Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Putting my money where my mind is

I feel like a lot of my creative career, including For A Fistful of Coppers, has been chock full of good ideas and unfortunately lacking in final products.

This ends now.

On my computer, there is a folder called Campaign Planning where I keep all of my prep work and general RPG noodling alongside my rules PDFs and token art. Most of my work on settings like Assholes in Space, Heist D&D, my Savage Worlds Feng Shui conversion and other campaigns that I've outlined on this blog are there, but the vast majority of that campaign info is in my head, bouncing around and getting lost behind other works and worries. As a result, I never really feel like I've created a complete RPG product, in the sense that a lot of other game bloggers release games, supplements and settings either for free or cheap. Stuff like Christian's Loviator zine, Stuart Robertson's Weird West RPG, the myriad contributors to Fight On! and Knockspell and the tons and tons of cool little PDFs of house rules and adventure scenarios are unbelievably inspiring to me.

I want to try and put together quasi-professional product, both to inspire other gamers and readers of this blog and to prove to myself that I can follow through and expand my ideas into compelling gaming. Furthermore, I'd like to spend a little time with Publisher and learn how to lay out some supplement pages of my own (what do other people use to put their PDFs together? Inquiring minds want to know!)

In the future, expect information and potential products, including:
  • A 60s Spy Setting Book and Plot Point campaign for Savage Worlds!
  • My expanded Savage Worlds Feng Shui conversion!
  • Technoir transmissions, including a Gibsonian Bridge location and the lawless highways of a cyberpunk future! I'll get into Technoir and why I think it's so groovy in a future post.
  • My Dungeons and Dragons campaign building project, useful for any edition of the game! I've just finished the prep work for this thing, which will make it pretty darn useful, even for folks who have no interest in the campaign that I'm working on.
  • More Assholes in Space!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where'd You Go?

So, what have I been doing in the past two months? Well...

- Still playing in Drance's awesome Castles and Crusades game, for one! It has been waaaaay too long since I've actually gotten a chance to play a role-playing game of any stripe, so spending every Wednesday rolling as Milo the mace-wielding thief has been great fun.

- Running some games! In October and November, I ran some D&D Gamma World (the most recent 4E-style box set) for my friends and my girlfriend. Though Thanksgiving and real life definitely killed most of the game's momentum, it was a total blast while we played it.

- Working a crappy seasonal job to pay rent! Thankfully, I've got some job interviews lined up in the future for more library-focused work, but 5:30 mornings have been a bit of a creative buzzkill.

Fortunately, there's going to be plenty more to come from Fistful of Coppers into the new year, so stayed tuned today for some more posting and the announcement of a super special new Old School/Dungeons and Dragons-related project!

That's right! Goblins and treasure and magic swords and everything!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Strange Western Tales #7 - Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold, a Strange Western Tale for the Savage Worlds and Weird West systems in the Bullets and Tequila setting

Get Ready: A family of mountain moonshiners might have discovered the most wonderful cocktail of booze in the world. Now they'll have to defend it from the proprietors of an outlaw saloon.

Get Set: The Atkinson family has been living in the Ozarks for a generation and moonshining much longer than that. Their batches have never been as consistent as they'd like, but they've always made a consistent living from their home-brewed booze. But something about their new residence, whether it's the flowering trees or the burbling spring where they collect their water, has made the newest batch of 'shine something close to divine ambrosia. Clancy Atkinson, the family patriarch, originally started selling it to local cowpokes, who grew so enamored of it that they refused to go to local saloons. As a result, every place that sells booze in Pine Gulch is buying the 'Sunshine,' as it has come to be known. Billy and Lucky Atkinson, the younger sons of the clan, are the primary couriers of the shine, bringing a load of the stuff into Pine Gulch twice per week.

Go!: Unfortunately, not everyone thinks that the Atkinsons should be profiting from their good fortune. Betty Barton, the proprietor of the Cowpuncher Saloon, has gotten a group of her customers together, mostly outlaws and other unsavory types, to stage a coup of the Atkinson family estate. They plan to take the Atkinson family hostage and force them to produce the Sunshine for their own lucrative gain, exporting it outside of the Ozarks to points West and East.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Strange Western Tales #6 - The Red Spectre

The Red Spectre, a Strange Western Tale for the Savage Worlds and Weird West systems in the Bullets and Tequila setting

Get Ready: A masked vigilante has been responsible for the deaths of many ex-Confederate 'traitors to the cause.' Now, he's after one of your party.

