Thursday, January 29, 2015

Kaiju Super Fun Time Go! character

It's been an interesting and insightful experience guesting on Savage Worlds GM Hangout (On Air!). I'm really impressed with the way Jerrod Gunning stuck to his guns (pun intended) and managed to come up with a way to do combining mecha and keep it interesting. I really didn't think it was possible.

The most recent episode was character creation time for the short (2 episode) demo campaign of Jerrod's Gatchaman/Super Sentai-influenced Kaiju Super Fun Time Go! setting. Part of the premise to the setting is the unabashed releiance on such henshin tropes as the Five-Man Band. Honest to goodness, I was going to volunteer to play the Chick, because I play female characters all the time as a GM and I have no qualms about it. Surprisingly, the gang suggested I play the Leader instead.

So I came up with this guy...

As played by Johnny Yong Bosch
Ryoma Connaught
Seasoned Human Wild Card
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6.
Skills: Blast d8, Fighting d8, Intimidation d6, Knowledge (Battle) d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Piloting d8, Shooting d6, Streetwise d4.
Charisma: +2; Pace: 6; Parry: 6; Toughness: 6.
Hindrances: Code of Honor, Loyal, Vengeful (Minor), Heroic (Heroic Heroism Setting Rule), Obligations (KMDF; Setting Rule).
Edges: Attractive, Command, Connections, Martial Artist, Assault Branch (bonus), Leader (bonus), Sidekick (Heroic Heroism).
Special Abilities
  • Power Points: 20
  • Powers: blast (ghostly images of Ryoma’s samurai and Celtic warrior ancestors rage forth in a powerful ki-energy torrent)
Half Japanese-American and half Irish-American, Ryoma Connaught hides a fierce warrior spirit behind a square-jawed, clean-cut façade. He accepted his role as leader of the KMDF strike force in order to seek vengeance against the hidden forces that unleashed kaiju on the Earth, but he has matured into a capable commander who puts his team and his mission first.

Mecha Wild Card Ally
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d8.
Skills: Fighting d12, Notice d10, Shooting d10.
Pace: 10; Parry: 6; Toughness: 10 (4).
Hindrances: Dependency, Environmental Weakness (Electricity).
Edges: Attractive, Command, Connections, Martial Artist, Assault Branch (bonus), Leader (bonus), Sidekick (Heroic Heroism).
Gear: Mecha-sized katana (Str+d6+2; AP 2)
Special Abilities
  • Armor +4
  • Construct
  • Fearless
  • Hardy
  • Sensors

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Cat's Enemy Saved His Life


My cat has an enemy who is also a cat. We call her Mina (she has a scar on her forehead like Mina Harker and is also kind of mean).

Mina is a stray that’s been hanging around our house ever since we moved in three years ago. I suspect that she was a pet of the former owners because she’s pretty friendly with people; she just hates my cat. She shows up at our windows and outside the back porch and howls menacingly at him. This is weird because my cat, Tiger, is a neutered male and an indoor cat, so he’s no threat to her territory or her kittens (though I guess her territoriality is explained if she used to live in our house).

Tiger is not necessarily happy with being an indoor cat, even though that’s what he’s been since he invited himself into our lives seven years ago. He showed up on the stoop of our apartment as a six-month old kitten and walked right in the front door. We tried to resist adopting him for about a week (we had an ill, elderly cat at the time and we didn’t want to pester her with a kitten) but once we gave up and accepted him into our household, he was incredibly happy to be safe and out of the elements. After we moved to this house, though, Tiger began to develop an increasing interest in returning to the outdoors.

This is not going to happen. I live in Texas, land of pick-up driving rednecks with little concern for the lives of animals. I also live on the verge of the Hill Country and have seen live coyotes only a few miles from my home. My cat has no survival instincts and no common sense; he might think he’s Aragorn son of Arathorn, but I know he’s really the cat equivalent of Bilbo Baggins.  

No, screw that. He’s about as well-suited for survival in the Great Outdoors as Lotho Sackville-Baggins. You know, the hobbit Grima Wormtongue ate.

