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Episode Recap: Good Knight

Our Heroes are…

  • Edward Kenway, Son of Avalon and Captain of the Jackdaw
  • Carmena Elena de Ibarra de la Luz, disgraced Castillian Naval officer and bosun of the Jackdaw
  • Milaria Beaufort, Knight Arrant of Avalon and loyal servant of Queen Elaine
  • Sebastian Valmont, wayward Montaignese aristocrat and porté mage
  • Modestas Radvilas Kelrus (Mohai), Sarmatian Expatriate and former Dragoman to the court of the Empress of the Crescent Moon.

(Captain Kenway, Carmena, and Mohai are absent tonight)

Tonight’s Spotlight Hero is…

Milaria Beaufort

Part One: Shadow of Avalon

The Three Queens tavern in La Bucca is named for the three queens of the Glamour Isles: Elaine, Titania, and Mab.  For many wayward Avalonians, it is a glimmer of home in this forsaken place.  The tavern is known for its briny stews, spicy sausages, and its barrels of ale imported from the Glamour Isles (but mostly Inishmore).  A crowd of jovial displace Avalonians can usually be found here, singing merrily along to the traditional songs of their homeland played lovingly by Candice and Richard, two minstrels who never found their way off the island.

This is why Milaria Beaufort, Knight Errant of Avalon and Queen Elaine’s Champion, has grown to love this place so much since she came to the Pirate Republic.

But tonight is different.  Tonight, most of the local patrons have fled as a gang of raucous, carousing Maghrebis have settled in.  They are no fans of the music or the musicians, but the spirits and stew seem to be to their liking.

Milaria and Sebastian Valmont sit in their cups, doing their best to ignore the obnoxious carrying on of these foreign pirates when a young, wide-eyed man in official looking dress stumbles through the front door.  He quickly surveys the room and, spying Milaria, clumsily smiles and hastens to her table.

As the young man approaches, Milaria’s eye wanders to a table set in the back corner of the bar.  A table that is always reserved for an honored guest who never comes.  But tonight, a man sits there.  Tall, broad-shouldered, with shaggy gray hair and an unkept beard.  His piercing blue eyes do not shy away when Milaria’s meet them.

The young envoy is clueless of this exchange.  He tells Milaria that Ambassador Zorita wishes to meet with her about her…problem.  Tomorrow morning, in the embassy gardens, after morning prayers.

Milaria listens, but watches the old man.  She says she will meet with the ambassador and gives the young man leave of the place.

One of the Maghrebi turns and sizes up Sebastian, then turns and makes a rude remark about the Montaignese man’s breeding and his mother to his companions.  He thinks Sebastian could not possibly understand but he is wrong.  Immediately, Sebastian’s blood runs hot.  He stands and returns the insult.  Immediately, half the pirates are on their feet, including a massive man with a large cutlass and a whip at his side.

Milaria quickly looks back to the table, but the old man is gone.

Steel is drawn.  Milaria moves to protect Candice and Richard and tells them to go fetch the proprietress! Sebastian takes to his work with glee and satisfaction.  The pirates fall before him, all but the big man with the whip.  Skilled in the Mantovani style of Vodacce, the big pirate makes the fight interesting.

As Milaria confronts her share of the pirates, the old shaggy man reappears.  He clubs two pirates heads together, gives her a wink, and is gone.

When Myrna Byrne, all 100 pounds of her, bursts furiously through the kitchen doors brandishing her cudgel, the battle is already won.  The big pirate, now sporting a wicked “SV” slashed across his chest, is carried away by his companions.  Sebastian has claimed his whip, a nice one of Vodacce make, as his own.  One last straggler stops at the door to tell the heroes in broken Avalonian: “Your Queen will soon know the taste of Maghrebi steel!  A thousand ship will be launched against her!”

His soliloquy is cut short by a sharp crack of the whip by Sebastian.

“If that lot is any indication,” Myrna chuckles, “I’ll sleep like a babe.  I’ll take one Jeremiah Berek for every hundred of those devils!”

Milaria scans the tavern for the old man, but he is nowhere to be seen.

“What man?  What are you talking about,” Sebastian says.  “That table has been empty all night.  Are you sure you’re okay?”  Indeed, no one seems to remember seeing a man matching Milaria’s description.  Tonight, or ever.

“That table,” Myrna says, “is reserved for the O’Bannon, should he ever wander to these shores to grace us with his presence.  Only he may sit there.”

