This month’s topic of Steampunk & Klockwerks is being hosted by Mad Brew Labs. I’m currently running Reality Blur’s Rune Punk as a Stargate Scenario for my Friday night game group. This is a quintessential Steampunk setting that goes into quite a bit of detail. We’re enjoying it, but I will admit that Steampunk is not my first choice when it comes to gaming scenarios. I prefer High Fantasy (D&D) or SF (Star Trek, Stargate). However this month’s topic got me thinking what it is about Steampunk that appeals to so many folks.
Before I started writing this post I didn’t think I was very familiar with the genre. So, I started with a search of Steampunk on Google and came across this list of American films that utilize Steampunk:
(1958) The Fabulous World of Jules Verne
(1979) Time After Time
(1999) Wild Wild West
(2001) Atlantis: The Lost Empire
(2003) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
(2004) Van Helsing
(2007) The Golden Compass
I’ve actually seen and enjoyed a few of these films. Maybe I’m not as much of Steampunk noob as I thought. As I pondered this list I though of something I like to add to this list, the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Although Chitty is not strictly speaking a steampunk setting, Caractacus Potts is clearly a steampunk inventor.
I have seen four of those films Wild Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Atlantis, and Van Helsing (five including Chitty) and have enjoyed each of them. Wild Wild West could easily be played using the Savage Worlds Deadlands. Van Helsing can be dropped into a D&D campaign with no difficulty. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is begging to be run as a Mutants and Masterminds game. Carracticus Potts can be dropped as is into your steampunk setting. Admittedly, the search for Atlantis is something I’d probably run as a campaign instead of a setting.
What it is it about steampunk that appeals to some folks but not to others? Few of the films on that list (except Chitty) was ever considered a hit. In fact Wild Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Van Helsing were all planned as a series of movies but the poor box office showing of the originals scuttled planned sequels. I have discovered that as a general rule my fellow bloggers really enjoy these films in this genre (Wild Wild West being an exception).
Why as a general rule are RPGers able to suspend their disbelief more for this Victorian Sci-Fi as opposed to the mainstream audience that cannot? It cannot be the sci-fi angle as there have been many true science fiction hits. My belief is that we as RPGers are able to disassociate alternate realities. We are constantly playing in altered or alternate universes. We as a group aren’t “tied” to history, the general audience cannot let go their perceptions from “what happened” to enjoy what is being depicted on screen or in your game.
Because RPGers are constantly placing themselves (and characters) in alternate realities, we have no problem imagining a world where Jules Verne actually invented the things he wrote about. We can wax eloquent on how current technology could have been built using clockwork gears and steam power. This, I believe is why Steampunk is more of hit amongst RPGers than it is amongst the general public. As such I present the following Savage Worlds Wild Card NPC.
Van Helsing, a Steam Punk Fighter/Cleric
Name: Van Helsing
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d6, Driving d8, Fighting d8, Guts d8, Knowledge (Arcane) d8, Knowledge (languages) d6, Notice d6, Shooting d8, Stealth d8, Survival d6, Throwing d8
Charisma: 0; Pace: 6; Parry: 6; Toughness: 5;
Hindrances: Heroic, Code of Honor
Edges: Combat Reflexes, Arcane Background, Arcane Resistance
Gear: Large variety of items used in fighting the supernatural
The Carnival is being hosted by Roleplaying Pro. The topic chosen for this month is the Future of Roleplaying. Apropos for me as May is always the month I contemplate the future. I’m no longer well-versed in the cutting edge of technology. So I cannot wax eloquent on storing character sheets on a thumb-drive and downloading them to the GM’s electronic table. I don’t have my thumb on the pulse of the hobby. My thoughts on what games may be the “Next BIG Thing” would be highly speculative at best and the more likely completely inaccurate.
What is the future? The future is commonly accepted to be that portion of the time line that is anticipated to occur after the present time. In the most literal sense of the word, Sunday’s D&D game is the future. I’m assuming though the question is projecting out a little further than that.
This hobby has no future if the only ones enjoying it are middle-aged men and women who are trying in vain to recapture their young-adulthood. To me the future of the hobby is currently sitting in my living room. PIT #1 graduates this month and then heads off to basic training. When I asked her what she wanted for graduation presents she looked me in the eye and listed off the following: Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition, Necessary Evil Explorer’s Edition, and as many AD&D books as I could spare.
PIT #2 is currently thumbing through the AD&D Complete Wizard Guidebook. He is trying to maximize his character for our Sunday game.