Get Set: Spotted in towns all across the Kansas and Oklahoma territory, the Red Spectre still wears the gray long coat of a Confederate officer and a Jack Flag-style mask of the Stars and Bars. He kills his victims with point-blank shotgun blasts and marks where their bodies falls with the word 'Traitor' written in red. So far, 9 men and women have fallen to his trail of vengeance. The Pinkerton Detective Agency has an operative following the case (an excellent source for clues and a convenient dude to die before your PC)

Go!: The Red Spectre has a crew of Klan-style raiders devoted to his cause that he can call to action if his first assassination attempt fails. They don't try and be subtle: expect fire and brimstone on horseback

Notable NPCs

The Red Spectre
Agility d10, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d8
Fighting d8, Intimidation d10, Investigation d8, Knowledge (Battle) d6, Notice d8, Riding d8, Shooting d10, Stealth d10, Streetwise d6, Taunt, d6, Tracking d8
Charisma: +0 (-4) Pace: 6 Parry: 7 Toughness: 6 (8)
Hindrances: Arrogant, Bloodthirsty, Vengeful, Wanted
Edges: Block, Command, Inspire, Marksman, Quick Draw, Steady Hands, Strong Willed, Trademark Weapon (Trusty Pigknuckle)
Gear: Trusty Pigknuckle (12/24/48, RoF 1-2, 1-3d6, +2 to Shooting), LeMat Pistol (12/24/48, RoF 1, 2d6, AP 1, underslung shotgun barrel), Chainmail Vest (+2 to Armor), quality horse

Home stretch

It's been a pretty hectic personal week for me, so getting to my September Short Adventures has unfortunately not been a priority. I'm going to see how many I can churn out this week (it'll have to be about 2-3 adventures per day at this point) but I want to finish what I started. School stopped me from finishing the April A to Z challenge and I'll be gol danged if it's gonna happen again.

Heist Plan #5 - The Curtain Call

The Job: The Curtain Call

The Set-Up: The City of Masks takes its opera very seriously. The only thing more elaborate than the sets and costumes are the riches on display in the audience. Every year, the largest opera production is the Black Ship of Vesperia at the Coronet opera house, a dramatic aria about the romance between a pirate captain and a princess imprisoned by a wizard. The box office alone takes in over 20,000 gold pieces, without factoring in donations or the sales of wine, not to mention how much money you could make kidnapping a lead player before their big number.

Why It's Impossible: The Coronet runs a very tight security shift. Unauthorized personnel are forcibly escorted from the wings of the theater by large men and women, but they're not the only ones. Cloaked guardians, floating inches above the ground patrol the halls of the theater, including the backstage, the cat walks and the dome ceiling that opens up onto the sky. No one knows where they came from, but every employee of the Coronet knows to stay clear of them. There's also the chance that you'll come across a doting aristocratic fan or scheming talent agent that might not take too kindly to outside observers.

The Cracks
  • There are tons of stagehands, costumers and chorus members all around the theater, ample opportunities to disguise one's self.
  • The catacombs under the opera house can be accessed through many different secret passages in the City, from the houses of Parliament to the brothels of the Red Quarter. Just watch out for cloaks
  • Bianca Corrovaddo, the alto playing the role of Lucretio, the milkmaid disguised as a male pirate, is getting sick of playing second fiddle in Coronet productions. If you come across her, she's willing to parlay: if you kidnap her and hold her for ransom, she'll cooperate completely in exchange for half the ransom. She's also willing to help your group kidnap another member of the cast for a finder's fee. If she's kidnapped against her will, she will be an awful prisoner.
The Twist: The cast of the Black Ship of Vesperia isn't completely human. Some of the more unearthly choruses are provided by a pair of harpies, who have exchanged their predatory lives for more comfortable existences.

Notable NPCs

Cloaked Creatures
HD 3; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 claw (1d6); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Paralyzing cry, cannot be hit by nonmagical weapons.

