The King is Dead

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Blackwood Kickstarter

A pair of errants.
I'm going to assume "red bears" are red pandas. 

For the record, I’ve exchanged pleasantries with creator Eli Kurtz on Google+, I consider contributor Richard Woolcock a friend, and pal and publisher Eric Simon acted as their Kickstarter consultant, but I have no business interest in the Blackwood Kickstarter.

Remember the end of Brotherhood of the Wolf when Fronsac paints his face so that we can’t tell Mark Dacascos is standing in for Samuel Le Bihan and then he goes totally kung-fu crazy? And there are all those crazy masked cultists? And Jean-François de Morangias not only regenerates his arm, but fights with a bone sword-whip like he escaped from a Tsui Hark film? Remember that?

That’s basically The Blackwood Errantry Codex.

As long-time Wine and Savages readers know, Brotherhood of the Wolf is a significant contributor to the DNA of The King is Dead – but the Blackwood setting hones in on the wild juxtaposition of martial arts and Old World aesthetic shown in that film to create a unique fantasy setting. I picked up the free primer materials from DriveThruRPG this weekend, and they convinced me to back the project. 

Carved out of the center of the massive Blackwood forest sits the Elder Kingdom, a peaceful land that’s basically Confucian China in Early Modern German drag. Long ago, the Elder King broke the power of the elves – here described as the weird, malevolent creatures of European folklore instead of the clean-cut immortals of Tolkien – but now he’s gone missing and darkness is creeping back into the kingdom from the edges of the forest. Thankfully, a caste of traveling warriors called errants wander the Margin of the Elder Kingdom – the luminal space between the mundane and the supernatural, between law and the outlaw – to quell elves, their monsters, and their worshippers.

Errants look like they stepped out of 7th Sea or one of Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman movies, but they dash along treetops like Li Mu Bai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Eli Kurtz has adopted an Edge-based approach to martial arts for Savage Worlds that allows players to activate iconic wire-fu abilities without worrying about Power Points and activation rolls – though he’s also created a few new Arcane Backgrounds to bring some additional flavor to spellcasting in the Blackwood, like the Classicists who blend music and scholarship, for those who want to throw bolts around.

For those who are curious but doubtful, I recommend checking out the free materials at DTRPG. A primer with samples of new magic and Edges, a set of pre-generated characters, and a quartet of adventures are all available. The adventures include murderous remixes of “The Elves and the Shoemaker” and Journey to the West(by way of the Beast of Gévaudan) so they should give you a good idea of whether the Blackwood appeals to you.

The Kickstarter is a few hundred short of funding with a week left to go. I’ve gone in on a pledge that gets me the physical copy of the book – something I decided to do with Buccaneer: Through Hell & High Water as well – and expect that there will be a last-minute flurry of pledges to get the project funded. As a fan of the disparate genres Eli Kurtz has woven into this unusual setting, I hope the Blackwood flourishes.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lupin III: The Revenge of Mamo! - Goemon Ishikawa XIII

Goemon Ishikawa XIII

Goemon Ishikawa XIII
Legendary Street Fighter Wild Card (100 XP)

Though trained in the arts of the ninja by either the Iga or Fuma ninja clans, Goemon prefers to live his life as an anachronistic samurai, practicing Zen meditation and training in the art of battōjutsu.

Goemon Ishikawa XIII originally met Lupin III when the latter attempted to steal the formula for the alchemical steel that gives Goemon’s sword the strength to cut any object; after several unsuccessful attempts to kill each other, the two bonded and became allies. Goemon feels a genuine kinship with Daisuke Jigen, a friendship stronger than his often opportunistic alliance with Lupin. He harbors a secret, reluctant crush for Fujiko Mine – indeed, his self-imposed asceticism makes him an easy mark for any pretty woman – but that doesn’t mean he’s above taking a peep at her when the opportunity allows. He counts Inspector Koichi Zenigata as a worthy opponent, but has no strong feelings for him aside from that.

