Monday, 26 November 2012

TBZ: The Oni of Yamaguchi, Act 4

  • Barb plays Daigo, an Oni Mercenary Assassin.
  • Rohin plays Kobe Takeshi, a Half-Oni Playboy Swordsman Aristocrat.

Death of a Lord

The evening after the communal dinner, Takeshi and Daigo were alone in Takeshi's private apartments. They heard a hue and cry from the castle proper; an alarm was raised, along with a ruckus. Shortly, the apartment door was flung open by Takeshi's brother Seijurou, accompanied by Hyouma the Seeker and a cohort of soldiers. Seijurou informed them that Lord Kobe had been assassinated, and he was arresting them both - Daigo for performing the assassination, and Takeshi for conspiracy. The two went along quietly, and were soon secured in the cells beneath the keep.

Around morning, they were visited by a Buddhist monk to see to their last rites, as their execution was planned for noon. Winter Sutra informed them that he had been observing Seijurou and Hyouma, and it was apparent that they had been expecting Lord Kobe's death; other priests were watching them still. He bade them not to worry too much; by noon, he expected to have more evidence.

Under the bright noonday sun, the two were led from the cells to the open space in front of the castle gates. With bound hands, Daigo was pushed to his knees to await beheading by daikatana. Takeshi was presented with a small lacquer table with the accoutrements of ritual suicide; his brother Seijurou stood by as his second to behead him when the time came. But first, the charges were made public. Daigo was to be executed first, but as the executioner raised the blade, a voice from within the castle called for a halt!

Lord Kobe stepped into view, accompanied by Winter Sutra and a small group of guards! He accused Seijurou of having plotted with Hyouma to assassinate him; the faked assassination had caused the conspirators to reveal themselves. Winter Sutra tossed a bag of gold to the ground - the intercepted payment meant for the assassin, evidence of the pair's involvement.

Seijurou stood frozen, realising that this meant the end for him. Rather than surrendering meekly, he began to draw his sword. Takeshi used the seppuku shortsword to sever Daigo's bonds, and Winter Sutra tossed their weapons to them just in time for Takeshi to parry his brother's blade! Daigo fired on Hyouma, winging him as general chaos broke out. Daigo moved in to engage Seijurou in melee, allowing Takeshi to break off and pursue the hated Hyouma. The onmyoji conjured a combat shikigami in the shape of an oni warrior, but Takeshi's blade shredded it into evaporating strips of paper.

Meanwhile, Daigo unleashed his full fury, cutting down Seijurou in a flurry of blinding blows. Takeshi pursued Hyouma, pushing him against the castle wall and forcing him to drop and surrender. Takeshi dearly wanted to end the life of the evil sorcerer, but in the end his vow to not kill won over. Daigo had rallied the soldiers to open fire on White Cloud, Hyouma's permanent shikigami which was flying in, but to no avail. Once Hyouma surrendered, they forced him to call off White Cloud under threat of immediate execution.


The day was won; Seijurou lay dead, and Hyouma was taken into custody, with execution likely in his near future. With the true conspirators revealed, their attempt to stir up the people agains the oni died with them. If anything, tales of Daigo's cunning and loyalty will do much for the acceptance of oni in Yamaguchi.

Daigo decided to serve the Kobe household, and become an ambassador between the humans and the oni. Having regained his home and found a worthy companion,

Takeshi decided it was time to shape up and work towards becoming a good lord, for when he eventually inherits the province.

We had a bit of difficulty at the start of the final session. I tried to get a sense of how the players wanted to approach things, but they had some problems figuring out the right plan; Takeshi wanted to just charge in and start hacking, but his player wanted him to be talked out of that approach I think, and they had some difficulty figuring out how they could ensure finding actual proof of the conspiracy. I could have taken the reins on this one, but I didn't want to seem like I was railroading or pushing my own ideas on the players too much.

Once they sorted out the plan, though, it went very smoothly, just as recorded in the session log. With Winter Sutra's help, they set it up so Lord Kobe would appear to be assassinated, but he actually went into hiding. Thinking their plan had worked, the conspirators moved quickly to secure their hold on power, take the "assassin" into custody, and send off the final payment... Actually, thinking back now, arresting the assassin and sending the payment doesn't make a lot of sense, but there ya go! ^_^; Maybe they were paying off the fixer, so they didn't get a reputation in the underworld of stiffing those they did business with. Or something. Or they weren't sure that Daigo was the actual assassin, so they arrested him as a scapegoat and sent the payment to cover their bases.

Anyway, it worked, and the final conflict was pretty good too. I could probably have upped the bad guys' stats a little given the amount of Kiai they were facing, but I didn't want to overpower the PCs. Having gone through it once, I now have a better idea for next time!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

TBZ: The Oni of Yamaguchi, Act 3

  • Barb plays Daigo, an Oni Mercenary Assassin.
  • Rohin plays Kobe Takeshi, a Half-Oni Playboy Swordsman Aristocrat.

In the mountains in Summer, snow sits only on the highest peaks, and wildflowers bloom in the pass. On the narrow trail that leads to Yamashiro, the mountain castle and capital of Yamaguchi, there is a particular bend in the road that affords a spectacular view of the city. On this bend is a small traveller's rest; not much more than a small hut, although the vendor serves noodles and tea to travellers. Two such travellers approach and take a seat on the long bench; a finely dressed swordsman, and a rougher-looking oni. The vendor brings them food and drink, and then discretely withdraws. Over their bowls of noodles, Takeshi and Daigo consider their options. Takeshi plans to simply walk into the castle and confront the mysterious onmyoji, as he's certain the sorcerer is behind all of this. Daigo manages to persuade him that caution may be a better approach, possibly by making enquiries with someone Takeshi knows in the town. Takeshi recalls a monk, Winter Sutra, who often acts as an advisor to his father the lord. The two decide to split up to avoid drawing attention - Takeshi waits in the pine forest outside the city, while Daigo looks for Winter Sutra.

Asking at the local temple, Daigo discovers that Winter Sutra is at the castle. At the castle gate, Daigo's knowledge of the monk's name (and the general leniency towards oni) mean that he is able to persuade one of the gate guards to seek out the monk with a request for a meeting. The guard soon returns with Winter Sutra, and Daigo takes him aside, explaining the assassination plot and of Takeshi's return to the mountain city. Daigo also asks for Winter Sutra's opinion of the onmyoji, but Winter Sutra opts to meet with Takeshi in the forest before sharing too much information.

Daigo and Winter Sutra return to Takeshi's secluded forest hideaway, where Winter Sutra fills them in on the onmyoji, Hyouma the Seeker, who is apparently consumed with a hunger for knowledge. He is also rumoured to have a permanent shikigami named White Cloud, which Winter Sutra may once have seen flying across the sky deep in the mountains. Takeshi's brother Seijurou is acting as Hyouma's patron, having invited him to court. They decide to ask Winter Sutra to return to the castle and inform Lord Kobe of the assassination plot. He does so, returning the next morning to inform them that the Lord has increased his security, but it has done nothing to reveal the true villain. Takeshi and Daigo decide to go to the castle in an attempt to provoke a response or otherwise discern the true nature of the situation.

At the castle, the group attends a private audience with Lord Kobe. He welcomes his son home, but wishes it were under happier circumstances. Takeshi introduces Daigo as the person who informed him of the assassination plot. Daigo surprises everyone in the room by announcing that he had not only been offered the job, but accepted it - as a ploy to prevent an alternative assassin being hired. He presented the unspent 20 ryo deposit as proof of this, impressing the Lord with his cunning and loyalty. Takeshi, declaring Daigo to be even more devious than himself, immediately offered the mercenary a position as his bodyguard. All that remained was to discuss ways they could cause the perpetrator to reveal themselves. Although they had two good suspects in the oni-hating Seijurou and the power-hungry Hyouma, they could not be certain that it was actually one of these two who had hired the assassin.They decided to have everyone attend the evening meal, and see if they could gauge a reaction to Daigo's presence.

While Daigo was more interested in the pork buns, Takeshi kept a close eye on his brother and Hyouma as they entered the room. No stranger to his brother's moods, he read Seijurou like a book - undisguised contempt towards Takeshi, which started to extend to Daigo as well - but then, a brief flicker of doubt, of cogs turning… as though he'd just thought of a good reason for Daigo to be there; a brief smile almost touching his lips as he considered the cleverness of this ploy to get close to the target perhaps? Hyouma's ice-like expression barely changed, but as his discerning eye swept the room, Takeshi saw how he took special notice of Daigo and seemed to be making the subtlest of mental calculations. It was in that moment that Takeshi vowed to himself that the sorcerer must die. Dinner proceeded without major incident, presided over by a weary and sad-looking Lord Kobe.

Coming Up

Laying a trap for the conspirators?
Vengeance and blood!
The Final Confrontation!

Another enjoyable session, even if the players were both a little tired or brain-fried. I tried to be more forthcoming with Aiki this time, and we did get through quite a few scenes. By the end, Daigo had 12 Aiki (I'd given him three to shift his Emotion Matrix results), and in the Intermission he pared back to only a single Fate at 5 dots (Goal: Kill those who put out the contract on Lord Kobe). In hindsight, I probably should have suggested a Fate - Goal: Protect Takeshi, but I didn't think of it at the time. His player rolled just above average, and gained 62 Kiai for a total of 63 going into the final Act! Takeshi only got 27 Kiai by comparison, but I still think it's gearing up for an explosive finale.

