Saturday, April 28, 2012

Oh, Poo!

I finally got spam on one of my posts, so I'm instituting captcha and restricting comments to registered users. Crap, I hate doing that. I really, really hate captcha.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Regency/Gothic Design Journal One: Hindrances and True Love

Even if you've never read Pride and Prejudice or seen one of its many adaptations, you are familiar with certain tropes of romance fiction codified by Jane Austen.  Unless you've been living in a cave on Mars your whole life, you've read, watched, or heard something that falls into the the romantic comedy category.  Maybe it was "Bridget Jones' Diary" or "High Fidelity."  Maybe it was "Shaun of the Dead" or "Thor."  Whatever it was, it presented the search for love as a quest for self-perfection.

Yep, self-perfection.

(And yes, "Thor" is a romantic comedy.  Cute meet?  Sparks fly?  The mighty hammer Meow-meow?  Romantic comedy.)

A romantic comedy hero or heroine is much more beset by personal failings than external adversaries in the quest for love.  He or she or both of them together must overcome his or her or their personal failings in order to be worthy of love.  Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy are both beset by pride and prejudice to different degrees; Elizabeth's pride is hurt by Darcy's prejudice toward her goofy-ass family, Elizabeth's prejudice against Darcy because of that first impression wounds his pride later on, etc.  Thor must cast off his arrogance.  Shaun must choose between bromance and romance.  John Cusack's dude in "High Fidelity" has to stop being such a jerk toward women...

In Savage Worlds terms, this means that emulating the "romance" part of our Regency Romance/Gothic Horror mash-up requires characters to buy off their Hindrances during play. 

But who is going to want to do that?  Buying off Hindrances with Advances is losing opportunities to gain new Edges or improve skills.  Nobody's going to buy off a Hindrance if they can get Improved Counterattack instead!  (And only a suicidal fool starts the game with no Hindrances to get the extra points for Edges, Abilities, and Skills.)

The answer (to me at least) seems to be to make True Love an Edge.  A really powerful Edge.  A really powerful Edge that has as a requirement that you have no hindrances.

True Love, the Edge, has to be so powerful that when the Machine sucks all the life out of you, you're only mostly dead.  It has to give you a bonus to Vigor rolls to let you stand up to villainy when you can barely stand at all.  It has to give you a bonus to Spirit rolls that lets you resist the most powerful temptations and stand strong in the face of the worst horrors.

True Love has to kick ass.

Unfortunately, I haven't figured it out yet.  I'll let you know when I do.  (I'm thinking you also need to be at least Heroic rank and have a Spirit of d8+, but that's debatable.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why I'm Obsessed with the 18th Century

I was born in 1973.  I literally grew up watching this, and in fact wrote and (badly) illustrated a story for my kindergarten class about characters named Dinny, Moore, and Lance.  I still think this is Monty Python's best sketch ever.

Pirates of the Spanish Main Sessions Reports 5 & 6

Or, "Perhaps it was a player and not the miniatures slowing things down."

Sessions five and six were played back-to-back with a change in players and emphasis prompting the second half of last Saturday's game to be considered a separate session (with bennies redistributed to the players and additional experience awarded).  The PCs in the first session were Nana, Elias, Gunter, McSliceathroat, Commodore Wendy, and Kit.  The second session featured Nana, McSliceathroat, Lady Wendy, and Kit.

Session 5

Lacking any clear objective, the players looked at the maps and began suggesting places to which to sail.  Isla La Blanquilla was selected because it seemed interestingly mysterious.  Knowing nothing about the place aside from what's in the PotSM rulebook, I decided it was the home to the Order of St. Brendan -- a Celtic Christian secret order of monks who have catalogued the hiding places of all the weirdness in the world (and who curse like the cast of "The Commitments").  This serendipitously allowed me to introduce the Codex Brendani -- an atlas of possible adventure sites.  Thank you, Beedo.

After a failed attempt to scale the limestone cliffs and take the monks by surprise, the crew of the Bloody Revenge instead just snuck up the stairs.  They then climbed the roof of the building, entered through the belfry, and found themselves in the Escuela de Cartografia -- an enormous library of maps.  They ambushed a trio of monks who had been sent to fetch the abbot some bedtime reading; McSliceathroat sliced a throat, Kit finally got to punch somebody out, and the third monk -- Brother Seamus McGillicutty -- proved so entertainingly profane that he was kidnapped by the group to become their translator and Kif Kroker.  When asked to spare the lives of the rest of the monks, McSliceathroat got the biggest laugh of the evening with a well-timed "...Yeah."  (You had to be there.)

Using the Codex, they then sailed off to... Crap.  I can't figure out which issue of "Buccaneers and Bokor" I took the adventure from and I've  only got so much time to blog.  It's an adventure about a ghost pirate and his haunted castle near Aruba.  I ran a really abbreviated version of things and the PCs finally got really, wildly rich.  And everybody got a magic item.  Hooray!