PIT #3 usually fights with his sister over who gets to read the rule books first. When Shainter arrived in the mail, it vanished. PIT #1 had absconded with it. When I finally got it back, it proceeded to vanish again. PIT #3 had snuck it out from under my nose and was reading up on it.
In our Sunday afternoon game, The GM and I are the only ones in attendance over the age of 20. All of my Friday evening and Saturday afternoon players are teenagers. I think the future of our hobby is secure.
This month’s topic being hosted by A Butterfly Dreaming is one with which I’m very comfortable. My children and I all have a very warped sense of humor. We are constantly spouting puns, pointing out absurdities, poking fun at the universe, whenever we do ANYTHING together. I actively encourage this behaviour in my kids. However we do know that as a family what we consider amusing is not everyone’s cup of tea. That said, imagine my surprise when my daughter introduced me to her DM. Bill and I are cut from the same cloth. Our sense of humor meshes like compatible gears.
Bill not only encourages ad-libs in character but he’ll incorporate them into the game on the fly. A couple of for instances…
The first time I gamed with my daughter’s group, Bill introduced my character to the party when they entered a brand new dungeon, “You see a badly injured Gnome in a healing trance huddled in the corner.” After some investigation by the party Bill told them that the door into the next chamber was booby trapped. He then mentioned that the door trap was responsible for the decimation of Nevet’s party leaving him as the sole survivor. I quipped that Nevets was suffering “Doorphobia” after seeing his party completely destroyed by the trap.
Bill immediately told me to write that on my character sheet. I play it up big time whenver we come across a door. Nevets is NEVER the first person to go through a door, archways and openings are different matters entirely. When we finally found the exit to the dungeon it was a hologram. As it wasn’t a door, Nevets made a beeline for the exit.
Another time one of our PCs did something incredibly stupid and got himself stuck inside a puzzle box. I made the comment that what the party really needed was a monkey that would come slap the PC whenever he did something stupid and then maybe he’d learn. Sure enough the next game session a monkey walked up to our Kender and started following her around. The Ranger again did something stupid. The monkey walked over to him and flung poo in his face.
The most recent incident resulted in some homework on my part. We had just defeated a demon and we were divvying up the treasure. I had Jazz sitting on my left and Jordan sitting on my right. While I was talking with Jordan, Jazz excused herself and I missed her saying that. Without my realizing it the DM’s dog jumped up into Jazz’s chair. Without turning, I asked Jazz a question, no response. I turned and looked and was surprised to see the pooch, I quipped that Rayne, Jazz’s character, must have found a cloak of canineability.
Bill looked me straight in the eye and grinned, “Write it up and she has it.” So now I’m in the process of writing up a Cloak of Canineability.
Humor and gaming. If you and your DM mesh it’s fun for everyone.
An off-hand comment on Twitter spurred a lot of creative juice recently. Folks were riffing over our friend, The Chatty DM’s online ID. The question then arose what would happen if we all had monsters based on our online handles. Below are the results:
Chatty gives us the monster that started the whole thing off, The Chatty Den Mother
Ravyn over at the Exchange of Realities gives us a look at the Ravyn
The Newbie DM has posted a guest blogger’s Squach the Tome Host
The Art of the Near TPK weighs in with Gregor LeBlaque and the Chaotic Black Sheep
The Dice Bag gives us the story behind Bojira
Joshua over at Tales of the Rambling Bumblers has statted out The Monstrous Majyc
A Butterfly Dreaming presents the Dreaming Butterfly, naturally.
Fellow Dire Paladin, Andrew Mordo initializes his new blog with Werdna Odrom
Here at the Database, I’ve statted out a Vet from the Shaven Cult, Velevt Uch Ants, and Aluminus the Mountain Monster
Stev, is definitely not a monster. He is an officer serving aboard the USS Phoenix as such I really couldn’t monsterize myself in that manner. What I did do is anagram Stev the Vulcan and have monsterized two of the more colorful results. I hope that these monsters are useful in your campaign. They have been statted out in Savage Worlds format but can be used with appropriate conversions in any setting.
Shaven Cult Vet– The Shaven Cult are violently opposed to body hair of any sort. Encountering a Vet, or high ranking priest while displaying any body hair is a show way to invite an attack. These cultists will first attempt to forcibly remove your hair. If you comply and let them remove your body hair they will attempt to convert you (opposed role vs spirit).
