Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Savage Seas: Magic

Some brief arcane backgrounds for the Savage Seas campaign:

Each of the three options below reflect the most likely practices of magic to come in to play, but aren't all that could be available (Amerind shamanism, for example, or perhaps some unusual nahuatl magic systems). Each arcane background specific excludes "flashy" conventional spells in favor of spells with more potential subtlety.

Arcane Background (Witchcraft) (Witch, warlock, sorcerer)
Arcane Skill: Witchcraft (smarts)
Starting PPs: 10
Starting Powers: 3
Power Choices: Banish, Beast Friend, Blind, Boost/Lower Trait, Confusion, Darksight, Deflection, Detect/Conceal Arcana, Disguise, Dispel, Divination, Drain Power Points, Farsight, Fear, Mind Reading, Puppet, Shape Change, Slumber, Might, Succor, Warrior's Gift 
Horror Companion Power Options: banish entity, bind entity, drain years, nightmares, spirit shield, gravespeak, summon demon, summon spirit, suppress lycnathropy
Special: all spells cast according to Ritual Magic rules (see below)
Trappings: infernal or pagan allusions, with little or no "flash" but plenty of hidden effect.
Prerequisite: must be European in origin, or have studied under a European sorcerer or cabal.

Witchcraft reflects old world pagan beliefs, carried out by either heretical Catholics and Christians engaged in satanic belief or pagan Europeans still engaging with old world systems of belief. 

Arcane Background (Voudun) (Ougun, Bokor, Mambo)
Arcane skill: Vodun (spirit)
Starting PPs: 10
Starting Powers: 3
Power Choices: Banish, Beast Friend, Blind, Confusion, Detect/Conceal Arcana, Damage Field, Disguise, Dispel, Divination, Drain Power Points, Farsight, Fear, Mind Reading, Puppet, Shape Change, Slumber, Succor, Warrior's Gift, Zombie  
From Horror Companion: Banish Entity (Loas and Duppys), Bind Entity (Loas and Duppys), corpse senses, enhance undead, grave shroud, grave speak, nightmares, spirit shield, strength of the dead, summon spirit, summon demon, 
Special: all spells cast according to Ritual Magic rules
Trappings: power drawn from the Loas; spirits of voudon practice are invisible until they find a host; the host tends to transform over time under the loa which occupies his or her form. Voudon also has access to all the cool necromancy.
Prerequisite: must be of West African descent or origin or mulatto background

In 1718 the supression of West African paganism (especially the Vodun religion) and forced conversion of slaves to Catholicism led to an underground movement of voudon belief which was blended carefully with the iconography and trappings of Catholicism to disguise the worship of the old Loa. This was a formative period in a new syncretized form of belief, and a very important period for the rise of voudon as we know it. Practice of such was heresy and punishable potentially by death. 

Arcane Background (Miracles) (priest, monk, friar, etc.)
Use the writer-up in the core book, but with the following mods:
Power Choices: Banish, Blind, Detect Arcana, Dispel, Divination, Greater Healing, Healing, Succor, Warrior's Gift
Horror Companion Power Options: banish entity, consecrate ground, spirit shield
Special: must cast using ritual magic rules
Trappings: clerical miracles granted to an especially saintly Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other servant of a more "accepted" religion in 1718
Prerequisite: must be Catholic, Christian, Jew or Muslim, native or converted

Miracles as presented here reflect the popular European and Middle-Eastern belief systems that were most accepted at the time. Muslims among pirates, as well as converts were not unheard of. Catholicism dominated amongst the colonies, but the Americas were rife with dissident Christian sects. Nonetheless, an adventurer of faith with this background has potent miraculous skills at his disposal.

Ritual Magic (House Rule)

The details on ritual magic are found on page 26 of the savage Worlds Horror Companion, but the details on how long a spell will take are a bit vague. The following rule of thumb will provide some guidance:

When casting ritual magic, the arcane skill roll determine the speed of the ritual. On a 1, the ritual fails with potential negative effect. On a 2-3 the spell fails normally. On a normal success the ritual is presumed to have taken 1 hour of time. On a raise the ritual takes 10 minutes of time. On a second raise, the spell takes 1 minute of time. A rare third raise means the spell takes 1 action.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Savage Seas of 1718 Campaign - Player's Guide

Notes on the Savage Piracy Campaign (in the rough)

For this campaign we're using the Explorer's Rules with the Pirates of the Spanish Main as the baseline. Rather than remove Guts I am letting it remain a skill per PotSP but it will automatically equal Spirit, so no points need be added.

For SW Horror Companion everyone can use any of the new edges and hindrances listed. Some of the racial options are permitted with the caveat that you are probably unique and/or very rare and hidden among men....this is the "real world" of the Spanish Main so monsters walk hidden among men, and exposing oneself to the public as a monster leads to a mob of peasants hunting you down with fire and pitchforks. 

That said....I would prefer if the party were 95% human, but if someone wants to entertain a nonhuman choice, here's the races I'll allow, with notes, include:

Angel: the only angel on record is possibly Joan of Arc, but if a player comes up with an amazing reason why an angel would be pirating I'll at least listen to it before shooting it down.

Demon - in the Spanish Main having a demonic element means you are one of the following:
1. possessed or haunted by a christian or pagan spirit
2. a changeling of some hideous sort
3. possessed by a vodoun loa

Dhampyr: perfectly permissable but remember its really sunny in the Caribbean. Vampire sire would either be old world (European in origin) or new world (Mayan/Aztec in origin)

Patchwork Man: I love the idea so if someone can think of a suitable backstory to suggest why your pirate is a patchwork golem in 1700 I'll consider it.