It was also a great moment when Daigo, who throughout has been telling Takeshi that he turned the assassination job down, and that they'd better hurry to the capital before the real assassin got there, revealed that he'd actually taken the job, while sitting no more than ten metres away from the "target"! XD There were so many raised eyebrows, and the guards hiding behind the paper screen suddenly went on high alert! XD

>>> Act 4

Monday, 12 November 2012

TBZ: The Oni of Yamaguchi, Act 2

  • Barb plays Daigo, an Oni Mercenary Assassin.
  • Rohin plays Kobe Takeshi, a Half-Oni Playboy Swordsman Aristocrat.

Journeying into the foothills by the back-roads, the oni assassin Daigo and the half-oni aristocrat Takeshi came across a small group of farmers with a large hand-cart stuck in the mud. Although the peasants were terrified, Takeshi offered them a drink and Daigo helped them push the cart out of the rut. The two travellers then left without further ado, leaving the farmers somewhat astonished and relieved!

The two were passing across a rugged, stony ridge just before sunset when they were attacked by an almost entirely mechanical kijin with an unreasonable hatred for oni! A fierce battle ensued, ending in a furious final exchange where Takeshi cut the massive machine-man down. With his final breath, the cyborg said he could not forgive the oni for destroying his body...

Making camp in a sheltered spot on the hilltop, the two were joined after dark by a wandering Ebon Mountain monk. He chatted for a while with Takeshi who had first watch, asking about their purpose in the capital, to which Takeshi responded evasively.

Awoken for his watch, Daigo spoke somewhat brusquely to the monk, asking what he was doing here. The monk said he was on a pilgrimage, to which Daigo retorted, "Well you're not moving very fast!" After that, the night passed in silence... In the morning, Daigo grabbed Takeshi around the mouth and dragged him away before the monk woke up.

Coming Up

Yamashiro, the Mountain Castle!
Who was it that put out a contract on Lord Kobe's life?
Will the webs of intrigue be untangled, pulled aside, or simply cut through?

>>> Act 3

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Blood Hunter: Cleften Arc

After defeating the Baroness and leaving Torndrey, Kieara travelled north along the road. She arrived at the ruins of a town once bearing the name Valador. Crossing the bridge into town, she caught a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye and narrowly dodged a thrown knife! She dashed into the cover offered by ruined buildings, and stalked her assailants until she came face to face with a Dark Elf! They engaged in a furious swordfight; although there was a second Elf, the battle was also joined by a mysterious knight who charged in to help. While Kieara fought bravely, the Elf's skill with his light blade was too much for her, and she passed out from her wounds...

*     *     *

Kieara awoke after dark, lying on the bare earth just outside the ruins, disarmed but not bound. The knight was sitting nearby, and introduced himself as Sir Dustin Albrecht of the Order of the Eagle. She noticed his eyes glowed in the moonlight. He was curious as to what sort of creature she was, as he could tell she was not human, and requested to escort her to see his master, Baron Ormand of Cleften. With little choice, Kieara reluctantly accepted. Sir Dustin returned her sword and allowed her to take a suit of leather armour from one of the slain Dark Elves, but did not return her stakes.

On the road, the pair were attacked by Goblins led by a Dark Elf. Kieara slew those that were attacking her, and darted into the woods while the knight finished off his foes. She used the last of her Vampiric blood to fly through the woods at great speed, leaving Sir Dustin behind. Before daybreak, she was standing on a mountainside overlooking the city of Cleften.

The town was deep in the precipitous mountains, built along the edge of a deep chasm. On the far side, accessible only by a single stone bridge, stood a massive fortress forming a sheer and impenetrable barrier. She explored the mountains, but any way around the fortress would require her to negotiate a series of hazardous cliffs. Unfortunately, she lacked the blood to fly again.

Kieara headed into town for some night-time reconnaissance, and found the town completely silent and unoccupied, apart from a flock of bats flying overhead. Most of the buildings had strings of garlic around the windows and doors. She returned to the mountain and observed the town until dawn, at which point people emerged and began their daily business. Many cast nervous glances towards the fortress and crossed themselves. After watching for a bit, Kieara descended to the road and entered town as though she were a traveller just arriving.

*     *     *

She passed by a large church, and the head priest, Father Uriah, advised her to stay at the inn on the town square. He also expressed his hope that she wouldn't be staying long. She stopped for breakfast at a small tavern called The Winged Rat. The proprietor was a short stocky man named Culvert, who looked as though something had chewed on his face pretty severely. He remained fairly tight-lipped to this well-dressed and well-armed stranger, until she'd eaten a fried breakfast with plenty of garlic. After that, Culvert turned into a well-spoken, friendly, and informative man who was only too willing to fill her in on the ills of life in Cleften.

One of the Winged Rat's regulars was a tall, dishevelled drunk named Bert. For a bottle of wine, he told Kieara the tale of how his daughter had stayed too late in the woods. Bert finally found her, just as she was about to be attacked by a shadow beast. Before it could pounce, one of the Knights of the Eagle charged in and slew the beast. Bert's relief was short lived, as the Knight embraced his daughter and drained her of blood. By the time Bert reached her, she was dead and the Knight was gone.

Kieara learned that the Baron and the Knights of the Eagle protect the town from monsters such as Werewolves and Goblins, but they do so to protect their own food supply - the townsfolk. Anyone caught outside after dark, or not sleeping in a private residence, may be drained of blood. Bert offered to let Kieara stay at his house, as the public inn was not safe from Vampiric predation. Bert's place was a bit of a mess, strewn with broken furniture and bottles, and caked with dirt. Once she knew where to find it, Kieara set off into the town.

She went to scout out the bridge leading across to the Fortress, and witnessed a food wagon preparing for the crossing. The farmers and their wagon were both festooned with strings of garlic, and a group of priests arrived to offer blessings. The wagon rattled across the bridge, and the Fortress' heavy portcullis lifted to allow them entry. Once they were inside, the crowd dispersed. Father Uriah once again warned Kieara against staying in town too long. 

After that, she bought some powdered silver for use in banishment rituals, and also invested in a string of garlic. Returning to Bert's, she whittled some new stakes out of broken chair-legs. After nightfall, Bert still hadn't returned home, so she left a bar of soap on his table and headed for the fortress...

*     *     *

As she crossed the bridge in the moonlight, the portcullis rumbled open and two knights rode out to greet her - Sir Dustin and Sir Franz. She claimed to have come to speak with Baron Ormand, and was escorted to the top of the tower. The Baron himself coalesced out of a swarm of bats. Using Baroness Hartford's signet ring, Kieara claimed to be one of the Baroness' agents, sent to ask for the Baron's help in controlling a rebellious population. The Baron's ego thus swollen, he relaxed his guard and sent the knights away. Kieara uncorked her garlic-filled waterskin, using it as a bellows to blow noxious fumes in his face. Weakened by the garlic, the Baron was completely overcome, and she impaled him to his chair with her silvered sword. As his body crumbled to bloody dust, she considered how best to deal with the two knights.

She persuaded the knights that the Baron had flown away, and had given permission for her to stay in the fortress until he returned. Once in her guest quarters, she lured each knight in one at a time and ambushed them with garlic and sword, quickly slaying them. She then conducted a thorough search of the castle, finding no-one else but a selection of gargoyles along the walls and towers. When approached, they animated and moved to attack, but returned to their posts when she retreated from the top of the wall. A few at a time, she prepared banishing circles of silver powder, lured them inside, and cast out the animating demon within, reducing them to lifeless statues. Her search of the fortress revealed some arms and equipment, but most importantly a map of Alhast. Kieara now knew where to find the Count, in Stieglitz Castle.

*     *     *

In the morning she returned to the town and let the bridge-keepers know that the Baron was no more. Bert was not at home, but she was confronted by a mob led by the priests who were worried that her actions would not only allow other creatures to ravage the town, but would attract the ire of Count von Stieglitz. She told them to stand up for themselves, and that she would press on to deal with the Count herself. A freshly shaved and cleaned-up Bert - using his full name, Albert - appeared spoke in her support. Her acts of kindness and bravery had inspired him to reform his ways.

Over the next couple of days, Kieara moved Culvert and Albert into Cleften Fortress, and helped set them up as the leaders of a militia force. They found many recruits among the younger townsfolk, and an air of hope filled the fortress. The older folks back in town muttered their disapproval, but did nothing. Once she was sure the town and fortress were as secure as they could be, Kieara claimed one of the knights' horses and said her farewells, riding north on the road out of the mountains.

>>> Linden Town Arc

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

TBZ: The Oni of Yamaguchi, Act 0 & 1

I ran our first session of Tenra Bansho Zero tonight! It went pretty well, with the players enjoying the system and exploring their characters as we slowly got to grips with the game. A brief rundown of the session follows.

  • Barb plays Daigo, an Oni Mercenary Assassin.
  • Rohin plays Kobe Takeshi, a Half-Oni Playboy Swordsman Aristocrat.