Attributes: Agility: d6, Smarts: d6, Spirit: d8, Strength: d6, Vigor: d6
Skills:Faith: d8, Fighting: d8, Persuasion: d8, Notice: d8, Stealth: d8, Streetwise: d8
Charisma: 0; Pace: 6; Parry: 6; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Obligations to the Temple, Vow to remove hair
Edges: Arcane Background (hair related magic), Connections
Gear: Scythe-like hair remover
Velvet Uch Ants – These purpelish ants are 3x the size of normal ants and are so named for the cool and smooth feel to the touch. However touching these ants would not be adviseable. Not only is their bite poisonous but they leach toxins through the velvety hairs covering their bodies. The swarm covers a medium burst template and attacks everyone within the template every round.
Skills: Notice d10
Pace: 10; Parry: 4; Toughness: 7
Bite– Swarms of Uch Ants inflict hundreds of tiny bites every round to their victims hitting automatically and causing 2d4 damage to their victims within the template. Victims must make a Vigor role at -4 due to the poison in the bites
Split– Uch Ants are sufficiently intelligent enough to split into smaller swarms (Small burst templates take the place of the medium template) should the party split up
Swarm– Parry +2 because the swarm is made up of of hundreds of these large ants, cutting and piercing weapons do little to no damage. Area effect weapons work normally. A PC can inflict damage per his/her strength by stomping each round. Uch ants can only be defeated by inflicting damage normally water does not deter them, as Uch Ants are capable swimmers.
I’ve also statted out Aluminus, the Mountain Monster my imaginary foe at work.
Skills: Fighting d8
Pace: 4; Parry: 6; Toughness: 14 (4)
Armor – +4 due to metallic hide
Meld (10″):Aluminus can meld with earth or metal into or out of the ground or metal objects
Elemental: No additional damage from called shots, Fearless, Immune to disease and poison. Primary weakness is water.
PITs 1, 2, & 3 woke early this morning. They were eager and anxious to play D&D today. So we went off to work and flew through the day. We left for our local game store, The Core in Cedar Falls, Iowa and arrived at at approximately 3:30.
When we got there, they had three tables going fifteen players total. I took the time to talk to Mike Blanchard, the owner. According to Mike, when he got to the store at his normal time there were already people waiting outside. All three tables were busy all day long from opening at 10:00 until an hour after closing at 5:00. Mike reports that most of the folks who came to D&D day were new customers. He also reported a 25% increase in sales traffic. The Core is thinking seriously about making a monthly event for their customers. As far as Mike is concerned this day was a success.
Just about the time I finished talking with Mike the owner one of the tables opened up. PITs 1-3, a family friend and I took positions around our DM for the afternoon, Mike (not the owner). For my newer readers you must know that I have never played D&D beyond 2e. Also I have only recently been playing D&D after a more that 20 year hiatus, so my perceptions of what is or is not D&D is based on 20 year old memories and my recent return to playing 2e.
Mike, our DM, explained the new rules for 4e and handed out the characters. Pit #1 took the Drow, Pit #2 took the Tiefling Invoker, Pit #3 took the Dragon Born Paladin, Tony, our family friend, took the War-forged Barbarian, leaving me with the Gnome Bard.
My first impression of my character, aside from the fact that she was female and I don’t cross-gender RP very well was that Bards rock. My character hardly moved during the first encounter and she took out one the Troglodytes by singing the Song of Discord at the Dire Bear. The poor Troglodyte never had a chance as the bear dropped our Barbarian and went for the Troglodyte.
My second impression is that this game resembles more the games my kids play on their game cube or PS2 than it does any form of D&D that I remember. Now I’m not saying that in a disparaging manner at all. We had a blast. The kids enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. In fact, we had so much fun I plopped down the cash for the PHB, MM, two boxes of miniatures and the Starter Set. I haven’t delved into any of the rulebooks yet so I cannot comment on easy or hard it is to create characters. I cannot comment on how easy or hard it is to DM this game but Mike handled the whole thing without consulting any guides at all.
The ONLY complaint I had and heard from all tables is that the module was not constructed to be played in one sitting, or as one gamer put it, “Wizards certainly weren’t kidding when they said D&D DAY“. I didn’t catch the name of this person just that I overheard it coming from another table, but I have to agree with him, after nearly three hours we just finished the first encounter. We had gone an hour past closing time. We hadn’t realized the passage of time at all but as I stated previously we had fun.
