Saturday, July 31, 2010

[Resources] The Game

A story in my local paper from a few years ago about a Game that went bad.

It started with a guy delivering an invitation to you at your home, then some brutes grab him and drag him off.

Soon, the players are in Las Vegas and off to solve the mystery, with clues dropped from a helicopter, found in a gun range, gained at a tattoo parlor, or seen on an electronic billboard.

It's a LARP with clues. And the players are competing with each other to see who can follow the clues to the end.

Unfortunately, one of them fell into a mine shaft and was severely injured, which is very sad.

But that's not why I brought this story up. From a game campaign POV, the guys who run The Game have it down. I can take the rough outline from the article and make a pretty cool modern spy game out of this.

Friday, July 30, 2010

[My Cats] 1 Year

Today, we celebrate having our three kittens for 1 year! That's Bumble in the chair with Jack guarding the prisoner above, and Charley laying on the carpet below.

We got them when they were three months old and the hottest day of the summer (IIRC, it was 103 degrees). Wow! Crazy weather!

I'd never had kittens before and, while they are quite the handful, they're worth every moment. Over the past year, they've developed into very personable, very individual and very quirky cats and we're so glad they came to stay with us.

Even though we've been through a lot this past year, the Lab Rats made the year that much better.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: Embassy Row

Embassy Row ("Dem Fer'ners", or "The Scotty's")

Location: Embassy Row, along Massachusetts Ave NW between Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway W and Scott Circle.

Population: 372 (divided between about 12 embassies)
Military Strength: 150
Military Resources: Most embassies have a variety of small arms (mostly SMGs) with plenty of ammunition, and small fleets of civilian vehicles. Maybe three or four have more extensive military hardware, up to and including one or two M60A3 Main Battle Tanks.

Treaties: Treaty Hospital. Other treaties dependent upon the embassy.

Enemies: Besides each other, there are a few communities out there that don't cotton to strangers.

Resources: Information about the condition of the rest of the world (through a variety of methods), foreign languages, defensible buildings and unknown stockpiles of food and equipment.

Trade: Most of the embassies spend their time scavanging in the District for their trade goods. What they may have on any particular day is up to the winds of fate.

General Reaction: -15 to +10, depending on embassy.

Background: Amazingly, most of Embassy Row survived the initial break-down. Close allies (like England and Australia) were provided a reasonable amount of military protection, while others were left to fend for themselves. After the collapse and into the dark years, things went bad for many of the embassies. They learned that as strangers in a strange and dangerous land, they should stick together, at least a little bit. They formed a United-Nations-of-sorts governing body but, since each adamantly retain their own sovereignty, it usually results in nothing being done except when the Row is faced with a physical threat. They've spent the last years arguing and sometimes fighting with each other but as soon as one is threatened by outside forces, they all band together. There are slightly more than a dozen embassies still in operation and they all have taken the statue of Winfield Scott in Scott Circle as their unifying symbol. Woe to any who attempt to deface the "Grand Old Man!"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

[How To Play] Savage Worlds, Part 5: Bennies

During our second gaming session, Charley and I talked about Bennies and how they work. Bennies allow the player and the GM to change the outcome of scenes during the game for their benefit. Both players and GMs receive a limited number of Bennies that they can use but, while players can earn more Bennies during the course of the game session, GMs do not.

At the beginning of each game session, each player gets three Bennies for their character and the GM gets one Bennie for each player in the game and two Bennies for each Wild Card NPC. Sometimes these starting Bennies are modified by Edges, such as Luck or Bad Luck. GMs can use the regular Bennies however they wish but cannot transfer any of the Wild Card Bennies around, including to other Wild Card NPCs.

Charley's character starts each game session with four Bennies, three which are normal for player characters plus another because of the Luck edge. I, as GM, get 1 Bennie for having only one player in the game, so I have to use it well since I'm not going to earn more. If I have a Wild Card NPC show up during the game, I get two Bennies for the NPC and only for that NPC.

