Showing posts from September, 2014

The Steamscapes: Asia Kickstarter is LIVE!

The Kickstarter for Steamscapes: Asia is now live!  I'm contributing the chapter on Japan, so -- if you like this blog -- please contribute so I can get paid some real money for my writing!

(Yeah, I know that's a really selfish reason, but I think it's a good argument.)

I know my section has some really surprising twists on how Japanese history could have gone, and I think they make it a really interesting and exciting world to play in -- and this is the time-frame of The Last Samurai and Rurouni Kenshin, so you know it's good!

There will be more up on the blog as the month progresses, so stay tuned!

And speaking of tuned, think of this as the unofficial theme song of Steamscapes' Japan:

Your Experience Is Not Universal

I became a nerd on the first day of sixth grade.
I wasn’t a nerd before that.Oh sure, I liked reading a lot and didn’t like sports much, but I wasn’t a nerd.I liked G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Transformers, mythology and fantasy, but I wasn’t a nerd.I was just a kid with glasses who read more than he played outside, who had just moved to a new city and didn’t know anyone at his new school.I was just a normal kid.
I was a normal kid until I introduced myself to the first kid I saw on the playground, and then he pushed me down and called me a nerd.
And I became a nerd.
I spent the next three years being bullied by kids who thought Biff Tannen from fucking Back to the Future was a fucking role model (you have no idea how much I hate that fucking movie). I went from not being very good at sports but still enjoying playing soccer to absolutely loathing sports and everything that goes with them.I went from being a boy the girls liked to being a guy who couldn’t get a girl to notice h…

My Godzilla vs. King Kong Headcanon

I’ve got several different pet theories about Godzilla.In the canon of Mecha Kaiju Sensō Tai!!! – my half-developed Savage Worlds kaiju setting – he’s a weapon created by beings from the future.In another theory, Godzilla is a mutated dinosaur from Skull Island.Sometimes he’s both at once.
In the latter two versions, Skull Island did not sink into the sea following the events of Son of Kong, but was instead quarantined by the U.S. government.During WWII, Skull Island became the battleground for DC Comics’ The War That Time Forgot.American forces “tested” the atom bomb by dropping one on Skull Island during the final days of the war.
Few of the animal inhabitants survived.The Son of Kong began to suffer the gigantism that early atomic weapons infected so many of their victims with and swam away from the island to find a life elsewhere, but he was suffering from radiation sickness and would eventually succumb to his disease.The most successful of the survivors was the semi-aquatic carn…

(Slow Clap)

Bravo, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..I really didn’t see that coming.
I stayed with AoS all through its first season, so I’m obviously not someone who ever thought it was actually bad.I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t admit it got better during the lead-in to and spin out from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.I’m happy to report that the first episode of the new season kept the momentum from the latter half of last season.
I had two main questions in my head through most of the runtime of S2 E1 “Shadows:” How is this ragtag band of underdogs possibly going to defeat a Thor/Hulk villain like the Absorbing Man?How are the writers of a show with an ensemble this large already going to deal with adding four more cast members? SPOILERS AFTER THE CUT


The first thing I checked this morning was to see if English is Gotham head honcho Bruno Heller’s second language.Nope.His father is German, but Heller himself was born and raised in England.In fact, he created HBO’s Rome, a series I quite liked and which certainly did not suffer from the bizarre dissonance of Gotham.
The pilot episode of Gotham suffers from tonal dissonance – different elements of the story just kind of clash – but it also just plain suffers from dissonance.It sounds weird.I have never in my life heard the phrase “a tall glass of milk” used to describe a human being; the only reference I can find for it online is at the Urban Dictionary, which – frankly – seems to make a bunch of crap up.The word “lackadaisical” is prominently used in the pilot, causing both the audience and Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock to ask “Lackadaisical?”There are forced references to penguins and awkward lines from Jim Gordon and it all just grates on my ears.
The tonal dissonance also bugs me…

My Dracula Headcanon

I am totally revved up for Halloween already. So, as my previous post about our untitled Victorian adventure campaign (starring the adventurous archaeologist Lady Atalanta Scarborough!) indicated, our current duet game takes place in a world where Dracula happened.In keeping with the many, many other authors and gamers who have continued the story of Bram Stoker’s characters, I have my own ideas about what the cast has been up to since the novel ended. DRACULA Dracula himself is now a globe-trotting supervillain, because of course he is.Dracula constantly seeks new information on the origins of vampires and the means to create them, pausing in his relentless hunt only long enough to toy with his dogged foe, Quincey P. Morris (see below).Why he seeks this knowledge is something of a mystery as yet, as Lady Atalanta didn’t feel much like trading banter with him the only time they met.  Unlike the rest of the Draculacast, he doesn’t look like the actor from Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram S…

Caius (Weird Wars Rome: Dux Bellorum)