(Unfortunately, Gunter's player wasted a lot of time making "jokes" and ignoring his fellow players to the point where three separate PCs beat Gunter unconscious just so we could get on with the story.  It didn't work, so I've now got to spend the beginning of the next session having an intervention with Gunter's player.  Thanks.)

Session 6

I had established in Session 4 that Governor Lynch of Jamaica had put Commodore Wendy's lover to death during her back-story years, so as a treat to Wendy and McSliceathroat (who drive an hour-and-a-half down to San Antonio to attend these games and were pretty put out by how little got done in the first part of the night) I ran the story of Wendy's revenge.

First, I allowed her to outright buy -- with money -- the Noble and Secret Identity Edges so she could infiltrate Jamaican high society.  (They were loaded after robbing the ghost pirate, so why not?)  Then -- at the fancy ball Lady Wendy's money bought them invitations to -- I let McSliceathroat -- who has no Persuasion and +0 Charisma -- talk Sir Christopher Myngs into challenging that usurper Lynch into a duel.  (He gave a really good speech and made a great unskilled roll, so why not?)

I let McSliceathroat run Myngs during the saber duel.  Lynch put up an amazing fight for someone with few Combat Edges and a d4 Strength (thereby enforcing my opinion that the embedded NPCs in PotSM are ludicrously overpowered).  At the end, the PCs had to jump him from surprise.  Kit blew away Lynch's seconds with a blunderbuss and Nana really, really tried to not kill Lynch.  In the end, though, Lynch wounded Wendy twice during their climactic duel, so Nana was forced to step in with the anti-climax and save her captain.

(Yeah, I let the PCs kill a Legendary NPC.  I'd probably step in to save Elminster or Drizzt if my players went after them, but nobody in the Zhentarim would be safe in my Forgotten Realms game.)

 Now Myngs owes them his life and his position as Acting Governor -- they're blaming Lynch's death on the Spanish -- and they have an atlas full of treasure maps.  It might have been a maddeningly frustrating session in many ways, but it was productive.  (And Elias' player wants to start tracking expenditures for provisions and cargoes.  I'm actually excited about this!)

Crap!  Now I have to put together the entries in the Codex Brendani!  Dammit, I assigned myself homework!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pirates of the Spanish Main Session Report 4

In which things get crazy...

As mentioned back in this post, we decided to forgo miniatures and maps in our fourth PotSM game.  Freed of the time consumption required to move figure flats around and liberated from the tyranny of maps, I got to work doing what I do best as a DM: winging it.  Characters in attendance were Nana, Elias, Johnny McSliceathroat, Captain Wendy, and Kit.

Since they were still in Port-Au-Prince (a civilized, law-abiding port), I decided it was about time Elias Cordwinder's "Wanted" hindrance caught up with him so I gave him a Notice roll versus a group of thief-catchers tailing him.  He won, so I let him lead them into an ambush.  Nana rolled so well on her Stealth that I let her get the drop on them.  She cut four down with one Sweep of her katana, won initiative on the next round, and cut the remainder down with another Sweep.  Their leader, a mysterious German duelist who is not Gunter decided discretion was the better part of valor.

Kit suggested they go out and do some real pirating, so they went out on their boat and attacked a merchantman.  I really, really need to reacquaint myself with the ship combat rules.  I probably need to put together a cheat sheet.  Anyway, they slaughtered the crew with a volley of grapeshot and took the vessel as their own.  It was christened "The Bloody Revenge," since their original ship was "the Sweet Revenge."  Captain Wendy became Commodore Wendy.

It turned out Esperanza was on board, searching for Gunter.  Poor heartbroken Esperanza.

Sailing in search of new adventure, the crew was attacked by mermaids.  In Japanese culture, eating a mermaid's flesh is supposed to grant immortality -- so Nana ate one.  Elias and Johnny worked up the courage to join the feast and all three were granted an extra die of Vigor; Commodore Wendy failed the Spirit roll necessary to overcome cultural bias against cannibalism. (They later sold the remains to Benjamin Franklin  Richard Poore, who rendered them down into healing potions.)

They then hit a fog-shrouded reef and found themselves in the bay of a strange forested island with a decrepit pirate ship and giant crocodile lurking in nearby.  Some of the decrepit ship's crew rowed over to parley with them and warned them about a horrible monster lurking on the island that tormented the pirates.  Our crew investigated and found the island was overgrown with grapevines that were laden with fully-fermented grapes that burst into wine as you ate them.  An ancient tomb was discovered with a Latin inscription on the open doors; the only words visible beneath the trailing vines were "Pater" and "Pan."