Traditionally, Bennies are tokens or poker chips or stones or some other physical item that the player and GM can exchange during the course of the game. I've heard that a post-apocalyptic GM used fired .22 shells as Bennies. I've got some nice, clay poker chips that I normally use. The physicality of the Bennie is very important, as it allows the players to have something to hand over when they want to spend it. I place 4 black poker chips in front of Charley and one in front of me.

Bennies are used in three ways:
  • re-roll certain actions, or
  • remove the Shaken condition, or
  • roll to Soak damage taken.
Bennies can be used to re-roll any skill or attribute roll. Missed a roll during a fight? Spend a Bennie. Failed that strength roll to hold onto the out of control wagon? Spend a Bennie.

Bennies can also be used to remove the Shaken condition. A character becomes Shaken when he receives enough damage to equal or exceed his toughness (for Sir Nick, that's a 5 when unarmored and an 8 when armored). Shaken characters are in shock and can't perform most activities until they recover. Normally, a character makes a Spirit roll to recover from Shaken condition but if the player wants the character to recover and act in the same combat round, he spends a Bennie, which removes the condition. I'll go more into that as well as Soaking when I cover combat.

Bennies without exception cannot be used to re-roll any damage rolls nor can they be shared among players unless the player character has a specific edge to allow that (specifically the No Mercy and Common Bond edges).

I also allow players to define things about the world during play using Bennies. And while this house-rule isn't official, I play it that it's an advantage for the PCs so they can do something cool. I had a player in one game request that a rope was holding a chandelier up instead of a chain so he could cut it with a knife during the fight.

Bennies are earned by roleplaying, entertaining the group or achieving goals during play. Personally, I have found that if you want players to use Bennies, you have to give out a lot of Bennies. Most players usually like to keep a couple in reserve to use when the dice fail them, so by having the GM push the Bennies into the game at every opportunity, the players feel like they can earn more later and are willing to spend them. I've also used Bennies to bribe players to do things that aren't necessarily in their or their group's best interest (see here for an example). This allows them to use the Bennies later to save their skin while adding conflict and complications to the game - fun for everyone.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

[Quotes] George Bernard Shaw

I saw the Boondock Saints a long time ago and I think it's a pretty good cult movie. The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day was release last year but I haven't had the chance to see it yet. It's on the Netflix queue.

Monday, July 26, 2010

[Resources] King Zog's Empty New York Mansion

Who wouldn't love a king named Zog? That's a great name.

A 150-cigarette-a-day man who became king in Albania before WWII, he only kept his crown for less than a dozen years (1928 to 1939) before he was deposed when Italy invaded two days after the birth of his heir (his last words on Albanian soil crying "Oh God, it was so short"). He spent some time in England, Egypt, tried to get his crown back in 1946 (failing due to Kim Philby's warning the Soviets about the plan) and finally died in France in 1961.

But that's not the interesting bit. Oh, no.

The best part was his American house.

According to wikipedia:

In 1951, he bought the Knollwood estate in Muttontown, New York, for approximately $102,800, though some stories claim that he bought the mansion for a bucket of diamonds and rubies. The sixty-room estate was described as a castle. Zog intended Knollwood to be his kingdom-in-exile, staffed by loyal Albanian subjects, but he never moved into the mansion.

The house was never used and Zog sold the estate in 1955, by which point vandals had done over $8,000 worth of damage, apparently hunting for treasure in his absence. The mansion was later further vandalized and parts of it have since been torn down. Ruins of this mansion can still be seen deep in the woods of Muttontown preserve, located on Route 106 in Muttontown, New York

Why didn't Zog take up residence? Why did he smoke 150 cigarettes a day? Where did he get the bucket of diamonds and rubies? Who were the vandals and what did they do to make sure Zog sold the property? Did Kim Philby have anything to do with it?

What mysteries are found in King Zog's Empty New York Mansion?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

[In The Game] Gaming and Cognitive Dissonance

Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although she leaped with all her strength. As she went away, the fox remarked, 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.' People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves.

The story of the Fox and the Grapes seems very appropriate to gaming and gamers. It exemplifies the cognitive dissonance I'm sure many of us feel. And I've been reading (and probably contributing to) posts that keep re-hashing the same things, over and over.

