Wednesday, June 29, 2016

7th Sea...Second Edition, First Impressions

Certes, I am remiss!  Grand Master Wick's newest contribution may be found through the following link:

And now, for a few notes and observations (with the customary caveat that your furlongs per fortnight will vary).  As usual, I'm trying to avoid too many spoilers in the process.

1.  This edition is less crunchy and more 'narrativist' than the previous edition.  Personally, I kind of like the new mechanics, as they will be somewhat easier to teach to my Cub.  (If she can handle cribbage, she can handle this!)  Character generation is much simpler and faster, and odds are you'll have something in the ballpark of what you want to do without having to compromise too badly (unless what you want is something decidedly off-genre and odd).  Villains are much simpler to stat and bring into play.  Ships are more abstracted than 1st Ed but no less dramatic.  Improvement is now on a story-based 'fiction first' approach as opposed to XP...and of all the elements of the new edition, this is the one that's going to be the most challenging!

2.  This is a more inclusive world, and not just in matters of melanin distribution!  I'm hoping this trend will continue as we see more of the world in future releases.  (But then, gentle reader, you already know I am not the sort of chap to get the vapors over protagonists of differing coloration, gender identity, or romantic preference.)

3.  There's an eighth kingdom now present.  One of the secret societies has gone from being the oldest to the youngest.  Some of what long-time first ed players know (or think they know) about Thean history and backstory may no longer apply.  The map is both bigger and some geography has been moved around.

4.  We still have NOM to blame for everything that goes south.  That acronym still makes me giggle* even though we all know it stands for Novus Ordo Mundi and has nothing to do with lolcats.  While I get the utility of a Villains' League of International Evil for plotting purposes, I cannot help feeling a little bit as though this is akin to statting Cthulhu.  Give heroes a discrete list of villains running a vast international conspiracy to do Bad Things, and sooner or later they'll try to do something Heroic.

5.  Sorcery is different, too.  The Castillians no longer have their own flavor of 'maaaaaaaagic!' but get Alchemy in its place.  The Eisen version is now a bit ghoulish, being one part Frankenstein's Lab and one part Potions with Professor Snape--I've seen a couple of comments around to the effect of "this isn't heroic!  This is horrific".  Porte is still the fabric-tearing collywobble inflicting madness that it's always been, and we get a new style to go with the new kingdom, but it's less a sort of spellcasting and more knowing how to cut deals with some entities of a powerful nature.    Finally there's a sidebar there that seems to rub some folks the wrong way.  (I generously interpret said sidebar as leaning toward a mix of the Colville and Wanker Rules** in intent, but that's me.)

6.  One thing that's missing: there's no sample adventure.  So we get all this neat stuff, and all these interesting ideas, and a new bunch of mechanics...and then we get turned loose to get ourselves into trouble, playing in the sandbox.  I think that's kind of neat, but thanks to the changes in the system, there's a bit of a learning curve...and I can see where some folks, trained as we all are to finding certain things in games, will feel that lack sorely.

So there you have it!  Now to see how it all plays out...

Oh, yeah. One more thing.  Remember I noted that a lot of this has been streamlined and simplified?  It'd be duck soup to hack this baby for planetary fantasy without bollixing too much of the  underlying rules.  I've been a long-time fan of Chad Unterkoffler's Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies for the flexibility of PDQ# as applied to Space Opera, and it looks very much as though 7th Sea 2e is going to be similar.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Back to the Drawing Board: By Savvy and Steel!

As you can see, the piratical project is kind of sort of a little teensy bit stalled...but since I have a semipermanent jones for swashbuckling, it's difficult for me to stay in withdrawal.  At the moment, thanks to the 7th Sea Second Edition kickstarter, I have all the first edition PDFs on my hard drive which of course puts me in mind of By Savvy and Steel!  Being, as I am, more of a musketeer than a pirate at heart, it's time to grab Ed's answer to Dumas and go to town.  So, at the risk of copypasta out of the rules, here's how I build my new alter ego.

Your character is a Star...always a Star, unless you're playing a one-off skirmish game instead.  This gives a few automatic abilities, which basically boil down to their having a bit of script immunity and more free will in the face of stress (ie for some Reaction Tests).  These are:
  • Star Power
  • Larger Than Life
  • Cheating Death
  • Free Will

Choose his Reputation.  This ranges from a maximum of 6 to a minimum of 2, depending on your Age.  Reputation is a combination of many factors and basically represents how good your character is in a fight.  As per suggestion, Our Hero starts with a Reputation of 5...he's been in a few fights and exudes confidence and charisma.  

Determine his Birthright.  Rolled 2d6 and got a 7, which means he's a Commoner and specifically a Farmboy.  This is about as low as it goes (but only because Beggar isn't on the Birthright table).