This was proved to me earlier this week when Tiger got out and got lost. We have an enclosed patio where – as a concession to his would-be adventuresomeness – we let him play “outside,” stalking birds and squirrels and howling his awesomeness to the world. I let him out on Monday morning and when I went to bring him in before going to work, he was gone.

Since I didn’t hear the warning sounds of a cat fight, I assume he took off after an out-of-season squirrel. In any case, the windowscreening that encloses the porch was ripped open in one corner and he was nowhere to be seen.

(This is probably where I should explain that Robin and I are childless and therefore treat the cats as the children we cannot have. While I personally cannot imagine treating a pet as anything les than family, I realize there are some people who cannot quite comprehend the idea of an animal being cherished as much as a human child. Please understand in advance that any comments to that effect will be ruthlessly deleted and I will then block you on Google+. Thank you.)

The ensuing panic led to us walking around the block for hours, calling Tiger's name, asking anybody we saw if they'd seen our cat, and peeping in neighbors' backyards like... Um... Peeping toms, I guess. It was frightening and heartbreaking and I kept steeling myself to face teh idea that I would never see the cat i call my son ever again.

And then Robin heard a howl -- the same howl we hear when Mina comes by to hassle Tiger.

We ran back and forth between our house and the next several houses down for the better part of another hour, straining to hear some sign of the cats. I finally ducked into our backyard again and saw Mina dashing away -- and realized my dumbass cat was next door the whole time. One 41-year old, out-of-shape fatass climbing over fences later, and we discovered Tiger huddled in the neighbor's gazebo, too afraid to move.

He spent the rest of the day clinging to us, but -- like a goldfish -- he completely forgot his fear the next morning and started howling to be let out. Unfortunately for him, I tore off part of the screen to give him an entry hole in case he returned to the house before we found him, and now the back porch isn't safe. Tiger's grand adventure ended with him grounded for life...

And with a bowl of food and a beat-up pillow on the back porch for Mina. We can't bring her into the household, but we owe her something for saving Tiger's life.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Time Is It?

I love the Forgotten Realms game setting.

I do not love Forgotten Realms fiction.

I am not unique in this. NewbieDM did some posts a few months back about playing the AD&D 2nd Edition era Forgotten Realms with the D&D 5th edition rules, and I now find myself in a similar situation. As previously mentioned, I’m starting my own 5e Forgotten Realms campaign, and now I have to figure out when in the Realms’ history that game is set.

Well, I say “I,” but the whole situation is complicated by the fact that I’ve agreed to co-run this game with one of my players. We’re supposed to alternate campaign arcs (at least, I assume that’s the idea; I doubt either of us was considering alternating game sessions). He’s a much bigger fan of the fiction than I am.

Off the bat, I can say that neither of us is interested in running the “current” Forgotten Realms. Neither of us liked the Spellplague or any of the dumb plot twists that occurred since then (though I have recently discovered that Alustriel – my favorite Realms super-NPC – actually survived the plague). The assumption has been from the beginning that the campaign would be set in the late 1300s DR, somewhere in the time covered by the setting’s introduction in AD&D 1st edition through the 3.5 era. To that end, I’ve been reading through the various setting books I own.

After reviewing those modules, I have to admit that I would prefer to rewind all the way back to FR5: The Savage Frontier. It seems to me that all of the metaplot developments since that book was published have closed off adventure possibilities rather than opening them up. As early as the 2nd Edition boxed set The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier, Hellgate Keep has been quelled and the independent city-states of the North have all banded together. By the time you get to the later Drizzt novels, there’s a truce with the orcs and a bunch of new settlements that really crowd up the map. I’m not somebody who complains about all the high-level NPCs in the Realms, but it does sometimes feel like the novelists and designers are trying to take away the players’ ability to matter.

Even if we rewound, though, it’s going to be a bit of a Frankenstein continuity. Two of the PCs are drow who were explicitly inspired to come to the Savage Frontier/Silver Marches by Drizzt. Another is a dragonborn (who weren’t introduced to the Realms until 4e) and an important NPC that I introduced is a tiefling (introduced in 2e but really developed in 3e).

