August 31, 2016

7th Sea Pre-Made Heroes - Mikhail Petronov

So, is time to show what can be done through muscle rather than charm or finesse, da?

So here's another of the initial pre-gen characters I made for the 7th Sea one shot adventure I ran for my Friday Night Skype group.  And while I suspected it at the time, I wasn't quite prepared for how much of a beast this one particular character was going to be in a fight.

In 7th Sea, the nation of Ussura is regarded as being something of a backwater in contrast to the more forward-thinking nations of Theah.  The people in general don't mind, feeling that they've a good life, and that the harshness of the land makes a person strong in both body and spirit.  And then you've got those individuals who take that strength to a while 'nother level...

Mikhail Petronove, Ussaran Strongman
Traits: Brawn 4, Finesse 2, Wits 2, Resolve 3, Panache 2
Backgrounds: Orphan, Pugilist
Skills: Athletics 2, Brawling 3, Convince 2, Empathy 3, Hide 1, Notice 3, Perform 3, Intimidate 3
Advantages: Brush Pass, Boxer, Large, Reckless Takedown, Riot Breaker, Staredown
Arcana: Loyal (Hubris), Temperate (Virtue)
Starting Reputation: 0
Starting Wealth: 0
Languages: Old Thean, Ussuran
Personal Items: Well-worn clothing

Appearance: Very much the rough-and-tumble sort, with unkempt looks that make it clear he's seen and done a whole mess of fighting.  Broad-shouldered and towering over most people, he's got a devil-may-care attitude that's revealed with his fierce grin.

Background: Mikhail's a child of the streets, having grown up big and strong in spite (or maybe even because) of the rough environs he often found himself in.  He was never much for any work that didn't involve his great strength, but quickly proved to be quite the scrapper, often taking down groups of men with frightening speed, and even laying low single sturdier men with a single well-placed punch; there's been many a time that Mikhail's been the only man left standing after a bar-clearing brawl.

Notes: Okay, so Mikhail was initially intended to be your somewhat typical "crazy Irish brawler" type when I first started putting the character together.  But when it came to figuring out the bonus to his traits, I realized that being Inish only gave a bonus to Wits or Panach, two traits that really felt at odds with how I'd pictured this character.  My other options were Eisen (German) or Ussuran (Russian).  Given the player in question tends towards the quiet type (sorry Doran), I opted to go with the "husky Russkie," which in turn lead me to draw further inspiration from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride in the form of Fezzik, the likeable giant played by the legendary Andre the Giant.

And yes, Mikhail is freaking brutal in a fight, thanks to his fearsome Brawn and collection of Advantages.  But while he might not be that great a threat to a Villain, he's a freaking nightmare to Brute Squads, being able to decimate them in short order and even shrug off a portion of any damage the survivors might send his way.

August 30, 2016

7th Sea Pre-Made Heroes - Rose Dorleen

And back again to Avalon we go for today's pre-made hero.

So one of the possible avenues for adventure in 7th Sea has always been exploring the ruins of the Syrenth, the precursor races of the setting that vanished long before the ascent of mankind.  While the first edition version of the setting added some very peculiar and sinister twists to the Syrenth, in second edition they've returned to being long-extinct races who've left a wide and odd assortment of treasures waiting to be found.  And there's many a wealthy noble that would pay a princely sum for unique baubles that can be shown off at the next social event they host.  And where there are rich nobles, there are going to be the adventurous types who will risk life and limb to recover those treasures in the hopes of becoming rich themselves in the process.

So without further preamble, I present a treasure-seeking adventurer that takes a few cues from a certain WW2 era adventuring archaeologist...

