional, Legendary, AB: Weird Science, Knowledge (Science) d10+, Weird Science d10+.
Your experiments in harnessing the powers of science have tamed one of your wild experiments into a practical, replicable form.  One of your inventions can now be manufactured as a mundane device.  Building such devices costs $500 for each power point of the invention; how much you choose to sell them for is entirely up to you.

No Scent
Weird, Novice
You produce no body odor, no matter how odiferous your diet.  This allows you to consume garlic – making the taste of your blood repellant to vampires -- without giving away your intent.  Not having any body odor, however, is actually subtly off-putting to most people; you suffer a -1 to Charisma.

Social, Heroic, Charismatic Seasoned, Charisma +2
You can charm even your enemies.  The standard Persuasion rules limit moving an NPC’s reaction by a maximum of two steps in a single encounter; you can move it up to three steps.  GMs should apply situational modifiers to the roll as appropriate and adjudicate results sensibly; a vampire discovering a character deflowering his virgin bride might be amused by the character’s daring and adopt him as a “pet,” but if you’ve just tried to stake a vampire, then the best you can hope for is that the vampire will decide to take you alive in order to hand you over to the authorities.
Poison Resistance
Weird, Novice
You have an innate or trained tolerance for poisons.  This is reflected as either a +2 bonus to rolls to resist all poisons or a +4 bonus against a specific poison.  Particularly daring rebels will deliberately dose themselves with deadly wolfsbane, knowing that this preternatural plant will actually poison any vampire that feeds on them. 

(Yes, I know undead in Savage Worlds are immune to disease and poison.  The 1931 Dracula makes wolfsbane repellant to vampires, so in The King is Dead that idea is expanded into blood intoxicants and poisons.  I’ll get into the mechanics sometime when I can refer to a rulebook.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

My RPG Person Profile

RPG Person Profile

I'm currently running (at home): A duet playtest of my Savage Worlds setting The King is Dead.

Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (at home) include: Play, moi?  I’m always a GM, never a player.

I'm currently running (online): Nothing, but I plan on upgrading our online capabilities around Xmastime; I hope to be able to join or start an online game next year.

Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (online) include:See the previous answer.

I would especially like to play/run: 50 Fathoms, The Savage World of Solomon Kane, or Kindred of the East (yes, the clunky Old World of Darkness game) 

...but would also try: FATE Accelerated Edition, something kaiju-related, or being a player in somebody else’s Forgotten Realms campaign.

I live in: San Antonio, Texas.

2 or 3 well-known RPG products other people made that I like: Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG, the original Forgotten Realms gray box, and Kitsunemori.

2 or 3 novels I like: The Swords of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber and Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.

2 or 3 movies I like: Brotherhood of the Wolf, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and Scott Pilgrim Vs the World.

Best place to find me on-line: On G+ or via the blog.

I will read almost anything on tabletop RPGs if it's: Got tricorn hats or Waterdeep in it.

I really do not want to hear about: your misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, or conservative values – but I’ll agree not to talk about politics either if you treat my wife as a fellow player worthy of your respect.

I think dead orc babies are: one of the really big problems with Gygaxian naturalism.

Games I'm in are like: Gore Verbinski movies.

Free RPG Content I made is available right here at this blog.

You can buy RPG stuff I made here: IN MY DREAMS! 

I talk about RPGs: mainly in the Savage Worlds Google+ community, since I kinda hate forums.

Mythos Contest Winner Redux!

Our winner is our first commenter: Dana Fox!

Please contact me via the contact function of this blog or by Google+ ASAP to claim your prize!

(Please make it ASAP!)

Mythos: The Review (by way of apologizing for screwing up the contest)

It's kind of like this.

Mythos is a great setting to run a high-powered campaign of demigods and tragic heroes. 

“High-powered” is an important descriptor of Mythos.  This is not a game setting inspired by the old-school sword-and-sandal films of Ray Harryhausen and Steve Reeves.  This is definitely a post-300, post-God of War setting with more in common with the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans than the 1981 original.  This is a setting where your Legendary rank character can cause an earthquake to demolish a town or summon a vortex of vengeful spirits to swallow his foes.  Gilbert Gallo calls it “epic;” I call it “gonzo.”