Phantom: conceptually sound but may require some thought on how you will interact the the world and your party. Not probably a good choice for a setting with an emphasis on swashbuckling.

Werewolf: great idea and thematically fits well with piracy, but such a pirate may need to take special efforts to handle his lunar transformations when out at sea....

Zombie: perfect choice for those willing to work with the severe limitations!

On Cultural Backgrounds:

You'll want to pick your homeland, but make sure everyone speaks a common dialect. England, Spain, Portugal, France and elsewhere are all advisable. The Colonies is also cool. Want to be a rogue Amerind who's pirating? Sure, why not. Keep in mind in this time period England and Spain have a great deal of animosity, and for campaign purposes the Spaniards are Real Bastards. 

On the Timeline

The actual frame of time for the campaign is April, 1718. Blackbeard is contemplating retirement from his short but fierce career. Other contemporary (living) pirates are numerous but this time period between 1718 and 1722 was when most of them eventually run in to their ugly fates, a perfect time to both meet some of them while allowing your intrepid crew to become the next vile pirate legend! In 1718 you might have met or had connections to Anne Bonney and Mary Read serving under Calico Jack, Bartholomey Roberts (who's career is just taking off), and Stede Bonnet.

Henry Morgan has been dead 30 years and his grave lost after a mysterious earthquake swallowed up the cemetery where he was buried in Kingston Harbor, Jamaica just four years after his death.

Starting Location: Nassau

The adventurers are all in the pirate haven of Nassau when the campaign opens up. Nassau is currently a lawless port without even a governor, a safe harbor for pirates and buccaneers. This is about to change, but for at least a few months life is still good in the beloved freeport....

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Next Savage Worlds Game Will Be....

In discussing a planned non-SF Savage Worlds campaign (that will run conterminously on odd nights, in theory) we came up with the following combination of books:


Plus This:

And a Big Dose of This:

....aaaand also maybe some of this for its general awesomeness:

The actual game will be something I would describe as what you get when you put Tim Power's On Stranger Tides, The Lair of the White Worm, Pirates of the Caribbean, Last of the Mohicans, and Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness in a blender. Oh and what the heck, throw some Serpent and the Rainbow in there as well, and a dash --just a dash!-- of Solomon Kane. We'll see how it works!

Legacy RPG -- What Weird Gem be This???

While reading my PDF copy of the Runequest 2nd reprint I stumbled across the old Appendix N bibliography that they provided (hmmmm....that can't be a coincidence, can it???). Aside from the usual list of 70's era favorite authors which continue to remain largely timeless, it listed some other Fantasy RPGs considered inspirational or noteworthy. Aside from the usual suspects there's a reference to the Legacy RPG from Legacy Press. On the wiki page on this it alludes to this being a universal RPG, but no other information is provided, beyond that it was designed by David Feldt and published by Legacy Press in 1978.

There's a thread here at Acaeum where someone found a copy, which he described as follows:

"...I found a copy of this looseleaf RPG from Legacy Press and it is.... definitely an artifact from the early era of RPGs. Indeed, according to the cover blurb, it's not even a roleplaying game but, rather, a "second generation, multi-level role assumption game". I've not actually read it thoroughly yet as I just picked it up tonight, but there is some exposition near the back of the book that refers to other early RPGs such as The Empire of the Petal Throne."

Here's the pic posted there:

I like to think of myself as being pretty familiar with a majority of the RPG publications from back then....and i owned a great many of them, too. But this one? I have never heard of it, don't recall ever seeing a copy....and yet it clearly was influential enough to bear mentionining in Runquest's Appendix N. Interesting!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Runequest Classic now in print bundle on Chaosium!

If you're like me, you've been trying not to get involved in too many Kickstarters, and prefer to wait for an actual release copy to show up. Well, Chaosium has at last got Runequest Classic, the 2nd edition of the beloved game, up for sale now right here. At $29.95, which includes a GM Screen and mess of extra pages this is a steal, trust me!

I'm going to run this --SOON-- with Pergerron as the setting. Maybe I'll post some conversion details on the sundry and various Pergerron monsters posted to date....most of them are already in BRP or Legend format anyway!

This idea is an excercise of sorts: to see how adaptable RQ2 is to my own stuff (I did it back in the 80's, so I ought to be able to do so now, right?) and also to give me a chance to contrast and compare the RQ2 mechanics against Mythras.

Right now I can say that I am a bit shocked at how Gloranthafied the 2nd edition rules really were...I totally do not remember them this way (possible my greater time spent with RQ3 has clouded my memories of 2E). Still, easy enough to adapt to a relatively fluid, nonstandard setting like Pergerron. I'll probably need to borrow the BRP Creatures book (which is the reprint for BRP of the RQ3 monsters tome) to flesh out the missing monsters from RQ2 (I also totally did not remember that orcs, as an example, were missing from RQ2). I'll also have to drag Cthulhu: Dark Ages along, but I was already borrowing from that when I was using Magic World in Pergerron so nothing new there.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Savage Space - The Cyndaar Arrive, Hard Light Technology and more on the Eidolons

It finally happened....the Cyndaar made their first official appearance in the Savage Space campaign over the weekend. An ordinary Cyndaar of no special import kept six heavily armed and armored adventurers occupied quite nicely, as they learned that the only reason they could harm the Cyndaar at all was thanks to special bullets provided to them by their enigmatic benefactor, the Eidolon guardian named Susuros. These "Fibonacci Bullets" or "F-Bullets" apparently created a micro-singularity in the fabric of space and time, hemorrhaging normal matter into the fifth dimensional space from which the Eidolons pull their hard-light technology.

