Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Accursed: Banes of Ayesha

 Some examples of Banes that serve Ayesha the Timeless:

White Apes
The so-called White Apes are the tribe of Devolved Men who first came to Morden with Ayesha and the Grand Coven.  Inbred cannibals capable of only rudimentary tool use, the White Apes are nevertheless adept at herding the terror birds and great beasts that compose the Timeless One’s army.  
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d10, Vigor d8
Skills: Athletics d6, Fighting d8, Guts d6, Notice d6, Subterfuge d4, Survival d4, Throwing d8, Tracking d4.
Charisma: -4  Pace: 6  Parry: 7  Toughness: 6
Hindrances: Delusional (Major) (worship Ayesha as an infallible goddess), Illiterate, Mean.
Edges: Animal Senses, Berserk, Brawny, Combat Reflexes, Man-Eater
Equipment: Stone-tipped spear (Str+d6, range: 3/6/12, Parry +1, Reach 1, 2 hands)
Special Abilities
  • Bite: Str+d4
  • Brachiation: Devolved Men are able to climb and move at their full Pace by swinging from one hand-hold to another by their arms.
  • Leap: Devolved Men can leap 2” horizontally, or 4” from a running start. Each success and raise on a Strength roll grants one additional inch.
Changa, King of the White Apes
The leader of the White Apes is a giant who has fully accepted his Witchmark.  Towering as large as a dragon king, Changa is fiercely loyal to and protective of his queen and goddess.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4 (A), Spirit d6, Strength d12+6, Vigor d10
Skills: Athletics d6, Fighting d12, Guts d12, Notice d6, Subterfuge d4, Survival d4, Throwing d8, Tracking d4.
Charisma: -4  Pace: 6  Parry: 10  Toughness: 16
Hindrances: Delusional (Major) (worship Ayesha as an infallible goddess), Illiterate, Loyal.
Edges: Animal Senses, Berserk, Brawler, Brawny, Bruiser, Combat Reflexes, Expert/Master (Strength), Improved Block, Improved Sweep, Kreegah!, Man-Eater.
Equipment: big rock (Str+d8, -2 to hit, range: 3/6/12)
Special Abilities
  • Bite: Str+d4
  • Brachiation: Devolved Men are able to climb and move at their full Pace by swinging from one hand-hold to another by their arms.
  • Hardy: Changa does not suffer a wound from being Shaken twice.
  • Huge: Changa is Huge and thus suffers +4 to attacks against him.
  • Leap: Devolved Men can leap 2” horizontally, or 4” from a running start. Each success and raise on a Strength roll grants one additional inch.

Feathered Dragons
One of the strangest manifestations of Ayesha’s power over time is her ability to transform birds into flightless, feathered Banes colloquially called “feathered dragons.”  Distinctly avian in body structure (upright posture, wing-like arms) but with strangely reptilian features (teeth, pebbly hides beneath their feathers), these feathered dragons wreaked havoc during the Bane War.  One notable disaster involved the Timeless One devolving a murder of crows circling above a battlefield into a pack of black-feathered hunting dragons that literally fell upon the Armies of Light and tore them to pieces.
Hunting Dragon
These man-sized feathered dragons are cunning pack hunters (sometimes they seem more intelligent than Ayesha’s Devolved Men).  Armed with grasping forelimbs and sickle-like talons on their feet, hunting dragons prefer to leap upon their prey and rake them to death.    
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d8 (A), Spirit d10, Strength d10, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d10, Notice d8, Subterfuge d6, Tracking d8
Pace: 10  Parry: 7  Toughness: 8 (2)
Special Abilities
  • Armor +2: Tough, pebbly hide lies beneath the hunting dragon’s feathers.
  • Bite/Talons: Str+d6. 
  • Fleet-Footed: Hunting dragons roll a d8 when running instead of a d6.
  • Improved Frenzy: Hunting dragons may make two Fighting attacks each action at no penalty.
  • Pounce: A hunting dragon can leap 1d6” to gain +4 to its attack and damage. Its Parry is reduced by –2 until its next action when performing the maneuver however.
Dragon King
The terrible dragon kings are the most feared of Ayesha’s feathered dragons.  Forty feet long and as tall as an elephant, the dragon king’s massive teeth are capable of punching through the toughest armor. 
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6 (A), Spirit d10, Strength d12+7, Vigor d10
Skills: Fighting d10, Intimidation d10, Notice d6, Tracking d6
Pace: 8  Parry: 6  Toughness: 18 (4)
Special Abilities
  • Armor +4: Tough, pebbly hide lies beneath the dragon king’s feathers.
  • Bite: Str+d10
  • Fear: Dragon kings are frightening creatures to behold.
  • Gargantuan: Dragon kings are Huge and thus suffer +4 to attacks against them. Their attacks count as Heavy Weapons, and their Armor is Heavy Armor.
  • Hardy: The creature does not suffer a wound from being Shaken twice.
  • Size +7

Monday, December 30, 2013

Accursed: Devolved Men

Devolved Man rejecting his curse versus Devolved Man embracing it.
Devolved Men are the chosen of Ayesha the Timeless, a Witch who comes from a lost land of prehistoric beasts and primitive tribes.  Impossibly ancient but ever-young, Ayesha’s magic works strange transformations on her victims: men become brutish and ape-like, beasts become hulking giants, and birds become towering feathered reptiles capable of swallowing men whole.  The Witch herself calls the process “de-evolution,” though none in Morden know what “evolution” itself is.
 
