Tuesday, December 25, 2012

After Xmas Swashbuckling Sale

As a public service announcement, I'd like to point out that -- as of this writing -- the recent Blu-ray release of the 1975 "Zorro" with Alain Delon is $7.99 at Amazon.


And for Zorro completists, "The Erotic Adventures of Zorro" is also available for $9.98 on DVD. You can find your own link for that.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guess who the patron saint of pirates is?

When the crew is in port during December, they encounter a strange figure at the tavern: 

The old man is short – barely five feet tall -- and heavy-set.  A white beard frames his fleshy face and laughing eyes twinkle above a broken nose.  His knuckles are calloused – the hands of a brawler – and a length of heavy chain wraps around his thick stomach.  Three jingling bags of coins are tied to his belt.  He raises his mug to you and smiles.

Rugged sailors and crusty pirates give the old man’s table a wide berth.  He smiles warmly at the tavern wench who brings his meal and wine and tips her generously from the gold he carries.  He says grace and tucks into his hearty meal.
Questioning the tavern staff and guests reveals the following rumors and speculation (one per success or raise on a Streetwise roll):
1.      He’s a Dutch pirate – Nikolaas van Hoorn* – wanted by the Spanish for the sacking of Vera Cruz. (False)
2.      He’s a slaver; his ship is crewed by the ugliest scum on the face of the earth.  (Almost False)
3.      He’s looking to pay some young maiden’s dowry with the gold he carries – wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more.  (Almost True)
4.      He’s a sorcerer; he carries the Chain of St. Peter, a holy relic capable of binding demons and spirits.  (More True Than False)
5.      He’s really a Greek named Nikolaos who escaped from a Turkish prison.  (True – from a certain point of view)
6.      He’s got a mean right hook and he’ll punch you in the face if you blaspheme in front of him. (Very True)

The old man is, of course, St. Nicholas of Myra -- also called St. Nicholas the Wonderworker – and patron saint of pirates, prostitutes, sailors, and thieves.  His identity will probably be obvious to many players and it is not recommended the GM go to any great lengths to obscure it.  Courting his favor can grant the crew several boons; earning his ire will cause them problems.

If the crew buys St. Nicholas a drink or a meal, treat anyone who chips in money as blessed with the Luck Edge until the next time they commit an infamous act (feel free to make it Great Luck if they buy him milk and cookies).  If they beseech his aid, he can break the curses of supernatural beings – but he will demand penance and good deeds in return.  St. Nicholas is one of the few supernatural beings powerful enough to contend with Dionysus or Atargatis and can free PCs from servitude to one of those pagan gods.

Player characters who assault or steal from St. Nicholas will find themselves hunted by the saint’s demonic servants – Bellzebub, Black Peter, Knecht Ruprecht, Klaubauf, Bartel, Pelzebock, and the Krampus (treat as Wild Card Ghost Pirate Captains armed with clubs).  These frightening devils will beat the characters senseless and play other cruel tricks on them before leaving them where they can be found by the authorities or taunted by rival crews.

*Nicholas van Hoorn was an infamous Dutch pirate who actually named his ship "Saint Nicholas' Day."  Seriously. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Half-Told Stories: Bat-Bond

My first blog was over on LiveJournal, a half-baked concept called Half-Told Stories where I basically pitched the ideas for all the comics, movies, novels, and RPGS that I would never really write out into the ether so that they lived on apart from me (in some sense, at least).  Some of the half-told stories I’m most proud of are my Batman pitches (including what I still think is a great plot for a fifth film in Burton/Schumacher series) and my Lone Ranger pitch.  On the way to work today, an idea of this style just popped into my head unbidden, so I thought I’d start sharing those on this blog too.

The name is Batman… The Batman.

Internet wisdom is that Warner Brothers will be launching a new series of Batman films sooner than later, and that these films will be more “comic book-y” to fit the mood of a shared universe with Superman, Green Lantern, and the Justice League.  There will be less “realism” and less angst than the Nolan films, more colorful villains, and a more open-ended approach.  What I hope is that Warner Brothers has learned the lesson from the Nolan trilogy that Batman himself is the most interesting character in the franchise; I hope they keep the focus on Batman and treat the villains as supporting characters.  I hope they treat Batman like James Bond.

And one way to keep that focus on Batman is to steal the James Bond pre-credits action scene the same way “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” did.

You could set up the transition from Nolan’s world to a more optimistic (dare I say heroic?) Bat-universe with the opening scene of the first new movie.  You begin with a precision bank burglary ala “The Dark Knight” with a set of essentially normal burglars in just slightly outlandish outfits (like the Terrible Trio, perhaps?) breaking in and going through their specialized routines – except Batman’s already there.  One guy goes to take out the security and Batman swoops out of the shadows to stop him.  Another guy is tackling the vault, there’s a tap on his shoulder, and Batman punches him out.  The third guy is taking hostages, and suddenly Batman’s there to put the fear in him.  And maybe Batman hasn’t said a word yet, so the last burglar is babbling “Who are you?” and Batman says “The Batman.”  Cut to credits and jangly, surf music-infused theme…

There’s a lot of Bat-villains that are just too goofy or one-dimensional to work for a whole movie.  I’m sure everyone has their own thoughts on who those would be, but the ones that jump out to me are Firefly, Killer Croc, the Ventriloquist, and Victor Zsasz.  Those characters would be great as pre-credits one-offs (well, maybe not Zsasz) who get locked up and later join the hijinks in a big Arkham Asylum breakout movie (or another adaptation of “Knightfall”).

