Sunday, March 12, 2017

Boldly Go Character Art

Dave Woodward from Badgerlord Studios is a wonderful, talented artist who is quick, takes direction, and has reasonable rates! He is also a super-cool guy to LARP with!

Dave was kind enough to help me with my art needs for Boldly Go, that game that I talk about almost constantly, but which hasn't yet been released. However, with the way Dave produces art, the theoretical release date for the game draws ever closer.

Today, I'd like to present the portraits that Dave has done for some of the game's "iconic" characters. These characters are the crew of the game's iconic ship, SFS Oswego, and they feature prominently in all the rules examples provided throughout the book. There's even a few continuing narratives in the examples, for those of you who, like me, might like that kind of thing.


Our first character is the first character I ever designed, Security Officer Janine Tarian. She's a brash, slightly-overconfident human security officer of Iranian descent. She believes that there's nothing, whether in space or planetside, that she can't handle and, as far as anyone can tell, she's been 100% right about that so far. In play, she has been known to leap face-first into dangerous situations and to blast raysers straight out of her opponents' hands.


Our second character is Omolara Namuyangu who, funnily enough, isn't the first sample character that I've designed who has been named Omolara. I think it's because Omolara is a really pretty name.

This Omolara is the Chief Science Officer on board the Oswego. She grew up in Fort Portal, Uganda, and is known for her stoic seriousness, determination, and resolve. She once saved the crew of the Oswego from a deadly disease while suffering from the disease herself. When she's not reading up on the latest scientific discoveries or working with the crew to analyze new samples and species, she can be found in the Oswego's gym, running laps on the track.

I am very, very pleased with how Dave has chosen to render my characters. He has captured their personalities, done a wonderful job on the uniforms and gear, and has made them really stand out, both in their own right and from one another. My favorite detail, so far, is the Space Fleet insignia, which is worn as a uniform belt buckle instead of as a badge. The starship even has ye olde timey porthole on it, for maximum sci-fi goodness.

There are more crewmembers to come, so watch this space!

Friday, March 10, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes

Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes is a game that bills itself on being an adventure game in which you can play the three eponymous things from the title, as well as pretty much any other "modern day" type of character. Happily, it also dips its toes into the pulp pool, giving rules on making characters with psychic powers and providing a whole section on running a Lost World campaign. Including stats for dinosaurs! Pretty spiffy!

MSPE, as the game is more acronymically known, is based on the rules for Tunnels & Trolls. It eschews T&T's 5-gallon-bucket-of-d6s rolling mechanic in favor of a much easier, more straightforward one based off of it's primogenitor's saving roll mechanic. Briefly: Roll 2d6, if you get doubles, roll again and add, add the total to one of your stats, meet or beat that number on a chart to succeed. MSPE, unlike T&T, also has an extensive skills system, it's entirely possible this is where T&T got its Specialties rules for future incarnations of itself.

The mechanics of this game are also going to be super familiar to anyone who is old enough or retro enough to have played the old Wasteland computer game, as the skill mechanics are pretty much a direct port.

Character creation starts off nice and familiar. You get a list of attributes. You roll 3d6 for each. You place them in order. MSPE uses T&T's TARO rule (Triples Add and Roll Over) with a modification. If you get a triple on an attribute (three fours, for instance), you get to roll two additional dice and add that to the base total. Thus, the possible maximum for attributes is 30--big enough that truly exceptional characters are possible, but with a much lower ceiling than T&T or Power Trip.

Once again, no idea what I'm going to make. I'm just going to roll. Let's see now...Strength 8...Luck 6...Uh...Intelligence 14, that's good...Dexterity 11...Constitution 10...Charisma 18!

Wait! 18 is three sixes! I rolled a triple! I get to roll two more dice. Holy meatballs! My character's Charisma is 27! I don't think I've ever played anyone as drop-dead sexy as this person before in my life.

Oh, and Speed 9.

I calculate my derived attributes and discover that I am not going to be doing very much in the way of fighting. You get +1 to your adds for every point of St, Lk, and Dex over 12...and -1 for every point below 9. This gives me a total of -4 adds. My missile combat adds are based solely off my Luck, so I get a -3 there. Definitely lover material, this person!

I get 3d6x100 starting cash. The problem in this game isn't that I don't have enough money to buy things, it's that I don't have enough things to buy. There are extensive (like, Palladium-level extensive) lists of various types of weapons, but not much in the way of general equipment. I do get to purchase a sword cane, though! And I also buy a leather jacket to give myself a nominal amount of protection.

When it comes to the game, it seems like Intelligence (IQ) is the most important attribute. You get a number of skill points equal to your IQ and all skills are rated based on IQ. Thus, if I had an IQ of 8, I couldn't buy any skills that had a prerequisite of IQ 9 or higher. This means that you won't have any dullards that are PhD candidates or doctors, but it can also be severely limiting as far as making characters goes. There also doesn't seem to be any real way to improve your IQ during the game to get more skills, though there's a lengthy paragraph about how you can lose IQ (and skills) from brain damage.