“Remind me. What does the O’Bannon look like?” Milaria says.

Part Two: The More You Know

Milaria is walking through a dense tropical forest.  It is night.  Stars peek out from breaks in the canopy above.  In the distance, a voice is chanting.  Derwyddon, certainly, but his words are too distant to be known.

A thin trail winds through the foliage, leading to…a small clearing.  At the far side of it is a massive tree, about which is set a small, ramshackle cottage.  Firelight glimmers from within.  Milaria knows something terrible lives there.  And yet, she approaches the door.  Something moves within.  She touches the door and it swings open, revealing the stern face of Godric, the Pious.

Milaria sits upright in her bed.  She is soaked with sweat.  Outside the window, the first lights of dawn are spreading out across the harbor.

She remembers her dream perfectly.  Every detail.

* * *

The surgeon of the Jackdaw, a big Ussuran man named Deiman Ruikov, introduces Sebastian to two of the luminaries of La Bucca: Wynne Lynch, a Natural Philosopher, and Doctor Carlos Matez, a Castillain Boticario.  Sebastian hopes these two men can shed some light on the bottle of Falisci wine that was connected to the massacre aboard the Jackdaw some weeks back.

Unfortunately, the two men can agree on nothing, leaving Sebastian to wonder if some unorthodox form of sorcery has been employed.  To that, Josette, Lynch’s young assistant, suggests the duelist seek out Nazaret, a Castillian witch who lives in the Jenny’s Jungle near the old Syrneth ruins.  “She knows many things that are unnatural,” Josette confides.  “Bring her a gift.  Something pretty.”

* * *

Milaria is waiting in the gardens of the Castillian Embassy when the chapel bells begin to chime.  The congregation emerges ahead of the Ambassador.  Zorita smiles when he spies Milaria.  He introduces her to his chaplain Narciso Saravia.

“Tell me senorita,” Saravia says to Milaria, “are you among the faithful?”

“I serve Avalon and her church faithfully, if that is what you mean,” Milaria answers.

“Alas, but then our faith only ever reveals part of the whole.  Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Actually,” she responds, “I think faith can reveal the full measure of anyone.”

Zorita indicates it is time for the chaplain to leave, that he would speak with Milaria in private.  Saravia smiles and nods, then says to the Knight Errant, “remember, Theus loves all of us, even his lost sheep.”  Then he turns and walks back towards the chapel.

Sure they are alone, the Ambassador turns excitedly to Milaria.  “I have news,” he says. “Does the name, Baca Salazar, have any meaning to you?”  Milaria recognizes this as the name of a Castillian spy she met in Horchillo, before she and the heroes discovered that they were being played by agents of the Montaigne to perpetuate hostilities between that country and Castille.

Zorita tells her that trusted confidants from Castille have confirmed that Senior Salazar, an agent of the Atabean Trading Company, has been hosting meetings between Castillian dignitaries and certain, less reputable captains of the Maghreb.  While the details are still somewhat vague, the Ambassador tells Milaria that he has arranged a dinner meeting with an old friend who he believes can shed more light on this arrangement.  He asks her to meet him again, in the gardens, on the morrow after morning prayers.

“I hope this begins to make up for the trouble that befell you and your companions in Horchillo,” Zorita says.  “I have not forgiven myself for the part I played in putting your lives at risk.  Please tell Carmena that I hope to make things right by this.”

“Are you sure this place is safe to talk,” she asks him.

“I do not know,” he replies, “but certainly we can see anyone who might seek to listen in, don’t you think?”

Milaria agrees to meet again and the two part ways.

In the darkened shadow of the open chapel, Saravia watchs the two of them.  His eyes narrow, his mouth tight.  Knowing what must be done, he slowly closes the door.

Part Three: The Witch of La Bucca

Sebastian decides to pay a visit to Nazaret, the witch Josette told him about.  He has purchased a fine, silver mirror, tastefully encrusted with precious gems, as a gift for her services.  Together, he and Milaria set off from Sunset Haven into the Jenny’s Jungle to find her abode.

Despite a few mishaps along the way, the pair find their way through the thick jungle thanks in no small part to recollections from Milaria’s dream.  And there it was, a ramshackled, disjointed cottage at the base of a massive tree in a clearing.  The sun is low against the jungle canopy and a light flickers in the window of the cottage.  Milaria is about to touch the door when it swings open, revealing a tall, lean woman with black hair.  She smiles warmly, revealing half her face slack from palsy.