In honor of this event, here's some new details for Savage Space on the various and sundry wondrous technologies of the Eidolons, as well as some new details on the Cyndaar coming soon....

Hard Light Technology (gear property; ultra-tech invention)

This property converts ordinary gear in to hard light technology, and is only available through ultra-tech civilizations. In principle hard light technology is a matter-energy conversion process that seems to defy a few physical laws, but those who have mastered it (such as the Eidolons) claim that they have found a property of fifth dimensional space (one of the folded dimensions) which allows them to create objects which are simultaneously in a state of energy and matter....superpositioning of matter and energy almost as if it were a quantum effect (comparable, perhaps, to the quantum state of being both a particle and a wave). In the 28th century of Savage Space's Commonwealth the best physicists in the galaxy do not buy this explanation....but that's also why the Commonwealth has no super ultra-tech beyond the examples the Eidolons demonstrate.

For game purposes hard light tech is a trapping you can apply to gear, including weapons and armor. The object changes from its normal properties in to a hard-light creation. Such devices are represented as small disks, normally incorporated into clothing or a gauntlet (the Eidolon preference), which when activated create the desired object immediately.....including clothing or armor, which manifests around the person almost instantly. While "off" the discs occupy minimal space. As an action the device can be activated, which creates the hard light version of the device....and this version functions exactly as the original, except with half the weight, and an almost unlimited level of customization in terms of appearance and color scheme. One can make the armor look as "normal" or fantastical as you desire....the properties of hard light tech are not limited to looking like ordinary matter.

Hard light devices can be fractured and penetrated but even if broken will be restored within 1 hour after deactivating the disc. Only by actually damaging the disc or being hit with disintigration effects can the hard light gear be permanently damaged. Targeting a disc is equivalent to a called shot to the head, but with no damage bonus; the disc is protected by the armor of the bearer plus a toughness of 10.

Hard light power armor is perfectly feasible. Any power armor with this property is obviously almost priceless, but they still need to be "programmed" to reflect the build/style of the armor (see SF Companion for those rules). Such programmed armor can later be changed (options swapped out) but reconstructing the design takes 1 hour of programming and a Computers skill check.

Unusual Hard Light Applications

Eidolons have created entire starships made out of hard light tech. Such vessels appear to be limited to single-person fighter craft, but the Eidolons utilize hard light GAI (general artificial intelligences) to manipulate larger scale ships; their technology has all but eliminated the need for more than one crewman...the eidolon pilot. With this technology you can literally carry a battlecruiser on your gauntlet.

Hard light technology has been incorporated into the lost tech of the ruins throughout the Eidolon Expanse. Whether it is used for buildings, bridges or even constructed robots and drones, the technology allows almost energy-free creation of all levels of simulated artifacts and constructs. Constructs (robots) created in this manner are treated like normal for purposes of statistics, but they do have the protected "center" which is usually a small hover disk with drone-like properties of self-flight (Pace 8) that can be targeted with a called shot (at -4) to damage directly.

Hard Light Tech Mysteries

Susuros, a guardian Eidolon trapped on an unknown world in the Coreward Expanse has stated that the hard light tech should not be thought of as "machinery" but rather as something grown....almost organically, out of sentient substances from the fifth dimension. He elaborated only to suggest that the hard light tech is manifesting from a fragment of a grander entity in fifth dimensional space, something which appears to violate physical principles of matter and energy conversion in ordinary four dimensional time-space to us, because we are incapable of conceiving of it's existence in any other matter.

Hard light technology is not inherently resistant to the dark matter attacks of the Cyndaar, but it can be used to create psionic dampeners, which can be extremely helpful against such non-baryonic entities. Unfortunately it is extremely susceptible to gravitic weaponry, about which more will soon be revealed....and the Cyndaar in the deep Coreward Expanse worlds have begun to create such weaponry. When hit by weapons with gravitic properties the hard light armor loses all armor points, and is -4 on any vigor rolls if a construct. Even one wound dealt to a hard light creation destroys it.

On the other hand, the aforementioned F-Bullets --Susuros jokingly called them Fibonacci Bullets because he explained that the bullet initiated a form of fibonacci sequence which "dragged the ordinary matter of your universe in to fifth dimensional space, following the principles of Fibonacci's unique sequence." In fact they seem to create a sort of unique singularity which does exactly that, creating a microscopic wormhole which does indeed have a disintegration effect as it's local mass is drawn in to curled fifth dimensional space and presumably destroyed or assimilated.

Mechanically the F-Space bullet can be applied to any ordinary bullet, so the weapon of choice must be some form of slug thrower. The bullet appears to be an unstable hard-light construct infused with a variation of hybrid strange matter. When the bullet hits a target it deals normal damage, but is AP 12 against all normal matter and completely ignores AP from hard light armor. The damage dealt is treated as a disintegration effect, and the target, if it takes even one wound, must immediately make a vigor roll or perish, sucked in to the void of fifth dimensional folded space. These bullets are, needless to say, incredibly rare and only the Eidolons know the alchemy necessary to create them (but more on the arcane talent for Hard Light Tech later....)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Justice League and Wonder Woman Trailers

...Yes, it is a great time to be a DC Fan:

I was wondering if their choice for Barry Allen (the Flash) would work, but seeing him in this trailer? Absolutely.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tales of Enzada: The Etroniak Ocean and It's Islands

Random excerpt from the many locales of Enzada I have floating around:

The Etroniak Ocean

Named after the god Etroniak, who was said to have held up the very sky itself against the creature known as the Pale, until he was smitten by the siren Erephetine, such that the Pale was able to strike him down with a terrible wasting disease. The Etroniak Ocean is said to contain mysterious phenomena, and ships often disappear while traveling its vast gulf. Sailors say at its deepest is a miles-deep trench, the bottom of which holds the ancient tomb of Etroniak himself.