You can buy multiple ranks in a skill. According to the book, the cost doubles each time. The book then lists this cost as 1,3,7, which I don't think quite maths right, but I get what they're saying. When you make a save roll where a skill comes into play, you get to add your skill rank to your total. Interestingly, this game explicitly states that skills are not tied to attributes. What this means is that you could use your knowledge of guns to be better at firing guns, to do forensic analysis of ballistics, to build your own gun, or similar.

That's just the sort of thing I like in my spy adventure games!

I whipped through the skills section and bought all of the Charisma-heavy skills first. Then I went back and grabbed a few other skills to round out the character and make him more interesting. I think he's a brilliant, very handsome, persuasive, Italian gentleman who was recruited to some agency or another for his interpersonal skills. I bought no fighting skills and am hoping on his glib tongue and quick wits to save him.

What a shock, it's another Geoff Bottone character...

Paulo Navino, Handsome Gentleman

Attributes
Strength
8
Level
1
Luck
6
Gender
Male
Intelligence
14
Nationality
Spanish
Dexterity
11
Race
Iberian/N African
Constitution
10
Age
35
Charisma
27(!)
Height/Weight
5’10”/190 lb
Speed
9
Money
$610

Skills
Combat
Melee Adds -4
Ranged Adds -3
IQ 4
Horsemanship 1
IQ 8
Chic 1
Fast Driving 1
IQ 10
Bureaucracy Mastery 1
Confidence 1
Diplomacy 1
Elocution 1
Gambling 1
Seduction 1
IQ 12
Disguise 1
Master’s Degree 1
Observation 1
IQ 13
English (Free)
Castilian Spanish 1
IQ 14
Psychiatrist

Equipment
Sword Cane $90, 3 dice
Leather Jacket $100, absorbs 1 die of damage from each attack.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Lords of Creation

Lords of Creation is a role-playing game that I purchased thanks to something that combined an idle whim and bit of the butterfly effect. To wit: I was looking up funny gaming stories on the internet and found a whole bunch written by a gentleman, whose name escapes me, but who is quite an excellent writer. The games he described were singularly awful occurrences--involving an adventure in which the players were supposed to help Hitler, truly psychotic fellow players, and a basement covered in toxic mold--so bad and distasteful that I really, really hope he was making them up.

Anyway, he mentioned in these stories that he played Lords of Creation quite a bit (in fact, many of the gaming stories centered around LoC games). I had never heard of this game, but it sounded interesting. And so, I proceeded to buy the entirety of the game line from a seller on Ebay (it includes a box set for the rules, as well as three boxed sets for each of the game modules, including: The Horn of Roland, The Yeti Sanction, and Omegakron).

I read it and really liked what I found. The game is somewhat universal, very flexible, and has a lot of interesting ideas and mechanics sprinkled throughout. It is laid out somewhat poorly, but that has more to do with the technological limitations of the time than it does with any failure on the part of the game designer. 

The premise is simple: You are a normal person from late-20th century Earth. You go on adventures, as is typical, gaining experience and treasure and all that fun stuff. Over time, you begin to discover that you have strange powers--powers that allow you to travel to different times and dimensions. You will eventually master these powers, ascending to semi-demi-godhood as a Lord of Creation (title drop!), able to build worlds and shape reality to your whim!

Neat!

As is typical with my play-style, I went in without a character concept and just started rolling. The game has five stats, each of which are rolled on 2d10. The higher your stats, the bigger your modifiers to your secondary stats. Most secondary stats start out at 1 or 2, but could conceivably get a lot bigger once your stats go up as you ascend to godhood. The only one that's slightly different is Luck Roll, which is the modifier + a 1d6 roll.

My Physical Score is the average of my three physical stats, and is my base chance to hit in combat (1d20 roll, roll under).  

My Physical Force appears to be the most important of my stats, as it determines when I get special powers, how far I can drop to negative Life Points without dying, and how many skill ranks I start with. It's the total of my stats, divided by ten, round up.

I get to roll 1d100x10 for my starting cash, which is, I think, the most I've been allowed to roll for cash thus far (and it's still not enough!). The equipment tables, I soon discovered, are divided in to three time periods: Modern, in which all prices are listed in dollars; Futuristic, in which all prices are listed in credits; and Antique, in which all prices are listed in silver centums (a coin, not a multivitamin). To make things easy, the game says that all money is equal (so $50 = 50 c = 50SC). As most of the futuristic gear costs many thousands of credits, that doesn't help me much. Still, good to know.

My Life Points are a total of my Stamina + 1d10 per level. Since I'm first level, I get one die roll. And I rolled really well! How about that!

As a first level Lords of Creation character, I get the title of Neophyte. I don't have the option to get powers yet (that happens at second level) and above, but I do get an ability called Dimensional Sight. This ability allows me to see other-dimensional creatures that are otherwise invisible, such as ghosts and certain monsters. So, even though I am effectively a normal person, I can already see and do some weird things.

