Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Rogue Trader: Rules For Tau PCs

So, one of the guys in our gaming group has suggested running a "Kill Team" style game, using a hybridised combo of Deathwatch and Inquisitor. The current plan is to make our characters "in a vacuum" - we can make anything we like, from Space Marines to Abhumans to Hive Gangers, and this guy plans on working some manner of balance into the game. While the system sounds to me like what we call a "shitemare", the idea sounds like a lot of fun.

And, in a flash of oddness (considering I didn't know she knew anything about the 40k setting), one of the girls asked if she could play an Air Caste Tau. Not just a Tau, but one of a specific Caste and everything.

And it got me thinking - why the Hell would an Air Caste Tau be with an Imperial Kill Team? Unless they were with a Radical Inquisitor (a pretty fucking Radical one at that), or maybe a Rogue Trader...

Then it hit me - while the timeline makes them unlikely to be present in the Koronus Expanse, it's not impossible (I read the bit about them being in the Jericho Reach, and RTs going to the edges of the Reach in search of profits they can scrape from warzones). It struck me that Air Caste Tau who'd shown their skills would make a great addition to any Rogue Trader's retinue, especially those who had (for whatever reason) turned their back on "The Greater Good", or went outside the area of the Ethereal Caste's supposed "control".

So, I wanted to work out both the Tau Race (with Caste as a choice, much like Kindred for Kroot) and the Air Caste Pilot Career (based pretty heavily on the Void Master Career), mainly as a starting point to work out some more options for players wanting to fight for The Greater Good.

Next post - Tau Racial Traits, and after that, the first part of the Air Caste Pilot Career!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Bards: Another Risus Adventure

In the style of Roadies, here's another one-shot Risus adventure (which you may expand into a full campaign, should you wish).

You are the Entertainer's Guild of (Insert Fantasy Locale Here) - a travelling troupe of Bards, Musicians, Magicians and Storytellers, banding together to help make some coin and gain fame (or notoriety) across the land. You've been invited into the lands of Baron Farken, an ex-adventurer turned ruler, to help celebrate the marriage of his daughter into another Noble family.

But, not everything is as it seems - and as the only ones with near-unlimited access (and a keen eye for adventure and intrigue), it's up to you to help sort what is wrong with the celebrations.

The Plotlines

  • The Baron's daughter is not who she says she is - she is in fact a plant, a Changeling who has "gone native", after the real deal was kidnapped years ago. She would hate to dissapoint her newly-adopted father by letting him know... The real Baron's daughter was taken by an Evil Wizard, to be used as a bargaining chip at times like the marriage - but the Changeling has stopped communicating with him, and is unwilling to show herself to prove the plot to the Baron. Do you help the daughter, or the Changeling?
  • Should you choose to help the Changeling, turns out the daughter has escaped her prison, picked up a few travelling compainons (around a hundred warriors), and a few levels in Barbarian along the way - how will you react when the real Daughter Farken kicks the door in halfway through the ceremony, warriors in tow, to depose the fake?
  • The Noble family she is marrying into is in fact a sinister Star-God cult - and they plan to use the Baron's Daughter as a sacrifice on her wedding night! Can you uncover the plot and stop the cult without incurring the Baron's wrath?
  • The Baron's wife has taken a shine to one of your party - and will stop at nothing until she's had her turn. Can you avoid her lecherous advances, all the while not alerting the Baron?
  • The wedding dress has been kidnapped by a local Orc tribe, so they can use it in their own wedding ceremony - is their a tailor amongst you who can take up the challenge to fit a dress for Thraka-Tholl, the Chieftain's six-foot, 200lb wife-to-be? And to make matters worse, she's a real Bridezilla...
  • As a practical joke, one of the Baron's sons has stashed a Goblin stripper in the wedding cake. Problem is, it's a male stripper (you ever tried to sex a goblin? Uh, don't... don't answer that). Can you prevent the party-goers from getting a face full of little green wang?
  • The Noble's stag party has taken a turn for the weird - you find him on the morning of his wedding cursed into the form of a small lizard (possibly through a baleful polymorph spell), only capable of communicating telepathically. Can you help to break the curse in time for him to read his nuptials?
Really, you can run it as a semi-serious game (the first couple of plots) or a comedy of errors (the last few), or somewhere in between (cause let's face it, the point where the real Baron's Daughter kicks the door in is an awesome time to have a naked Goblin jump out the cake). You don't need to use all the plots - two should be fine for a short game, and three would make a perfect full-day game. If you wanted, you could split each up into sub-plots - take the Cult option.