The basic conceit of Mythos is that Zeus has bowed to the demands of the other Olympians and declared that – rather than be overthrown like his father and his father’s father -- he will abdicate his throne to the god who gains the most followers in what they call the Heavenly Contest.  This has inspired the would-be claimants to take a more active role in the life of mortals and start up Mystery Cults that grant their followers powerful miracles, thus adding a strong element of epic fantasy to the Bronze Age setting and making winning and losing divine favor a central component of the story.  Men and gods must be careful, though, since the irresistible web of Fate is even more powerful than they.

Player characters may be mortals or demigods.  It is much, much trickier for mortals to navigate the rivalries of the gods and achieve divine favor but they are also under much less scrutiny from Fate.  Demigods begin with an Attribute at d10, have access to some super-powered Edges, and begin with the favor of their parent god (which means they can borrow magical items) but they are also automatically subject to the hatred of their parents’ rival (unless their parent is one of those gods who don’t have a Mystery Cult or rival – like Artemis, Dionysus, and Hermes).  Demigods also attract the notice of Fate much more easily.

How characters attract the notice of Fate is one of the mechanics that will have a lot of gamers divided on the merits of Mythos: bennies aren’t bennies in this game, but instead are Fate Points.  In addition to their normal Savage Worlds uses, Fate Points can be spent to power demigod super-Edges and invoke a few other divine phenomena.  They can only be gained back by propitiating the gods through sacrifices and dedicating deeds to them.  It certainly enforces genre emulation, but I’ll admit that even I am a bit leery of it. 

(I think I’d actually assign a pool of normal, refreshes-every-session bennies for basic soaking rolls and the like, but only award extra bennies during play as Fate Points through the proscribed sacrifices and dedications.  Poker chips have multiple colors, after all.)     

When Fate Points are used, they can cause Doomchaining; NPC witnesses to such divine feats might be caught up in the strands of the heroes’ web of Fate and be forced into a Predestined Role like Best Friend, Lover, or Rival.  When the player characters play into the NPCs’ expectations (like Taunting a Rival or Fighting a Nemesis), they get a bonus to the roll based on how strong the Doomchaining is; when they try to “play against type,” they get penalties.  This is great emulation for the tragic stories of Heracles and Oedipus, but might frustrate some GMs and players.  I haven’t actually playtested it, so I don’t know how this would fit my “make it all up as I go along” playstyle.  There’s 20 example Predestined Roles, though, so that makes for a nice random table.

Mortals and demigods can join a Mystery Cult (the only Arcane Background allowed in the game) in order to improve in their patron gods’ favor and gain access to really powerful miracles.  For example, Legendary-rank adherents of one of the cults of Poseidon do not need to release the Kraken; they can topple a city by themselves!  To counteract the power of these cults, there are several restrictions: you can only belong to one cult at a time, they only have one power per rank, and joining a cult puts you into disfavor with that deity’s rival.  What’s really cool about them – unless I’m misreading things here – is that Gilbert Gallo recommends running advancement in the cult outside of the experience system; instead of paying advances to improve in rank in the Mystery Cult, the PC should instead have to accomplish some great deed for it.  I really, really like that (but then I get kind of fidgety about the limited opportunities for character advancement in Savage Worlds).

Most of the rest of the book is what you would typically expect from a setting guide: setting rules, GM advice, a bestiary, etc.  I really suggest reading Gilbert’s GM advice; I was a bit perplexed by the gonzo, epic fantasy variations from the usual sword-and-sandal mode, but the advice section really helps clarify the tone of a Mythos campaign.  There’s also a section of Savage Tales, but unfortunately no plot-point campaign to guide your player characters from lowly Novices to sitting at the right hand of the ruler of Olympus. 

