One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weekend To End Womans Cancer

I just added a button link on the top right of my blog for my wife's Weekend to End Womans Cancer Walk. I'm really proud of her and all the work she has done for this thing. Yet it's not enough. Why? Because she is part of a team, and while she has exceeded her goal, many of the girls on her team are still struggling to reach their's. I know theres a lot of generous people who read this blog out there in the blogosphere. So I'm putting out a call for help here. Please, if you can spare it, help my wife's team out by makinga donation. Whatever you can give no matter how small would be much appreciated.

Thanks Zombiecowboy

The Boardinghouse -A Lazy Man's Call of Cthulhu Adventure- Part 1

Last week Evan on his blog In Places Deep posted a link to Sandy Petersen’s " The Lazy Man’s Guide To Constructing A Call of Cthulhu Adventure". You can find this article and many others as well on the highly recommended CoC website This site is easily one of the best places to go if your even thinking about running a CoC game. So the next time your in the mood for a little bit of Yog-Sothery go check it out.

As the title of the article suggests it shows you how to quickly create a CoC adventure. It was a fun and interesting article and my curiosity was peaked, so I decided to give it a shot of my own and see if I too could pull this off.

Step 1: The Situation
Petersen suggests you take a plot or scene from a favorite movie and then twist it into something new. He chose a random horror movie for his example, and I’ve decided to do the same. So I looked up horror movies and low and behold wikipedia has an entire list of horror movies by decade. I choose the classic 80s period and scroll through the list and choose the not so classic 1982 film Boardinghouse, starring and directed by John Wintergate.

Here's the plot as per it’s wikipedia entry:
On September 18, 1972, the Hoffman house was closed due to several mysterious deaths. Ten years later, the house is reopened as a boarding house by a man with telekinetic powers who inherited it. A group of nubile young women quickly move in and the killings begin all over again.
I've never seen it but this sounds like a classic T and A slasher film to me. The idea of a boarding house really resonates with me, in particular as a starting point for a CoC scenario set in the roaring 20’s. So my basic situation is an old house that a decade ago was the scene of a series of unexplained deaths. In the past few months it has been reopened and refurbished as a boarding house in Arkham, and history is about to repeat itself. For the worse...

Step 2: The Plot
Ok so its time to flesh this out a little more. In order to do so we follow these 4 sub steps:

2A: Who Are Available As Victims?
Petersen suggests that you have a cast of bystanders, villains, and allies available to bite the big one in the scenario. His reasoning being the deadly nature of the game, and of course in horror movies, people tend to start dropping like flies once things get in gear. Being that this is a boarding house we have a good list of people we can choose from. We have of course the boarders, the owner, and any support people employed by the owner like a cook, gardener, handyman, and so on.

2B: How Do The PC’s Get Involved?
This can be tricky in CoC. Since I imagine this as a starting scenario in which the PC’s have had no contact with the Mythos before, I see this as a perfect opportunity to baptize a new generation of investigators. All of the PC’s meet at the boardinghouse as either boarders renting a room, or maybe as a one of the workers in it’s employ. It’s perfect as it allows for a whole range of character types and professions.

2C: How Can The Plot Be Prolonged?
I envision the scenario playing out over a period of time with new deaths occurring slowly at first and then quickly rising into a frantic bloodbath by the end. Clearly someone or something has an agenda in the house, and it relates to the death of the family that lived in the house ten years ago. These deaths serve a deliberate purpose, that being to feed an extra-dimensional creature that had been summoned by the grandfather of the family that lived in the house before. When the grandfather passed away and his eldest daughter’s family moved into the house the creature slowly began to feed on the family finding both pleasure and sustenance in the souls of it’s victims.

2D: Why Don’t The Authorities Intervene?
After the first death at the boarding house, there is no doubt that the police will become suspicious and seek to get involved. In fact, one of the creepy residents or perhaps even the owner himself will come under the scrutiny of the local authorities. They might even be arrested for a short time and then later released after another death occurs. A fun twist might be that one resident is really a criminal and gets nailed for an entirely different crime that he had been evading for the last little while. The real reason the police wont get involved is that there will be very little evidence to suggest that the deaths are in fact murders. Perhaps the fugitive house resident commits one of the murders at the behest of the entity, his actions not entirely under his own control. But the fact that he is inclined to be violent lends the creature a certain power over controlling his actions. All of the other deaths will either be seen as accidents, unexplainable or interpreted as a suicide. Or could it be that the owner of the house through a combination of wealth, and being seen as a powerful and influnental citizen is able keep the police at bay. I see the big bad evil guy is some kind of psychic vampire who needs to feed massivly once ever decade. Perhaps he has the ability to control the minds of others like the police?