Devolved men resemble a formidable cross between human beings and the apes of Hyphrates.  Shaggy-haired, slope-browed, strong beyond their appearance, Devolved Men are truly the savages Vargr are accused of being.  Their minds are dulled by Ayesha’s de-evolution and they cling precariously to the remnants of their minds and memories.  Few Devolved Men escape Ayesha’s domination and so they are rare amongst the ranks of the Penitent.

Witchbreed Package
All Devolved Men characters gain the following racial package:
  • Animal Intelligence: The minds of Devolved Men are made muddled and bestial by their transformation.  It costs two points per step to raise Smarts during character generation and the character must dedicate two Advances to raising the attribute during game play.
  • Brachiation: Devolved Men are able to climb and move at their full Pace by swinging from one hand-hold to another by their arms.  While it is most useful in the jungles and forests Ayesha loves, it is equally suitable for mountainous and urban terrain.
  • Brute Strength: The transformation into a Devolved Man gives the character wiry, ape-like muscles.  Devolved Men begin with a d8 in Strength and may raise it to a d12+2 via normal advancement; the Expert and Master Edges may raise it to a d12+4.
  • Enemy: Ayesha is worshipped as a goddess by her creations, and she is a very jealous goddess. Bird-terrors and other banes created by Ayesha the Timeless always seek to attack a Devolved Man in preference to other targets.
  • Leap: Devolved Men can leap 2” horizontally, or 4” from a running start. Each success and raise on a Strength roll grants one additional inch.
  • Savage Appearance: Devolved Men are hairy and ape-like and suffer a -2 penalty to Charisma.
Racial Edges
Devolved Men have exclusive access to the following Racial Edges. These Edges can be taken at character creation if Edge selections are available and the requirements are met. Alternatively, they can be purchased with Experience Points as the character grows and develops.
 
Animal Senses
Requirements: Novice, Devolved Man
The Devolved Man has developed a beast-like sense of smell that gives him a +2 to Notice and Tracking rolls. 
 
Kreegah!
Requirements: Veteran, Devolved Man, Spirit d8+
The Devolved Man bellows the challenge of the bull-ape.  The Devolved Man makes a Spirit roll; if successful, every creature within a Large Burst Template must make a Fear check (at -2 if the Devolved Man got a raise) or be affected as per the fear power.
 
Man-Eater
Requirements: Novice, Devolved Man
The Devolved Man tasted man-flesh when he served Ayesha the Timeless and he found it good.  He has powerful canines that do Str+d4 damage.

Acceptance or Defiance
Devolved Men who accept their Witchmark become more and more bestial, eventually devolving into titanic man-apes equal to the Timeless One's bird-terrors.  Those who reject their Witchmark can become almost human again.

Devolved Man in final stage of Acceptance
Stage 1: Acceptance
A Devolved Man who embraces his curse may find that a simple, savage life suits him better than the one he left behind.  He dwells in the forests and mountains of Morden, shunning his fellow man, as hair sprouts across all his body and he becomes more ape than man.
Effect: The Devolved Man grows to Size +2 (gaining a +2 bonus to Toughness) but becomes even more repulsive to human sight (cumulative -4 Charisma).
 
Stage 2: Acceptance
The Devolved Man is now on an alternative evolutionary path, transforming into a gigantic ape as he loses his humanity.
Effect: The Devolved Man can no longer improve Smarts or Smarts-based skills.  He grows to Size +4 (cumulative +4 to Toughness) and increases Strength by one step.  Attackers are now at +2 to hit the Devolved Man due to his size.
 
Final Stage: Acceptance
The Devolved Man has rejected his humanity completely, becoming a lumbering giant gorilla.  While he can now tear apart Ayesha’s gigantic bird-terrors with his bare paws, he is has lost most of his conscious mind.
Effect: The Devolved Man’s intelligence becomes Animal (A) and he is no longer capable of speaking or tool use.  All weapons are now Improvised Weapons with the attendant -2 penalty.  The Devolved Man grows to Size +8 (cumulative +8 to Toughness), gains the Hardy Monstrous Ability, and Strength increases another step,.  Attackers are now at +4 to hit the Devolved Man due to his size.   

Defiant Devolved Man wishing he still had that Strength bonus.
 Stage 1: Defiance
The Devolved Man rejects his bestial nature and tries to nurture his civilized side.  His features become more human even as he loses some of his ape-like abilities.
Effect: The Devolved Man loses his Leap and Savage Appearance Powers.
 
Stage 2: Defiance
The Devolved Man loses some of his primitive strength as he adjusts to human society once more.
Effect: The Devolved Man loses one die of Strength but gains a +1 bonus Benny at the beginning of each game.
 
Final Stage: Defiance
The Devolved Man finally regains his full human intelligence. 
Effect: The Devolved Man no longer suffers from his Animal Intelligence Power but loses the other die of Strength granted by Brute Strength.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Xmas Rerun: Guess who the patron saint of pirates is?


When the crew is in port during December, they encounter a strange figure at the tavern:
 

The old man is short – barely five feet tall -- and heavy-set. A white beard frames his fleshy face and laughing eyes twinkle above a broken nose. His knuckles are calloused – the hands of a brawler – and a length of heavy chain wraps around his thick stomach. Three jingling bags of coins are tied to his belt. He raises his mug to you and smiles.
 
 
Rugged sailors and crusty pirates give the old man’s table a wide berth. He smiles warmly at the tavern wench who brings his meal and wine and tips her generously from the gold he carries. He says grace and tucks into his hearty meal.
 