I would be lying if I said that Mythos is exactly what I wanted when I dropped my musketeer duet game back in March and switched to a Greek demigod campaign instead – but that’s only because author Gilbert Gallo doesn’t expand on the abilities of my gods of choice as much as he does some of the others (as we touched on in the interview).  It’s not Gilbert’s fault that I prefer Dionysus to Apollo, Hermes to Hades, and Artemis to Ares.  There are also a few areas where I feel the translation could be a bit more polished and I wonder at the word choice of the Norse-sounding “Doomchaining” rather than the more Greek-sounding “Fateweaving,” but that’s just a matter of taste.  Mythos is a fun, solid setting if you like your mythology crazy and your heroes larger-than-life.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Deathmasque: A masked killer player race for Savage Worlds


Perhaps he is a deformed musical prodigy trained in the arts of assassination by an Oriental potentate.  Perhaps he is a madman who stalks and butchers teenage girls.  In any case, the Deathmasque is a serial killer whose true visage is the mask he wears – a mask bonded to his face that contains the secrets of his powers.

The Deathmasque has been touched by supernatural forces that give him extraordinary powers to invoke fear, but that come at the cost of a literal addiction to murder.  These powers may come from a malevolent god or goddess, alien beings beyond our comprehension, or simply Evil itself.  Regardless, this evil force has penetrated the Deathmasque’s very soul and placed a voracious cancer of hate at its core.

It is possible, though, for even these terrifying serial killers to still feel love and yearn to be free of their dark impulses.  Such Deathmasques may eventually reject the murder-impulse that drives them and tear the mask from their scarred faces, but they will never be truly whole.  There will always be an ember of burning fury in their minds.

The inhuman visage of a Deathmasque inspires terror in anyone who sees it.  In addition, all Deathmasques are expert killers (though whether this comes from years of training or is imbued into the Deathmasque by his patron will vary depending on the setting).  As a Deathmasque embraces his unnatural powers, he finds that he becomes capable of chasing his victims anywhere. 

Game Mechanics

All Deathmasques gain the following racial package:

Bonded Mask: The powers of a Deathmasque stem from the accursed mask provided by his supernatural patron.  These masks are fused with the Deathmasques’ faces, preventing them from being able to eat or drink as normal humans.  The Deathmasques instead feast on the act of killing itself.  A Deathmasque must kill a living being (sentient or animal) with his own hands once every 24 hours or suffer the effects of the Habit (Major) Hindrance.  A Deathmasque Incapacitated by the final stage of withdrawal may be revived by having the blood of a freshly-slain victim poured over its body but (as per usual with the Hindrance) the Fatigue levels sustained will last for 1d6 days.

Hole in Your Heart:  All Deathmasques suffer from the Bloodthirsty and Vengeful (Major) Hindrances; there is a burning hatred of mankind in their breasts that can never be entirely extinguished.

Horrifying Visage: The unnerving blank mask a Deathmasque wears imposes a -2 penalty to Charisma; combined with the penalties from Bloodthirsty, this gives Deathmasques a Charisma penalty of -6. 

Maniacal Strength:*  The hatred and bloodlust of the Deathmasque gives them preternatural power.  They begin with a d8 in Strength; they may raise it to d12+2 using normal advances and up to d12+4 using the Professional and Expert Edges. 

Terrifying Reputation: Everyone knows about the atrocities committed by the Deathmasques; the tales are told around campfires and whispered in the dark.  Combined with the malevolent magic bound into their masks, this makes beholding a Deathmasque a terrifying experience for most people.  Extras of any baseline sentient race (i.e. “normal” humans in a humanocentric campaign, but also dwarves, elves, half-folk, orcs, and their sci-fi equivalents in typical fantasy/sci-fi campaigns) beholding a masked Deathmasque must make a Fear check against terror.  A deep, concealing hood may allow the Deathmasque to briefly mingle amongst normal folk, but sooner or later someone is going to peek. 

Trained Killer: Deathmasques were either experts in the art of killing before taking up the mask or have been imbued with such knowledge by their murderous patrons.  They begin with a d8 in Fighting; they may raise it to d12+2 using normal advances and up to d12+4 using the Professional and Expert Edges. 

