Category Archives: Player

Dragoman

So after some unfortunate shuffling of the deck chairs in our 7th Sea game, we brought in two new players.  One of them, a very serious and historically minded type comes to me and says, “I want to play this?  I don’t see it as a background though.”  “No problem,” I say.  “Let’s see what we can do.”

The background in question was the Dragoman, an envoy and diplomat in the Ottoman Court.  With the preview of the Crescent Empire book beginning to circulate through the kickstarter channels, I figure this is a timely addition.  Especially since that background isn’t included.  Probably because of the focus on language, one of many things this edition of 7th Sea shuffles into the background.

Actually, creating a new background wasn’t difficult at all.  We took two comparable backgrounds, the Courtier and the Consigliere (Vodacce), and smashed them together.  Then there was some jockeying about what Advantages (besides Linguist) to include.  In the end, we settled on 6 points of Advantages as there is precedence for this.  In the end, the hardest part was coming up with a Quirk!  So I turned to the Facebook fan group for that.  In the end, I think it turned out pretty well, and makes a great background for a Crescent agent adventuring in Théah.

Dragonman

Crescent Empire Background

You are a bridge between cultures; an interpreter, mediator, diplomat, and guide in foreign matters in the court of the Empress.

Quirk: Earn a Hero Point when you solve a problem using knowledge from a culture other than your own.

Advantages: Linguist, Friend at Court, Honest Misunderstanding

Skills: Convince, Empathy, Notice, Scholarship, Tempt

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.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Diversity in Gaming

This post started out as a comment to an unrelated thread on the RPGsite.  At the advice of Mr. Hat, I’ve expanded on it here.  Because I feel it’s an important story.

In the past few years there has been schism in geek fandom.  Gamergate.  Sad Puppies.  Rabid Puppies.  The HUGO Awards.  Like so many other facets of our culture, we’re becoming increasingly Balkanized.  Ugly people on both sides saying ugly things to one another until everyone stops listening.  The lines are drawn, the trenches are deep, the cannons are set.

Hmm…I feel a song coming on.  Take it away, Jerry!

Geez!  Was that song really released back in 1970?  The more things change…

All of this has of course bleed into RPG fandom was well.  You have the Social Justice Warrior contingent on TBP and elsewhere that regularly elicit swift and venomous responses from those who don’t subscribe to their way of thinking.  You are starting to see some strange independent games that address all manner of taboo topics and those games may be applauded or trashed and pilloried (even censored) depending on what side of the line you are on.

Now, none of these games really sound like a whole lot of fun to me.  I like my gaming with a side of heroic escapism.  If I want to explore the dark, disgusting side of the human psyche, I’ll read a book or watch Law & Order:SVU.  KULT is about as far down that hole as I’ll go.  There are more mainstream games and settings, like the Queen’s Cavaliers and Blue Rose, that are accused of pushing an ideological agenda.  And while I get the audience these types of games are trying to appeal to, I personally feel that, from the boiler plate back cover text, they’ve bled so much conflict out of the setting in their lofty goals of creating an imaginary Utopia, what’s the point in playing?

815577e1bffbdc49cf0b0333f8c6be3dBut as a response to this sort of stuff, there seems to be a growing chorus that increasing representation of women, ethnic and gender minorities is just paying lip service to the SJW crowd and is little more than panhandling.  After all, if only women make up a drop in the bucket of GMs, why go through the trouble of alternating pronouns in your game.  If LGBT players a tiny fraction of your audience, do we really need art depicting these relationships (and all the baggage that comes with it?  Geez, we just got over the whole demon worship thing, for crying out loud!).  Does it make sense to have images of black and brown people in games set in medieval Europe?

Now that’s probably a bit of a straw man argument.  The number of gamers who are adamantly opposed to all those things is probably more minuscule than the people who identify with those things.  But the US vs THEM mentality that is being fostered by both sides makes it very difficult to take a nuanced stand.  And since its easier just to lump someone into the wrong crowd than actually listen to what they are actually trying to say, we probably shut out a lot of voices just because of the noise on the fringes.

F*&$ing SJW!  I’m out!

Ok, if you’re still reading, I’m going to try and give you my “nuanced” view.  I call it nuanced because there are still things certain geek sub-cultures demand in the name of inclusion that don’t make a lot of sense to me.  But that really isn’t important.  So here goes.

arrowindraMy Teen Roleplaying program at the Lewisville Public Library is closing in on 10 years.  During that time, we’ve had scores of kids come through of every stripe imaginable.  We take all comers.  I don’t care how big a socially awkward misfit you are, I’m a 40 year old guy who likes to play Advanced Cops and Robbers with dice and charts.  I’m not gonna judge you…unless you gush on the Twilight series or Sailor Moon, then we’ll have words.  Because we have to set standards somewhere.  But I digress.