  • Discovering the cult could be a full session, all the intrigue and socialising working up to the reveal that something is wrong within the Noble family.
  • Talking to the Baron would be the next challenge - working out proof, avoiding execution (and the schemeing of the Noble Cult) and a plan of attack.
  • Third session could be taking on the cult - whether on your own, to secure the proof you need to convince the Baron (and rescue his daughter, don't forget about that), or with the military might of the Baron's forces behind you. Either way, you're going from investigation and diplomacy and right into kicking ass and taking names, Bard style!

All the characters should be performers of some sort - whether fully fledged "magical music men" Bards, jesters, storytellers, or true magicians (Wizards would be cheating). Of course, you could just play the Caravan Guard - but I'd recommend taking an entertainer cliche, like 6' Hard Ass With A Knack For Juggling. Combat cliches aren't as vital here (depending on your choice of plots), but it might still pay to have Showy Part-Time Duelist, Dirty Trickster Street Magician, or Acrobatic Master of The Arts of The Body to help out in the few combat-type bits.

As Bards, you might be expected to take part in wordgames, punnery, and socialisation - which does not play well to some poeple's tastes. Either load up your group with improvisers/good roleplayers, or allow some exchanges to take place as Combats (a debate/seduction could be an Extended Combat, while thinking of the perfect putdown could be a single Target Number roll). Gague it according to player preference (though, even with good roleplayers, Risus is made for Combats That Aren't Combat).

A specific note to characters wishing to play "magicians" - this is High Fantasy. People aren't easily impressed by "magic". High-faluting socialites are impressed when they can see it's a trick, know you didn't use magic, and still can't figure out how the Hells you did it. Using real magic is cheating - and no-ones going to bat an eyelid if you made their favourite watch actually disappear. Sleight of hand and psychology are your mainstays, not fancy conjuring. Bear this in mind.

Sample Characters
Some pregens, both serious and not so (to flesh out):

Shara, Stonespeaker of the Raintop Tribes

A Goliath Stonespeaker (or Wise Woman), Shara has taken a sacred vow to travel the land looking for a particular item - The Helm of Kaavaki. Legends tell of its passage from the great Goliath demigod hero, down through less worthy successors - she plans to bring it back to her tribe, so their latest Chief can be recrowned to lead them into a new age of prosperity and power over the neighbouring tribes.

Old Witch-Woman Storyteller [4]
A Firebrand, In Her Youth (3)
One Mean Grand-Mother (2)
Used to Be a Looker (1)

Finkin, Gnome Bard of Ill-Repute

Known locally for his dirty limericks and his... interesting seduction techniques, Finkin is a true Scoundrel - and wouldn't have it any other way. He joined the Guild so he could meet more beautiful women, drink more wine, and write his magnum opus - a song of the beauty of Elhonna, Goddess of Passion, Love, and Dirty Little Bastard Gnomes.

Master of A Biting Wit and Dirty Mind (4)
Three Foot Tall (But Not Where It Counts) (3)
Well-Versed Gnoma Sutra Master [2]
Something of A Historian (1)

Danan, Washed-Up Conjurer

Danan started life as a promising young Sorcerer - but a focus on the ladies drew him to stop his training, and as such the full power of his arcane bloodline has never seen the light of day. Now, he passes as an entertainer, using his natural skill as a magician (combined with a bit of cheating through real magic) to make a living. Hired by one of the caravan members, he's a little more mercenary than the rest, and will only perform when he knows there's a coin to be made.

Mercenary Sleight of Hand Master (4)
A Natural Performer (3)
Ex-Draconically-Blooded Sorcerer (2)
A Born Cheater (1)

Arturus, Caravan Guard/Children's Entertainer

Arturus is a Half-Orc with an unusual talent with children. Despite his menacing 6'6" frame, his mohawk adding a good 6 inches to that (complete with bones, braids and trophies), and muscles that would make a Frost Giant weep, kids flock to Arturus, and he loves few things more than spending time with them, and keeping them entertained. His skills stretch to juggling (occasionally, with children), storytelling, play-fighting and telling stupid jokes (which kids, being kids, love).

Half-Orc Party Clown [4]
Mercenary Warrior Guard (3)
Stupidly Witty/Wittily Stupid (2)
Gentle Giant (1)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Bards: What Are They Good For?