On to skills! This is my favorite part of the rules system and something I may steal for one of my own games in the future (sorry, Mr. Moldvay!). There are 20 or so skill professions, each of which have five skill ranks. Some ranks are marked with a *, which means that I can't take them to start. As most of those skills are listed as futuristic or magical, this is another way that the game forces players to start as a normie, unaware of the vast weirdness of the cosmos. All skill ranks cost 1 point, but I have to buy them in order. I can o

For example, the Detective Profession looks like this:
  1. Police Connections
  2. Basic Criminology
  3. Wiretapping
  4. Advanced Criminology
  5. Futuristic/Magical*
In most cases, if I have a skill, I can use it and it works automatically. "I talk to my Police Connections!" "Great, you sure do!" In the event that I'm using a skill in an unorthodox way, or I'm using it in difficult circumstances, the GM will have me roll. In familiar circumstances, my percentage chance to succeed is 20% x my top rank in my profession (so, if I was Detective -- 4, I'd have an 80% chance to succeed). In very weird circumstances, it's 10% x top rank (same example, 40%).

Combat skills are the only skills that work differently. You have to buy combat skills in specific weapons and they range from 1-5. I could have Sword -- 2, or Ray Gun --3, or similar. This adds to my base chance to hit (determined by my Physical Score).

At this point, I had looked at all the professions and decided that I would make a character who was as unlike me as possible. Thus was born Jeff Barton, Handsome Male Secretary! I spread my six stats out between Bureaucracy, Computer, Espionage, and Pilot (Jeff Barton, HMS, has some interesting skeletons in his closet, for sure!) and was just about ready to go.

Then I decided to buy some gear, just so I could show you how weapons and armor work. I decided that, unlike me, Jeff Barton is interested in medieval fighting styles, so I spent a good chunk of his money on a sword and a steel cuirass. As mentioned above, my weapon skill (IF I HAD ONE!!!) would improve my chances to hit. As you'd expect, my armor reduces my opponent's chance to hit me, giving them a -4 to their base chance.

And thus a mild-mannered, but very handsome, secretary is ready to take his first steps into a larger, weirder world.

Jeff Barton, Handsome Male Secretary
Level 1 Neophyte

Muscle
5
Close Com Dmg
1
Speed
16
Initiative Bonus
2
Stamina
13
Healing
2
Mental
9
Power Mod
1
Luck
13
Luck Roll
6

Life Points: 23
Personal Force: 6
Physical Score: 12
Base Move: 60’/turn 

Powers
None

Abilities
Dimensional Sight

Skill Professions
Bureaucracy – 3
1.      Record Keeping
2.      Record Tracking
3.      Bribery

Computer – 1
1.      Computer Operation

Espionage – 1
1.      Government Connections

Pilot – 1
1.      Land Vehicle

Equipment
Steel Cuirass (Armor Protection -4), Sword (Regular Weapon; Damage: 1d10; Initiative: +2)

Money: $320

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Misadventures of Mr. Foppish, Rabbit Extraordinaire

I've written a lot of LARP lore and in-game documentation in my time. I'd like to think that they're all reasonably good and interesting, but some of them are definitely better than others. Only a handful have made it into my favorites pile, however.

This is one such piece of lore. It's a series of several BGAs (between game actions), in which a player read several different chapters of The Misadventures of Mr. Foppish. Ostensibly a children's book, it can actually teach the reader advanced Viramancy (disease magic), if they know what they're doing and read between the lines. What follows are the silly stories I wrote--the special skills that the player could learn are in another document, to which I do not have access.

You can see that I got increasingly into writing the stories as I went along...


NB: The stories have been slightly edited for punctuation, spelling, and grammar, and also to pad out the running hat gag to it's natural conclusion.


BGA: Reading the Misadventures of Mr. Foppish

On the surface, this book is merely a collection of whimsical tales centering on the adventures of one Aloysius X. Foppish, Esq., a lepus of considerable means. The tales are simplistic, but engagingly written and entertaining. Much of the action revolves around the titular character’s preening self-importance and vanity, and how those character flaws tend to get him into a great deal of mischief. Fortunately for Mr. Foppish, he is surrounded by a number of animal friends of sturdier personality, who frequently assist him when his schemes come to their ill-conceived ends.

To the trained eye, the book is much more than a series of amusing anecdotes about a rabbit squire. Woven deftly into the text are instructions on techniques of advanced Viramancy. The first story, “Rompknoll’s Banquet,” provides a lesson on one such technique, which appears to be the basis upon which most of the subtler aspects of the Viramancer’s art are based.

At the beginning of the story, much is made of the strong bonds between Mr. Foppish and his rabbit friends. The author writes that Foppish and his cohorts have even developed a series of secret signs such that they can easily identify and communicate with one another.

This proves to be the key point upon which the story hinges. Rompknoll (depicted in one of the book’s many lavish illustrations as a cloaked and hooded badger), playing to Mr. Foppish’s considerable ego, tricks the squire into gambling away the rights to his estate. Mr. Foppish, cast into exile from his familial lands, can only watch in horror as Rompknoll moves into his posh warren and invites all manner of sycophantic hangers-on to celebrate in a decadent (and inheritance-annihilating) masked banquet.

