Showing posts from October, 2015

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 …

The King is Dead: Ernest Grost, God's Madman

An abbreviated post again today. I'll work up Attitudes and Dark Secrets when I can. 
October is so, so busy for us! Birthdays! Mid-terms! Ren faires!

The Bloodstained Blade
Soldiers and saints
"And I say unto thee, that thou art my rock, and from this stone I shall smelt a steel, and from this steel I shall forge a blade; and this sword will pierce the heavens!” Gospel of the Pariah 16:18
Ernest Grost Novice A grim, determined scholar of vampire lore. Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6. Skills: Faith d8, Fighting d4, Healing d6, Investigation d6, Knowledge (Occult) d8, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Shooting d6, Stealth d4. Charisma: +0; Pace: 6; Parry: 4; Toughness: 6 (1) Hindrances:Arrogant, Stubborn, Vengeful [Minor] Edges:Arcane Background: Miracles, Connections (Bloodstained Blade), Holy Warrior Gear: Crucifix, doctor’s bag, lantern and oil, leather greatcoat (Armor +1), pistol crossbow and 13 quarrels (Range: 6/12/24, damage 2d4, AP 1, 1 action to reload)…

The King is Dead: Return to Dark Secrets

Man, October has been crazy. Last weekend we went to the Texas Renaissance Festival; the weekend before that was GaMExpo. There has not been a lot of time to catch our breath, and I’ve exhausted my queue of prepared TKiD posts.

In the midst of all this craziness, I realized I never responded to some concerns from +Richard Woolcock  and others about the Dark Secret Hindrance. There was some trepidation about the double points value, the way it only comes into effect after play begins, and other aspects. Let me just say that I understand your concerns – but I’m sticking with the way I wrote it.

The King is Dead’s Dark Secret is not meant to be a generic Hindrance, easily imported into other settings. While I think it could easily be integrated into Rippers and other Gothic settings, it’s really designed quite specifically for TKiD. It’s meant to create the tension and fear that’s present in both Gothic romances and spy stories, both of which are essential components of TKiD’s DNA. Dark …

The King is Dead: Bad Selfies


The King is Dead: "Captain" Harker, Gallant Highwaywoman

I'll get this updated to the same level of detail as Myra Wolfenstein after the weekend...

“It’s about more than greed, boy. It’s about standing up to the vampires and the churchmen and all their ilk and making a life outside of their laws and their greed.”  “Captain” Eve Harker, quoted in Confessions at the Gallows.
“Captain” Eve Harker Novice A bandit who knows her life depends on a fast horse and friends who keep her secrets. Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6. Skills: Fighting d6, Intimidation d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Riding d8, Shooting d6, Stealth d6, Streetwise d6. Charisma: +0; Pace: 6; Parry: 5; Toughness: 6 (1) Hindrances: Heroic, Greedy [Minor], Loyal Edges: Beast Bond, Beast Master, Connections (Raubritters), Steady Hands. Gear: Elaborate saddle, Pair of flintlock pistols (Range: 5/10/20, 2d6+1 damage, RoF 1, 1 action to reload), Leather greatcoat (Armor +1), Rapier (Str+1d4, +1 Parry), 70 reichsmarks to spend on bribes and pleasant compan…

The King is Dead: Dr. Braunstein, Obsessed Physician

“The goal of alchemy is to change lead into gold – to change the dross of a dark and hopeless world into freedom and progress.”
Dr. Igor Braunstein, The Progression of the Ages.
Dr, Igor Braunstein Novice This member of the Zunft von Hohenheim is not afraid to break taboos (like grave robbing) in the name of knowledge. Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6. Skills: Fighting d6, Healing d6, Investigation d4, Knowledge (Science - Medicine) d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d4, Stealth d6, Streetwise d4, Throwing d4, Weird Science d6. Charisma: -4; Pace: 6; Parry: 5; Toughness: 6 (1) Hindrances: Bloodthirsty, Death Wish [Minor] (will eagerly die to conquer death), Enemy [Minor] (His father, Squire Heinrich Braunstein, blames Igor for the death of his sister Ziza) Edges: Arcane Background: Weird Science, Healer Gear: Alchemical compounds, anatomical diagrams (+1 Physiology- and Healing-related rolls), axe (Str+d6), scalpel/dagger (range 3/6/12, Str+1d4, RoF 1), l…

The King is Dead: Robbie Macferguson, Hunted Highlander

“Ne'er forgit an' ne'er forgife, th' high king charged th' kin'.  Accept nae surrender in yer barnie fur freedom, an' mah loove yoo'll hae forever.”
Robbie Macferguson, The Works of Osean.
Robbie Macferguson

Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, this warrior-poet is out for vengeance on the man who framed him for the murder of his wife and children. Five years ago, Captain Alberick Trench was in charge of eliminating Clan O’Naill resistance in the far north of Lochland. Unable to capture the highlanders on the heaths and moors, Trench turned instead to undermining their support with the people. He made a show of showering kindness and affection on Macferguson’s wife and ultimately framed Robbie for the brutal slaughter of the Lochlander’s family. Macferguson was forced into exile, doubted even by his kinsmen. Finally, years later, Trench was reassigned to the very province Robbie Macferguson had made his home, and the highlander could begin to plan …

Happy Birthdays to Us!!!

