April 5, 2017

GamerNationCon 4 - Acheivement "A New Hope" Unlocked

Well, so much for plans of making regular updates...

It's been a couple days since I got back home from attending the fourth GamerNationCon down in Dallas, Texas, or as I prefer to think of it, the The True Best Four Days of Actual Gaming.  I'd posted on Facebook my initial thoughts back on Monday, but now that I've had a bit of time to recoup and consider, I thought I'd post more of why I intend to never miss this fun little con if I have any say in the matter.

Firstly, a big thinks to Phil "Darth GM" and his brother Andrew for being willing to split the cost of a rental car to help ensure that my buddy Eric and I would have a ride not only to and from the con site, but also a ride back to the airport come Monday morning rather than have to pay for a cab.  I can't fault Phil for "going Rogue" and taking a Nissan Rogue as his vehicle for a con that had a strong (or just stronger than usual) Star Wars theme.

The Wednesday before the convention is fun in and of itself.  Not only did I get some really good barbecue at an old-style BBQ pit joint, but got to catch up with friends that I'd not seen since last year, on top of getting to chat a bit with Guest of Honor Katrina Ostrander (aka Kat).  After dinner, spent some time in the hotel lobby chatting with Jim, Isaac, and Will about ideas for some new character types for Feng Shui 2, namely a Trick Shooter archetype that's less John Wu two-gun flash and more precision shooting with a sidearm; I'm looking forward to seeing the final product once they get it finalized.  Seems they also really liked the ideas I put forth for a "Drunken Boxer" move set for the Martial Artist, as I believe Jim is actually playing that character in a campaign that Isaac is running.

Okay, so one RPG setting that I very much like but rarely get a chance to play in is that of Legend of the Five Rings, formerly published by AEG but now under the stewardship of FFG.  A couple GenCons ago, I was pleased to find that Kat was herself a huge fan of the game and setting (on top of being a major anime fan), and she seemed quite intrigued at my suggestion of checking out at least the first of the live-action Rurouni Kenshin movies (it's really good, and ties the disparate plots of the first several manga volumes together in an enjoyable and surprisingly coherent manner, on top of the casting for most of the characters being spot-on, especially Kenshin).  Sadly, I didn't have an opportunity to register for either of the two L5R events she was running at the con, but fortune favored this mortal man and I was able to hop into her Thursday session.  I mush admit, I loved her method of allowing the players to create characters as part of the introduction to the game, where in I made a Kakita Bushi as part of a group of six that included a two shugenja (Kuni and Soshi), a courtier (Crane), a monk (Dragon), and a second bushi (Unicorn).  The adventure itself was more of an investigative affair, though there were a couple of scenes set up specifically for the bushi characters; I guess that Kat asking if anybody was making a duelist and her relief that I was doing so should have been a clue.  I'll say no more, as I might try running this myself and I don't want to spoil anything for my friends that read this who themselves may wind up being players.

A bit more on Kat's method of quick-building PCs, which she liberally borrowed from Apocalypse World (I may need to check that out).  She did a similar thing for her Star Wars sessions, one of which my long-time friend Linda got to play in, and she liked the concept as well.  I have to admit it's pretty inventive, and not only does it give the player a bit more investment in the character as it's one that they've made (even if the selections available are a bit limited by necessity) but it means the GM doesn't have to work as much to fill up a four hour time slot.  I'd asked Kat if she could e-mail a copy of the different character folios that she put together, one so that I could see all the different options, but also so that I could make use of them for running L5R games myself, as it'd save time that I'd have to spend creating pre-gens.

Also on Thursday I got to do a "slot zero" pick-up of my 7th Sea Second Edition adventure "An Idol Venture," which is an expansion/update of my initial 7th Sea mini-adventure "An Idol Pursuit."  Apparently it wasn't quite expanded enough, as the players completed the adventure in a little over three hours.  I suppose I could bolster up the combat sequences, as the PCs were generally able to crush them in a single round.  The players generally had fun, though sadly I think Isaac was a bit brain-fried from having stayed up to stupid o'clock in the morning the night before, as he had a hard time wrapping his head around how 7th Sea 2e handles approaches and combat sequences, which to be fair may have also been a bit my fault as well.  Still, the players had fun, even if one of them did seem determined to keep the spotlight securely on him at all times instead of letting other players have their turn to be awesome.  One of my players was Kat Ostrander, and was glad that she enjoyed the adventure, even if a few things from how I did things in the adventure through her (at least according to a Facebook post of hers).

Friday got off to a bit of a quieter start.  I made the walk with my long-time friend Linda over to Madness Games and Comics, which to be frank is less of a gaming store and more of a gaming mall, given the sheer size of the place and the volume of products for sale.  I wound picking up a pack of 10-sided dice so that I'd have a set for my own use while being able to share a set at the table for further 7th Sea sessions.  I was hoping to find a red-and-white set (colors of the Hare Clan from L5R), but settled on a gold and white set instead, as well as grabbing a couple of new shirts for myself and an Animal-themed shirt that said "Party Animal" for Linda's daughter Ari.  Then it was a walk back so that I could run my Star Wars adventure "Taris City Rumble."  I had tried to run a version of it at last year's GNC, but to no avail, so this year I preregistered it and wound up with a full table.  I'd made a number of changes from the initial version, including totally revamping the PCs, and I think it worked out for the best.  The table had fun, with an older gentleman really getting into character as the exiled Tapani noble, though I did wind up largely improvising the final leg of the module due to the players taking a rather unexpected approach to things, but it wound up being a fast-paced and suitably frantic scene with one of the PCs getting dropped and the half of the group who weren't spec'd out for combat taking on the NPC that was the major combat threat.  They did a pretty good job of holding said threat at bay until the Jedi character was able to leap in and blind the adversary with a rake of their lightsaber through the eyes with a critical injury that pretty much took it out of the fight.  The denouement at the end had the PCs sweating a bit, given the nature of who they had to interact with at the adventure's conclusion, which was fun.  Again, the players had fun, so I'd call that winning.  Still, it wound up running over, but I'm not sure if there's anything I could really trim from it without putting the party on rails, something I prefer to avoid doing if at all possible.

After that, I played in a Star Wars pick-up game run by Linda, her "Little Girl Lost" adventure which was based off an adventure she ran for the Skype group we're both part of.  Sadly, I think she overestimated the capability of the pre-gens she offered, most of whom were pretty much starting PCs in terms of XP and gear, as the challenges were a whole lot tougher than they really should of been, with Hard difficulty checks being handed out like candy, especially in the early going.  She did say that she spent some time talking with Keith Kappel, prolific freelance writer for FFG about things she did wrong and things that could be improved.  Given how much she doubts her ability to GM games, I give her a mountain of credit for being willing and able to GM for a group that was almost entirely comprised of strangers.

And to cap off the Friday night, I played in another pick-up game, this one being a D&D 5e adventure run by Brev Tanner.  I'm pretty good at improve as a GM, but I usually prefer to have some sort of outline written up ahead of time, but I was impressed at Brev for pretty much running the entire adventure by the seat of his pants.  He did use a quintet of pre-gens, with my playing a High Elf Monk (personally there's a few things I'd have done differently with the character, but I tend to feel that way about most pre-gens, and I'm sure there are folks that feel the same with the pre-gens I make; nature of the beast I suppose).  The adventure was a lot of fun, even if there were some things that were just plain wrong occurring, but kudos again to Brev for the different voices employed for various NPCs we encountered and interacted with.  I probably stayed up way too late, but it was worth it.

Saturday started with not enough sleep, but I managed to get in a brief session of Red Dragon Inn.  Normally I'm not much for board games, but I had some time to kill and the Whitson family were looking for another player to join them and Kat, and it was indeed fun.  Sadly, we had to cut the game short so that we could all attend Kat Ostrander's panel.  It was cool to get more of an insight into how she does her game prep, writes adventures, and the contrast of players who favor crunch-heavy RPGs as compared to those who prefer rules-lighter narrative-heavy RPGs and the contrast of what each camp sees as "winning" the game.  Personally, I'm of the camp that "winning" in an RPG means that every player in the game had fun, and it would seem the majority of the Gamer Nation is of a similar mind set.