The small rural province of Yamaguchi is bordered on three sides by mountains, with the sea to the south. It is ruled by Lord Kobe Masamori, whom it is said has a soft spot for the oni people. However, many of the common folk feel uneasy at tales of an oni village hidden somewhere in the mountains.

Zero Act

It is Spring, and the cherry-blossoms fall over the castle at Yamashiro. Kobe Takeshi, the hornless half-oni, womanising swordsman, and younger bastard son of Lord Kobe, is called before his father. With regret, the lord advises his son to leave Yamashiro castle, as he fears times are about to become dangerous for Takeshi. Granted a substantial sum, Takeshi returns to his room to pack. He has a brief run-in with his half-brother Seijurou, and Seijurou's new acquaintance - a mysterious onmyoji with cold eyes, with whom Takeshi feels an odd sense of deja-vu. He leaves the castle that has been his home for the past sixteen years, his heart empty with longing for somewhere to belong.

Later, in the port town of Kawaguchi, the oni mercenary and assassin Daigo calls on his underworld contact Blind Bunshichi, having heard of a job on offer. Bunshichi (not actually blind, but with a reputation for forgetting faces and for turning a blind eye) passes on an important contract - the life of Lord Kobe Masamori, worth 40 gold ryo. Daigo accepts, and leaves with half the money up front, breathing a sigh of relief to be out of Bunshichi's dingy shop - the man has a way of making one feel uneasy...

Act One

Early Summer. Beside the main road running through Yamaguchi sits a large tea-house; almost an inn, it boasts an upper storey, and a large common room. It is run by an obasan and staffed by several young ladies, two of whom are drinking plum wine with the young well-dressed swordsman. At a nearby table, a small group of footsoldiers drink and talk loudly. A shadow darkens the door as a traveller enters - a large man in the clothing of a warrior, but with a subtly decorated oni cape. The soldiers fall quiet and mutter to themselves, while the young swordsman nods to the newcomer. The oni orders food and drink, but as he begins to eat his pickled vegetables the soldiers stand and circle behind him. The oni offers them a pickled radish, but their leader ignores him and loudly says, "I've heard Lord Kobe is soft on oni, but for one to just walk in here!" They continue to heap scorn on the traveller, incidentally badmouthing the lord for his lenience on the oni, until the young swordsman speaks up.

Claiming to be the son of Lord Kobe, he asks the soldiers to leave the oni be. Taken aback, the leader demands proof, and is reasonably convinced by the house mon stamped on the swordsman's soulgem shortsword. Nevertheless, he's gone a bit too far, and claims he doesn't fully believe the boy. As his family has been insulted at least twice by this time, Takeshi challenges the captain to a duel. Unable to back down, the soldier agrees and they take the fight outside. It only takes a couple of exchanges until the captain is defeated, falling to his knees in surrender. Takeshi goes back inside to talk with the oni, and the remaining soldiers help their captain limp away.

"Are you really the son of Lord Kobe?" asks Daigo. "What do you think of this plot to assassinate him?" Daigo claims that the story is all over the countryside, but Takeshi of course hadn't heard of it and is shocked by the news. Daigo claims he was offered the contract, but refused because Lord Kobe is kind to the oni people. Instead, he decided to travel until he could find someone who would pay him to assassinate the person responsible for the contract, thus stopping any other potential assassins from being paid for the job. Daigo's hoping Takeshi or his father might be willing to pay for this. Takeshi suspects his half-brother Seijurou, or the mysterious onmyoji. As Takeshi's money-box has been sadly depleted by a couple of months of partying on the road, the two decide to pair up and head towards the capital, Yamashiro.

Coming Up

Danger on the road?
Confrontations at the Capital?
The True Enemy Revealed?

>>> Act 2

Monday, 15 October 2012

Tenra Bansho Zero: First Thoughts

In mid-to-late 2012, I got into the Tenra Bansho Zero Kickstarter in a big way. I'd only been following it for a couple of years of its seven year English adaptation journey, so I had time to get excited without running out of steam waiting the whole seven years!

Since I put in for one of the advance copies, I got to start reading the game earlier than most, and began diligently reporting any proof-reading errors I found. +Andy Kitkowski, the game's translator, ended up recruiting me to collate all of the errors people were reporting, which turned into a massive undertaking for a couple of weeks! It was worth it, though, just in being able to see a much more polished version of the book emerge. It doesn't hurt that my name's in the credits now, too!

My advance copy arrived on 15 Oct 2012!

What originally drew me to the game? Well, it's a sci-fi version of the Japanese Warring States (Sengoku) period, with over-the-top samurai action, mecha, cyborgs, ninja, onmyou mystics, set on an alien world during a period of constant war. There's a whole lot more information over on the TBZ website and blog. So, the sheer style and visuals of the game were enough to pique my interest.

But then, there's the system. I read a lot of forum posts and blog articles, gleaning information about how the game actually runs. There are a lot of really cool-sounding features - that the game is set up to resemble a Kabuki play; that characters get more powerful as they become injured; and, especially, the Karma system.

Karma in Buddhism is bad; it represents attachment to the material world. If you become too attached, you lose yourself and become a monster who will destroy everything they care about - an Asura.

Karma is tied into many parts of TBZ's system. Firstly, you build your character out of Karma; the more powerful your character, the more Karma they start with. When you play the game, doing cool stuff or roleplaying well nets you Aiki chits. During the intermissions between Acts, you turn Aiki into Kiai, which is a currency you can use to boost your performance or do various other tricks during play. The catch is, when you spend Kiai it accumulates and turns into Karma. If you end an Intermission with more than 108 Karma, you become an Asura and are relegated to NPC status.

Luckily, there's a way to reduce Karma too. Characters have Fates, which are things they care about or ways of feeling - goals, taboos, relationships, quirks. As the game progresses, you can increase your Fate ratings. If you need to lose some Karma, you can choose to discard or rewrite a Fate; you either don't care about it any more, or you're changing your mind. Severing these connections to Fates reduces Karma, but also changes the character's outlook on the world.

How does it actually all run during play? I'm glad you asked! The next few posts will be a series of session reports from our first TBZ game - The Oni of Yamaguchi.

Monday, 1 October 2012

AW: London Calling 2012

I don't recall exactly when I started running Apocalypse World, but it was some time in late 2012. I'd read many interesting things about it, and wanted to try it out to see how it handled.

Barb, Rohin and I got together and decided on the setting - central London, at a holding in the Tower Bridge, which was allied with a holding in the Tower of London on the north bank. The river was running a bit higher than in the Time Before, and the suburb of Hackney Marsh was an actual marsh again.

  • Barb made a Brainer called Marsh, a creepy psychic concealed in androgynous medical-wear.
  • Rohin made a Gunlugger called Keeler, a wild-eyed scarred man with a collection of firearms and the skills to use them.
  • +Paul wasn't present for the first session, but joined in shortly after things kicked off. He made a Savvyhead called LaFayette, a somewhat kooky young woman with a greater affinity for machinery than people.

Get Sun

The players wanted their characters to be working for someone else, so they were both in the employ of Prim, the Tower Bridge 'holder. Chack, Prim's "fixer" and the PCs' handler, told Marsh that Prim wanted to acquire a guy called Sun from the Tower holding. Apparently Raccaro, the Tower 'holder, had refused a polite invitation to send him over. Chack suggested Keeler go along too, but cautioned against making too big a mess...

The two talked their way into the Tower, where they discovered that Sun was an engineer helping Raccaro outfit a small army. LaFayette joined them, and used her access to the Tower Keep to persuade Sun to come out to her workshop in the courtyard by seducing him. Unfortunately they had to dispose of Mimi, captain of the Tower Guard. Marsh used In-Brain Puppet Strings on one of the other Tower Guard, compelling her to run around telling everyone that Sun had shot Mimi. In the confusion, they slipped out the back way through the garage and returned to the Bridge with Sun in tow.

Siltway Raiders

Prim wanted Sun to help bolster the defences of the exposed southern fields against raiders from the Brick Fields to the south, and the Barrier Siltway holding to the east. She also put Keeler on field duty, as raids had been increasing. LaFayette helped out with the planning and installation of some of the defences. Marsh hung around with Keeler in the fields.

A dust-cloud to the east signalled a raid. The field guards holed up and waited for the attack, but Keeler and Marsh went out to meet them. Keeler sprayed the convoy with machinegun fire, breaking their charge and sending them scattering into side-roads. Marsh used the painwave generator and violator glove to wipe out a jeep-load of raiders, causing one guy's head to explode from accumulated psychic damage. Keeler captured and questioned Rover, the only survivor, learning that they were slave-raiders from the Barrier Siltway, sent to steal more workers as their labour force had been dying from a mysterious illness.

The field guards were so impressed by Keeler's display of combat prowess that they basically said they were working for him now, not Prim. Rover also became part of the gang, under Keeler's protection.
Brick Field Battle
Tired of waiting for raiders to come to them, and tooled up with a new gang, Keeler and Marsh headed south onto the eerie Brick Fields to hunt down the "Brickheads" bike gang. The Brick Field is a vast, circular area where all of the old buildings have been somehow pulverised into a flat field, paved with bricks and dust. Some judicious brain-opening led to them discovering that the Brickheads had a large camp set up some distance away... and that some of them were coming this way, attracted by the convoy's dust cloud!