Relationships (see One Big Happy Family)

  • Lupin III gains no additional bonus when Goemon gives him a Benny
  • Jigen gets a +2 bonus on the reroll when Goemon gives him a Benny
  • Fujiko gets a +2 bonus on the reroll when Goemon gives her a Benny
  • Zenigata gains no additional bonus when Goemon gives him a Benny
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Climbing d6, Fighting d12+2, Healing d8, Knowledge (Japanese Folk Medicine) d8, Knowledge (Occult) d8, Intimidation d8, Notice d8, Stealth d8, Streetwise d6, Swimming d8, Throwing d8
Charisma: +0; Pace: 6; Parry: 9; Toughness: 10
Gear: the katana known as Ryusei (流星,) and Zantetsuken (斬鉄剣) (str+d6+2; AP 2), kimono and hakama, kiseru-style pipe, red fundoshi loincloth, sugegasa hat.
Hindrances: Code of Honor [Major], Quirk [Minor; insists on traditional Japanese food and drink], Vengeful [Minor], Wanted [Minor], Weakness [Minor; -4 to resist Tests of Will and Tricks by women]
Edges: Danger Sense, First Strike/Improved First Strike, Level Headed, Martial Artist, Quick, Quick Draw, Trademark Weapon/Improved Trademark Weapon
Special Abilities
  • Attack, Melee (zantetsuken) (9): +2d6 damage (4), Focus (+3), Heavy Weapon (+1), Multiple Attacks (+2), Stackable (+2), Device (-2)
  • Deflection (bullet-cutting) (8): -8 to hit (8), Protector (+2), Device (-2)
  • Super Edge (4): Sweep (2), Improved Sweep (2)
  • Super Skill (10): +1 tealth, +2 Fighting, +3 Knowledge (Japanese Folk Medicine) & Knowledge (Occult)
  • Toughness (plot armor) (4)

Setting Rule: One Big Happy Family

Fairy Tail, obviously.

The interpersonal dynamics between player characters serve as the primary point of tension in some genres and settings. Anime- and manga-derived settings in particular embrace the notion of “nakama” – friends who are closer than your family – while settings based on American Saturday morning and syndicated cartoons may actually define friendship as magic.

Just as the Blood & Guts rule dispenses of the need for the No Mercy Edge, so One Big Happy Family dispenses with Common Bond, allowing players to freely share Bennies with their fellow players and designated Game Master Wild Cards (the Natural Leader and Beast Bond Edges are still needed for Extra allies and animals, respectively).

Game Masters may choose to allow players to complicate the relationships between heroes by assigning bonuses and penalties to the rerolls granted by sharing Bennies. In an average-sized group of four to six players, this combination of bonuses and penalties has a sum total of +4; larger groups may wish to increase the total to +6 or even +8. The maximum bonus that can be assigned to any one teammate is +2.

Example: Gray Fullbuster is a member of Fairy Tail, a guild of wizards for hire, and frequently goes on adventures with four of his guild mates: Natsu Dragneel (with whom he has a serious, but not deadly, rivalry), Erza Scarlet (whom he looks upon as an older sister), Lucy Heartfilia (who he thinks is attractive but has no particular romantic feelings for), and Happy the Exceed (about whom he has no strong feelings). Gray’s player assigns his Benny bonuses this way:

  • Natsu suffers a -2 penalty on the reroll when he spends a Benny that Gray gave him
  • Erza gets a +2 bonus on the reroll when she spends a Benny that Gray gave her
  • Lucy gets a +2 bonus on the reroll when she spends a Benny that Gray gave her
  • Happy gets a +2 bonus on the reroll when he spends a Benny that Gray gave him

Players may reassign their bonus/penalty total at the beginning or end of any session – simulating arcs of character growth as they become closer friends and allies or start to grow apart – but the numbers must stay constant during the session.

Example: Later, the sprightly Wendy Marvell, Charle the Exceed, and Juvia Lockser join the team on a permanent basis. The Game Master allows the group to expand their bonus/penalty total to +6. As Gray’s attraction to Lucy has cooled while Juvia’s player has declared she has an unwavering crush on Gray, Gray’s player reassigns his total as:
  • That jerk Natsu still suffers a -2 penalty on the reroll when he spends a Benny that Gray gave him
  • Erza gets a +2 bonus on the reroll when she spends a Benny that Gray gave her
  • Lucy gets a +2 bonus on the reroll when she spends a Benny that Gray gave her
  • Happy's been taunting Gray too much recently, so he gets no bonus on the reroll when he spends a Benny that Gray gave him
  • Wendy gets a +1 bonus on the reroll when she spends a Benny that Gray gave her
  • Charle gets a +1 bonus on the reroll when she spends a Benny that Gray gave her
  • Juvia gets a +2 bonus on the reroll when she spends a Benny that Gray gave her

New Hindrance
Selfish Jerk [Major or Minor]: You take advantage of your friends and give little back. As a Minor Hindrance, you have 2 less points available in your Benny-sharing pool; as a Major Hindrance, you have 4 less.