Mr. Foppish, the reader learns, is not particularly clever. He does, however, have a number of friends who are clever. By means of his friends' secret signs (as described previously), he is able to locate and communicate with his loyal companions and infiltrate the masquerade party. Thanks to the strength of the bonds with his friends, the level-headed thinking of the fetching Ms. Stoat, the sacrifice of Mr. Foppish's favorite hat, and the timely inversion of a soup tureen, Mr. Foppish drives out the ne’er do wells, punishes the wicked Rompknoll, and reclaims his ancestral home.

BGA: Reading The Adventures of Mr Foppish, Rabbit Extraordinaire

The saga of Aloysius X. Foppish, lepus of means, continues in the second story, "the Kapelo of Kendello." The story opens on the eve of a most excellent party, hosted by one Mr. Vole, whose wealth and taste rivals those of our hero. Everyone who is everyone has gotten an invitation to the soiree, and all are expected to wear their very best.

Mr. Foppish, consumed by vanity, wants to wear something so fantastically fashionable that it will put the haberdashery of all the other party-goers to shame. After trying on everything in his considerable wardrobe, and visiting more than a half-dozen tailors, Mr. Foppish despairs of finding anything suitable. That is, until an owl apprentice-tailor of unsavory disposition reveals to our hero the location of the Kapelo of Kendello.

The Kapelo is described as a hat of singular appearance. The lavish illustration that accompanies the story depicts it as being utterly festooned with feathers, bells, gemstones, fans, lace, crenelations, and buttresses. It is locked away, of course, in the ruins of an old weasel warren. Mr. Foppish's quest to acquire the hat for his party costume takes him across muddy rivers and through thorny hedges, causes the absolute destruction of his second-favorite hat, and lasts a full eight pages.

Mr. Foppish emerges with the Kapelo squashed firmly down on his aristocratic pate. Buoyed up by the opulence and uniqueness of his new accouterments, he hopes to be quite the sensation at Mr. Vole's party. And he is. Alas, far from being the belle of the ball, Mr. Foppish is reduced to a laughingstock--the Kapelo being so hideously ridiculous that the entire populace of the gala is reduced to hysterical fits.

Mr. Foppish's plight is further magnified by the fact that he cannot remove the Kapelo. This is illustrated by means of a humorous drawing, in which the lepus attacks his hat with a fire poker, to no avail. After the laughter has died down, the other party guests seek to help Mr. Foppish with his problem. The levelheaded Ms. Stoat soon discovers that if she offers her own hat to Mr. Foppish, she can remove the Kapelo and put it on her own head.

This leads to a scene reminiscent of a fire brigade, in which the party-goers all line up to exchange hats, passing the Kapelo out across the dance floor, and through the doors to the garden. It comes to rest, at last, on the statue of Mr. Vole's late father, which dominates the garden. Mr. Vole himself must briefly contend with weight of the statue's stone hat, but otherwise, the tale ends on an positive note.

BGA: Reading my bunny book again.

The chronicles of Aloysius X. Foppish, distinguished lepus and squire-about-town, continues in the third story, "Mr. Foppish's Pocket Watch." The eponymous watch is a treasured heirloom of the Foppish family, handed down from father to son for generations, and quite highly prized by the current Mr. Foppish.

The story opens with Mr. Foppish bored of the staid pursuits of polite society. Desirous of action of a rougher and more common fare, he journeys to a tavern down by the wharves that is frequented by a "certain class of individual."Though initially wary of the salt-of-the-earth types that frequent this establishment, Mr. Foppish finds himself quickly accepted into their ranks. Within half a page, Mr. Foppish and a company of weasels are carousing and drinking by the fire.

Talk soon turns to gambling, and Mr. Foppish finds dice pressed into his manicured paw. The steady flow of drink, along with a string of quite improbable luck, puts Mr. Foppish into such high spirits that he bets every bit of wealth in his possession on a final throw of the dice. He loses his wallet, his fine ascot pin, his third-favorite hat, his riding cloak and, of course, the pocket watch. Left completely destitute, and without funds to pay his considerable tab, Mr. Foppish is ejected into the streets post-haste by a pair of badger dock hands.

Mr. Foppish slogs home, only to be discovered on the roadside by the winsome and charming Ms. Stoat. With some wrangling, she coaxes the whole story from him and, infuriated by the cunning of her distant, lowborn cousins, concocts a plan whereby Mr. Foppish might regain his family honor and heirlooms.

After a whirlwind tour of a late-night haberdashery, as well as by a convenient encounter with a troupe of mummers, Ms. Stoat disguises herself and Mr. Foppish as two lowborn weasels of sullen demeanor. This is, of course, much easier for Ms. Stoat than it is for Mr. Foppish, but so long as he keeps his watch cap tight upon his ears, none shall be the wiser.

They return to the dockside tavern and infiltrate the sneak of weasels, finding them still laughing over their easy victory of the foolish young squire. It is here revealed that the weasels have conned Mr. Foppish by cunning use of a pair of loaded dice, which are hollowed out and inhabited by two dormice of the criminal underclass, who, by virtue of a cunning system of pulleys, can make the dice roll however they desire. The two dormice and their dice disguises are illustrated.

