Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Please Support Olympus Inc: The Pelion Report on Indiegogo

Right here, right now, a war rages unnoticed. The twelve mega-corporations of the Olympian gods fight the schemes of the unleashed Titans in board rooms and back alleys, with the fate of humanity as the prize. The half-human beings of Greek myth—centaurs, cyclopes, dryads, nymphs, satyrs, and more—lurk hidden in plain sight, selling their services to both gods and Titans. Highly-trained black ops demigods use their powers to engage in corporate espionage and covert warfare on behalf of their patrons—but they must keep their battle hidden or the goddess Nemesis will shut them down.  
Fabled Environments is back with a new expansion for Olympus, Inc, the Savage Worlds setting of “Olympunk” intrigue! The Pelion Report, by Charles White and Gilbert Gallo, contains five more godly bloodlines—introducing the paragons of Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hephaestus, and Hera to the setting—as well as the ability to play cyclopes and centaurs. Also included are new Slosi (AKA magical items), weapons, equipment, and rules for working with the magical metal Orichalcum.
The goal is $2,500, which seems pretty reasonable for a print-on-demand book. The first stretch goal (available at $3,000) is an adventure by me. My previous adventure for the setting, Poison Drift, concentrated on the paramilitary aspects of Olympus, Inc., so I think I’ll go with a more espionage-tinged approach if I get the chance this time.
Additional stretch goals unlock new adventures by Charles and Gilbert as well as minor gods like Nike, goddess of victory, and Hecate, goddess of magic. Personally, after Wonder Woman last year, I’m curious to see what White and Gallo do with the Artemis and Athena paragons.
The backing tiers have some great perks. $40 gets you the PDF, a POD coupon to order a hardcover or softcover book at cost, PDFs of Poison Drift and another module, and any three floorplans from Fabled Environments—and $50 gets you all that and the POD + PDF option for the original Olympus, Inc! Higher tiers allow contributors to help design elements of the setting, like corporations, monsters, and NPCs.
Support Olympus, Inc: The Pelion Report by following the link to Indiegogo!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Batgirl: Seriously, Joss?

Yesterday brought the welcome news that Joss Whedon has stepped down from writing and directing Warner Brothers’ Batgirl movie. As a Whedon apostate—first turned off his work by the needless cruelty of Serenity (who the hell rewards the fans who fought to bring back his show by killing off beloved characters?!), and then vindicated by Kai Cole’s accusations of infidelity—I am immensely relieved that he won’t be screwing up another DC movie, and especially relived he won’t be screwing up a female-led movie.
While many suspect his departure has more to do with bad buzz from the aforementioned infidelity and the failure of Justice League, Whedon’s stated reason for leaving the project is that he couldn’t come up with a story… which is ridiculous. For one thing, all you have to do to come up with a story for a comic book movie is adapt some freaking comic books. I’m pretty sure there’s some good stories to be found in Barbara Gordon’s 51-year history; just bury your damned ego, stop reinventing the wheel, and adapt someone else’s work, asshole. For another thing, Robin and I cracked a basic (admittedly rough) story outline last night during two or three hours of sporadic conversation.
Batgirl is a character with built-in dichotomy—an independent, brilliant woman defined by the way she reflects the men around her. In the comics and on TV, Batgirl began and largely operated her vigilante career by imitating Batman but working independently from him. A film about her can’t ignore that vein of co-dependence.
Graduate student Barbara “Babs” Gordon hasn’t found her purpose in life. Torn between the law enforcement legacy of her father, Commissioner James Gordon, and her own intellectualism, she’s studied acrobatics, criminology, dance, library science, martial arts, and several other fields—but has yet to decide what she’s going to do after school. For now, she lives in the hip Burnside neighborhood of Gotham, working as a community activist and sharing an apartment with her transgender friend, Alysia Yeoh. Barbara’s latest project is saving the historic Burnside clocktower.
Hot on the heels of an inappropriate come-on from her [criminology or computer sciences] professor, Noah Kuttler, Babs learns her father’s been arrested by internal affairs. I haven’t quite cracked what the crime would be, but it probably has something to do with his too-cozy relationship with the recently unhinged Batman. In any case, Batman appears to be doing nothing to help his erstwhile friend.
Babs begins to investigate. She discovers one of Batman’s batarangs and begins practicing with it. She has an angry encounter with Batman, during which he dismisses her concerns; she fashions the “Batgirl of Burnside” costume in retaliation (and maybe defeats the flashy if ridiculous Killer Moth). Babs discovers Clayface impersonated her father during the crime; this leads two set-piece fights, one of which Babs uses her wits to barely survive and the second of which she handily wins using her new-found vigilante skills and brilliant mind. Eventually, she discovers the plot was set up by Noah Kuttler, secretly the criminal mastermind the Calculator.
Babs uses money reappropriated from the Calculator to purchase the clocktower. If the film is released prior to the Nightwing movie, the film ends with a handsome young delivery man showing up at the apartment to deliver an unexpected package. Alysia comments that the delivery guy had a nice butt; Babs opens the package to discover a proper Waynetech Batgirl suit. If the film isn’t going to beat Nightwing to theaters, then the suit is delivered by Alfred (or maybe an apologetic Batman). A montage of villains and heroes across Gotham reacts to the emergence of this new vigilante (Catman is intrigued, the Joker is menacing, Black Canary is enthusiastic). Batgirl stands triumphant among the computer monitors in her refurbished clocktower.
The End
Again, it’s rough and missing most of the plot points in the middle bit, but we came up with that last night. (And it leans heavily on the Batman: The Animated Series episodes "Shadow of the Bat" and "Holiday Knights.") Give me a year (Whedon was hired last March) and I could have a full script. It ain't hard, Joss. 