 
Questioning the tavern staff and guests reveals the following rumors and speculation (one per success or raise on a Streetwise roll):
  1. He’s a Dutch pirate – Nikolaas van Hoorn* – wanted by the Spanish for the sacking of Vera Cruz. (False)
  2. He’s a slaver; his ship is crewed by the ugliest scum on the face of the earth. (Almost False)
  3. He’s looking to pay some young maiden’s dowry with the gold he carries – wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more. (Almost True)
  4. He’s a sorcerer; he carries the Chain of St. Peter, a holy relic capable of binding demons and spirits. (More True Than False)
  5. He’s really a Greek named Nikolaos who escaped from a Turkish prison. (True – from a certain point of view)
  6. He’s got a mean right hook and he’ll punch you in the face if you blaspheme in front of him. (Very True)
 

The old man is, of course, St. Nicholas of Myra -- also called St. Nicholas the Wonderworker – and patron saint of pirates, prostitutes, sailors, and thieves. His identity will probably be obvious to many players and it is not recommended the GM go to any great lengths to obscure it. Courting his favor can grant the crew several boons; earning his ire will cause them problems.
 
 
If the crew buys St. Nicholas a drink or a meal, treat anyone who chips in money as blessed with the Luck Edge until the next time they commit an infamous act (feel free to make it Great Luck if they buy him milk and cookies). If they beseech his aid, he can break the curses of supernatural beings – but he will demand penance and good deeds in return. St. Nicholas is one of the few supernatural beings powerful enough to contend with Dionysus or Atargatis and can free PCs from servitude to one of those pagan gods.
 
 
Player characters who assault or steal from St. Nicholas will find themselves hunted by the saint’s demonic servants – Bellzebub, Black Peter, Knecht Ruprecht, Klaubauf, Bartel, Pelzebock, and the Krampus (treat as Wild Card Ghost Pirate Captains armed with clubs). These frightening devils will beat the characters senseless and play other cruel tricks on them before leaving them where they can be found by the authorities or taunted by rival crews.

 
*Nicholas van Hoorn was an infamous Dutch pirate who actually named his ship "Saint Nicholas' Day." Seriously.
 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

We Need a Montage! Training as a Dramatic Task


My lazy, lazy math skills tell me there are about 16 Advances possible for a Savage Worlds character between Novice and Legendary.  A lazy, lazy count tells me there are something like 35+ Combat Edges and 50+ Arcane Background powers available in Savage Worlds Deluxe alone.  Going strictly by the rules as written (including the purchasing of the New Power Edge), there is no way in heck for a Savage Worlds character to master more than one fighting style or become a versatile spellcaster – especially if the character wants to actually improve any of their Attributes or Skills.

This is fine is most cases.  Most Savage Worlds gamers aren’t running duets predicated upon cinematic levels of character competence.  In most games, the presence of multiple players is going to give the party as a whole a broad degree of competence; in fact, specialized roles help keep players feeling their individual contributions matter. 

(Also, the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion sneaks into its treasure tables “tomes” – books from which spellcasters can learn powers with a Smarts roll and 1d6 hours study – thereby increasing spellcasting versatility.)

Sometimes, though, even normal party-based games reach a point where the need for immediate, dramatic character advancement outstrips the accumulation of experience points.  Luke Skywalker sure seemed to learn an awful light of lightsaber fighting techniques in between crashing on Dagobah and reaching Bespin.  How many martial arts films have revolved around learning a key maneuver just in time?  How many teen romances have revolved around learning to ski overnight?

You need a montage!

New Setting Rule:

Training Montage

A training montage is a Dramatic Task made to increase a Skill rating or learn a new Edge or power.  GMs even more generous than me may allow montages to increase Attributes as well. 

As with standard Dramatic Tasks, a training montage takes five actions; whether these actions take an hour, day, week, or even month each depends on what best fits the drama.  Over the course of those five actions, the character must net a number of successes equal to the rank of the Edge/power or the dice rank of the Attribute/Skill.  Note that all five actions must be played, even if the character has already accumulated enough successes; this increases the chance of failure (especially at lower ranks), thus discouraging the casual abuse of the system.

Like normal, the Trait rolled will be that most directly tied to the task at hand (the Attribute or Skill itself if that’s what you’re training for, Fighting or Shooting for related Combat Edges, the arcane skill for powers, etc.).  Most training montages should be rolled at a -2 penalty like normal Dramatic Tasks, with another -2 penalty on the roll when you draw a Club.  The GM may determine on a case-by-case basis whether the trainer’s advice and encouragement allows for a Cooperative Roll or not.  

Example:

Humiliated in a duel by the cruel Marquis de Carabas (fastest blade in the Eastmark!), young rakashan duelist Tomas returns to his master to resume the training he abandoned in haste.  Master Sylvester reluctantly teaches his prodigal student Improved Level Headed by having him chase chickens around the yard and pluck hummingbirds from the air. 

Improved Level Headed is a Seasoned Edge so it will require two successes during the training montage.  Improved Level Headed – through its prerequisite Level Headed – is actually linked to Smarts (still not Tomas’ best quality) so that’s the Trait Tomas’ player must roll. 

On the first action, Tomas draws the Queen of Hearts and the 10 of Diamonds (he already has Level Headed and so draws two cards).  He rolls his Smarts of d6 and aces for a total of 9 – two successes!  Unfortunately for the cocky cat-man, his training has just begun.  Over the next three actions, he nets no more successes.  “Chickenth are nothing, boyo!  Can you catch a hawk on the wing?” yowls Master Sylvester (he is not contributing to a Cooperative Roll).  On the last action, Tomas draws the 2 of Clubs – merde! a -2 penalty to the roll! – and… a Joker!  Hooray!  He handily scores another success (which isn’t technically necessary but at least means he doesn’t lose any successes) and then once again abandons his master to challenge the marquis once more. 