“I’ve been expecting you,” she says.  “Come in.”

Sebastian gives her the mirror and she tucks it away.  He beings produces a sample of the wine and the bottle as well, upon request.  Nazaret sticks a finger in the mouth of the bottle and sample a taste of the residue therein and spits it out on the floor.  She knows.  She knows about the demon hidden away within the vessel.  She knows its taste for blood and memory.  But these are not the things she wants to talk about.  She wants to talk about Milaria.  About the knight’s mantle she wears.  About the power residing within her — sorcerous power as old as legend.  Pure.  Intoxicating.

When Milaria expresses her desire to protect Avalon, she sees her opportunity.

“I can give you everything you need to protect your homeland from these foreign invaders,” she tells the Knight Errant.  She can.  But there is a price.  An unspoken price.  A price Milaria seems yet willing to pay.  Nazaret produces a small knife from her robes.

The sound of trees scratching at the walls of the cottage seems to punctuate the moment.

“A price must be paid willingly,” she says.  Foolish child.

Milaria takes the knife and looks to Sebastian.

“Where I am from,” he says, “blood must be paid.” Yes, blood.  And so much more, fools!

Milaria takes the blade of the knife and presses it tight to the flesh of her arm.

“I will do anything to protect Avalon,” she says, reassuring herself.

The witch’s eyes grow wide  She is so close.

The door to the cottage explodes open suddenly and a shaggy, lean, gray haired man bursts into the room.

“Don’t do it!” he shouts!

To be continued…

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Running 7th Sea on Roll20

File this under This Should Be Interesting…

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On Sunday, February 11th @ 8:30 pm CST, I will be hosting an open tutorial for running 7th Sea over the Roll20 VTT system. Anyone who is interested in checking out Roll20 or specifically running 7th Sea on it are welcome to attend. If you are a seasoned 7th Sea GM with experience with Roll20, I would love to have you join the discussion. If you are interested in attending, you can leave a message here, or send me a private message on Roll20.

You will need at least a basic Roll20 profile to attend.

Voice chat will be handled on Discord using the Explorers of Théah FB Group’s servers. So yes, you’ll need to be running both Roll20 and Discord to get the most out of the workshop.

I’m planning to quickly cover the Basics of Roll20, but then move on to how to set up the VTT to really get the most (in my experience) out of it with the 7th Sea 2nd edition ruleset.  This will include discussion of character sheets, macro design, and other topics.  I know.  You’re thinking, sexy!  But even with all that technical voodoo, I’ll try my best to keep it light and fun.

So put the kids to bed early and spend Sunday night with us!

Inside Baseball: Campaign Prep

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Time to talk prep.  As I write this, I’m prepping to begin two different games: a 7th Sea game for my regular group and an All For One: Regime Diabolique game for my library program.  Now, if you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that I’ve talked about doing things a bit differently this time around.  I’ve been trying to stay true to that experiment.  So I thought I’d give readers a window into my prep process.

7th Sea

This one has by far required the most discipline for me.  Because I want to feature the player’s stories, I didn’t want to prep too much before we had our character creation session. So instead I started by giving the players some choices in the “themes” the game would explore.  Basically, I wanted to get a vague idea of the type of game they were most interested in playing.  I needed this to begin any type of prep at all.  Théah is a big sandbox and 7th Sea is wide open to all sorts of play.They came back with High Seas Adventure and Secret Societies.  That gave me a place to start.

With Witch Hunter, I had an idea for my uber-villain, the ultimate story arch, and where I wanted play to begin (Strasbourg).  I didn’t want to do that this time.  Instead, I started sketching out some rough ideas for NPCs, using a lot of ideas from Johnn Four’s One Sentence NPCs and 3 Line NPCs.  The idea is to design some nebulous NPC concepts that can then be applied to characters the players encounter once play begins.  I scribbled down 2 pages of ideas in my notebook before realizing that very few of the concepts I had created really fit a seafaring environment.  So I took a left turn to brainstorm a collection of Pirate Town archetypes to give me more direction.  I also started drawing up some rough ideas for a handful of villains that I could introduce.