Rose Dorleen, Avalon Adventurer
Traits: Brawn 2, Finesse 3, Wits 3, Resolve 3, Panache 2
Backgrounds: Criminal, Explorer
Skills: Athletics 3, Convince 3, Empathy 2, Hide 2, Intimidate 1, Ride 1, Sailing 1, Scholarship 2, Theft 2, Weaponry 3
Advantages: Camaraderie, Linguist, Quick Reflexes (Athletics), Second Story Work, Streetwise, Team Player, Valiant Spirit
Arcana: Curious (Hubris), Willful (Virtue)
Starting Reputation: 0
Starting Wealth: 0
Secret Society: Explorer's Society
Personal Items: Smallsword, whip, sturdy traveling clothes, assorted trinkets from her many travels

Appearance: A reasonably pretty young woman in her mid-20's, with dark brown hair worn in a functional tail and hazel eyes.  Rose dresses for function rather than fashion, preferring hard-wearing clothes with plenty of pockets over the vain frippery worn by the nobility.

Background: Though born a peasant, Rose benefited greatly from growing up in a port city, learning to speak a bewildering number of languages as well as developing a thirst for adventure that was quite unbecoming of a peasant's daughter.  Several years ago, Rose struck out on her own to see the world.  She's gotten quite good at getting into places that she really shouldn't, and can handle herself quite well in a variety of situations.  While she's not been formally educated, Rose has picked up a smattering of information on a wide variety of topics; she's even picked up the basics of fencing as well as prowess with a whip during her many travels.

Notes: Yep, bit of a gender-flipped Indy, though she lacks Doctor Jones' formal education.  Not too unlike Sharktooth Conroy, she's got a decent variety in her skill list, enabling her to help get her through the dicey situations that an adventuresome young woman can often find herself in.  One interesting thing about Rose is that she can also make for an outstanding support thanks to her Advantages for those situations where she's not the best person to deal with a particular problem.  Though to be honest, I feel that the two times Rose has seen play thus far haven't really given her the opportunity to truly shine, which would be during some kind of spelunking adventure centered around delving into a Syrenth ruin.  Her high score in Convince might seem a bit odd, but it works for her as it makes her pretty good at negotiating prices with those who'd hire her.

August 29, 2016

7th Sea Pre-Made Heroes - Cedric Bisset du Verre

Since we started off with a surly, salty seadog of a pirate, I thought I might switch it up a bit and present a character that is far more urbane and cultured.  After all, one of the core elements of the swashbuckling genre are swashbucklers themeselves, men of good breeding and education that are can cut you down with a well-timed jibe just as easily as they could with their blade.

If any of the nations presented in 7th Sea could be said to fall in line with the romanticized ideal of the swashbuckling hero, then it with little doubt has to be Montaigne.  Mirroring France just before the bloody revolution, Montaigne is a land where the nobility live the high life at the expense of the peasantry, but opportunities abound for those of noble ideals to do the right thing.  And while the stereotype of a Montaigne noble is a vain fop that spends their time indulging in one passing fancy to the next, some of the nation's nobility are up to the challenge of representing the best that Montaigne has to offer...

Cedric Bisset du Verre, Montaigne Dilettante 
Traits:Brawn 2, Finesse 3, Wits 3, Resolve 2, Panache 3
Backgrounds: Aristocrat, Duelist
Skills: Aim 1, Athletics 2, Convince 3, Empathy 2, Intimidate 2, Perform 2, Ride 1, Scholarship 1, Tempt 3, Weaponry 3
Advantages: Disarming Smile, Duelist Academy (Valroux), Fencer, Friend at Court, Rich
Arcana: Foolhardy, Victorious
Starting Reputation: 0
Starting Wealth: 3
Languages: Avalon, Montaigne, Old Thean
Personal Items: Fine-quality rapier and main-gauche, fine-quality clothing

Appearance: Cedric cuts quite the dashing figure, with his lean frame and aristocratic features.  His outfits are a mixture of fashionable and practical, allowing him to look his best while still having freedom of movement should trouble arise.

Background: The third child of a minor branch of the Bisset family, Cedric is still quite well off in comparison to most.  As a lesser child, he's been granted indulgence from the family's patriarch to pursue whatever matters might be of interest to the young noble, enabling him to have a passing grasp of a variety of topics as well as become a talented duelist and socialite.  Due to his lower station in comparison to his older brothers, it is Cedric who is most often sent out and abroad to handle matters of lesser importance for his family.

Notes: Back in first edition, being a swordsman in 7th Sea was something of a mixed bag.  In the early going a swordsman character simply had a few more combat options than other PCs, but had to pay a hefty price, but as they got more experienced a skilled swordsman could be an utterly devastating opponent in a fight.