Dun! Dun! DUN!

They uncovered the door and Esperanza read the inscription.  It turned out the imprisoned being was Dionysus and that St. Brendan the Navigator's journey to the New World involved burying a lot of nasty things nobody wanted in the Old World anymore.  How nice of him.  And did everyone know Dionysus doesn't like pirates?  (Seriously, check out the link.  It is an awesome comic book version of the myth in question.)

Dionysus showed up and he was all naked and feral-looking.  Luckily, Nana is observant Shinto and thought the god's behavior and appearance were quite natural, so she offered him rum to placate his anger.  Dionysus enjoyed the rum and made the pirates his disciples; in exchange for a cargo full of rum every year (and a cabin boy) he would let them go and set the dolphins to protect them from drowning -- oh, and they had to give him Esperanza too.  The crew did not object.

(Yes, my players basically gave a pagan deity a human sacrifice.  I am admittedly not playing this game as heroically as the text implies.)

The crew of the Jolly Roger did object, though, and the crew of the Sweet Revenge had to kill them.  (Not that Dionysus doesn't constantly resurrect his playthings after breaking them.)

The crew went back to Tortuga to drum up some manpower for their new flotilla.  Just to give Johnny McSliceathroat something fun to do, a veteran marine named Cardiff Jim picked a fight with him.  One beat-down later, and a humbled Cardiff Jim joined the crew.

Commodore Wendy wanted in on that kind of action, so Havana Black showed up to object to Nana chopping off the head of one of his crewmen a couple games earlier.  Captain Blackheart intervened in his "unofficial" capacity as pirate king and demanded they fight an old-fashioned pirate duel: with knives, wrists tied together, up to their knees in the surf.  Commodore Wendy won and Havana Black pledged his friendship when she spared his life.

They decided to go take care of that rum shipment and get it out of the way, so they sailed off to Jamaica to find a plantation to raid.  Elias took Nana with him while he did some Streetwise-ing and they figured out a good target; unfortunately, the mysterious German was there (almost as if he'd teleported all the way from Port-Au-Prince)!  He tried to buy Nana off, but her code of honor demanded they fight.  For once, she was on the verge of losing, but then Elias remembered he was carrying about a dozen guns and shot the German.  The German retreated once again.

They then attacked an unsuspecting sugar plantation, freed the slaves, slaughtered the overseers, took the young heir off to be Dionysus' plaything, and sold the owner's wife into slavery in Tortuga.  (Yeah, she won't use her buxom assets to turn any other pirates against the PCs.  Sure...)  And Nana talked the lord's daughter into committing suicide rather than facing dishonor.  

It was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Le Vin et La Vie (or What I'm Actually Running Right Now)

After an amusing but unsatisfying turn at superheroes (NEWSFLASH -- Batman-style vigilantes are sexy, but not very romantic), Robin and I have turned to swashbuckling again.  I really, really want to run some good swordfights and the Age of Sail is far more romantic than the streets of Hudson City.

I'm trying to work in a deliberate tongue-in-cheek humor by having all the characters named after wines -- Madamoiselle de Malbec, Duc du Burgundy, Marquise du Chablis, Monsieur de Pinot Noir.  I'm having a lot of fun with the names; we're making an effort to sample French wines right now and we've concluded we don't like Burgundy-style wines, so all the Burgundy styles and grapes get to be the bad guys.

I wasn't exactly sure of the era when we played the first two games, but I've decided it must be about 1740 or so (I played the first couple of games as closer to 1660, but that just isn't going to work).  Enlightened thought is on the rise but nobody's trying to cut the heads off nobles yet, Baroque fashion is in, there's indoor water closets etc.  I intimated in the first couple of games that Fake France was at war with Fake Spain as a holdover from trying to force the game into the reign of Louis XIV instead of Louis XV, but I can just handwave that.  (In fact, the cessation of hostilities would be a great opportunity to introduce some dashing Spaniards into the mix!  And then I can start the Fake War of the Fake Austrian Succession!)  Life is glittering and fabulous and people occasionally stab each other with smallswords or shoot each other with flintlocks.

What the heck am I going to call Casanova?  Sangiovese?

The admittedly vague concept I have for the world is that the cult of Dionysus became the dominant mystery cult in classical Rome instead of Christianity, and the place of maenads and bacchantes in Dionysus' worship has led to a world with the equality of the sexes prerequisite for playing a game with one's wife in which she doesn't want to be treated as a freak.  All the nations have classical Roman names like Gallia and Hispania and Pannonia; the Ottoman-like foreign empire a couple of countries over either worships Tammuz or is populated with people named after coffee (I'm not sure). I'm not sure I really need to detail any of that to make the game entertaining.