Determine starting Fame.  This is depressingly dependent on your family, and just as in real life, you can't choose your parents.  So more dice hit the table, and Wesley here is one of three children born to his rustic sire, but he's not the eldest...and as the luck of the dice gods would have it, he's from the wrong side of Dad's marriage.  None of this helps very much: Fame starts at 0 (but see below) and he gets a single Level 1 Favor (explained later).

Determine Social Standing.  Like Fame, this depends on what your parents do for a living.  As a Farmer, it's a 1.  Bottom of the ladder.  Nowhere to go but up.

Determine Age.  Simple formula of 19 plus 1/2d6 results in a...20.  Just old enough to get into a hell of a lot of trouble.

Choose his Nationality.  And he's an Edensteinian (Edensteiner?).  He's local.

Determine his Attributes.
He gets two of these, since he's a rolled, one chosen.  The roll is 6,4 for Resilient!  (Once during each Encounter the character will treat its first Out of the Fight result as a Stunned result instead. Counts a +1d6 on the Wounded Table.  For choice, I give him Resolute (never count less than 1 success on the Dueling and Taking Control Tables).

Choose his Class.  Military makes sense for him: he's otherwise a garden variety Commoner, but somehow I don't see this kid wanting to stay on the farm.  This gives him the Fast Loader attribute and boosts his Fame to 11 and his Social Standing to 3.  He's also still in the service until he turns 24 and thus has a slightly different set of encounter rules.  For example, if his regiment is called to active duty, he won't be 'adventuring' until after they stand down again, one to three months later.  What happens in the meantime is abstracted.

Get your Weapons.  Ideally, you have a miniature in front of you (I don't), and how that figure is armed determines your loadout.  He's a Soldier now, so he gets a musket (sans bayonet) and I'm going to play merry hell with historical accuracy and give him a sword, too.

Choose your Items.  This is actually one of the parts of the rules that sort of fell down: fortunately, I have a Bottle of Rum, so I know that the usual standard loadout is two Items per point of Rep...and that as per usual, anything can be an item (so long as it does not break the rules of the game).  So yes, he could have a mansion and a yacht, but not a magic sword and a flying carpet.  This ain't Legends of Araby.  In any case, I don't feel like detailing these just yet.

Recruit your Group.  Another legacy bit of text, because in other games from THW you might start off with a few chums.  In BSS, though, you start his career all by your lonesome and recruit Grunts in play through the Carousing encounter.  However, if playing a one-off or a skirmish game, this is indeed when this would be done.

Consult the Campaign Map and decide in which specific Area you want to begin your career.

We'll put his Regiment in the Southern Mountains, smack dab between Bayern and France.  Given that the 30 Years' War is currently in full swing over in the HRE, this ought to be at least somewhat entertaining.

The game starts in January 1625.

Oh, one last detail.  I forgot about this until the very end (can't you tell?) so I snagged a name off of this site (  Since my piratical lass is theoretically Dutch, so is her cousin.

Marthijn Pusters 
Rep 5 Star
Military (Fast Reload)

Out of respect to a certain former co-worker and department supervisor, Marty is assigned to the 4th Royal  Regt, of  Foot commanded by Colonel H. A. Nachtrieb and answering to a Lt. Strucker.  (I never got around to painting those Grenzers, but I can't imagine Han would be unhappy about a promotion!)

And there we have it!  Ready to rock.

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Few Notes

No Thank You Evil

My deluxe copy of No Thank You, Evil! arrived Monday evening.  Tomorrow we're going to give this baby a proper try-out under fire now that we've all the bells and whistles to go with it.  One of her cousins, who is a terrifically talented budding artist, has been asked to draw my Cub's character for her as well if and when we can ever get together and get the kids around a table for about an hour so Unca Harry can show 'em how this works.  Better yet, she's got a couple of friends who may well be willing to join in!

Spaaaaace Opera

Alas, the Black Box Traveler game hit a snag and so my space opera jones is roaring back in full force at about the same time I'm hoping to free up time to playtest another fine historical hack of Apocalypse World by the clever, talented, and patient D. Pignedoli, whose City of Judas I also tested. Can't tell you what this one's about just yet, but it's pretty awesome.  Like Wield, though, it's not really amenable to online setup and play due to the method of setting construction (some assembly is required) and so has to wait until our current GM hits a point where he needs a few weeks off.

Buckle My Swash

Got convinced to back 7th Sea Second Edition, now the most funded tabletop game kickstarter ever.  Now, normally I'd prefer Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies (or PDQ#) for my derring-do and wild acrobatic exploits with flintlock and rapier, but John Wick went and did something that got my interest up.  Second Edition will be a global sort of project, not just pseudo-Europe.  And if you know me, you probably also know that I'm only too happy to support projects that add a more diverse approach to the hobby--Spears of the Dawn, for example, and the upcoming Renegade Jennys and Boilerjacks both come to mind.  Which brings me to a bit of a dilemma.