Maybe a Frankenstein continuity is the solution. My co-DM can run the setting his way and I’ll run it my way. If the party goes out and kills some orcs for fun and profit when I’m running the game, he can ret-con it later as those orcs were renegades disobeying Obould’s truce. If Hellgate Keep is active when I run it and he doesn’t want to deal with it, then perhaps some NPC adventurers cleared it out – and then I can just have the demons move back in. It might actually help give the setting a sense of reality as politics and boundaries shift between arcs.

In any case, I just know that orcs are a great early-level threat and I’m not taking them off the table, no matter what year it is. "Adventure time," to me, means punching orcs in the face.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Just in case anybody wants to watch my fuzzy face

In case you didn't catch the first part of the kaiju setting-building session on Savage Worlds GM Hangout (On Air!), here's the video:

I'm still stumped on ideas for how to do combiners. Hopefully I'll have something more to add this week.

And if, instead, you'd like me to turn bright red, here's a wine tasting video I was in:

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Quest Board at the Bright Blade Brandished

I'm starting a new 5e campaign tonight (in my defense, Shane Hensley himself said at Chupacabracon that it was important that gamers play different game systems as well as Savage Worlds). Since I'd like to make it a very player-centric open world, I realized I needed to create multiple plot hooks for the PCs to choose from.
So I ripped off the request board from the manga/anime Fairy Tail and put it in the Bright Blade Brandished...

On the Quest Board
  • 1 Gold Piece per Orc Ear (And All the Treasure You Find!). Inquire with the Knights in Silver.
  • Help Wanted. Alchemical shipment missing, presumed lost on the Rauvin somewhere after Nesme. Inquire with Vold Taman of the Lady’s College.
  • Open-Minded, Well-Traveled Adventurers Sought. Excellent pay for lengthy journey. Worshippers of Sharess and Hanali Celanil preferred. Ask for Madame Milliara at the Golden Oak.
  • Cattle Stolen in Winters Edge. Ask for Jorus.
  • Female Adventurers Sought for Caravan Duty. Inquire with Tarn the Matchmaker at the Wayward House.
  • Missing Dog. Reward. Inquire with Gilpin Tolliver.
  • NESME NEEDS TROLLHUNTERS. The town of Nesme is seeking adventurers of all persuasion (no questions asked) to drive back recent incursions from the Evermoors. Trolls have been attacking in larger numbers than have been seen in decades, and our resources are wearing thin. Brave adventurers should inquire with Comali Bazmit at the Golden Oak.
  • Huntsmen Wanted for Dangerous Game. High risk, excellent pay. Ask for Maldon Metalhand.
  • Porters Needed. Inquire at docks.
  • Dragon Parts Desired. Inquire with Ebbethul Olgrimm at the Lady’s College.
  • Scouts Needed for Prospecting Expedition. Ask for Thorinda Hammertongs.
  • Tressym Trainers Needed. Apply with Ilyrrianiel Nethandwynn at the Golden Oak.
  • Charismatic and Unusual-Looking Persons Desired for House Party. Auditions required. Ask for Head Butler at Tanalest Manor.
  • Sell Your Spell Components to the Shining Scroll. Retainer offered for qualified adventurers. Inquire with Xara Tantlor or leave message with Vilnyk.
  • Scouts and Guards Needed for Voyage of Discovery! Sages with excellent backing are seeking adventurers to protect an expedition to the wilds! Knowledge is the treasure we seek, as we observe and record the behaviors and numbers of the strange and elusive megafauna of the High Forest! Excellent Pay with Medical and Funeral Benefits!
  • Missing Dog. Answers to “Lord Magister.” Return to Ninian Tarafel.
  • Rat Catchers Needed. 1 gold piece per dead rat. Ask at Mittelford Warehouse.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kaiju Essentials

Tonight I’ll be a guest on Jerrod Gunning’s Savage Worlds GM Hangout (On Air!) Youtube show (airing 7-8PM PST). The gang there is currently running a series where they collaborate to brainstorm a Savage Worlds setting, and I’ve been invited to contribute to a kaiju setting. As regular readers of my blog know, kaiju eiga are a subject near and dear to my heart and I've already written quite a few posts about them – including an incomplete setting...