What I really don't know about yet is whether there are monsters.  We've agreed that there's going to be alchemy in line with the anime "Chevalier D'Eon," but I'm unsure about monsters.  Hmm...

Unsurprising Results

My thanks to everybody who voted in the Regency Romance mashup poll (can you believe my idiot auto-correct recognizes "mashup" but not "Regency?") and extra thanks for all the encouraging comments.  As I expected when I started the poll, Gothic Horror won by a big margin.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters started a literary mashup boom, so the concept has to be popular with someone.

(My heartfelt thanks to those who voted for the Arthurian Regency concept; Arthuriana was a boyhood love, and I still feel it tugging on my heartstrings from time to time.)

Rats, now I have to read P&P&Z just so I can not do what they did.  And -- if I'm going to make a stab at professionally publishing this thing instead of just releasing it as a fan work -- I've got to get the project done before the P&P&Z movie gets released sometime next year.  (Assuming it's still in production; all the directors and actresses keep dropping out.)  I don't want to pull an Eden Studios-style scheduling blunder and release the book six months after the least popular film in a franchise (*cough* Aargh! Thar Be Zombies! *cough*).

Anyway, I guess I should be playtesting Regency Edges and Setting Rules instead of running my new game concept...

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Drops of God -- Even More Savaged!

I went nuts and added a bunch of content to my The Drops of God post.  Another Edge, more wine-tasting rules, and more characters await!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Drops of God - Savaged!

The Drops of God is a manga by the writing duo of Tadashi Agi and artist Shu Okimoto (yes, writing duo under one name; the Japanese are weird). Like many manga, it's the story of a plucky young man with an amazing talent who battles rivals and gets stronger on his way to becoming world champion -- only, in this case, it's about wine-tasting. Seriously.

It is awesome.

I am learning so much about wine by reading this series. Robin expressed our admiration for it much better than I could over on Vitis Poema but I thought I'd give a try here -- by statting up some elements for Savage Worlds.

Wine Tasting
Read left to right - first he starts drinking and then BAM! Freddie Mercury!

Whether they are shonen (boy's manga) or seinen (men's manga) heroes, the defining attribute of Japanese heroes is their tireless spirit. Wine tasting in The Drops of God is a transformative, transporting experience; the characters literally have visions while drinking great wines (like seeing Queen in concert or reliving a childhood memory). It is therefore appropriate that wine-tasting be a Spirit-based roll or skill. Contradictorily, our hero's main rival is a cold-blooded intellectual. Such a character could not possibly have a high Spirit rating, so how to resolve the contradiction?

  • Cooperative Skills (Setting Rule)
    Sometimes a character's expertise in one area gives her an edge in another. It might be an understanding of Knowledge (Electronics) that gives a high-tech thief an insight in Lockpicking or a hard-boiled P.I.'s skill at Intimidation that lends him a hand at Streetwise, but sometimes a single character may combine skill rolls just like a group Cooperative Roll (Savage Worlds Deluxe, p. 63). For every success and raise on the "helper" skill, the character may add +1 (up to +4) to the "main" roll.
  • Ex. Batman hits the streets to find out where the Joker is hiding. The GM and player don't want to run a series of interrogations, so the GM allows the player to roll Intimidation and add the successes to a Streetwise roll. Batman rolls his Intimidation of d12+2 and scores 3 successes. He adds +3 to his Streetwise roll of d12+2 and gets an 8 (even Batman rolls low sometimes). The GM rules the raise means Batman tracks the Joker down in next to no time after brutally scaring the crap out of a bunch of thugs, and one scene later he comes crashing through the Joker's skylight.
The answer is that wine-tasting is a Cooperative Roll! Before drinking a wine, a character may make a Knowledge (Wine Connoisseur) roll; successes and raises on this roll can add to the Spirit roll made to actually experience the wine. Intellectual knowledge of wine can help, but the only way to truly know wine is to taste it!

Wine Rankings

Wines are complex, fickle things. French wines are infamous for needing to "breathe" -- to oxidize upon exposure to air -- before their true richness is revealed while Italian wines are good from the first pour but lack the nuances of French wines.

Wines are ranked on a scale of 0 to +4 with the number indicating the bonus added to the wine tasting roll. Random wine rankings may be determined by the following rolls (note that only French and Italian wines have been discussed in the volumes I have read so far; I'm sure Texas wines would be off the scale entirely ;) ):
  • French - 1d8 - 1-2 = 0, 3-4 = +1, 5-6 = +2, 7-8 = +3. (French wines add +1 to their score after breathing for one hour or being decanted.)
  • Italian - 1d6 - 1-2=+1, 3-4=+2, 5-6=+3; if the result is 6, roll again, and if the result is 6 again the score is +4. (Italian wines receive no decanting bonus.)

Decanting Wine
Awesome decanting action!