Clarion, one of Keeler's gangers, took the jeep and drove it back towards the Bridge while the rest hid out behind the only available cover in the field. As the bikers rode past, the gang ambushed them and wiped them out. The sole survivor was puppet-stringed by Marsh to return to the others with the message "you're next."

Having put paid to both major threats for now, the gang returned to the Bridge and reported to Prim. They also discovered that emissaries from the Tower had visited demanding recompense for Mimi's death and Sun's abduction, and that Prim had agreed to supply them with a crate of firearms. Marsh lost all respect for Prim due to this decision.

These first few sessions of Apocalypse World were mostly pretty good, but it did take me a while to wrap my head around some things. Figuring out which Move had been triggered was sometimes problematic; deciding between Seize by Force or Go Aggro can take a bit of mulling over, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it. In the first session I called for a Manipulate roll which probably didn't follow the form exactly. The first big fight between Keeler, Marsh, and the Siltway Raiders was great, but the next battle against the Brickheads didn't "sing" quite as much.

>>> Session 2013.1

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Blood Hunter: Torndrey Arc

After first crossing the mountains into Alhast, Kieara helped three farmers fight off a goblin attack on the road. Both of the men fell unconscious, but the goblins were slain or chased off. Kieara also tasted goblin blood, gaining their ability to see in the dark. She befriended Miriam, the only conscious farmer, and escorted her to the village of Torndrey. There they sought medical assistance from Granny Blake, an old witch who lived on the outskirts of town. The old witch seemed to recognise what Kieara was.

The next day Kieara was planning to leave, but she decided to help a woman whose woodcutter husband had been attacked by a wild beast. It became apparent that the couple's young son had tragically become a werewolf during an unexplained absence some weeks ago, and that he had attacked his own father as he returned from the woods one evening. She sought out Granny Blake again for medicine, and learned of a series of werewolf attacks that plagued the village twenty years ago. With Granny's assistance, Kieara used her unique talents to cure the woodcutter by drawing out the Were-blood while resisting the urge to drain his human blood. However, she was unable to bring herself to slay the boy and end the curse once and for all.

While Kieara dealt with the werewolf problem, she also witnessed the black carriage of Baroness Hartford returning to the town from parts unknown, sweeping through the marketplace full of townsfolk who knelt before its passage. The Baroness drove straight to Torndrey Manor, a short distance out of town. The Mayor pressured Kieara to leave town, and she pretended to do so while actually stalking the woods nearby in search of the werewolf who had infected the child.

She came across the dishevelled beast feasting on the corpse of a deer, and saw that it wore an iron collar and the cuffs of manacles on its wrists. She tracked it back to the Baroness' Manor, where it disappeared into the cellar via an open window. As she watched from the woods, she also witnessed the Baroness' carriage returning from a recent visit to the town. The Baroness and her footmen escorted three townsfolk inside - including Miriam!

Once they'd gone inside, Kieara mounted a rescue attempt. She discovered that the horses pulling the carriage were animated corpses. So were the footmen, concealed under wigs, powder, and fine livery. She fought her way past the zombies and rescued two of the captives, but Miriam had already been taken to the dining room - a hall of carved onyx, with foot-thick double doors the only way in or out. Miriam was tied to the table, with the Baroness - a Ghoul - about to dine. In a hard-fought struggle, Kieara managed to defeat the Baroness and decapitate her, bringing an end to her reign of terror. The Baroness' pet werewolf swore fealty to Kieara, but she was unwilling to have such a creature in her employ and bade him remain at the mansion while she returned the captives to town in the Baroness' coach.

It was half-way through the rather drawn-out battle with the Baroness and her zombies that we discovered +Annette couldn't see all of the electronic character sheet I'd made for her on Google Drive. Half of her weapon stats were unknown to her, which explained why the fight was taking so long! We quickly rectified the situation, and the Baroness was summarily dispatched.

Reunited with her now fully-recovered kin, Miriam left town in the early morning to return to the farm. After the sun had risen, Kieara discovered that the undead horses had crumbled to ash now their master was dead. She returned to the Manor, looting it of valuables and information, including the Baroness' signet ring, a sheaf of letters she found in the guest quarters sometimes occupied by the Count, and a book on the dark arts of necromancy.

As her final act in Torndrey, she decapitated the servile werewolf and walked north out of town.

>>> Cleften Arc

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Blood Hunter: Prelude

My girlfriend +Annette had been interested in the idea of roleplaying games for some time, but hadn't been able to find a group willing to teach a newbie, so I gladly stepped up to the challenge. I asked some questions about genre and character, and we custom-built a world together for her first gaming experience. Since we live at opposite ends of the state, we started out playing via Facebook Messenger text chat, but have largely switched over to video chat via Google Hangout as of late 2012.

We decided on a world of Gothic horror. Her character, Kieara, is a half-vampire vampire hunter. She was attacked by the vampire lord Count Theodoric von Stieglitz, who attempted to turn her into a vampire. However, she managed to throw something through a window, exposing the Count to the dawning sunlight and forcing him to flee. As he had not managed to complete the transformation by filling her with his vampiric blood, she was stuck half-way - not a fully-fledged vampire, but not entirely human either. Her hatred for the Count and her desire for revenge are her major motivations. She loathes the dormant beast that lies within her, and desperately wishes to be clean of its taint.

Since we were playing remotely by text chat, I decided to use a modified version of my PowerFrame system. Normally that uses opposed rolls of an Ability (-5 to 5) plus an exploding d6. To make it a bit faster, I changed it so the acting character rolls 2d6 + Ability, and tries to beat the defending character's Ability + 6. I also simplified the Ability list, concentrating on a short-list of those used for monster hunting.

PowerFrame characters normally have a pool of 6 Health points. I decided to shift the baseline a little; humans would only have 3 Health, and supernatural creatures such as vampires and werewolves would get 6. This would underscore the helplessness of mortals in the face of horrifying creatures. Also, all but the most skilled humans would only have Abilities between 0 and 2, with 3 and above reserved for the very skilled or supernatural.

I decided that vampires would have a Blood pool of 6 points, which they could spend to use their supernatural powers. They regain points by drinking blood. Because Kieara was not a fully-fledged vampire, she effecively had 2 points from her Blood pool that could only be used for Vampiric powers, and the other four points were blank, and unfulfilled. Effectively, this means that if she drinks the blood of another type of supernatural creature, she can gain and use some of its powers. For example, drinking the blood of a werewolf gives her a point of Were blood, which she can spend to regenerate 1d6 Health. The main blood types are Vampiric (which she also gains by drinking the blood of humans), Were, Faerie, and Demon. The powers she gains access to are random depending on the type of creature bitten.

There is, of course, the possibility that Kieara will eventually become a full vampire. If she drinks any Vampiric blood, it will add to the points of her Blood Pool that can *only* be used for Vampiric powers. Each point gained in this manner will also automatically unlock a new vampire power, and a new drawback. Once she has all six points of her Blood Pool dedicated to Vampiric blood, she'll become a true vampire.

Human blood also fuels her vampiric powers, but doesn't automatically make her closer to becoming a full vampire. If she drinks from a human she needs to make a Willpower roll; if it fails, she'll keep drinking until she's full or they die. If she kills a human in this manner, she will gain another dedicated point of Vampire blood.

Kieara's equipped with a natty outfit, and a silvered longsword which prevents regeneration. With a brace of stakes, she's travelled from her homeland of Worthingare to the realm of Alhast, said to be the domain of Count von Stieglitz. As she clears the ridgeline and gazes down into a valley choked with dark pine forests, her journey is just beginning...

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Savage Worlds: Zombie Outbreak

In 2012, +Paul decided to run a game of Savage Worlds set in the very near future, based on a zombie outbreak in central Melbourne. Our characters would be relatively ordinary people caught up in the crisis, although we were allowed to have concepts involving combat training, medical skills, or other things that would give us an advantage. This post will be a summary of the whole first arc of the campaign

  • Barb plays Ellen Somerset, a paramedic with an ambulance and a hazmat suit.
  • Matt plays Shawn, a hardware store clerk with a drinking problem.
  • Rohin plays Jeff, a young pizza delivery driver and aspiring criminal.
  • I play Harry Michaels, a University student studying both history and historical fencing.

During the Melbourne Grand Prix, a racing event using an elevated track around the city centre, a military van rolls over on a bridge, releasing its small cargo of zombies into the river. They soon spread, infecting the crowd and wandering further afield. Ellen and her partner, "Good Guy" Greg, tried to help out some people trackside, but Ellen insisted on staying in the ambulance. From memory, they may have also picked up Jeff.

South of the city centre, Shawn failed to notice zombies occupying the hardware store until customers started fighting over the power tools. He "tooled up" and managed to fight his way past a couple of shamblers using a shopping trolley, and fled into the wider city.

My historical fencing group had been attending a seminar at a conference centre in South Yarra, near the river. We saw the disaster starting to spread across the bridge and along the river, and began securing the building. Shawn managed to stumble in, although his craziness and aggression almost led to him being shut out! The ambulance turned up just as we were closing the garage doors.