Mythology aside, the Etroniak Ocean is a dangerous place to cross, with storms so violent that most ships seek to travel the ocean during the calmer months and avoid the storm season, which fluctuates wildly. Those ships forced to travel during the dangerous months hug the Merillian coastline, and risk other piratical dangers instead.

Aside from the storms, the Etroniak Ocean is said to contain many strange phenomena which are attributed to all manner of sources. Planar rifts have been known to open on the waters, allowing passage of unwitting ships into other dimensional realms. Occasional ships will appear which have mysteriously been abandoned, and more than a few vessels tell of tales fighting incursions of Kuo Toa seeking to drag the sailors and their cargo to watery graves. Sirens, sea serpents and mermen are also frequently encountered in the Etroniak Ocean.

Deep in the heart of the ocean is a small chain of islands known as the Hamalapi Isles. These islands are the eastern tip of what may be a larger land mass to the west, but none can say for sure. The Hamalapi Isles are populated by exotic humans and demikin who speak no language familiar to the people of the east, nor do their gods bear any resemblance to the Enzadan gods. The Hamalapi have coal black skin which they accent with white and red tattoos, and they worship immense, ancient stone idols which appear to be similar to those found in Aquare and the Island peninsula of Sartoriam to the north. If this is true, it means that a very complex ancient civilization once populated the western isles and reached as far as the coastlands of Sartoriam, and then vanished. The Hamalapi insist that these were the Ancients, whom they call the Mai’akas, and that the Mai’akas were here before the Sky builders. The cultists of Pytharos affirm this to be true, and like to point out the oddly reptilian nature of the iconography of these ancient lands, as well as the fact that every single location with such ruins always has serpent and lizardmen living nearby.


On the southern coast of Sartoriam, at the southern end of the Straights of Etyri rests a modest port city which is ostensibly a Freeport ruled by the Datu Enampar, and it is regarded as the second distinct “kingdom” of Sartoriam, with the other being Aquare in the north.

Raspirion is distinct for having a small number of Selindari expatriate families in the area, who settled here two centuries ago and set up business ferrying mercantile goods from north to south and back. These families have prospered, and their recognition as merchant lords in the south as reaffirmed over time. Despite their hewing to Selindari tradition, Raspiri culture has had an influence on the families, and the result is a unique blend of he island culture of Sartoriam with southern Selindari tastes.

Locally people believe in seven sky gods whom they call the Fatudar, and that each sky god is an embodiment of part of the humans spirit. Because of this, the cult revolves around the notion that attitudes and emotions can influence the sky gods and in turn the sky gods display this emotion in the weather. The cultists seek to provide cultural “guidance” to the local people on how and when to display emotions so as to not upset the gods when it is bad. Inevitably sorcerers and warlocks are blamed when the gods show wrath in the form of storms, sleet, snow and even the fires of volcanos, which are rife in southern Sartoriam. 

Year round it is easy to see why  the Raspiri believe the world is dominated by fickle sky gods. The summers are hot and humid with terrible summer storms, and the winters are deadly and cold with island-covering blizzards. The weather of these northlands is a mixed pot year round.

The Fatudar include Simhana the raven, Uska the thunderbird, Traia the gull, Vesku the crane, Hinmanaa the auk, Raego the hawk, and Zauuste the wren. 

Plot Idea: The Warlock of Karnoven

Raspirion is having some horrible weather. A blizzard in summer has led many to suspect witchcraft. Friends of the Spirit of Elinzada’s captain Humalapar in the Selindari quarter of Raspirion, represented by the noblewoman Ahadana Muquiroy have asked that the adventurers look into the causes. The crowds of the city are already convinced it is the new cult that set up shot last year just north of town in the high mountains of Magge, where they say the cult leader, a man named Vormagask has been luring young people away to join his cult. 

Investigating the cult reveals some interesting details. The cult is actually a group of Jainists who have traveled north to avoid persecution in the south (where Jainism is regarded in many lands as heretical). Vormagask explains that he was a pilgrim of Dasam when he was revealed the truth on a pilgrimage to the ruined capitol of ancient Draath. The first Jainist to achieve immortality through faith, Emparas, revealed to Vormagask the true path to enlightenment, and told him to seek the Jewel of the North where he would find the tomb of Adante, an ancient Jainist who would reveal more. So it was the Vormagask claims he arrived in this land and set up his temple in the Magge Mountains while searching for the fabled Tomb of Adante.

About three months ago he concedes that he found the tomb, and they excavated it and dug out the entrance. Within he found the perfectly preserved form of the jainist priest Adante, who had the visage of a main cast in still-life, but with wild hair and nails. He was awakened, but at this point Vormagask is reluctant to say more. Prodding him (Persuasion DC 15) will reveal that he witnessed something horrible and disturbing, but he could not say more, other than that the ancient ascetic fled deep into the tomb, and injured one of the cultists as he did so, Vormagask’s daughter Emetri.

Emetri is being held in the compound in a special room; she was touched by the “tentacles” which erupted from Adante’s body, and she is now changing into a hideous beast (she is now morphing into some sort of devil). She can still speak, but will at some point go into a rage and attack. Before doing so she will shriek that Adante knew not what he did, and that he drank of the Fountain of Stars, at the foot of the Slumbering form of Drod, the Star God. In that drink he imbibed the very physical manifestation of pure knowledge, and it corrupted his physical form forever more…..he was no longer a jainist, he was now a star spawn.