New Edge
Requirements: Novice
Your empathy and generosity are legendary. Every time you take this Edge, you gain an additional +2 to your Benny-sharing pool, up to a maximum of 5 times for a bonus of +10 to your pool.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Yokai Monogatari

At Chupacabracon, I ran two games. One, The Doktor, is from The King is Dead. The other, Toketsu Onsen Monogotari, is a new mini-setting I plan on developing. Sean and I love Japanese history and folklore, so we plan on a number of Japanese mini-settings. The ghost stories or Heian-Kyo inspired another that we know we will create. As for others, well, we will decide when we get there.

I started on the setting from the Japanese game, currently titled Yokai Monogotari. Below is the intro and a quick overview. This is just beginning development and is my side project as we return to The King is Dead.

A battle nears and will sweep us into its maw. How did we come to this?

First, the capital burned. Clans fought to control the imperial court and reign as shogun. Before long, the fire spread into the provinces and throughout the islands. Provincial leaders, the daimyo, thirsted for power and land. They waged war against one another, invading their neighbors’ lands. War envelops the land and the eight islands burns.

So men say. They believe they direct all that occurs. But we know better. The forces beyond us, from the High Plain of Heaven and Yomi flow through the earthly plain. When the Mongols sailed to our shores, samurai claimed they fought the horde back. They do not praise Susanoo and the great wind he set upon the navy: the kamikaze wind blew some ships farther to sea and sunk others. We do not forget.

The emperor and his grand court flourished in their capital, a shining light for the entirety of the eight islands. In time, the western residences fell into disrepair. One-by-one, each home grew dark and began to decay. The nobles fled to the East, leaving the remains to the desperate unafraid of what may lurk in the shadows. The emperor allowed half of the capital to rot. The onmyoji warned the Ministers of the Right and the Left; they pleaded with the emperor to act. They foresaw a corruption that would fall upon the land, the age of the yokai.

At first, great heroes challenged the threat faced in Heian-Kyo. Warriors of incredible fortitude and virtue faced the foes. Watanabe no Tsuna cleansed the Rashomon Gate, and under his commander, Minamoto no Raiko, protected the capital from a growing supernatural threat. Ghosts dwelt among men. They brought darkness to the hearts of men and possessed others. The great onmyoji engaged the dead and sent them to Yomi. But when onmyoji like Abe no Seimei and the great warriors left this world, the yokai had no adversary to stop their assault.

Then, the gods lost faith in the emperor and his ministers.

Each year brought new yokai, and soon the yokai possessed half of the capital. The more demonic among them lead the new populace. They required reverence and loyalty, demanding followers to turn from the gods. The wicked faith stretched out along the Western streets, and the contamination expanded. Their darkness blocked the protective light of Amaterasu-no-Mikoto, and her descendants did nothing.

Few can withstand the temptations of the yokai. The infection took hold of the greatest families. The Genji and the Heike turned on one another. The blood of their feud soaked the earth. The honorable, like Tomoe no Gozen, gave their lives for peace. Those lands prospered when the war moved on. However, far more of the blood came from the innocents crushed beneath the armies. They left the living world angry and vengeful. If they did not return as yokai, their blood fed those already here.

The four guardian beasts could not hold the tide; with no center, they could not retain the whole.

The provincial governors, the damiyo, and their generals smelled the blood. The sharks along the coast found brothers in these men. These opportunistic men seized the moment, rose-up to secure land and power. Confident, the yokai urged many men to engage in battle, and so their disease spread. Some daimyo and generals, at least in the beginning, fought for the gods, the land, and the people. Embodying the greater heroes before them, they resisted the coming plague. However, the disease had grown too strong for single men to fight against the tide, and they succumbed.