I'll admit it. I've listened to some gaming podcasts and read gaming blogs and wondered why I can't game that way, like the fox trying and trying to reach the grapes. Then part of me says "but their games probably won't be fun for me," again like the fox leaving without satisfaction and expressing her bitterness.

What's the solution? Maybe admitting that I've not yet reached that level of gaming, whether that's up or down the scale - if there is truly a linear scale and it's not a 3D spatial map like I suspect (or delude myself into believing) or even there is an up (bad, 'cause I'm not there yet) or down (good, because I've passed there).

So, maybe, some day, I'll reach those grapes. It might be this year or during my lifetime. Then again, maybe I won't. But I hope that I have some good games, nonetheless.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

[Books] Little, Big

Little, Big by John Crowley is a novel of Faery, following the path of Smoky Barnable through the courtship and marriage of Daily Alice Drinkwater, then meandering into the Drinkwater's history and their house Edgewood, and then beyond.

Ever have a novel that speaks to you so profoundly that you love reading it yet can't seem to finish because it's a bit too eccentric and subtle? Little, Big is that novel for me (along with Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin, maybe it's because both were published in the early 80s). I've been trying for the past two decades to actually finish it because I usually get half way through and it loses my interest.

Maybe I'll get through it this time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

[Labyrinth Lord] Dungeoneering on the Cheap: An Ashford Valley Adventure

I published this one in March to announce an issue of my Switching to Guns 'zine and think it's a good adventure with an opportunity for the GM to really torture his players.

Dungeoneering on the Cheap: A Get Ready, Get Set, Go! Labyrinth Lord adventure set in the Ashford Valley.

Get Ready:
While in town, the PCs hear about a "safe" dungeon that is all the rage of the young, rich set (and those following the young and rich). Tracking down the info leads them to a warehouse where, for a steep price, a group of "adventurers" are let loose in a maze with soft weapons to "fight monsters" and avoid "deadly" traps. A rich and spoiled noble hires the PCs to go into the maze with him and his friends, unaware that the maze will suddenly turn deadly.

Get Set:
An aspiring merchant/minor noble named Charles deLaunce has built a new playground for the rich and noble. He has converted a warehouse a "dungeon" for his wealthy patrons to "explore" with thier companions. The "adventurers" wander about a maze, meet several "monsters" and fight them, find wine and cheap trinkets for treasure and have a rollicking good time. At over 100 gold per person entrance fee (renting "equipment" for the exploration is another 100 gold), its out of bounds for most people, thereby keeping the riff-raff out.

Unfortunately, tonight the dungeon will become deadly. A stupid noble's son is going there with his friends. The stupid noble has enemies. And they're going to make a grab for the son, killing anyone who gets in their way. Will the PCs, who've survived real dungeons, meet their fate in a fake one?

Where the PCs start the adventure.
The PCs are relaxing in a tavern in town (can be any of the towns in the Ashford Valley, but Ashford or Clifton are the most likely spots) and they hear news about a new playground of the rich and noble. It's nearby and always has a crowd outside during business hours (6PM to Midnight).

If the part shows up to see the spectacle, a foppish noble walks up to them and starts talking. He and his friends are interested in trying out the adventure but want some more sport. They'll pay for the experience (including the entrance and rental fees). While the evening promised to maybe be amusing (or perhaps the PCs will be the ones made fun of), the job is lucrative and most should be able to swallow their pride enough for the cash.

If the party doesn't seem interested in the set-up, the party of stupid, foolish nobles stops at the tavern to have a spot of drink. They'll be totally out of place but expect everyone to wait on them. One of them will point out "real adventuerers" to the others and they'll join the PCs (whether wanted or not). They'll buy a bunch of drinks and then one of them will have the bright idea to bring them along, for a price, of course.

When the party gets to the warehouse, it's pretty hopping. There is a band outside making a heck of a racket. The noble heads straight to the front door and without a moment passing, the whole crew of them is let in.

Each of the party is outfitted with a costume and "weapon." Make sure the PCs don't get their own class or race (have the elf be dressed in a dwarf costume with fake axe, the cleric becomes a halfling, the fighter is a thief, that sort of thing). Any real weapons are collected, even daggers and staves, and stored in the cloak room for the "safety of everyone" until after the adventure.