Racial Edges

Chosen Victim
Weird, Novice, Notice d6+, Tracking d6+.
The Deathmasque designates a specific individual (that he has at least seen but need not be familiar with) as the victim of his murderous rampage.  The Deathmasque then gains a +2 bonus to Notice and Tracking rolls to find this unfortunate person until that person is dead.

Implacable Pursuit
Weird, Seasoned, Chosen Victim.
Nothing will keep the predator from his prey.  The Deathmasque suffers no movement penalties for crouching or difficult ground (SWD p. 65) when pursuing his Chosen Victim.

Don’t Look Away
Weird, Veteran, Chosen Victim.
The Deathmasque has become so attuned to the pursuit of his Chosen Victim and so infused with the supernatural powers of his mask that his bloodlust can pull him through space to the victim’s side.  Whenever the Deathmasque is with 15” of his Chosen Victim and the victim is either unable to see the Deathmasque or is not looking at him, the Deathmasque can attempt to teleport (as per the power) using his Spirit as the associated Attribute.  A success moves the Deathmasque to the nearest solid surface within 5” of the victim; a raise means he is now standing right behind her!

The Inner Struggle

Certain Savage Worlds settings may allow the Deathmasque to embrace or reject his horrible calling and gain or lose abilities independent of the usual experience system. 

·         Level 1: The Deathmasque’s presence now terrifies natural animals as well as humans; this makes it impossible for the Deathmasque to travel by horseback or carriage.  The Deathmasque may also take any one Combat Edge for which he qualifies.  The Deathmasque’s addiction to killing is no longer satisfied by animals; he must kill at least one sentient being every 24 hours.
·         Level 2: The Deathmasque now terrorizes baseline Wild Cards and supernatural Extras.  He must now kill at least one sentient being every 12 hours; thankfully, he no longer needs to sleep.
·         Level 3:  The Deathmasque’s presence now even terrifies supernatural Wild Cards as they instinctively recognize the predator in their midst.  The Deathmasque must now kill a sentient being at least once every 6 hours. 

·         Level 1: It is surprisingly easy to tear the mask from one’s face.  The Deathmasque may now eat and drink as normal, and the addiction to killing changes to Habit (Minor); this nasty habit of killing people still imposes a -1 penalty to Charisma as per the normal version of the Hindrance.  Tearing off the mask leaves horrifying scars, however, so the Deathmasque also now has the Ugly Hindrance (-2 to Charisma) whenever he doesn’t wear his mask so all told the Deathmasque’s Charisma penalty actually increases to -7.  The Terrifying Reputation ability only works when wearing the mask.
·         Level 2: The Deathmasque is now able to make peace with some of his homicidal rage.  The Deathmasque loses the Bloodthirsty Hindrance (including its Charisma penalty), but this dulls his manical strength and he loses one die in Strength as well. 
·         Level 3: The Deathmasque is no longer addicted to killing.  He rids himself of the Habit (Minor) – and its Charisma penalty -- but loses a die of Fighting as his skills are blunted by lack of practice.  Unfortunately, he is still Vengeful (Major) and so may be easily provoked into donning the mask again to terrorize his perceived enemies; he will have to fight this terrifying wrath for the rest of his life.

Hilariously, this means turning into the Phantom of the Opera is actually a best-case scenario for a Deathmasque.

*Thanks to Richard Woolcock for the suggestion!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The King is Dead: I'm Stumped

The recent slowdown in posts was caused by a mix of increased job duties related to the government shutdown, an attack of self-pity caused by my fortieth birthday, and a little bit of old-fashioned writer’s block (which is why I happily turned to the interviews for a bit).  The first two problems are now past, but I’m still struggling with the writer’s block so I’m putting out a call for requests.

Is there anything you would like me to write about The King is Dead? 
·         Mallean or Colonial history?
·         Details about any secret societies?
·         Secrets of the Church of Sathaniel?
·         Customs and society?
·         Magic and the supernatural?

