Friday, February 8, 2013

A Daughter of Gascony -- Musketeer Mashup

She's back (and this time it's the right century)!
The Sengoku Jidai/Kaiju Eiga duet campaign came to an abrupt halt when our heroine (O-Kami, Empress of Japan) blew up the occupying Mongol army with her giant monsters and there was nothing left to do except live happily ever after.

So we’ve finally started an honest-to-goodness musketeer campaign.

“Finally?” you might ask.  Yes, I have never actually run a game set in seventeenth century France.  Most of my swashbuckling has been in the eighteenth century and concentrated more on the English-speaking world or been set in the Forgotten Realms.  Even though I borrowed images from "Revenge of the Musketeers" to illustrate “Le Vin Et La Vie,” the game was officially set in the mid-eighteenth century and reflected more of those concerns (revolution, alchemy, Casanova).  This is the first time we’re doing a straightforward D’Artagnan romances knockoff.

Well, maybe “straightforward” isn’t quite the right word.

The game system is Honor + Intrigue, core conceits of the campaign world are taken from All for One: Regime Diabolique, and the adventures are yoinked from Flashing Blades.  As I’ve mentioned recently, I’ve been itching to run Honor + Intrigue for a bit and this finally gives me the chance to do so without adding a bunch of house rules or cooking up a lot a setting material (as a chanbara campaign would require).  This is still one of my duet campaigns with Robin, so some modification to the misogyny of history is required; the concept of the Queen’s Musketeers from All for One neatly hurdles that problem.  (I’m not sure yet whether there will actually be any supernatural element to this campaign, however, so I might not be using All for One’s actual central conceit.)  Finally, Chris Rutkowsky used the Flashing Blades adventures in order to playtest Honor + Intrigue so I figure I’m safe doing the same.

You have no idea how thrilled I am to be able to use published adventures.  One of the quirks of duet play is that you really have to tailor the game to the character – at least, you have to do that if you play the kind of romance-infused games we play – and this means conventional dungeon crawls and adventure paths often don’t fit.  Flashing Blades is based on very different presumptions than a fantasy dungeon crawl, so scenarios for it naturally segue into our kind of duet role-playing.  They’re also so bare-bones that it’s easy to improvise through them.

I don't often write campaign summaries about my duet games with my wife, but the experimental nature of this game (and, frankly, a very good feeling about it) means I'll be doing that this time.  Expect to hear more about Genevieve Dubois, a daughter of Gascony.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I see a zombie monkey

Seriously, I looked at these clouds and saw Jack the undead monkey from Pirates of the Caribbean.

I am so weird.

Pirates of the Spanish Main Session Report 8

The most recent Pirates of the Spanish Main game was fast, furious, and fun – which is ironic, because it was the first session of my Frankengame, Savages + Intrigue, and I really didn’t expect a half-assed house rule to work so well.  Converting characters to Careers instead of Skills took about ten minutes or so (everyone had really strong ideas about their characters’ back stories) and then we jumped into exploring the mystery of the walking crocodiles in the Cayman Islands. 

The crew this time was Nana, Elias, Silas, the Mad Arab (who is neither mad nor an Arab), and Kit; Brother Seamus was technically there, but he was trying hard to hide.  I have to admit that the actual events of that session are a blur.  I was not drinking, but I was in the last stages of recovering from near-pneumonia and my memories are a bit blurred by codeine.  Plus, I kept throwing in flashbacks when I realized I should have done some more explication.

They began the game in with the first cooperative sailing roll this group has ever mustered as they sailed in toward the Cayman Islands – and then I realized we should have some idea what the reward was and flashed back to Tortuga, asking resident Ben Franklin clone Richard Poore what they could get for walking crocodiles.  Poore promised them a helpful smattering of items from his laboratory while hinting that the Royal Society in London could offer a lot more. Back in the present, the PCs spotted the ships of embedded superstar NPCs Jack Hawkins and Calico Cat being careened in the distance; the crew decided they had no interest in sharing potential spoils with NPCs and pointedly ignored the chance to meet the local celebrities.

I forget who was on lookout (but the fact that it was a PC was pretty awesome) when a strange dust devil was spotted amidst the scrub grass and palms of a nearby island.  Three reptile dudes (who looked more snakelike than crocodilian; I rolled a d4 and it came up Robert E. Howard-style snake-men) appeared out of the dust and slunk away into the nearby waters.  The players chose to land on the island’s opposite shore and an away team of Nana, Elias, Silas, and the Mad Arab trekked overland with some of their redshirts.  They eventually reached the clearing and set a trap.