Meanwhile, his fellow players have spent the last five weeks of in-game time (and five minutes of actual game play) spending the money they made betting against Tomas in the original duel.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Redeem: A Savage Worlds Power from Scairy Tales by Brent Wolke


Scairy Tales is an unpublished Savage Worlds setting by Brent Wolke of Truckee Games.  Originally announced early in Savage Worlds’ history, something happened that I have no personal knowledge of and it has been delayed quite a bit.  Sadly, the setting prefigured the rise of such twisted fairy tale stories as Grimm and Once Upon a Time and it is a tragedy the setting hasn’t officially seen print. 

Weirdly enough, a PDF of the incomplete Scairy Tales (including place-markers for art and question marks for “Edited by”) has made its way online.  I could swear that the copy I found was linked from a site where Brent Wolke released it into the wild, but I just corresponded with Brent about that and he says copies found online may be pirated.  You have been warned.  I’m not going to link to anything here.

There’s some really good stuff in Scairy Tales – especially the arcane powers -- that fills in some gaps that bug me about Savage Worlds.  They could really come in handy for a GM interested in a gentler, more fantastical setting – something like a Miyazaki movie or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – and Brent Wolke has given me permission to reprint them at Wine and Savages.

My personal favorite is redeem, a power that allows the caster to undo the curse bespelling part of Wonderment, the fairytale setting of Scairy Tales.

Redeem (created by Brent Wolke)
Rank: Legendary
Power Points: 20
Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent
Trappings: Blinding light, chanting, rays of sunlight, warmth.

This is the most powerful of abilities available to those who use Good Magic. Redeem allows the caster to focus his own will, his belief, and part of himself to cleanse an area of Wonderment from the Nightmare, returning it in an instant to its once glorious state. This power may be used on corrupted fairy tale folk as well, bringing them back within the Dream.

To redeem Wonderment, an arcane skill roll must be made. If successful an area of land equal to 1 mile x Belief as a radius centered on the caster plus 1 mile for every raise is blasted of the Nightmare. Nightmare creatures or corrupted fairy tale folk in this area are all immediately shaken, but unharmed otherwise.

To redeem a corrupted fairy tale folk, an opposed Spirit [for the corrupted being] versus Belief [the arcane skill powering magic in Scairy Tales] roll must be made.  Success returns the fairy tale folk to its original state of being, free of the Nightmare. It will remain Shaken for one full day recovering. The freed being will have no memory of its time within the Nightmare outside of an overriding sense of pain and torment.

In either case, the caster will have had to imbue so much of himself into the casting of this power, that it leaves him with one level of fatigue. This can be recovered by a vigor roll made once per week until healed.

For other settings where the power of compassion can redeem even the vilest of spirits, I would suggest this as a power for AB: Miracles or even a Super Power.  Examples of redeem in play can be seen in Chihiro freeing Haku from Zeniba’s control in Spirited Away, the cleansing of dark spirits in The Legend of Korra, and the renewal of the land by the Holy Grail in Excalibur.
 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Kitsune and Foxes for Mappō Monogatari.


Kitsune
 
Robin and I just concluded the first playtest of The King is Dead and are on to our next duet game – a somewhat gentler, more romantic version of Mappō Monogatari.  I know that in the write-up I just proposed reskinning existing races and monsters, but I can’t help myself in wanting to write up a bit on kitsune.

Fox
One of the most widespread mammal species in the world, foxes can be found on every continent except Antarctica (though they were introduced to Australia by European settlers).  Clever and adaptable, they dominate smaller species but are vulnerable to bigger predators like big cats and wolves.  Many cultures throughout the world – including the Japanese – believe foxes possess magical powers.

[Note: The attributes presented here are more comprehensive than those presented in Savage Worlds Deluxe for similar animals like cats and wolves and are not recommended for use with those statistics.  I personally find the statistics for animals in the Savage Worlds core rules bafflingly incomplete.] 

Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6 (A), Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6.
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d4, Notice d6, Stealth d8, Survival d8, Swimming d4, Tracking d8.
Pace: 6  Parry: 4  Toughness: 3
Special Abilities
  • Alertness: Foxes’ keen hearing and superior sense of smell adds +2 to their Notice rolls.
  • Bite/Claw: Str
  • Low Light Vision: Foxes ignore penalties for Dim and Dark lighting.
  • Quick: Whenever a fox is dealt a 5 or lower in combat, it may discard and draw again until it gets a card higher than 5.
  • Size -2: Foxes tend to be only about a foot and-a-half tall at the shoulder.
  • Small: Attackers subtract 2 from their attacks to hit.
  • Woodsman: Foxes are some of the most adaptable animals in the world.  They gain a +2 to Tracking, Survival, and Stealth rolls made in the wilderness.
 
Kitsune
Until the introduction of the domestic cat in the 6th century CE, it was the wild fox that defended Japanese farmers’ crops from rodents.  This close relationship with such clever and mysterious wild animals led to the anthropomorphization of the fox in Japanese myth, which was later influenced by Buddhist legends from China and India. 

Depending on the legend, kitsune (literally just Japanese for “fox” as there is no distinction between fox-spirits and regular animals) might be born with their powers or may not develop them until they’ve lived 100 years.  The older a kitsune is, the more powers it develops and the more tails it grows.  Young kitsune are more likely to be pranksters then threats but 1,000 year old, nine-tailed foxes (Kyūbi no Kitsune) are formidable opponents.