Today, the eight islands belong to the yokai, and you and I must take up arms to drive them from our homes.

Hereos in Yokai Monogatari battle the supernatural threat to medieval Japan.

Japan enjoys a long history of supernatural stories. The creation myth and the early heroes found in the Nihongi, the ghost stories of the Heian courts, and the yokai tales of the countryside speak of a world teeming with being and creatures, both good and bad. Storytellers use the Sengoku Jidai, or the Warring States, period to weave such tales. In modern times, manga and anime try to capture the otherworldly of this era. Works like Sengoku Basara and Ninja Scroll present humans capable of supernatural feats. On the other hand, Inuyasha and Princess Mononoke tell of a world of gods and yokai.

Yokai Monogatari brings these sort of stories together. Heroes are not mere mortals, but humans with gifts not of the earthly plain. Yokai, both good and bad, exist and do commit acts both helpful and damaging. Disgusted by the growing avarice and destruction of the daimyo, the heroes of Yokai Monogatari band together to deal with the threat left in the armies’ wake. Invigorated and inspired by the war, the yokai grow stronger and wreak havoc upon the innocent and survivors. With no one left to fight, these heroes take up the charge and wage a spiritual war for the soul of the eight islands.

The adventures, or misadventures, of the heroes can take any form. The setting is ripe for stories of horror and despair. Comedic romps with wacky yokai belong in this setting. Intrigue figures well into the setting, both as a story element or type. The heroes may find themselves in a romance that may fail or succeed. The main tone of the setting is the heroic. Dangerous yokai pose threats that normal people cannot hope to defeat, and the heroes, blessed by the gods, defeat the evil presence alongside those yokai desiring peace. Samurai turned ronin, renegade ninja, wandering holy persons – from both the Shinto and Buddhist traditions – wizards, monks, and yokai join forces to save the eight islands of Japan. Welcome to Yokai Monogatari.

Thoughts toward a Lupin the Third convention game

Red jacket Lupin is obviously the best. Why else would he be on the game cover?

One of the things I learned from both the Savage Rifts® x Fairy Tail game and ¡Viva el Zorro! is that it really kicks a convention game into high gear when the players can easily identify with and get into character as the pre-gens. This has me seriously, seriously considering doing a Lupin the Third adventure at the next convention. 
Certain parts of designing such an adventure seem pretty straightforward: 
  • The players would play Lupin, Jigen, Goemon, Fujiko, and Inspector Zenigata. Why play something set in the world of Lupin the Third if you’re not going to be part of the gang? 
  • The characters would be built using the Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion using the Street Fighters power level. Goemon needs AP 50 for his zantestuken, so that’s going to cost 25 Power Points – but that still gives him plenty of points to spend on deflection. Going all the way up to Four Color heroes seems like overkill. 
  • The heroes will be at least Veterans, if not higher in Rank. 
  • I need to buy the Lupin the Third board game for the miniatures. 
  • On Robin’s recommendation, using Sean Patrick Fannon’s Plans & Operations rules for the upcoming Freedom Squadron setting will perfectly cover the globe-trotting heist structure of a typical Lupin the Third movie or TV special.
I found myself overbooked for most of my Chupacabracon games this year, so I know I should plan ahead for that contingency. My fix for this in the case of a Lupin game is not to force latecomers to play lame-ass secondary characters (like Joseph and Pierre from the 2014 live action film) but instead to make them play alternate Lupins. The first player to choose to play Lupin the Third gets to play either red jacket or green jacket Lupin (their choice, though obviously red jacket is better); once the rest of the gang is chosen, anybody late to sign up gets an alternate-colored Lupin (whichever is left of red or green, then blue and pink). All the Lupins would think they’re the real Lupin and the others are clones or imposters. 
(And the in-game justification for that is that the apparent villain of the game would be clonemesiter Mamo from THE BEST LUPIN THE THIRD MOVIE AND YOU’LL NEVER CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE. Hmm… I’ll have to prepare sealed envelopes with secret messages confirming the identity of the real Lupin to hand out at the end of the adventure.) 
Now, the weird thing I’m considering experimenting with is asymmetrical Benny sharing as a way to preserve the friendships and rivalries among the cast. Basically, everybody would have the equivalent of Common Bond – but it wouldn’t apply evenly across the board. This is all brainstorming nonsense right now, but I’m thinking something like:
  • Goemon and Jigen are pals, so they share Bennies evenly.
  • Jigen hates Fujiko, so any Bennies he gives her impose a -2 on the reroll.
  • Fujiko is always reluctant to help Lupin but secretly loves him, so it costs her 2 (or maybe 3) Bennies to give one to Lupin – but that gives him the reroll plus a +2 bonus (or maybe +4 if she spends 3 Bennies).
  • Lupin, on the other hand, is head over heels for Fujiko, so any Benny he gives her comes with a +2 bonus.
  • Jigen is so loyal to Lupin that any Benny he gives his boss has a +2 bonus.
  • Since super powers games use the Joker’s Wild setting rule by default, everybody gets a free Benny when a Joker is drawn – however, if there are multiple Lupins in play, only the Lupin that drew the card gets the Benny because they all hate each other.
  • And so on… (I don’t know what to do with Zenigata yet.) 
It’s all really rough right now, but I think it could be fun and add some inter-player tension while not tumbling everything into inter-player fighting. I’ll have to playtest it with friends first, of course. I wonder if it might serve as the basis for some sort of relationship or rivalry rule in the anime rom-com material?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