This admission so enrages Mr. Foppish that he lets fly with fisticuffs at the rapscallions! A move which, as anyone who knows of the ferocity of weasels can tell you, is extremely ill-advised. His disguise in disarray, himself pinned against the crude, stone hearth, it is only the timely intervention of Ms. Stoat, a lantern, a pair of tin forks, and the noble sacrifice of Mr. Foppish's third-favorite hat that saves the day.

In the aftermath, the squire and his lady friend flee out into the rising dawn, the pocket watch restored to its rightful owner.

BGA: The Misadventures of Mr. Foppish, Rabbit Extraordinaire

The escapades of Aloysius X. Foppish, Esq., a lepus of means, continues in this next tale, entitled, "Madam Stuffley-Ermine's Annual Garden Social and Tea-Tasting Extravaganza." It opens with our eponymous squire boarding a carriage, bound for the party of the year. Seated across from him is a huge and lumpy parcel, enmeshed in canvas and lashed into the carriage with taut cords. As Mr. Foppish urges the coachmouse to greater haste, he gives his parcel a loving pat. This, he is sure, will simply dazzle Madame Stuffley-Ermine and her esteemed guests.

Mr. Foppish arrives fashionably late and begins making the rounds. The author spends a great deal of time describing the exquisite arrangements of flowers, all put together by Madam Stuffley-Ermine and the lesser, unnamed members of the Garden Club. Fully a page is dedicated to the description of the tea-tasting gazebo, with its porcelain pots arranged in such a way that the jets of steam issuing from their spouts fill the air with a complex tannic bouquet.

These florid descriptions are accompanied by a two-page illustration showing the garden grounds, with the gazebo in the center. Two working-class rats dominate the foreground as they haul Mr. Foppish's mysterious package to a central table.

The parcel, Mr. Foppish proudly exclaims, is a rare, succulent plant that grows only in a far-off shard. With thumbs in his lapels, he struts before the heavily laden table, informing a now rapturous crowd that he has spared no research or expense in bringing the wondrous plant to his estate. With a flourish, he slices the restraining cords and whisks off the canvas, to reveal a monstrosity of leaves, tubers, thorns, spines, spires, fruits, barbs, and rhizomes. The crowd oohs and aaahs in appreciation.

Mr. Foppish, lost in the praise of the crowd and his own exposition, swats the body of the strange plant with a proud paw. At the impact, the plant begins to quake and tremble, to such an alarming degree that the now fearful party-goers begin to take cover behind ribbon-covered tables and decorative hedges. Our beloved squire, alas, is oblivious to their retreat, and slaps the plant once more as his speech reaches a crescendo.

At that, the plant detonates, firing volleys of spines and barbs in all directions. Teapots shatter. Flower bulbs explode. Guests scurry to the deeper parts of the garden, while vicious thorns hiss and buzz all around them. Several, alas, find their mark, ruining fine garments and causing any flesh that they penetrate to both swell to hilarious proportions and turn a fetching shade of magenta. Mr. Foppish's fourth-favorite hat meets an ignominious demise, first perforated, then impaled upon the breast of a garden statue.

Whilst cowering tactically beneath the gazebo, Mr. Foppish discovers the hiding place of the fetching Ms. Stoat. The always present-minded Ms. Stoat enlists Mr. Foppish's aid in a daring plan involving a biscuit tray, sugar tongs, a chafing dish, and two heaping fistfuls of Dyrel's Lace. In a climactic, enchantingly-illustrated scene, Mr. Foppish's left arm and right leg are wounded and double in size and the troublesome tuber is reduced to harmless pulp.

In a satisfying denouement, Madam Stuffley-Ermine puts on her most regal airs and, with the help of her dozen amphibian tea-butlers, brews a soothing draught that takes the sting out of even the most embarrassing of the wounds, restoring everyone, including Mr. Foppish, to normal.

The story ends on a sad note, with our favorite lepus banned from all major social gatherings for the next year. As illustrated in a final picture, Mr. Foppish sits at the curb outside of the Stuffley-Ermine estate, riddled hat upon his head, a wreath of ruined flowers crammed down over his shoulders. The lovely Ms. Stoat, immaculately coiffed despite the trouble, offers him a hot cup of tea.

BGA: The Misadventures of Mr. Foppish, Rabbit Extraordinaire

The adventures of Mr. Foppish, our much-beloved squire, conclude in this final tale, entitled, “The Marriage of Mr. Foppish.” Herein we learn that the goodly folk of the town have decided that Mr. Aloysius X. Foppish, Esq., being a single lepus in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. That such a thing has never occurred to Mr. Foppish proves to be no barrier for the elderly Widow Stellarmole, whose proclivities for matchmaking are known to all and sundry.

Once the Widow Stellarmole has set her sights upon the bachelorhood of Mr. Foppish, there is nothing our poor lepus can do to shake her off the scent. Every garden party turns into a series of interviews with hopeful ladies. Every walk in the park leads to ambush by the Widow, armed with a sachet of headache-inducing perfume and an armload of ladies’ visiting cards. A short trip to a haberdasher’s to claim his newly-blocked, fifth-favorite hat turns into a convoluted chase in which several young ladies, spurred on by the Widow, endeavor to be the first to invite him to the Autumn Ball.