On the ride home I asked my kids and Tony what they thought of the game. Tony thought it was pretty cool and couldn’t understand why folks have complained it wasn’t D&D. My boys were quite pleased with the fact that we are now the proud owners of the first two core rulebooks and some miniatures to go with it. PIT #1 is torn, she’s pleased we bought the game but upset that she’ll be leaving for Basic in just over three months. I wasn’t the only person who bought books from the Core today based on the demo. At least locally D&D Day was a success.
My only complaint with the day, we didn’t have enough time to finish the whole game. Since we were the last players of the day, our DM graciously allowed us to keep the entire module so we could finish it on our own. Mike let on as we were packing up that the module went on for a total of four encounters (something that as of this writing I haven’t confirmed yet). 2.5 hours per encounter x4 encounters = 10 hours. 10 hours means that I had to base my decision to but based on what I saw in my character. Had it not been for the fact that my kids were all “Wow, this is so-o-o cool.” I might not have bought anything. WotC could’ve made a smaller adventure similar to Savage World’s famous “One Sheets” and had more than one of those for folks who had more time to spend playing. That might have been better for showcasing the “new” races and classes, giving folks the time to play more than one character and see just how cool it was.
Effort by WotC to publicize D&D Day: B- (had I not been a member of the Bloggers Network I don’t think I would’ve heard about it.)
Effort by WotC to showcase 4e: A- (only because the adventure needed a lot more time than most anyone locally had to actually spend at The Core)
Efforts by our FLGS, The Core: A+ (Our DM was very knowledgeable kudos Mike. The tables were set in such a manner that the noise level was not a problem)
Will we go again? Yes. Will we attend the proposed monthly ‘event’ game at The Core? Yes. Do I wish that I could’ve been there in person at some of the other events? Yes.
The Book of Rev is hosting this month’s Blog Carnival. As the title indicates War! is the subject. I sat for the longest time and tried to think of how to write about war. The more I got to thinking about it, the more I wondered if war was really game-able in an RPG. “Sacrilege!” I hear the masses shout, “War is at the heart of most fantasy settings”. Before you start composing your rebuttals, hear me out. Also remember this is my own opinion and as always YMMV.
Let me start with Wikipedia‘s entry:
War is reciprocated armed conflict between nation-states or large political groups. A group of combatants and their support is called an army on land, a navy at sea, and an air force in the air. Wars may be conducted simultaneously in one or more different theatres. Within each theatre, there may be one or more consecutive military campaigns. A military campaign includes not only fighting but also intelligence, troop movements, supplies, propaganda, and other components. A period of continuous conflict is traditionally called a battle, although this terminology is not always applied to conflicts involving aircraft, missiles or bombs alone, in the absence of ground troops or naval forces.
Is war even a viable part of your campaign? That depends entirely on what you are playing. If you’re playing a high-fantasy setting, yes war can be part of the overall campaign. Super Heroes? you could game out a campaign of an internal struggle with the super hero community (Marvel’s Civil War) or stakes on a universe altering scale (DC’s Crisis). In my own Stargate campaign the Gou’ald war is an ever present part of the background. If you’re playing a game in a film noir setting then probably not.
By the definition of modern war, the combatants are large groups of forces sub-divided down to a unit level. The armies, navies and air forces partake in a number of battles over a period of time. Even taking war to mean the final epic confrontation in the Lord of the Rings, we’re still talking about masses and hordes of people. In my experience, most RPG groups are limited to the parts played by the PCs and associated NPCs controlled by the players, not the actions of the vast armies.
But Mr. Vulcan, sir, as you stated earlier, our RPG group has an ongoing campaign set in the midst of a war. Fine, are you gaming out the war? or the battles and skirmishes that your group participates in? I’m not implying that war cannot be part of your RPG campaign. but you game out each skirmish not the complete war. The sum total of those battles make up your war.
My all-time favorite game is Car Wars. This name, although catchy, is somewhat of misnomer. However, “Highway Battles” probably wouldn’t have sold quite so well. In the beginning CW wasn’t even an RPG but you definitely were not gaming out a war. Individual battles were the backbone of that game. Conflicts between your adventuring group and whatever evil the DM throws in your way is still at the heart of D&D.
War-gaming is handled very nicely in games like Axis and Allies, Risk, and other games of that sort. First person shooters such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor do a great job of letting you participate in various battles. My own personal take is that in your RPG campaign you are not gaming out the war but rather, how your character responds to war.
Gaming out a war is a game about tactics and strategy. Fighting with your PC is gaming out a battle. So is war game-able in an RPG setting? Yes, but only as a larger overall campaign/story arch.
