Category Archives: Game Master

Random Boxer Tables

When we started our 7th Sea game, one of the players created an Inish boxer.  His main story goal?  Become a fighter renowned throughout Théah and to box the O’Bannon!  The whole vibe of the character always reminded me of the South Park Russel Crowe spoof: Makin’ movies, singin’ songs, and FIGHTIN’ ROUND THE WORLD!

Unfortunately, life interviened and after only a few game sessions, this player had to take a indefinite sabbatical from the game.  Before he left, to prepare for a string of title boughts in various ports-o-call, I created a series of tables to randomly generate boxing opponents of various skill.  I think I finished them the day before he resigned the game.

Well I guess this work won’t be seeing much play in my game now, so I’m posting it here!

Random Boxer Tables

d10 In the Other Corner…
1 The Kid (Green Fighter)
2 The Ham/Palooka
3 The Up and Comer
4 The Seasoned Fighter
5 The (Current) Champ
6 The Has-Been
7 The Grizzled Veteran
8 The Exotic Foreigner
9 The Prodigal Son
0 The Augmented Fighter
d10 Style
1 Pressure Fighter
2 Swarmer
3 In-Fighter
4 Slugger
5 Boxer-Puncher
6 Switch Hitter
7 Out-Boxer
8 Unorthodox/Unconventional Form
9-0 Roll Twice; ignore this
result again.
d10 Descriptor and Trait
1-2 The Mountain (Brawn)
3-4 Quick and Nimble (Finesse)
5-6 Head in the Game (Wits)
7-8 Tenacious and Unshakable (Resolve)
9-0 The Showboat (Panache)
d10 Quirk
1 Best Defense
2 Southpaw
3 Achilles Heel
4 Drunk
5 Cocky
6 Grudge
7 Distracted
8 Dirty Fighter
9 Secret Enchantment
0 All Heart
d10     The Match
1 Organized Crime is involved.
2 Your opponent throws the Match
3 Your opponent is the crowd Favorite
4 Rough Crowd
5 Your opponent is Altruistic (Man of the People); has vowed to donate all winnings to a popular cause
6 Crooked Promoter
7 Your opponent dies at the End
8 Fat Purse (+1 wealth point to the winner)
9 A Fate Witch is secretly manipulating the fight
0 Showcase Match; your opponent is completely mismatched

Boxing Moves/Terms

  • Jab: Jab is a short straight punch
  • Cross: Cross is a straight punch delivered from the side
  • Uppercut: Uppercut is an upward punch that comes from underneath the opponent’s guard
  • Hook: Hook is a swinging blow with the elbow bent
  • Body Blow: Body blow is a punch to the body
  • Block: Blocking is the use of the shoulders, arms, or hands to prevent an opponent’s punch from landing cleanly
  • Bob and Weave: To bob and weave is to make quick bodily movements up and down and from side to side in order to dodge punches. In boxing bobbing moves the head laterally and beneath an incoming punch. As the opponent’s punch arrives, the fighter bends the legs quickly and simultaneously shifts the body either slightly right or left. Fighters generally begin the bob and weave to the left, as most opponents strike with their left hand, or jab hand first.
  • Stance: Stance is the position adopted by a boxer in readiness to land or receive punches
  • Clinch: To clinch is to hold one’s opponent in such a way that he cannot throw punches
  • Corkscrew: Corkscrew is a punch thrown with the elbow out and a twisting motion of the wrist
  • Counter: Counter is an attack made immediately after an opponent throws a punch
  • Feint: To feint means to fake a punch with the intention of disorientating one’s opponent
  • Guard: Guard is a defensive stance, with the gloves raised to protect the face
  • Haymaker: Haymaker is colloquial term for a wild swinging punch
  • Hold: Hold is a grip of the opponent that prevents him from throwing punches
  • Infighting: Infighting is engaging at very close quarters, so that it is impossible to throw full-length punches
  • Reach: Reach is the distance between the fingertips of the outstretched arms of a boxer; (cricket) the extent to which a batsman can play forward without moving his back foot
  • Rally: Rally is a sustained exchange of blows
  • Roundhouse: Roundhouse is a wild swinging punch
  • Sidewinder: Sidewinder is a blow struck from the side
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Three Occult Books for 7th Sea

These three books were recently discovered on the shelves of Tomlin and Sons Booksellers in La Bucca (Sunrise Haven). The number of available copies varies, but they may well appear in other collections on the occult, especially in Western Théah.