The weapons the party are given are stage weapons, not fit for a real fight and padded to avoid inflicting damage. The padding can be removed but the weapons are still poor, doing 1d2 damage per hit and if any of them do 2 points of damage twice in a row, it breaks!

The warehouse is a maze, with canvas partition walls painted to look like stones. The "players" move from room to room, meeting various hazards - a "giant spider" (a large stuffed doll operated from above), some "orcs" and a "minotaur" (a large man in a costume). There are "treasure" chests containing cheap trinkets and booze for the heroes to find.

During the night, a bunch of rough men will enter the warehouse from the rear door. They'll be dressed as some of the "orcs" and they'll find the noble's son (with the PCs) and try to grab him. One of the other fops will try to stop them and get stabbed, with real weapons and real blood. The PCs now have a problem!

Notable NPCs:
The stupid rich boys & girls (Warren, Spif, Tig, Walter, Julia, and Claire); No. Encountered: 6; Alignment: Neutral; Armor Class: 9; Hit Dice: 1d8; Hit Points: 4 each; Attacks: fist (1d2); Save: NM1; morale: 6; Special abilities: annoy PCs, scream a lot, get in the way.

The Rough Men (Kip the leader, Stick, Pistol, Nym, Max, Aft); No. Encountered: 6; Alignment: Neutral; Armor Class: 7; Hit Dice: 1d8; Hit Points: 4 each; Attacks: dagger (1d4), short sword (1d6); Save: NM1; morale: 8.

If the PCs manage to keep Warren safe, they'll be rewarded by his father (as well as the fathers of the others). This kidnapping could be a result of the Necromancer trying to put the squeeze on some of the nobles in the Valley. If any of the Rough Men survive (and escape), they'll show up later to bedevil the PCs, maybe in Poison's crew (from Extra #1).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: The Movie House

The Movie House (Free Company)

Location: Hollywood Theatre, Greenbelt, MD. The Corner of Rhode Island Ave and Hollywood Rd.

Population: 17
Military Strength: 5
Military Resources: An old M60 machine gun and some small arms, mostly deer rifles and shotguns.

Treaties: None but many local communities provide "unofficial" protection as they are the only movie theatre still operating in the District.

Enemies: None.

Resources: A large variety of films, raided from film distributorship warehouses after the Ruin.

Trade: Shows twice daily, 12PM and 5PM. They'll accept most trade items for a show, preferring fuel and parts for their generators, ammunition, food and any old films, whatever format. They require patrons to surrender all firearms at ticket purchase time (don't worry, the guns are returned to the patron as they exit).

General Reaction: +5

Background: During the dark times, several employees of the theatre, and their families, took refuge in the building - it fit them all, was fairly defensible and, with a stable of films to watch, very entertaining. Finding the large emergency generator in the basement and getting it working again led to the reopening of the only theatre in town.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

[Missing in Gaming] Games That I've Missed

Why do I hunt through used bookstores and gamestores? Have you wondered why I know all the bookstores, comic stores and gameshops in a 50 mile radius?

See, it all started a long time ago ....

I missed a lot of games, either because I owned them at one time and foolishly lost them or gave them away or I missed them when they first came out in the shops or I found them but didn't pick them up because I thought I could get them elsewhere. So here I lament the lost, missing, stolen games of my youth (and old age). And there are a bunch of them.

So this category is all about those games that I'm seeking. Maybe you can help me find them. If so, drop me a line.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

[Books] The Portable Door

Oh, my name is John Wellington Wells 
I'm a dealer in magic and spells

In blessings and curses
And ever-filled purses

In prophecies, witches, and knells
If you want a proud foe to "make tracks"
If you'd melt a rich uncle in wax
You've but to look in on our resident Djinn
Number seventy, Simmery Axe

The Sorcerer, Gilbert and Sullivan
I've been reading a book by Tom Holt called The Portable Door. Using J. W. Wells and Co. from Gilbert and Sullivan's third comic light-opera, Tom succeeds in mixing a bit of recent mythology (from The Sorcerer) with some excellent dry British humor.

