Showing posts from 2015

Muppets -- New Race for 5e

Some strange worlds are blessed (or cursed) with a magical mutation that causes random creatures – bears, chickens, dogs, pigs, and even humanoids – to be born fashioned of cloth and felt rather than flesh. A pair of normal, fleshy humans might give birth to a puppet-like child or a single tadpole out of a clutch of hundreds of eggs might grow up to be a sentient and floppy. These beings are known as Muppets.
(Some worlds – like the planet Thra – seem to be entirely populated by Muppets. Such worlds and the unique Muppet species that dwell there are beyond the scope of this article.) 

Muppet Traits
Ability Score Increase: Your Charisma score increases by 2.
Alignment: While Muppets can be found of any alignment, their magically-infuse nature inclines most to Chaos.
Languages: You speak Common and any one language of your choice. Muppets do not have a tongue of their own, but instead use the language of whatever culture they are born into or adopts them.
Size: see below
Speed: Your w…

Reflections on the Changeling 20th Anniversary Kickstarter

Onyx Path started the Kickstarter for the Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary edition yesterday. I pledged $1 because I wanted to make at least a symbolic gesture of support for the project. I’m not sure if I’m going to pledge more. I’d like to get my hands on the 20th anniversary edition, but I’m not sure I want to pay $110 for it.
Changeling: The Dreaming occupies a weird place in my gaming history. It is at once the most important game I’ve ever played and also one I’ve never really played. I admire it in concept and loathe it in practice. It’s complicated.
Thinking back on my roleplaying career both before and after my marriage to Robin, I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually played a game of Changeling. I think – maybe – that I bought the original softcover release for myself, read it, and decided I didn’t like it.
For those who don’t know, Changeling is one of the five core lines in White Wolf’s original World of Darkness setting. The last one released, C:TD countered the Go…

Strider is part of the RCRF Holiday Bundle!

Eric Simon and I have donated Strider: A Steamscapes Adventure to the RCRF holiday charity bundle on DriveThruRPG.

From the RCRF website:
The Roleplaying Game Creators Relief Fund (RCRF) is a charitable organization founded to provide financial assistance to tabletop roleplaying game creators suffering hardship due to medical emergencies, natural disasters, and other catastrophic situations

We all love tabletop RPGs, and we respect the people who create them. But most people who create tabletop RPGs are freelancers and other folks who often work for much lower income than they could earn in other industries — they create games because they love them, not because they expect to get rich. That means if tragedy strikes, a tabletop RPG creator may not have insurance or enough savings to cope properly.

That’s where the Roleplaying Game Creators Relief Fund comes in. We love tabletop RPGs and would like the hobby to remain vibrant. We believe that helping talented creators continue to work in t…

How Do You Make Wilderness Exploration Fun?

No, seriously. How do you do it? Because I can't figure it out.

A Turkey Day's Eve Ramble

I’m stretched thin between my day job and non-blog writing (some of which is actual work-for-hire), so my attempts to form any coherent blog post are coming to naught. Whenever that happens, it’s time for bullet points!

Have you heard that creator Joel Hodgson is raising money to fund a new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000? If you’re in my social media circles, then I can assure you that you have! I’d apologize for the shilling on Joel’s part, but MST3K was a seminal influence on my life. I would eagerly give $10,000 to be one of those guys who gets to pitch a riff, but I don’t have that kind of money. Instead, I’ll beg that if you ever enjoyed Joel or Mike, please dig into your wallets and give $35 (at least that way you get some episodes to download).I’m blowing off watching the Captain America: Civil War trailer online because I’d rather see it in the theater – and I’m still mad that it’s not just Steve and Sam driving around in a van fighting MODOK while looking for Bucky.I’…

SCAG Observations

This isn’t a review. I’ve got way too much on my plate to read this thing cover to cover, but I have skimmed it a few times and read a few bits more thoroughly so I think I can provide some observations at least. It doesn’t turn back the clock, but the Realms of SCAG is much more like the one I love. A lot of effort has been made to undo most of the random, crazy changes 4e introduced. Mulhorand, Faerun’s goofy-ass Egypt analogue, is back. Waterdeep is once again the shining star of the Sword Coast. The stars are in the sky, the water is in the Sea of Fallen Stars, etc.If anything, the combination of 5e changes and 4e changes moves the Realms back to what it was like in 2e. The Silver Marches (AKA Luruar), a nation of allied city-states based around Silverymoon, has been disbanded and the far north of Faerun is once again a dangerous frontier. I’m not exactly upset about this, even if I would like to see Alustriel reinstated as ruler of Silverymoon.Players worried about their characte…

Hey, SCAG! You forgot someone!