And here's a couple of scenes I couldn't help myself from writing up.


Inside a garishly-decorated disused warehouse or factory—filled with buzzing, blinking pinball machines, smoking acid vats, evil-eyed dolls and other paraphernalia—the JOKER stabs a stiletto into the picture of Batgirl on the front cover of The Daily Planet.


Bat…girl? Bat-GIRL? BATGIRL?! Batman’s my toy! Mine!

He continues to stab away as a bored HARLEY QUINN flops onto the couch and turns on the TV. A news talk show comes on. Footage of Batgirl fighting Clayface plays. Graphics ask “Who is Batgirl?” and show her favorability rating.


Puddin’! The TV’s talkin’ about Batgirl!

The Joker spins, pulls out a revolver, and shoots the TV—which explodes in a crackle of light.


The blazing lights of the studio shine down on LOIS LANE, CAT GRANT, and VIC SAGE, debating the meaning of Batgirl.


This “Batgirl’s” debut is definitive proof of the Superman Theory. The government is recruiting—creating—building super heroes as part of covert efforts in the first step of a fascist overthrow—


Superman was not created by the government. He’s a refugee from an alien world—


So you claim, Ms. Lane. And we’re supposed to take your word for it?


Lois is intimately familiar with Superman, Mr. Sage.


What’s that supposed to mean?

Our POV slides around to view the squabbling commentators through a camera monitor.


The talk show continues to play, reflecting in the mirror over the sink in a really crappy hovel of an apartment. THOMAS BLAKE, a ruggedly-handsome, athletic man in his early 30s, lifts his head into view as he washes his face. Three ragged, claw-mark scars run across his broad chest.


Everyone knows you’re the world’s foremost Supermanologist, Lois. Vic, do you really think this Rule 63 Batman is part of a government conspiracy?


Is there any doubt she was trained by the same program that produced the Bat? Look at her gear, at her techniques—

A cat yowls near at hand. Blake looks down. An upset black-and-white tuxedo cat glares back at him.


I heard you.


Early photos of her showed what looked to me like a homemade costume. This someone inspired by the Batman—


Sisters are doing it for themselves!

The cat yowls again. Blake picks him up and nuzzles him.


It’s OK, Sylvester. I’m not going to be out all night.