Mischievous and malicious wild foxes (known as yako or nogitsune) are masters of AB: Magic; kitsune servitors of the rice god Inari are known as zenko and have AB: Miracles.  Player characters may come into conflict or alliance with either kind of kitsune; Inari’s mercy and love of the peasantry may conflict with the plans of noble patrons while nogitsune may find common alliance with mankind against oni.  Regardless of the source of their powers, most kitsune favor trickster magic and the following powers are recommended:

Kitsune powers (1d20)

1.      Barrier (a bramble of thorns)

2.      Blind (the fox twitches her tails at the target and fur gets in your eyes)

3.      Confusion (a dizzying barrage of foxfire)

4.      Deflection (the fox seem to be in several places at once)

5.      Detect/conceal arcane (the kitsune can smell the magic on you)

6.      Disguise (a beautiful maiden or lumbering oni)

7.      Dispel (the fox laughs at your magic)

8.      Entangle (the kitsune’s several tails grow in length and wrap about you)

9.      Fear (the vicious predator within shows for a brief, terrifying moment)

10.  Growth/shrink (the kitsune holds a bamboo leaf over his head)

11.  Intangibility (ghostlike, the fox slips out of your clutches)

12.  Invisibility (where is that yipping laughter coming from?)

13.  Light/obscure (a fierce ball of foxfire or an impenetrable miasma)

14.  Pummel (the fox shakes his tails and summons a gust of wind)

15.  Puppet (the kitsune possesses the victim)

16.  Slow (the fox mimics your movements in slow motion)

17.  Slumber (the kitsune dances a mesmerizing kagura)

18.  Speed (the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog)

19.  Summon ally (they’re particularly fond of mirror self)

20.  Teleport (poof!)

 

Young Yako
This young mischief-maker has 2+1d3 tails.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6.
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Intimidation d8, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Spellcasting d8, Stealth d8, Survival d8, Swimming d4, Taunt d10, Tracking d8.
Charisma: +2 (+4 to other yōkai) Pace: 6  Parry: 5  Toughness: 5 (3 in fox form)
Hindrances: Curious, Greedy (Major)
Edges: AB: Miracles, Alertness, Luck, New Power x 1d3, Power Points x 1d3, Quick, Very Attractive, Woodsman.
Special Abilities
  • Bite/Claw (fox form): Str
  • Low Light Vision: Foxes ignore penalties for Dim and Dark lighting.
  • Outsider: Like all other yōkai (supernatural beings), kitsune are distrusted by humans and suffer a -2 to Charisma.
  • Power Points: 10 + 5(1d3)
  • Powers: bolt (burst of foxfire), boost/lower trait (crackle of foxfire/disabling bite), mind reading (strange whispers in your skull) and 1d3 powers from the kitsune power list
  • Size -2 (fox form): Foxes tend to be about a foot and-a-half tall at the shoulder.
  • Small (fox form): Attackers subtract 2 from their attacks to hit.
 
 Young Zenko
This young messenger of Inari has 2+1d3 tails.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6.
Skills: Climbing d4, Faith d8, Fighting d6, Intimidation d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d8, Stealth d8, Survival d8, Swimming d4, Taunt d8, Tracking d8.
Charisma: +2 (+4 to other yōkai) Pace: 6  Parry: 5  Toughness: 5 (3 in fox form)
Hindrances: Code of Honor, Vow (Major) (to Inari)
Edges: AB: Miracles, Alertness, Luck, New Power x 1d3, Power Points x 1d3, Quick, Very Attractive, Woodsman.
Special Abilities
  • Bite/Claw (fox form): Str
  • Low Light Vision: Foxes ignore penalties for Dim and Dark lighting.
  • Outsider: Like all other yōkai (supernatural beings), kitsune are distrusted by humans and suffer a -2 to Charisma.
  • Power Points: 10 + 5(1d3)
  • Powers: healing, succor and 1d3 powers from the kitsune power list
  • Size -2 (fox form): Foxes tend to be about a foot and-a-half tall at the shoulder.
  • Small (fox form): Attackers subtract 2 from their attacks to hit.
 
 

Ancient Yako
This ancient and malicious kitsune has 5+1d3 tails.
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d12, Spirit d10, Strength d6, Vigor d8.
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d8, Intimidation d10, Notice d8, Persuasion d8, Spellcasting d10, Stealth d10, Survival d8, Swimming d4, Taunt d12, Tracking d8.
Charisma: +2 (+4 to other yōkai) Pace: 6  Parry: 6  Toughness: 5 (3 in fox form)
Hindrances: Curious, Greedy (Major)
Edges: AB: Miracles, Alertness, Charismatic, Great Luck, New Power x 5+1d3, Power Points x 4, Quick, Strong Willed, Very Attractive, Woodsman.
Special Abilities
  • Bite/Claw (fox form): Str
  • Low Light Vision: Foxes ignore penalties for Dim and Dark lighting.
  • Outsider: Like all other yōkai (supernatural beings), kitsune are distrusted by humans and suffer a -2 to Charisma.
  • Power Points: 30
  • Powers: bolt (burst of foxfire), boost/lower trait (crackle of foxfire/disabling bite), confusion, deflection, disguise, invisibility, light/obscure, mind reading (strange whispers in your skull) and 1d3 powers from the kitsune power list
  • Size -2 (fox form): Foxes tend to be about a foot and-a-half tall at the shoulder.
  • Small (fox form): Attackers subtract 2 from their attacks to hit.