+Robin English-Bircher and I are taking the weekend off for some big, round-number birthdays. (There may be some fours and zeroes involved.) Yes, I wrote "birthdays;" our natal days are only two days apart. In lieu of cards, consider buying copies of Steamscapes: Asia or Strider: A Steamscapes Adventure. Preferably Strider; I get paid more from that. :) In lieu of TKiD content, here's a song I like:

The King is Dead: On The New Shaken Rules

The interview Jack Shear posted yesterday at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque was conducted several weeks ago. One of the questions was how I felt about the new Shaken rules for Savage Worlds, and I didn’t have a good answer at that time because I’ve mainly been playing D&D 5e in 2015. Ironically, since the interview was completed, I have now had time to play some Savage Worlds again – specifically a half-dozen playtests of The King is Dead – and now I have an informed opinion about the new rules.

Oh my gods, they make it hard to kill vampires!

(Or, at least, they make it hard to kill my vampires.)

For those presumably few readers who don’t play Savage Worlds, SW’s damage system is deliberately streamlined compared to most RPGs. Similar to the Storyteller System, characters have a wound track instead of hit points, with every level of wounds imposing increased penalties on rolls. There’s only three wound levels before you’re incapacitated, though, and each level only has on…

The King is Dead: Interview at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque

The inestimable +Jack Shear has an interview with me up at the always-awesome Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque! There's some insights into TKiD, some previews of art I'm working on for the book (yes, those are my photos and my clumsy photoshopping), and some Steamscapes talk as well. Check it out!
And for those coming here from Jack's site, you can find more (much more) about The King is Deadby clicking on the banner above or here, Steamscapes: Asia and the adventure I wrote for it, Strider: A Steamscapes Adventure, are on sale at DriveThruRPG and Studio 2

The King is Dead: Lessons Learned at GaMExpo

Things I learned at GaMExpo: The setting actually runs exactly how I wanted it to. All four sessions basically involved me pointing the players at a target and sitting back to watch them scheme up a way to kill him. It was perfect. I suck at welcoming people to the table. I should have a couple of glasses of wine before every game to loosen up. (Damned GAD!)I’m going to get some masking tape or glue and just permanently assemble all of my paper minis. While paper-clipping them together means I can disassemble them for easier storage, it takes too long to set them up. Also, it gives me an excuse to not make eye contact and ignore people. Bad Sean!I’m going to need to include lots of random tables and other tools in the final book to help GMs improvise their way through sessions. Thankfully, that was always the plan.Repeating crossbows suck (for vampires). Unfortunately, they were invented by the Chinese in the 5th century BCE, so there’s really no excuse to not have them in TKiD.Having…

The King is Dead: Steamscapes: Asia is out!!!

Woo-hoo! Steamscapes: Asia, the work I can truthfully describe as professional RPG design by me, is out and available for purchase online! Working with Steamscapes head honcho +Eric Simon has been a blast, and I expect we'll be able to talk more about Four-in-Hand Games' publication of The King is Dead in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I'm really proud of my work in Steamscapes: Asia and of the book as a whole. Few RPG products have made the effort to look at Asia's myriad and distinct cultures; all too often they get swept into a generic "Orient." While my chapter is on Japan -- one of the cultures that gets a lot of attention anyway -- I'm really proud that this book also contains chapters on Burma, Korea, Thailand, and more! I got my contributor's copy on Friday, but I haven't had a chance to really look at the whole book yet. I do know that it contains new Savage Worlds setting rules and several adventures -- as well as the alternate h…

The King is Dead: GaMExpo

As those who follow me on Google+ know, I spent this weekend running a highly-accelerated mini-campaign of The King is Dead at the inaugural GaMExpo here in San Antonio.
It's been exhausting, fun, and highly educational. I've learned a lot about how players interact with the setting, and made a few "discoveries" about the setting itself. In particular, I realize I'm going to need to provide TKiD GMs with tools to be able to improvise around the players' schemes.
But enough about that. Here's some photos: