Friday, February 28, 2014

How to make a Super Robot with Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion 2nd Edition

(I just need to get this out of my head)

How to make a Super-Robot with Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion 2nd Edition

There are two kinds of mecha in this world: “real robots” like the walking tanks of Battletech and Dai-Guard and crazy-ass “super robots” like in Voltron  and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.  The former are characterized by adherence to something resembling real-world physics (having limited space for weapons, mechanical breakdowns, running out of ammo) and could easily be reproduced with the “walker” rules (and a little bit from the other vehicle types) in the new Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion.  The latter is a 100’ superhero that you drive.

Here’s how to build one:

Gimmick (Two Characters): The vast majority of super robots are not intelligent and must be piloted by a human (or humanoid, depending on the setting).  If you’d like to run something more along the lines of Power Rangers, I’d allow splitting the Power Points for building the characters between the human and the robot. 

Dynamic Duo: This might be allowed by the GM as a way of allowing the pilot’s battle prowess to aid the mecha. 

Close Combat Weapons: Chain/Vibro Blade, anyone?

Generic Modifiers: Requires Activation (“Form Blazing Sword!”), Slow to Activate, and Switchable are all common modifiers for super robot powers. 
Armor:  As much as you want, but obviously using the Heavy Armor modifier (+4 cost).
Attack, Melee: Heavy Weapon modifier is required (+1 cost).
Attack, Ranged: Heavy Weapon modifier is required (+1 cost).
Awareness: Can simulate scanners and detection systems.
Construct: Required.
Danger Sense: Same as Awareness.
Growth:  +11 points for Gargantuan (at least) and Monster (-2) are required; Big Fists and Long Stride are optional.
Speed: Is it Gundam Wing I’m thing of?  Some of the Gundams have definitely had this.
Super Attribute:  Well, you want a d12+ Strength and Vigor, right?  Not Today is a perfect modifier for bad-ass giant robots.
Toughness: You probably want Hardy, too.


Basic Jaeger (60 point Heavy Hitter)
Armor (x 10, Heavy Armor +4, Partial Protection -1) = 13 points
Attack, Melee (x 5, Heavy Weapon +1, Stackable +2) = 13 points
Construct = 8 points
Growth (+16, Long Stride +2, Monster -2) = 16 points
Super Attribute (Strength + 2 steps, Vigor +3 steps) = 10 points

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d12+16, Vigor d10.
Skills: Fighting d12, Notice d10.
Charisma: -1  Pace: 24  Parry:Toughness: 33 (23)
Hindrances: Gimmick (Two Characters)
Edges: Improvisational Fighter
Special Abilities
Attack, Melee: d12 + 5d6 + 16

(Of course, Jaegers have two pilots, so you can always combine the second pilot’s power points to add a chain sword, atomic punch, etc…)

By the way, there's also a kaiju detailed in the SWSPC2.  You could probably use these guidelines to make one of those, too.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

(NSFW) D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge: Why I Didn't Participate inthe D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

The pall of failure and shame overshadows my memories of Dungeons & Dragons.  What joy I felt playing the game with my high school buddies is dimmed by embarrassment over my juvenile behavior and a painful falling out with my family that occurred last year.  While I will always be thankful to the system for introducing me to pen and paper roleplaying games – and while I will always love the Forgotten Realms – I cannot look back on D&D itself with much love.

(More self-pity and naked she-monsters after the cut)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mystery Project Unveiled -- Steamscapes: Asia!

I have been hired to write a thing!

Eric Simon of Four-in-Hand Games has generously hired me to contribute the chapter on Japan for the upcoming Steamscapes: Asia!  Expanding on the realistic alternate history begun in Steamscapes: North America, this supplement will provide details on China, India, Japan, and other nations of Asia in a world where steam power and the difference engine have ushered in an age of adventure and exploration.

Expect more details of the book and the accompanying Kickstarter campaign in the coming months.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The King is Dead: Names in Malleus

Names in The King is Dead

"My name is Gretel!"  "Und my name is HAN-sel!"  "HAN-sel? HAN-Sel?!..."


Given Names

The most common male name for commoners in Malleus is Johannes or some abbreviation or diminution of the name.  Johannes the Mad was a false prophet of ancient Tsion who preached against King Hordos and Princess Salome.  When Salome was given the Gift of Sathaniel (which, as is taught by all right-minded preachers, was in order to bring the Gift to her step-father), she demanded Mad Johannes as her first feast.  Because of the high honor bestowed upon the deluded human, his name was bestowed upon innumerable human servants early in the reign of Emperor Etzel and has become commonplace since then.  While John and Jack have recently become more fashionable amongst city dwellers, Johann remains the most popular variation amongst the middle class.  Jan, Hans, and the diminutive Hansel are popular in the countryside while Ian and Sean are popular variations in Clavus and Lochland.  No man of aristocratic lineage is ever named Johannes.

Other male commoner names include: Almaric (Al), Anton, Baldric, Berthold (Bert, Bertie), Bull (Bullock), Carl (Charles, Karl), Claude, Dietrich, Ferdy, Franz, Fritz, Giles, Heinrich (Henry), Igor, Otto, Ox, Ralph (Rafe, Ralf), Ram (Ramhold, Ramwin), Rickard, Roger, Walter (Walther), and Wilhelm (Gill, Gilliam, Will, William).

When Eve, wife of the first man and mother to all, ate the Fruit of Knowledge at Sathaniel’s behest, she was the first human to see through the illusion of Innocence and perceive the harsh truth of the world.  Though the jealous demons of the Unseen Creator banished her from the Valley of Plenty and doomed mankind to eternal toil, this Divine Betrayal was necessary in order for Sathaniel to later raise up the rulers of the world in his image.  Eve and its variations Eva and Evita are naturally the most popular names for female commoners. 

Other female commoner names include: Amanda, Anna, Carla (Carlotta), Elizabeth (Beth, Betty, Ella), Frieda (Freda), Gerta, Gertrude, Gretel, Gretchen (Gretchin), Hazel, Helen (Elen), Inga, Ingrid, Isobel, Janet, Katja (Katya), Kirsten, Laura, Mathilde (Matilda), Pippa, Tanja (Tania), Valerie, Wanda (Vanda), Yutte, Zena, and Ziza.


Commoner surnames alternate between modern and archaic spellings, place names and descriptors.  There is a burgeoning trend among the educated (and rebellious) middle class to choose simplified spellings and pronunciations that separate their names from those of the nobility.

Common surnames include (among many others): Addams, Archard, Barton, Bates, Becker, Bergman, Bernstein, Brandt, Conrad, Cushing, Ebhardt, Fehring, Finch, Framsen, Frisch, Gates, Gaunt, Grost, Hardtmuth, Hargood, Heidecke, Heiss, Helder, Hertz, Hoffer, Immelmann, Jefford, Kassner, Keen (Keene), Kerro, Kleve (Klove), Lang, Lee (Leigh), Lindholm, Malleson, Merritt, Morton, Mueller, Pitt, Renton, Richter, Ripper, Ruddy, Sandor, Sangster, Secker, Seward, Sorell, Tobler, Weil, Warbeck, Wilmer, and Woodbridge.  

Yes, I've been browsing Hammer movies on IMDB.  Why do you ask?


The names of the vampire nobility are deliberately archaic.  The vampires have held onto their ancient names with as much tenacity as they have held onto power in Malleus.  The few foreign names they have adopted are largely those of vampire heroes, like the Dacian rebels Prinz Vlad Zepesh and Grafin Erzebet Batory, who have either become famous worldwide or have sought sanctuary in Malleus.  
While it is common to name children after the King and the Blood Princes among mortals, it is considered gauche amongst the nobility.

Aristocratic names are more complicated than commoners’.  The given name is followed by the nobiliary particle zu and the family branch name then von and the bloodline.  When a noble (usually male) is given the Gift of Sathaniel, he (or, rarely, she) then adopts a baptismal name that follows the given name; this is usually the name of a saint or angel. 

Example: Ranulf, dampyre heir of the Hartog branch of the von Rickard bloodline, is known as Ranulf zu Hartog von Rickard while his heart still beats.  When he is made a vampire, he adopts a baptismal name and becomes Count Ranulf Barbatos zu Hartog von Rickard.