Power in the Blood: A Woman’s Journey
Written by Blanche Levellé, born to a family of strong Porte sorcerers but found herself lacking any ability. She devoted most of her life to the search for a means to activate her latent potential, mostly through Alquimia.
Secret: While she never quite gets there, a lot of Levellé’s conclusions and research gets dangerously close to Blood Sorcery (Secret Societies: The Invisible College, 1st edition).
Additional Details: The first edition of this book was published in 1649 in Frieburg.  It has become scare after the War of the Cross and is prized by collectors in Montaigne. This book has been deemed heresy by the Inquisition.

Bloody Legecy: A Codex of Sorcerous Wounds
A pamphlet on Blessures, written by an esteemed Vaticine Witch Hunter, Brother Sergio. The text catalogs know Blessure sites in Théah, both Montaigne and elsewhere, and includes detailed descriptions and long-term observations. Despite its age, the pamphlet is still required reading among dedicated agents of the Inquisition and is held in high esteem as a scholarly text.
Secret: This was one of the texts that revealed the origins of the Inquisition and its original purpose to Inquisitor Octavio Mzabi.  He has been working on an updated edition, seeded with ciphers for Inquisition Aquila members.

Montanus
A translation of a lost late-Imperial document by Sister Hypathia of the Gnostic Order. It chronicles the Montanus family, who rose to power in the Numaneri senate and whose bloodline would eventually come to dominate Western Théah and the nation of Montaigne. It devotes a considerable amount of detail to Porté sorcery and suggests it was born of a pact between the Montanus family and diabolical otherworldly beings. Despite its pedigree, the text is considered antiquated and has largely been debunked by (mostly Montaignious) scholars.
Secret: Despite its reputed inaccuracies, the text does describe a few lost powers of Porté that could be rediscovered through study and practice.

Your Own…Personal…Dievas

Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
— Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode

In 7th Sea, a dievas is an ethereal, fey or demonic-like being straight out of Lithuanian folklore.  Obscenely powerful, the only way they can make mischief in the world is through the complicit actions of a petitioner: a losejas.  They is the classic crossroads demon, happy to grant you your fondest desire, but always seeking to twist it to serve their own mercurial ends.

Dievai can come in many shapes and forms.  No doubt they might come completely imagined by a player or GM.  But sometimes its fun to add an unexpected twist to the mix.  For that purpose, I offer you a collection of random tables to help generate a dievas for a storyline.  Roll on as many as you like.  The first group determine how the dievas usually appears to its losejas.  The second, its usual personality in such meetings.  The third set of tables determine what sort of conditions the dievas appears under, and what phenomena (if any) herald its arrival.  Together, they should give you plenty of room to build upon.

APPEARANCE
d10 Sex
1-2 Androgynous
3-5 Male
6-8 Female
9-0 Shifting
d10 Apparent Age
1 Childlike
2-3 Younger
4-6 Indeterminable
7-8 Older
9 Elderly
0 Shifting
d10 Unusual Feature(s)
1 Eyes
2 Face
3 Hands
4 Hair
5 Ears
6 Clothing/Dress
7 Feet
8 Limbs (Arms, Legs)
9 Skin
0 Shadow
d10 PERSONALITY
1 Innocent/Childlike
2 Seductive
3 Direct
4 Wise/Approachable
5 Aloof/Coy
6 Friendly/Benevolent
7 Melancholy
8 Annoyed/Inconvenienced
9 Quiet
0 Majestic

 

VISTATION
d10 Conditions
1-2 When Called/Summoned
3-4 Constant Companion (Harvey)
5-6 Constant Presence (Distant)
7-8 Only when alone
9-0 Unreliable (On its terms)
d10 Signals Appearance
1 Soft music
2 The tinkling of bells/chimes
3 Particular Odor (Foul or Pleasant)
4 Thunderclap
5 Temperature Change (Chill, Heat)
6 A sudden flight of birds
7 Elongated shadows
8 Children’s laughter
9 Muted Sounds/Complete silence
0 Sudden change of location

Surprise!

As I’ve worked to wrap my brain around the finer points of the new edition of 7th Sea, squaring the circle of the traditional RPG encounter with this more pseudo-narrative style has been a bit challenging.  And 7th Sea isn’t the only RPG with this issue.  A lot of them, Witch Hunter and Savage Worlds included (IMNSHO) miss the bar on this one.  After all, when surprise is left to an opposed roll…what surprise is left?  No, this is one of the places where D&D excels: these GM procedural rolls.  Fast and easy; roll 2d6 and done.