Glulinda and Parsimony, Harpy Chorus HD 4; AC 7 [12]; Atk 2 talons (1d3); Move 6 (Fly 18); Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Flight, Siren-song

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Strange Western Tales #5 - High Noon Run

High Noon Run, a Strange Western Tale for the Savage Worlds and Weird West systems in the Bullets and Tequila setting

Get Ready: A double agent informer for the Pinkertons needs your help to make it to the local Agency safehouse alive.

Get Set: Slim Garfunkle was a really crappy outlaw. But what skills he lacked at bushwhacking and safe blowing, he more than made up for with open ears and a welcoming disposition. After being caught during a robbery in Tulsa, Garfunkle was approached by the Pinkertons and recruited as an informer. The Agency engineered his escape and paid him $200 a month; in return, Garfunkle would send weekly letters to a safehouse, containing coded information on bandit movements, hideouts and planned robberies. Things were going great until two days ago, when one of the members of the Punch and Judy gang caught Garfunkle sending his letter and received a whack on the head for their trouble. Now Garfunkle's on the run and looking for someone to help him out.

Go!: The Pinkerton safehouse is in the small city of Red Fork, hidden in the back of a general store. The quickest route to get there is by train, but if it's known that Garfunkle's on the train, there will definitely be an awesome train gunfight. Ike and Wilma Teller, the husband and wife outlaws who head the Punch and Judy gang, have lost three men to the Pinkertons and they really want the responsible party dead.

Notable NPCs

Slim Garfunkle, confidential informant
Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Gambling d4, Investigation d8, Knowledge (Bank Robbing) d4, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d6, Shooting d4, Stealth d4, Streetwise d8
Charisma: 0 Pace: 8 Parry: 5 Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Thin Skinned (suffers an additional -1 for wound penalties), Enemy (Punch and Judy gang)
Edges: Alertness, Investigator, Fleet Footed
Gear: Colt Lightning (12/24/48, RoF 1, 2d6, AP 1)

Ike Teller, cranky old outlaw
Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d8
Fighting d4, Knowledge (Explosives) d10, Lockpicking d4, Notice d6, Riding d6, Shooting d4, Streetwise d8, Survival d6, Taunt d6
Charisma: -1 Pace: 5 Parry: 4 Toughness: 6
Hindrances: Elderly, Habit (Tobacco, minor)
Edges: Command, Inspire, Level-Headed, Marksman
Gear: Shotgun (12/24/48, RoF 1-2, 1-3d6), Dynamite-firing crossbow (15/30/60, 2d6, MBT), 10 sticks of dynamite

Wilma Teller
Coming soon!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Strange Western Tales #4 - Brotherly Love

Brotherly Love, a Strange Western Tale for the Savage Worlds and Weird West systems in the Bullets and Tequila setting

Get Ready: A pair of mad scientist siblings and their respective goons battle for supremacy over a town with a nearby aluminum mine.

Get Set: Horace and Prescott Van Dyne both vied for their father's affection so fiercely that their rivalry only grew after an untimely lightning accident ended the half-crazed scientist's life. Now both have their eyes set on the town of Zenith, who have been waiting on the Alcoa company to assess their newly discovered veins of aluminum oxide. For each brother, the metal could prove to be the tipping point in their war against each other: Horace's boiler suits (big fireproof diving helmet suits with flamethrowers) could be made lighter and more protective, while Prescott's fleet of war balloons would be armored and could carry more powerful weaponry. The citizens of Zenith are terrified of the lunatic factions that have overtaken their town and refuse to leave the laundry and dry goods store; just about every other building is occupied by one gang or another.

Go!: Each faction has its camp set up around Zenith: Horace's men have taken over the town hall and Prescott has made an Ikea-like construction around the water tower. Each vie for the mines located outside of Zenith, but the air rifles of the ballooners or the coal-boiling behemoth motor cart of the boilers have created a stalemate. The PCs could turn the tides toward one brother or the other, or take the whole operation down, Yojimbo-style.