Step 3: The Wow Finish
As Petersen suggests, and I agree wholeheartedly every scenario should have a great climax to it. Since this is an introductory scenario, one of my goals is to pull back the curtain and reveal the true nature of the cosmos to the PC’s in what I like to think of as the Sarah Connor syndrome. In the start of Terminator Sarah is a normal person, just like you and me. By the start of T2 she has long shed her skin of normalcy and has changed into a full-blown true believer. This same disturbing metamorphosis happens to CoC investigators as well, as is only fitting when dealing with something as disturbing and wrong as the Mythos itself.   

With that being said I envision the climax of the adventure happening in a secret sub-basement of the house. This is the secret redoubt of the villian, who is none other than the owner of the house. Perhaps he has a shrine to some other worldly god here, or it is a place in which he can bring to bear the full power of his pyschic abilities.Maybe he has some kind of alien pets he keeps here as well, or he does weird and sick experiments on unspecting people. Probing their minds and trying to unlock further mysteries of the mind. It is here that he has rested in a deep slumber till recently when he needed to feed again and recharge himself after every decade or so.

Step 4: Finalize The Plot

OK, so here's what I’ve got it's a little rough around the edges but I think it will work well: 

Arkham 1917- Peter Wintergate is a long-lived and outspoken dilettante and secretly a kind of psychic vampire. Every decade or so he must go on a feeding frenzy in order to recharge himself with psychic energy. This energy allows him to live longer, but still age at a much slower rate than normal. In addition he has the ability to use this energy within him to perform various magical like powers. Control minds, use telekinesis, and so forth. A deacade ago he invited his eldest granddaughter Cindy and her husband Elliot McKinley, their five young children and a handful of servants to move in. Not long after the move, Wintergate begins to orchestrate a disturbing series of murders in order to recharge himself but also enact a final ritual that will allow him to access more power than he could possibly ever imagine.The deaths all appear as mysterious and unexplainable. Shortly after the death of both Cindy and Elliot, and a number of servants, the remaining house staff quit and the few surviving children are move on to places unknown. With the house empty again, Wintergate falls into a state of torpor in order to lay low and conserve his strength and power for another try in the future. A decade later in 1928, the house is purchased and renovated into a boardinghouse, named Wintergate House. Wintergate has once again turned his thoughts back to the ritual he sought and failed to accomplish in time a decade ago…
To Be Continued...Tomorrow I will finish up with steps 5-8, but I'm curious to hear what you think so far. To be honest I feel like its a little weak and cliche. But as a relatively quick and dirty method and the process seems to work so far. All in all it's really only took me an hour or two to work through things to this point thus far, and if this was just for a home campaign It would probably take less time since you don't really need to write out everything like I have for this blog post. Oh, and thank's Evan for pointing out that article in the first place, totally worth the read!  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Big Trouble In Little China-Six Shooters And Sorcery Style

Lo-Pan, loves the green eyed ladies
 I've been strongly considering running a Savage Worlds powered weird western game for the last little while now. In this post I describe some of the points that I would like to see if I ran this. It was mostly me just thinking out loud. What was interesting was that  Jamie over at For A Fistful of Coppers suggested in the comments that it sounded like a western version of the 1986 movie Big Trouble in Little China.

After thinking on it, it totally made sense what he was saying. That movie was and still is a huge favorite of mine. Yes, it's a little cheesy at times, but it's funny as hell, and it kicks all kinds of ass.

So then I start doing some research and I discover that according to it's wikipedia page the original script for Big Trouble in Little China was indeed intended to be a western. That's wicked crazy, but makes sense on so many levels.