The Tomb of Adante
The “tomb” is not so much a place of burial as a prison to keep what Adante became in. It was forged out of the entry to an ancient tunnels, which ran deep into the earth. The tunnel opened up into a vast, ancient basin deep within the isle of Sartoriam where an unbelievably old prehumen city could be found: the abandoned city of Karnoven…..the other followers of Adante, realizing the horror that befell their leader, sought to inter him in this domain and to serve as a warning. They continue to populate the city, all eight of them, now mummies….their Jainism a “partial” success.

The Ruins of Karnoven

Whoever lived her did worship Drod, as the immense idol and ancient temple suggest, but the rest of the city is clearly not only of nonhuman origin, it even seems to predate the rise of the serpent men. Ancient and terrible immortal beasts stalk the city streets, but there are many terrifying mysteries as well, including the enigmatic Fountain of Stars, which can bring forth unspeakable knowledge and changes all at once on those who imbibe from it. In addition, the ruin is occupied by a degenerate race of grimlocks who serve the mind flayers that act as the final priests of Drod, led by the elder mind flayer lord Quaast. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

MovieBob on Ghostbusters

I don't always agree with him, but when Movie Bob does do a review I agree with, it's an occasion to remember:

On the ending of Ghostbusters....I liked it, actually, but agree with him in the sense that it lacked a certain gravitas that the original had (ancient evil god bent on destroying the universe vs. angry nerd warlock bent on opening the gates of the afterworld to destroy the universe).

MovieBob has his own blog here. Check it out! I agree with him about 20% of the time, but his arguments for and against movies are at least well-reasoned and cogent.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) Two Reviews!

Review #1 (from my son), kinda goes like this:

1. Remind dad of the Movie Rules (no noise, no jumping around, no being a pest, etc.)
2. Proceed to dance in seat at Ghostbusters theme
3. Realize we are watching Ghostbuster Girls!!!!!!
4. Oh, let dad know we are now playing Ghostbuster Girls
5. He is the smart one with the hair and the positron collider
6. I am the one with the other hair and the twin pistols
7. Is that Staypuff Marshmallow Man? No he's just a balloon! There he is! No that's the Ghost ghost!!!
8. Stay through credits dancing
9. Go home, making sure Ghostbusters theme is playing in car. Once home put on play positron collider pack, and hunt ghosts all night long.
10. ...and the final, telling sign he liked it: go to Google Play store and load Every Single Free App with Ghostbusters In The Title.

Two ghost guns up!!!!

Now for Review #2. My review sort of goes like this:

This was an incredibly entertaining movie, and a real pleasure to watch in a theater not at all crowded...apparently everyone attending this evening was either not in touch with the internet, maybe not even in touch with contemporary nerd hate culture, or defiantly going to see the movie like me because my son frickin' loves Ghostbusters.

I was never a "huge" fan of the original movie...I gradually grew to like it more later on, especially once I lightened up a bit and decided it was okay to have a comedy film borrowing quasi-Lovecraftian theatrics in a humorous manner. I didn't see the second movie until years after it's release, and it was just "okay." So watching this movie....for me, it's actually technically as much or perhaps even more fun than watching the originals, because I was here enjoying it purely on its own merits, and also because I was enjoying it from the visceral perspective of a father who has a son who is really, really in to Ghostbusters.

As anyone knows, when it comes to movies your kids are in to they generally fall into two categories:

Movies the kid really wants to see, and if you're lucky its a Pixar film with some wry hidden adult humor to keep the parent from going mad

Movies the parent really wants to see, and you justify it by telling yourself that your kid is more developed and smart and adjusted than most, so it's totally okay to take him to see that PG-13 movie.

Every now and then, get lucky and find a movie where both kid and parent are delightfully entertained by the medium. Ghostbusters is one of those movies (so is the original....once I got my 1990-era hipster stick out of my butt, anyway!)

Five fun facts about this movie:

1. All the key players from the original have cameos hidden in the new movie, and some incredibly entertaining ones at that (Murray is the best! Aykroyd and then Weaver are close seconds)

2. This movie is only possible because geek culture now has women in it as a norm. Seriously....when the original Ghostbusters came out, despite there actually being geek women in the world, it was not considered at all proper for pop culture Hollywood to depict women as being in the least bit in to this sort of thing....and indeed it was just generally a "no no" in practically all facets of culture. Except in SciFi fandom, restricted to conventions. But on TV, or a big screen movie? Big no no.

3. This is an homage, reboot and kinda-sorta sequel wrapped up in one. I am not 100% sure why they went this direction....a "direct sequel, 30 years later" would have worked just as well, but they chose to go this route.

4. Chris Hemsworth was really damned funny, too. All of the key actors were funny, but Chris's role as the pretty but dumb receptionist was really amusing.

5. Kate McKinnon needs a movie that really lets her take off. I can see her in a Red Dwarf reboot, just so ya know...

Anyway! If you're not one of those people who pre-judged the movie long ago, I suggest you see it. Very funny, a great homage and pseudo-sequel with a lot of humor and the effects were actually pretty cool. Is it better than the original? I think objectively from my perspective they are roughly equivalent, with the caveat that the original has some venerable stars who be definition made that movie one notch greater than the remake....but the new Ghostbusters is head and shoulders better than the last sequel, and honestly damned funny and just plain fun.

And whodda thunk, another movie that comes in under 2 hours and somehow told a great, focused story! Wow!!!!

Ghostbusters get's a solid A for me and an A+++ from my son, judging by how hard it is to get him to go to sleep now.