I love Bards. While AD&D had them as the most complicated class to get into (sort of a proto-prestige class, mixed with a logic puzzle/brainfuck), and they were considered the red-headed step child of 3e (you weren't as good at fighting as a Fighter, as good at sneaking as a Rogue, or as good at magic as a Wizard - but you sure could talk the ass off people! Useful in a dungeon crawl game, eh?), they've always captured my imagination as a real "Jack of All Trades" kinda deal - like Renaissance men on steroids (or whatever hormone produces raw animal magnetism). They're the archetypal Scoundrel - charming, dashing swordsmen, as quick with their wit as their blade, dilettantes of magic and stealth, and all round cool as fuck.

In fact, one of my favourite Bard ideas was the Dark Sun version - Bards were still storytellers and historians, travelling to perform for coin and lodging - but they had a much darker side, as the magic was phased out somewhat and swapped in with increased stealth and deadliness. They acted as assassins, due to being popular enough to make their way into anywhere where a story could be told. Poisons, throat-slitting seductions and a rebellious streak were their hallmarks. And they were pretty badass.

And, regardless of mechanics, Bards hold the simple appeal of being archetypal. From the cunning jester, to the smooth-talking gentleman thief, the Bard has popped up in literature of every stripe for decades. And who doesn't want to play James Bond (chat, seduction, subterfuge, and the "magic trick" devices) in a fantasy setting? Or the closest thing you'll get to a Magical Rock Star?

One of my tests of "generic" systems is to see how easily I can build a Bard (whether fantasy, modern, or truly generic/genreless). In most cases, a lack of "points" can make it hard (PROTIP: If there's and disadvantages involving mild substance addiction, nymphomania/satyrisis, or attracting unwanted attention, take them at all costs - you're not a true Bard unless you're turning heads by having several men/women hanging off your arm and snorting everything that gets in your way). I've found that FATE can make brilliant Bards by virtue of the GM letting you away with a simple pair of aspects:

Jack of All Trades...

...Master of None

So, you can cook a meal, cast a spell, pick a lock, or really try your hand at a bit of anything within reason - but you'll never be as good as someone who focuses on that thing. And ...Master of None can reflect a desire to learn more, or allow the GM to Compel you like mad (and GMs love that kinda shit).

So - that is how I Bard. How do you?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Hunter: LGBTQ Chronicle

So, a while back, I had an idea for a Hunter campaign. One of the defining traits of Hunter is "Defending Your Community", and one of the hallmarks of White Wolf games is a (as compared to most other games, and probably one of the reasons for its early "Goth RPG" appeal) very LGBT-friendly atmosphere and themes. From Exalted right through to the World of Darkness, themes of defining yourself and acceptance have ran as a strong undercurrent, counterpointed by openly-gay NPCs as major players within their respective worlds without their sexuality being the be-all and end-all of their characterisation.

So, why not combine the two - the player's Cell has sprung from the local gay community, in response to the threat of both the Supernatural and altogether less exotic threats of prejudice and hatred.

Now, before I go on, I should point out - of the somewhat rotating groups of players I have, something like 40% are "somewhere over the rainbow", myself included. When I posted this idea up on RPG.net, a lot of people raised concerns over possible stereotyping and offence that might be caused - but this is a LGBT chronicle for people in the community, and as such there shouldn't be too many problems.

I liked the idea because it gives the players a chance to explore the themes of alternate sexuality and society - there are surprisingly few games that support such things, and while you could try it with other systems, it would feel shoehorned in (who cares about who you want to have sex with when there's loot!). Whereas, not only can the players play characters with sexuality as a central part of their backstory/characterisation, but it will actually mean something within the framework of the game.

Note that this doesn't mean "straight" characters or players aren't welcome - I know plenty of people who are merely friends of the community, or have a partner who is part of it. And, really, part of Hunter (which I wanted to explore) is that Hunting is an inclusive activity - it's about the community as a whole, not just your little section of it. People from all walks of life might take up the Vigil, and I wanted to reflect that in the choice of characters - while some might know each other already, you might also have a local police officer, who has spent a lot of time dealing with hate crimes, and wishes to help out, or a gang member who has been accepted into the fold after her own traumatic experience with the Occult. Inclusion and lack of barriers are both big themes that I wanted to explore, and fit perfectly with the setup I had in mind.