I heartily recommend this book (first in a series of 6 books) as well as his other funny novels (23 more, which I am slowly working my way through). The 3 or 4 that I've read are very enjoyable, enough so that I read out certain passages in them to the annoyance of the woman (she's busy with her own novels).

Monday, July 19, 2010

[How To Play] Savage Worlds, Part 4: Wild Cards and Extras

Talking again with Charley during our game session, I explained the difference between Wild Cards and Extras in Savage Worlds.
  • Wild Cards are player characters or special NPCs or monsters that are tougher than regular people (the Extras).
  • Wild Cards get to roll an extra die called the Wild Die.
  • Each Wild Card has the use of Bennies.
Wild Cards are harder to kill than Extras. They can take a lot more damage. They can take up to 3 wounds and on the 4th wound are incapacitated. This make them much tougher than Extras and allows them to fight groups of Extras and (usually) survive.

Wild Cards also get to roll a Wild Die for every action they take. The Wild Die is a d6 and if Sir Nicholas is fighting another knight, he gets to roll a d8 for Fighting and a d6 Wild Die and keep the best value. Since Savage Worlds is an open-roll system, if either die scores the highest number (an 8 on a d8 or a 6 on a d6, called an "Ace"), Charley gets to re-roll and add to the value, increasing his chance of a success.

Wild Cards get Bennies. In Sir Nick's case, Charley starts each session with 3 Bennies + 1 Bennie because of his Luck edge. Wild Card NPCs get 2 Bennies each and the GM starts with 1 extra Bennie per player per game session that he can use on any NPC, including Wild Card NPCs. Since it's going to be only Charley playing, that means I get 1 extra Bennie per game session. We'll cover what Bennies do later.

Finally, Extras, also known as Mooks, are much weaker than Wild Cards - they can only take one wound, they get no dedicated Bennies (except the extras that the GM chooses to use) and they don't use the Wild Die.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

[Resources] Platform 9 and 3 quarters

Above is a picture of Platform 9 and 3 quarters in King's Cross Station, London. Now, if you're running a Harry Potter game, there are plenty of great internet resources for that sort of game. But King's Cross isn't only for that genre.

First opened in 1852, the station has grown over the years, with over 28 million entrants/exits in 2009 alone. It's located in North London, in the Borough of Camden. It operates as the southern terminus of the East Coast Main Line.

According to folklore, it's either the burial site of Boudica (either Platform 8, 9 or 10) or the location of her final battle. The station itself was constructed on the site of a smallpox hospital. Six people were injured in September 1973 when a booking hall was the target of an IRA bomb attack. In 1987, a fire in the King's Cross St. Pancras Underground station killed 31 people. The station is currently undergoing a £500 million restoration, with an expected completion of 2012.

With those items in mind, who couldn't come up with bits for an adventure in a campaign set from the Victorian to modern genres?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

[Brick & Mortar] Ernie's Games

Ernie's Games
Address: 17705 140th Avenue NE, Woodinville, WA 98072
Phone: (425) 424-0500

RPGs: small selection
Indie RPGs: limited
Used RPGs: limited
Miniatures: good selection
Boardgames: good selection
Gaming space: good (3-5 tables)

Family Friendly: yes
Knowledgeable Staff: unknown

Overall Rating: average

Ernie's Games has been in Woodinville for a couple of years now. When they first opened, they had a pretty good selection of RPGs but each time I go in, it seems to have shrunk smaller and smaller. The majority of stuff is D&D 4th edition, but I have seen Warhammer Fantasy 3rd edition, Savage Worlds, Hero and other RPGs there. The indie RPGs are pretty limited and I haven't seen any used games. The majority of the shop seems to cater to miniatures and boardgames. Unfortunately, every time I go into the store I must turn invisible because I get completely ignored by the staff. Too bad this power doesn't seem to translate to other parts of my life....

Friday, July 16, 2010

[In The Game] The Big Bad

Part of the best things about being the GM is the ability to determine who the Big Bad is in any game. I usually leave the Big Bad spot empty, with a vague sense of who it should be (or at the least, what characteristics they should have).