Midway through this chase, which is charmingly illustrated across the bottom of two facing pages, Mr. Foppish happens to bump into the fetching and clever Ms. Stoat. This has the unfortunate effect of scattering her parcels and his hat across the lane, which necessitates a brisk and comedic retrieval in the face of the advancing horde of potential paramours.

The end of the chase finds Mr. Foppish and Ms. Stoat (each wearing the other’s hat) hiding in the stables on his estate. Despite both their heightened emotions, the pair’s mutual respect for one another, and the repeated mention of both the Autumn Ball and Ms. Stoat’s complete availability to attend said Ball, the obvious questions go unasked.

A short time later, we discover Mr. Foppish out on a very careful walk in the early morning hours, the better to avoid the machinations of the Widow Stellarmole. On his sojourn, he happens across the path of a Ms. Larkpeak, a gentlerabbit of bewitching demeanor. He is so entranced by her presence that he spends hours in the park with her, too enchanted to flee at the first sight of a happily sighing Widow Stellarmole.

Several pages are devoted to the courtly romance of Mr. Foppish and his new paramour. A gown for the Autumn Ball is ordered. The social scene is taken by storm. The winsome and cheery Ms. Stoat is by turns less cheery, for she sees something rather untoward in the blossoming relationship. Ms. Larkpeak is not at all kind to Mr. Foppish, frequently upbraiding and mocking him when she thinks no one can hear. Curious, concerned, and driven by emotions hitherto unexplored, Ms. Stoat does some investigating on her dear friend's behalf. She discovers Ms. Larkpeak has taken steps to gain control over Mr. Foppish's finances and holdings. All that remains to seal the deal is for him to take her paw in marriage.

Despite being confronted with these accusations and piles of accompanying evidence, Mr. Foppish seems only too ready to discount the advice of his levelheaded friend. Gravely concerned now, and suspecting the most despicable of sorceries, Ms. Stoat prepares to go to war. Her plan involves nothing less than a peach-colored gown, a diamond hair pin, pretty but extremely comfortable dancing shoes, an invitation to the Autumn Ball, and a pouch containing fine dust that is proof against all enchantments.

Another pair of facing pages is given over to a lavish illustration of the Autumn Ball. Everyone is there in their finery, including the teary-eyed Widow Stellarmole, who has caught the attention of a stammering elder frog. Dominating the picture are the handsome lepus and his paramour, dancing beneath a sky full of strange stars.

After the first dance, our beloved lepus tinkles his knife upon his glass and asks for everyone's attention. He proclaims that, after much thought, he has asked Ms. Larkpeak to join him in matrimony. The guests are agog. The Widow Stellarmole cannot leave off of joyous weeping. Ms. Stoat, pragmatic as always, takes this opportunity to approach the blushing bride-to-be and upend the contents of the pouch upon her head.

The lady vanishes in a puff of smoke, standing revealed as the duplicitous badger Rompknoll! There follows a brief digression, refreshing the reader's memory about the first story in the book, in which the villainous Rompknoll makes his initial appearance. Then, chaos! The villain attempts to flee, widows clutch their hearts and implore the gods to mercy, scandalized guests scream and point, a diamond hair pin is wielded to good effect in a desperate duel, and a young squire of means drinks down several glasses of wine in too-rapid succession.

At the end of the most memorable Autumn Ball in a century, the villain is carted away in chains, leaving the very sheepish Mr. Foppish standing quite close to the blushing and vindicated Ms. Stoat. After a fumbling of courtesy, the two come together for the final dance, a gesture which makes the Widow Stellarmole faint with joy. The book closes on this final scene, with the future of our dear lepus unknown, but decidedly bright.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Star Frontiers

Star Frontiers! A game that I almost played once.

Way, way back in 6th grade, my friend Damian decided that he wanted to run Star Frontiers. We spent a whole afternoon making characters and then...never played, because kids are like that. One thing I remember from this time is that we were famously bad at the rules for all RPGs (well, okay, D&D), and no firmer example of this was the character generation section for this game. Damian allowed me to roll up a Sathar, an NPC-only race who are the canonical bad guys of the setting.

This time period was also illustrative of what a dink I was as a small child, because Damian told me that I had a secret power that would be revealed in-game, and I kept pestering him to tell me what that power was. We never played, so it was moot, but that was still really obnoxious of me.

On this attempt at character creation, I decided to limit myself to one of the characters from the four actual PC species. These include Humans (yawn), Dralasites (sapient blob people), Vrusk (cool bug people with centipede bodies), and Yazirians (violent, gliding monkeys that have to wear goggles). I was on the fence until I saw this bon mot in the advanced rulebook:

Dralasites are widely known for their strange sense of humor. They love old jokes and puns that make Humans groan. Many Human comedians who could not find work in Human cities have become rich performing on Dralasite worlds.