But I need to figure out antagonists and threats that aren't just "Homophobic Werewolves and Gaybashing Vampires". So, here goes:
  • A Vampire (or group thereof) who prowl the scene, looking for young gay runaways (preferably from other cities/countries, come to make a new life) to feed from/ghoul into servitude. I like the idea that the Vampire isn't gay, but preys on people who are more vulnerable and lost - and in the city, he finds that these runaways are just perfect. Or maybe he's picked up a taste for them, and does so out of habit more than choice.
  • A team of rival Hunters, based off some of the Westboro Baptist Church's stances (they will reluctantly work with the PCs, but think they are doomed to the same Hell as the rest of the monsters - they Kick Arse For The Lord!). How long will it be before they stop hunting monsters, and start turning on your community?
  • A young pre-op Mage, who is attempting to find a way to deal with her desire to change sex through magic, and running into problems with Paradox.
  • Your classic Neo-Nazi group, with the twist that they are using daemonic rituals to gain a little extra power to commit their crimes - not that they do anything particularly groundbreaking. They're still just your average group of pricks, except with a little extra "oomph". Take it away, and you might break their spirit.
Another enemy I wanted to use for ages was Father Anders. A quiet young preist, Anders was interested in some of the more esoteric mysteries of the faith, and would research them with great fervour. He was known as a great confidant, a highly empathetic man, and something of a pillar of the community. Until he met with Cardinal Thomas.

Thomas had been looking into The Holy Fire - the flame that touched the Disciples, a show of God's power. He researched old forbidden texts, alchemical journals, even heretical books of witchcraft. Finally, he figured out how he could channel this Fire into a living being - to make them a receptacle for the Splendour of God Himself, a walking Fist of God's Rage to use in a battle against Sin.

But, he never quite cottoned on to what was happening. Those who've read Promethean: The Created will draw a lot of parallels between Holy Fire and Azoth - the animating force behind the Prometheans. Cardinal Thomas had found a way to infuse Azoth into a living being, and the results were... not as planned.

Where he was once quiet, he is now silent. Once a small, caring man, he is a veritable juggernaut, full of hatred and vigour. And the Cardinal's been using him to clean the streets of "sinners". Until some small part of the old Anders realised what he had become - a living sin, a walking representation of Wrath. Enraged by the betrayal he felt, he murdered Cardinal Thomas - and now he's loose, still "programmed" to clear the streets of sinners - thieves, murderers, prostitutes and Sodomites will feel his wrath. And it's down to those in the know to put a stop to him.

Problem being, I don't want religion to be a strong factor in the LGBTQ Chronicle - there's enough heavy stuff here without heavy-handedly throwing in some "Religion is EVIL" as well.

I'll look over it, and see how it can be modified for the game, but I'll persevere with the idea for now.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Hunter: The Vigil

So - I'm gonna run a wee couple of sessions of Hunter soon, based in Glasgow. I'm gonna pipe up a few ideas here:

  • Derelict buildings - Glasgow's chock full of them, whether it's tenements, warehouses, or half-finished motorway flyovers. These would make some pretty decent hideouts/lairs for gribblies, maybe even a good base of operations for our band of intrepid hunters.
  • Google Earth - my biggest ally when using real-life places in games, it can be used for street maps, for finding creepy places I never knew existed, or even as an in-universe tool - a good Hunter is a prepared Hunter. Must keep it in mind.
  • Set Pieces - as it's only going to be a couple of sessions while we decide on a system to run a large fantasy campaign, I want a few big pre-planned action sequences to make the game stand out. While I have always wanted to run a creepy, investigative Hunter game, it would work better as a long campaign, finally building up to a huge battle for survival. However, when running a short game, I find it best to let people jump straight into the action - so I need a couple of awesome fights to plan around.
  • Hacks - the nWoD "Hacks" are an awesome idea. While the game is mainly based on investigation and horror, Hacks are extra rules which can take things either down to a gritty, realistic level of fear and suffering, or the other way and out to full-on cinematic awesomeness. I'll take the second option, please!
  • Theme - I like short games to have a coherent theme - it stops it being three "Monster of the Week" sessions, with no over-arcing plot or feeling. I kinda want to go for Humanity, FUCK YEAH! as the theme, and show how the sheer testicular fortitude of people can overcome anything the Supernatural can throw at it.
  • Human Evil - despite the name and focus, Hunter isn't just about monster-slaying. Hunters work for the betterment of their community - and sometimes, that means the monsters aren't supernatural. Gangs, violent criminals, serial killers - the detritus of society can make for an interesting change of pace (especially as a "surprise" villain, where everything points to supernatural influence, but instead turns out to be the work of an altogether human perpetrator).
So, enough to be getting on with!