Category Archives: Play Aids

Warts and All

Back at the turn of the century, I took a gig as part of the Living Greyhawk triad for the Texas/Oklahoma region (the notorious Bandit Kingdoms).  I learned a LOT about adventure writing during those two years.  But the most important lesson I learned was this: when you finish your draft, sit in an watch a different GM run your adventure for a new group.  This will reveal every unintentional red herring, weak spot, and broken element of your adventure.  It really is by far the best bang for your buck in the editing process.  You’ll be amazed at how much of your adventure is in your head and not on the page.

I remember sitting down and watching a new group tackle my first published adventure, The Bleeding Moon, which I’m still proud to say enjoys some notoriety in old Living Greyhawk circles (with its baby mimic and hasted-spider climbed-stone skinned zombies!).  I probably came away with 4-5 pages of handwritten notes after that session, including what happens if a player wants to learn necromancy from the villain at the end.  It was a humbling and eye-opening experience, and the final product was infinitely better for it.

Bloody Misadventures

Bloody Misadventures: Dramatic Battles on the High Seas

Of course, its easy to find playtesters when you are writing for a big organization like the RPGA. Flash forward 17 years to last year when I was putting the finishing touches on Bloody Misadventures: Dramatic Battles on the High Seas, a sea battles supplement for 7th Sea I published through the Explorer’s Society.  The playtest of the first draft with my group was an abysmal failure, with the whole thing falling apart inside of the first action.  The second playtest went better, but revealed a flaw in my thinking as the players were all to eager to pool Raises to unleash monstrous amounts of hits on enemy ships.  Meanwhile, I was seeding drafts with a handful of folks, trusting them to play out scenarios with their groups.  Each time I’d get little snippets of feedback, bringing the project closer and closer to completion.

In the time it took to write Bloody Misadventures, I finished three other products for the Explorer’s Society!  That’s how much fiddling I took with it.  An idea would hit me and into the book it would go, sometimes only to be ripped out and shredded days later.  In the end, I took Nancy Pelosi’s advice: I had to release it to find out what was in it.  So the project that started in April of 2017 was released from its cage in the lab in November!  Initial Sales were good and have remained consistent.

So last month, Tabletop Radio Hour did a review of Bloody Misadventures on one of their shows.  The Cast were positively intrigued and promised to feature a sea battle soon on their Actual Play podcast.  About two weeks later they delivered.  I was heading home on a road trip through the Texas Hill Country when the episode dropped and I listened.  Boy, did I listen!

I listened to every pause.  Every rules reference.  Every indecision.  Every shrug.  Every misstep.

Yeah see, its amazing what you find out when you listen to someone else run something you wrote.  You’ll be amazed what’s in your head and not on the page.

Oh don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t bad.  Most of it played out really well!  Everyone seemed to have a good time (I’ve no doubt they’ll reveal all in a follow up review).  But there was way to much head scratching for my tastes.

So when I got back to the home office, I wasted no time doing additional edits to clarify the text where it needed it.  Because I didn’t want to waste this opportunity.  Because Bloody Misadventures was a lot of work to write and deserves to be the best set of rules for what it does that it can be.  Because I don’t want play to suffer for my contributions.  Because, as a 7th Sea GM, I still want to know what Cross the T! does in play, and hope other seekers to find the answer in something I wrote.

But the moral here remains: before you turn your baby loose, before you add that “-final” tag to the file name, before you send that master file on to Lulu or Drivethru or your publisher, hand over the keys to someone else to take it for a drive around the block while you ride in the backseat.  You won’t regret it!

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Everyone Loves a Bookmark!

A week or so back, Karl Keesler over on Google+ posted this image of his character from a 7th Sea game.

proto-bookmark

The first thing I thought when I saw this was, “sword toothpicks for hero points!  That’s super cute!  Much better looking than my doubloons from Party City.”

My second thought was, “how long until one of the players suffers a REAL Dramatic Wound from one of those things?  Less than one game session in my library game, I’ll bet.”

But then I noticed that mind blowing tidbit in the upper left.  What is that?  A bookmark?  A rules reference bookmark??  How f*%#ing cool is that!  I must have it!