In a game where players only “fail” when they choose too, “surprise” in the sense of a traditional RPG requires something of GM fiat.  Thankfully, 7th Sea has a mechanic for that: Danger Points.

Since 7th Sea GMs never have too many things to throw Danger Points at, I give you: the Surprise Round:

Where appropriate, at the beginning of an Action Sequence, the GM may spend a Danger Point to initiate a “surprise round.” During this round, all players must spend a hero point or dedicate enough raises to negate all potential Wounds before they may spend any to cause Wounds of their own.

This applies to Duelists and those with the Student of Combat Advantage, though they may use their Parry maneuver.

Example: a group of heroes are engaged by Strength 5 brute squads, one for each player.  The GM spends a Danger Point to initiate a Surprise Round as the Action Sequence begins, putting the heroes at an immediate disadvantage.  Normally, each hero could act normally, attacking, defending or performing stunts as they choose.  But during the surprise round, each player must dedicate 5 raises (Strength 5 brutes = 5 potential wounds) to defense (negating wounds) before they can attack and cause wounds of their own.  The group duelist may perform a Parry maneuver to negate a number of wounds equal to her weaponry (3, in this case), but the remaining 2 wounds must be negated on a 1:1 basis. They may perform defensive stunts normally.  If the player chooses, he or she may spend a Hero Point to act normally.

The language probably needs some tightening up, but I think the idea is sound.  Sure, you could accomplish some of this by spending a Danger Point to increase the difficulty to 15, or applying Pressure when Villains are involved, but neither of those really feels satisfactory to me.  And the cost seems appropriate and in-line with the rest of the game.

Give it a try the next time you want to throw a curve ball at your players.  Let me know how it works out.

 

New Year’s (Gaming) Resolutions, 2017 edition

Looking back at my 2016 Resolutions, I don’t feel very accomplished.  In fact, I’m not sure I managed any of these well or consistently enough to check them off the list.  So this year, I’m attempting a much more modest list of resolutions.

Less tactics, more theater of the mind

I can trace a definite change in my style of play before and after working for the RPGA on the Living Greyhawk campaign and Dungeons and Dragons 3e.  The two games I ran prior to 3e were 7th Sea and Dragonlance 5th Age (SAGA).  Neither of these are heavy on tactics or power-creep.  After a few years of D&D 3/3.5 and nearly a decade of Savage Worlds, I feel like I’ve gotten as far away from that as possible.  Witch Hunter reeled me back in a bit, but playing B/X D&D with the kids at the library really revealed how cumbersome these games really are!  I’d really like to get back to focusing on cool stories at the tabletop instead of worrying about creating adequate challenges for the heroes.  It’s one of the many reasons I’m excited to try out the new edition of 7th Sea for more than just a one-shot.  Will it bring me back to pre-3e fighting form?  I’ll let you know in 6 months.

Prep less, improvise more

I’m not sure I was ever really a “prep-lite” GM, but looking at my session and development notes for Witch Hunter, I can see where things got a bit out of hand here and there.  Last year I would tell you that prepping a historical game can be a lot more work than your typical fantasy RPG, but I’m not entirely sure that isn’t a load of crap.  So this year I am purposefully going to experiment with some “prep-lite” GMing techniques and see what happens.  I’m really hoping I learn a few new tricks that I can take back to my Witch Hunter game so I spend more time being a cool dad and less chasing details online and frantically scribbling away in the notebook.

Villains that do things, not skulk in the shadows

Prepping for 7th Sea, I’ve come to the horrible realization that sooooo many of my villains have been Orcus on his Throne.  That is, they hide in the shadows as the heroes dance around them like tops bobbing about the ripples they create.  There have been one or two instances where a villain was front and center.  These ALWAYS resulted in memorable game sessions.  My Witch Hunter game is no exception, with a dozen minor villains circling a shadowy uber-villain who is never seen and seldom heard from.  No surprise that when the players are planning their next step, the big bad isn’t remotely included in their plans.  So this year, I resolve to put my villains front and center.  Let them act with abandon.  Let the heroes cut them down…if they can.  But let’s give them some screen time, too.

Try new things as a GM

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m planning on trying out new techniques for both our 7th Sea and my Regime Diabolique games, including using Index Cards, the 3x3x3 method, and a handful of other tricks I’ve read about but never employed.

Go to a con…and PLAY

I haven’t actually been a PLAYER in an RPG for a few years, and DFW and Austin has no shortage of good cons.   I’ve been meaning to go to NTRPGCon for years now.  All part of the process of becoming a better GM this year.