Things took another left turn while surfing GnomeStew and reading Tracey Barnett’s article on NPC Moves.  Now, I’m not big on *World or FATE games, but the idea of taking passive qualities (personality traits, motivations, etc) and turning them into Actions struck me as genius.  Basically, instead of this:

The Old Dame

  • Longs to recapture her youth
  • Loves to throw elaborate parties
  • Is the laughing stock of the local social set

…you instead have this:

The Old Dame

  • Act Younger than I am
  • Name drop and associate to elevate myself
  • Mistake mockery for flattery
  • Add invitees to the next guest list

THAT seems super helpful in portraying NPCs as unique and different and not falling into a lot of the same bad habit characterizations.  It also seems well suited to the Index Card method.  So while its not the easiest shift for me, I’m doing my best present my NPCs in these terms.

The last thing I’m doing is with my villains.  After Witch Hunter, the last thing I want is a shadowy mastermind pulling the strings.  Yes, 7th Sea has these aplenty, but to push myself I’m working to introduce bold, aggressive, in your face adversaries instead of those hiding in the shadows.

But that’s it.  I’ve tried to keep everything else to a line or two at best.  After all, the plan is to improvise a lot more in play.  The exception to this is a handful of ideas I have for a lost Syrneth ruin (DUNGEONCRAWL!  WOOT!).  But I don’t plan to dig in deep there unless my players express interest in going there.

All For One: Regime Diabolique

While I’m hoping to employ a lot of these same practices when it comes to the library game, here I benefit from more structure.  We generally have a table of anywhere from 6 to 12 teens of varying level of experience.  There is already a LOT of improvisation going on, but these kids benefit from a bit of direction…dare I call it railroading.  That is, if you open everything up to them, nothing gets done.  So here I want to have a solid hook for them to bite on.

As such, I’m going to rely on the matrix adventure design that has served me well here in the past.  I’ve plotted out the first session and followed the bread crumbs a bit in different directions.  So I’m prepared.  I don’t want to go too far, though.

Something I’m considering employing this time around are clue cards, or some tangible aid that the players can refer back to.  Maybe even something as heavy handed as Quest Cards.  There is a bit of a mystery planned, though its much less Sherlock Holmes and more 24 in nature.  So anything to help the kids stay on track will be helpful.

Beyond this, I’ll be recycling a lot of the discarded NPC concepts from the 7th Sea game who fit much more snuggly within the walls of Paris than on the open seas.  Same plan: index cards, rough concepts that can be applied when needed, and actions instead of passive qualities.

It occurs to me that having a timeline of events would be helpful here too, and help drive the action without putting the heroes on a southbound train.

Final Words

I’ll revisit all of this after about a month of play and we’ll see how it goes.  As of right now, I’m pretty happy with the results and excited to.  Both games have plenty of room to surprise me, and that’s something I desperately want right now: the flexibility for everything to take a sharp left turn at Albequorque.  Nothing is safe, nothing is too sacred, and no one will be spared.

See you next week!

Merry Christmas

Everyone has a favorite Christmas song. Here’s mine.

But these are the two that really bring me back to my childhood.

Yes, I grew up weird. Shocking.

Merry Christmas from me and mine to you and your’s, and heartfelt good wishes and hopes that 2017 is…easier on all of us than 2016 has been.

High Seas Holiday (Reprise)

What?  You thought that was it?  A bunch of ship names you could have gathered yourself?

How about I raise you one Uncharted Island Generator?

Again, not claiming sole ownership on this one.  I’ve cobbled it together from several nice resources floating around out there.  I’ve included my sources and links.  So show these guys and gals some love this holiday.  They do great work!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

 

 

Oh, ok.  And here’s an Anatomy of a Ship and Nautical Terms document, too.  Merry Christmas!

More Halloween Dark

So after letting my issues uncovered by the Halloween Dark playtest percolate a bit, I’m very close to releasing a revision.  I’m hoping to have it all done by Friday, just in time for a fun weekend of Halloween gaming.  But before I put it out there, I could use some feedback.  So today I’m going to recap the issues and supply my proposed fixes.

Issue: The game needs a better refresh mechanic than “play a card, draw a card.”

Fix: A player may draw a new Trick or Treat card when she investigates a new Location.  This could be one she has never investigated, or one she has investigated before under different circumstances.  Characters that hide away in fortified bunkers do not get rewarded.  A player may never have more than three Trick or Treat cards in her hand unless specifically permitted by another card.