French wines (and presumably some others) can be improved by aerating or decanting the wine -- pouring it into another container thus allowing it to mix with the air and "breathe." Decanting is an Agility roll; success adds the +1 bonus for "breathing" without having to wait an hour.

New Edges
  • Master Decanter (Weird Edge)
Requirements: Novice, Agility d6+
You have an uncanny knack for decanting. You add +2 to all decanting attempts.
  • Trained Palate (Professional Edge)
Requirements: Novice, Spirit d6+
Your character has made a study of the art of wine-tasting (or had it forced upon him). You know what flint, leather, and black currant taste like from bitter experience. You add +2 to wine-tasting rolls.
  • God-Like Palate (Professional Edge)
Requirements: Heroic, Trained Palate, Spirit d10+
Life experience has refined your senses far beyond the normal man. You add +4 to wine-tasting rolls (including the +2 from Trained Palate).
    Shizuka Kanzaki

    Shizuka Kanzaki
    Rank: Novice
    Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
    Skills: Driving d4, Gambling d4, Intimidation d4, Investigation d6, Knowledge (Wine Connoisseur) d4, Notice d6, Persuasion d8, Streetwise d4, Taunt d6.
    Charisma: +4 Pace: 6 Parry: 2 Toughness: 5
    Hindrances: Enemy (Minor - Issei Tomine), Heroic, Poverty
    Edges: Charismatic, Decanting Expert, Trained Palate
    Background: Estranged son of wine expert Tanaka Kanzaki, Shizuku has worked for several years at a beer company to escape his father's influence. When his father dies, Shizuka finds himself in competition with wine critic Issei Tomine to claim his father's legacy!

    Miyabi Shinohara

    Miyabi Shinohara
    Rank: Novice
    Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
    Skills: Driving d4, Gambling d4, Intimidation d4, Investigation d4, Knowledge (Wine Connoisseur) d8, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Streetwise d6, Taunt d4.

    Charisma: +2 Pace: 6 Parry: 2 Toughness: 5
    Hindrances: All Thumbs, Poverty
    Edges: Attractive, Connections
    Background: Miyabi is a a sommelier (wine steward) in training who gets swept up in Shizuka's crazy life when he saves her from getting fired. While far more knowledgeable about wine than Shizuka, she lacks his natural talent for tasting.

    Issei Tomine (the guy in the glasses, not the naked chick)

    Issei Tomine
    Rank: Seasoned (20 points)
    Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
    Skills: Driving d4, Gambling d4, Intimidation d4, Investigation d6, Knowledge (Wine Connoisseur) d10, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Streetwise d6, Taunt d6.
    Charisma: 0 Pace: 6 Parry: 2 Toughness: 5
    Hindrances: Arrogant, Bad Eyes (Minor), Mean
    Edges: Attractive, Connections, Rich, Trained Palate

    Background: Issei Tomine is a rising star wine critic and infamous for his harshness. Because of his talent, Tanaka Kanzaki chose him as his heir -- but only if he can defeat Shizuka and claim the "Drops of God!"
    (Tomine's advances were Spirit +1, Knowledge (Wine Connoisseur) +1, Connections, and Trained Palate.)

    Find out more about The Drops of God and read a preview at Comics Alliance!

    It was also a live-action show!

    Poll is still up

    The Regency poll is still up if you haven't voted. Gothic Horror is winning by a wide margin, but I basically expected that.

    I'm thinking about ways to use the other companions and toolkits. A pulp Regency would basically resemble the "adventure romance" subgenre you can currently find on bookshelves (and typified by my favorite living author, Loretta Chase). A superheroic Regency would look a lot like Zorro or the Wold Newton universe. I've heard there's a sci-fi series (the Vorkosgian saga?) with Regency overtones; I'll have to track that down.

    Sunday, April 8, 2012

    POLL: Regency + ?

    If you were going to play in a Savage Setting based in Jane Austen-style Regency Romance, would you rather see it paired up with Gothic Horror or Arthurian legend?

    Like most RPG bloggers, I fantasize about publishing professionally or semi-professionally.  Given that the majority of my gaming over the last decade has been romance-infused solo sessions with my wife, I'd like to take that experience and translate it into the written word.  The long-sought Savage Jane Austen setting seems like a perfect opportunity

    Most Savage Settings, however, are a mash-up of unexpected genres: fantasy + alien invasion, military + horror, Pirates of the Caribbean + Pirates of Dark Water, etc.  The two genres that I think would best fit with the Regency are:

    Gothic Horror - Jane Austen was a contemporary of Mary Shelley and Lord Byron; the heyday of the Gothic novel was during Austen's lifetime and her novel Northanger Abbey is a satire of the prevalence of the Gothic.  The classic Gothic is actually set in the Middle Ages and features spirited heroines caught up in the dastardly doings of mysterious men in haunted places, but a Regency mash-up would make the Gothic style contemporary with the writers who created it.