After the panel, I got into yet another pick-up game, this time a Dresden Files RPG set in Las Vegas run by long-time d20 Radio alumni Tim Rayburn, formerly of the Radio Free Hommlet (who?) D&D 4e podcast.  Tim ran our group through character creation for a group that apart from myself and his wife Kate had never even seen Fate before.  It was a really fun adventure, and I had to chuckle at Tim remarking that the party (three of whom were investigators of some sort or another) were about to Greyhawk one particular scene.  I kind of feel like I took more of a lead than maybe I should have, but the other players didn't seem to mind, and it did help keep things moving, even if my PC did inadvertently stumble into a situation he really shouldn't have; it wasn't bad per se, just embarrassing.   Of course, this being set in the Dresdenverse and involving the Fae, the whole adventure revolved around a situation that could have been far more easily resolved by a couple of NPCs simply talking to each other instead of invoking an overly-complicated chain of events, which lead to my ending the session with the frustrated exclamation of "Fucking Faeries!" to the group's mutual laughter.

Saturday night's gaming wrapped up with my running a second 7th Sea 2e adventure, this one called "Once Upon a Harvest Moon."  The adventure was initially run as a one-shot for my Skype group for when our regularly scheduled game had to be put on hold due to a couple players not being available, and was itself based upon the adventure module "Lady of the Apples" for the Shadow of the Demon Lord RPG.  Set in Eisen, the adventure was generally dark and creepy, and thus slated for an evening time slot.  Overall, I think this session went a lot better than my Thursday session, with the chap that played the priest probably being the most memorable of the characters.  The one hiccup was that during the final scene, one of the players was paying more attention to her phone (trying to order food), which certainly aggravated me but I simply dealt with it.  I am seriously considering instituting a "no phones unless you're using it as a dice roller" policy at any further games I run.  I'm going to give the adventure write-up one more look-through, and then will probably post it here to the blog.

While I didn't get to play in any of Phil's sessions of his much-acclaimed Fallout module (based off FFG's Star Wars system), I did get to listen in on the tail end of his Saturday night pick-up, of which most of the players were varying degrees of inebriated, as was the GM, and I'm certain that made things lively.  While waiting for Phil to sober up enough to be in good enough shape to drive, I did get to converse a bit with a few different folks at the con, so it wasn't like I was hanging around bored.  Still, I wonder if I should have taken Linda up on the offer of a lift back to the con so that I wouldn't have another night of minimal sleep.  I did still manage to adhere to the 4-2-1 rule (4 hours' sleep, 2 full meals, 1 shower), so it's all good.

Finally we rolled into Sunday.  Apart from a last minute session of Artemis, I really didn't do all that much gaming, due to being a little out of it as well as wanting to put a few different RPG adventure ideas for next year's GamerNationCon onto paper.  I did stop over to where Kat was running her final L5R session, and for some reason to do a fairly decent impression of Samurai Jack's Aku, bellowing "Foolish samurai!"  One of the players rolled with it, and I'm not sure if Kat was more amused or annoyed; I'm going to lean towards the later as she wasn't feeling quite so hot after drinking as much as she had during Phil's Fallout module and Aku's voice doesn't exactly lend itself towards subtlety.

After the con ended was the auction, and the only item that I wanted (a pretty cool dice tower in the theme of a Death Star laser turret) went to somebody else, so I walked away with nothing.  Ah well, but at least Linda got herself a copy of the Endless Vigil sourcebook.

The con itself pretty much wrapped up with what I've taken to calling the "dead dog dinner," largely as we're all dead-tired, yet doggedly trying to keep the fun going as we have one final group dinner.  There was a bit of a hiccup, as the Italian place that Dave originally chose turned out to have been recently closed for business, causing a relocation to a different Italian place.  I joked to Dave that what had happened is that when he made his Foresee power check, he'd rolled straight dark side, with Dave laughingly adding that he also rolled a Despair.  If you're not familiar with those terms, they're to do with FFG Star Wars.  Still, it was a good dinner, and I got to spend a good chunk of time with the Whitsons before we parted ways.

Monday was the flight back, and apart from getting to the airport quite early (necessary due to Dallas morning traffic) the trip back was without incident.  No delays, no missed connecting flights, no misplaced luggage.  As I joked with Phil on Facebook, it was probably an April Fool's Joke by the forces that be in order to lull us into a false sense of security about future flights.

So yes, GamerNationCon IV was a rousing success, and I'm already looking forward to next year, to GamerNationCon V: The Order of the Gamers.  Got at least four adventure ideas that have a magic/mystical theme to them, with systems picked out for three of them (SWFFG, 7th Sea 2e, and Dresden Files Accelerated), which is probably where I should stop as I want to be sure that I've got enough time to play games; some folks might enjoy spending the entire con GM'ing, but I enjoy being a player as well.

December 31, 2016

As one year closes, another year awaits

Okay, so been a while since I last updated this.    This post will probably fall into the "& Etc" part of the blog's title, so bear with me.

I can't be fully honest as to what I expected out of 2016, but I think I can say there were a lot of surprises, and only a few of them good.

First off, there were the sheer volume of celebrity deaths, many of whom were far too young to be taken from us, running the gamut from David Bowie and Prince to Alan Rickman and most recently Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds.  There others to be sure, sadly far too many for a single year.  Being the life-long Star Wars fan that I am, it's safe to say that Carrie Fisher's passing is probably the one that hit me the hardest.  And while her "Hutt slayer" ensemble was indeed memorable, I remember her more as the sassy, spirited princess in a white gown with buns in her hair, who took charge of her own rescue.  Carrie's own life was a roller coaster to be sure, with ups and downs, but it's impossible to deny the influence that one role had in terms of the movie industry.  From what I've heard, she did finish up her work for Episode 8, so it'll be interesting to see how they address her absence come time for Episode 9.  May the Force be with you Carrie, drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.  To us, she'll always be royalty.

To address the political elephant in the room, there's the very unwelcome surprise of the election of the thin-skinned narcissistic orange-skinned man-child Donald Trump, a man so unqualified to be leader of the free world he makes George W. Bush look like Franklin D. Roosevelt by comparison.  And on the backs of Trump's campaign of racism, misogyny, and ignorance rode a crop of Republican senators who failed to do their jobs under the Obama administration, stymieing if not outright blocking President Obama's efforts for no reason other than political affiliation and (if leaked details from former high-ranking Republicans are to be believed) the color of the man's skin.  I make no secrets about my being a liberal in terms of political views, and ascribe to Bernie Sanders' views in regards to democratic socialism (something this country already makes extensive use of).  And while Hillary Clinton was not my first choice, I still voted for her as she was probably one of the most qualified Presidential nominees we've seen in the past few generations.  But because of a screwed up Electoral College, we instead got a loud-mouthed braggart that has openly admitted to sexual abuse whose only "qualifications" was that he was white and that he was rich.  And to the surprise of nobody that actually bothered to look past Trump's rhetoric, he's breaking just about every promise he made on the campaign trail, and because of one comparatively small group of Americans that bought into his many hate-fueled lies, the whole nation and probably the world itself is going to suffer as that buffoon abuses the office of President to further enrich himself and leave the rest of us holding the bill.  As I mentioned to my dear friend Adie from across the pond, while I'm hoping for 2017 to feature a return of the reason and sanity that the world seems to have lost as 2016 comes to a close, I'm not holding my breath for a speedy return and expect it's going to be on hell of a bumpy ride.  Admittedly, as a white male in a solidly Democratic state I probably have less to worry about under a Trump presidency (ye gods I feel sick just typing those two words together), I'm more worried about my friends in the LGBTQ+ community as well as those who rely upon the Affordable Care Act, two groups the GOP have made no bones about putting in their crosshairs.

Okay, enough of that topic; it's a sunny day outside and I don't want to spend the last day of the year in a foul mood because of a ferret-wearing shit-gibbon and the dimwitted monkeys that support him.

Some of the good things that 2016 brought for me were the movies Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange.  Both were solid and fully entertaining movies, with Strange being far better than I was originally anticipating.  And while I was pretty much TeamCap in regards to Civil War, the Russo brothers were able to present the issue as not being entirely clear-cut, with both sides having valid points.  The major highlight of the film for me was of course the introduction of Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming next year.  Also looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, especially after seeing the trailers.  Still unsure about Thor: Ragnarok, but I'll still probably go see it in the theater, but I'll admit that Thor: Dark World is probably one of my least favorite of the MCU entries; Norton's Incredible Hulk takes the cake there for me, and I find Mark Ruffalo to be a much better Banner.  Also on the movie front was the new Ghostbusters movie.  While it's not as good as the original Ghostbusters, this female-lead reboot of the franchise was very enjoyable, making me and Amy and Tiffany all laugh at various points, especially at many of the cameo appearances of the original movie's cast (I think my favorite was Dan Akroyd as a cabbie with Sigourny Weaver's scientist/mentor being a close second).  I really do hope this movie gets a sequel, as I really enjoyed watching this new crew go bust some ghosts.