Commentary: This will hopefully solve the deck cycling issue and, to some degree, the lack of investigation.  Plus, it keeps players from hunkering down in the bunker and waiting for the action to blow over.  In addition, I’m going to add a handful of T/T cards that directly affect the refresh.  Here’s a preview:

Instant Karma (Trick): Exchange your hand of cards with another player at the table.  Your hands do not need to be equal.

Issue: Combat needs tightening up.  Monsters need to be much more threatening, and the choice of fight or flight needs to be much more definite.  

Fix: Fighting monsters works slightly different than other tasks.  Encounters with monsters are frightening affairs.  When a monster is encountered, compare its Threat Rating to the character’s current Panic level.  If the monster’s Threat is equal to or higher, the character immediately suffers a level of Panic.

When a character attacks a monster, the player rolls dice as usual but then must discard a number of dice equal to the Monster’s Threat Rating, starting with the highest rolls.  Any remaining dice results of 5 or 6 are considered “hits”.  

In combat, a monster can take a number of “hits” equal to it Threat score.  So a Threat 3 Werewolf can take three hits before being beaten.  What happens when the creature reaches 3 hits is entirely up to the Game Master, but usually it is forced to retreat or is killed.

If a character scores no hits in an fighting exchange, the player may choose to suffer a level of Panic OR Exhaustion.  If the character has no dice remaining due to the Monster’s Threat, he suffers a level of both Panic and Exhaustion.  Furthermore, some monster Schticks increase either or both the amount of Panic and/or Exhaustion suffered in an exchange (ie. Violence and Gore increases the Panic suffered by 1 level).

A character that is driven to 5 levels of either Panic OR Exhaustion (or both) is essentially dead.  They either lack the strength to fight further or are so mad with panic that they become easy prey for a determined adversary.

Commentary: This should model “fear checks” nicely without a lot of fuss.  Plus, as off the rails as play gets with dice and card play, taking away dice AFTER the roll seems a lot easier than doing the calculations before the roll.  I think having to discard your highest rolls will make the monsters seem a bit more terrifying psychologically.  Players get to drive the narrative a bit by choosing the type of “damage” their characters receive.

 

Issue: Panic and doing something Rash need some fine tuning.

Fix: When your Panic reaches 4, you are Panicked and roll one less die for any task. You may reduce your Panic level by Doing Something Rash. You break off from the group alone to do something quick, interrupt the ritual, destroy something sinister in the group’s possession (or a member of the group!), or wander into the dark room without a light source. Doing Something Rash always involves putting yourself (or someone else) at risk.  Each time you do this, roll your Fear Die. If you get less than your current Panic, decrease your Panic by the difference between the two.  So if you rolled a 1, you would reduce your Panic by 3 levels.

Commentary: This should make doing something rash a bit less haphazard.  Plus, with the new “fear check” mechanic, I expect the panic levels to be swinging around a lot more.  Doing something rash now has the potential for a much better pay off.  I’m not sure I’ll stick with the “roll low” aspect, though.  Maybe roll a d6 and reduce your Panic by half the result.  That would have essentially the same effect.  And yes, the only way your Panic level can be completely restored is with a T/T card.

If you have more elegant ideas or can see gaping holes in any of these approaches, please leave a comment.  Otherwise, watch for Halloween Dark v2.5 to hit this site later this week!

Halloween’s a Great Time for Clowning…

The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.

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RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES!  Clown hysteria has gripped the United States.  Creepy clowns seem to be showing up in every state, every city.  Did we just leapfrog over the zombie apocalypse?  Has Trump v Clinton driven people to the extreme?  I can’t tell you that.  Funny thing, the same thing happened back in the 50’s, in a little town in Missouri called Carthage…

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Joyland is a short, one-night scenario for Halloween Dark. Set in the early 1950s, a rash of disappearances coincided with numerous mysterious clown sightings.  Despite local law enforcement denials, many felt the two were connected.  The characters have come together to investigate an abandoned carnival park that seems to be at the center of the clown sightings.  But what they find is far more horrific than they can possibly imagine — if they survive Joyland, that is.

The scenario includes a complete location key of the fairgrounds, a map, as well as bonus trick or treat cards to tie into the killer clown theme.  Like the game itself, it’s a witches brew.  See something that doesn’t make sense?  That’s because you need to make up your own effect.  Why are they characters involved in the adventure?  All of the Pre-Gens have a reason, but you can just as easily come up with something on the fly.  How do you kill the big bad in the final encounter?  Let them figure something out.  You should be asking yourself how your players survived all those clowns!