    The Regency Gothic would be a setting where the Napoleonic Wars have ushered in terrible darkness across Europe.  Vampires stalk the parties of the high-born, while the revenant remnants of the soldiers of Waterloo feast on the living.  Handsome rakehells are indeed the tools of Satan, and that mysterious new landowner who just bought the big estate up the road?  He's Frankenstein's Monster.

    Arthurian Legend - What if Camelot had never fallen?  What if every ruler of Britain from the Dark Ages on had sat on the throne as Arthur's regent,  holding the crown for the once and future king?

    The Arthurian Regency is a realm of romance in both the modern and medieval definitions.  Society bucks compete with wit and blade for the affection of young heiresses, daring the dark and dangerous royal forests to hunt dragons and giants.  The ton is awash in magic as young ladies use love potions and faerie glamour to ensure their success in the marriage mart.  Meanwhile, enemies of the realm arise in Gaul, awakening the sleeping king...

    Vote in the poll above, or leave your own suggestion for a mashup genre in the comments!

    Saturday, April 7, 2012

    Horror Companion

    Picked up the dead tree version of the Horror Companion at Dragon's Lair, my local FLGS/FLCS (along with the latest issue of "The Lone Ranger") today. Looking forward to reading it.

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    Pirates of the Spanish Main Session Report 3

    So...  This was basically a continuation of the "Eye of Kilquato" part of the previous session.  We didn't use maps and so got to wing it a bit more.  The characters in attendance were Nana, Elias, Gunter, the Mad Arab, and Kit (obviously; I really shouldn't bother to mention Kit).

    One of my players tends to be a bit of an attention hog (it is not my wife).  During session 3, I resolved this problem by having everyone draw initiative cards for non-combat situations too.  I forgot to do that this time.  That was a mistake.

    • The PCs and their skeleton crew sailed to Cartegena to negotiate the return of the governor's sister.  Gunter decided to woo Esperanza and left her pining for his return after they ransomed her.  Nana piqued the interest of Commandante Luys de Alva, Esperanza's fiancee, but the pirates' tenuous safety  in Cartegena left her no time to pursue that attraction.    
    • The players decided that rather than plunge straight into a dungeon crawl, they'd recruit some red shirts to get killed in the traps, so they rounded up some likely bravos.  Many of them later got killed in traps.
    • Despite coming from Austria and not having the Occult Knowledge skill (which I didn't realize at the time), Gunter decided he was an expert of voodoo.  They sailed to Port-au-Prince to recruit a bokor and ran into one of Kit's old buddies, Geoffrey Holder's character from "Swashbuckler."  Many 7-Up jokes were made and -- rather than correct their misapprehension that a "bokor" and not a "houngan" is a voodoo priest rather than a zombie-making black magician -- Cudjo directed them to a run-down plantation out of town run by a supposed Frenchman named Aristide.  Gunter bought the services of a barmaid first.
    • Gunter's original plan was to buy a bokor slave.  His views don't quite jibe with the "Occupy Port Royal" sympathies of the rest of the crew.
    • The players met Bela Lugosi's character from "White Zombie."  He had zombie bodyguards and a zombie sex slave.  Nana, being observant Shinto, refused to have anything to do with him.  Elias saw Aristide and his zombie bride enjoying foreplay and was understandably freaked out.  Gunter, who was too good a Catholic to take advantage of Esperanza, was unfazed by consorting with a necromancer.
    • They sailed back to Cannibal Island and entered the cave.  Disturbing bas-reliefs were carved into the walls depicting the rise of the cult of Dagon; some men looked on them and went mad, but the Mad Arab and Gunter instead increased their understanding of the occult world.  Nana and Elias didn't look.
    • The cave setup was described as essentially identical to the Kilquato cave, so the Mad Arab jury-rigged a pulley system through the underwater passage and they began hauling out gold by the bagful.  Rather than be attacked by a giant crocodile, the team inside the watery cave was set upon by waves of brutish Deep Ones (using the Sea Troll stats from Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion).  Gunter apparently expected Aristide to start throwing fireballs or something, but I'm using the The Savage World of Solomon Kane magic rules, so no dice.  He did manage to buy some time with a Fear spell, and the pirates took the opportunity to skedaddle.  

    Elias recovered a gold-plated magic musket.  Nana got a phobia of watery caves.  Gunter went to boink another barmaid.  Aristide got an unfair share of the gold.  The Mad Arab got to be enigmatic.

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    Pirates of the Spanish Main Session Report 2

    The second PotSM game was a mashup of "The Wreck of the Solarah" from Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition and "The Eye of Kilquato." The characters in attendance were Nana, Elias, Gunter, Captain Wendy, Johnny McSliceathroat, and Kit.