Notable NPCs

Boiler Suit Goons
Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d4, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Fighting d6, Intimidation d4, Notice d4, Riding d6, Shooting d6, Survival d4
Charisma: 0 Pace: 5 Parry: 5 Toughness: 6 (7/10)
Edges: None
Gear: Flamethrower (Cone template, 2d10, ignores Armor, 5 shots), Boiler Suit (+1/+4 vs Fire, reduced Speed to 5)
Note: You can target the fuel tank (-2), which causes a blowback explosion (2d10 damage to goon)

Air Crew
Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Notice d8, Piloting d6, Shooting d6, Taunt d4
Charisma: 0 Pace: 6 Parry: 5 Toughness: 5
Edges: Steady Hands
Gear: Air Rifle (20/40/80, RoF 1, 2d6+2, AP 2), boating knife (2d4), Navy coat, nice moustache

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Heist Plan #3 - Hot Potato

The Job: Hot Potato

The Set-Up: In a previous score, one of the PCs has come into possession of a beautiful cats-eye gem. The stone is bad luck, through and through. If the PC has tried to sell it, it continues to return to their possession in increasingly bizarre ways and just makes their luck worse. Usual fences refuse to buy the stone again and are starting to shy away from the group entirely. Now you've got to figure out a way to get rid of this cursed piece of rock before it destroys all of your lives.

Why It's Impossible: Whoever enchanted this rock was not messing around. Any local artificers or lay clerics you know can't seem to break the curse on your party member. You'll either need to get the help of a very divine cleric (who might not be sympathetic to your plight) or talk to the gem's previous owner about it (who's beefed up his or her home security after the PCs took off with their possessions.) Neither way seems like a good idea.

The Cracks
  • It would be much easier to talk to the former owner of the gem outside of their fortress-like abode. Going to meet a client, shopping for new jewelry or furniture, the possibilities are endless.
  • Indol the Left-Handed is the high priest of the God of Thieves (or your game's trickster god equivalent). He's got the divine know-how to remove the curse from your party member, but owing him a favor is probably worse than their current predicament.
The Twist: Your previous mark couldn't be happier that you've taken the gem. They've been trying to get rid of it for years to no avail. The defenses that are being constructed are not to prevent any further thefts; they're meant to keep the PCs from ever trying to return the gem.

Notable NPCs

Indol the Left-Handed, 8th level Cleric St 9 In 13 Wi 16 Cn 14 De 10 Ch 16, 40hp, Ring of Protection +1, Leather Armor +1, Wayfinder (short sword +1, locate objects), Scarab of Protection

Card Hunter: A Different Sort of Virtual Tabletop

Somehow, while looking through my Steam library, I came across a link from my XCOM: UFO Defense entry to an interview with Jon Chey, one of the co-founders of Irrational Games and the developer of a new online game called Card Hunter.

I think this game might be the closest thing I have ever seen to tabletop gaming on a computer.

In their own words:

Card Hunter is an online collectible card game with some twists:

  • It’s free to play and you win cards by playing the game, not by buying expensive booster packs.
  • Search dungeons to find treasure and then equip your loot to build out your decks.
  • Use your cards to move your characters and battle monsters’ decks.

We’re taking two great flavours and combining them into something new. Classic fantasy adventuring meets collectible card gaming!

Tired of pressing buttons while grinding away at quests? Card Hunter is all about skill – your skill at deck building and playing your cards. Tired of paying for endless new card sets? Card Hunter lets you win by playing, not by paying.

The game is being designed by many former members of the Irrational Games team, as well as Kevin Kulp, a game designer who "once won Best DM for three years running with Gen Con’s RPGA." Oh, and Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias of Magic: the Gathering fame. Honestly, the person I'm most excited about is Ben Lee, who was the artistic director behind all of the Silver Age goodness of Freedom Force and seems to be putting that same kind of thematic dedication into all of the preview art for Card Hunter.

Seriously, check out that old-school flavor! If that doesn't make you excited, I don't know what will.

(All images linked from Card Hunter's gallery page:

Friday, September 16, 2011

So, City State of the Invincible Overlord...


For the past two weeks, I've started playing in a Castles and Crusades game at seemingly the only FLGS in the South Jersey area. Though the most recent campaign is usually run by our blogging buddy Drance from Once More Unto the Breach!, this week's game was run by the group's previous DM in the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

What a location!