In second edition, the waiting time to be awesome in a fight as a swordsman has been dramatically reduced, as the combat options available to anyone with access to a Duelist school means that they are going to be a terror to their foes once they draw steel.  While Cedric would prefer to present a far more refined image, he's no slouch when he decides it's time to fight, as he ably demonstrated during the one-shot I ran for my Friday Night Skype group as he pretty much owned the minor villain in a one-on-one duel (same scenario saw a PC completely obliterate a large Brute Squad thanks to the timely use of a particular Advantage).

It bears mention that Wealth is something of an odd thing in this version of 7th Sea.  Being more of an abstract concept (not to unlike Wealth as used in d20 Modern), most PCs are assumed to be able to live fairly well (if not extravagantly), being able to acquire decent quality weapons, clothing, and items without much hassle; after all, time spent haggling over goods is time that's not spent swinging from chandeliers, trading insults and blows with villains, or wooing lovely young maidens.  Since Cedric is very much a part of the upper class, he's not the type to really worry about money; what some might consider abject luxury he'd probably deem as barely adequate for a man of his station.

August 28, 2016

7th Sea Pre-Made Heroes - Sharktooth Conroy

As I mentioned in my last update, I've been very impressed by the second edition of John Wick's 7th Sea RPG.  Having been a fan of the setting and system (in spite of its quirks and flaws) since it was originally published back, I've been even more impressed with this updated version, both in terms of the setting details (namely the absence of metaplot and some of the screwier background elements) and the mechanics; they may take a little getting used to, but from what I've seen the learning curve is pretty shallow.

Now, as those who know me know that I am wont to do, whenever I get my hands on a new RPG I have a tendency to create a bunch of brand new PCs, both to begin getting a feel for the game but also to explore various character ideas that come up in my head.  With regards to this new edition of 7th Sea, one thing I've noticed is that there don't seem to be much in the way of pre-made characters available for new players or new GMs to make use of.  While character creation isn't some tremendous hurdle, there are times where you just want to grab some characters and get to playing.

The 7th Sea first edition fan site Guild of San Marcos has a number of templates for use with that version of the game, with said templates being largely complete characters that just need the player to spend a small bit of leftover beginning XP to finish them up, which in turn provides a bit of customization.  And I can't tell you how much I wish I'd had those templates handy back when I was actively playing 7th Sea first edition back in the day.

So in a similar vein, and to provide a bit of help to fellow players and/or GMs looking for some ready-to-go characters for 7th Sea second edition, I offer up this small collection of pre-made heroes.  This isn't all the ideas I've had for characters for this new edition of this amazing swashbuckling RPG, but these are the ones that are the most complete and are truly "ready to play."

Rather than one monstrously huge post given the number of per-generated characters I've got on hand, I'll be breaking these up into a series of posts.  And I believe that I'll start this off with a character based off one that a friend of mine made when I proposed the idea of running a 1st edition 7th Seas game not that long before the Kickstarter for 2nd edition was announced.  After all, pirates are a big part of the swashbuckling genre, and this particular character is indeed just that, a pirate to the core.

Sharktooth Conroy, Avalon Pirate
Traits:Brawn 3, Finesse 3, Wits 2, Resolve 3, Panache 2
Backgrounds: Pirate, Sailor
Skills: Aim 3, Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Hide 2, Intimidate 3, Notice 2, Sailing 3, Tempt 1, Theft 1, Weaponry 2
Advantages: Bar Fighter, Deadeye, Eagle Eyes, Hard to Kill, Indomitable Will, Small
Arcana: Hot-Headed (Hubris), Willful (Virtue)
Starting Reputation: 0
Starting Wealth: 0
Languages: Avalon, Old Thean
Personal Items:Cutlass, flintlock pistol with powder and shot, travel-worn clothes

Appearance: Brown hair worn long, brown eyes, a ragged scar on the left side of his face just over the eye, with a squat, wiry build and lots of ink, Conroy looks ever bit the typical surly pirate.  He wears a shark tooth on a leather band around his neck, with his teeth filed to points.