    • I chose to smoosh the two adventures together because I already had the EoK maps printed up (I've run it several times for different groups) and I wanted to give the PCs a better chance of recovering the treasure.  I twisted things by having the Kilquato worshippers be worshippers of Lovecraft's Dagon instead, and explaining the tribesmen's greenish skin as the Innsmouth look.
    • We opened the session with a statement of the Social Contract.  It worked -- briefly.
    • Gunter's player got the clockwork arm he'd been begging for (+1 to damage rolls and Toughness).  I really didn't want to include Clockwork Punk in the setting because I wanted a more swords and sorcery/Robert E. Howard vibe, but it shut him up.  Besides, I actually like the 2011 version of "The Three Musketeers."
    • While in Tortuga, the players recruited some underlings who actually knew how to sail and navigate and other naval stuff.  They also made an enemy of embedded NPC Havana Black.
    • After scoping out the wreck, the landing party trekked inland and attacked the gathered tribe of Dagon-worshippers while they were preparing to sacrifice the captive Spanish maiden (here changed to be Esperanza, sister to Rafael el Duque de Moreno y Rivera).  As they slaughtered the warriors, the tribeswomen dashed their little green-skinned babes brains out against the stone benches.  Nana approved of this honorable seppuku.
    • We ran out of time before anyone could explore the cave.  


    Here's a random thought:

    In an X-Men-style superhero game, you could begin each session with a "Danger Room exercise" in which the players are encouraged to try out new ways to use their powers and push their characters to their limits. No bennies could be spent in the Danger Room, but raises on awesome new stunts and the like would be rewarded with extra bennies in "real life."

    Or something like that.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Pirates of the Spanish Main Session Report 1

    The first Pirates of the Spanish Main session that I ran several months back was a pretty direct use of the One Sheet Adventure "Smuggler's Song."  The characters were Nana, Elias, Gunter, and Kit.

    • Since all the players chose landlubbers, I was happy I chose to include a GM PC in the mix.  Gunter's player objected that I would abuse my power.  Seriously, dude, you've known me for twenty years and gamed with me for six months and you really think I'm going to do that?  I'm 38!  I've grown up!  And none of your PCs even knew how to row the boat ashore!
    • Elias cased Father Theodore's place for valuables while Gunter mocked Caribbean society.  Hey!  I just noticed Chris Williams invoked using Fatigue to emulate drunkenness.  Why isn't this a regular part of the rules?
    • The landing party planned to go to Lady Elaine's place next, but were spotted by the watch.  Nana and Elias hid in the dark but Kit (who was carrying all the contraband) and Gunter were spotted.  Gunter played on his courtly airs to bluff the watch into accompanying them for safety's sake -- but did so with an insulting tirade against the English in general and Kit in particular in which he complained of Kit having to stay at a low-class inn.  The sergeant of the watch naturally accompanied them back to the docks, instead of uptown to Lady Elaine's place.
    • The frustrated pirates then decided they'd just stay near the docks and handle the other two deliveries first.  They took care of Mr. Reilly first, using the tried and true "start a barfight" maneuver.  Nana knocked a couple of people out with "Rurouni Kenshin"-style sword-hilt-to-the-diaphragm punches, Gunter had to be persuaded to not draw a sword (because that would have turned a barfight into a massacre and alerted the guards), and Kit (whom I gave Davenport's Academy just so he could be useful in a barfight) managed to not land a single punch.  And people were worried about me cheating.
    • Nana came up with a brilliant way to get the money from Dick Wilkins: she demanded it from the lowlife who'd just won it from him.  I decided the lowlife in question was a Veteran Pirate, things quickly escalated into a duel, and Nana cut him in half with her katana.  (That did not summon the watch, because it was a one-on-one duel with witnesses -- and it was a waterside dive; they expect nightly murders.)  Gunter, unfortunately, took this moment to mouth off about commoners again, so one of the late pirate's mates challenged him to a duel.  And won.  (I roll in the open so that nobody can accuse me of fudging the dice for my wife.)  Gunter was dead at the hands of an Extra.
    • The landing party finally reached Lady Elaine's place.  Kit stayed outside to keep an eye out for the watch (and let the players do the role-playing).  I belatedly remembered that Pirates of the Spanish Main uses the "Heroes Never Die" setting rule, so Gunter was merely unconscious; Reilly had joined the pirates earlier, so I let Gunter's player run him instead.  Since Lady Elaine refused to treat with Nana as a fellow gentlewoman, Elias saved the day by letting the lady keep the damned dresses but slipping her diamond rings from her fingers unnoticed.
    • Their captain was insulted by Lady Elaine's behavior, so they sailed past her plantation on the way out to sea and fired on it.  