Blake puts down the cat and goes to the bed. A Kevlar vest, a yellow-orange sweatshirt, and matching orange cape, cowl, and gloves lay on the bed. We see Blake is already wearing boots, tights, and a utility belt. The camera lingers on his body as he puts on the rest of his costume. Sylvester the cat hops onto the bed.


Um… Thanks, Cat.


It’s a prototype, not homemade. A field test of the new agent before she’s fully commissioned.


Is it so hard to believe private citizens could be inspired to do good?

Sylvester yowls again.


I hear you, buddy. I’m going to pick up the good stuff for you tonight. Chicken pâté.


So you’re suggesting this “Batgirl” is a copycat vigilante—another unsanctioned, untrained lone actor?


Would that make you happier, Mr. Sage? You don’t seem to like government oversight.

Blake crosses to the window, opens it, stops for a moment half-in and half-out. He pulls on his Batman-like cowl.

Daddy just has to rob a few people first.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Foxed! in Print and PDF in Savage Worlds Explorer

A couple weeks back saw the publication in the latest volume of Savage Worlds Explorer of “Foxed!,” a Rippers Resurrected adventure by yours truly.
Passing through rapidly-modernizing Meiji-era Tokyo, the Rippers stop to assist the Tokyo Lodge—led by noted author Lafcadio Hearn—and unwittingly become drawn into a horrifying scheme of revenge. The legendary kitsune Tamamo-no-Mae stalks the Tokyo Rippers for an affront committed years ago. She possesses one of their members to trap them and the heroes behind a mystical wall, then begins to pick them off one by one.
I wrote it as a counterpoint to the existing Rippers adventures set in Japan, trying to emphasize the modernity and urbanity of Meiji-era Tokyo instead of traditional Japan. Besides the guest appearance from Hearn, there’s some shout-outs to Edogawa Ranpo and Lady Snowblood, a few jokes at my own expense, and a fight with a horde of tsukumogami.
This is, I think, the first time I’ve been able to give art direction on a project, so that was pretty cool. I wish I’d recommended someone besides Hearn for the solo character illustration (I figured Pinnacle would just save money by using a photo of him instead of commissioning an illustration), but the eye-catch illustration is great. My notes were “Lady Snowblood and a Japanese version of Oscar Wilde are fighting a kitsune dressed like an oiran” and whoever drew it just nailed it.
“Foxed!” was designed to be run with the Lodge and Urban Alleys Rippers Resurrected battle maps, so most people who back the Kickstarter already have the maps needed to play. At some point in the game, Tamamo-no-Mae should change into her fox form and lead the heroes on a chase through the lodge; I recommend breaking from the usual combat movement rules and running this as a Chase, with the range modifiers from the cards instead reflecting cover the kitsune is behind and she runs under tables and behind furniture. Feel free to queue up “Yakety Sax.”
 Also included in Savage Worlds Explorer Volume 1, Number 5 are:
·         “Two Birds, One Stone”—A modern crime procedural by Camdon Wright
·         “The Cowboy Killer”—A Deadlands Reloaded adventure by Kyle Carty
·         “A Familiar Problem”—A modern horror story by John Goff
 Buy it at so you can get print and PDF for the same price as print-only! I don’t get any affiliate link money like at DriveThruRPG, but I’d have to be a real jerk to recommend buying it elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Catching Up