Anyway, it’s just a thought I felt like sharing.  Feel free to use it, Warner Brothers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Notes Toward an Imaginary Japan

So, anyway...
We launched into the "Grand Quest" campaign outline in my post about elevator pitches -- and then we stalled out.  While Greater Albion is in the shop, we've decided to pick up another of those elevator pitches and go with SEIRYU.

Robin and I are geeks about a lot of things, both together (RPGs, Doctor Who) and individually (G. I. Joe, Jem and the Holograms).  We are both diehard Japanophiles (even though neither of us speaks Japanese).  When we started gaming duets campaigns together in the early years of our marriage, the world of White Wolf's Year of the Lotus was our setting and we played that into the ground.  We have a bookshelf bigger than my gaming shelves that's full of books about Japan or by Japanese authors (like Haruki Murakami), another shelf packed with manga several layers deep, and a shelf that's just anime and Japanese music (mainly anime soundtracks and J-rock, but also some traditional stuff).  Telling Robin that the setting I imagine is halfway between the moods of "Otogi Zoshi" and "InuYasha" gives her all the info she needs.

Which is how we began a new campaign with practically no notes except:
Kyushu has fallen to the Mongols.  The imperial line is fragmented.  In this time of terror, a princess has been found.  Some say she has returned from the dead; some say she is guided by the Monkey King.  None doubt that she wields a bow like she was born to it.  None doubt that she lights the darkness of the world like a second sun.  Only she can wield the ancient magatama that summons the guardian dragon of the east; only she can command Seiryu!
(A samurai/kaiju/Arthuriana mashup for Savage Worlds or d6)

Well...  Maybe I had slightly more than that in mind -- but only slightly more.  I knew the Merlin figure was a variation on the Monkey King and that our heroine had been raised with a Sir Kay-like brother figure.  I knew the heroine was the survivor of a Kenmu Restoration-like event that went wrong.  I know her future will feature a love triangle between her, a cross-dressed Guinevere in the form of a youthful Emperor, and a Lancelot who is in love with our heroine's Arthur instead.  And that's about it.

So today -- two days after beginning the campaign -- I wrote some notes:
Mukashi mukashi...

Fifty years ago, Emperor Go-Daigo rebelled against his puppet masters in the Kamakura Shogunate.  The battle lasted twenty years and ended in a stalemate with the Emperor’s forces controlling parts of southern Honshu and northern Kyushu and the Shogun’s puppet empire controlling the rest of Japan.  Seeking to exploit the fractures in the Japanese government, the Mongol Empire launched a new invasion approximately twenty years ago that successfully overran Kyushu and turned Shikoku into a disputed wasteland.  The true, southern Emperor died valiantly battling the invaders and his family line appears to be extinct.

O-Kami [our heroine] is the last of the rightful imperial line, daughter of Go-daigo’s heir Go-Morinaga.  Kai is a descendant of Kusunoki Dai-Nanko, Go-Daigo’s most loyal general. Ushiwakamaru is a son of Ashikaga Yoshitomo, the current shogun reigning in Kamakura.  The current Emperor is the ailing Go-En’yu; he will be succeeded by young Prince Fushimi.

They are on their way from approximately Kuji to visit Shingen Masamune, Lion of the North, a powerful daimyo anachronistically based in Sendai.   He is 30+, gruff and powerful. 

The Ashikaga shoguns retained the Kamakura residence of the Minamoto shoguns due to its easily-defended location.  They are somewhat more martial and less courtly than their historical counterparts.


464 miles at 14 miles a day (average for mountainous terrain and bad light) = 33 days
195 miles at 14 miles a day = 14 days

So it would take just over a month for our heroes to reach Kamakura if they went right there.  If they go to Sendai first, then that takes about 14 days and then it would be 19 days to Kamakura. 

You know the really hilarious thing about this?  I own Iron Dynasty and we deliberately decided to not use it because we didn't feel it felt genuinely Japanese (and we didn't like all the extra Edges).  Why do I make life hard for myself?!  Oh well, I should at least be able to raid Iron Dynasty for NPC archetypes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gaming Shelves

So I'm going to jump on the Grognardia gaming shelves meme even though I'm not an OSR gamer.  Sue me.

If I'm going to be honest, my go-to gaming shelf is actually two books that spend most of their time on my coffee table.  The vast majority of my games these days are set in the "real world" sometime between 1600 and 1840 and Pirates of the Spanish Main has all the NPC archetypes, cool fencing Edges, and equipment I need.  Savage Worlds Deluxe is used primarily for magic, monsters, and a few cool new setting rules and modifications. 

That is not to say that I don't have an entire bookshelf of game books, because of course I do.

I store my Savage Worlds materials, my "Order of the Stick" books, and "A Touch of Evil" on top of the bookcase in easy reach.

The top shelf is dedicated to White Wolf games.  We have the entire run of "Kindred of the East" books but have never actually run a game.  We've got more "Changeling: The Dreaming" and "Werewolf: the Apocalypse" material than anything else.

The second shelf contains some D&D boxed sets, folders, and doodads.

The middle shelf is issues of "Dungeon" and "Dragon," bigger Savage Worlds books, Pendragon, d6 Star Wars, and Call of Cthulhu.

The fourth shelf is mainly folders and notebooks full of the ephemera of old campaigns.

The bottom shelf is where the D&D books sit.

"Bigatures" (the popsicle-stick puppets) were an attempt to get people to talk more in character.  It kinda worked, but only kinda.

I participated!  And I have not played the new non-collectible "Pirates of the Spanish" main card game.  It just sits there with Jack Hawkins glaring at me.
I've never really made any use of "Menzoberranzan" either, dagnabbit. 

Yes, I own The Book of Erotic FantasyCan you honestly think I wouldn't?

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...