Addendum: my diatribe on the inversion of men and women in the Ghostbusters franchise

Face it: had I not had a son who is so into Ghostbusters (and a wife who wants to see it too) then I probably would have waited until this movie was in the dollar theater, or maybe a discount priced Blu-Ray. Not because (as with Warcraft) I really wanted to see it but was afraid it would suck, but because I kinda like the Ghostbusters franchise but only in the general sense that I like lots of no driving impetus for me to see it other than free time and availability for the right price. But by coincidence it turned out to be more fun (for me) than I expected...and maybe even more so due to the fact that the general fan backlash prior to the film releasing told be there was probably something here more interesting just on principle. What I feel I got was less a "wow, amazing Ghostbusters movie" experience and more of a "Wow, we live in a time when four geek women can be the leads in a film like this that engages with the whole audience." That was pretty cool imo.

Or think of it like this: I am very proud that my son is (at least for now) able to have fun playing "Ghostbuster Girls" where he's just as cool being a female character in play acting as he is being Venkman or something. I felt the same way when he tells me he's Finn and I'll be Poe Dameron. It's a sign of the times as I see it that these normatives are not perceived as strange. When he's in grade school I expect the crushing weight of society's norms to barrel down and annihilate his sense of innocence on this, but for now it's just really damned cool. This does, in a sense, make it sound like the "all women cast" of the movie was more important in that way, but really it's the opposite....this movie effectively made it perfectly normal to have women in this role without casting a light on it. They were there just because it was totally okay for women to have lead roles in a fantasy action flick, just because it worked well, and not as a lampshade event. I really liked that. Stuff like this translates well to the next generation, for whom the idea that dad grew up in an era when the only female lead (Weaver) was allowed to exist as a foil for Murray to get the girl thanks to his geekishly hip and ironic charms, to thirty years later when the film can exist in a world where four women who are not there to be sex objects or the foil for men can just do their stuff busting ghosts. That right there? really was cool. I can't wait for Star Wars: Rogue One for this reason, either.

Movie Review: Warcraft - Better than I Expected!

Internet, you have failed me for the last time. No, not true....I expect many more failures, but Warcraft is just another example of how the hyperbole of the masses led me to decide not to see this film until it hit the dollar theater. In all fairness the movie trailer didn't's trailers looked very "meh" to me so I honestly found the idea that Warcraft's first film was a dud to be believable.

Well, having now seen it I'm like...What The Hell, Internet? This movie was damned good, and managed to tell a great story in two hours. I really miss the days when movies could pull this stunt off in two hours.  Warcraft not only did this, but it provided a very focused, interesting narrative, and not one which I found at all difficult to follow. In fact most of the complaints/issues I had read about prior to seeing the film all seemed trivial and nit-picky now in context.

The movie focuses on the dawn of the Warcraft storyline, going back to the lore of the RTSes near as I can tell. Disclosure: I have logged a lot of World of Warcraft time in, and played Warcraft 1 and 2 many ages ago. However, I am not a lore master of the WoW fact I'm pretty weak on my WoW lore, regarding most of the content I've experienced in the game universe to be muddy and sometimes incomprehensible or contradictory.


I know specific characters really well, as well as the physical trappings of the setting. This movie nailed the "iconic elements" really was something else entirely to actually recognize Stormwind, Ironforge, the structural design of the orcish encampments and all of that. The characters in this film were amazingly well rendered, much more so than the trailer even suggested....every orc had personality and a unique look. Hell, the human warriors of Stormwind were less impressive than the orcs! So much of this movie was immediately recognizable to anyone who's played WoW for a while, and brought the universe of the game to life in a way I really appreciated. It made me want to play the game again, although on actually trying to do so I realized that what I actually want to play is the World of Warcraft we'll all see in a decade or two, which looks just like this movie, but in real time. Someone let me know when that game comes out, because I'll definitely be there.

Anyway, I'll not go into the details of the plot, but it's a very tightly focused exploration of some key characters in the earliest days of Azeroth's developing confrontation between orcs and men, with a focus specifically on Lothar, brother to the Queen of Stormwind, his relationship with the half-orc Garona and also Thrall's dad, leader of the Frostwolf Clan. Baby Thrall makes an appearance too, stealing every scene as only an unbearably cute and angry orc baby can. The plot was tightly paced, the movie focused on the key characters in a way that other blockbusters that like to run closer to 3 hours can't possibly hope to accomplish, and it was just such a pleasure to watch this movie.

So, if you have never played a Warcraft game before should you see this movie? If you like fantasy films in general, then hell yeah. This movie, and its crew of largely unknown actors, managed to produce a film that I found much more engaging and enjoyable than most fantasy films (including and especially that Bloated Mass called the Hobbit Trilogy) in recent years. It was refreshing, actually, in its honest depiction of a fantasy universe that matched more closely than usual the sort of gaming I get up to every week.....this film bodes well for the potential of a future D&D movie, in fact.

Although it's success in the US is mixed, I sincerely hope the worldwide return was enough to insure we get a sequel. I cannot wait to see what the Lich King looks like on the big screen. Also, we need more murlocs on the big screen. The one screamy dude fishing was not enough!!!!


Going by the movie, orcs were seriously OP and must have been nerfed by 2004's WoW release (heh)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Savage Worlds: Vishkanya Poison Maidens

Vishkanya – Poison Maidens in Savage Worlds

Vishkanya are tall and thin humanoids who can pass for human at a glance, but their skin is made up of fine scales, their tongues are forked and they have pupil-less eyes. Vishkanya can secret a toxin through their blood and saliva which can sicken those who come in to contact with it, and have a reputation for being deadly to the touch (though this is a myth propagated by their cultural affinity for poisons). Although it is conventional that vishkanya are women, some worlds may have male vishkanya as well. 