As for Rogue One... I'll admit that while I did like the movie, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed The Force Awakens,  Probably for the fact that (SPOILERS!) that none of the new heroes introduced survived to the end.  And while that sort of "kill em all!" approach might work for horror movies, I still don't care for that plot path.  It may not have been the screenwriters' intent, but the fate of the Rogue One crew honestly felt like they decided "well, this is the easiest way to explain why they weren't around in ANH" and thus avoid "so what was Jyn/Caspian/Chiffut/Baze/etc doing during the rest of the Galactic Civil War after that mission?" questions.  Now, I knew going in this was going to be more of a war movie, and that there was no way that everybody was going to make it out alive; if nothing else I figured Jyn Erso (died to redeem her father in wake of his role in building the Death Star), K2-SO, Chiffut (too cool to live), and Bodhi the pilot were going to be toast, but I was figuring at least Caspian would make it out with the plans, even by the skin of his teeth.  Apparently there was a different ending, which reportedly revolved around the Rogue One crew getting decimated by Lord Vader, but that got re-shot as it was found too dark/depressing.  As for Darth Vader, I think they did a great job bringing him to life on the big screen.  He didn't have a lot of screen time, but he made the most of what he did have, especially that end sequence where he just demolishes a squad of Rebel Troopers, and you can tell from their reactions that they know full well that they are completely screwed at that point.  I didn't have any problem with the CGI used to bring Tarkin and young Leia to the screen either; what little uncanny valley effect there was with Tarken worked to make him seem even creepier than Peter Cushing's incredible performance in ANH already did.

Back towards the end of March, when the horrors to come of 2016 were still far off and there was hope that a Russian-backed lunatic wouldn't be installed as this nation's leader, there was GamerNationCon 3: Beyond Thunderdrome.  I got to play in a number of Star Wars RPG sessions, including a fun adventure run by Christopher West set just prior to The Force Awakens with the PCs all being Resistance operatives, a pick-up run by Sam Stewart with a whole crap load of players, a pick-up run by Sterling Hershey based around material he wrote for the Nexus of Power supplement.  I was able to play in three of my good friend Eric's sessions, one being a D&D pick-up where I had a lot of fun playing a Human Paladin as well as two of his Star Wars games, playing a Jedi-type in each one, even if the PCs were very different builds.  Though the coolest moment for me was getting to help induct Rodney Thompson as an Honorary Member of the Rebel Legion for all the time and hard work he put into the Star Wars Saga Edition RPG, the game that pretty much was responsible for the creation of the d20 Radio Network and with it the Gamer Nation, a large extended family of which I am proud to call myself a member.  There was a lot of concern that GNC3:BT would be the final con, as the venue was due to lose it's lease and options for a new venue were not promising, but the Force was with the Gamer Nation as GamerNationCon 4: A New Hope will be happening, as the original venue was able to renew their lease for the foreseeable future.  So that's at least one thing occurring in 2017 that I can honestly look forward.

Another cool thing from 2016 was the unexpected early preview release of Evil Hat Production's Dresden Files Accelerated game.  This was a last-minute "why the heck not?" backer goal from Fred Hicks' wildly successful FATE Core Kickstarter, and apart from a general announcement of "hey, we're looking for playtesters!" not a peep had been heard.  And then, in the final weeks of the year, backers get an e-mail notice of "Hey, we've got an early preview PDF of DFA with your name on it!"  While I generally like FATE as a system, and liked the general simplicity of Fate Accelerated Edition, I am seriously loving Dresden Files Accelerated.  The changes made to both streamline the old Dresden Files game and account for new information has made for a very interesting game.  The concept of using Mantles to define your character is very cool, especially in light of the information on mantles in the Dresden Files setting that came to light during the Cold Days novel.  Wizards (or Magical Practitioners as their Mantle is called) no longer stand quite so tall above vanilla mortals in DFA, which is nice in terms of general balance, and the concept of scale in terms of rating levels of power works out very nicely, allowing for PCs to have a chance against heavy-hitters like Senior Council members and even the Queens of Faerie, even if that chance is slimmer than a pipe cleaner.  My buddy Doran has expressed interest in running a one-shot at some point in time, and I'm very much eager to step into the shoes of my old Dresden!Lite character Danny Copperfield, a Young Wizard of the White Council.  To my surprise and delight, it was amazing easy to convert Danny from his original Dresden File starting point (Submerged) to DFA and still be fundamentally the same character in terms of what he can accomplish.  I will most certainly be purchasing this in dead tree format when it comes out.

Cool RPG Thing #2 has been the Star Wars campaigns that I've been running and playing using Fantasy Flight Game's amazing system.  To be honest, I think FFG's Star Wars RPG is one of the most fun and mechanically interesting RPGs that I've ever played, and I've played a LOT of different RPG systems.  Admittedly, most of my recent characters have been Jedi of some stripe or another, with my TFA era rebuild of Valin Starsmor perhaps being my favorite, if only as I've seen him grown from a starting PC with only a few shreds of confidence to having just recently built his own lightsaber.  But also fun has been the Force and Destiny campaign that I've been running, set during the classic Rebellion Era.  The cast of characters is quite diverse and none of them are even remotely similar to one another; the three Force users are as different as can be.  After life circumstances caused us to take a brief break from the campaign, it was nice to get back into the swing of things last night.  I'm currently running a tweaked version of the Beyond the Rim adventure module (written by Mister Silver Chocolate himself, Sterling Hershey), and the group's had a lot of fun.  I've had to tweak a few combat encounters as the PCs have earned close to 400 XP by this point, so they're vastly more capable than what the module is written for.  For instance, Nolt (Zabrak Seeker/Hunter/Hermit) was able to legitimately one-shot an arboreal octopus that had completely gotten the drop on the party with a single shot from his generally unmodded blaster rifle; after what happened to Eric earlier in the month, I was glad to see him have such an awesome moment, along with a number of group laughs about how his character is already planning a summer home on Cholganna given how much of an untamed and hazardous place the world is.

And last but not least in cool RPG things has been the release of the second edition of 7th Sea.  I've discussed this before, but I had a lot of love for 7th Sea when it came out over a decade ago.  When you've got a game about swashbucklers, pirates, and magic, that's something that's hard not to love.  Now I'll admit in retrospect that the first edition of 7th hasn't exactly aged well in terms of mechanics, as a number of things were a lot clunkier than they probably needed to be and the product line was kinda strangled by a huge metaplot that players generally couldn't effect.  But the second edition is a very welcome addition to my RPG library, and I've had a lot of fun running and playing this game.  While it's very unusual, I do like that the moment you choose to pick up dice, your Hero is generally going to succeed at whatever task they're attempting, and that your dice results help determine how well you were able to avoid the consequences of your risky actions.  And yes, I am intentionally using a capital H for Hero, because in this game your character is very much a heroic figure of the likes you seen in the movies, being highly capable and thus far less prone to failing simply because of the vagaries of fate (i.e. bad roll of the dice).  The game's not 100% perfect as there's a few bits that still feel a little rough around the edges to me, but that's probably more still getting a feel for this system.  I do like the concepts of Pressure and Opportunities as they can be applied to Action sequences such as combat; we've got a Fate Witch in the Wednesday night game I play in that is able to create and employ Opportunities with impressive results without having to mechanically employ her magic simply by using her mundane skills but adding the narrative slant of her tugging/pulling/twisting the strands of Fate to get the desired results, which itself adds a creepily cool element to the character, reinforcing to the rest of the group just why people in her native Vodacce are generally afraid of drawing the ire of a Fate Witch.

Naturally, I am of course thankful for the friends I have, ranging from local folks such as Amy and Tiffany, who were kind enough to invite me into their home for a Christmas Eve dinner for another year, with the night ending my getting roped into helping Amy put together her LEGO Ghostbusters set, to the members of my Friday Night Skype group, with whom I've had many a fun night rolling dice and sharing laughs as we guide our characters through various adventures.

I do have some RPG mechanical stuff that I've been tinkering with off-and-on, ranging from converting a number of 7th Sea Swordsman Schools from their first edition versions to be used in second edition to some Dresden Files Accelerated characters.  The DFA characters I'll wait on posting until after the PDF becomes available for sale to the general public.  If you're a fan of the Dresden Files books or just the setting in general, then DFA is very much worth checking out as by all signs it looks to be a fantastic RPG.