Background: Conroy was raised in a brothel, his mother one of the Jennys and his father presumably one of the many sailors that frequented the place.  Small of size, he was looked upon as a weakling, a burden which only helped fuel a bad temper as he got older.  Once old enough, Conroy was apprenticed to a cooper, who then went bankrupt, forcing the boy to seek work elsewhere; he wound up getting press-ganged and set to work as crew upon the Bloody Hand, a pirate ship that often masqueraded as the Sweet Molly to avoid authorities.  He excelled as a sailor and caught the captain's eye, who taught the "irascible runt" how to fight and sail, eventually becoming competent enough to take the helm during the night watch.  When a mutiny occurred, Conroy backed his captain and lost.  He was set adrift with those on the wrong side, with only him surviving on a deserted island after several months.  The story of how he got back to civilization varies with the telling, but it's certain that the harsh experiences has only served to harden an already harsh man.

Notes: Conroy's an interesting character, that's for sure.  He's got a pretty broad array of "sordid" skills, and is also quite the marksman when the need arises.  A fair warning to GMs, the fact that Conroy's got a pistol might seem daunting, given how powerful firearms can be in second edition, but the fact it takes him a while to reload offsets the damage it can do.  He's decent with a blade, but does much better with impromptu weapons.  His player had a lot of fun with the character, and anyone looking to play your stereotypical "surly pirate" will have fun as well.

August 12, 2016

(Re)Learning the Ways of the Force

Firstly, Happy Birthday to me.  Not every day a fella becomes the answer to life, the universe, and everything after all now, is it? (yeah, that's not the least bit egotistical)

Been a while since I last posted an update to this blog of mine, so indulge me a brief summary of what's been going on since I last posted before I get to the "good part."

Since I posted those revisited PCs back in May, my friend Eric (known as oghen in some places) has been running a Star Wars campaign set in the era of The Force Awakens, taking place shortly after the events of the movie.  In this campaign, I'm playing a further revised version of Valin, who is still a Sentinel/Shien Expert, but his backstory has changed a bit; there's no Empire hunting him, and he's now packing a training lightsaber (still hasn't been used in a fight as of yet), but he was still on his own for most of his life and only had a modicum of Jedi training.  Also seeing play is Jade, whose re-write my adopted big sis Linda liked enough to use as her PC.  We're only two sessions in, due to a number of delays that our Friday Night Skype group have jokingly suggested were ploys by the First Order to keep two teenage Force-sensitives from embarking upon their respective journeys; after all, it's a known fact of the setting that teenage Force users are the bane of militaristic regimes seeking galactic domination.

As I'm sure any fellow Potterheads will know, the script for the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been published in book form.  While the book was a very quick read (it's comprised mostly of stage directions and dialogue), it was still an enjoyable read, and if this is indeed the last story to feature Harry Potter and company, then I think it was a pretty good note to go out on.  In a way, it was very much like visiting old friends that you'd lost touch with after many years, seeing how they're doing and how things have changed for them.  I've heard some complaints that too much of the action focus on Albus, but to me that makes sense as Harry's already had his grand adventure and settled up with most of his old demons.

I've also been reading through my hard copy of the 2nd edition corebook for 7th Sea.  I had a lot of fun playing the 1st edition, even if the mechanics were a bit loopy in several places (skills and knacks, I am looking directly at you) and the metaplot could be rather heavy-handed.  Thus far, I've only been able to run a single session and play in a single session, and I had a lot of fun both times.  I really like how the system has evolved, and that dice rolling is toned down in terms of how often you're making dice rolls.  One thing I have noticed is that being a Swordsman and having a Dueling School on your character sheet makes one's PC a terror in combat.  I'd run some test battles using a revamp of an old 1st edition PC of mine, one Estevan Santiago de Montoya, and even as a starting PC the boy can decimate brute squads like there's no tomorrow.  Sorcery is also very interesting, and while much more viable in the early going as compared to 1e, it still has its limits in what a player can accomplish (especially since it's fueled by spending Hero Points, which are a fairly rare resource for players); the Hexenwerk sorcery is suitably creepy, and Sorte is potent but not overwhelmingly so.  One minor gripe I have is that with regards to Villains, fighting them can begin feel like a grind, not unlike fighting Solo monsters in the early days of D&D 4e.  I am thinking of a house rule to either halve the number of Dramatic Wounds a Villain can withstand before they become Helpless, or simply halve the number of wounds needed to inflict a Dramatic Wound.  But beyond that, I love how this system works in terms of dice results and how vastly different one PC can be from the next.  Maybe later this month I'll post up the various characters that I've written up.

