Tag Archives: Tabletop RPG

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.

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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

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.

The End of an Era

First, a little musical accompaniment.

On Monday, May 15th, I ran my last game for the Lewisville Public Library.  It’s been a place I’ve visited almost every 1st and 3rd Monday for around 10 years.  I started out with a group of 4 running 50 Fathoms with Savage Worlds once a month.  At its height, probably about 5 years ago, we were averaging 12 players each session and running a game every Monday night.

 

Over the course of the last decade, scores of players have come and gone.  I’ve seen some kids start out in middle school, only to leave for college.  It’s been amazing.

During my tenure, those players have explored the worlds of 50 Fathoms, Castle Ravenloft, Athas (Dark Sun), 17th Century France (twice!), the Weird West of Deadlands, the Sword and Sandals world of Aros, the pirate-infested seas of Théah, a mysterious monster-filled island, an abandoned carnival haunted by evil clowns, Pinebox, Texas and East Texas University, the world of Warhammer 40k, the dungeons beneath Hogwarts, and the forelorn peaks of Moldavia and the Palace of the Vampire Queen.  I may be forgetting a few.  Most of these were played under Savage Worlds, but we also explored Ubiquity, Rogue Trader, Cthulhu Dark,  7th Sea, 4th edition and B/X Dungeons and Dragons for a time.

Since we are right on their doorstep, Reaper Miniatures came out three years in a row to run miniature painting workshops.  Each one was well attended by an enthusiastic bunch of teens who got a look into a different side of the hobby.

It’s not something I’ve done alone.  All along I’ve had the assistance of my close friend and co-GM, Joe, who was given the terrible task of being the unbiased, heartless tactical brains of many of the monstrosities the kids faced.  I’ve also had other GMs take part in the program, running games on my off nights.  Despite what you might think, none of those other GMs ever stuck around.  I don’t know if it was the stress of having to run a large group of relatively green (and sometimes rules-adverse) players or just the drudgery of having to show up.  For whatever reason, they didn’t get it.  If they understood the mission of the program, they never fell in love with it the way Joe and I did.

We outlasted THREE youth librarians who were wonderful ambassadors and understood what we were doing and gave us all the space we needed to do it.  They were always eager to print something up at the last minute, provide some prize support for some crazy contest, or invest in materials for the program.  See, we had a policy: come as you are; no materials or experience necessary.  You could play our games from the time you turned 11 til you graduated high school and never buy your own dice or rulebook.  We had everything covered.  And chances are, after the second year of the program, the Lewisville Public Library was footing the bill.

And they weren’t the only ones!  During our decade-long run, we’ve enjoyed support in the form of encouragement and materials from Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Triple Ace Games, Reaper Miniatures, and 12 to Midnight!  Even when I thought they’d be too busy, these people gave up their time and efforts to help us pull off some big project or contest.  These guys and gals are fantastic folks – if you aren’t supporting these companies, you should be!

Another highlight was presenting with Youth Librarian Elizabeth Hanisian at the 2011 Texas Library Association meeting in San Antonio as part of a panel on gaming in the library, then running a Savage Worlds demo for those who attended.  While the attendees were supposed to sample a little bit of everything being demoed, we became a lot of people’s last stop as their valiant musketeers carefully made their way through an old tenement crawling with monstrosities.

But things began to wind down in 2010 with the birth of my daughter.  Then, in 2012, just days before the birth of my son, we moved from Lewisville to Dallas proper, turning my 5 minute commute to a 40+ minute grind through rush out traffic.  In 2014, my co-GM was married and moved west of Fort Worth, making his commute (already an hour and change) all but impossible.  Then my parents’ health took a turn that required more attention.  So when the previous Youth Librarian Liaison told me she was leaving to pursue a teaching career, I knew it was time to call it a night.   After all, if you couldn’t tell from the activity around here, the kindergarten school schedule is brutal!

So Monday was our last game session.  We had a full group: 10 kids and 1 adult (a dad who used to game), and of those we had two whole families playing.  They put an end to an Unseelie unicorn, captured the head of an anarchist cell in Paris, and learned the identity of perhaps the most dangerous sorcerer in France!  And thanks to a convenient Christmas Sale at Triple Ace Games, I was able to put a hardcover copy of All For One: Regime Diabolique into the hands of a very excited 12 year old girl (she won 1st place in our adventure writing contest – and no, I wasn’t one of the judges) and told her the rest of the adventure was in her hands.

I’m not sure how many of these kids will still be rolling dice at the table in six years, but that really isn’t the point.  The point has always been to give a group of teens the kind of gaming experience I wish I had been able to have at their age.  Back when I was futzing around with world building for D&D but had no real idea how to run a game or manage a campaign.  Joe felt the same way, and we led by example.  We always encouraged, always looked for ways for the kids to contribute, and always tried to introduce them to different aspects of the hobby.  We showed them miniature painting, skirmish level wargaming, adventure design and world building.  We rewarded ever step.

Do I think some of these kids will become life long gamers?  I know at least one will.  That at least one person will fall in love with the hobby and build on it because of something we built.  And that makes all the hard work, all the late Monday commutes, all the collaborative sessions, all the investment worth it.

To all of you who helped, contributed, or managed a game for our program, THANK YOU!  To those of you who sat at the table, rolled dice and helped us tell some amazing stories, BRAVO! We hope you enjoyed every minute as much as we did.  To all of you who I’ve spoken with on this subject over the past decade, who was inspired to take a turn at running games for kids at the public library, ROCK ON!  To anyone who is reading this and thinking, damn that sounds like something I should do, DO IT!  It’s a labor of love that pays off if you have patience and drive to nurture it and grow it.

It has been a fantastic and fun 10 years.  But that era must now give way to something new.

riding_off_into_the_sunset

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.

Kult: Divinity Lost Quick Start

kult DL

It’s been awhile since we talked about the new edition of Kult.  Well the developers threw us a curve ball over the holidays and released a Quick Start game for everyone, not just the Kickstarter backers.  It’s our first real look at the new engine that will power this brilliant, dark setting.

Not all responses have been positive.  Most of the negative comes from folks who already reviled the move to a Powered by the Apocalypse engine, so keep that in perspective.  Personally, I have my own hangups about that system, but I’ll keep an open mind until I’ve had a chance to look over what they’ve done.  And as a first look, I think its safe to assume the full body of rules are still under development/translation.  The final version will not satisfy everyone, but for anyone who has enjoyed the setting since its release in the 1990’s, it’s enough to have Kult taking up oxygen again.  It’s easy enough to adapt to any of dozens of RPG flavors, and the presentation of the new edition looks top notch.

I didn’t back the kickstarter, mostly because it launched around the same time as 7th Sea and I just don’t see my group signing up to play Kult on a regular basis.  But I’m still looking forward to the final product and it’s high on my 2017 list.  And I’m eager to look over the QSR once the madness of the holidays settles down.

One more thing, over on RPG.net, Adramelech has posted a form fillable character sheet based on the one in the QSR.  I’ve reposted the link here for convenience.