The dust devil turned out to be the effect of a disguised elevator, so the crew hid a net under the sand that disguised it.  The crew pounced when the snake-men returned, cutting down one and taking the other two prisoner.  The one who died was apparently just a bodyguard; he was only armed with a strange, envenomed dagger made of steel-hard bronze (fabled orichalcum!) while the other two also carried crystalline magic wands and a crystal-edged mirror (some kind of communicator or PADD?).  The attack caused some alarms down below so a patrol of four snake-men warriors in orichalcum loricas were sent up – and the Mad Arab dropped a grenado down the elevator shaft.  The armor would probably stop a bullet, but it ends at the waist.

The away team quickly bustled back to the Bloody Revenge and weighed anchor.  The PCs all managed to squeeze into the orichalcum loricas (which, like mithril shirts, conveniently fit under clothes) and divided up the fancy daggers.  The surviving snake-men turned out to be a vicious sorcerer and his docile apprentice; I don’t remember ever giving them names.  The snakes spoke only prehistoric human languages, but the Mad Arab was able to use his familiarity with Lovecraftian horrors to interpret their attempts to speak in Ur, the mother tongue of Babylonia and Sumeria.  The chief snake turned out to have a very low opinion of humans.

They dumped the grouchy snake-man on Richard Poore and got the pick of the ($100 or less) “magic” items Poore had in his lab, then they took off for England.  An easy voyage (run as an Extended Action) and a good bit of smooth-talking from Silas brought the crew to the British Museum offices of Dr. James What Watt, inventor of the steam engine and David Tennant impersonator.  (Yes, I am fully aware how much the timeline has broken down in this game.)  Fascinated by the snake-tech (especially the fabled orichalcum!) Dr. Watt made an offer on behalf of the Invisible College to turn the Bloody Revenge into a steamship if the crew guided an expedition back to the serpent-people’s home.  Realizing that a steamship would be really fast but equally likely to explode and impossible to disguise, the crew upped the stakes and talked Watt into giving them a new four-master and experimenting on the Bloody Revenge. 

It seemed like the pirates had gotten the better of the deal, but then the day came to sail back to the Spanish Main – and a full company of barely-disguised Royal Marines marched down to the wharf to sail back with them.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Duellists and White Zombie now on Blu-Ray

Bonus Savage Worlds content follows...

To my shame, I must admit that I have never seen "The Duellists," Ridley Scott's premiere feature film based on a Joseph Conrad story of the same name.  Not only is it a movie revolving around swordfights, it's a movie about swordfights in the Napoleonic Wars (AKA the Regency Era).  I no longer have any excuse, as the film has just been re-released on Blu-ray.  If you're not as convinced as I am that this is a must buy, check out this review from Black Gate -- "Adventure on Film: The Duellists" -- or check out the original trailer.


I have, on the other hand, seen the classic Bela Lugosi film "White Zombie."      
"White Zombie" by Francesco Francavilla
I'm not fond of the George Romero "Living Dead" cannibal corpses, but I love the spooky enslaved dead of classic Voodoo legend.  There's nothing that creeps me out more than the idea of losing one's will, and this classic film from 1932 plays right into that.  Don't just take my word for it, check out awesome neo-pulp artist Francesco Francavilla's capsule review.  I also think I can detect its influence in "Guede-Je-Rouge," one of the adventures included in the Flashing Blades supplement Flashing Blades: High Seas"White Zombie" is also newly out on Blu-ray.
 
BONUS SAVAGE WORLDS CONTENT

Count Up/Count Down

One thing I've found in running sword duels in Savage Worlds is that the standard "count down" initiative system gives a lot of the ability to control the fight to the character with worse initiative.  What I've started doing is "count up/count down;" the character/player with lower initiative declares his action, the player with higher initiative declares hers, and then play proceeds from high to low.  This means that if the character with worse initiative declares he is doing Full Defense, the character with better initiative can declare a Wild Attack to counter it.  I've always gotten the impression that fencing is more about anticipating and countering your opponent's maneuvers than it is about simply being faster, and count up/count down for initiative definitely skews combat that direction.

JUSTICE LEAGUE is the Movie the Rest of You Wanted

If I was a Warner Brothers exec right now, I’d have to conclude that the problem with Justice League is that it wasn’t dark enough. Aft...