The first year we started, I was using Savage Worlds and running the 50 Fathoms plot point.  Rather than let the players make their own characters, I created a stable of around a dozen different characters.  The rules were simple: each time you come to play, you pick a character.  If you played a character last session, you got first dibs on it this time.  If you want to change it up and play a different character, no problem.

One of these characters was a fiery swordswoman from 17th Century Spain. Think Catherine Zeta-Jones from The Mask of Zorro, but more willful and spiteful.  She was put into the mix because its just a cool concept.  I like strong women type characters, and we had a pretty decent parity between teenage boys and girls at the time (something, I’m proud to say, we’ve been able to maintain over the course of the program!  Yay, us!).  So if a girl wants to sit down and play a fighter archetype character, I’ve got it covered.

So one evening, a young Latina girl — She’s probably 12; maybe 13 at a stretch — picks the swordswoman to play.  She was new to the game.  This might have been her first or second game session, but she was excited to give it a try and had a couple of friends from school who were already playing.  As I always do when I’m explaining the game, I try to put it in terms of the player’s character.  So I’m giving her the boiler plate description of the character and rattle off, “she’s Spanish…” and the girl interjects, “like me!”

Now, I won’t lie.  Part of my brain wanted to correct her.  “No, she’s European.”  But the larger part of me realized that she was relating personally with this character. As in “Spanish swordswoman is a badass = Latinas are baddass = *I* get to be the badass!” And right then, at that exact moment,  my whole perspective on this diversity in roleplaying business changed.  Because of that one connection.  This young girl was looking at a piece of paper and seeing something bigger.  It was giving her, the person she saw every day in the mirror, permission to be a bigger than life hero.  And she embraced it and ran with it!

If that character hadn’t been there, she might have happily played some other character.  I don’t know.  She played the swordswoman character consistently for the next few months.

That singular moment brought in a sea change in my thinking.  I WANT kids to look at an RPG book and imagine themselves in those situations, and I don’t expect them to imagine themselves as european male knights in shining armor. I want them to imagine them as themselves, whatever race, gender, sex, whatever.  While I don’t think anyone really disagrees with me on this score, I’m not sure how many people have seen that connection happen right in front of their eyes.

223c49ed0df1d468a47bd758b3c8bf69Being a college educated white male from an upper-middle class family (Cis, is that what the cool kids are calling it these days?  Everyone has to have a label, right?), I will be the first to admit that I do not understand the formula behind all this. But I am smart enough to know that if I see a picture of two women kissing in the crows nest of a ship, that picture is not there for me. When a transgendered dwarf appears in a Pathfinder book, that’s not for me either.  It’s there for someone else to see it and think “holy shit, *I* get to be the badass!”

For me to complain about that or take that away from someone else seems kinda selfish.

Now that doesn’t mean I LIKE every game that puts it out there like that (see my previous comments on Blue Rose and Queen’s Cavaliers).  I certainly see how a publisher could over do it. (“I never realized there were so many Africans in 16th Century London. What gives?  Is there a convention in town?”).  But let’s not be dismissive of it as a whole.  Because if a kid somewhere in this world can pick up an rpg (or any book really) and find something of herself in it that sparks her imagination in such a way that she HAS TO GET HER FRIENDS TOGETHER TO PLAY THIS GAME NOW!, well that’s a win-win for ALL of us who play these games.

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!

Faith and Witch Hunting

Over on the Paradigm forums, heathd666 posed an inquiry from one of his players:

One of my players asked me if they could not play such a “holy” person for the game. I scanned through the book but didn’t find a answer for her. On a side note she usually plays the slutty thief/assassin type of character from our group. So my question is does someone choose to be a witch hunter or is it where “God” or the deity in question chooses you to be a witch hunter whether you want to be one or not. I kind of think of it like Sanya from Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” novels. He carries one of the swords from god and has the powers of them but he is a Atheist.

The power of Christ compels you!

I suspect this is not an uncommon issue with Witch Hunter.  It sure was one of mine when I first read the original edition back in 2008.  The concept of God is so baked into the mix, so inexplicably tied into the characters, that even to someone who is a non-practicing Christian like myself, it can feel a bit heavy handed.  Every single one of the Orders of Solomon has some basis in religion (Christianity or Native American spiritualism).  I’m sure the emphasis on faith in the game has cost it a couple of players.  After all, some gamers (myself included) can be twitchy when it comes to religion.