We stayed put for a little while, trying to figure out the best plan of action. Some of the people started showing signs of infection, so on Ellen's advice they were isolated in a semi-trailer in the secured parking lot. I felt that it was wrong to put potentially OK people in a container with potential zombies, so I insisted on standing guard and looking after them. We couldn't stay put for long, though. The Air Force began firebombing runs on the bridge and surrounds, so we loaded up the rented trucks with food and people and headed South towards the ferry terminal, in the hopes of catching a boat to Tasmania.

We reached the ferry pier to discover that there was no ferry, and no other boats. Some of the people in the back of the trucks had begun vomiting, although thankfully it was mostly motion sickness! We got everybody into a restaurant built at the land-end of the pier, and closed the chainlink gates. We quarantined the worst of our infected, and restocked our supplies from the kitchens. We learned that the coastguard was preventing boats from leaving, and that the ferry had been turned back. Still,we were in a well-supplied defensive location with over a hundred people, and so we decided to stay put until it all blew over. Unfortunately, we'd be forced to move again before too long.

The next day, Army ground patrols came past and cleared out the occasional shambling zombie. They were escorting corporate tankers that were running pipes into the sewers and storm water pipes. We got the attention of one of the army guys, who explained that there were zombies in the sewer and this company was going to pump in a sort of acid or organic solvent to kill them all, and we should just stay put. Instead, the tankers pumped a green gas underground, and the cabs detached and drove away. The Army guys tried to wave them down, but then all hell broke loose. The back of the tanker opened, and several gas-soaked super-zombies climbed out, followed from the sewers by a number of their enervated kin!

We stood and fought from behind the mesh fence, stabbing and burning at the wall of undead! Eventually, one of the faster ones broke through and ran inside. We were already loading people onto trucks for a quick getaway, as a massive horde of undead was closing in on us. I pursued the fast zombie inside, yelling for peope to get out, and managed to strike it down before it killed any civilians. I had to leap from the first floor window onto the back of the semi-trailer to avoid being left behind, and we drove off crunchily through the crowd.

We decided to head East, with thoughts of perhaps reaching Mount Dandenong or finding a way around the quarantined city to the North. We didn't have much information to go on, so we discussed several possibilities. After driving for some time through mostly deserted streets, we came across the site of an overrun Army barricade on the freeway. A few of us went onto the flyover to investigate, and discovered several APCs with weapon mounts, and a troop transport truck. After clearing out the dead bodies and fighting off some enthusiastic crows, we added the vehicles to our convoy. Worried about our food supply, we decided to look for a nearby shopping market supply warehouse.

We soon found a warehouse district. Each building had a spray-painted marking on the front; it looked like the Army had been through and marked them as "clear" or "useful" or something, but we weren't sure what. We found a safe warehouse that was still fully stocked with food and household supplies, and decided to camp out. However, a few problems soon became apparent. Out the back, in a caged-off area with a generator in it, were three obviously mutated guard dogs. We put them down, decapitated the bodies, and buried them just in case they decided to rise from the dead. Ellen found a ventilation pipe coming up from underground, which was slowly leaking a green gas. She took a sample in a jar.

The next morning, some of the people were feeling ill and a few were showing signs of mutation. We couldn't stay any longer for fear of contamination, so we took as much sealed food as wecould and started up the convoy again. Some of the gas-affected people decided to stay behind, despite our promise to find help for them. Ellen also suggested we paint red crosses on the roofs of the vehicles to either attract attention or ward off military strikes.

We headed East again, through a ruined urban landscape. We passed a truck that had rolled over, and witnessed a creature scavenging meat from the dead. Pressing on, we eventually reached a massive barrier wall across the freeway, being assaulted by hordes of zombies clambering over each other in an attempt to escape the city. The barricade was manned, and they were fighting the zombies. We made radio contact from one of our APCs. Unfortunately they weren't able to open the gates for us because of the undead, but they gave us directions to another gate a little way to the North where we might be able to get out.

A tense drive later, we approached the next gate. There were fewer zombies, and we radioed ahead to let them know we were coming. They opened the gates and fought back the undead as we gunned the trucks down the highway and through the checkpoint! The back of one of the vehicles was singed a little from a flamethrower, but we made it without bringing any zombies with us. The gates were shut, and we were safe.

All the people we got out were put through quarantine. The whole city of Melbourne was walled off, and the zombie plague had been contained... so far. I was very suspicious of scientists in the quarantine camp who were wearing the logo of the company who had released the green gas into the tunnels, but they assured us that it had been a rogue element or terrorists using their vehicles as cover. It turned out our small group all had a natural resistance to the zombie virus, and there was some discussion of us being recruited to fight this new threat, should it arise again.

Nobody knows what the future will bring.

It's been a while since we played; if any of the other players or GM read this and remember something differently, let me know and I'll edit it appropriately!

In general, I liked the way Paul ran the game; he adapted to our plans and allowed us flexibility of action, always coming up with new imperfect conditions to stop us from staying in one place while advancing the story of the outbreak.

Over the course of the campaign, I don't think we had as many direct conflicts with zombies and other monsters as I was expecting. I thought there would be more occasion where, despite our generally cautious approach, the undead would find a way through our defences and force a fight. Given that we were facing infectious zombies but didn't know how Paul's game mechanics covering infection worked, we were understandably reluctant to engage them if we didn't have to.

I think that Paul would have liked more combat too, but maybe didn't feel like he could justifiably attack our armed vehicle convoy. Still, even something as simple as running out of fuel would have forced us to make some tough choices or expose ourselves to danger. I wouldn't have been surprised to have super-zombies leap onto the vehcles, or have an acute outbreak amid the civilians we were trying to protect.

Because of the shortage of engagements, we also didn't use the full combat system all that often. I did find that anything lower than a d10 Fighting tended to miss rather a lot. I was having fun picking out new combat Edges to make the sort of doomed, heroic melee-based zombie fighter of my concept.

The campaign ended after we escaped the initial outbreak, although Paul's said he has more plans for if we decide to play again.

Monday, 11 June 2012

PiccoLaguna Resources

In May and June 2012 I prepped some game material for a new Smallville campaign, set in a Renaissance Venice inspired fantasy city called Laguna. The title of the campaign comes from "piccola," Italian for "small", and Laguna, the name of the city.

The PCs would all be movers and shakers at the Doge's court. Even someone with humble origins will tend to end up with powerful connections and patrons. The game intended to explore a web of intrigue, corruption and deception as the characters vied for power and influence and worked to further their own interests - but at what cost to their entangled relationships?

I still haven't run this game yet, although I'd like to some day. I tried to recruit a different group of players than I'd run through SamuraiVille, but for three weeks in a row I couldn't get more than two of them to turn up at once, so we never even got as far as Pathways.

I'm sharing the resources here in case anyone has better luck than I! Some of them are incomplete, and have entries marked as "???". If they'd come up in play, I'd have figured them out with the relevant player. I'd welcome any ideas for finishing them off.


I created a custom PiccoLaguna Pathways chart (which says Piccolo Venezia, my original but obsolete title for the game), which borrows fairly heavily from the original Smallville Pathways. The main difference is that Abilities have been replaced with Offices, and Heritage Distinctions are replaced with Titles.


Bravo (Distinction)

You are a swaggering swordsman with a penchant for picking fights to show off your skill with the blade.
d4: Earn a Plot Point whenever you Choose to pick a fight because of a slight to your honour.
d8: Exacerbate your Angry or Injured Stress to Increase your Injured or Exhausted Stress pool when armed.
d12: Add a d6 to Trouble to ???

Devout (Distinction)

You are devoutly religious. Roll in this die when debating religion, recalling scripture, or resisting temptation.
d4: Earn a Plot Point when you Choose to adhere to your faith's precepts in the face of an easier path, or insist that others do so.
d8: Add a d6 to Trouble to Reroll a die when upholding or promoting your beliefs.
d12: Spend a Plot Point to Recover your own Afraid or Insecure Stress through prayer.

Renaissance Man (Distinction)

You have embraced the spirit of the Renaissance, combining the passions of art and science to create a new understanding of the world. Roll this Distinction’s die when you are discussing art or science, trying to understand a new theory or technology, or working on a new creation or invention.
d4: ???
d8: ???
d12: ???

Two-Handed Bodyguard (Distinction)

You have studied the use of the two-handed sword as a bodyguarding and crowd-control weapon. Despite its size, you can bring it to bear in virtually any situation, from a narrow back-alley to a broad plaza. Roll in this die when you are fighting with a two-handed sword, or engaged in bodyguard duties.
d4: Spend a Plot Point to Increase your Injured or Afraid Stress pool when armed with a two-handed sword.
d8: When using your sword in an open area, Spend a Plot Point to cancel any Aiding dice your opponent gained from other characters who are engaged in combat with you or those you are protecting.
d12: When Aiding another character with your sword, Spend a Plot Point to Reroll your entire pool, handing over your new highest die.


Noble Title (Heritage Distinction)

You have earned or inherited a title of some sort, making you a privileged member of the aristocracy - anything from a knight to a Prince. Roll in this Distinction’s die whenever you are lording it over your lessers, or when you exercise your authority to get what you want.
d4: Earn a Plot Point whenever you Choose to step on someone’s toes to get what you want.
d8: Spend a Plot Point to Reroll your Title’s die in a Test or Contest involving authority.
d12: Add a d6 to Trouble to Use a Special Effect from a Linked Office you don’t have.
Limit: God
Linked Offices: Civic, Military.