So that's that, and now onto the main course.

Off and on, I've been updating, revising, reworking, further revising, and so forth with what would essentially be the second edition of my old Ways of the Force fan supplement.  Now, I knew from the very start that WotF would have a definite shelf life, being a stop-gap to provide some more options for Force usage until the release of Force and Destiny.  But rather than let it fall completely to the wayside, I felt that some of what I had created still had merit, and that what it really needed was an overhaul and an update to account for the new rules and material regarding Force users during the time frame of Fantasy Flight Games' most excellent Star Wars Roleplaying Game.

To be perfectly honest, a large part of why this took so long was that I went through numerous versions of the Jedi Initiate universal specialization.  The one thing that I wanted to avoid was making this a "gotta have it!" spec for any PCs that were interested in being lightsaber wielders, especially those who started out with one of the six Lightsaber Form specializations in Force and Destiny.  While I'm currently pretty happy with how the version published here has shaken out, I'm still concerned that this could be a very dominate spec, seeing as how it offers both a Force Rating talent and the Improved Parry talent.  I tried to balance this by putting those talents on very separate paths in the spec, as well as having Improved Parry be rather buried in the tree, making it much more expensive to acquire than it would be in the other specializations it appears in, as well as kind of burying the ranks of Parry and Reflect so that a player won't get those talents too quickly.  Still, I feel like I've broken some sort of cardinal rule by including both those talents in the same spec, so if anything I would suggest to GMs that they require a PC looking to acquire this spec have undertake some measure of quest before they can purchase it, and that it certainly cannot be purchased at character creation for games set after the fall of the Jedi Order.

Another portion that I struggled on and off with was the new lightsaber crystals.  I wanted to introduce some new options for PCs, making them different enough from the already published crystals that they didn't all feel like retreads but not so different as to possibly unbalance the game.  I posted earlier drafts of some of those new crystals here on my blog a while ago, as well as guidelines for constructing a synthetic lightsaber crystal, which I've touched up a bit.  I ultimately opted to treat a synthetic kyber crystal as being the same as the Ilum crystal, and figure that the Sith were so hung up on synthetic crystals being "superior" to natural kyber crystals was a combination of their inherent hubris and that a freshly created synthetic kyber crystal would have the potential to have some of its modification options added during the creation process, making it "better" than a stock Ilum crystal.

One thing I had been going back and forth upon including was a "Beast Master" universal specialization, incorporating elements of the Pathfinder specialization as well as the Beast Rider specialization from Stay on Target.  I ultimately axed the idea upon the announcement of Savage Spirits, but upon acquiring the book I may revisit that idea down the line.  To be honest, a lot of the proposed intent for the Beast Master was taken from the Legends version of the Dathomir witches, who were capable Force users that bonded with and rode beasts (notably rancors).  As is often the case with home-brew specializations, the trick was not doing too much cherry-picking for this proposed specialization in terms of talents.

In terms of Force powers, that section was surprisingly easy to update.  I completely chucked the Force Techniques idea and the various powers I'd created.  While it's entirely possibly that the upcoming Sentinel sourcebook Endless Vigil will have some kind of Psychometry power, I put together my own take, one that I feel captures the essence of the power without it becoming too much of a potential game breaker, especially for adventures that revolve around solving mysteries or learning hidden truths.

Well, enough blathering on my part, so here's the goods.

Ways of the Force, Version 2.0

Hopefully you find this newest (and possibly final) version of Ways of the Force to be a useful, either in whole or in part, at your gaming table as your characters learn and explore the mysteries of the Force in a galaxy far, far away...