The last 4 or 5 months have been a hectic round of writing and editing on two major freelance projects, consuming so much of my time and energy that I’ve been very unmotivated to blog, write personal projects, or even be vocal on social media. Thankfully, that’s in the past now. I’ve been spending my weekends working hard on the Regency Romance book (currently jokingly titled The Savage World of Jane Austen) but I’m still having a hard time getting back into blogging or social media.
Part of this is also a change in my duties at my day job, where I’ve reverted to being on the phones all the time instead of writing and editing for my employer. This, frankly, made me really, deeply depressed for several months—and since my doctors haven’t prescribed any brain meds, I had to work through this slowly and fitfully.
In lieu of proper blogging, let’s do a bullet list:
  • The Savage World of Jane Austen is now chugging along with purpose. Weirdly, The Savage World of Flash Gordon proved really helpful. I’m also adapting some mechanics from Rippers, which shouldn’t surprise anybody. The character creation chapter is taking longer than I thought it would, but that’s because I’m adding more detail and guidance than usual for those unfamiliar with the genre.
  • Savage Worlds Explorer #5 contains “Foxed!,” a Rippers Resurrected adventure by yours truly. I should write a proper blog post about it with supplementary material and links to buy it from and everything. Maybe I’ll get to that this weekend. Maybe.
  • Friend of the blog Jack Shear has published a guidebook to Krevborna, his answer to Ravenloft. I’ve read a lot of his Krevborna blog posts but haven’t finished the book yet (which I bought the day it came out). I should write a proper blog post (and maybe some Savage Worlds adaptation guidelines) about it.
  • The King is Dead is not dead, despite other Savage Worlds licensees poaching our turf. The goal after …Jane Austen is to produce a book that covers about half the secret societies and urban adventures in Hammerstadt, a kind of setting primer that emphasizes the intrigue central to the premise rather than the monster hunting certain other people are emphasizing. Let’s call it a “Hey! We were already doing this!” book.
    (This will probably be illustrated with public domain art and released straight to OBS. I don’t have the time or energy to expend on a Kickstarter, and all our extra income from freelancing is going to replacing income we’ve lost due to dickery at one of Robin’s employers. Besides, I want to get it out before certain other people’s game gets published.)
  • Speaking of extra income, Wine and Savages is now in the editing business! Two editors for the price of one!! Email us for rates, etc!!! (I should do a real blog post about this, or add a page to the site.)
  • The record shows that I am a huge fan of the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but I only started reading the original books, like, three days ago. They’re very similar but very different; I find myself appreciating them in a different way, while not considering them better or worse than the movie. Also, I should stop reading them before bed, because I can’t put them down.
  • There’s a book out recently called Pride and Prometheus, which is about Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice falling in love with Victor Frankenstein from Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. I will buy it and read it soon.
  • I’m bummed out that other people are on the verge of publishing ideas for Savage Worlds settings that I’ve wanted to do for years—but I can’t blame them. Their ideas will be different from my spin on the same concepts, and it’s not their fault my anxiety and other commitments make me so slow at producing original material. It would be in my best interest to find some like-minded people and split up the workload, but I don’t want to. It sucks…
  • I’ve also just been feeling down—burned out by the fires of hate and hatefulness consuming my hobbies and country—for a while now. Did you know the creator of Rurouni Kenshin was arrested for child pornography? Yes, he was. That sucks.
  • Despite the general awfulness out there, Star Wars: Rebels might be the best Star Wars thing ever. It builds off of the live-action films and Clone Wars in a way where Rebels just wouldn’t have the same power or joy without those earlier works, but it also refines the established themes in the way you’d expect a third or fourth draft would. I’m sorry it’s ending, but at least it isn’t getting cut off abruptly the way Clone Wars was.
  • Also, The Last Jedi is my favorite Star Wars movie now, and I was born in 1973. Disney Star Wars is one of the few long-beloved franchises/genres/whatevers that I can feel real enthusiasm for at this time.
  • Waiting is hard, but I’m learning to tamp down the anxiety that nags at me while I wait for word about a project. Diving into new work helps.
Ok, this is getting maudlin and weird. I’m going to cut this off now. Can you tell I've been reading Warren Ellis again?