Mecha Kaiju Sensō Tai!!!
MKST!!!* is a setting inspired by aspects of the Godzilla films of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It’s odd, but as much as those films were really goofy and child-friendly, a lot of them were essentially spy movies. While Godzilla himself was stomping around fighting outlandish foes like Gigan and Megalon, the humans in the movies were engaging in James Bond-esque shenanigans like infiltrating secret bases and having doomed romances with sexy cyborgs. Mecha Kaiju Sensō Tai!!! embraced the espionage aspects of these films while dialing down the childishness.


Well, the later posts, at least, pushed the setting further into spy-fi and away from its kids movies origins. The first, main post embraces the ridiculousness much more. "Battling Robots and Monsters" outlines broad strokes of the setting details and house rules, laying out the basic assumption that all players play both a human(oid) and a mecha or kaiju, that the giant characters are played using the same stat range as the humans (just on a bigger scale), and that the central conflict is a war between different factions from the future with modern humankind caught in the crossfire. 

I'm not a huge fan of setting fiction, but for some reason I really felt like writing the info-dumps for MKST!!! as fiction. In this piece, a scientific conference discovers the secret origin of kaiju -- but at a disastrous cost.

Time-traveling super-woman Princess Kaji shares the secrets of the Time War with Kwinn Martin, an Inuit secret agent. I would love to write a novel starring these two.


A probably-overpowered arcane power that allows kaiju wranglers and mecha pilots to become as one with their respective partners.

Awesome giant robot illustrations that would make great figure flats.

Awesome giant monster illustrations that would also make great figure flats.

The Gaijin and the Gorilla Lizard
Speaking of setting fiction, Robin M. English-Bircher's short story "The Gaijin and the Gorilla Lizard" -- written well before I ever considered kaiju for Savage Worlds -- could practically be set in the MKST!!! universe. (Yes, my wife wrote a kaiju story; I have the best wife ever.) 

I've been a Godzilla fan ever since I was little, and I've written a few posts here about the King of the Monsters himself. 
I argued in MKST!!! for building the kaiju and mecha by just adapting the usual SW races and assuming they're just on a bigger scale. This post shows how to do that with Godzilla.

And this post shows Godzilla advancing from Novice to Seasoned. I was going to do a whole series of these that took him up to Legendary (which would have been the 2014 Legendary Godzilla) but I got busy with other projects.

Speaking of the Legendary Godzilla, here's a review of the latest Godzilla movie in which I argue that complaints about the "boring humans" are wrong.
What it says: a series of Godzilla-inspired haiku. (Actual haiku, not the fake haiku everybody else writes.)

I'm much more of a fan of kaiju than mecha, 

Ancillary to MKST!!!, I tackled the idea of using the SWSPC2 to build a "super robot" -- a mecha in the fantastical vein of Voltron, Getter Robo, or Gurren Lagann instead of the quasi-realistic mode of Gundam. Personally, I think there's too much math involved.

*Yes, the resemblance to the initials for Mystery Science Theater 3000 is deliberate, as is the "Kwinn Martin" pun.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chupacabracon was AWESOME!

The only photo I took the whole con.

I really should have gotten a picture of me and Sean Patrick Fannon together so I could run it with the caption “Seans,” but the only photograph I had the presence of mind to take during Chupacabracon was of Preston DuBose receiving an ETU-themed birthday cake from some fans.

Well, actually I took several photos of that scene, so I might as well run all of them...

Chupacabracon was amazingly fun and – dare I say it? – an unqualified success for me. I spent most of my time in panels, but they were uniformly educational and entertaining. Both games I played in were absolute joys (and taught me a lot about how to run a convention game as opposed to a normal campaign session). And – most importantly if also most selfishly – I made some contacts and got my portfolio into the hands of some important people.

Honest to goodness, though, I’m still blown away that Sean Patrick Fannon knew who the hell I was.  I went over to introduce myself to him and Shane Hensley and he burst into a smile and complimented me on the blog – and then recommended it to Shane. I had to take time later to just thank Fannon for doing that.