Seriously, I’ll be happy to give anything a go.  My brain needs a jumpstart.

In the meantime, Jack Shear has discovered that Wizards of the Coast already did the whole “tricorn hats and Gothic horror” thing a few years ago.  Damn them!  Thankfully, they don't have any guns.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The King is Dead: What I have learned from actual play

Damn, I've missed writing my own nonsense. 

Robin and I have been running a The King is Dead duet for a few weeks now and I learn more about my game world all the time.  As I have mentioned repeatedly, I usually just improvise settings and stories.  This admittedly makes it difficult for players to strategize and investigate, but I honestly get bored if I plan out too much and Robin doesn’t like strategizing or investigating.  I will, of course, not publish a setting that’s 200 pages of “just wing it” in large font (assuming I ever publish this anyway).

Because I didn’t feel ready to deal with the full complexity of vampire society, I decided we would start in the Colonies, specifically with the New York analogue “New Malleus” and a heavy debt to James Fenimore Cooper by way of Michael Mann.  Here’s what we’ve discovered in play:

·         The colonists of upper New Malleus have a profitable trade relationship with the Six Nations Cruthin.  They also greatly admire the comparative democracy of the Six Nations confederation.
·         The royal government does not like the pernicious influence of the Cruthin, but can do little to stop it short of declaring war.  The presence of poisonous ash wood in Atlantika scares most vampires off of making the voyage to the New World, so the colonial army and the Cruthin are pretty evenly matched.
·         Wild wendigo are the descendants of the Roanoke colony, of course.  It’s not so much that Cruthin are resistant to Sathaniel’s gift, as it is that the lack of education in how to be a vampire and living in a poisonous environment makes the wendigo savage and feral.
·         Adventurous and desperate dunpeals fill the positions of power in the Colonies usually inhabited by vampires.  Dunpeals can’t increase their numbers by biting people on the neck or sexual reproduction, so there’s a very small blood-drinker presence in the colonies (no more than the score or two).
·         Because of this lack of predation, the colonists have subconsciously adopted typical real-world American attitudes about freedom and personal agency even as the vast majority of them unthinkingly continue the faith of their Mallean ancestors.  The arrival of genuine predatory blood-drinkers can be a painful wake-up call.  It’s easy to be a sheep when all you have to worry about is being shorn; it’s much harder to be one when you’re mutton.
·         Many rebels maintain membership in multiple secret societies.  Friends and family members might belong to different societies and have no idea about it.
·         Newhouse lives!  …As yet another Tennant-voiced Casanova knock-off.
·         I am a sucker for puns, anagrams, and just plain dumb jokes.  The fearsome Cruthin vampire hunter Wathia (Hiawatha), smuggler Captain Reynolds of the good ship Firefly, conflicted plantation owner William Clinton Jepperson, Albany being called Albania…
·         Even male dunpeals wear mourning veils when they go out by daylight.
·         Dracula exists as the Prinz von Tepesh, leader of a pseudo-Hessian force of dispossessed mercenaries (thanks, Sleepy Hollow!).  His bloodline is resistant to sunlight but not immune to it.  He’s on his way to the colonies right now, and only a hasty alliance of Yankee traders and pirates can possibly sink his flagship!
·         There is a mysterious masked dunpeal Inspector General.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a handler named Tarkington.
·         Regrettably, the African slave trade still exists in this world.  I wanted to ignore it, but it just doesn’t feel like America without slavery and it just doesn’t make sense that people who follow a religion that legitimizes their place as foodstuff for their social betters wouldn’t embrace slavery as their chance to treat fellow humans as livestock.  People suck and that doesn’t change if you’re oppressed.
·         The Hammer Films-style mélange of English and German names and words is just as fun as I hoped it would be.
·         I have created a setting in which the player characters are forced to be assassins, spies, and thieves because the bad guys are the government; this means that the ideal adventure structure is a caper.  All goes according to plan.  Mwa-ha-hah!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fae Nightmares: The Interview.