Original Gaming Source: Pathfinder Bestiary 4 (SRD version here)

Vishkanya Racial Options

Toxic Venom (+1): Vishkanya emit a toxin through their blood and saliva that affects most other creatures on contact with the poisoned condition. The vishkanya can apply this effect to their weapons as an action during combat by licking their blade or dipping it in vishkanya blood. The poison requires a Vigor check to avoid suffering a -2 penalty to all checks for 2D6 rounds. Vishkanya can do this as many times per day as their own Vigor score.

Stealthy(+1): the vishkanya start with a D6 in Stealth due to their inherent serpentine origins.

Poison Resistant (+1): Vishkanya get a +2 bonus to any vigor roll to resist a poison effect.

Outsider (-1): -2 Charisma; Vishkanya are regarded as outsiders and not to be trusted. They are popularly believed to kill on contact with their skin, which despite being false means they are usually forced to live in the slums and shanties of larger communities. While they can work to disguise their serpentine features to pass for human, many regions will mark such trickery as punishable by death, enslavement or imprisonment.

Infravision (+1): Vishkanya have naturally better sight in darkness due to their serpentine origins.

Blooodthirsty (-2): Vishkanya have earned their reputation as assassins. As a race they are prone to cunning, serpentine bloodthirstiness and it is against their predatory nature to take prisoners.

Poison Masters: vishkanya may choose the Arcane Background (Poison Master). See details below.

Poison Master Arcane Background
Arcane Skill: Poisons (Smarts)
Starting Power Points: 10
Starting Powers: 3
Trappings: poisons; this arcane background requires that all powers be delivered by means of touch, inhalation, ingestion or through a wound. Some effects such as area attacks may manifest as a cloud of poison, for example.
Spell List: (from both Core and Fantasy Companion)
Blind, Boost/Lower Trait, Concentrate, Confusion, Damage Field, Drain Power Points, Draining Touch, Fear, Puppet, Slow, Slumber, Smite, Stun, Zombie   

Sample Vishkanya: 

Vishkanya Assassin
Attributes: Agility D8, Smarts D6, Spirit D4, Strength D6, Vigor D8
Skills: Climbing D8, Fighting D8, Investigation D6, Notice D6, Stealth D10, Tracking D6
Pace 6, Parry 6, Toughness 6 (7)
Racial Traits: Poison Resistance: +2 vs. poison effects; Toxic Venom: (8 times/day apply poison to weapon attacks; vigor roll or suffer -2 to checks for 2D6 rounds); Poison Master (PP 10; Spells: Fear, Slow, Draining Touch); Infravision
Hindrances: Bloodthirsty, Outsider (-2 Charisma)
Edges: Assassin (gain +2 when striking unaware target)
Armor: Leather (+1 toughness)
Weapons: Throwing Knives (ST+D4) and short sword (ST+D6); weapons will have toxic venom applied (see above) and possibly other poisons.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Savage Worlds: some House Rules

I was thinking that the only real issue I have with Savage Worlds is the fact that the core game emphasizes skills in action, but at the expense of points in Knowledge and languages. In many of my games language is a big's hard for me to create a setting without thinking about linguistic issues. Anyway, these two house rules I think will cover it nicely:

Languages Known: adventurers can learn a number of languages equal to their Smarts die (i.e. D6 means 6 language slots). The GM can let the player start with as many "empty" language slots as he/she wants and fill them during play, through training, or as desired. Alternatively: roll the Smarts die; this is the number of languages the adventurers starts play knowing, and the rest must be learned in-game.

Knowledge Specializations: In the core rules you spend points on different Knowledge skills, picking a focus each time. For games where lots of knowledge skills is a better idea (such as hard SF or investigative horror) I propose that the adventurer get a number of additional skill points just for knowledge skills equal to his Smarts score. This is in addition to Smarts granting language slots.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Admiring Savage Worlds' Combat for a Moment

This weekend I ran a Savage World Sci Fi adventure (in Savage Space, of course!) and I just wanted to comment that this may be the only role playing game out now where I could comfortably manage a battle between 6 PCs and 140 monsters (no wild cards, though!) in an hour or less.

Savage Worlds does a lot of core stuff "right" in ways that (once you adjust to SW's sensibilities) make you look askew at other game systems. I now wonder why EVERY game system out there doesn't have mook rules, for example. In defense of other game systems, a few which do offer such eloquent systems include....

13th Age (where Mooks have a marginal # of hit points and can be treated like a "pool" for damage purposes)
D&D 4E (which had the awesome minion rules)
Feng Shui: Action Role Playing (which to the best of my understanding may have invented the concept as a mechanic)

Sometime's it's just great for book-keeping to be able to divide out foes in terms of their survivability, but honestly....any game with an eye toward cinematic explosiveness should have rules like this.

Anyway, my weekend with Savage Worlds has (once again) reminded me of how much I like that system when it's actually in process. Expect this to mean more Savage Worlds content for the blog soon!

This weekend's Savage Worlds game was a lot like this scene,
but with pinker, more garish cephalopod aliens

I also really liked the initiative process. Not because it was too horribly special, but after three sessions of Runequest 6 combat, going to the card method of Savage Worlds was so smooth and simple by comparison. Even D&D 5E combat could benefit from this simplicity. It's one of the reasons I also love White Star combat with its solitary D6 roll, then go around the table.