Well, I think that's enough for me for this entry.  To be honest, I'm not sure when the next update will be, or what it'll cover.  Until next time, thanks for reading and let's hope 2017 becomes a year to earnestly look forward to unfolding instead of dreading what's to come.

November 6, 2016

Achievement Unlocked - Kyber Crystal Acquired!

Wow, so much for that string of updates I talked about back in September.

To be honest, I largely lost interest in trying to hash together Villains for 7th Seas, due in no small part to the very fun Star Wars campaign that my buddy Eric "Oghen" Brenders has been running for our Friday Night Skype group.

As I understand it, said campaign was really only meant to be a one-shot set shortly after the events of The Force Awakens, but the three of us had such fun playing our characters that Eric was able to branch it out into a running campaign.  Since that first session where a former Rebellion field medic, a runaway Tapani lady, and a street rat found themselves scrambling to rescue the orphans of a remote world from being "recruited" into the ranks of the First Order's stormtrooper legions, our characters have come a fair distance, and even picked up a Gungan mercenary as a fourth party member.

It's an odd and interesting group, with my friend Linda playing Jade Morningfire and myself playing Valin Starsmore.  We tweaked our character's respective backgrounds (and I tweaked Valin's build) to account for the 30 year time gap, and for the most part our characters work quite well in this setting.

With Valin, the biggest changes came from doing research on the new post-RotJ time frame, and from everything I could gather, the destruction of Luke's new Jedi training center/temple only took place about five years prior to the events of TFA.  Which meant that rather than learning snippets of lore about the Jedi and the Force, Valin could well have been one of Luke's students at the temple about the time the Knights of Ren came in and tore it all down.  Yeah, it's a bit of a cliche that Valin is now a survivor of an extinct Jedi Order (albeit one that hadn't quite gotten off the ground), but it worked, and it allowed for me to provide Valin with a training lightsaber, one that he had built himself as part of his limited training  There's still a lot he doesn't know, and it's kind of funny that with Jade being even more clueless about the Force (she initially had no no idea that her empathy and persuasiveness were linked to the Force) she looks to Valin as a source of answers, many of which he simply doesn't have.  Granted, he's been adhering to the old Jedi tradition of "certain point of view" and generally neglecting to mention to Jade (or anyone) that he had undergone training as a Jedi.  In terms of the character's mindset, I figured it was less a case of needing to hide as one might do during the Empire's reign, but more that by this time frame the Jedi were seen as nigh-legendary figures by those who believed, and Valin really didn't want to disappoint the believers with how badly his nascent abilities didn't match up to the stories.

Now the campaign itself is set within a remote section of Outer Rim Territories, and our group has become embroiled in the plot of a mercenary company seeking to gain power in the region by spreading a fairly nasty manufactured bio-toxin.  Doctor Kane Dyson (the former Rebel field medic) has been making some pretty solid progress on countering this bio-toxin, having thus far devised a vaccine but still working on a proper cure.  We got asked/hired by the medical facility of the ice planet Boreas to make a supply gathering run to a more upscale planet in the sector, one that could be best described as a corporate police state (FYI, GM is Canadian so anything political you might read into that was not intended), only to find out that a lot of what we were looking for had been stolen in previous weeks by "smugglers" that we guessed were actually agents of the mercenary company.  While lounging around in a really glitzy cantina (think Los Vegas nightclub), we were met by a friend (a rather attractive if tipsy/aloof Human woman) of one of the Doc's medical contacts, who let us know that what we were after was missing but that she had a means to help us gather some of what we needed by heading out of the spaceport and into a "restricted area."  Valin piped up that we'd be glad to help with gathering the supplies, earning a sly remark from the woman if he was trying to impress someone (either hero or Jade, though Valin denied that insinuation pretty quickly).

Now, worth mentioning is that through all this, Valin has been having visions revolving around the actions of an older human male in tattered robes, with the very real sense that I've been following this man's path in reverse, starting where he ended and gradually heading to the beginning.  Well, en route to the latest planet, Valin (and somehow Jade who got dragged along for the visionquest) saw the man's start of darkness as he used his lightsaber to butcher an entire settlement of sick people, with the older man's lightsaber starting to turn red and his eyes going Sith yellow in the aftermath of the slaughter.  And sure enough, the restricted area we were going to was the remains of the village where the events of the vision took place, and a subsequent use of the Foresee power confirmed there was indeed something in the center of the ruins, something important.

We get there, successfully avoiding detection, and under a section of cobblestone that looked very out of place, Valin started digging (unaware he was doing so at first), uncovering a small box.  However, before he could fully dig it out, a bunch of seriously archaic combat droids showed up, with the ever observant Gungan being anything but and thus the droids catching us by surprise.  Sensing that this was the moment that Valin had to choose between embracing who he really was or continuing to hide, he calmly stood and instead of reaching for his blaster, withdrew and ignited his training lightsaber, with the intent to simply draw fire from the combat droids in the hopes of protecting his comrades.  Granted, this wound up drawing the attention of the leader droid, who was similar to a MagnaGuard (but not as deadly according to the GM).  What followed was a pretty cool combat encounter, with Valin getting to make use of his Improved Reflect at least once while going toe-to-toe with the commander droid, with both Valin and the Gungan slowly whittling the droid down.  Now, in hindsight I think both myself and the GM overlooked that Valin's training lightsaber only did strain damage, and the Eric was treating it as wounds; I certainly could be mistaken on that count, but either way it was still a tense encounter, with Valin proving the victor after a freaking awesome combat check (six successes from a dice pool of 2Y1G1B1R1P1S) and taking the droid leader down after it had rather non-chalantly beaned the Gungan with its combat staff.  We were all banged up to some degree, though I think Valin came out the least worst for wear thanks to those two ranks in Parry and Reflect he'd bought along the way (he did take a critical injury during the fight, but not a horrible one), but we know the Gungan got the worst of it due to being knocked out and suffering a couple of critical injuries.

A few times during this fight, Valin felt a strong pull to whatever was in that buried box, sensing/knowing that the contents would help him to easily win this fight.  It's debatable if it was willfulness on Valin's part, but he refuse the promise of "easy power" in the belief that he if couldn't protect his friends without that added power, then he didn't deserve it.  Thinking on it, it's not unlike Karrin Murphy in the Dresden Files short story Aftermath (found in the Side Jobs collection) where she didn't go running to collect Fidelachius out of the belief that she had to prove that she didn't need the power of the sword if she was going to be truly worthy of it.   Well, with our foes defeated, Valin was able to finish unearthing that box, opening it to find an ancient lightsaber hilt that was covered in the blood of the slain.  Because Valin had remained true to the light and not succumbed to the lure of power, the hilt disintegrated into the wind, leaving behind a kyber crystal.

Now, I've played Star Wars RPGs for a great many years, and of all the different ways that my Jedi PCs (and I've played a lot of them) have obtained the proper elements to construct a lightsaber, this was probably one of the coolest.  And yes, there was a very real temptation on my part to have Valin go the quick and easy path and rip open that box.  Not sure what the result would have been, but seeing as how the kid knew enough about the dark side to know it was a bad thing, even going so far as to caution Jade about being wary of the dark side, I felt that he wouldn't succumb; in a way, it would have been better for him to have relied upon his own strength and failed than become reliant on the dark side and won.  So it wasn't just Valin obtaining a kyber crystal so that he can now build a proper lightsaber, but also an important step in his character growth, embracing that while he may not be a Knight, he is a Jedi, and that hiding away isn't going to do him or anyone else any good.  And that was where the session ended.

Now, I've had some time to weigh what type of focusing crystal I'd like Valin's newly procured kyber crystal to be, and ultimately settled on the Etaan crystal from Endless Vigil.  It's not got as much raw damage potential, but since he's a Shien Expet it wouldn't take much XP for him to get to Falling Avalanche so that he can get a damage boost when needed, sheer raw damage isn't really needed.  Plus, that extra rank of Parry and Reflect are mighty nice, though I'll have to hopefully succeed on modding the crystal to get those; the rank of Reflect I could do without since I plan on going into Sentry, but that rank of Parry will be mighty nice to have.  Have to say, if I can get that thing fully modded, it'll be a pretty sweet lightsaber, especially as I start adding in attachments like the curved hilt (though narratively it won't be curved, just a specially customized grip) and the overcharged power cell (a bit dicey since GM can spend threat to reduce the damage, but worth the chance), with the superior hilt customization likely being an end-game objective due to cost.