Fae Nightmares is an Urban Fantasy setting for Savage Worlds that is currently in development by Brett and Mariah of Dark Smile Games.  In Fae Nightmares, you take on the role of a mortal being drawn into the hidden society of the Fae. 

Enter into a shadow war between two Fae Courts in your own city, as you’re thrown headlong into a world of extremes and contradiction where you have to adapt to a new reality or perish. Play characters who are becoming something less human and more like the beings found in stories—the fae, the monsters, the gods, and everything in between.

As of this writing, the Kickstarter to fund the corebook is halfway to its goal with half a month left to go.  I recently chatted with Brett and Mariah via Skype instant messaging about this new, progressive-minded Savage Setting.

Sean Bircher:                     How would you like to introduce yourselves to my readers?

Dark Smile Games:         Hi, we are the Dark Smile Games team, Mariah and Brett.

We started designing Fae Nightmares when we pitched the idea of the game to our RPG group at the end of a military campaign.  After scouring our local game store and the internet, we couldn't find what we were looking for, so we set off to design it.

Sean Bircher:                     While Urban Fantasy hasn't made the inroads with gaming that it has in novels and TV, what was it that the few existing Urban Fantasy settings lacked that you felt you needed to design?

Dark Smile Games:         We found a lot of the Urban Fantasy settings segregated the Fae out of the world, except for brief periods. We also found they had a tendency of paying much more attention to the horror and misery of some tales, while downplaying the wonder, beauty and joy of others.

The Fae, and these stores, were modern at their time period, and in a lot of ways they’re like James Bond -- each generation reinvents them to suit their needs.  We wanted to capture some of this, and not just present them as medieval throw-backs.

Sean Bircher:                     I can certainly agree with wanting to emphasize the wonder and beauty of the Fae, and I think the best modern versions of the Fae certainly integrate them into the world... in particular, a certain Canadian TV show (wink-wink).

Dark Smile Games:         That’s funny; the actor who plays Tryst has been in several of our other campaigns -- none of the Fae Nightmares ones, though.

Sean Bircher:                     Wow!  Really!?  That's awesome!
The Fae Nightmares setting integrates Celtic, Native American, and tall tale imagery [including the awesomely bizarre whangdoodle] into one setting.  What made you decide to bring in tall tales?

Dark Smile Games:         They’re very distinctly North American, unique, and something you won't see elsewhere. They're also part of the progression to using modern urban myths as well. We discovered this rich history that for most part isn’t explored or really known about.

Sean Bircher:                     You've released a sampler to backers of the Kickstarter that includes some of those modern urban myths, like the Boogey and the EMP (an electrical imp).  I find their inclusion pretty refreshing.  I was never particularly comfortable with Changeling: The Dreaming's hostility between the Fae and the modern world (of course, the whole Old World of Darkness was like that).

The details on the courts of the Fae, though, so far seem to concentrate on the Celtic Fae.  Are the Native American Fae and Celtic Fae integrated, or do the former not participate in the Courts of Roses and Blades?

Dark Smile Games:         They are integrated.  Part of the difficulty here is that the different Native American tribes had very different cultures, much more so than the historic Celts.  In addition, both the Blade and Rose courts are actually not indigenous to the location. This is covered in the (short) history section. They are integrated, but it is a bit more subtle due to the difficulties with cultural commonalities.  They [the Native American Fae] are featured more so in the courts described as pushed out of Arden, [but] the King of the Rose Court is actually a Native American Fae.

The plot point also pays homage to some local Native American tales. (Look up Maid of Mists; it’s the Anglicized name of the story, but that one is in the main plot point.)

Sean Bircher:                     I really like that. 
…[W]hat I found both brave and inspiring about your blurb on the Kickstarter homepage, [is] that the setting is gender-neutral and LBGT-friendly.  I'm not saying that I've ever seen any discrimination in the Savage Worlds community itself, but a surprising number of gamers can be pretty conservative.  What made you decide gender-neutrality was a selling point of Fae Nightmares?