If you listen to the players, you know who they want to be the Big Bad. They'll give you the clues during the game, even though they have no idea they are doing so.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: The Yellow Cabs

The Yellow Cabs: The Quick Response Ambulance and Freight Service (Free Company).

Location: The Northern D.C. Metro Bus Garage. Bounded by Decator St NW in the north and Buchanan St NW in the south, between 14th St NW to Arkansas Ave NW and Iowa Ave NW.

Population: 20
Military Strength: 10
Military Resources: several civilian yellow cabs, one ambulance with some medical supplies, and a large still that provides an excellent vehicle alcohol. Mostly small arms and hand weapons.

Treaties: None.

Enemies: Many.

Resources: An excellent still, a selection of automobile parts and a good machine shop.

Trade: The cabbies provide transport for any who need it and can pay the price. They'll accept most items for trade, preferring gasoline, auto parts, weapons and ammunition, and food, but will bargain for other trade goods.

General Reaction: -0-

Background: Started a dozen or two years ago, after the leader, an old D.C. cabbie, managed to get a few cabs running. They've avoided the usual problems with Free Companies, mainly getting killed for acting stupid, but haven't really made a big score. Some of the younger members of the crew are starting to get ideas that could cause some trouble.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

[Vids] Sleepers

I've been watching the BBC program Sleepers. It's about two deep-cover Soviet KGB agents who realize they don't want to return to Russia after 25 years in England.

With only 4 episodes, it's pretty short but it packs the British-style humor as well as some drama into it fairly well. We got our copies from Netflix and have enjoyed watching it.

It's got me thinking of running a sleeper cell style modern espionage game. Yes, yet another short campaign to figure out. For the comedy, should I use Toon or Teenagers from Outerspace?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

[My Collection] Agone

Agone was originally a French game, based on books by Mathieu Gaborit. At least 30 game books were published by Multisim, and 5 were translated into English, before the company went out of buisness.

There are a bunch of reviews on (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), one for each of the English products. The reviews are mostly positive.

I recently picked up 4 out of 5 English books used, I'm only missing The Grimoire Volume 1. I got them at a very good price, so I'm happy about that.

Monday, July 12, 2010

[Alignment] Lawful Neutral

Lawful Neutral, "Judge"

A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs her. Order and organization are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government.

Lawful neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

[In The Game] I Reserve The Right To Kill Your Character

Next time I run a game, I'm going to read the following statement:

Good evening. I am your game master and I reserve the right to kill your character, or not, as I see fit. Your opponents will try their best to kill, maim or capture you, as their preferences allow. They are not your friends and I will run them as deadly as I am able. Rest assured, I will not kill your character in a capricious or ill-conceived manner. I will attempt to have your consent on this but not always. In the event that an opponent scores enough damage to actually kill your character, I will choose whether to keep him alive in order to screw him later or let the death stand. The odds, however, favor neither choice, but I will admit an opportunity to mess with you in the future is more appealing. In fact, the rule will be that the each time I chose not to kill the character despite the roll, the fates will be unkind to them sometime in the future, in order to balance the scales. Their cheating death will translate to a complete and utter failure that I can bestow on any action your character takes. He wants to impress the king? Sorry, that's a failure. He succeeds in taking out the Big Bad with one blow? Sorry, no, it didn't happen. I believe this is an equitable solution to character immunity on one side or total party kills on the other side of the spectrum. This announcement allows you, the player, an opportunity to play knowing the full choice available to you and allows me the ability to change the results as I see fit and have the ruling in the open, rather than behind the scenes fudging rolls.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

['Zines] Switching to Guns #23 and #24 available now!

Issues #23 and #24 of my Switching to Guns 'zine are available now. I'm continuing with the Ashford Valley setting in these issues.

Issue #23 is all about Ashford (the town) and #24 is all about Clifton. Maps of each town are included, as well as information of the town's quarters.