I took a little portfolio of articles composed of I’ve written for Savage Insider (both published and not) as well as a hefty chunk of The King is Dead and gave it to Hensley, Fannon, and Ross Watson. Robin helped me get everything converted over to PDF and formatted nicely (she really did a stellar job with the TKID section, adding some public domain pictures and getting it very professionally laid out) and we saved everything to some cheap thumb drives. I’d recommend the same move to any would-be freelancers in the future; it’s a relatively small investment and much easier for people to pocket than a folder full of paper.

With the schmoozing out of the way early on, I spent most of Saturday in a series of fascinating panels led by the likes of Ken Hite and Robin Laws. I came away with some ideas that will really help The King is Dead moving forward, possibly allowing me to get something onto the market by as early as May. (I also concluded that I would much rather be a freelancer than a publisher.)

Savage Saturday Night was a ton of fun. Robin English-Bircher and I joined Jeffrey Gordon and a player whose name I didn’t catch (sorry) in a game of Accursed with Ross Watson DMing. Ross has a great style for convention games that I am going to shamelessly steal from when I next run at a con. I have to admit though that my werewolf was just trying to hit the vampire in the face with a heavy wooden object when I threw that barrel of gunpowder at him; real-world gunpowder wouldn’t have blown up, so I didn’t expect to demolish the castle.

We were going to leave early on Sunday, but then Ross asked us to join him in a real-play episode of the Gamer’s Tavern podcast. I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to say about the setting (Ross’ homebrew that he’s working up for publication), but it is the most entertaining, authentic-feeling anime-inspired setting I’ve encountered. Also, I’m curious about how the character voice I used is going to sound on broadcast; I’ve got a couple of female voices my wife assures me sound authentic (yes, I’m actually proud of that) but I haven’t mixed any of them with a Texas twang before.

Sean Patrick Fannon also took me aside to tell me a really big secret that I’m not going to share with anyone. Hmm… I guess that makes me an industry insider now.


Also – and completely coincidentally – I was asked during the weekend to be a guest on the next Savage Worlds GM Hangout (On Air!). We’re going to be making a kaiju setting. I think I can handle that.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Friends Will Be Friends

The majority of this blog’s traffic comes from links posted to RPG communities on Google+, but a smaller -- yet significant -- number of hits come from links on other sites’ blogrolls.
The undisputed heavyweight champion of these friendly blogs is +John Arendt 's (quasi-)OSR blog Dreams in the Lich House. My thanks go out to John both for his continued support and for his continuously fascinating insights into megadungeon-style play. I am also deeply indebted to +Tommy Brownell and The Most Unread Blog on the Internet. Ever.
I would also like to thank the following fine blogs:

Some of those blog owners are friends, some are folk I know nothing about, but I thank them all for the extra hits they send my way.
You will notice that all of those blogs are linked in the sidebar to the right named “Friends of Wine and Savages.” Also in there are the blogs of people who have left numerous comments on Wine and Savages (or links in blog posts) as well as some people I’ve befriended on Google+. I hope the “Friends of Wine and Savages” links have helped these fine folk get a few extra hits.
As we head into this new year, I’d like to bring the “Friends” list up to date. If you link Wine and Savages in your blog roll and I don’t have you listed as a friend of the blog, let me know. I’ll be happy to add you the list!
I would also humbly ask that if you are a fan of Wine and Savages and have not yet added me to your blog roll, please consider adding this blog to your blog roll. I thank you in advance for your consideration.
In these antagonistic days of RPG controversies, friends should stick together even more than before.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Go Forth to the Fifth!

Last Friday, my Meetup gaming group got together for what was presumably our last New Member Meet-n-Greet and our first get-together as a group of friends. The Meetup group’s organizers keep cancelling meetings and not responding to inquiries, so the five of us who have been meeting independently of these canceled sessions have just decided to go our own way. And what we’ve decided to do is play Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s probably not the wisest thing I’ve ever done to admit that I’m taking a break from running Savage Worlds to play D&D right before Chupacabracon and my chance to meet Shane Hensley, but it’s not that I’m giving up Savage Worlds. I’ll still be writing Savage Worlds material; in fact, by falling back on familiar tropes and settings for the ongoing campaign, I should be able to free up my time to write more than I have in months.

