Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Game of Drow

My copy is currently helping to prop up a buckling shelf.
All of my RPG campaigns eventually become about politics. This is logical – the escalating power of every character type from fantasy world thieves to modern superheroes means that there will come a time they must interact with authorities and (hopefully) accept some responsibility to make the world a better place – but I tend to jump the gun. No matter how much I swear I’m going to stay away from scheming and coalition building and the like, I always seem to start dragging those aspects into the campaign before the PCs reach the equivalent of 3rd level.

Admittedly, I like scheming and coalition building and the like. It’s why (the admittedly belated) The King is Dead is built around secret societies and fighting the very state the heroes live in. And that’s why my ultimate bucket list campaign is a game of drow politics.
Yes, I’m aware of how problematic the drow are. Yes, I know this is not an original idea by any stretch of the imagination. Heck, I’d probably use my old and sadly underutilized copy of the AD&D 2nd Edition Menzoberranzen boxed set as the basis for the campaign (though I vaguely remember the pre-generated PCs being really boring – or maybe I just hated the art for them).
Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a campaign like this being possible for a bunch of fortysomething adults with kids and jobs (and writing obligations). It instinctually feels like the sort of role-playing-intensive game only high school kids and college undergrads have time for.
Except… Maybe not.
Maybe the key would be to abstract large portions of the politics and treat them almost as a board game. Perhaps influence could actually be tracked with points, then literally spent to buy off problems rather than being resolved with time-consuming role-played negotiations. The players could spend influence points and narrate the results, and I as GM could spend NPC influence points to counter those actions, forcing the players to resolve things in role-playing scenes when I want the drama.
(Or something like that. It’s early and I’m mainly writing this as a warm-up to this afternoon’s work on TKiD.)
Hmm… I’ve always assumed that if I could get a game like this going, it would naturally be a D&D campaign – but now I have to wonder if the greater level of abstraction would be better for Savage Worlds. Or maybe I should actually read Houses of the Blooded.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Review: Modern Floorplans: Streetscapes


Disclaimer: A free copy of this product was provided for review. In addition, Charles White has contacted me about contributing material for Olympus, Inc. That hasn’t actually happened yet, so at this point I haven’t worked for Charles in any capacity. Purchasing any of the products below through the provided links will earn Wine and Savages an affiliate credit through DriveThruRPG.

Modern Floorplans: Streetscapes is the latest offering from Savage Worlds licensee Fabled Environments. Charles and Krista White publish adventure modules and accessories, but their bread and butter is the ModernFloorplans series – architectural blueprint-style battle maps of everything from arctic research stations to warehouses. Krista White is actually trained in AutoCAD and brings a real architect’s sensibility to the projects, including functional details (like restrooms) that many mapmakers ignore.

Like other products in the Modern Floorplans line, Streetscapes is presented in printer-friendly greyscale devoid of the textures and extraneous detail particularly found in fantasy maps. It’s deliberately simple and functional, allowing players and GMs to balance the clarity of miniatures-based combat with the inventiveness of theater of the mind gaming. It consists of three 36” x 48” maps covering a city block built around a particular theme: a block of white-collar commercial buildings, a “night out” scene of bars and restaurants, and a residential block of houses and apartments.

Streetscapes is kind of a sampler for the Modern Floorplans line. One of its strengths is that each block consists of various different types of buildings. Unfortunately, the sheer width of each block means we only get part of each of these buildings; the commercial and night out streets in particular suffer from presenting only half or a quarter of an establishment. There’s enough shown of each building to run a scenario set in each block (especially the residential map), but some GMs will inevitably find that some players want to take their firefight into a restaurant’s unseen kitchen (or something similar).

The saving grace here is that every building shown in Streetscapes is taken from a previously-published Fabled Environments map. Since Modern Floorplans: Streetscapes only costs $5, the curious buyer can pick it up and get a good idea whether they like the Fabled Environments style. If they do, then they can pick up the full maps of the various building for usually $2 or less each. If they don’t, then they have a set of varied and interesting maps they can use for a modern or near-future setting game. The simplicity of the designs means that they can easily be used for any period from the 1930s of Deadlands Noir to the 2090s of Interface Zero.

(My one real complaint, honestly, is one place where there’s too much detail. The parked car on the night out map kind of gets in the way of the timelessness that is otherwise a selling point.)

I’m not much of one for miniatures and battle maps myself (though I would pay good money for it if someone did a map of a grand Georgian country house like Pemberley), but I have to admit that the night out street reminds me so much of a collection of bars and restaurants near my house that it makes me want to run a game set there. I also have to admit that when I do use maps, I like splashy color and detail as much as the next guy – but it took me three minutes to print up one of these maps on my laser printer and it looks crisp, clean, and eminently reusable. That is a good value for both time and money. (Seriously, have you priced printing up a full-color map lately?)


Modern Floorplans: Streetscapes offers a reasonably-priced collection of useful, reusable maps that are as affordable to print as they are to purchase. The commercial district map could be used for anything from a high-tech heist to a super-powered brawl, the entertainment district map could be home to '70s street cops as easily as present-day barflies, and the residential map practically begs for tract housing horror in the vein of Fright Night. An imaginative GM and gaming group will find scores of uses for it. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Jungle Ruler archetype for Savage Worlds

I think my wife's only complaint about the film is that Skarsgard never wears a loincloth.
I saw and loved The Legend of Tarzan last weekend and my feelings are pretty accurately summed up by a great review at Talk Nerdy With Us by Arlene Allen. The new film addresses a lot of justifiable complaints about the less enlightened aspects of the character while still providing a heroic and recognizable presentation of Tarzan.

I could go on about me and Tarzan at length (the Filmation cartoon, the ERB paperbacks I inherited from my father, Bo Derek), but I want to keep this short, so here's some stats if you want to play a Jungle Ruler in your Savage Worlds game. The statistics are presented at both Novice for conventional campaigns and at Legendary for those players who want to dive into the deep end for a high-powered pulp campaign.

Jungle Ruler

Novice (0 XP)
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6.
Skills: Beast Friend d6, Climbing d8, Fighting d8, Intimidation d4, Survival d6, Swimming d6, Tracking d6.
Charisma: +0; Pace: 6; Parry: 6; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: 1 Major, 2 Minor (Code of Honor, Heroic, or Savage from Adamant Entertainment's Thrilling Tales are recommended for Major Hindrance; All Thumbs, Enemy, Quirk, Stubborn, and Vengeful recommended for Minor Hindrances)
Edges: Arcane Background (Super Powers)
Special Abilities:
  • Power Points: 20
  • Powers: beast friend


Legendary (80 XP)
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d10, Vigor d10.
Skills: Beast Friend d10, Climbing d10, Fighting d8, Notice d8, Survival d8, Swimming d8, Tracking d8.
Charisma: +2; Pace: 6; Parry: 7; Toughness: 8
Hindrances: 1 Major, 2 Minor (Code of Honor, Heroic, or Savage from Adamant Entertainment's Thrilling Tales are recommended for Major Hindrance; All Thumbs, Enemy, Quirk, Stubborn, and Vengeful recommended for Minor Hindrances)
Edges: Acrobat, Arcane Background (Super Powers), Beast Bond, Beast Master, Brawny, Danger sense, Woodsman
Special Abilities:
  • Power Points: 25
  • Powers: beast friend

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