The previous campaign had started in March and as a result, there were plenty of stories to be told about the Church of the All-Seeing Eye, conflicts between rival merchant houses manufactured by the PCs and a giant underground combat in a buried temple to some sort of Giant Spider God. This session was mostly focused on continuing havoc caused in the city state by working to fulfill the prophecies developed by the abolitionist group cum religion known at the table as the All-Seeing Eye. Our efforts to purchase gunpowder in order to collapse the eastern wall of the massive obsidian Cryptic Citadel proved fruitful, but once we entered the palace (thanks to the barbarian's possession of the Eagle's Talon, a magic sword once owned by the 4th Invincible Overlord), we discovered that it was completely hollow and occupied by a giant tentacled eyeball that looked at us, caused a brief dose of vertigo, then closed back up.

When we left the temple to retrieve more explosives, we found the city in ruins, burnt and demolished with a giant web-encrusted hand smashed down on top of our warehouse. After a bit of confusion, we discovered that we were now shrunk down and inhabiting a full-scale model of the City State that the PCs had encountered while fighting the Spider God's forces earlier in the campaign. We went to return to the pyramid to fix things, triggered the eyeball again, then returned to a pristine model of the City State with no one around.

Now, most people would stop and think about this situation at this time. But not us! We went and triggered the eyeball at least 3 more times before realizing that we were now five levels deep inside the original burned model and about the size of specks of dust. And that was when the adventure ended.

So, next week?

(Image from the Judges' Guild website:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Something I feel like I should share...

I listen to audio books while I cook, clean and do my walks around my new hometown. Today, I started a Western story called The Adventures of Johnny Vermillion, written by Loren D. Estleman, a funny and decidedly cinematic Western novel with a phenomenal introduction that I think captures what I want to do with a Western RPG. What follows is a selection of that first chapter, trimmed a bit as to try and avoid copyright infringement:

Most of what follows took place in the West.

Not just any West.

It was the West of legend and suckling-memory, where drifters caked head to heel with dust swilled red-eye whiskey at long mahogany bars, punching holes in the tin ceilings with their big Colts to impress their half-naked, quartz-eyed hostesses; where buffalo thunder across gaunt desert, grass ocean, and the great mountain ranges where the earth showed its tusks, stopping only to splash in the wallows and scratch their burlap hides against the cowcatchers of the Central and Western Pacific and the mighty Atchison; where red-lacquer Concords barreled down the western face of the Divide, pulled by teams of six with eyes rolling white, whips cracking like Winchesters above their heads; where glistening black locomotives charged across trestles of latticework oak, burning scrubwood in greasy black steamers and blasting their arrogant whistles; where highwaymen in slouch hats and long dusters pulled bandannas up over their faces and stepped suddenly from behind boulders, firing at the sky and bellowing at shotgun messengers to throw up their hands and throw down the box; where all the towns were named Lockjaw and Busted Straight, Diablo and Purgatory and Spunk.

A West where all the gamblers wore linen and pomade and dealt aces from both sides of the deck and derringers from inside their sleeves; where cowboys ate beans and drank coffee around campfires to harmonica music, and everything was heavily seasoned with tin. At sunup, drowsy and stiff, the cowboys drove undulating herds of grumbling, lowing, high-strung longhorns past ridges where feathered warriors balanced their horses square on the edge, bows and lances raised against the sky while the brass section blared and kettle drums pounded. Gun battles cleared busy streets in a twinkling and bullets rang off piles of rock in the alkali flats with p-tweeeeeee!, kicking dust into the eyes of lawman and outlaw alike. The U.S. Cavalry was invincible, and bandits and gunfighters were celebrities, trailing battalions of paparazzi in brown derbies: Custer had yet to stand on his hill, Jesse to turn his back on Bob, and Wild Bill to draw his fabled hand. All the wagon trains came with concertinas, and all the undertakers and hangmen looked like John Carradine.

... It was the West of Daniel Boone, Kit Carson and Billy the Kid; but it was also the West of William S. Hart, Roy Rogers and John Wayne. It was big enough to encompass the bombastery of Buffalo Bill and Cecil B. DeMille and the skullduggery of the bloody brothers Harte.