The Dancing Lady, the Tawny Temptress
Alignment: CG
Domains: Life, Trickery
Symbol: A pair of luscious lips

The history of Sharess is long and twisted. In brief, the cat-goddess Bast wandered away from the Mulhorandi pantheon, merged with the obscure and dying elf deity Zandilar the Dancer, and eventually was tempted by and partially integrated into the goddess Shar. For centuries, Sharess existed as an aspect of Shar – a reminder that secrets can be enticing, that longing and loss are intimately related – and was worshipped as the patroness of festhalls and sensual fulfillment. Sune helped Sharess regain her independence during the Time of Troubles, but the long, strange road from the Spellplague to the Second Sundering seems to have ended with Sune absorbing Sharess and becoming the goddess of hedonism.
In truth, the worship of Sharess has gone underground. Crusades against Shar (instigator of the Spellplague) resulted in demonization of the goddess who shared her name. Sharess …

The King is Dead: Illuminated Connections

A key component of The King is Dead is leveraging a hero’s connections to her secret society (literalized in all player characters gaining the Connections Edge for free). The Game Master can also utilize these connections to help build the world by developing the hero’s contacts into NPCs with their own goals and personalities. To assist GMs and players in fleshing out these contacts, each secret society has a list of archetypal connections with their own unique abilities.

All heroes know a number of Experts equal to ½ Charisma + 2. Additional Expert contacts can be gained and lost by improving or reducing Charisma, by purchasing the Improved Connections Edge, and by getting the Experts killed in combat.

New Edge
Improved Connections
Requirements: Seasoned, ConnectionsThe hero gains connections with two more Experts. These Experts are not replaced if they die aiding the cabal in a combat mission. This Edge can be taken multiple times.

Illuminated Connections
Most members of the Illuminat…

An Altellan Fragment...

I need to practice my prose, so here's a fiction fragment from Altellus...

Lucan assumed a guarding stance, planting his hooves far (but not too far) apart for balance, tucking his left arm behind his back, and turning his torso to present as little target as possible to his opponent. He held his blade low, point high, in order to interpose as much steel between his vital organs and his foe’s point as possible. His movements were graceful, even poetic, as he studied himself in the mirror.

He smiled fondly at himself and laughed at his own absurdity.

Lucan Aetherious never chuckled. He did not chuckle or snicker or titter. He laughed, he guffawed, and he even brayed but he never laughed quietly, not even at his own thoughts, not even when he was all alone. Cerberos, his sooty-furred cat, had grown used to the sudden outbursts long ago and merely yawned at the satyrid.

Lucan slid his rapier into its sheath, primped his hair, adjusted his codpiece, and opened his door. His room was on …

The King is Dead: The Long Halloween Continues...

And so thirty-one days of (more or less) The King is Dead content concludes. For me this is just the beginning; the next several months will see Wine and Savages most likely reduced to one post a week as Robin and I work on the book. Even when The King is Dead is published next July, I expect I’ll still be providing content and running TKiD games well into next October.
It’s going to be a very long Halloween indeed…
A few hours ago, I caught up on my weekly TV viewing by watching the Bones/Sleepy Hollowcrossover. The first The King is Dead post premiered August 13th and Sleepy Hollow premiered September 16th of that same year; they’ve always been part of the same zeitgeist, but I’ve never before seen an episode of that show embody TKiD – or Savage Worlds-style craziness – quite so much. “Dead Men Tell No Tales” featured Betsy Ross, secret agent, mowing down an army of undead redcoats with a repeating crossbow that shot Greek fire-headed bolts. I fell off the couch laughing, recognizing …

The King is Dead: It Begins!!!

It's been hinted at and mentioned in passing, but now it's official: Four-in-Hand Games, publishers of Steamscapes, will bring you The King is Dead in July 2016. Check out the announcement at the new Four-in-Hand Games site and read more about this exciting news tomorrow!

The King is Dead: vs. Rippers

Well, I write “versus,” but it’s the same kind of “versus” we’re bound to see in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: two heroes at cross purposes who really have a lot in common and end up becoming best friends.
(Or something like that.)
I’ve read (and sort-of played) the original Rippers and I was an eager backer of the Rippers Resurrected Kickstarter. I love Rippers! I love Victorian horror and sci-fi. I love Rippers’ cinematic precedents: the Universal Monsters, Hammer Films’ horror classics, even Stephen Sommers’ less-than-perfect Van Helsing. I love RippersAnno Dracula/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-style crossover universe. I would happily write the Japan chapter for Frightful Expeditions.
(Lafacadio Hearn would make an awesome lodge leader.)
The King is Dead certainly exists in a dialogue with Rippers; I chose “cabal” as the name for player character parties for a reason, after all. The basic premises are similar (secret societies battling monsters) yet potently different (Ri…

The King is Dead: I am a man of many hats

...And they're all tricornes.

Derived from military designs that allowed soldiers to more easily sight their firearms, the tricorne (or “cocked hat,” as it was actually known in the 18th century) is ubiquitous with 18th century fashion. The lifted sides allow onlookers to view a gentleman’s artfully arranged and carefully curled wig, while the hat itself tucks neatly under the arm when one is indoors. Within the world of The King is Dead, the cocked hat is the de rigueur headgear of the middle and upper classes.