¡Viva el Zorro! at Chupacabracon IV

While I really need to write a longer post about Chupacabracon IV as a whole, let me tell you about my ¡Viva el Zorro! game. It was – without a doubt – the best convention game I’ve ever run, filled with the thrill and excitement of the best home group games and the kind of emotion I’ve only ever felt in my duets with Robin. Everyone was invested, and that’s probably to the credit of Zorro, not myself.

As anyone familiar with the blog knows, I’m a huge Zorro fan. I wanted this session to be special, so I put a lot of work into the presentation. I printed up about 50 or so paper miniatures to represent the heroes and the villains (including about 30 lancers to make sure the heroes understood the odds and knew a frontal assault wouldn’t work) and cobbled together two battle maps out of Pinnacle’s fort and village sets for Weird Wars Rome and D20 Cartographer’s One Dollar Dungeon: Rogue’s Reward Prison. Character sheets contained full-color illustrations of the characters matching the miniatures and were designed with clarity in mind.

I didn’t, however, put a lot of work into plot. I improvise a lot when running games at home, and I prefer to try doing that at conventions as well. It didn’t work quite as well as it could have with this year’s Savage Rifts® x Fairy Tail and The King is Dead games, but neither of them were bad either. It was a huge success with Zorro.

Just go back a few days on this blog and you’ll see the entirety of what I wrote down for the game. The thing is, this was completely necessary. The game could not possibly have worked if there was any more structure to it than “Zorro is captured and you have to break him out.” (The only tweak I made was to lampshade that the characters who know Don Diego is Zorro knew what they were doing, but the rest were there to rescue Don Diego himself, assuming his arrest was a mistake.) This was a game that was going to live or die on the give and take between the players and GM.

Thankfully, I had awesome players. The Ross Watson (game designer, writer, professional nerd, and friend) dropped in late to live the role of Sgt. Pedro Gonzales (pitching his participation as “Don Diego cannot possibly be Zorro! Obviously, he was arrested on the way to a costume party!”) which meant hurried corrections to a duplicate Don Audre character sheet to turn him into Don Alejandro Vega (but I already had a Don Alejandro mini, just in case) and that someone had to play Tornado, Zorro’s horse. Scott Crosson stepped into that role with aplomb, playing Tornado more in the style of the Antonio Banderas movies or like Roy Rogers’ Trigger, never letting the fact that he was horse stop him from being active in any scene.

Aaron Burkett of the Minionworks Podcasting Network and the Doom Rides blog breathed fire into Jose of the Cocopahs, reveling in the rebellion at colonialism inherent in that character. Carolyn Pagan, arriving late, nevertheless gave a great showing as Don Alejandro. Sean McDaniel, with whom I had talked Zorro well into the wee hours of the previous night, stepped into Don Audre’s shoes and played him with verve and panache, embracing the caballero’s Death Wish [Minor] to prove himself Zorro’s equal.