I did wind up buying a non-career rank of Mechanics, both as he's been picking up things in helping the Doc keep the beater of a starship the group travels around in up and running (no small feat) as well as remembering lessons he'd forgotten from when Valin built his training lightsaber during his time at Luke's Jedi academy.  Which if Eric permits, that yellow die will hopefully prove a boon when using the lightsaber hilt construction rules in Endless Vigil.  You know, it's kind of funny that prior to playing the Sentinel version of Valin, none of the other career sourcebooks for FFG's Star Wars line were ever of the "dude, this book has so much awesome stuff for my character!"  Hopefully my dice will continue their uncommonly good fortune and I can get some sweet bonuses for Valin's lightsaber hilt.  Seriously, I think the fact that I've used my dice in games in which FFG notables like Jay Little, Sam Stewart, Andy Fischer, and Katrina Ostrander may have had something to do with it.

Anyway, that's the long version of a very cool story of how one of my Top 10 favorite RPG characters has earned his (proper) lightsaber.

I've also been playing in a 7th Sea second edition campaign, playing Estevan Santiago de Montaya, and that campaign has also been a lot of fun.  Thus far, the GM has run us through a tweaked version of "Music of the Spheres" and part of "Lady's Favor" of the Erebus Cross series.  And much like his 1e incarnation, Estevan has been both fun to play and quite awesome in what he does, with my d10s rolling above the curve and netting him one or two raises above what his dice pools would indicate as the norm; giving flavor-filled descriptions of how he's tackling a given Risk probably helps since it's gotten him an extra die at times when it'd really be helpful.  I'll type up a post about that campaign later on in the week, probably sometime around the weekend.

Until next time, may the dice odds be ever in your favor.

September 17, 2016

7th Sea 2e - A Villain of Honor

So not all that long ago, I posted a plethora of Heroes for the second edition of John Wick Presents' 7th Sea RPG, and even included a write-up of the adventure I used to introduce my Friday Night Skype group to the game.

Well, I'm back with some new morsels of 7th Sea goodness, this time turning my attention to the Villains.  Now admittedly, coming up with stats for a Villain isn't that difficult, given they use a much simpler method to determine their capabilities, those being Strength and Influence, which combine to determine their Villainy Rank, along with any notable Advantages that the Villain might have.  Still, it never hurts to have a few ready-made Villains on hand for your Heroes to face, either for them to confront, confound, and vex, or to be confronted, confounded, and vexed in turn.

Now, I won't be posting these Villains quite as frequently as I did the cavalcade of Heroes, and will instead aim for one new Villain each Saturday for at least the rest of this month and perhaps a couple more going into October.

Captain Charles du Chevalier, Musketeer Captain
Nation: Montaigne
Villainy Rank: 10
Strength: 6
Influence: 4
Advantages: Connection (Montaigne Musketeers), Disarming Smile, Duelist Academy (Valroux), Reputation (Chivalrous)
Notable Items: Rapier and main-gauche, Musketeer uniform, flintlock pistol with powder and shot

Appearance: Charles is tall and muscular, with the grace of an athlete and the bearing of king.  He is clean-shaven, which makes him look younger than his twenty-nine years.  His nose turns upward slightly at the sight of commoners, and he always condescends to those beneath him.  He is always polite, however, and rigidly adheres to the code of chivalry at all times; arrogance and honor can go hand in hand.

Background: Captain du Chevalier is the epitome of a King’s Musketeer: honorable, noble, and devoted to king and country.  He’s also arrogant and more than a little condescending to his social inferiors, but his heart is good and he faithfully adheres to the Musketeer’s code.  The third son of a landed nobleman, he joined the army for the excitement it offered, and was eventually selected to join the Musketeers.  Charles is a valiant swordsman, and fights to uphold the honor of his native country.  He is also an aristocrat, and affects the elitist snobbery typical of Montaigne’s nobility.  He has a hard time believing that a gentle of any stripe could commit a crime, and rarely persecutes anyone of breeding.  If he does become convinced such individuals are a threat, he will hound them to the ends of the earth; in his mind, a noble foe is ten times as dangerous as an ignoble one.  Unlike many of his peers, he knows that the peasantry of his homeland suffer and realizes their complaints are genuine.  While he sympathizes, he also genuinely believes that they were meant to suffer as they do, often saying that “if Theus wanted them happy, he wouldn’t have dirtied their blood.”

Notes: Captain du Chevalier made his first appearance in The Lady’s Favor, Part One of the Erebus Cross adventure series.  He could make for a good recurring adversary for a group of Heroes, given that he’s highly capable but also a man of honor.  Under the right circumstances, he might even make for a capable ally, as his commitment to defending king and country are absolute, and if pointed in the direction of a serious threat to either, he’ll waste no time working to thwart that threat, or at the very least give the Heroes aid in doing so.  He's really not much for scheming, and tends to spend his Influence to call up a contingent of rank-and-file Musketeers in the form of a Strength 10 Brute Squad with the Duelists special ability, or instead to all upon the aid of a Musketeer Officer, who has a Villainy Rank of 5 (Strength 4, Influence 1) with the Deadeye and Fencer Advantages if it appears things might get tough.

September 5, 2016

An Idol Pursuit - a 7th Sea adventure for the 2nd edition

Okay, so now that I've offered up a collection of Heroes that are ready to play for the 7th Sea RPG, it seems the only thing really missing is an adventure to put them through.

Well, fear not, as I've got a quick little adventure that's well-suited for a single session's worth of fun, giving players a quick introduction to the world of 7th Sea.  I ran a slightly less polished version of this for my friends as our first outing with this system, and we had a good deal of fun.

When I ran it I used the port city of Wandesborow (page 24, Nations of Theah Book 2: Avalon) as the location, but the adventure is malleable enough that any port city could be used instead. Also, this adventure works best if one or more Heroes have a background as "adventuring archaeologists," the sorts of individuals that would be willing to investigate Syrenth ruins in pursuit of both knowledge and trinkets.  When I ran this, one of the Heroes was Rose Doreleen (though lacking membership in the Explorer's Society at the time), with two others (Conroy and Mikhail) being her assistants and the fourth (Cedric) acting as a liaison between Rose and her employer (who was Cedric's older and wealthier cousin).

An Idol Pursuit
The Set-Up: The Heroes, having recently returned from a successful venture investigating/plundering a Syrenth ruin out in the Trade Sea, are to meet with a representative of Duke Jules Bisset du Verre (the noble that hired them to investigate the ruins) to make the final arrangements for payment of their services and the handing over of the information and singular item they were able to retrieve from the ruins.  Said item is a small idol of an unknown metal in the shape of a sqaut man, embedded with gemstones; what exactly it does the Heroes have not been able to determine with their limited resources.  Any Hero from Montaigne with reasonable connections to the nobility in general or the Bisset du Verre family specifically could be the Duke's representative, having earned the Duke's trust in the past to represent his interests abroad.

The meeting is scheduled to take place in a slightly seedy tavern known as the Grinning Rye, in the early afternoon.  The intent is for the Heroes to meet with their backer's representatives, arrange for their payment and possible transport to Montaigne proper.  However, the Duke has a rather pernicious rival by the name of Count Pierre Flaubert du Dore, and the Count wants that idol very badly...

Scene 1: A Bar Room Blitz
The Heroes have just settled in at a table to begin discussing terms with the Duke's representative, a cute serving girl having brought their drinks.  The tavern is not too busy at the moment, so there's little worry about interlopers prying into what's meant to be a private conversation.  Give the players a chance to role-play their Heroes a little bit, as this is a chance for them to unwind after what was most certainly a harrowing experience in those Syrenth ruins.  One of the Heroes should be carrying the idol on their person (this thing is extremely valuable, and leaving it unattended is just asking for trouble).

After a few minutes of idle conversation before getting down to business, the tavern's doors swing open as a man of average height, dressed in Montaigne fashions and brimming with smug confidence struts in, a large group of very unpleasant-looking ruffians following in his wake.  The man glances about the tavern in distaste before settling his gaze upon the Heroes.  He takes several steps towards the Heroes' table, his goons a couple steps behind, and then demands that they hand over the idol, or else things will get very "unpleasant" for them.  As if waiting for a cue, the ruffians all draw knives and clubs.