Special Effects

  • Automatically gain a new SFX at Office ratings of d4, d8 and d12.
  • SFX can also be bought with Growth dice as usual.

Civic or Public Office (Office)

You have either been appointed to a civic office, or elected to a public office, either of which grants you power for as long as you can hold onto it. Different Offices will have different purviews and commensurate Special Effects. Positions may include Treasurer, Spymaster, Ambassador, Chancellor, Magistrate, and many others. Roll in your Office’s die whenever you are dealing with issues covered by its portfolio.
Special Effects: Spend a Plot Point to:
  • Get Aid from an exhausted Resource related to your Office.
  • Generate a d10 Useful Detail related to your position, such as official documents.
  • Find out what’s going on in a different scene, thanks to your information network.
  • Deputise another character as an agent of your Office for one episode, at a d6 rating.
  • Issue a decree or by-law, which remains in effect for the rest of the episode.
Limit: Official Documents

Ambassador (Office)

You are an ambassador, a representative of a foreign power, charged with championing your state’s interests at court. Roll this Office’s die when lobbying for your state, when arriving at a diplomatic solution, or when manipulating the situation to your advantage.
Special Effects: Spend a Plot Point to:
  • Generate a d10 Useful Detail related to your position, such as official communiques from home.
  • Add a d8 to Trouble to grant another character asylum at your embassy.
  • Deputise another character as an envoy of your Office for one episode, at a d6 rating.
  • Add a d12 to Trouble to lodge an official protest when a situation turns against your interests.
  • Claim diplomatic immunity to get out of a sticky situation.
Limit: Official Documents

Commercial Office (Office)

You have been appointed as an Envoy to lobby the court and investors for favourable trading conditions, on behalf of a merchant family or powerful Guild. Roll in your Office’s die when negotiating trade terms or discussing financial arrangements.
Special Effects: Spend a Plot Point to:
  • Generate a d10 Useful Detail related to your position, such as a contract.
  • Find out what’s going on in a different scene, thanks to your contacts.
  • Grant another character access to a 2d8 Resource, good for one use only.
  • Bribe an Extra to let you in somewhere you’re not meant to be.
  • Arrange for someone or something to be transported into, out of, or around the city in secret.
Limit: Signed Contracts

Military Office (Office)

You have been granted command of an armed force, whether it be elite guardsmen, rank-and-file soldiers, mercenaries, or militia. Positions include Admiral, General, Captain and so on. Roll this Office’s die when dealing with those under your command, or when administering military matters.
Special Effects: Spend a Plot Point to:
  • Generate a d10 Useful Detail related to your position, such as official documents.
  • Find out what’s going on in a different scene, thanks to your network of underlings.
  • Deputise another character as an agent of the Military for one episode, at a d6 rating.
  • Commandeer a building or vehicle for security purposes.
  • Call on Reinforcements (Fighting, Security) 2d8 for one scene.
Limit: Direct Orders from a Superior

Doge (Office)

Through a council of electors, you have been chosen as the Doge, de-facto ruler of the city-state. This is a position of great responsibility - politically, ceremonially and militarily. In foreign affairs, you are given the stylings of a Prince. However, this Office comes with many responsibilities and restrictions. Roll in this Office’s die when administering internal matters or affairs of state.
Special Effects: Spend a Plot Point to:
  • Get Aid from an exhausted Resource related to your Office.
  • Generate a d12 Useful Detail related to your position, such as official documents.
  • Add a d10 to Trouble to revoke any Title or Office (apart from Religious Office) for the remainder of an episode.
  • Grant another character a d8 Civil Office trait for this episode.
  • Issue a decree or by-law, which remains in effect for the rest of the episode. This can overrule any other decree currently in effect.
Limit: Scheduling - Earn a Plot Point any time you must leave a scene early on, due to official business

Religious Office (Office)

You have been inducted into the Catholic Church as a priest, bishop, archbishop or cardinal. Roll this Office’s die when dealing in religious matters, performing ceremonies, or debating scripture.
Special Effects: Spend a Plot Point to:
  • Reduce an opponent’s Clergy rating for an episode (treat this like Reducing Stress, depending on whether their Trait is less than yours or not).
  • Get Aid from an exhausted Resource related to your Office.
  • Generate a d10 Useful Detail related to your position, such as a holy writ or ceremonial item.
  • Excommunicate any character who is not a member of the Clergy.
  • Extract a confession from a character who is not a member of the Clergy (requires a Contest against a Feature or Lead).
Limit: ???

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

SamuraiVille Resources

By the end of the SamuraiVille campaign, I'd put together a few original Assets to reflect the setting and the nature of the main characters. Feel free to use these, wholesale or just as inspiration, in your own games!

Priest (Distinction)
You are a member of a religious order. Roll in this die when debating religion, recalling scripture, or resisting temptation.

d4: Earn a Plot Point when you Choose to adhere to your faith's precepts in the face of an easier path, or insist that others do so.
d8: Add a d6 to Trouble to Reroll a die when upholding the ideals of your sect.
d12: Spend a Plot Point to Recover your own Afraid or Insecure Stress, or to step back the Afraid or Insecure Stress of everyone in the Scene who subscribes to your teachings.

Kitsune (Heritage Distinction)

You were born a fox; long life has transformed you into a yokai with supernatural powers. All have the ability to assume a fox or human form at will, although the human form always features a bushy fox tail. You may be a trickster spirit, or a messenger of the rice god Inari - and all are fond of sweet rice cakes. They are easily panicked by dogs, to the point where they may revert to their true form and flee. Some are said to carry with them a magical gem (Hoshi no Tama) that contains their power.

d4: Earn a Plot Point when you Choose to complicate a situation using trickery or misdirection.
d8: Add a d6 to Trouble to use a Special Effect from a connected Ability you don't have.
d12: Spend a Plot Point to Reveal you know a spirit or supernatural entity with knowledge or abilities that could be useful in the current situation.
Connected Abilities: Shapeshifting, Possession, Dream Manipulation, Flight, Invisibility, Illusions.
Limit: Dogs or Hoshi no Tama (Gear)

Tengu (Heritage Distinction)

Some say that these yokai are the form taken by yamabushi who stray from the true path by developing excessive pride in their esoteric powers. They have crow-like faces or exceptionally long noses, and black feathered wings. Tengu are known for their prowess with weaponry, and some have even trained the great heroes of legend in the arts of swordsmanship. They are also known to cause mischief by possessing people, especially women and monks.

d4: Earn a Plot Point when you Choose to let your excessive pride get in the way, or when you are swayed by flattery.
d8: Add a d6 to Trouble to Increase your Injured or Afraid Stress Pool while using a weapon.
d12: Spend a Plot Point to Reveal you know a spirit or supernatural entity with knowledge or abilities that could be useful in the current situation.
Connected Abilities: Flight, Possession.
Limit: Humility

Iron Will (Ability)

Your mind is a fortress, protecting you from unnatural and malevolent manipulation. Roll this Ability’s die when detecting or resisting supernatural interrogation, manipulation, domination or possession that targets you personally.

Effect: Defense
Descriptors: Mental, Magic, Spirit
Limits: Concentration, Mental

Special Effects: Spend a Plot Point to...

  • Cast out a character that is Possessing you.
  • Decrease your opponent’s AFRAID or INSECURE Stress pool against you.
  • Recover your AFRAID or INSECURE Stress.
  • Reflect a mental Ability back at your opponent (they must Give In or roll against their own result).
  • Shutdown a mental Ability that someone attempts to use on you, for the rest of the Scene.

Monday, 28 May 2012

SamuraiVille Episode 5.2

  • Barb plays Okitsu, a fox-spirit who often possesses a shrine maiden.
  • Matt plays Taro, an apprentice blacksmith under Master Tetsu.
  • +Paul plays Yushin, a Buddhist monk recently returned to the town.
  • Rohin plays Yuriko, the owner of a tea-house who is also a ninja.

Well, SamuraiVille has come to a close. Yushin's player has been off sick for the last three weeks, and Taro's player had an unfortunate personal emergency to deal with, but I wanted to push on and get it done rather than leave the end trailing for yet another week. Unfortunately, that made things a little lacklustre.

Yuriko got a coded message to meet her clan master at the waterfall at sunset. He warned her to stay away from the untrustworthy fox-spirit, but more importantly, told her that a rival Lord, Kageshima, was poised to invade the province. Although the clan worked for Lord Morinaga, they realised that the battle would be lost, even with the gain of a new musket design, so are planning to change sides. He instructed her to acquire the new muskets, but to pass them on to the ninja clan rather than letting them fall into the hands of the local Lord Morinaga.

Okitsu was at the tea-house, and started impersonating Yuriko. Akira turned up for a drink, and mentioned that he had been sent to seek out his brother, the pirate Kenji (whom Yuriko was to get the muskets off). Okitsu tried to drug him, but he refused alcohol and managed to brush off her attempts to feed him random herbal teas. He left just as Yuriko returned; Okitsu filled her in, and Yuriko followed him invisibly in her young male form.