Punslinging blob critter? Sold.

Star Frontiers character generation consists of rolling d100 and looking up the results on a chart. This is similar (though slightly different from) the other TSR non-D&D games of the period, which makes me think that TSR could have come out with a universal role-playing system in the early 80s if they had wanted to and if that was, you know, a thing that people had conceived of at the time. It's too bad, really, because they could have had a genre-hopping game of gunslingers, spies, gangsters, archaeologists, and space adventure, to name but a few. How epic would that have been?

Anywho, there are four groups of paired stats in the game. Each paired stat shares a single number. Your species gives you bonuses to one number pair and also gives you a penalty to one numbered pair. Humans get a +5 bonus to one stat in their pair (so their Strength/Stamina could be 55/50), but receive no penalties. After you've rolled your stats and applied modifiers, you can opt to move up to 10 points from one paired stat to another. (I could have had an Intellect/Logic of 30/50 if I had wanted to).

Stamina's your hit points. Weapons do a lot of damage in this game, and armor appears to be mostly ablative. Armor is also stupid expensive, so I couldn't afford any. Yikes.

Dralasites get two special abilities: Detect Lie at 5% and Elasticity. Elasticity's description is very long, but boils down to my being able to grow a maximum of Dex/10 limbs. I have control of them all, but one of them must be my "dominant" limb (I'm fifth-handed!) and, no matter how many limbs I have, I can still only use two weapons at a time. Also, the veins and ridges in my rubbery, protoplasmic body cannot be changed and provide an identification akin to fingerprints. So much for committing the perfect crime.

Skill are a little wonky and take quite a bit of time to explain. The gist of it is that there are three main categories (Military, Technology, Biosocial). At the start of the game, you pick your primary focus and get one skill from that group. You may then pick a skill from any of the other two categories. All skills have sub-skills and, if you pick a skill, you get all it's sub-skills too. This was nice, because I decided to pick Medicine and was dismayed when I misunderstood and thought I'd have to buy each sub-skill on its own. All skills are rated at base percentage + 10 x skill level percentage, and skills have a maximum rating of 6.

Oh, and I picked Weapon Skills from the Military category, because this is an 80s game and I am going to be shooting at things. This gives me proficiency with a bunch of the basic weapon types, which is handy. I feel like I put in 5% of the effort that I did making my Star Trek characters, and my Dralasite still feels competent and well-rounded.

I get d100 + 250 credits to buy my initial possessions with, so I proceeded to the equipment list in the advanced character generation section and found that everything was stupefyingly expensive. For instance, a med kit costs 500 credits, which is 150 more credits than I could possibly start with. How was I supposed to do medicine without a med kit?! Gaah!

It was then that I learned that a starting character could opt to spend 250 credits to get basic gear (Which comes with a first aid pack. Yes!). This gave me some money left over to buy a (very cheap) weapon. I picked up a vibroknife and am hoping that I get a lot more credits before I get into a fight.

Onivan Eht’eulb, Dralasite Physician

Strength/Stamina: 55
Intellect/Logic: 40
Dexterity/Reaction Speed: 45
Personality/Leadership: 55

Initiative Modifier: 5 (RS/10 round up)

Special Abilities:  5% chance to Detect Lie, Elasticity
  
Biosocial Skills: Administer Drugs 100%, Diagnosis 70%, First Aid 100%, Minor Surgery 50%, Major Surgery 30%, Controlling Infection 60%, Curing Diseases 50%, Neutralizing Toxins 40%, Activating Freeze Fields 40%.

Military Skills: Gyrojet 33%, Melee 33%, Projectile 33%, Thrown 33%.

Equipment
Credits: 42 (auspicious!)
Standard Equipment Pack: Chronograph/Communicator, Coveralls, Dose Grenade, First Aid Pack
Vibroknife: 2d10 +5 to hit

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Mystwood LARP

It's been a while since I've made up a LARP character...so here's a LARP character.

Mystwood is a game that I occasionally play up in Maine. It currently has two chapters, Mystwood: The Keep, which runs in Jefferson, ME, and Mystwood: Burgundar, which runs in Harrison, ME. The two games are interlinked and share continuity, which means that you can take a break from the Keep and hang out with the Norsemen, or vice versa.

Mystwood is what I like to call a "day in the life" LARP. Player characters are, for the most part, regular people, with day jobs and professional skills that they can use to improve the town. The game is a continuing LARP (meaning that it runs forever and doesn't build up to some kind of apocalyptic end-game), but the staff runs numerous overlapping Chronicles that provide the requisite amount of adventure and excitement.

One of my favorite things about the game is character generation and progression. To start with, you get to buy ranks in one or more gifts. These gifts give you adventure-y type abilities, such as weapon skills, magic spells, summoning bolts of power, and so on. Then you get to pick your profession from a list. Your profession will give you income, appropriate skills, and crafting skills. If you have the ability to use magic (because of your gifts), then your profession might also give you spells.

You can round out your character with some advantages and flaws, if you like, and you can choose to be devoted to one of the three divinities of the misty wood: Justice, Mercy, or the Wild.