So yeah, if I'm going to sum up what this little weird western campaign will be about to my group it would be imagine playing in a campaign in which the movie Big Trouble in Little China and the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns had a love child together. Add in a few pinches of Lovecraftian horror, and a measure of Robert Rodriguez and Antonio Banderas, and you have my new campaign in a nut shell.

Chinese Beholders Priceless

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads!

Welcome to another edition of Savage Swords Saturday. Today we have this beauty of a cover with Conan getting the drop on a bad ass primate. The only thing that sucks is the missing scantily clad large breasted hot chick.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Making A Setting Your Own

Yay! The internet is back.

I wrote earlier that I had picked up the Savage Worlds rules and thought that they were pretty wicked awesome. I also have been musing on various ideas that I would love to use in a weird western campaign. Naturally, the Deadlands setting lends itself very well to this concept.

But, yeah here comes the but, here's the problem.

While I think there's a lot of cool stuff with the Deadlands story and world, it's not really what I want for MY Deadlands game. Which got me thinking, (I know, I do that too much) I have this real problem with all too often trying to stay true to the setting or world. I'm not sure why I do this, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this kind of obsessive compulsive need to make sure I've unearthed every little piece of information on a campaign setting. Heck I even do this with books. I refuse to read a series of books until I figure out which books come first even if it's just not all that important. I mean for a lot of books, the publishers want readers to be able to jump into a series with whatever book the reader just happens to find lying around.

In thinking about this there are a few pros and cons as to why you might or might not want to use the campaign setting as written:

Pros for using a published campaign setting
  • Everyone is on the same page.
  • Less work for the GM in preparing his adventures.
  • Easy to provide the player access to information on the setting.

Cons for using a published campaign setting
  • Some adventure ideas might need a lot of work or just wont work at all in an established campaign setting.
  • There's a lot of information for both the players and GM to take in.
  • Some of the mystery and newness of the campaign can be denied to the players.
  • Established events can be messed with as new source books are published.

I feel like looking at that list I'm hating on campaign settings. I don't really think that's fair. I do think that campaign setting have their place. I guess what it comes down to is that like rules bloat, I'm also tired of setting bloat. In particular it's the campaign settings that have a storyline that changes and reveals itself as more an more books come out, or as a new edition moves time forward that have really started to bother me the most.

I blame this on the need to sell books. Look, I get that publishers are out there to make money. I don't begrudge that. But I think it's safe to say that we've all been there before when one of your players knows more about the world than GM, just by virtue of having the disposable income and desire to buy the latest book. The only thing more annoying than a rules lawyer is the setting guru. Both deserve a punch in the neck if you ask me.

So yeah, here's my new gaming resolution, and it's one I think many of you out there who feel the same as I might want to adopt as well.

Screw the campaign setting. It doesn't matter what's written in the book. It's my game after all, and I'll cry if I want too...wait...that's not right. Anyway, you get my drift. Say it with me now:

I will not be a campaign setting whore, I will run my game the way I want to, not the way a book tells me I should. I am a rebel, I am creative, screw canon and the horse it rode in on. I am the Game Master, not the game reader, and in this world my word is that of God.

That feels better. I'm glad I got that off my chest. Aren't you?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dude! Where's My Internet?

For reasons beyond my understanding my home internet connection is down. I'm not sure what the dilly with that is, just that my town left an automated message saying that our service provider would be interupted for the next few days. Well that sucks. I mean where am I going to get my internet porn from now? It also means that I wont be able to really make any new blog posts for the next little bit, since I'm restricted in how much I can use the computer at work, which is where I'm writing this now. So for the next little while I'll be on a blogging break. Hopefully by Monday (Oh how I loathe you Mondays) I will be back in action here. Till then, aim for the head, and nuke em from ornit, and wear a condom.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm Living In A Steampunk World

After a month long drought, I finally got to chuck some dice this weekend. Let me tell you something, it felt really fucking good.

Allow me to elaborate.

My buddy who loves Cyberpunk (perhaps more than is really healthy) decided he wanted to run this new game. He envisions a steampunk world, and shit has been percolating in his mind. This has been something he's been talking about for some time now. Talking, but we're never really sure if this is something that will see fruition. You know how fickle us gamer types are.

So with my Pathfinder game finished, B decides it's time. We go on something of a month long break, and I'm practically running up the walls from withdrawal. It was bad man. you have no freaking idea how bad it was. Well maybe you do. It was like give me dice, or give me death. I welcome both with open arms.