And so Karl and I started a little back and forth about it.  Then the bookmark’s designer, Bert Garcia got involved.  And soon, this lovely play aid was revealed in all it’s glory.

proto02

Of course, by that point, I was neck deep into crafting my own rendition.  And not one to leave good enough alone, I had to use both sides and include twice the detail.  I’m happy with the results, and one of my players has already asked for a Roll20 version.

So please enjoy this wonderful play aid for 7th Sea 2nd edition.  Full credit goes to Bert Garcia for his original design, which you can find here if you want something more minimalist.  If any of you are wondering why I’m not releasing this to the Explorer’s Society, it just seems wrong to do anything like that without a full credit (and a share of any profits) going to Bert.  Besides, I like keeping all my toys right here where I can find them.

Don’t worry.  I have some ideas that will make it into the Society soon enough.

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!

Villain Archetypes for 7th Sea

 

This is something I started working on as a shorthand method for creating interesting villains on the fly.  The idea was based somewhat on D&D 3/3.5’s monster templates.  Find the archetype that fits your concept of the villain, and you now have a handful of related Advantages you can apply as desired.  Not every villain who fits an archetype will have all the recommended Advantages, nor are they limited to just those Advantages.  But now the GM has a condensed list of “go-to” abilities for creating villains on the fly, or just as an idea generator.

These archetypes don’t address Arcana or Stats, as those will need to be personalized to the villain.

I hope you find them useful.

Villainous Archetypes

Villainous Archetypes are meant to be broad pictures of a villainous character. They are tools meant to speed up the design of a villain. Find the one that best fits your concept of the villain and then apply the recommended Advantages.

Archetype Recommended Advantages
The Betrayer Come Hither (2), Disarming Smile (2), Opportunist (3), We’re Not So Different (5)
The Bureaucrat Friend at Court (2), Indomitable Will (2), Lyceum (4), Opportunist (3), University
The Fallen Hero Connection (2), Fencer, Perfect Balance (2), Quick Reflexes (3), Reputation (2)
The Fanatic Fascinate (2), Indomitable Will (2), Leadership (2), Quick Reflexes (3), Together We Are Strong (5), Trusted Companion (4)
The Fop Connection (2), Friend at Court (2), Inspire Generosity (2), Leadership (2), Reputation (2), Specialist (4)
The Mad Scientist Specialist (4), Spark of Genius (5), Tenure (3), University (4)
The Mastermind Connection (2), Duelist Academy (5), Friend at Court (2), Hard to Kill (4), Indomitable Will (2), Leadership (2), Quick Reflexes (3), Staredown (2), The Devil’s Own Luck (5), Time Sense (1)
The Pirate Bar Fighter (3), Direction Sense (1), Fencer (3), I’m Taking You With Me (5), Perfect Balance (2), Sea Legs (1), Slip Free (2)
The Priest Fascinate (2), Indomitable Will (2), Leadership (2), Lyceum (4), Ordained (3), Tenure (3), University (4)
The Weakling Dead Eye (3), Disarming Smile (2), Psst! Over Here (2), Reputation (Contradictory) (2), Small (1), Sniper (3), We’re Not So Different (5)
The Zealot I’m Taking You With Me (5), Indomitable Will (2), Quick Reflexes (3), Reputation (2), Specialist (4), Staredown (2), Trusted Companion (4), We’re Not So Different (5)

New! Witch Hunter Character Creation Workbook. A Late Christmas Gift.

I hope everyone has been enjoying the holidays.

Of all the cheat sheets and references I’ve made for Witch Hunter, probably the most valuable for us has been the Character Creation cheat sheet.  It doesn’t get used very much, but it proved its worth when we welcomed a new player a few months back.  It’s also very handy for auditing characters.

Having it as a Evernote note has had its ups and downs.  So last year, I set out to create a PDF version.  The result morphed into something very new.  And now I’m making it available here on downloads section.

The Witch Hunter Character Creation Workbook was envisioned as a four-page folio with a double-sided worksheet insert.  It walks you through the character creation process, complete with page references and highlighted rules references.  The format, I think, is even better than the older Character Creation worksheet.  I think Witch Hunter: Revelations players and GMs will find it especially useful.  It does make one assumption, that the group will be using the Heroic Power Level (as opposed to Gritty or Cinematic) when it comes to Advancement.

So give it a look.  And may 2016 be a good year for Witch Hunting!