Ancient Zenko
This ancient servitor of Inari has 5+1d3 tails.
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d10, Spirit d12, Strength d6, Vigor d8.
Skills: Climbing d4, Faith d10, Fighting d8, Intimidation d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d10, Stealth d10, Survival d8, Swimming d4, Taunt d8, Tracking d8.
Charisma: +4 (+6 to other yōkai) Pace: 6  Parry: 6  Toughness: 5 (3 in fox form)
Hindrances: Code of Honor, Vow (Major) (to Inari)
Edges: AB: Miracles, Alertness, Charismatic, Great Luck, New Power x 5+1d3, Power Points x 4, Quick, Very Attractive, Woodsman.
Special Abilities
  • Bite/Claw (fox form): Str
  • Low Light Vision: Foxes ignore penalties for Dim and Dark lighting.
  • Outsider: Like all other yōkai (supernatural beings), kitsune are distrusted by humans and suffer a -2 to Charisma.
  • Power Points: 30
  • Powers: banish, beast friend, fly, divination, greater healing, healing, succor, and 1d3 powers from the kitsune power list
  • Size -2 (fox form): Foxes tend to be about a foot and-a-half tall at the shoulder.
  • Small (fox form): Attackers subtract 2 from their attacks to hit.
 
Kitsune (race)
Change Form: Player character kitsune have advanced far enough in their fox-magic studies to shift back and forth between their natural fox form and a human disguise.  This human form is unique to the kitsune; adopting the appearance of a specific human requires the use of the disguise power.  Changing into the human shape requires a Smarts -2 roll; a success means there is still some sign of the kitsune’s true form (excessive body hair, tail, etc) while a raise means the disguise is perfect.  Shifting back into fox form requires only a Smarts roll.  As with the shape change power, a kitsune in fox form retains the same Smarts, Spirit, and linked skills available in human form but is restricted to the physical abilities of a fox. Player character foxes use the following fox statistics instead of the ones listed above:
Attributes: Agility d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6.
Skills: Climbing d4, Stealth d8, Swimming d4.
Pace: 6  Parry: 4  Toughness: 3
Special Abilities
  • Bite/Claw: Str
  • Size -2: Foxes tend to be only about a foot and-a-half tall at the shoulder.
  • Small: Attackers subtract 2 from their attacks to hit.
Low Light Vision: Kitsune ignore penalties for Dim and Dark lighting.
Outsider: Like all other yōkai (supernatural beings), kitsune are distrusted by humans and suffer a -2 to Charisma.  Even in their human disguises, there is something inherently otherworldly about them.
 
Read more about it!
Kamisama Kiss at Funimation and Viz


Friday, December 13, 2013

Nexus Multidisciplinary Academy: Teen drama vs Lovecraft vs Space opera for Savage Worlds


Nexus Multidisciplinary Academy is the prestigious yet controversial flagship Advanced School of GAITOSS (The Greater Alliance of Independent Terran-Originated Sentient Species). Nexus Academy functions both as a liberal arts college for the fledgling alliance -- offering the various descendant species and cultures of the lost home world a place to share their cultures and grow into a greater understanding of their galaxy – and as a research and training facility for the fight against the Outer Things that threaten all sentient species.
 
Over 1,000 years ago, humankind’s wasteful misuse of the planet Earth resulted in that world’s literal destruction. The survivors fled to the stars in pre-hyperlight spaceships, crawling through the blackness of the void to find new worlds to colonize. The majority of mankind found an idyllic star system with dozens of planets that could be terra-formed to suit their needs, but other refugees went further afield and discovered a far stranger universe than expected. They discovered refugee worlds where the humans had used genetic engineering to adapt themselves to the planet (or the whim of some patron) rather than the world they discovered. They discovered worlds colonized thousands of years ago by the remnants of Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu. They discovered the survivors of a cataclysm older than humanity when they found the sentient descendants of the dinosaurs. And they discovered monsters amongst themselves.
 
Mankind had always believed in the supernatural – demons, shape-changers, sorcery, and the undead – but they had forgotten these things were real. According to the humaniform (for so they have been named) records, in the early 21st Century (some hundreds of years before the demise of Earth-That-Was) a mortal champion called the Chosen One had banished the most pernicious supernatural powers from the mortal plane. As time passed, the weakened ancestors of the humaniforms blended more and more with mankind until they became little differentiated from the humans they once preyed upon. When humanity fled the ruined planet, those who moved secretly amidst us joined us in our arks. Unable to remain concealed, they joined their fellow passengers and created hybrid cultures.
 
Painful and unnecessary wars erupted between humanity and its cousins when the miracle of hyperlight first brought distant stars together, but those days are now past. Even the feared Vampire Empire has made peace with the living now that the children of Earth-That-Was are threatened by the Outer Things. The Great Seal wrought by the Chosen One had worn away with time, and the malevolent beings from Outside had at last broken through again. The human and humaniform cultures joined forces in GAITOSS and drove the Outer Things into the distant arms of the galaxy.
 
In so doing, the heroic forces of GAITOSS rediscovered the lost Solar Sytem, and it is here Nexus Academy was built. It is located in one of the dozens of World-Domes surrounding Sol in the orbit of Earth-That-Was. One of the primary duties of the Academy is to study relics found in the debris of the home-world in an effort to reconstruct the Chosen One’s Great Seal. While there are many xenophobic voices amongst all the cultures of the Terran Species, it should be no surprise that Nexus Multidisciplinary Academy’s vital mission makes it the most prestigious civilian institution in the Known Galaxy.
 
Nexus Multidisciplinary Academy is located in one of the artificial World-Domes of the Academic Cluster of the GAITOSS installations sharing the orbit of Earth-That-Was. The Academy is home to an elite faculty of 10,000 specialists and a student body of 200,000, making it exceptionally exclusive in a Known Galaxy of 400 billion souls. An additional 1 million administrative and support personnel serve on board the World-Dome.