So B hands us these two character backgrounds each. He tells us to pick one. The catch is that whichever character we chose not to play dies. Yeah. It was kinda a nifty idea, if you don't mind that amount of extra work. So now I'm playing an ex-colonel from the south who's wife was killed in a house fire, while trying to rescue our son who is missing, and possibly dead. I've gathered a number of allies along the way and tracked something out of a nightmare known only to me as the "Thin Man". Now we are all in Paris at the World Fair. In our first fight we end up going up against this creature that likes to disguise it's self in other peoples skin. Weird.

It wasn't what I was expecting. I mean you say steampunk and fighting fey creatures isn't the first thing that comes to my mind. It's been mysterious and creepy. But most of all it was fun. Fucking fun. I cant wait till we get to play again. Unfortuanatly we will only be able to reconvene in about two weeks. Fortunately I plan on trying to run a Savage Worlds test game with the few who can meet this weekend.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition

Last week I finally buckled under the pressure and picked up the Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition rules book. Let me tell you, I wish that I would have picked this thing up a long time ago! It's fricken awesome, like sharks with laser beams attached to their foreheads awesome! For shizzel my whizzel.

One of the things that strikes me about this book is that it's only 10 bucks to own. That, and it also comes in 6.5" x 9" format. It has a 160 full colour, glossy pages, looks sharp, and is well organized. The book features a nice table of contents, as well as a full page index in the back.

All that stuff aside it has all the rules that you need to run virtually any genre you want! The rules emphasis what the designers call the three F's. Fast! Furious!, and Fun! All three of them things that I've been looking for in a game system for some time. Well maybe not the Furious part, but it sounds like a good thing, right?

I guess one of the reasons that I hadn't picked this up before was the fact that I had played the original Deadlands RPG. In fact Deadlands was one of the first RPG's that I ever ran as the Marshall, or game master, or as the call it in that system.

One of the things that I thought was cool about Deadlands was the "stuff" aspect to it. By that I mean all of the dice were important, not just a d20, and whatever your damage dice was, but ALL of them. In addition you used playing cards for initiative, and poker chips as a sort of action points system. The problem was three fold as far as I could tell. Number one, I found the system itself was a little clunky. Two, I was new to game mastering, and well, when you your new at something you tend to suck. Lastly, three, the weird wild west can be a little difficult to run. There's a lot of stuff going on that you as the game master needs to do, understand, and this isn't helped when your American history is weak, and your player's don't really "get" the genre.

So I ran a brief Deadlands game, and then moved on from there to try and do new things. I had always wanted to get back to it one day, but I just never had the motivation, or desire to do so. Eventually it sort of fell into the background as D&D, and d20 games became the poison of choice for our group. Fantasy it would seem would be what we were destined to play for a long, long time.

Anyway the point here is that these Savage Worlds rules, are a much cleaned up and refined version of those old Deadlands rules. The skill system is very tight, and theres not a lot of dicking around with lots of points, and best of all all dice rolls are balanced with an additional "Wild Die" that allows the heroes to have a better chance of success. The other thing I find really nice is how the Edges and Hindrances work. This system seems easy to use, well balanced and thought out, and covers pretty much everything you need to cover most genres.

In fact one of the things that the designers point out is that bloating the system with new skill, edges, powers and other non-sense is a bad thing. That you should attempt to use what you have and not go over board creating reams of material you don't need , or wont use. The reason I love this so much is that I'm tired of rules bloat! D&D 3e suffered from it, and so does 4e. In fact lot's of systems just keep pumping out useless material be cause players like it, and because they need to make money selling us stuff. I'm not knocking this, it's just as a GM I have come to find less is more. Lets keep it simple, mmm K?

Today I find myself with a new group. What's interesting is that we recently started a steampunk campaign that would have benefited with these rules greatly had I, or the current GM been aware of just how simple, versatile, and easy they are to use. I'm seriously starting to consider running a new Deadlands game because of it. All in this is a kick ass system, and book. If your looking for a game that is simple to learn and easy to find on your local game stores shelves, I highly recommend you pick this up. And remember it's only 10 bucks, so how can you go wrong?