The Montaigne main, Gerard due Dore, is a Weak Villain (Strength 3/Influence 2) with the following Advantages: Fencer, Reputation (Vicious).  He carries a rapier, and will draw it if the Heroes make any aggressive actions on their part.  His Advantages let him roll six dice during combat Risks (but only so long as he has his rapier) and during attempts to intimidate/browbeat others instead of the usual five dice that his Villainy Rank would allow.  For the ruffians, they are comprised of two distinct Brute Squads, each with a Strength of 5.

The Heroes are free to react to this threat as they wish, but generally speaking Gerard has made it clear that if the Heroes don't capitulate to his "request," then things are going to get violent, as befits an Action Sequence. The Heroes should have little trouble in dispatching the Brute Squads, and Gerard isn't that dire of a threat (especially if one or more of the PCs has access to a Duelist Style).  However, when it comes time for during the first Round for the Brutes to act, spend a point from the Danger Pool to have a small, leaner-looking ruffian suddenly grab the idol from the Hero who currently possesses it and dash out the nearest tavern window.  If Gerard and any of his ruffians are still standing when the Action Sequence enters the second round, things just got a bit more interesting for the Heroes, as they need to hurry to catch that thief for their hard-won prize is likely lost for good.  Gerard will fight until he is rendered Helpless (takes his fourth Dramatic Wound), especially if it means he can tie up the Heroes to prevent them from giving chase to the thief.  However, once Gerard is defeated, on their next turn any ruffians that are still standing will flee the tavern, with complaints of having not been paid enough for this sort of thing being their exiting remarks.  It is possible for a Hero to kill the helpless Gerard on the spot, but doing so requires them to spend a Hero Point and they take a point of Corruption for murdering a defenseless man.

Catching the thief is a Risk with the Consequence of 3 Wounds (caused by bumps and bruises gained from pushing through the crowded streets) per Hero that immediately gives chase (in other words, abandons the fight with Gerard and the ruffians), but there is also an Opportunity to pick up a scrap of paper that lists an address on it in very tidy handwriting, which only one Hero will need to spend a Raise towards.  The Heroes will each need to spend 1 Raise in order to succeed at catching the thief, with the remainder being spent to avoid the Consequence.

Scene 2: What Next?
A large part of this depends on the outcome of the fight with Gerard and if the thief managed to escape.  If Gerard was defeated and the thief captured (the most likely outcome), then the Heroes can proceed as outlined below.  Otherwise, see the "So the Heroes were thwarted?"

Presuming that none of the Heroes were rendered Helpless in their fight with Gerard and his ruffians and they have managed to catch the thief and retrieve the idol, they are undoubtedly going to want some answers.  What those answers are will depend on who they ask, and if any of the Heroes activated that Opportunity while chasing the thief.

If they question the thief, one or more of the Heroes will need to succeed at a social Risk, using their choice of Convince, Intimidate, or Tempt, with each Raise the Heroes generate providing the following information:

- Who hired you? "That man at the tavern, Gerard.  He said it'd be easy coin."
- How did you know what to steal from us? "I'd been tailing you for a while, figured out where you'd most likely be keepin' that trinket that Gerard was so eager to get his hands on."
- Why does Gerard want the idol so badly?  "Honestly don't know, but suspect it's for his boss."
- Who is Gerard working for?  "No clue, not the sort of thing you need to know in my line of work."
- Where were you taking it?  "To an address in one of the better parts of town.  Had it written down on a slip of paper that Gerard gave me, but I er... seem to have lost it."
- (if the Opportunity from the chase was activated) Is this the address? "Yeah, that's the one.  No idea who's waiting there, other than the coin I was promised for deliverin' that bleeding trinket."

The Heroes also have the option to question Gerard (and he might be their only option if the thief managed to escape), who will be a much more daunting prospect given that as a Villain (weak though he may be), he'll be better able to resist the Heroes' efforts to question him.  In spite of being a a significant disadvantage, Gerard retains his smug demeanor, and any answers he provides are said in as condescending a tone of voice as possible.  Similar to questioning the thief above, have the Heroes decide on their approach, and then roll Gerard's Villainy Rank (plus a bonus die for his Reputation Advantage) to generate his Raises, which he can then spend to negate a Hero's Raise on a one-per-one basis.  Each Raise the Heroes generates provides the following information:

- Why did you attack us? "Because my employer asked it of me, and I am well-compensated for doing what he requires of me."
- (If the thief escaped) Where did that thief take the idol?  "To someplace where my employer can easily retrieve it, though he'll be most displeased that I won't be there to handle such a mundane task."
- Who is your employer? "A man of prominence back home, and with quite a long reach when it comes to those who vex him."
- We want a name? "Very well, I am in the service of the esteemed Count Pierre Flaubert du Dore, for all the good that will do you."
- Why does the Count want this idol so badly? "Well, why does the Duke want it?  Probably for the same reasons."
- Where is the Count now (and the Heroes failed to catch the thief)?  "Safely out of your reach, I assure you."
- Where is the Count now (and the Heroes caught the thief)?  "Oh, I suspect you'll find out soon enough." (say this line with as much menace as possible).

At this point, the next course of action is up to the Heroes, presuming they were able to get sufficient information out of Gerard and/or the thief.  They should have some general idea of who sent Gerard and his men to accost them. If they have the address from the scrap of paper the thief dropped, then they may want to follow that lead and perhaps directly confront the Count directly.

Alternatively, the Heroes may decide that since they have the idol there's no need to go pursuing more trouble, and simply see about booking passage on the next ship to Montaigne in order to conclude their business with Duke Jules Bisset du Vere.  It's an easy enough matter to arrange for passage aboard a brig that set sail for Montaigne the following morning; if a Hero has the Rich Advantage, they can easily obtain a nicer quality of quarters for themselves and as many other Heroes as they wish.

If they choose to go to the address, they'll find it's for a small yet quite nice two-story house in the more affluent part of town, and that upon first glance appears to be empty.  The doors are locked, and odds are good that attempts by the Heroes to break into the house are going to draw attention from the locals and the local authorities, especially if conducted during the day time.  If the Heroes do managed to make their way inside, all they find is that the place was only recently vacated, but there are no clues left to indicate where the occupant has gone to, making this a dead end.

"So What If the Heroes were Thwarted?"
While it is highly unlikely, it is possible that the Heroes could utterly fail at catching the thief as at defeating Gerard and his ruffians, or that one of your Heroes was bloodthirsty enough to murder a defeated Gerard while the thief escaped.  So the question becomes, "what to do next?"

Easy answer would be to shrug your shoulders, thank the players for playing, and conclude the adventure right then and there.  Easy, but definitely not a fun answer.

Instead, cut to a several hours, in the early evening, with the Heroes gathered in a different tavern, drinking their woes away over the loss of the idol and with it chances of a lucrative payment from the Duke.  While doing so, one of the Heroes happens to spot that thief from earlier, who's happily drinking and boasting about the 'easy score' he just earned a tidy sum for pulling.  Said thief is too inebriated to recognize the Heroes from before until they get right up in his face.  Allow the Heroes to choose their approach for how they want to grill the thief for information, although using Intimidate removes a die from the Hero's pool while using Convince provides a bonus die.  Of course, if they are able to ply the address from the thief, it will have been long abandoned, with the thief having been met at the door by a servant, who took the idol and handed over a coin purse full of shillings.  For an additional Raise, the Heroes can pry one additional piece of information out of the thief that he overheard, that a Count Flaubert would be leaving for Montaigne the next night now that he had what he'd come to Avalon for.  This piece of information gives the Heroes a chance to track down the man responsible for their current woes and seek retribution for his underhanded tactics.

Scene 3: Duel at the Docks
Assuming the Heroes were able to reclaim the idol after it was stolen and leave Gerard a helpless heap on the floor of the Grinning Rye, they should have little trouble making their way to the docks in order to catch the ship that will ferry them to Montaigne.

However, once they come within sight of the ship, the Heroes will find their progress blocked by the presence of a man of below-average height dressed in the latest fashion for a Montaigne nobleman, complete with a powdered wig and large red plume in his hat.  With him are half a dozen Montaigne men that appear to be the man's personal guard.

The man will identify himself as Count Pierre Flaubert du Dore, and demands the Heroes hand over the idol, as it is rightfully his by account of Duke Jules Bisset du Verre (whose character he will demean as much as possible) having stolen the documents which lead the Heroes to the ruins from which they retrieved the idol.  The Heroes really don't have any way to disprove this claim, other than knowing that the Duke has come across as a honorable.  If one or more of the Heroes is a relative or employee of the Duke, then they're quite certain the Count is lying.  If the Count seems quite confident that he and his small retinue of guards will be enough to defeat the Heroes, there's a good reason, namely that the Count has hired a dozen of local ruffians to ambush the Heroes when he gives the signal.