    Sunday, April 1, 2012

    Pirates of the Spanish Main Campaign Characters

    When I began this Pirates of the Spanish Main campaign, I decided that I wanted my PCs to have a chance to catch up to the grossly overpowered embedded setting NPCs -- beyond legendary characters like Captain Blackheart and Jack Hawkins -- so I allowed everybody to simply take an NPC archetype from a list I made of roughly even-powered archetypes from the PotSM and Solomon Kane bestiaries and then take additional Hindrances to customize the character. This allowed for really quick character creation and gave me the ability to start throwing tougher opponents at the PCs immediately.

    (I like to use a lot of Wild Card NPCs; it just isn't fun if the bad guys go down with one good hit.)

    The cast includes:

    Kurokawa Nana (Robin EB) - a Skilled Duelist (PotSM p. 224). As her name implies, Nana is Japanese. She was inspired by the discovery a year or so ago of a katana in the ruins of Port Royal (as seen in this documentary). Her backstory is that she was exiled to Sado Island by her family after running off with the wrong man, kidnapped by Chinese raiders, and then embraced the pirate life. She mutters profane curses in Japanese at inappropriate times and her katana makes her an incredibly deadly combatant.

    Elias Cordwinder (David) - a Thief (PotSM p. 245). Elias arrived in the New World as an indentured servant, but at some time before the campaign began he stole something from someone that put a $5,000 bounty on his head. He is almost D&D-ish in his incessant pocket-picking, but his skills come in handy. Elias has made a lot of money on the side during his adventures and easily has the deepest pockets of any of the crew.

    Captain Wendy Darling (Wendy) - a Veteran Pirate (PotSM p. 237). Once, Wendy lived a peaceful life with her lover, Tiger Lilly, but then tragedy struck and Tiger Lilly was hanged for crimes she didn't commit. Wendy took to the sea and carved a bloody place for herself amongst the buccaneers. Now she's discovered that the cruel magistrate who did her wrong has become governor of Jamaica.

    Johnny McSliceathroat (George) - A Veteran Marine (PotSM p. 232). Johnny is a straightforward man who is pretty good at slicing throats. His nautical skills are a welcome relief in a crew full of landlubbers. He is also the only crewman without any Hindrances.

    "The Mad Arab" (James) - ??? Apparently, I didn't explain the character creation process sufficiently to my brother, because his skill list and Edges don't match any of the accepted archetypes. Well, if he ever makes it back for a second game session, I'll just have him redo his character. I think a Solomon Kane gypsy would fit his character concept best -- a European-turned-corsair-turned-mystic-turned-bomb-maker. Weirdo.

    Gunter Jacob von Heimlich (Thomas) - A Courtier (PotSM p. 235). Nobody understands why an Austrian courtier is running around with pirates, but it might have something to do with the way Gunter schtupps every serving wench he can get his hands on. His unbridled arrogance and annoying habit of insulting everyone he meets got his arm chopped off in their first adventure, but he always wanted a clockwork arm anyway. His obnoxious behavior now has him wanted by Governor Rafael el Duque de Moreno y Rivera for seducing his sister and the Spanish Inquisition for consorting with a necromancer.

    Kit Rackham (me) - A Typical Privateer (PotSM p. 238). My GM NPC. He's mainly there to suggest piratical things to do and make sure everybody keeps to the code (or, at least, knows what the code is). He hates the Spanish.

    In Which Sean Gives Up the Use of Miniatures

    I've had a once-a-month-or so Pirates of the Spanish Main campaign going for a while and yesterday we had our fourth session.  The players are friends of mine from my college days a decade ago who -- with the exception of my wife Robin -- don't really have much RPG experience.  This didn't keep us from having one of the most rollicking good games I've had since the glory days of high school (where, admittedly, the only glory to be found was in gaming).

    Oddly, I owe that good time to abandoning the use of miniatures.  I never used minis before taking up Savage Worlds a couple of years back, but I've used them in all of the group games I've run with various sets of gamers over the last couple of years.  I got to really enjoy them, but I realize now that they're pretty damned time-consuming.  It's amazing how many minutes you can waste counting out squares.

    Because we didn't use minis, I was able to run a back-alley ambush, a brutal naval battle, a lopsided encounter with mermaids, tense negotiations with an Elder God and a fight with the damned crew of the "Jolly Roger," a fistfight, a pirate duel, the best swordfight I've had in a while, and a raid on a Jamaican plantation that involved stealthy commando work and a fight with a whip-wielding man in a nightgown.

    Yeah, it was fun.

    (All of this was greatly helped by George and Wendy's kind decision to drive David home so that he didn't have to catch an early bus -- thus allowing the game session to run long -- but not using miniatures let us do so much in the hours we normally would have had that nobody wanted to leave.)

    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...