 
Before you congratulate me for the brilliant world-building exercise, all of the above (save for some slight renaming and editing) comes from a post on my old, defunct LiveJournal from 2/21/2007 (archived on my Half-Told Stories page).  I’ve been really enjoying these setting sketches I’ve been doing this month, and it dawned on me today that I could pillage my old writing for some settings.  Nexus Multidisciplinary Academy was written back when I was a Unisystem fanboy, and is set in a goofy-ass far future of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.  The new stuff starts here.
 

Nexus Multidisciplinary Academy is a fantasy/horror/science-fiction hybrid of multicultural (and multispecies) college students battling Lovecraftian horrors with forbidden tomes and laser swords while learning about life and love.  It requires the Savage Worlds Horror Companion to play; the Savage Worlds Sci-Fi Toolkits are recommended.

Races
  • Androids may be genuinely sentient robots or cyborgs.  The Tetsugo Shogunate consists of a race of androids programmed with the downloaded memories of an entire planet of doomed human colonists.
  • Angels are the nanoengineered soldiers of Deus X, the God-Machine of the  Prime Theocracy; mortal worshippers infused with Its god-particles, they have astonishing power that can be revoked at the God-Machine’s will.
  • “Atlantean” has become the slang term for several humaniform species founded by the mutually-hostile survivors of Earth’s lost continents.  Unfortunately, simple practically requires they share quarters on the aquatic level of the Nexus World-Dome.
  • Avions are one of several genespliced subspecies of humanity.  The bat-folk of Go’am are one of the primary donators to Nexus Academy, but most humaniforms prefer the beautiful .
  • Demons are the nanoengineered servants of Luci-4, a rogue subroutine of Deus X; their presence in GAITOSS is constantly questioned, but they have no more desire to be undone by the Outer Things than anyone else.
  • Dhampyrs were bred by the baseline human ecclesiastical orders to hunt out vampire infiltrators during the early conflicts between the Third Reformation Church and the newly-rediscovered vampire humaniforms.
  • Dwarves resent the term, insisting their resemblance to the miner folk of proto-historic Earth-myth is an entirely coincidental result of being bioengineered to live in the caverns of a high-gravity world.  They like being called “highgravs,” but it isn’t catching on.
  • Elves relish their marked similarity to the beautiful, wise creatures of ancient literature; indeed, the resemblance seems suspiciously precise.  Their organic technology is so unlike that of other humaniform cultures that they have trouble using other kinds.
  • Half-elves result naturally from the interbreeding of baseline humans and elves.  They are in surprisingly small numbers given the physical attractiveness of elves, but both elves and baselines are reluctant to partner with beings with such different lifespans.
  • Half-orcs like to point out that there’s no such thing as orcs.  Not anymore.
  • Humans surprisingly still exist in their normal, baseline form.  It is a wonder to many of the humaniform races that anyone would choose to retain evolution’s blind flaws, but baseline humans are often stubborn that way.
  • Patchwork Men are the result of experiments to revive those killed in the war against the Outer Things.  The experiment has not been very successful so far, but several patchwork students are in occupational therapy at Nexus Academy.
  • Phantoms have had their bodies shunted into subspace by the strange weapons of the Outer Things.  Their ethereal existence is the subject of much curiosity, as is their completely inexplicable weakness to simple NaCl.
  • Rakashans originated in genesplicing for recreational (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) purposes, but their low-light vision helped mankind fight the Vampire Empire to a stalemate.  The two predatory humaniforms still don’t get along.
  • Saurians are the only known non-humaniform sentient species, but even they originated on Earth.  Essentially resembling human-sized dromaeosaurs, the age of their species fills them with pithy observations on life’s foibles.
  • Vampires have a vast empire ruled by William the Merciful, an ancient white-haired vampire who remembers Earth-That-Was.  While the vampires extract a blood-tax from their mortal subjects, Emperor William likes to point out there’s no income tax.
  • Werewolves are absurd.  How could a werewolf with a cycle of changes attuned to a planet’s moon possibly exist as a viable sub-race in space?  The idea is ridiculous and has nothing to do with the lack of moons around the World-Domes.
  • Zombies are the unfortunate result of some incurable infection from the Outer Things.  Regular monitoring of their feeding seems to stabilize them enough to allow interaction with the uninfected, but they still make most humaniforms nervous.
Skills
No changes.

Hindrances
No changes.

Edges
No changes.

Gear
All gear from Savages Worlds Deluxe and Savage Worlds Horror Companion are allowed.

Setting Rules
Born a Hero, Forbidden Lore, Heroes Never Die, Rituals, Multiple Languages, Sanity, and Wards & Binds.

Powers
All Arcane Backgrounds are allowed.  Yes, you can be a super-powered elf or a psionic vampire. 

Bestiary
Blob, blood mist, chosen slayer (all), corpse worm swarm, cultist (all), dark gods (all), dark man, demon/devil (all), dhampyr, dismembered corpse, elementals (all), emotion spirit, fear stalker, flesh ripper, ghost, giant worm, hate, helldrake, inquisition (all), leanhaum-shee, living grimoire, mad scientist (he’s your faculty advisor), mech (sentinel), metal juggernaut, occult researcher (all), police (all; armed with Futuristic arms and armor), revenant, smog cloud, vampires (all), victims, war droid, were-creatures, xenoform, zombie (all).

Inspirations
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a whole freakin’ boatload of half-watched and misremembered anime like Banner of the Stars, Gunbuster, Gundam, Tenchi, Trinity Blood, etc.