What’s a person who doesn’t want to spend a fun evening spouting bible verses while they roll dice to smite the wicked to do?

Then the second edition came along and I gave the orders a much closer look.

Now, first things first, let’s take into consideration what the role of Faith was in the 17th Century.  Unlike our modern era, it would have been really hard to be an atheist or an agnostic during that period.  For one thing, the Church held a LOT of power.  It was the center of the community in rural, pastoral communities, especially in the colonies.  But if we are honest, there were probably a lot of folks who slipped through the cracks and were pretty hostile to religion then too.  They just didn’t write history books or get mentioned in seminary schools.  Others (like the nobility) had the luxury of only paying lip service to Church and faith.  And it’s not like the Church of Rome was above reproach during this period.

According to the in-game fiction, witch hunters receive special powers from a higher power. These aren’t just granted to you because of your birth, or your faith.  They are awakened within after your (background) character survives a brush with the supernatural (catalyst).  It’s kind of Buffy-esque.  One slayer dies, another’s power awakens and a Watcher seeks her out.  In the World of Witch Hunter, when a werewolf eats everyone in your family but somehow you escape, the experience might awaken supernatural powers in you.  The Orders of Solomon find a lot of these awakened souls, but many slip through the cracks and go rogue, or join tiny cells of other awakened individuals.  The Orders of Solomon are simply the big umbrella organizations operating throughout Europe, the New World, or even the East.  It’s not as though an angel of God visits you and says, “Congratulations!  Tell him what he’s won!”  You’re still traumatized by your catalyst.  All of a sudden, you can do things others cannot.  Now here comes some guy in a fancy suit who tells you this is a gift from God and introduces you to your own catalyst surviving support group.  Who WOULDN’T want to believe that?  And, in the case of the Crusaders Inviolate, the poor fellow who starts asking too many questions is probably going to be ruled a liability and kicked off the island in a bloody and discreet fashion.

While the core rulebook focuses mostly on Europe and the Colonies of the New World, it makes one thing very clear: Witch Hunters exits in all faiths, Christian and otherwise.  The Ghost People and Dreamwalkers are Native American orders that have no relation to the European orders and are certainly not Christian.  Yet they possess all the powers and benefits of witch hunters.  This is expanded on in other sourcebooks.  We have orders of Witch Hunters among the Jews (Seekers of Emet) and Islam (the Falcons of God — and you can bet Sunni Islam probably hosts two or three orders alone!).  Most witch hunters are pragmatic enough to believe there is some symmetry to faith, that the Great Spirit of the Native Americans is just another reflection of the Christian or Islamic God.

But you can always count on the Aztecs to screw everything up.

[Semi-Spoiler Alert!!!]

In the Aztec Empire sourcebook it is revealed that even the Aztecs have orders of witch hunters among them, and that the Spanish witch hunters have no idea how that’s possible given the gods the Aztecs worship.  But considering there might be witch hunters among the Hindu and Buddhist faiths, this makes total sense.  So obviously the relationship between witch hunters and faith is a lot more complicated.  Perhaps, depending on your perspective (here’s a gimmick for your Lightbringer character), there IS NO relationship between faith and witch hunterdom.  Perhaps the power exists in all mankind, dormant and forgotten.  Cue the Order of Judas!

No, seriously. Have you heard the Good Word?

So with that established, let’s look at a couple of Orders that offer plenty of wiggle room for those players who might feel dirty when they start talking about God, or those who just like to do things differently.  Each of these are pulled right from the religion descriptions of each order.

The Crusaders Inviolate are devout; however, their understanding of the word of God is unique to the brotherhood. It approximates Catholicism, but includes aspects of animism, pagan religions, and other more exotic rites. The Crusaders Inviolate would simply refer to themselves as soldiers of God.

Subtext: No one else observes Christianity the way the Crusaders do.  They may as well be a sect onto themselves.  Any right-minded Christian would accuse the typical Crusader of any number of sins against God (heresy, idolatry, you name it).  In other words, your character is devout, but to what?  Remember, the Crusaders are descended from Knights Templar and for whom Freemasonry is a front.  A creative player (or GM) can half all manner of fun defining what Crusaders actually believe.

The Lightbringers are distinctly humanist. Religion can be a substantial part of that belief system, but only if it embraces human potential and free will. Most Lightbringers, for in- stance, embrace Christianity for its philosophy of the elevation of man. Lightbringers disdain any theology or sect, however, like the Puritans’ that proposes predestination or original sin.