High Seas Holidays

The votes are in, and my group of players have almost unanimously elected to go with a high seas adventure game with strong involvement of secret societies.  And with that, prep for our 7th Sea game can really begin in earnest.  Not that I haven’t been brainstorming and scribbling down ideas for awhile now, but this gives me a definite direction with which to steer the ship, so to speak.

With the holidays upon us, I am sneaking in whatever time I can manage to do a bit of prep for the forthcoming 7th Sea campaign.  It’s coming along nicely.  I feel I have quite a few resources collected that will make my work easier when we dive in around mid-January.  And since it’s the holidays, I want to share some of the fruits of my labor with you.

So first up, a 7th Sea Ship Name resource.  Along with a reformatted version of Finn’s Companion #3 (any of you old hands remember that one?), I’ve included a list of authentic ship names from the 17th Century British and Dutch navies, along with pirate vessels of ill repute.  So you can either grab a name from antiquity or mix and match something new for your players to grapple with.  This should be of help to anyone running a historical (or semi-historical) nautical game.  I’m going to add this resource on the Downloads page as well.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

“So we wake up in a barn…with Isaac Newton.”
— Heather

That’s the quote that wrapped up last Friday’s Witch Hunter game.  It marked the end of a pretty tense adventure that found our heroes on the losing side of a blossoming Hell Point in northern France and the forces of a Duke Unchained who had been summoned there.  Things probably would have been more tense had we not played in nearly two months, what with conflicting schedules.  Still, in the end, it felt like a satisfactory “season finale.”

And that’s what its going to be.  The last Witch Hunter game until at least July.

Maybe it’s the two month hiatus, the kids’ schedules, or the fact that we’ve been at this campaign for three years.  But my Witch Hunter take is feeling a bit dried up.  It’s been coming.  I felt it back in the early part of the year.  There are still plenty of stories to tell, and I really want to see how they shake out.  But I feel like, as a GM, I’m at the line between phoning it in and running an inspired game.  And my players deserve the latter.

So a month ago I proposed a finite break from Witch Hunter to try out one of a couple of new games sitting on the shelf.  By a very thin margin, we settled on the new 7th Sea.

I’m excited about the change for a whole host of reasons.  For one, as I’ve stated here and elsewhere, I really feel parts of the new 7th Sea are outside of my comfort zone as a GM: the way the core mechanic is structured, the removal of roadblocks, and just the sheer level of improvisation the game really steers towards.  And while I’m very familiar with the world of Théah, I feel like the game is going to be a real challenge to run.

It also makes a great opportunity to shake some old habits.  After all, what’s the point of taking a break from an old game if you are going to do everything the same way you did before?  I’m looking to push myself in new directions and new challenges as much as recharge my creative batteries.

The biggest change I’m making is with prep!  Since my D&D 3e days, my prep has become steadily more heavy.  If you look at my adventure notes, they can get quite elaborate sometimes.  I look back at my games pre-3e and see that most of my session plans took maybe a page or two.  Post-3e, I average about 4-5 pages of prep for 2 sessions worth of play (mostly due to over prepping).

Because of the game’s emphasis on improvisation, I’m going to try something new: the Index Card method.  I’ve shied away from this method in the past because putting 5 pages of historical detail on index cards just doesn’t seem very practical.  In fact, the Index Card approach is almost the polar opposite of how I prep.  What fun!  Let’s give it a whirl!

Another technique I’m hoping to try out is Floyd Wesel’s 3x3x3 method.  In short, rather than request a detailed character background from the players, or have them fill out a questionnaire, I’m going to ask them to provide a number of contacts, allies, and rivals for their heroes.  Nothing too taxing: a name and a sentence or two should do.  Coupled with 7th Sea’s Story mechanic, these should provide plenty of grist for the mill.

So there you have it.  The next couple of months are going to be full of experimentation.  Hopefully, I can bring some of it back to our Witch Hunter game when we resume later in the year.  Hopefully I’ll learn some tricks to improve the game experience and make myself a better GM.  And you can bet I’ll be discussing all of it here.

In other news, for those of you who haven’t wandered through the downloads section lately, advanced prep work for 7th Sea is already well underway.  You’ll find an updated version of the Ship Manifest (with a corrected “death spiral”) and a Villain character sheet (both a simple and advanced version).  I’m working on a few more cheat sheets and references for the game which I hope to have in place before we launch in January.

So hey, that’s what I’ve got.  How about you?  Have you ever done a total audit of your GMing and prep style?  What did you learn about yourself?  What did you keep and what did you pitch?  Share your story in the comments section, please.