I don’t have lots of fond memories of playing D&D as a teen. D&D in my home was subject to parental objections due to the “Satan’s Game” scare of the mid-80s. I’ve just recently begun playing the game again with my daughter (PIT #1) and her gaming group. Since we’ve only had three sessions, I can’t wax eloquently on the many fun times I’ve had due to Sir Gygax’s work. That said, I do thank Mr. Gygax for the work he did as I have spent enjoyable afternoons crawling through dungeons with my children.
In honor of Gary and and his creation I have composed the following:
A tribute to one,
Gary Gygax is his name
He gave geeks status
Special thanks for the
Original Dungeon Master
We’re here ‘cuz of you
He has left us for
The eternal dungeon crawl
Godspeed, Sir Gygax
Has it been a year
Since Gary Gygax left us
What would the gnomes think?
Photo removed due to threatened lawsuit
For the Maps and Monsters (http://www.thecoremechanic.com/2009/02/rpg-blog-carnival-monsters-map-madness.html) RPG Blog Carnival being hosted by The Core Mechanic this month.
Being a novice GM I haven’t done much of my own monster creation. Neither have I made many er… any custom maps of my own. Recently my family and I sat down to watch Pirates of the Caribbean again for a review here at the Database. That inspired me to make some custom monsters based off that fine movie franchise. Please note that all stats are for Savage Worlds in general, specifically Pirates of the Spanish Main.
You may notice that these stats are very similar to the base stats that Savage worlds published for the monster in question. My buddy, Berin Kinsman extolled the values of shemping out pregen characters for games that he runs. I took his advice to heart, rather than re-create a monster if a template for one existed I took the basic monster and added some flair to make it specific to the setting.
Following each monster I will note reactions from my players about the monster.
Damon, Wild Card Novice Trained Undead Monkey
for Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d8(A), Spirit d4, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d10, Fighting d6, Guts d6, Notice d8, Stealth d10, Intimidation d6, Lockpicking d8 (covers only pick-pocketing skill)
Pace 6, Parry 5, Toughness 3
Special Abilities:Bite 2d4, Size -2, Small: Attackers suffer a -2 because of size, Undead: +2 to recovery for being shaken. Called shots do no extra damage. Arrows, bullets and other piercing attacks do half damage. Fear -2: Causes all Guts checks at -2 when moon is out because of undead nature.
Damon appears in a skeletal form when the moonlight touches him.
Damon was actually created at the request of a fellow regular at the Dire cafe in honor of the Dire King. I have only used Damon once in a campaign. My youngest PIT (age 9) at the time immediately recognized him and corrected me that the monkey should’ve been named Jack.
for Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6 – Human Form
Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6 – Skeleton form
Skills: Boating d6, Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Guts d6, Notice d8, Stealth d6, Intimidation d6 (d10 in skeleton form), Stealth d6
Pace 6, Parry 5, Toughness 3
Undead: +2 to recovery for being shaken. Called shots do no extra damage. Arrows, bullets and other piercing attacks do half damage. Fear -2: Causes all Guts checks at -2 when moon is out because of undead nature.
Pirates appear in a skeletal form when touched by moonlight.
Hindrances: Garrulous, Greedy, Mean
Edges: Dirty Fighter
Even after Damon showed up in the adventure. My players were still a little surprised when the undead pirates made an appearance. PIT #2 actually managed to stay in character even though he figured it out early.
Kraken, pet of Davy Jones
for Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8(A), Spirit d12, Strength d12+10, Vigor d12+4
Skills: Fighting d12, Guts d12, Notice d6, Stealth d8, Intimidation d12
Pace NA, Parry 8, Toughness 24 (4)
Special Abilities: Aquatic: Pace 12 Gargantuan: Heavy Armor Ranged attacks are made at a +4 against the Kraken. The beast can not bring its full weight to bear in a tentacle attack damage done in a tentacle attack is D12+15 and is considered a heavy weapon. Size: +10 Tentacle Attack: Tentacles are capable of lifting individuals off the boat and the suckers will suck the face off an individual. Whirlpool: When the Kraken submerges a whirlpool is formed.
The Kraken comes only when called by Jones and his crew using a device on board the Flying Dutchman
Lord Cutler Becket states in PotC 3 that he ordered Davy Jones to kill off the Kraken. Everyone speaks as if there is only one Kraken in that setting. When I tried to use a Kraken (actually the stats for a basic Kraken are on p231 of the PotSM rulebook) PIT #3 pointed out my inconsistency. I countered by telling him that Davy Jones did not kill his pet just to spit Cutler Beckett. Who raised my son to be so smart-alecky?