Heroic Wild Card
Caius Artorius Caecina is the cousin and foster-brother of Artorius.  It is hard to imagine that two men could be so different yet be so close; Artorius is professional and thoughtful, while Caius is boorish and rowdy.  Despite his pride in his Roman heritage, Caius is almost more a barbarian Celt by demeanor.  He acts as as a "drill sergeant" and unit commander for Artorius' warband.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d10, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d8, Intimidation d8, Knowledge (Battle) d6, Knowledge (Briton) d6, Notice d6, Riding d8, Taunt d8, Throwing d6.
Charisma: -1(-2) Pace: Parry: 9(1) Toughness: 10(3)
Hindrances: Arrogant [Major], Mean [Minor], Stubborn [Minor].
Edges: Block/Improved Block, Blood and Guts (WWR), Brawny, Command, Giant Killer, Military Family (WWR), Strong Willed. 
Gear: bronze breastplate (+3 Armor, torso only), clipeus/medium shield (+1 Parry, +2 Armor vs ranged attacks), formal robes, greaves (+2 Armor, l…

Bedwyr (Weird Wars Rome: Dux Bellorum)

Heroic Wild Card
Bedwyr of the Perfect Sinews is one of Artorius’ oldest friends and most formidable warriors.Even though he lost one of his hands in an early battle, his courage and strength have made him a paragon the younger warriors of Artorius’warband.His success and good looks lead some jealous rivals to accuse him of witchcraft.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d10, Intimidation d4, Knowledge (Battle) d6, Knowledge (Latin) d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d10, Throwing d8.
Charisma: +2 Pace: 6 Parry: 8(1)Toughness: 9(3)
Hindrances: One Arm [Major], Enemy [Minor; jealous rivals], Loyal [Minor].
Edges: Attractive, Counterattack/Improved Counterattack, First Strike/Improved First Strike, Frenzy/Improved Frenzy, Steady Hands.
Gear: bronze breastplate (+3 Armor, torso only), clipeus/medium shield (+1 Parry, +2 Armor vs ranged attacks), formal robes, greaves (+2 Armor, legs only), 2 javelins/spears (Str+d6, range: 3/6/12, RoF 1…

Artorius (Weird Wars Rome: Dux Bellorum)

In the late 5th century CE, the colony of Britannia finds itself defenseless after Rome recalls her legions.  The Romano-British hire Anglo-Saxon mercenaries to defend their borders, but soon find themselves at war with their erstwhile protectors.  As the light of Rome begins to die in the west, a leader arises – a man history will call King Arthur, but whom history knows as the…

*Legendary Wild Card
Ambrosius Artorius Aurelianus is the descendant of a long line of respected military leaders.  As Britannia devolves into petty kingdoms in the wake of the Anglo-Saxon uprising, Artorius earns his title as “the last of the Romans” by putting the cause of freedom before personal gain.  He is a master tactician, a competent politician, and leads an army of cavalry descended from Sarmatian and other foreign auxiliaries stationed in Britannia centuries ago. 
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d10, Intimidation d6, Knowledge …

Music = Magic

(I know I should be working on any number of other projects right now, but this is one of those “Write it down or I’ll forget it” things – and the best place to keep things I don’t want to forget is one the blog.)
Since Jem and the Holograms is one of Robin’s favorite childhood cartoons and Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad is one of her favorite anime, I have, from time to time, contemplated running a campaign about musicians.Attempts so far have not been particularly successful, but I think I might have figured out how to make it work.
Music = Magic
Not (necessarily) in the D&D bardic style, but rather in using the mechanics of spellcasting in order to simulate the drama and challenge of performing.It seems to me that the music itself should be some sort of mini-game with its own evocative flavor, rather than being a dull series of skill checks.There should be some magic to making music, and an obvious way to do that in a tabletop RPG is to use the game’s magic system.
(Alternatively, …

Let Me Tell You About My Character

Yeah, I know.  Nobody wants to hear about anyone else's RPG character, but I've never had a character to talk about before now!

I’ve been gaming since I was 16 (yes, I got a bit of a late start) and have been the GM in almost every session I've played over the last 25 years.  Prior to this year, I could count the number of times I was a player on one hand – and pretty much all of those campaigns imploded after a single session.  I had never actually played a PC for more than two consecutive sessions until this year, so I honestly had no idea what kind of player I was or what kind of characters I liked to play.

Well…That’s not entirely true.Since most of my gaming is duets with +Robin English-Bircher , a lot of the recurring NPCs are essentially GMPCs – and a lot of those characters are scoundrels.Some of those quasi-GMPCs have included Elaith Craulnobur, a superspy version of Dorian Gray, and numerous, numerous pastiches of Lupin the Third.If I’m going to be honest with m…

The King is Dead: Ananzi's Web

Ananzi’s Web Abolitionist and spies
“Ananzi the Spider is a weak creature, but a powerful hunter.  With its webs of silk, it can catch prey much larger than itself.  With its webs of words, Ananzi also caught all knowledge, tricking the lion and the elephant out of their secrets and teaching them to humankind.  When the foreigners came to the shores of Afar and stole its children, Ananzi’s knowledge traveled with them to the new lands across the sea…” Anonymous, Ananzi’s Creed
When Malleus and its Ereban rivals began their conquest of the Caliban Sea and the Atlantikan continents, they brought pestilence and death to much of the native population.  In order to farm the rich soils of those lands, the Malleans and Erebans turned to the importation of black slaves from the Dark Coast of Afar.  Entire villages – entire nations – were clapped in irons and packed as cargo, sailed across the vast Atlantik Ocean, and turned into human tools.  Throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries, slave…