If the Heroes are reluctant to part with the idol (which they should be), the Count will demand his blade, at which point a servile-looking older man steps forward and presents the Count with a rapier.  If any of the Heroes is a member of the Duelist's Guild (typically because they have the Duelist Academy Advantage), they can choose to step forward and immediately challenge the Count to a duel, with the winner claiming the idol and the loser taking their leave.  The Count will accept this challenge, and acknowledge the duel to be to first blood (in game terms, the first person to suffer a Dramatic Wound loses).  However, the Count has no intention of playing fair or honoring that agreement (he really wants that idol), but he'll play along at being honorable for the moment.  The GM may wish to take a moment to remind any players that might want to directly interfere with the duel that doing so is an action that only the most dishonorable of wretches would consider, and that a Hero Duelist would be bound by the Duelist's Guild code to forfeit and name Count Pierre the victor, and that an honorable man such as Duke Jules would be utterly disgusted by such crass methods, and likely never hire them again.

During the initial round of the duel, the Count will fight honorably, but as soon as he would loose the duel (suffers a Dramatic Wound), he spends his next Raise ordering his men to strike, turning the duel into a free-for-all.  Should he happen to win, the Count will smugly order his men to attack, ignoring the agreed upon terms and thus freeing the Heroes to attack the Montaigne noble at will.

The fight consists of the Count (see below), his guards (Strength 6 Brute Squad with the Guards Special Ability), and the ruffians (Strength 12 Brute Squad).  The guards and ruffians fight until their Strength is reduced to zero, while the Count fights until he suffers his fourth Dramatic Wound, rendering him Helpless.  It should be clear that this is the Count's final gambit to get that idol, and dissuading him from this goal is largely impossible.  Should the Heroes apply Pressure to get the Count to surrender, go ahead and use his Ruthless Determination special ability to ignore it.

Count Pierre Flaubert du Dore
Nationality: Montaigne
Villainy Rank: 11
Strength: 6
Influence: 5 (see notes)
Important Advantages: Duelist Academy*, Fencer
*Can use Duelist Maneuvers as listed in the Dueling chapter, but does not have access to a Duelist Style Bonus.
Special Ability: Ruthless Determination -  spend a Danger Point to have this character ignore the effects of Pressure for the rest of the Round.
Notable Possessions: Fine quality rapier, fine quality clothingNotes: During the course of the adventure, Pierre has spent 3 points of his Influence on the following ways: 1 point to hire the two Brute Squads in the first scene, 1 point for the thief in the first scene, and 1 point to hire the Brute Squad in the third scene.  If the Heroes defeated the Brute Squads in the first scene and captured the thief, then Pierre's Influence is reduced by 3, putting his effective Villainy Rank at 8 for this scene.  If the thief was able to escape, then Pierre's effective Villainy Rank will be 10 for this scene (lost 1 point to the defeated Brute Squads in first scene, has one point out for the Strength 10 Brute Squad in the third scene, but recouped his spent point for the thief as well as earning a second point for the successful scheme).

Once the Count and the Brutes are defeated, there's nothing stopping the Heroes from heading to their ship.  Unless one of the Heroes took the needlessly bloodthirsty step of ending the Count's life, he will sputter insults at the departing Heroes and swear to have his revenge, and although such things are outside the scope of this adventure, he could become a recurring Villain in an ongoing chronicle if the GM so desires, possibly even becoming a nemesis to any noble or duelist characters.

If the Heroes are trying to intercept the Count after they lost the idol to the hired thief, the above scene plays out a little differently, namely in that the Heroes will wind up having to challenge the Count for ownership of the idol, but the Count will still have hired the extra ruffians to run interference should the Heroes try to intervene in his departure; yes it's a bit paranoid on his part, but one doesn't become a successful courtier in Le Emperuer's courts without developing a healthy sense of paranoia.  Of course, the Heroes could opt to bypass the notion of a duel or confronting the Count openly and just attack the man without warning like common brigands, in which case the Count will spend Influence to immediately make his escape; since the thief was successful in this scenario, he should have 4 Influence to use, which should be enough in most circumstances to ensure his escape from the Scene, which leaves the Heroes empty-handed and a couple of Brute Squads to deal with.

Once the Heroes have finished their business in the port, they are free to board their chartered ship and enjoy a relaxing voyage to Montaigne and the stately manor of their benefactor.  As for what the future holds for the Heroes.... that is a story for another time.

September 4, 2016

7th Sea - Revisting the Quick Start Heroes

Okay, so technically this would be Day 8 in my 7 day spree of 7th Sea Heroes.  So consider it a Sunday bonus if you'd like.

When I originally posted Sharktooth Conroy's article to the 7th Sea 2nd Edition Facebook group, I got asked by the admin to try my hand at updating the Quick Start heroes to the proper 2nd edition rule set.  Now admittedly, there's not a whole lot of background on them, but since they're written for a very brief one-shot adventure, that's not much of a surprise.

What was a surprise was coming to realize just how much the rules for 7th Sea's second edition had changed in between the Quick Start and the final printed product.  Some of these "conversions" could more rightly be considered reinterpretations given how many changes had to be made to keep with the general spirit of their Quick Start versions.  I did opt to keep them at the level of starting Heroes, which fits what what I feel is the general sense that the player-characters can have a major impact on the world around them (a welcome contrast to the game's 1st edition where the player-characters felt more like observers and supporting characters to a metaplot centered on GMPCs).

You can download a copy of the Quick Start adventure here, courtesy of the 7th Sea 2nd Edition fansite

So now that you've got the adventure, let's take a look at how the Heroes turned out in the finalized 2nd edition rules.

Alexsy Gracjan Nowak, Prince of the Commonwealth
Nation: Sarmatia
Religion: Vaticine
Traits: Brawn 4, Finesse 2, Wits 3, Resolve 2, Panache 2
Backgrounds: Aristocrat, Army Officer
Skills: Aim 2, Athletics, 2, Convince 2, Empathy 2, Intimidate 2, Perform 1, Ride 2, Scholarship 2, Warfare 3, Weaponry 2
Advantages: Academy, Direction Sense, Disarming Smile, Indomitable Will, Leadership, Reputation, Rich
Arcana: Trusting (Hubris), Willful (Virtue)
Starting Reputation: 1 (Principled)
Starting Wealth: 3
Languages: Old Thean, Sarmatian, Vodacce
Personal Items: Cavalry saber, expensive clothing

Background: A young, idealistic Prince who will do almost anything to see his people freed from the bondage imposed by their own nobility.  Aleksy has a sharp tactical mind and a great deal of personal charisma, but his political skills leave something to be desired.

Notes: I was able to get pretty close on converting Alexsy without losing too much in the way of Advantages.  To be honest, I wouldn’t see too much of a problem with swapping out Direction Sense for Large if you want to hew a bit closer to his stats from the Quick Start adventure.

Domenica Vespucci, Fate Witch
Nation: Vodacce
Religion: Vaticine
Traits: Brawn 2, Finesse 2, Wits 3, Resolve 3, Panache 3
Backgrounds: Courtier, Sorte Strega
Skills: Convince 3, Empathy 3, Hide 2, Notice 1, Perform 2, Ride 2, Scholarship 1, Tempt 3, Theft 1, Weaponry 2
Advantages: An Honest Misunderstanding, Come Hither, Connection (Vespucci vassals), Friend at Court, Linguist, Sorcery (x2), Time Sense
Sorte Weaves: Blessing (major, minor), Curses (major, minor), Read
Arcana: Intuitive (Virtue), Proud (Hubris)
Starting Reputation: 0 (Resourceful)
Starting Wealth: 0
Languages: All Thean languages
Personal Items: Whip, fine quality black dress

Background: Engaged to the Prince of the Commonwealth, Domenica arranged the marriage herself, using her father’s name and seal without his knowledge.  Upon seeing the Prince, she immediately insists that they must run, as “a bloody thread” is drawing tight around his neck.

Notes: Well, Domenica certainly illustrates just how much changed between when the Quick Start was written and the final version of 2e’s rules were sent to the printer.  Her Wits are only at a 3 instead of the 4 that the Quick Start version has, and many of her skills there don’t really have a proper equivalent in the proper rules.  I had to choose between giving her either Reputation or Connection for her last two points of Advantages, and felt that Connection was the better suited of the two, even if the Ally Advantage doesn’t exist outside of the Quick Start rules.  Same with her Virtue, as Perspicacious was probably deemed too troublesome and got excised along the way, so I gave her Intuitive which fits the general theme and feel of a Fate Witch.