Subtext: The Lightbringers are Christians the way we often interpret the United States founding fathers these days: as deists.  That is, their brand of Christianity is a weird mix of philosophy, legal thinking, and erudite thought.  Your average modern born again Christian would be aghast.

The Stalkers of the Unseen Hunt tend not to put complete trust in such religious trappings. Perhaps this is because the priests of their homelands, worshippers of pagan gods and nature spirits, failed to protect them so long ago. To them, the wilds are battlegrounds, places to which they venture out of necessity. Nature itself, if it has any sort of divinity, is no more caring than the Christian god who has failed the Stalkers time and again.

Subtext: Well actually, you really can’t get any more overt than that.  The Stalkers don’t care.  You say their powers are given to them by a higher power?  “Sure,” they say, “but what higher power?  Your’s?”  You can easily envision a stalker brandishing a weapon and saying in her best action hero voice: “This is my faith.”  The Stalkers are always going to be the ones who question the blind faith of others.  “If God is love, why is there suffering?  If he made man in his image, why are we such a murderous lot?  Satan, eh?  Well he can kiss my ass, too.”  Of course, you can also have a completely faithful Puritan style Stalker standing next to her arguing the opposite.

Also noteworthy, the introduction to the Stalkers includes: “All that matters to its members, regardless of the faiths they pray to, is the hunt.” [Emphasis Mine]

The Order of Rose and Cross tend to be Christian, except for those few members who are American Indian (see above). The philosophy set down by ancient texts in which the use of magic and ascendancy of reason is married to the Christian Faith is also followed; though this aspect of the Order is kept quiet for fear that the Church may view it as signs of corruption and heresy.

Subtext: I’m careful about what I say about my faith because I don’t want the Inquisition on my back.

So there you go.  Four different orders that could easily accommodate a non-religious (or pagan) witch hunter.

But wait!  Faced with the absolute proof of the existence of Adversary, why would any witch hunter not fall in line behind a belief in a higher power, God or otherwise?  Well, most do.  But that doesn’t always have to be the case.  Let’s turn to those pesky Winchester brothers of Supernatural, a show I think should be a substantial influence on any witch hunter campaign.  When faced with absolute proof of the existence of a benevolent God (they hang with an angel of the Lord for crying out loud), those two knuckleheads come to the conclusion that God is an omnipotent jerk.  That’s pretty much how things operate through a lot of the Dresden Files series (at least up until Skin Game – that’s as far as I’ve read so far), which is another good source of inspiration.  I think this point of view can work very well in the world of Witch Hunter.  After all, an omnipotent, all powerful God relies on human emissaries to do his dirty work for him, and people still die horrible miserable deaths even without the help of the Adversary.  It’s easy to see how any witch hunter could be jaded and lose faith.

It’s easy matter to accommodate a “faith-less” or agnostic witch hunter in almost any core Orders of Solomon.  There are exceptions, though. The Ashen Cross is tied into Catholicism. The Sunwise Circle is likewise tied into the Russian Orthodoxy, but are open to working with those of other faiths.

So as you can see, players have a lot of latitude where it comes to their characters and matters of faith.

Homebrew Talents

With so many Talents spread out across the core line, I haven’t pushed to add to many more new ones to our game.  But over the course of play, I have introduced a few, whether to satisfy a player concept or to close a hole I’ve found in the rules.

Here they are:

Able Drinker (Basic)
Requirement: None
Description: You can really put the liquor away. This could be due to a naturally high constitution, or maybe just a lot of experience. However much you drink, liquor never affects any of your rolls.

Practiced Strike (Heroic)
Requirement: Attack Specialist
Description: When making a damage roll for a weapon for which you have the Attack Specialist Talent, count all rolls of 6 or above as a point of damage.

Weapon Mastery (Heroic)*
Requirement: Marksman 3, Melee 3, or Ranged 3; specialization (or Attack Focus) in desired weapon
Description: When performing a trick with your weapon of mastery, you may choose either to ignore the base Wager penalty (but not additional wager costs for effect) or perform the trick as a Quick Action. You may select this Talent multiple times, each time for a different weapon for which you already specialized in.

Weapon Mastery & Weapon Tricks
The Weapon Mastery Talent is designed to complement the various Weapon Tricks found in Book II: Wealth & Witch Hunting. It is meant to replace the following Talents from the Core Rules:
• Pinning Shot (Heroic)
• Ricochet Shot (Heroic)
• Riposte (Greater)
• Two Arrow Shot (Heroic)

*If you’ve been following this blog for awhile now, you’ll have seen the rough draft of the Weapon Mastery Talent. This is its final form as we are employing it in our campaign.