Given Names 

Male aristocratic given names include:  Adalwolf, Alaric, Alberic, Arnulf, Cain (Caine, Kain), Clovis, Conrad, Edward, Ernst, Ferdinand, Frederic (Frederick, Friedrich), Gervas, Gustav, Hagen, Hermann, Horst, Joachim, Kuno, Lambert, Lothar, Ludwig, Magnus, Manfred, Maximillian, Odovacar, Radulf (Ranulf), Sigmund, Varney, Victor, Vlad (Vladimir), Ulrich, Werner, Wolf, and Wolfgang.

Female aristocratic given names include:  Auda, Avila, Brunhild (Brunhilda), Carmilla (Marcilla, Mircalla), Clarimonde, Delilah, Eloise, Emma, Elvira, Erzebet (Alzebet), Henrietta, Ilona, Integra, Margery, Martita, Mathilde (Matilda), Millicent, Ricarda (Richenda, Richenza, Richilda, Riki), Rosamund (Rosa, Rosalind), Ruperta (Ruberta), Victoria, Wilhelmina (Mina), Zorin (Zorina).

Baptismal Names 

Male aristocratic baptismal names include: Alastor, Asmodai (Asmodeus, Astaroth), Azazel, Baal (Bael), Balam, Baphomet, Barbatos, Beelzebub, Belphegor, Dantalion, Eligos, Etzel, Focalor, Gremory (Gomory), Hordos (Hordo, Ordo),  Kerioth, Lucifer, Malphas, Mammon, Mephistopheles, Moloch, Nero, Orcus, Samael, Satan, Ukobach, Valefar, Xaphan, Ziminiar.

Female aristocratic baptismal names include: Ardatha, Lamia (Lamika), Lilim, Lilith.


Aristocratic surnames include (among dozens of others): zu Barchinska, zu Bek, zu Borgoff, zu Durward, zu Elbourne, zu Emmerich, zu Gellhorn, zu Gorey, zu Hartog, zu Herritzen, zu Karnstein, zu Meinster, zu Mitterhaus, zu Spielsdorf, and zu Stenzgard.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The King is Dead: Plotting

I've been roughing out the shape and scope of the TKID book, and I find myself in a quandary.  I am, on the whole, an improvisational and (more or less) DIY GM.  I've run the Rippers plot-point campaign, but I can't think of any other canned plots I've actually used.   I've used the Forgotten Realms as a setting in which to improvise plots on numerous occasions, but I'm hardly the kind of obsessive FR fan that knows the different coins of Waterdeep and Cormyr.

In other words, I'm not the kind of GM who needs or uses hyper-detailed adventure paths or settings, so why would I write one?

Hmm...  A part of me would feel guilty if I didn't include a plot-point campaign, because that's the Savage Worlds trademark, but it's a small part.  Obviously, the whole goal of The King is Dead is to break the setting, but why should I dictate the path others want to take to get there?  No, my book is going to be low on metaplot and high on campaign seeds.

I think I'll look toward Pirates of the Spanish Main as my model: character creation, setting notes, a gazetteer that provides plenty of seeds but dictates very little, and a thorough bestiary with plenty of nonplayer character archetypes.  Perhaps I'll throw in a fleshed-out example NPC for every few archetypes.  I think a few more-detailed adventure locations (a rural shire, Hammerstadt) would be good.

Yeah, that should strike a good balance.

P.S. Expect an announcement about the secret mystery project on Monday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I like Sakura Taisen, the story about musical actresses saving a steampunk Japan from demons.

I like Rurouni Kenshin, the story of a killer from the Meiji Restoration trying to atone for his deeds.

I like Lady Snowblood, the story of a vengeful assassin at odds with the Meiji drive for westernization.

Heck, I even like The Last Samurai, the Tom Cruise movie about how a magic white man fails to save the samurai.

Hmm... What could I possibly do with this interest in 19th century Japan?

Friday, February 14, 2014


I gave up gaming during the latter part of my admittedly extended college undergraduate career.  Most of my high school friends had moved away or we’d fallen out, and I felt like the little gaming I still did was stealing away time and creativity from “proper” writing.  I shelved my game books and concentrated on writing articles for my club’s journal and starting short stories and novels I never finished.