I’ve recently discovered that the two most expensive of the four tricornes I own are actually made wrong. I can tell you from personal experience that the cocked hat is useless in providing shade against the sun, but that’s because you’re supposed to be able to lower the lifted sides of the brim. You see those laces on the officially-licensed Captain Jack Sparrow hat? They’re actually supposed to tie the brim to the crown, allowing the wearer to untie or loosen the brim and…

Not The King is Dead: Retribution RPG Kickstarter

I’m sure that – like me – many of you are awaiting the release later today of the first set of rewards from the Rippers Resurrected Kickstarter, but did you know that there’s another Savage Worlds supernatural setting Kickstarter still going?

Obatron Productions, the current publishers of Savage Insider and my frequent publishers, are running a campaign to fund Retribution, a paranormal fantasy setting. I call it “paranormal” rather than “horror” because many of the concepts seem to me to lean closer to parapsychology and spiritualism than you normally find in a setting full of ghosts. Since the advertising copy specifically states that player characters may find themselves allied with the dead, I would definitely slot it into tales of mediums and psychics. 

(I doubt Vickey and Bob Beaver would agree, but I kinda find myself thinking “fantasy Ghostbusters.”)
As of October 27th, the campaign has 12 days more to run – and it’s been stuck at the same amount for a couple of weeks. I was …

The King is Dead: Fully Photo-Illustrated

One of the weirder ideas I've had for The King is Dead is bypassing the drawn and painted art usually found in RPG manuals for photography. I'm taking a very "Hollywood History" approach to this imaginary 18th century, and films and TV have been central to inspiring and developing this world. I'm an amateur (though published) photographer and I kinda fancy the idea of taking a few pictures myself, buying some stock photos from Adobe Stock, and Photoshopping them all into something at least as good-looking as a late Hammer Films feature.
(I kinda want the book to look like a licensed game for a license that doesn't exist.)
This is quite possibly a terrible idea (The Book of Erotic Fantasy, after all, did not benefit from using photography). I'll know in a few months after I've had time to experiment a bit more with the software (and after the inevitable Kickstarter sets my art budget).
(Which makes me consider running a top-tier reward where the backe…

The King is Dead: Immortality (1998)

Have you ever watched a movie and not been sure whether you liked it or not? Immortality (AKA The Wisdom of Crocodiles) is slow and hypnotic and weird. I think I liked it, but I'm not sure.
What I am sure of, however, is that this is a near-perfect reverse TKiD film. It's set in the 20th century and the plot is about a serial killer (and probable vampire, though the only really supernatural thing we see him do is painful and disgusting) stalking and seducing an innocent woman while evading the cop who's after him for killing his previous girlfriend. But just imagine that Jude Law's vampire is actually a heroic revolutionary assassin, and you've got a very instructional film for TKiD GMs. The heroes of The King is Dead, after all, have to cover their tracks more than most RPG characters.
A really weird film, but educational nonetheless...

The King is Dead: Franklyn Arrowet, Occult Scholar

The Illuminated Freethinkers and kabbalists
“Magnus ab integro seclorum nascitur ordo – a mighty order of ages is born anew.  A new order shall emerge and mankind shall not bow to darkness.” Vulkan (pseudonym of Franklyn Arrowet), Declaration of the Rights of Man.
Franklyn Arrowet Novice
This scholar of the classical world has studied the battles of Remula and the mysticism of ancient Tsion, searching for the secret of how those ancient lands resisted the vampires -- even if their resistance was ultimately futile. His curiosity leads him down dark and dangerous paths, inquiring after long-forgotten gods that perhaps should stay forgotten.

Arrowet spends his free time writing incendiary pamphlets under the pen name "Vulkan." In them he expresses such noble sentiments as democracy and freedom, but the curiosity that drives his arcane research is sadly lacking in his personal life -- or perhaps it is his native caution that prevents him from fully challenging such ancient institution…

The King is Dead: Dracula, dude!

Last year, I backed several RPG Kickstarters with the express purpose of metabolizing their contents to help fuel development of The King is Dead. One of these projects was The Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, an attempt to meld Bram Stoker’s novel (in all of its variations) with spy fiction into a multi-genre, multi-generational campaign. What little I’ve been able to read so far has been great, but I think my favorite bit to come of this is Kenneth Hite’s essay series that runs this month – 31 Nights of Dractober – in which he examines many of the cinematic interpretations of Stoker’s story.

Of course, Hite pisses all over my favorite version: Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

This isn’t really surprising. Many Dracula aficionados dislike the film; for example, Leslie S. Klinger goes out of his way to spew venom at it in The New Annotated Dracula. Obviously, I don’t share this aversion, but Hite at least succeeds in making me understand why he dislikes Francis Ford …