Ennio Vespucci, Vodacce Bravo
Nation: Vodacce
Religion: Vaticine
Traits: Brawn 2, Finesse 4, Wits 2, Resolve 2, Panache 3
Backgrounds: Bravo, Duelist
Skills: Athletics 3, Convince 1, Empathy 3, Hide 1, Notice 2, Perform 1, Sailing 1, Tempt 2, Weaponry 3
Advantages: Duelist Academy (Ambrogia), Hard to Kill, Indomitable Will, Poison Immunity, Quick Reflexes (Weaponry)
Arcana: Hot-Headed (Hubris), Glorious (Virtue)
Starting Reputation: 0
Starting Wealth: 0
Languages: Old Thean, Vodacce
Personal Items: Rapier and main-gauche, fine-quality clothing

Background: The brother of Domenica and a famed Vodacce duelist, Ennio was sent to ensure her safety throughout the wedding and beyond, as well as make sure the match was a good one.  He’s also old friends with Roberto Gallo, as the two of them were inseparable many years ago, but their duties have kept them apart.

Notes: So for Ennio, I wound up dropping the Consigliere background he had in the Quick Start for Duelist, as that not only gave him Duelist Academy (since his whole thing is being a duelist) but let him pick up some of the other Advantages that his Quick Start version had listed.  Another big change was re-assigning his Traits so that he’d actually be good at the Ambrogia school, now that it makes use of Wits instead of Panache; truthfully I was sorely tempted to replace Ambrogia with a different style, but opted to stick with it anyway.  Although, thanks to his high Finesse he’s still largely focused on being a swordsman, and a very good one.  Like his sister, his Virtue got swapped for a new one, replacing Uncanny with Glorious, which in the context of the Quick Start adventure still works very much to his advantage.

Roberto Gallo, Castillian Captain
Nation: Castille
Religion: Vaticine
Traits: Brawn 2, Finesse 3, Wits 3, Resolve 2, Panache 3
Backgrounds: Miriablis, Ship Captain
Skills: Aim 2, Athletics 1, Convince 3, Empathy 1, Notice 1, Perform 1, Ride 1, Sailing 3, Scholarship 2, Tempt 2, Warfare 1, Weaponry 2
Advantages: Able Drinker, Handy, Leadership, Ordained, Married to the Sea, Sea Legs, Spark of Genius, Valiant Spirit
Arcana: Exemplary (Virtue), Foolhardy (Hubris)
Starting Reputation: 0
Starting Wealth: 0
Languages: Castillian Old Thean, Vodacce
Personal Items: Rapier, flintlock pistol with powder and shot, traveling clothes, long cape, spyglass

Background: A dashing scoundrel with a devil-may-care attitude and a heart of gold, Roberto was initially hired to transport Ennio and Domenica to Sarmatia.  He is old friends with Ennio and wants to convince the duelist to join him on his ship and live a life of adventure once again.

Notes: So Roberto had some of the same problems that his long-time buddy Ennio had in converting him to the proper rules for second edition.  Sailor got swapped for Ship Captain in terms of Background to give him at least some of the proper Advantages, with Luck being right out since the actual Advantage simply costs too many points, so I settled on letting him start with an extra Hero Point each session instead.  Neither of his original Arcana in the Quick Start really carried over, so I made the best thematic choices I could.  And of course the recurring issue with the skill list being quite different, but that’s something I knew was going to happen from the very start.

Azucena Esquival, Castillian Bodyguard
Nation: Castille
Religion: Agnostic
Traits: Brawn 2, Finesse 4, Wits 3, Resolve 2, Panache 2
Backgrounds: Assassin, Hunter
Skills: Aim 2, Athletics 2, Convince 1, Hide 3, Intimidate 2, Notice 3, Ride 1, Theft 3, Weaponry 2
Advantages: Fencer, Got It!, Psst, Over Here, Second Story Work, Small, Sniper, Streetwise
Arcana: Loyal (Hubris), Victorious (Virtue)
Secret Society: Los Vagabundos
Starting Reputation: 0
Starting Wealth: 0
Languages: Castillian, Old Thean, Sarmatian
Personal Items: Rapier, crossbow with case of bolts, traveling clothes

Background: A member of the secret society called Los Vagabundos, Azucena has maneuvered her way into being hired as Prince Aleksy’s personal guard.  Her objective is to ensure his safety and survival in the hopes that he will serve as a symbol for justice and equality.

Notes: So Azucenahad the interesting quick of being the conversion I had to take the most liberties with, seeing as how most of her Advantages simply don't exist in the proper 2e rules, as well as her membership in a secret society being something that a character can take for free.  While I could have gone Criminal or Explorer for her second Background, I opted for some further artistic license and gave her Hunter so that she'd be a crack shot with the crossbow her full character image shows her possessing but that her Quick Start stats give her zero proficiency with.

September 3, 2016

7th Sea Pre-Made Heroes - Vivianne Praisse du Rachetisse

Given that many of the prior entries have lacked a certain sense of class and a tendency to fight their way out of problems, perhaps it would be best to end the list of characters presented on a more refined note.

As I made mention in the earlier post for Cedric, Montaigne is a nation in the thrall of a very wealthy noble class, with many members of the social elite focused entirely on the navigating the treacherous waters of Montaigne's thriving social scene.  While perhaps not as immediately treacherous as Vodacce, the courts of Montaigne are still dangerous to the unwary, and while an ill-considered comment might not result in one's death, it can result in ridicule and shame, which in Montaigne can be considerably worse.  Thus, being a professional courtier takes far more effort than most would presume, as staying abreast of the latest gossip and fashion trends can be just as tiresome as performing sword drills or as perilous as sailing the open seas.

But to those who master the ways of court. there is much to gain, and being able to cut down your opposition with a few choice words is a strength not to be underestimated...

Vivianne Praisse du Rachetisse, Montaigne Courtier
Traits: Brawn 2, Finesse 2, Wits 3, Resolve 2, Panache 4
Backgrounds: Aristocrat, Courtier
Skills: Aim 2, Convince 3, Empathy 3, Notice 2, Perform 3, Ride 2, Tempt 3, Weaponry1
Advantages: An Honest Misunderstanding, Come Hither, Connection (Montaigne high society courtiers), Disarming Smile, Friend at Court, Linguist, Rich
Arcana: Arrogant (Hubris), Astute (Virtue)
Starting Reputation: 0
Starting Wealth: 3
Languages: All Thean languages
Personal Items: Bodice dagger, concealed brace of throwing knives, fine-quality dress with proper accoutrements, traveling dress and cloak

Appearance: Vivianne is a strikingly beautiful young woman, blessed with pale skin, bluebell eyes, long tresses of honey-blonde hair, and a charming yet coquettish smile.  Her sensuous figure is sheathed in stylishly risque dresses that blend the fashion trends of Montaigne's elite and the courtesans of Vodacce, drawing the attentions of onlookers like moths to a decadent flame.

Background: The daughter of members of Montaigne's landed gentry, Vivianne has enjoyed of luxury and privilege that most people could only dream of.  Though lacking any talent with the Porte sorcery that the Praisse family is known for, she has proven value in the courts due to her keen wit and a pervasive charm that can put even the most untrusting soul at ease; many an upstart noble has found their reputations soured and their fortunes at court diminished after a few choice words on her part whispered into the right ears.  That she is a stunning beauty who can inspire lurid thoughts in all but the most chaste of men has been an added boon to her responsibilities as a courtier; she's pried many a juicy secret from a man's lips with little more than a smoldering glance and a few honeyed words.  And should a hot-tempered noble think that a demure lady of such loveliness would be easy prey away from the courts, Vivianne has become quite proficient with the throwing knives concealed about her person, with a bodice dagger kept as a means of last resort.

Notes: Yep, Vivianne is 100% a femme fatale type of character, being exceptionally talented in the social arena.  While it would seem that being Vodacce (faux Italy) would be a better nation of origin for such a character type, I thought that might be a tad too stereotypical.  Plus Montaigne is well known for the deadly decadence of its courts, and a character who's best suited to navigating such treacherous waters would be quite adept at talking her way out of many other sorts of trouble.

And to be honest, I really hadn't intended that both of the two Montaigne Heroes I made for this to both be Aristocrats; it just turned out that way.  Next Montaigne Hero I write up is not going to be part of the upper class, that's for darn sure.