Friday, December 15, 2017

What I Would Have Pitched to WotC If They Would Have Asked Me to Pitch

Some weeks back, a job listing popped up on Hasbro’s site for a designer position at Dungeons & Dragons. I threw my hat into the ring—I qualified, after all—but yesterday received notice that Wizards of the Coast did not want to interview me. I’m disappointed, but slightly relieved at not having to throw my life out of whack by moving to Washington. I sincerely hope they’re taking this opportunity to add some increased diversity to the D&D crew.
If—IF!—I had gotten the interview, and if—IF!—the good people at Wizards had asked me for pitches for new books, this is what I would have pitched:
Against the Lords
For levels 1-15
An urbancrawl adventure intended to reestablish Waterdeep as the premier city setting of the Forgotten Realms, Against the Lords puts the adventurers at odds with the very Lords of Waterdeep! Discovering the Masked Lords infiltrated and subverted by various enemies of Waterdeep—such as the Xanathar’s Thieves Guild and the Zhentarim—the adventurers must scour the city and root out corruption, taking them to such iconic locations as Blackstaff Tower, Mother Tathlorn’s, Skullport, and Undermountain. Along the way, the adventurers build their own network of political allies, emerging at last to become Lords of Waterdeep themselves!
Legacy of Champions
For levels 15+
A new age of heroes begins as old heroes step down! With the retirement of the Forgotten Realms book line in 2016, the chance arises to allow Dungeon Masters and players to truly make the Realms their own. Featuring denouements by Realms luminaries such as Ed Greenwood and R. A. Salvatore, this adventure provides the last chapter in the stories of legends like Elminster and Drizzt while providing the chance for the player’s own characters to step into the legacies vacated. Who will be the new Sage of Shadowdale? Who will become the Open Lord of Waterdeep? Who will wield Twinkle and Icingdeath? A series of interconnected adventures allows high-level characters who have beaten D&D’s previous epic adventures to advance to 20th level—and beyond!  
Man, I wish I had the time to write these for the DMs Guild.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

I Want Edopunk

I didn’t back 7th Sea: Khitai for three reasons: 1) I honestly haven’t gotten much use out of my 7th Sea 2nd Edition books so far; 2) I already own all of Cubicle 7’s Qin: The Warring States line for my wuxia needs (not that I’m not capable of making that up myself); and 3) I just didn’t like the preview material for Khitai’s version of Japan. While the blending of Ainu and Japanese culture was intriguing, I’m just not interested in another pseudo-Sengoku Jidai. I want an Edopunk setting.

I want a setting that looks like a Wagakki Band video. I want a setting that delves into the non-samurai side of Japan—the colorful world of courtesans, fireworks makers, freelance “police,” geisha, sumo wrestlers, ukiyo-e artists, and yakuza seen in such works as Miss Hokusai, Oh! Edo Rocket, Sakuran, and the Zatoichi series. If there’s going to be the supernatural, then I want it to be the weird, wacky world of yōkai folklore, with all of its banal yet bizarre monsters. I want a game that kicks the myth of the samurai in the nards. I want a setting that could be illustrated by the person behind the Edopunk Tumblr.

Frankly, it drives me kind of nuts that in a world where the equivalent of Louis XIV (1638 - 1715) is running around, the version of Japan that exists is set prior to 1600—but I realize John Wick probably wants a chance to revisit and create his own definitive version of Legend of the Five Rings. I also realize that the world of 7th Sea also has Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) and Louis XIV as contemporaries, so it’s not like presenting a cohesive version of alt-history is a priority for Wick and his crew. I do think that there’s something lost in presenting an ahistorically fractured Japan as contemporary with the developing nationhood of England and France; if the setting is going to focus on samurai, I’d rather see courtiers in ruffs confronting the Tokugawa bureaucracy than a land in the middle of civil war.

I realize that World of Dew (which I really need to get around to buying) presents a Tokugawa Era setting, and that Wick has a good relationship with the creator of that game (which is, after all, based on Wick’s Houses of the Blooded rules). But, again, I’d rather see a game about the common people of Edo Japan, the people who resisted and rebelled for two hundred years. (Yeah, that’s right, the history of Tokugawa Japan was riddled with peasant uprisings and even samurai rebellions; the idea that Japan is a land of peace and harmony is Meiji-era propaganda.)
Man, I guess that means I'm going to need to write it myself. I'll put it on the schedule for 2023.

Please Support Olympus Inc: The Pelion Report on Indiegogo

Right here, right now, a war rages unnoticed. The twelve mega-corporations of the Olympian gods fight the schemes of the unleashed Tit...