Dark Smile Games:         We're both people who have been extremely uncomfortable with the way women are presented in a lot of RPG art and stories.  We did set out to make sure that both genders were represented equally. The Queer component, however, was actually unintentional, and likely just a byproduct of who we are -- and who our game groups are -- that has become ingrained in the setting.  It’s something we noticed cropping up in play—it makes sense for the Changelings [Fae constructs left to replace mortals who have joined the Fae, and one of the four possible player character origins] who can change apparent gender at will, but there was significant bleed-over of this affecting the way other PCs interacted with characters and the world.

We've been very fortunate to have a wide range of people from different backgrounds in our game groups and playtesters, and this has really shone through in the world.

We were unsure about actually promoting the queer & LGBT inclusiveness of the setting, but we had so many people -- game designers, players, etc. --  ask us to and that really emphasized how important it was, because it’s so uncommon.

Sean Bircher:                     I'm really, really impressed.  90% of my gaming is duets with my wife, and the idea that I'm not going to have to rewrite a setting to create a world she wants to explore is so great.  Especially since that setting is going to contain TWO plot point campaigns!  Why are you including two campaigns in the setting?  One is hard enough to write!

Dark Smile Games:         They explore different aspects of the setting, and different styles of gameplay. The first campaign leans more into the intrigue, while the second is much more hack and slash (though both contain elements of the other). They're also a great way to introduce players to different parts of the setting.

Sean Bircher:                     I like that there's enough of a setting that it rewards that kind of exploration.  As good as Pinnacle's classic plot points like 50 Fathoms and Rippers are, once you've finished the campaign there isn't much left to do with the setting.  I assume Fae Nightmares is meant to be more of an open-ended game world?

Dark Smile Games:         Because it’s got the social and intrigue in with the hack and slash, it tends to be easier to extend games beyond the plot points. We wanted players to be able to explore the world in way similar to what we have. The world is open ended, though finishing the first plot point does tie up certain threads, leaving us free to open up new ones in another book!

Sean Bircher:                     Always a good way of expanding the line. 
…What that I haven't asked would you like the readers to know about Fae Nightmares?

Dark Smile Games:         The setting is heavily researched.

This is a different take on Fae lore than a lot of the other Urban Fantasy settings. We've had people ask us how does this differ from Changeling, from Dresden, and Marchland, and the best answer is that it does differ substantially, but to catalog the differences would take most of a book.  ;)

The biggest ones are that the Fae aren't segregated in their own worlds, you're a part of the Fae court; the courts are not cyclical seasonal courts, but rather completely discrete organizations--some of which are more modern than others. The Parliament of Filth views itself as being very progressive: unionized, with proper healthcare and dental befits (provided your dues are paid in a timely fashion)

The Fae are also not universally erratic, whimsical, selfish, and/or sadistic--those individuals exist, but the Fae have individual personalities as well. As one player put it, their character can understand their logic, even though they may disagree with it, and the timespan they're working on is different.

Sean Bircher:                     Very interesting.  I really like that the Fae aren't inscrutable, just kind of obtuse.  Before I forget to ask my signature question, what should one drink while playing Fae Nightmares?

Dark Smile Games:         That should depend on your court. Parliament of Filth: a rusty nail; the Blades: a full-bodied stout; and the Roses: a half glass of ice wine in a Waterford crystal goblet with live music in the background. (The first book assumes you`ll be playing a Rose--the ones after that will be expanding on the other courts to make them playable)

Sean Bircher:                     I think the Roses might be my favorite already.  [In fact, the night after this interview was completed, I had a glass of Canadian-made Cryomalus ice cider at Max’s Wine Dive.  Magnificent stuff!]

We know from the Kickstarter and the preview that Fae Nightmares is set in the fictional Arden City.  Is it meant to be a fictional Canadian city, or generically North American?
Dark Smile Games:         We`ve done our best to make Arden generically North American, but with its own personality. This way the GM can make their call as to where they would like it to be. There is a strong influence from Toronto, as that’s where we`re from, but also from Chicago through one of our playtesters.