A couple of years out of college, my wife was accepted into a graduate program and we moved away from our hometown so she could attend it.  Robin and I are perhaps too much alike, and one of the weaknesses we share is an occasionally crippling shyness.  Friendless in a little college town with little to do, my wife asked me to run an RPG with her as the only player.

It was daunting, because I’d never run anything so intimate; it just seemed so weird, almost transgressive.  It was frightening, because I knew – I just knew – that if I began walking down the RPG road again I would never get back to my abandoned prose and half-baked comic book scripts.  But Robin needed that escape from the daily grind and so did I.

I was right.  My creativity became dedicated solely to our duet games for the next decade and change.

I was wrong.  Duet gaming turned out to be more natural, more fun than I could have imagined. 

I began this blog with the thought of sharing what I’d learned from all of this duet gaming, but I abandoned that pretty early on.  The simple fact of the matter is that the way Robin and I game together is way too intimate, way too personal for me to be able to extract any generalized advice that I can share with the world.  Gaming together is an integral part of our marriage.

It isn’t perfect, of course.  I get bored of settings much quicker than her.  I like action scenes and rolling dice more than her.  I don’t like getting as raw with the emotions as her.  Sometimes I wish I could be the player.

At the same time, doing this with Robin has given me the chance to create dozens of worlds and stories that I never would have experienced without her.  We’ve tried more rules systems than I would have ever looked at on my own.  We’ve both shed real tears over games of make-believe.  We’ve been fulfilled in ways we’d have never known if we had never started gaming together.

And, of course, it led to this blog… which led to Robin’s blog… which led to making a bunch of friends in the Texas wine industry… which led to me joining the Google+ gaming community… which led to me getting the confidence to really try to publish my work. 

I owe all that to Robin asking me to game with her. 

Thank you, my love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The King is Dead: Thank you, Hellsing.

I started my day by working on fixing formatting for The King is Dead’s dedicated page, then I switched to turning the Word document I was using to compile the text into a PDF, and then I realized I was wasting my time because there’s a lot I want to change in what I’ve written for The King is Dead so far and there really isn’t any point in taking the old stuff and making it pretty, dammit.

Oh well…

I am dropping the Balefire Club from the roster of secret societies.  In play, the Balefire Club is kinda redundant; they don’t really add anything that other societies don’t do better.  If I really want good-guy occultists, then I should just play up that part of the Illuminated and interpolate some of the conspiracy theorist version of the Freemasons.  They’re also more than a little problematic.  The real-life Hellfire Club – unlike the basis for most of the other societies – was neither progressive nor oppressed; they were, bluntly, rich jackasses of the sort the setting is meant to skewer.  I’m not going to delete them from the website, but don’t expect to see them in the book (except possibly as bad guys).

I’m also going to heavily retool the vampires.  The stat blocks for all those powers and weaknesses are just too long for the fast and furious action of Savage Worlds, and giving even low-level vampires all of those abilities makes it really, really hard for normal humans to stand any chance against them.

Hellsing has to be one of my favorite works of vampire fiction in any medium.  There’s just something so uniquely and utterly bonkers about sending a truly monstrous and terrifying Dracula up against an undead army of Neo-Nazis that I just can’t help but laugh with evil glee.  The vampires in it have such bizarre, freaky abilities.  I’d like the vampires of The King is Dead to have some of that unpredictable fluidity and weirdness to their powers, but that makes them way too difficult for the system to handle.

Except, I’m not seeing the forest for the 1,000 year old oaks.  Alucard, Seras Victoria, Schrodinger, and the other Wild Cards (in Savage Worlds terms) have weird-ass crazy powers, but all of those vampire Nazi soldiers only have super-strength, speed, and big teeth.  The vast majority of the Mallean nobility don’t have to have gonzo superpowers, only the elite of the elite.  King Wilhelm might be a protean, nigh-Lovecraftian horror, but the dude who makes life hard for your novice player characters just needs to be better than human.

Don’t you hate it when you realize you’ve been wasting your time?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The King is Dead: Taking it seriously

So…  There are actually people in this world who want me to publish The King is Dead so that they can pay me to own it. 

Who the hell am I to argue with that?