This was Johnny Vermillion's West; a West that should have been, but never quite was.
Yep, I think that covers a lot of it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Strange Western Tales #3 - Pedal to the Metal

Pedal to the Metal, a Strange Western Tale for the Savage Worlds and Weird West systems in the Bullets and Tequila setting

Get Ready: Defiance, Utah is hosting the unveiling of the world's first prototype motor carriage! How long will it take until someone tries to steal it?

Get Set: Chosen as an automotive testing grounds for the nearby salt flats, Defiance is a pious town taking in a glut of Eastern journalists and engineers out of territorial pride. Cyrus Lipscombe, the inventor of the motor carriage, is a good Mormon boy who intends to manufacture his creation in Utah. This insistence on keeping the potential wealth out of the hands of industrialists and robber barons is the primary reason that two teams of spies and thieves have embedded themselves in the crowds of press and supporters descending on Defiance. Neither group is aware of the other and clashes will most likely occur.

Go!: The thieves will try and make off with the motor carriage at night, killing the guards or knocking them unconscious. If the carriage is well-protected or one group brings itself out in the open, the other will attempt to steal it during the trials on the salt flats. However, there is only so much of the experimental oil solution that powers the vehicle, so it will eventually have to be drawn by horses or pulled by a wagon.

Notable Stats

Motor Carriage: Acc/Top Speed 5/15; Toughness: 10 (2); Crew: 1+3

Mortimer Buckles, JP Morgan's man in Utah
Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d4, Strength d6, Vigor d8
Driving d6, Fighting d6, Investigation d8, Knowledge (Business) d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Shooting d6, Streetwise d8
Charisma: +0 Pace: 5 Parry: 5 Toughness: 7
Hindrances: Obese, Vow (Work for JP Morgan)
Edges: Combat Reflexes, Command, Inspire, Investigator, Level Headed
Weapons: Volcanic repeater (12/24/48, RoF 1, 2d6, AP 1)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Strange Western Tales #2 - The Best Around

The Best Around, a Strange Western Tale for the Savage Worlds system in the Bullets and Tequila setting

Get Ready: "A martial arts tournament held during the American Civil War by Emperor Norton with several shadowy tongs and cartels backing it. Draws in all sorts of fighters from around the world." (shamelessly stolen from Conrad Grey on RPGNet)

Get Set: Emperor Norton, the eccentric quasi-monarch of San Francisco, has become enamored of hand-to-hand combat after being introduced to Kung-Fu by the inhabitants of the city's Chinatown district. He has become consumed with a desire to observe and test the prowess of every type of martial art that he can observe. As word of his obsession begins to spread across San Francisco, a consortium of Chinese tongs decide to assist the Emperor in sponsoring a tournament. The Suey Sing, Bing Kong and Hop Sing tongs agree to a tenuous truce for profit's sake and work with Emperor Norton to set up the tournament, while controlling all of the gambling profits on the side.

Each tong has a champion included in the contest and impeccably monogrammed invitations from the Emperor have been sent all over the globe, to French Savate stars, English catch wrestlers, Japanese jiujutsu masters and many more (maybe even to a PC of yours!)

Go!: The Norton Invitational will definitely have underhanded dealings, personal sabotage, conspiracies and metric tons of people being kicked in the face. However, the biggest threat to the competition and the profits made is probably the Kwang Duck tong. Excluded from the tournament planning, the Kwang Duck will most likely attempt to destroy the tournament as the finals are reached. A newly acquired Gatling gun will be the star attraction.

Notable NPCs

Guo Liaushu, tong champion
Agility d10, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d8
Climbing d6, Fighting d10, Knowledge (Cooking) d6, Notice d8, Riding d4, Stealth d6, Streetwise d6, Taunt d8
Charisma: +2 Pace: 6 Parry: 8 Toughness: 6
Hindrances: Arrogant
Edges: Attractive, Block, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Martial Artist, Quick, Superior Kung-Fu (Shaolin Temple)