Embarrassingly (but typically for me), I failed to quite catch the name of the brave soul who chose to play the mute Bernardo. It isn’t easy to play an RPG character who doesn’t speak, but his player executed it well. I believe that player was Darren Hennessey, and I apologize if it wasn’t.

Rounding out the cast was Kelley Foote, contributor to TSR’s original Oriental Adventures and OA1: Swords of the Daimyo, and his ten year-old daughter (whom I wouldn’t name even if I could remember her name, what with the internet being a terrible place for children’s information) who played Lolita Pulido and Anita Santiago respectively. It still surprises me that a distinguished gentleman like Foote so effectively played the wilting senorita, but the bloodthirsty relish with which that little girl played Anita Santiago (a fully-clothed spin on Lady Rawhide) was even more astonishing.

The session began with a brief serenade from me, singing the first verse of the classic Disney Zorro theme before we briefly got off track on who our favorite Zorros were.

The story proper began with Tornado returning alone to Zorro’s secret cave to summon Bernardo to aid their master. They rushed back to where Zorro had fallen only to see him dragged away by lancers from the presidio, with Captain Torello gloating above the hero’s unconscious body. I gave them a Dramatic Task to summon all of Zorro’s allies within five actions, letting them choose what attributes and skills they used for the task. Each summoned ally then was able to summon more allies, which led to some awkwardness on how to handle Gonzales ordering his soldiers to race toward various haciendas but we settled on Intimidation as the appropriate skill.

Once everyone was assembled at the Vega hacienda, a pair of lancers rode past on galloping horses, undoubtedly bearing a message to the governor. Jose’s superior riding skills and Tornado’s incredible speed made short work of one rider, as the war chief of the Cocopahs leapt from the saddle to tackle his man to the ground (with a roll so high I just ruled all damage from the fall was absorbed by the poor sap he jumped on). The other lancer was dragged from his mount by Don Audre and Anita Santiago simultaneously whipping him about the arms and jerking him off the horse. The heroes confirmed that Captain Torello’s letter requested the governor come to Zorro’s execution, but didn’t name Don Diego as the masked man.

The heroes debated their course of action for a bit. Ross spent a Benny to declare that Captain Torello had never met the governor, and I agreed. They then decided that Don Alejandro would disguise himself as the governor, while everyone else disguised themselves as his retinue. Lolita Pulido used her Connections Edge to recruit a small group of senoritas to lure away some lancers from the presidio, while Don Audre and Don Alejandro recruited caballeros to play at being an honor guard and fight on their side. Gonzales turned some of the long-term soldiers at the fort to the side of the angels.

If I remember correctly, Don Alejandro parked his carriage (and large escort) outside the presidio and sent the disguised Don Audre, Anita, Bernardo, and Lolita inside to demand the captain come to him. I paid Ross his Benny back and declared that inside the captain’s office was a hired duelist called Culebra who knew the governor’s party couldn’t possibly be here so soon. Culebra, Torello, and Audre went outside while the rest lingered behind.

Culebra declared that he didn’t recognize this supposed governor, leading to a brief Social Conflict between the duelist and Don Alejandro to convince Captain Torello. Suddenly, Jose showed up on Tornado in a homemade Zorro outfit, throwing the entire scene into confusion. Culebra drew his sword and attacked Don Alejandro while Don Audre rallied the caballeros against the soldiers, quickly finding himself in a duel with Torello.

Inside the presidio, Gonzales began running about shouting contradictory orders while Lolita barred the door to the office. Anita began slapping around soldiers loyal to the captain, while Gonzales’ men turned against their fellow lancers. Bernardo slipped past the guards to pick the locks on Zorro’s cell door.

Despite being overmatched by their opponents, Don Audre and Don Alejandro at least managed to parry and frustrate Torello and Culebra. Jose used his bow to keep up cover fire while Tornado waited for his chance.

With Zorro freed, I handed his character sheet over to Darren to play, rewarding his frustrating time as the mute Bernardo with a chance to be a real hero. Tornado came rushing to his master’s side, bearing the outlaw and Lolita Pulido off to the battle. Anita Santiago, in the meantime, finished single-handedly defeating all of the lancers inside the prison and offices while Gonzales waited things out.