I can admit up front that this is going to be a challenge.  I’ve had a few other projects on this blog fall through because I’ve taken them seriously, because I’ve gotten too caught up in historicity and minutia.  The reason I took a hiatus to write those wacky setting sketches and the Accursed Fan Five was because I was taking The King is Dead too seriously.  (I somehow forgot that Spirit is associated with Persuasion and not Smarts and the stats were all wrong for the aristocrat politicians which bummed me out tremendously and then the stat blocks for the vampires were just ridiculously huge and I got bummed out even more.)  Thankfully, the break has made me reevaluate a few aspects of the setting and helped me center myself again.

I can take The King is Dead seriously by remembering to not take it seriously.

There’s a reason I decided this setting would incorporate all of the Arcane Backgrounds in Savage Worlds Deluxe.  There’s a reason for all of the stupid punning names like “Malleus.”  There’s a reason I cite Giacomo bloody Casanova as the prototypical player character.

This is a fun setting of Hollywood history.  It’s about justified outlaws and honest con men.  It’s about slipping in references to Hammer films and anime.  It’s about doing good by being bad.

There isn’t anything more fun than that.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

State of the Blog – 2/5/2013

I don’t like writing these kind of behind-the-scenes posts, but sometimes they demand to be done.  The Accursed fan-five project was a bit draining; I’ve figured out I have a cycle of four weeks on and one week off for my creativity, and I pushed through that last month to my detriment.  I need to take a breath and figure out what to do next.

I want to start publishing for profit this year.  I’m just plain not good enough at my job that I’m going to get promoted or get a serious raise anytime soon, and I’m way too cautious to quit and go looking for something else in this economy (plus my job has great benefits and I really wouldn’t mind retiring from that place), so it would be nice to very slightly improve my income stream by other means.  I don’t really feel comfortable having a “contribute” button on this blog (though successful professional writer Mark Evanier has one), so I’d rather publish work for sale on DriveThruRPG.  I’m not going to be an ass and just republish blog posts and expect to get paid for them, though; anything I publish will be at least half new and expanded content.  Frankly, I’m good enough at this that I think making some money off of it isn’t unreasonable.

Tommy Brownell’s incredibly generous recent post seems to have generated some interest in The King is Dead.  I’d always considered turning that into a fully-developed commercial setting, but I think I need to start smaller.  To do justice to The King is Dead, I’d want to do a proper, fully-illustrated book (preferably with a plot-point campaign).  I’m just not ready to jump into that yet.

Honestly, The King is Dead has gotten a little away from me right now.   The vampire bloodlines are too complicated for Savage Worlds, and the logistics of the whole thing just seem too big.  Does that make sense?  It just seems like too many vampires.  I don’t know what is, but something’s just off; that’s why I have to let it gestate a bit more.

A nice subject for a mini-setting/sourcebook might be the Heian Period.  I could easily illustrate it with public domain art and I think I could adequately cover the necessary details in about 50 pages or so.  Heian Japan is admittedly a bit obscure, but there seemed to be some interest in it when I did the Mappō Monogatari post a few months back.   

I could just yank a bunch of Kikuchi Yōsai art from Wikimedia Commons.  He was awesome even by modern standards.
Another nice mini-sourcebook would be a “Bandits of Old California” setting inspired by the public domain story The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley.  I’d be worried about finding any art, though.  I wonder if I could do that as a “requires the Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion” book?  Hmm…

Of course, if Mystical Throne Entertainment, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Savage Mojo, or somebody else with a budget would like to pay me to do a robots vs. giant monsters setting for Savage Worlds, I’d be happy to do that as work-for-hire.  I could probably knock the whole thing out just in time for the release of Godzilla in May. 

I am not kidding.

Seriously.  Call me.

On an unrelated note, I thought of the perfect, goofy-ass character names for a pair of swashbuckling adventurer lovers: Calico Kat and Ginger Tom.  The brain immediately started pondering creating an open-ended swashbuckling fantasy setting (like an 18th century Forgotten Realms), and then I realized that my list of setting features almost exactly duplicated 7th Sea.  Damn, I wish I hadn't been on hiatus from RPGs when 7th Sea was active.

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...