Friday, July 9, 2010

[How To Play] Savage Worlds, Part 3: Advancement

During our second session, Charley and I talked over advancement for his character and I explained how Savage Worlds advancement works. Every 5 experience points is considered an advance and every advance allows the character to improve skills or attributes or gain edges. Sir Nicholas is currently a Novice character and will remain so until he earns 20 experience points, then he'll be a Seasoned character. Another 20 experience points will bring him to Veteran, and another 20 to Heroic. At 80 experience points, Sir Nicholas will be Legendary, that's 16 advances during the game.

For every advance, the player can choose to improve his character by:
  • gaining a new edge, or
  • buying a new skill at d4, or
  • once every rank (Novice, Seasoned, etc) increase an attribute by a die, or
  • increase two skills that are less then their linked attribute by a die, or
  • increase one skill that is greater than or equal to it's linked attribute by a die.
Charley thought this through and came up with a rough list of how he's going to advance Sir Nick, barring any unforeseen problems:

0 XP: Novice - starting out.
5: Agility to d10.
10: Increase Fighting and Riding to d10.
15: Brawny (Toughness +1).
20: Seasoned - Smarts to d6.
25: Quick.
35: Great Luck (+1 Bennie).
40: Veteran - Spirit to d8.
45: Hard to Kill.
55: Block (Parry +1).
60: Heroic - Strength to d10.
75: Harder to Kill.
80: Legendary - Vigor to d8.

Charley leaves four of the advances blank to allow for any changes he might want to make (or be forced to make by circumstances) to his character. With that partially completed, we moved on to some of the other bits about the system.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: Patton's National Guard

Patton's National Guard ("The Patties")

Location: Andrews Airforce Base. Bounded by Allentown Road (State Route 337) and Suitland Parkway in the north and Old Alexandria Ferry Road and Woodyard Road (State Route 223) in the south, between Branch Avenue (State Route 5) to Woodyard Road (State Route 223).

Population: 2500
Military Strength: 750
Military Resources: 5 M60A3 Main Battle Tanks, 15 Huey Helicopter Gunships, 25 General Purpose Huey Helicopters. Plenty of aviation fuel and gasoline. Top-of-the-line military hardware and weapons.

Treaties: Treaty Hospital. Currently on friendly relations with the Pentagon but that may end soon.

Enemies: after tonight, maybe everyone!

Resources: Extensive military hardware, from airplane parts and fuel to MREs, uniforms and ammunition. The stockpiles in the base are well documented and accounted for, leading to years of useable equipment. Several successful Free Companies are based here that salvage all around the District.

Trade: Trade with other communities as dropped of lately and while some traders are allowed entrance to the base, the security is very tight. On the most recent occasions, several merchants were stripped of their goods and threatened with bodily harm and thrown out, with the claim that they were spies for the other communities. Only the most brave now try to trade with the base.

General Reaction: -10 (due to the paranoid leader)

Background: Made up of survivors from the various branches of the military on the other side of the Potomac, including police and federal marshals, and their families. Their leader really is named Patton who began the days after the war building a viable community. The loss of his family in New York as well as the city he loved descending into madness has lately unhinged his mind, leading to an isolationist policy when dealing with the rest of the city. What event could tip him over the edge into a full-on dictatorship?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

[Resources] The Blue Boy

The Blue Boy is a famous painting from the 1770s by artist Thomas Gainsborough. It can be used as a character sketch for a game set in the 17th century, a view of an NPC the characters encounter in a swashbuckling campaign, a stolen painting in a modern master-thief game, a clue in a globe-trotting two-fisted adventure (the artist used an already used canvas to paint over - what was that obscured painting?),or a centerpiece for a 1920s thriller (What cryptic words did National Gallery director Charles Holmes write on the back of the painting?).

The internet has a whole gallery of wonderful art that can also be shoe-horned into a game for a variety of reasons. Do you have a favorite painting or piece of art you can do the same with?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

[My Collection] Warhammer Fantasy 1st edition

I've been collecting Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay for years, even though I've only played one game of it, ever. Why do I get it, then? Simple: the world is evocative, the art is wonderful and I really like the take of it.