On the one hand, it is so totally freakin' awesome that we get the notAmericas and notAfrica as well as the Crescent Empire...and hopefully some day we'll see the unAsian subcontinent and far sortaCathay as well.  On the other hand, there's always the risk that in an honest attempt to be more diverse, someone is gonna lapse into some unfortunate cliches (like what happened with Bruce Cordell and The Strange RPG).  I'm going to reserve further comment and hope hope hope that nobody drops a thermal detonator into the ship's magazine in the process.

Aside from that, I like what I'm seeing in the quickstart very much, and amused that one of the five pregens is more or less the sort of character I like to play right out of the box.  (She even comes with a potential romantic subplot that made me giggle like an evil panda for several moments when I read it.)  What little I know of the first ed (don't have it, never played it, but borrowed it and read a friend's copy once) they've streamlined and improved the game a bit.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Plot Bunny Number 5013a

Too many games, too many ideas, too few players, not nearly enough time.


While my aforementioned jones for Uncharted Worlds is likely to be getting satisfied by a certain black-box game of Traveler, I still have plot bunnies that sink their nasty, sharp, pointy fangs into my sensorium and refuse to turn loose.  Here is today's entry, which is the official posting of something that's been running amok like an over-caffeinated anthropomorphic little Raccoon kid with a super-soaker and easily embarrassed older siblings.

An all-catgirl reskin of something Firefly-ish with a dash of Flash Gordon and written by Rumiko Takahashi and directed by Nabeshin and Ralph Bakshi.

Blasters, cutlasses, battle-bikinis, and a hint of fanservice along with incredible special effects and the occasional planet being destroyed by accident.

Yes, this is probably sillier than most UW games would be.  That's how I roll.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Crossovers for Fun and Profit!

As some of the folks with whom I correspond on certain online gaming forums are only too well aware, I have a major jones for trying out Uncharted Worlds.  However, I'm also fond of certain OSR material, so when someone I shan't name (to protect his reputation) posted an ad for an old black-box Traveler game, I jumped at the chance.

It's been a very, very long time since I had any chance to put my copy of Trav to any use, so I hauled it out and started rolling dice, and as often happens found more inspiration than I expected!  So for your amusement, I present two versions of Dame Lieutenant Commander Marguerite Francesca Krakeni.

There are two versions because along with my tendencies toward low plagiarism (see previous posts), I also tend to recycle character concepts that I find enjoyable and interesting.  At the moment, only the Traveler version is going to be in play.


4873BB  Age 34  4 Terms  45000Cr (before equipment purchased)
 Navigation-2, Vacc Suit-2, Engineering -1, Foil-1, Gunnery-1
Foil, Member-TAS


Privileged Military Starfarer (no archetype name yet)

Description: Manicured, Restless, Skittish

Mettle +1 // Physique -1 // Influence +2 // Expertise 0 // Interface +1

Your clothing, belongings and quarters are all lavish and expensive. Gain one of the following NPCs as a retainer: Butler, Assistant, Consort or Advisor.
Name the NPC and give them a 2-4 word description. 
Ms. Sforza, Erudite, Cunning Gentlewoman's Gentlewoman

Ignore the Clumsy trait and/or movement restrictions inflicted by microgravity, low-gravity, freefall, climbing and jump jets. A successful (10+) Move while in those situations lets you describe a moment of exceptional acrobatic grace.

When you plan a long voyage, choose 1.
The voyage will be:
• Fast – You know a shortcut.
• Safe – Choose a faction to avoid.
• Pleasant – +2 to Cramped Quarters.
• Profitable – If you deliver the passengers who are asking for passage.

When you Open Fire or Launch Assault, you choose one or more consequences on a partial success (7-9), not the GM.

Evening Gown (Class 0 Formal)
Engineering Kit: Tools to repair and dismantle machinery. Hammers, drills, cutters, wrenches, welders, grips, cables, diagnostic tools, cage lamps, misc spare parts, etc.
Ceremonial Rapier (Class 1, Melee, Impaling, Stylish)
Boarding Armor (Class 2 Uniform, +2 Armor, Sealed, Armored)

So, in essence, I'm playing Bertie Wooster's distant descendant, a young woman of better breeding than brains and higher standing than smarts, who set upon a career in the Navy in hopes of actually accomplishing some greater good in her life.  After a few close encounters with the old up and out school of promotion, she's now at loose ends after mustering out and ready to play la picara celestiel.

I have no idea where this is gonna go, but it's gonna be awesome!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Star Wars World Game I'm Not Currently Running

"The following is a true story.

The events described took place on Tatooine, in and around Mos Eisley in the year (redacted).

At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed.  Out of respect for the deceased, everything else has been told exactly as it occurred."

...because Fargo, Fiasco, Apocalypse World, and Star Wars are like sodium, bleach, ammonia, and dihydrate monoxide...mix very carefully...