It took two rounds to move Zorro into battle, so I let Darren take a second turn (it was only fair). The powerful, Legendary Rank+ title character swiftly defeated Culebra, and Darren made the incredibly awesome choice to declare that instead of killing the duelist who struck his father, he instead crippled him so badly that he could never hold a sword again.

Sean McDaniel should have played Zorro on the next round, but instead he chose to be super-cool and give his turn to poor Scott Crosson, gamely playing a horse the whole time. Scott proceeded to disarm Torello with a single attack and demanded the captain’s surrender. I gave Torello the chance to make a Smarts roll, and for once that night, I made my roll. Torello surrendered, tearing the braid from his uniform and accepting exile.

We wrapped up with a brief denouement: Dons Alejandro and Audre arranged for Torello’s passage to Spain, Bernardo and Gonzales returned to their contented lives of quiet heroism and boisterous sloth respectively, Lolita and Zorro (and Tornado) rode off into the sunset, and Anita… followed Torello to Spain to wreak her vengeance. Applause and cheers all around followed, undoubtedly disrupting Sean Patrick Fannon’s Freedom Squad game and the nearby Torg Eternity demo.

Afterward, Ross, Aaron, McDaniel, and I got into a deep conversation about Zorro as folklore, lucha libre as Aztec sacrifice, and more – a conversation that even now tempts me to write a 40-page Los Enmascarados setting book as a warm-up to finally finishing The King is Dead. We were high on shared personal mythology, overwhelmed with potential, transported by touching something outside of ourselves. I know I’ll be a better game master from here on out, because I’ve finally really felt the tremendous possibility people like John Wick write about. I may even be a better person, because at least a little bit of me was transformed.

¡Viva el Zorro!

"He was on his way to a costume party!"

Buccaneer: Through Hell & High Water

As most Savage Worlds fans already know, yesterday saw the launch of the Kickstarter for Buccaneer: Through Hell & High Water, a pirates ‘n’ horror setting from Fabled Environments (publishers of Olympus, Inc.) and Yellow Piece Games (Brett Weihing and the minds behind the SavageCast podcast, Chris Fuchs and Chris Landauer). I’ve written about and for Olympus, Inc., so I’m admittedly biased, but Buccaneer: Through Hell & High Water sounds plenty interesting on its own.

From the Kickstarter site:

When the people of the Caribbean could no longer bear the yoke of oppression, they turned to an ancient power that their ancestors had venerated for many generations. The spirits heard their cries and granted the people the ability to manifest miraculous powers that they could wield against their oppressors.

However, this came with a steep price. The bond between the earth and the underworld was weakened and fissure opened in the sea floor. From this portal poured unspeakable horrors and an unholy substance that people simply called Ichor.

As the Ichor congealed, it formed an island chain called the High Water Islands, home to horrific creatures of legend. In our world, the buccaneer is king and their kingdom is the sea, but evil nips at their heels. 

The campaign promises ship customization rules (I’m told by Charles White of Fabled Environments that these essentially turn ships into characters in their own right), “a novel encounter mechanic to capture swashbuckling chaos,” and the usual array of new Edges and Hindrances. As of this writing, they’ve already raised over $5,800 of their $7,000 base goal – in one day! – so maybe they’ll hit their $12,000 stretch goal to commission some one-sheet adventures and remember that one of the authors of the next series of Savage Rifts® books is a huge pirate fan who has written extensively about the genre on his popular blog.

(I’m kidding.)

(No, I'm not.)

(Yes, I am.)

I’m still debating how much I want to contribute (I have yet to back Eli Kurtz’s Blackwood Errantry Codex for that matter, and I’m a huge fan of wuxia and German folklore), so it will probably be a few days before I join the roll of backers. Buccaneer: Through Hell & High Water sounds really intriguing; I see elements I liked from Green Ronin’s Skull & Bones and John Arendt’s “goblins of the Spanish Main” in the concept, and I remain a huge fan of Pinnacle’s Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG. The campaign has more than a month to run, so hopefully it will prove very successful and give Savage Worlds fans a new swashbuckling setting to play in.