Sean Bircher:                     Good to hear.  One of the blogs I follow is Mightygodking dot com out of Toronto, so I feel like I've got a bit more insight into life in Toronto and Canadian politics than many Americans, but I think a more generic setting works best.

Speaking of "generic," why Savage Worlds?  As much as it's my favorite game and I use for more social and investigative games, there's no denying it’s built on a miniatures skirmishing system.  What makes it work for you?

Dark Smile Games:         Savage Worlds is a high success system, and that works very well for this setting. The concreteness of its rules also works well for our play style. And maybe part of why we like it because we`re both wargamers as well -- it seems very intuitive to us. But the high success level of the system was the biggest factor.

Sean Bircher:                     I've never thought about it that way, but the high success factor is probably one of the reasons I find it works, too.  Are you adding any new subsystems to the game, or do you find the minimal social conflict rules work well enough to resolve disputes without getting in the way of role-playing?

Dark Smile Games:         Introducing mechanics for social play is always tricky--we want to instinctively just play it out, because it’s "just talking", something we`re already doing. With that in mind we tried to keep additions to system minimal and unobtrusive.  We did add a new social skill, Trickery, and a new modifier to social interactions, based on status within the court.

Sean Bircher:                     Glad to hear it.  Too much in the way of systems and it breaks the immersion.  Can you share what Trickery does?

Dark Smile Games:         Trickery is the art of manipulating information, to make it say what you want, without resorting to lying. Social subterfuge at its best.

There are so many stories of the Fae being unable to lie, and many of the cultures we reference have taboos around lying, that we felt it was important to include this in the setting.  Lying is actually a capital offense to the Courts currently in the setting.

Sean Bircher:                     Good to keep in mind.  My stock trickster NPCs will have to be even trickier than usual.

Dark Smile Games:         We've had a player use it to seed a crowd with discontent about a blood pit match, another to trick particularly unintelligent minions away, and of course, to cover up their tracks socially.

It’s a part of the lore!

Sean Bircher:                     I like the attention to the original lore, but I know how tricky it can be.  I tried writing my own Urban Fantasy Fae setting a few months ago for FATE Accelerated, and differentiating the various similar yet distinct types of Fae (side and alfar, trolls and ogres) was pretty demanding.  What's been the most challenging part of choosing what lore to use so far?

Dark Smile Games:         There's so much great material, paring it down is painful. This is why we only went with the limited scope; we've already had to remove a lot. Part of this actually shows up in the bestiary, with the "categories" and "similar to" sections we added--not all of those Fae listed as similar will be in the bestiary.

To some extent paring down the lore its easier than we thought… as long as we remember to look at it through both the lens of how useful is it for a game -- what function would it serve, is it flexible enough that people can add their own spin on it --  and the second lens of how updatable is it -- would people understand it without a lot of explaining, or is it too heavily archaic?

Sean Bircher:                     That makes sense. 
Fae Nightmares comes from your own actual-play experience.  What have been the greatest moments of the original campaign?

Dark Smile Games:         …From the first campaign, there was turning the car into an owl, with the PCs still in it. One of the characters was accused of treason in front of the Queen of the Court, and successfully defended himself, while the other players prevented a double assassination attempt without anyone being the wiser.

One of the highlights of the current campaign was when a changeling courtier ended up in a blood pit match and was the sole survivor among twelve combatants, who successfully killed the giant venom spitting frog with a butter knife another player had enchanted.

The most powerful moment for Brett was when one PC (Kes) was caught by their pack in a relationship with a member from the enemy court (in a time of war-this is a capital crime). The one character (Rocky) said that she wouldn’t have to worry about others finding out, because if she betrayed them, he would deal with it personally.  Both the gravity of the situation, and the compassion with which it was done were perfect for the world.

Sean Bircher:                     Sounds pretty awesome.  I really look forward to playing in this world!  Good luck with the Kickstarter!

Dark Smile Games:         Thank you.  Cheers!

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...