Sometimes, you don't need a lot of mechanical clutter to get the same (or an even better) effect in play. Savage Worlds really exemplifies this concept in design.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Silly Lulu: Print on Demand Disaster Tales of Fun -- The Hero's Journey RPG's first supplement is...a family recipe book?

This is the most amusing printing error I've ever seen. In Lulu's recent big sale I picked up (again, despite my proclamation not to) many more books, including Barrel Rider Games' The Hero's Journey, which for those of you not familiar with it is a Swords & Wizardry hack that adds some unique flavor into your 0E-inspired gaming. The tome is 196 pages....or it should be.....

....but mine not only contains the entire game itself, but another 100 pages of someone's personal family recipes!!!!

I'm inquiring with Lulu about whether they are now doing surprise "two books in one" deals or if they wouldn't mind just giving me the book--and only the book--I actually wanted. But I feel a teensy bit bad for this as I'm imagining somewhere Bryan is wondering where his family recipes are...or worse, yet, wondering what "Hero's Journey" is!

Anyway, if you haven't heard of Hero's Journey yet go over to and get a free copy right here. It's pretty neat...and the print edition is full color and very nice looking! You may even get a free bonus cook book for your...ah...hero's journey.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review: Stark Space for White Star

Stark Space ($5.49 in print or $2.49 PDF from Magic Pic Media)

If you like White Star then you should be familiar with --or want-- Stark Space, a White Star sourcebook that adds low-tech hard SF cyberpunk thematics in to the system with three new classes, a range of racial options suited to a transhuman cyberpunk future, new equipment, cyberware, and other useful stuff. As it turns out Stark Space is available in POD now at Lulu (right here) or print (here).

Stark Space is a resource expansion for White doesn't change anything, instead adding a range of new options that you can use by itself or in conjunction with whatever other elements of White Star you want to use to customize your own setting. It stands well on it's own, however, giving you enough material for some decent cyberpunk gaming.

Stark Space breaks down as follows:

Life in Stark Space: a short overview of the setting. This is less a primer on the universe of Stark Space and more a set of implied assumptions; the universe of Stark Space is our are of the galactic rim, colonized in the not too distant future in a universe where interplanetary travel is slow and costly. No one's met sentient species yet, megacorporations and organized crime call the shots, and technology is not too crazy; this is a setting which can handle the universes of Alien, Firefly, Event Horizon, Blade Runner, Akira and other "realistic future tech SF" settings.

Classes: the system uses character "strengths" to reflect class types. Thus we get the Brains, the Face and the Muscle. Each class provides a robust range of abilities, and could function nicely in a "three class" system. That said, you can mix and match other White Star classes easily enough....I'd probably let the mercenary, pilot, robot and an engineer and medic option in as well, but if you stuck to core three I think you'd be fine.

Skills: Despite being S&W White Box-based, it's popular to strap on a skill system to White Star since SF games tend to need it, and Stark Space adds a decent skill system for your use. Twelve skills plus languages let you modify classes to suit to taste. The mechanic is 2D6-based (no shades of Traveller here, nope), in which you roll equal to or under a score derived from 2 stats added together and divided by three.

Races: since this supports a near-future cyberpunk/transhuman/humanocentric SF style, Stark Space offers some racial options: straight humans, max-genes  (genetically modified humans), Simulants (androids from Alien or Blade Runner style simulants), and Psis (humans who developed psionic potential). Of these, the last one may or may not work well for your intended style of near-future SF, but if you're creating a setting that pulls from the full range of resources for this near-future genre then having all four is useful. Missing from this is hardcore transmhuman concepts, but I suppose that would make for an --ah-- interesting challenge in how to model such in an OSR system.

Weapons & Equipment: favoring lower-tech gear (i.e. no zap guns or particle beam weapons) Stark Space offers up 8 slug thrower options, 4 heavy weapons, 6 melee weapons and discussion on armor types. The cyberwear section includes a saving throw mechanic for what happens when adding new cyberwear goes wrong, and is focused mainly on old-school cybernetic enhancements, with ten new options. Following that is a section on drugs, with 9 funky drug types and a random overdose/side-effect table. Other equipment concludes this section with a resuscitation pack, nano-disguise kit and info on buying simulants. The resuscitation pack is kind of neat, allowing the dead to come back...but with some permanent results of their close encounter with the crumpled character sheet effect.

Overall it's a good range of equipment for the genre (supplementing the core rules), but the lack of transhuman "wetware" seems like an oversight to me. You can easily just reskin the cyberwear, though....but with tales of CRISPR rolling around today, I think any effort at near-future SF that ignores the reality of wetware in the future is either a foolish oversight or deliberate effort at retro SF kitsch.

Optional Combat Rules: you don't need many in White Box games, but situations do like to rear their heads at time. We get one whole page here, but it covers some useful new info on adjudicating hand-to-hand combat and gun fights involving spray-and-pray combat. Nothing offensive here, just useful moderation in the White Box style.

Antagonists: This section adds a range of foes (totaling 19 stat blocks) for you to use in your Stark Space campaign. All of the foes are "genre appropriate" so if you want weird stuff other White Star books may suit your needs. The only "weird" foes in the list is a viral zombie; the game studiously avoids offering up its own take on the alien xenoform, amazingly.

Stark space wraps up with a serviceable character sheet. For those interested, the art in the book is mostly from royalty-free art packages, and is a nice genre-appropriate selection, nothing exciting but no eye-sores, either (only the cover comes off as a bit bland, but also inoffensive).

Coming in at 38 pages (with the last page as OGL) it's a compact 8.5X11 inch tome which will work well for you if your goal is to do a more contemporary "near future" or "hard SF" campaign. I can't recommend it enough.