Being followed made Akira a bit twitchy, but he didn't manage to find out who it was. He began patrolling the coast, towards the smuggler's bay. Yuriko intercepted him, claiming to be a messenger from the castle come to tell him that the daimyo was in danger. Although he resisted the explanation at first, he eventually gave in and returned to the town.

Yuriko arrived at the smuggler's cove, where she met up with the pirate Kenji. She traded the bottled tengu for several sample muskets. Kenji gave the trapped spirit to a black daoist, who seemed satisfied with it. Yuriko headed back to town to hand over the muskets to her ninja contacts.

And... yeah. I ran out of conflicts, and that's how the game ended. I should have done some more exposition at the end (the back-story between Kenji and Akira, the reason the daoist wanted the spirit), but I'd forgotten some of my notes, and I was trying to figure out how to wrap the story. Also, Kenji was showing some Japanese reserve in front of his crew.

All up, my first attempt at Smallville was a mixed success. I made plenty of bad calls, and I still have to stop and think over whether I should contest something or give in. Even so, I'm quite bad at predicting what will happen to the dramatic flow, and I'm still somewhat resistant to tweaking events just for the story. For example, at the end I thought it would make a good climax to have Akira confront his brother while Yuriko was making the deal - we could have had acrimonious exposition, and she could have picked sides. I was hoping Okitsu would be there as well (although my original plan was to have Akira drag Taro along). However, since I got Akira talking to Okitsu, she knew what he was up to and Yuriko turned him away from the path which would have led to that final confrontation. It kind of dramatically deflated the situation, so I probably should have just had him take stress and keep looking for Kenji. Problem is, I'm pretty sure Yuriko's next move would have been to take him out - which meant I shouldn't have tipped them off that he was looking for the pirates in the first place. I was just trying to keep Okitsu involved, but it made things go flat.

It's a little depressing, but I did learn things too. I'm priming to run a political game set in a fantasy renaissance Venice with a slightly different group, so hopefully I can apply what I've learned.

Note: I did a bit of work setting up a new Smallville game called PiccoLaguna, but when I tried to organise a new group not enough people showed up. I still haven't had an opportunity to run it.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Interface Zero: Vegas

Since Rohin fell in love with the Interface Zero setting for Savage Worlds even more than I did, he decided to run a game based in the Free City of Las Vegas, located in the Northeast of Baja Mexico. The city was controlled in equal parts by corporate and organised crime interests. The party would all be working as security and troubleshooters at a strip mall owned by corporate magnate Bob Ho.

We played several sessions in 2012, but didn't manage to resolve the main storyline.

+Andrew played Gerald Rigg, an android security guard.
John played Mr. X, a blind mouse-hybrid hacker.
+Melysa played Kuma, a genetically modified security dog with near-human intelligence.
I played Devlin Monterey, a dog-hybrid rentacop of French-Canadian extraction.

The game started with a couple of us pulling security duty in the mall. A few kids started a food fight, so I intimidated them (and drew my stun-stick) and they ran away. During the ruckus, a virtual graffiti artist dropped a hyper-reality tag on the wall. I think he got chased off by Mr. X.

We were soon called into our boss' office, and given a mission. The daughter of a friend of the company had gone missing, and we were asked to find her. The situation was big and complex. The reference photos for the daughter had been doctored, but we managed to hack her school and find security footage of her. She'd disappeared from an alley in a Triad part of town during some turmoil with rival Hispanic gangs, but we learned she had friends in the Mafia and had probably gone with them. We tracked down the car she'd been taken away in, but it was booby-trapped and exploded. It began to seem as though she might have run away rather than being kidnapped.

We were sent video footage from the kidnapper showing her being sexually assaulted. The man in the video had a class ring. Her father was a member of the same class; we tracked down three other members who were currently in Baja Mexico - a scientist working for a bio-research facility, someone with connections to the European mafia, and an ex-General now working as a fight promoter and manager for a cyber-gladiator.

We ended up at a bit of an impasse, trying to untangle the various webs of stories and connections, and trying to figure out the best way to gain leverage and information hile exposing ourselves to minimal harm. Luckily, we had some other things to keep us occupied...

We received a tip-off that some gangers were going to raid one of our stock warehouses. We waited nearby in our AV, swooping in once they entered corporate property and our jurisdiction. We engaged them with deadly force, killing most of them and destroying their van as they fled using our vehicle-mounted cannon.

We'd been hearing rumours of a Bio-Horror prowling around the city ever since the start of the game, but we finally got a call that it was rampaging through one of our company malls.  We arrived to find it - a mutated giant tiger-like creature - prowling around an upper-storey food court, eating things and people. Some of us engaged it head-on to draw its attention, while the others guided the civilians to safety. It was a tough fight, but we eventually managed to subdue it.

As we transported it to the roof for extraction, a second Bio-Horror, like the first one but twice the size, climbed up onto the roof and, using  voice synthesiser, demanded the return of his "brother." It charged, and I faced it down as the others hurried for the AV. Miraculously, I put one shot into its head and it went down. My elation was short-lived, as it began to regenerate and showed signs of moving. We cleared out as fast as we could.

That was as much as we got through in 2012. My first impressions of playing Savage Worlds are that the dice did tend to feel "swingy" quite a lot of the time. In particular, I had a hard time trying to get decent damage rolls, and it was frustrating to not have the option of spending a Benny to reroll. I spent four or five rounds shooting the little Bio-Horror to no effect, only to completely drop the larger Bio-Horror with a single shot from the same gun. From what I've read about the system since, we probably could have used a few combat manoeuvres other than just repeatedly making attack rolls.

Deciding what to increase with an advance does tend to take a little while, unless you have it planned out. To start with, I guess there were a few Edges on my wish-list that I hadn't managed to pick up at character creation. I found that Skills only start to feel really competent at d10 or higher; starting with d8's, I flubbed more rolls than I would have liked.

Overall it's a serviceable game. I think we spent a lot of time trying to plan our approaches and minimise exposure to danger rather than just diving in, which given the way NPCs tend to fold like card-houses, was probably largely unnecessary. I think we were still in a Cyberpunk 2020 mindset to some degree, where a single bullet can lay you low. While that's still true in Interface Zero, characters are by and large somewhat more resilient.

The VR/HR elements of Interface Zero were also a bit hand-wavey at times; the setting book gives a glimpse at an awesome vision of hyper-reality, but doesn't have solid enough grounding principles to allow for us to extrapolate logical outcomes without relying on GM fiat. Also, the rules for hacking and controlling other people were a bit vague.

I'm actually writing this blog post in April 2013, and I've recently put in for the Interface Zero 2.0 Kickstarter at the PDF level, so it will be interesting to see if the new version addresses any of my concerns with the setting-specific rules.

Monday, 14 May 2012

SamuraiVille Episode 5.1

  • Barb plays Okitsu, a fox-spirit who often possesses a shrine maiden.
  • Matt plays Taro, an apprentice blacksmith under Master Tetsu.
  • +Paul plays Yushin, a Buddhist monk recently returned to the town.
  • Rohin plays Yuriko, the owner of a tea-house who is also a ninja.

Turns out "Yushin" was just coming down with the flu that's been going around, leading to tired crankiness, so it looks like we'll probably go another session or two.

I'm not sure which enemies in particular "Okitsu" wants to permanently knock off; possibly the tengu, although as GM I'd probably be inclined to Give In to having it die if they seriously trap or beat it into submission. I don't think anyone has a permanent relationship to it, and there are plenty more mischievous tengu out there if I ever needed another.

If I run Smallville again with this group, they'll have a better idea of what to expect, and have realised how important it is to tie the Leads together strongly from the start. One piece of advice for new players joining existing groups - if someone has to join later, I'd get them to make their character with everyone else present so the group can help work the character into the game world more comfortably, making suggestions and agreeing to any potentially controversial tie-ins. We made one Lead separately later on, and a few of the connections we came up with sort of chafed with how the established players saw the world and their characters working. Openness and collaboration is key in all aspects of Smallville.

Taro and Akira fight the Giant Gaki with the aid of Okitsu in fox form. The gaki pulls in all of the smaller ghosts to heal itself, but it is defeated anyway. Okitsu steals away the spirit-flame that drops from its remains. She realises it could be used to restore the valley's damaged fertility, or she could give it to Yuriko to trade for the new muskets.

Taro, Akira and Tetsu drop by the tea-house to wind down, while Okitsu and Yuriko go back to patrolling the mountain looking for the tengu. Akira excuses himself so he can return to the castle and report the gaki's defeat to the daimyo.

Taro and Tetsu are returning to the forge when Tetsu has to stop to relieve himself in an alleyway. Mariko appears in the street and talks to Taro - she tells him that Yuriko's spirit-tea WAS responsible for Tetsu's possession. She also tells him that she captured the tengu with the help of the townsfolk, but decided to show mercy and release it. Okitsu interrupts the conversation by running through town as an invisible fox, projecting an illusion of the tengu. Taro runs to the castle to find Akira.