Thursday, December 12, 2013

Space Operetta 33,000: Sci-Fi Comedy for Savage Worlds

Space Operetta 33,000

Space…
It seems to go on forever…
But then you get to the end and the gorilla starts throwin’ barrels at you.
--Futurama

It’s the far future (or maybe long ago in a galaxy far, far away) and life goes on as always.

 
On board the HMS Decider, the second shift – an oddball assortment of junior officers and those passed over for promotion one too many times – find themselves in command of the Imperial Discovery Fleet’s flagship when the senior bridge crew is killed on an away mission.  They’re months away from the nearest starbase and this is their only chance at command of their own vessel.  How badly do they screw-up first contact with innumerable alien cultures?

In a ratty cantina on the bog planet Mephitic VI, the best smuggler in the galaxy has an attack of diarrhea right before a meeting with an old coot and a mushroom farmer about smuggling some droids past the People’s Bureaucratic Republic’s blockade.  The job goes to a second-rate smuggling outfit that underbids him.  Will they get the secret plans to the Counter-Insurgency or do they eat too many of the farm-boy’s mushrooms?

On the Outer Fringe of the galaxy, a not-so-very intrepid band of interns is fact-checking the entries of that esteemed repository of all knowledge, the Encyclopedia Interplanetica, in preparation for its new edition.  Unfortunately for them, it seems the Encyclopedia is woefully out of date; fortunately for them, they’re one step ahead of their bar tabs.

In another time and another place, Futurama is cancelled again… 
 

I’ve never believed in 13 as an unlucky number, but this year has really sucked.  I’ve had a few genuine tragedies (that I won’t bother you with), some really annoying financial trouble (but we’ve kept our heads above water), and some cases of “adding insult to injury.”  The re-cancellation of Futurama is one of those insults. 

Futurama has been one of my favorite TV shows ever since it premiered.  Like Scott Pilgrim, I identify strongly with Philip J. Fry despite being his opposite in many ways (in Fry’s case, I’m book-smart with a degree and a steady job with a pretty decent paycheck).  Like Fry, I’m perpetually stuck in a go-nowehere position and my greatest talents seem to lie outside of the professional sphere; one of those talents we share is being good at loving the lady we love no matter what.  Philip J. Fry is an inspirational figure (if definitely not aspirational).
 
 
Space Operetta 33,000 is a Savage Worlds setting of sci-fi comedy.  Whether you lampoon your favorite (or least favorite) space opera sagas or rip off Douglas Adams, the name of the game is relishing the dumb things we role-players do anyway in a setting that doesn’t make you roll up a new character if you push the wrong button.

*** Warning: Deliberately trying to improvise brilliant dialogue and full-fledged comedy skits is doomed to failure.  Nobody is that funny.  The best thing to do instead is play crazy situations straight and just revel in the quips and goofy behavior that comes naturally from friends gathering around the gaming table.***

While all the rules you need are in Savage Worlds Deluxe, the Science Fiction Bestiary Toolkit has a really helpful assortment of (admittedly old edition) NPC archetypes from fake Jedi to a star fleet bridge crew.  Additional alien races and alternate spaceship rules can be found in the other sci-fi toolkits, Slipstream, and issues of Savage Insider.     

Races
This might be a fun time to play with the Making Races guidelines in Savage Worlds Deluxe.  Otherwise, have fun re-skinning the standard races into fake Klingons and Vulcans brilliantly original races of your own conception!  Playing up the All Thumbs Hindrance of the otherwise lofty Elves or the Bloodthirsty Hindrance of otherwise sexy cat-people Rakashans seems like comedy gold to me.

Skills
No changes, but the GM should be sure to throw the characters into situation where they don’t have the needed skills.

Hindrances
No changes, but Doubting Thomas kind of requires that the characters encounter supernatural beings fairly regularly and that may not fit your version of sci-fi.  GMs should keep a list handy of the characters’ Hindrances and work in opportunities to exploit them whenever possible; for instance, characters with Bad Eyes (Minor) will be constantly having their contacts popping out or their glasses knocked off.

New Hindrance:  Absent-Minded (Minor or Major)
You tend to forget things – as in actual objects. 
With the Minor version of the Hindrance. when you declare you are using a device (blast-gun, chronic screwdriver, sandwich) that you haven’t used yet, the GM may once per session require you to make a Smarts-2 roll in order to have remembered it.
With the Major version of the Hindrance, the GM may simply declare you left it in your other pants.

Edges
No changes.

Gear
Futuristic Gear is the most widely available, with Medieval Gear perversely being more common than Modern.

Setting Rules
As has been pointed out before, the combination of Critical Failures with Heroes Never Die practically defines a comedy setting.  To simulate Futurama’s particular comedy-violence style, I would recommend the use of Gritty Damage (how many times have characters lost limbs?) and High Adventure (see the Claw-Plach scene in episode 209 “Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?”).

Powers
Weird Science is a must.  The hilarious way Psionics can actually backfire on the entire party makes it a likely candidate for inclusion.  Use Magic, Miracles, and Super Powers at your own risk.

Bestiary
Most NPCs are going to be as incompetent as the PCs, so you can usually assume d6s in all Attributes and d4s or d6s in their Skills.  As mentioned before, Savage Worlds Deluxe, the Science Fiction Bestiary Toolkit has a great collection of NPC archetypes (and some monsters).

Of course, you can always use Sitting Ducks' Futurama profiles for a ready-made crew.
 

I’ll miss you, meat-bag.

JUSTICE LEAGUE is the Movie the Rest of You Wanted

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