My actual-factual character is a chap named Enoch Smith, a vampire (with a small v--being a Vampire in Mystwood gets you murderstabbed) gravedigger with a deep and abiding faith in the Wild. I could just present him here, but I feel that doesn't abide by the spirit of the arbitrary rules of this challenge, so I decided to make a new character from scratch.

The character I chose to make is actually an NPC character I played at a Mystwood one-day event a couple of weekends ago. The character had a name, a job, and a personality, but with no stats, so this is my opportunity to flesh him out and make him look like a player character. I'm going to have to cheat a little bit, since getting the character to where I want him to be requires that I take an Advanced Profession.

My character was Quintus, chamberlain of House Titus. The closest profession that fits my character concept is the Advanced Profession: Steward.  In order to qualify for an Advanced Profession, I would need to first acquire resources during the game. In most cases, all I would need is money, but for Steward, I need to find a wealthy patron to support me and give me a job. If Quintus was a real PC, I'd have to start at the bottom with a Basic Profession and work my way up. Since he's an NPC, we can assume that he did all that at some point in the past.

Speaking of Basic Professions, I figured that Quintus must have had one when he started out working for the Titus household. I went through the book and chose Cook. The nice thing about choosing professions is that it gives me a solid idea of Quintus' history. Apparently he started out in the Titus household as a humble cook but, through skill and competence, rose to be the chamberlain of the entire household.

As is the case with many of my LARP characters (especially those made using the MASI rules), Quintus is described more with words than with numbers. Read on if you'd like to see what he looks like.

Quintus Sextus Septimus, Chamberlain of House Titus

Hit Points: 5 (2 base, 2 from Courage, 1 from Livery)
Livery: The keys of House Titus, worn around neck on a cord.

Gifts
Courage, Rank 3
This gives Quintus +2 Hit Points and Use of Arms, which allows him to use all basic melee weaponry. He also gains the Stretcher Bearer ability, which allows him to move unconscious people out of danger/toward a physician. His Courage allows him to Disengage once per Renew (imagine one of those nifty slashing moves that drives all your opponents back from you), and one use of Battle Endurance per Renew (allowing me to heal myself in the midst of a battle with appropriate, dramatic roleplaying).

Dexterity, Rank 2
Thanks to this gift, Quintus can attempt to disarm traps and pick locks (interesting things happen around the Titus household, I guess?). He is also able to use crossbows and bows (not that he ever does). He may make one Special Weapon Attack per Renew.

Profession
Quintus' initial profession was that of a Cook in the Titus household. This gave him two skills: Butcher, which allows him to cut up normal animals and turn them into Food tags, and Cook (4), which gives him the ability to make nourishing food that bestows beneficial effects. The number in the parentheses indicates how many crafting points Quintus gets, and each dish takes a variable number of crafting points.

Quintus, is no longer a cook, however, and has switched professions to Steward. He loses all of the skills from his previous profession, but gains a bunch of new ones, including Cook (6). He also gets the following:

Buy/Sell (50): I can go up to Ops once per game and arrange to buy and sell things. I believe the number in the parentheses is the maximum amount of Crown (i.e. cash money) I can buy or sell.

Commerce: Quintus knows how much things are worth. If there's a "Commerce" tag on an item, he can read it to learn secret things about it (such as how much it is and a bit about its history).

Leadership: Quintus may call "Heal 2 to X by Gesture." Quintus can only use this skill on retainers and followers of his patron, Lord Titus.

Scribe (2): Another crafting skill. Quintus gets two crafting points to make documents and send letters.

Other Skills
I assumed that Quintus would have gotten enough experience (represented in the game as Moonstones), to purchase the Livery skill. His livery is represented by the keys to the household, which he has on his person at all times.

Advantages and Flaws
Most of the advantages in the game either require you to take an obvious mutation (which is one of the reasons why Enoch, above, is a small-v vampire) or aren't terribly appropriate for a humble servant of a noble house. Because of that, I didn't take any. Because of that, I also didn't have to take any flaws. For those that are interested, the game rules state that you can take up to 4 points of advantages, but you must balance out your advantages with an equal value of flaws.

So, Quintus is flawless. Something he'll happily tell you all about if you'll let him.

Religion
I portrayed Quintus as being not particularly religious. He pays the usual amount of lip service to the three deities, but isn't particularly devoted to any of them.

And thus, the character write-up ends!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Introducing Grey the Mercenary!

I've said this just about everywhere else, so I might as well say it here: I published a novella on Amazon.

It's called A Street Rat of Salagena: A Grey the Mercenary Tale. It's the first in what, I hope, will be a series of novellas featuring the interlinked adventures of a mysterious, bad-ass swordsman who goes by the name of Grey.

In this, the first installment, Grey crosses paths with and helps out an orphan of Salagena, one Suzanna de la Calle. She is on the run from slavers, who are intent on abducting her for some nefarious purpose. Grey helps her to escape and then works with her to get at the roots of a strange conspiracy in Salagena.

You can check it out on Amazon, if you like, by clicking the image below. You can also find it on Kobo! Thanks in advance!