We’ve been playing a couple of really dark games – my The King is Dead setting and a Ravenloft/World of Darkness mashup – and meeting pretty infrequently and everybody’s been having a hard time with work and life and crap. When I pulled out my shiny new 5e Player’s Handbook to share, we all realized that a nice, classic D&D campaign would really cheer us all up. Let’s face it: Savage Worlds is really unpredictable. It’s a game where your Legendary barbarian can still get shanked by a lowly goblin who rolls a lot of exploding dice. D&D – and 5e especially – is built so that doesn’t happen. Sometimes the incremental, point-buy character growth and unpredictability of Savage Worlds is what you want, and sometimes the progressive, level-based predictability of Dungeons & Dragons is what you want instead.

And sometimes – sometimes – what you also want is the Forgotten Realms. Let’s face it: if you want a pastiche-laden high fantasy setting (because maybe one of your players reads a lot of fantasy but hasn’t roleplayed much) then the home of fake-Lankhmar (Waterdeep), fake-Rivendell (Silverymoon), fake-Merlin (Elminster and several other mages), and fake Nasir-from-“Robin of Sherwood” (Drizzt) is pretty much the setting to use.

Of course, I’m sure this prompts cries of horror from many readers. How can I possibly like using this setting with all of these obnoxiously-overpowered super-NPCs? My answers are:
  1. I haven’t read any Forgotten Realms fiction since Sojourn; I’m a fan of the game setting, not the EU fiction.
  2. Who cares if there are powerful NPCs anyway? They’re just figures the PCs can aspire to emulate, befriend, or defeat.
  3. As the 5e DMG takes pains to point out, every DM’s Realms campaign is an “alternate universe” anyway, so do what you want. Sheesh…
A swift bout of brainstorming led to the decision to set the game in Silverymoon, the shining gem of beauty and learning deep in the savage North. Waterdeep was considered, but the players preferred Silverymoon; from this, I infer that they are more interested in high fantasy (like battling the orc-king Obould), wilderness exploration (rather than Waterdeep’s multiple dungeons), and sexing up Alustriel (oh wait, that’s just me). Those elements were part of my first major AD&D 2e campaign way back in the day, so I’m happy to return to them.

Oh wait, did I mention Alustriel and Obould – characters from the pre-5e, pre-Spellplague continuity? Yes, I did – because it’s my alternate universe Forgotten Realms and if I want to set it in a 2e/3e mashup continuity, then it is my right as the DM to do just that. “Make the setting your own” is not a difficult concept, people!

In fact, I’d like to mix things up quite a bit. Silverymoon itself is sometimes a bit too safe, a bit too nice. I plan on introducing a bit of a criminal underworld to liven things up. It's a college town (for wizards!) so there's got to be a drug scene, a club scene, sports -- but it's also a frontier town on the edge of a dangerous wilderness. It's Oxford AND Tombstone; it's got to be a pretty exciting place to live!

The first thing it needs is some festhalls...

Thursday, January 1, 2015


2015 promises to be an exciting year. In just over a week, I’ll be at Chupacabracon II, gaming with the luminaries of Savage Worlds and GUMSHOE (and hopefully doing some networking). My professional publishing writing career will get really underway; I’ll be getting my section of Steamscapes: Asia done in the next couple of months and I’ve got a brace of articles already accepted for upcoming issues of Savage Insider. Robin and I have some new resources and renewed will to apply to writing careers, so we’ll probably be incorporating soon and looking into self-publishing and other avenues.

I plan on expanding the blog to write about Dungeons & Dragons as well; it’s a crass commercial move to attract a bigger readership, but it’s also the result of a genuine revived interest in the game inspired by the new edition.  Besides, I want to be a writer, not just a Savage Worlds writer. This does not, however, mean I’m giving up on The King is Dead; I have to admit, however, that playtesting the setting with actual players has opened my eyes to certain problems in the premise.

I think I’ve made some good friends in the RPG industry and in the local gaming community over the last year. It hasn’t always gone as desired, but it’s still progress. Hopefully, 2015 will be even better…

…And feature less personal illness and horrible world events.  

In the meantime, here's a cat picture:

Fast and “Fury”-ous

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