I've got a bunch of the first edition books, but I'm missing about 15 books. I do have a few of the Enemy Within series and only have to find three in order to complete that adventure path: #1 The Enemy Within, #5 Something Rotten is Kislev and #6 Empire in Flames. Anyone who has a lead on these items at a decent price will be amply rewarded with my thanks!

Monday, July 5, 2010

[Magic Items] University of Washington Mace

During my recent graduation, the University Marshal lead the faculty procession into the ceremony carrying the University Mace, a five pound and three foot long representation of the University's governing authority.

To me, it looked like a pretty cool weapon and symbol of sovereignty.

The shaft of the mace is made from dark rosewood. Though they won't admit it, it comes from the Middle East, maybe even Jerusalem. And it's an old, old piece of wood. Maybe even 2000 years old. The gold for the decoration could be from stolen Aztec gold, possibly from one of the 11 sunken Spanish Galleons of the 1715 Treasure Fleet, but no-one has really verified that.

So, what happens to this ceremonial mace, made of these very special materials, when it's not in use? Where is it stored and what eldritch powers does it gather to only be used twice a year or so? Why does only the University Marshal have the authority to carry the mace? What would happen if the mace was used as a weapon?

And why, this year, has it gone missing? And who took it?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

When in the Course of human events ....

I'll be with my family today, celebrating the independence of the United States of America.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

[Resources] Gunkanjima

Hashima Island, also known as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island), is one of over 500 islands off the coast of Nagasaki. The island is completely empty of people and the buildings are falling into ruin. Lots of pics are available online from various sites that cater to urban ruins enthusiasts. Recently, tours have started going to the island but for the most part, access is restricted. The pics are pretty cool to look at and may be useful for you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

[How To Play] Savage Worlds, Part 2: Campaign Discussion

Charley and I got together for a second session. We had Charley's character, Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Torpington, a young knight seeking adventure all ready to go. Before we started in on the game, I asked Charley what he'd like to see during the campaign. He said he wanted a steady stream of jousting, bandits in the forest, political intrigue, rival knights, captures and escapes, chaste Chivalric romances, and mysteries like castles full of ogres and witches in the fens.

We hammered out the following campaign: 16 sessions long, enough for Sir Nicholas to go from Novice to Legendary ranks. Eight sessions would involve jousting, with at least 6 being official tournament jousts. The official jousts would take place in Nottingham, Lincoln, York, Lancaster, Coventry, and end in London. This will give Sir Nick the opportunity to travel around the country in a spiral and see lots of different areas.

We figured that rival knights would be easy to develop in-play and that the other stuff, like bandits, intrigue and escapes, would fill out the rest of the sessions, as Sir Nick has to travel between the tournaments, encountering a myriad of dangers in the process.

With this campaign roughly outlined, we moved on to starting the game, giving me enough to start the adventures and Charley enough to know the theme of the game.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: The Skinheads

Skinheads ("Them")

Location: Alexandria, Virginia. Bounded by W and E Braddock Road in the north and Interstate 95 in the south, between N Quaker Lane (State Route 402) to S Patrick Street (US Highway 1). Includes Ivy Hill Cemetery, Alexandria National Cemetery and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

Population: 550 (plus approximately 1000 slaves)
Military Strength: 255
Military Resources: 26 commercial armored vans, in various states of repair, and a bunch of civilian trucks. They are armed with pistols, deer rifles and knives, plenty of knives.

Treaties: None.

Enemies: Nearly everyone.

Resources: Mostly small industry, including chemical explosives and a crude hand grenade. Expert salvage teams made up of slaves directed by guards, ranging all around the District.

Trade: They trade rarely, usually taking what they can using force. Sometimes they trade slaves. If they do trade, meeting them may (50% chance) lead to a shoot-out, a snatch-and-grab (25%), a con (15%) or an honest trade (10%).

General Reaction: -25 (did you expect anything different?)

Background: A combination of hard-core criminals, biker gangs, Weiss und stolz groups and neo-Nazis. They are currently held in check by the Pentagon survivors to the north and the Mennonites west of them. Both groups are in a perpetual state of brush-wars with this community. They don't take kindly to strangers and only value strength - best to deal with them rarely or with might on your side and watch your back.