The Okitsu-tengu stands on the roof of the tea-house squawking, but Yuriko shoos her onto the next building so she doesn't drive even more customers away. The townsfolk flee the streets. Mariko hops up onto the roof and confronts Okitsu, telling her not to try anything or she'll harm "the girl." Convinced that Mariko is possessed by the tengu, Okitsu leaps straight at her and attempts to re-possess the shrine maiden. The tengu resists, but gains stress. Before it can throw Mariko's body from the roof, Yuriko leaps from the tea-house next door and pins Mariko down. The tengu is stressed out and flees Mariko's body, and Yuriko captures it in a spirit-bottle.

Things went pretty well, although the confrontation with the tengu was a bit disappointing as it didn't manage to roll very well on either Contest. I could have presented it a bit better dramatically speaking, but mechanically the outcome would have been the same. I could have had tengu-possessed Mariko confronting the illusion tengu on the roof in view of townsfolk witnesses, or even better in front of Taro and Akira returning from the castle, but I only thought of that after the event. Maybe the opening scene of next episode will have Taro and Akira turning up just in time to witness the confrontation on the roof; that should sow a bit of confusion.

For the fifth session in a row, Yuriko has steadfastly failed to gain any Stress - she has come out on top of every Contest she's been directly involved in!

Since we are only getting two hour sessions at the moment, I decided to split Episode 5 in half. Episode 5.2 will be next week. The Trouble Pool and Plot Points are not re-setting, and I've allowed Growth Pools to carry over if people want. I'd been getting the feeling that things were just starting to ramp up and then the session would end, so I'm seeing if this will help the mechanical pacing. Of course, I was hoping the tengu would still be around, but I can move on to focus on other concerns.

>>> Episode 5.2

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

SamuraiVille Episode 4

  • Barb plays Okitsu, a fox-spirit who often possesses a shrine maiden.
  • Matt plays Taro, an apprentice blacksmith under Master Tetsu.
  • +Paul plays Yushin, a Buddhist monk recently returned to the town.
  • Rohin plays Yuriko, the owner of a tea-house who is also a ninja.

Tonight's session was a bit of a bust. I had a cold or flu over the weekend which I'm still trying to throw off, although my energy levels were fairly reasonable. However, Yushin's player might be trying to fight off the same illness - he flaked out and had to call it a night only an hour in. It sort of petered out after that; there were no Contests, and only one Test. No Challenging, no Stress, no Recovery, no Growth.

Yushin let the tengu go, and persuaded the actual shrine maiden Mariko to accompany him back to the castle to talk to the abbott.

Okitsu stayed at the tea-house overnight. Yuriko received a midnight visit from her contact the pirate captain. He offered to trade her a new model of foreign musket in exchange for the soul of a yokai, but he needed an answer within 24 hours.

Yushin wanted to point out to the abbott that Mariko was being controlled by an outside force such as an evil spirit, since she couldn't remember what happened for most of the previous day while she was possessed. She claimed to be under the influence of Inari. Yushin's player was flaking a bit by this stage, and I found it hard to discern what the aim of the scene was.

In the morning, Tetsu and Taro were visited at the forge by a young samurai, Akira, who'd been sent by the daimyo to investigate the tales of spoiled rice and ghosts. Taro took him to the tea-house to drink the special spirit tea, allowing him to see the spirits.

Yuriko and Okitsu headed up to the shrine to get the tengu and trade it for the muskets, only for Mariko to tell them that it had been released by Yushin. Okitsu assumed the form of a tengu and, followed by an invisible Yuriko, they began searching the mountain for it.

Akira managed to slice a little ghost in half when he and Taro were on their way back through the town, to Taro's surprise. Taro then led Akira and Tetsu to the waterfall, where they discovered that the bags of rice he'd left out there had been completely consumed, and a trail of green ooze pointed towards the valley's rice fields. Okitsu and Yuriko also reached the waterfall, and secretly followed the three men to the edge of the rice fields - where an enormous gaki has started eating the rice harvest.

I think illness and lack of energy took their toll. There were some pacing problems, and Yushin's player was lacking focus before deciding to leave early. He'd displayed some general grumpiness towards Okitsu's player, as their characters have become antagonists; I'm not certain if weariness led to grumpiness or if grumpiness led to leaving early. I'm hoping that people aren't taking things personally, but those two do have a tendency to bump heads a little IRL.

I think the game might possibly go another session or two, or we might call it a wrap there depending on how Yushin's player's feeling. The rest of us discussed how the game was going, and it had a mixed response. "Okitsu" doesn't like that it's all but impossible to permanently defeat something, and that decisive results aren't always forthcoming. "Taro" has some issues with pacing, which was admittedly a bit too lumpy this episode, but otherwise enjoys the system He also lacks much knowledge of feudal Japan, so there can be a bit of a cultural divide in this current game. I don't remember any strong opinions from "Yuriko" (who was starting to pass out on the couch), and I'll talk to "Yushin" later. There was also a general feeling that Growth is too slow, although I think that's a combination of short sessions and not enough familiarity yet to "game" the system for Growth dice.

>>> Episode 5.1

Sunday, 29 April 2012

IZ: Scavengers of the Sunken City

I ran a short introductory Savage Worlds game in the Interface Zero setting, just so the group could become familiar with character creation and the basic mechanics before Rohin launched his Interface Zero Vegas campaign. I don't have a full cast list of characters, but the players were +Andrew, John, +Melysa, and Rohin.

We set the game in the semi-sunken ruins of Los Angeles, after the land to the West of the San Andreas Fault slid into the ocean. I cast L.A. as being 10 to 100 metres underwater, with ruined skyscrapers and fractured freeways poking above the surface. Several communities of scavengers, gangers, and the remnants of the LAPD had been built on the elevated land around the city basin.

There was some resistance to the system, especially from Andrew. In particular, needing to read and absorb the entire list of Edges in order to make informed choices at character creation was a big mark against the system. However, the whole point of this short game was to give people a chance to experiment and find the pitfalls so they could make more informed choices when making characters for Rohin's long-term game.

John went through a couple of iterations before deciding on an aquatic hybrid. There was also some uncertainty and confusion about the Interface Zero occupation and income system and how it related to Edges and Hindrances such as Rich or Poverty. He wanted to be a Crime Boss ($25K income) along with the Poverty Hindrance (halve income, can't hold onto cash), but this would still have meant he would be starting with more money than anyone else (mostly $5K to $10K incomes)! In the end, I decided that the Corporate and Crime Boss occupations were only available if you took the Rich Edge, and the Ganger occupation ($2K) was a representation of the Poverty Hindrance.

Speaking of money, IZ lacks a standard exchange rate with the dollars used in the Savage Worlds core rulebook, and also lacks a mundane equipment list! Due to hyperinflation, dollar values in IZ are between 2 and 10 times higher than their modern day equivalents, but it's somewhat frustrating to have to guesstimate prices for everything, especially when gear is a big part of the setting.

We opened with a fight, and I discovered how fragile Extras in Savage Worlds can be.

The group came down to their boats one day to find rival gangers looting them. The fight was brief, and none of my gangers got to fire a shot; I think one managed to crawl behind cover, but it didn't do him much good. 

The characters discovered a hyper-reality data file on one of the gangers - a map, describing the location of what appeared to be a concealed lab in one of the submerged skyscrapers in the abandoned central city. They dialled up a virtual connection, discovering that the lab seemed to contain several prototype wheeled remotes which may be collector's items. However, the HR version of the lab couldn't tell them much about the physical condition of the lab, except that the power was off. They decided to take a couple of boats and go check it out.

Using the map they quickly located the building and began trying to find a way into the sealed lab level. It turned out that it was definitely underwater now, but one of the group was an aquatic hybrid. Before they could find a way in though, they were attacked by several speedboats loaded with gangers.  A big firefight ensued, spanning the building with the lab and the one next door. They managed to snipe, outmanoeuvre, and gun down most of the gangers, but the last survivor took a boat and fled.

They finally managed to cut their way into the lab and recover the first edition remotes, but then decided to explore the upper levels of the shattered building in case there was anything else worth looting. Of course, most of the decent stuff had been stripped decades ago. They ended up disturbing a bio-horror that was nesting in the building; even as a Wild Card, it didn't last long against assault shotguns. They heard more scrabbling sounds from the next floor up, and took that as their cue to leave.

Even boatloads of Extras were little threat to the group, and the powerful weapons in Interface Zero seem to be able to chew through Wild Cards pretty well too. Playing cards worked pretty well for initiative, although as we were seated around a loungeroom rather than a table, it sometimes took more than a glance to see who was up next.

Some of the Hyper-Reality and hacking rules seemed a little vague, and I wasn't really confident in my approach. Oddly, having searched a few forums, apparently the guys at Gunmetal Games haven't fully thought through their vision of virtual reality either, as they mostly seem to say "we hadn't thought about that" and "just do whatever you like" in response to questions about The Deep. I can see a grand vision in the basic IZ hacking system, but it's a little too obscured for me to be able to see it clearly. I prefer to understand things from base principles, but it's tricky to come up with a consistent, understandable interpretation of The Deep that actually matches the rules. I also invested in the Hacking 2.0 PDF, which purports to simplify VR, but I think it takes away some of the charm.

After mostly playing the same game for a decade or so, some of the players were a bit slow on the uptake of a new system. I ended up making little summary sheets on how to make skill and damage rolls.

Up next, we made characters for Rohin's game, set in Vegas - a Free City in the country of Baja Mexico.