Arthur Armstrong, English wrestling star
Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d10, Vigor d10
Fighting d10, Intimidation d8, Notice d6, Repair d6, Shooting d4, Streetwise d4, Survival d6
Charisma: -2 Pace: 5 Parry: 7 Toughness: 8
Hindrances: Ugly, Slowpoke
Edges: Brawny, Improved Nerves of Steel, Martial Artist, Superior Kung-Fu (Shuai Chao [Catch Wrestling]), Sweep

Friday, September 9, 2011

Strange Western Tales #1 - The House Always Wins

The House Always Wins, a Strange Western Tale for the Savage Worlds and Weird West systems in the Bullets and Tequila setting

Get Ready: There are anachronistic old-timey billboards advertising a 'Gambler's Paradise' called Hutter's Fortune in the Nevada Territory. When the PCs arrive, they find a small town built around a massive casino called the Silverlode. Are the odds really fair?

Get Set: Hutter's Fortune mostly consists of rows of hotels and boarding houses, a general store or two, some cafes and a church, all radiating off from the Silverlode casino. The Silverlode is basically a modern casino if built in the Wild West. There are tables for every game you can think of, showgirls and saloon music, a gigantic bar offering Eastern and European delicacies like absinthe alongside the bar whiskey and tequila and much more. Table monitors dressed in the style of Pinkerton agents keep the peace and remove gamblers who accuse the house of cheating. The casino's owner, Jacob Hutter, comes out onto the casino floor every once in a while and interacts with patrons and staff before retreating once more into the lower levels of the casino.

Go!: The basement of the Silverlode is one gigantic Bond-villain-lair level con operation. Dozens of operators, statisticians and guards work at rigging the outcome of each table through the use of magnets, trick decks and any other nefarious dealings that you can think of. At the center of it all is a constantly clicking Babbage Engine-style machine, spitting out a line of tickertape calculating profits and losses.

Weird Western Twist: The central Babbage machine is actually sentient and will attempt to protect itself with claw grabbers and other industrial machinery should it be attacked.

Notable NPCs

Jacob Hutter, Casino owner
Casino guards
(*) Sentient Babbage engine

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Heist Plan #2 - Brothel in the Sky

So, the Labor Day weekend is finally finished and I am back in the South Jersey saddle. Time to catch up on these adventures.

The Job: Brothel in the Sky

The Score: There are plenty of tall towers in Quohal, but only one of them has no visible way of entering. Locals call it the Sparkling Spire and rumor has it that this ornate structure is the home of the Emperor's secret harem, full of lovely women of all races and creeds collected by the monarch over his exceptionally long life. If the finery of its parapets are any indication of the wealth within, it would be a hell of a score. Maybe in more ways than one.

Why It's Impossible: Seriously, there's no way into the tower from the ground. Everyone that you know in Quohal has tried, but there's nothing: no illusory walls, no concealed door, nothing. From what you can see of the structure, it goes up 15 stories before the tower even starts having windows. Even once you've reached these upper levels, there's no telling what lies beyond them.

The Cracks
  • Though there's no possible entrance at street level, intrepid adventurers may take to the sewers below Quohal, where a secret tunnel guarded by monstrous humanoids leads to a secret way in: one really, really long ladder. Feel free to put Elmer Bernstein's The Stairs on in the background while the players figure out how not to fall off while they ascend hundreds of feet of ladder.
  • The PCs could also try reaching the tower by the air. The sheer stone surface of its lower half is studded with balconies, buttresses and other potential handholds. They just require you to have some sort of very high vantage point or perhaps a flying getaway driver.

The Twist: What the rest of the city thinks is just an elaborate house of pleasure is actually the real seat of Quahol's government. The real Emperor died decades ago within the Spire's gilded walls and ever since, the denizens of the Sparkling Spire have collectively taken his place. This council includes a multitude of races, including human, elves, dwarves, bound dryads (their trees are located within the tower) and even a doppelganger, who impersonates the Emperor in public. Any adventurer who makes his or her way up to the highest reaches of the Spire will definitely become involved in these machinations as a knowledgeable party.

  • Sewer Creatures: HD 2; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 claws (1d3) or by weapon (1d8); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Blindsense 60 ft., Camoflague (75% chance of not being noticed while waiting in ambush.)
  • Elder Dryads: HD 5; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 life drain (1d8 + 1d8 healing); Move 12; Save 12; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Charm Person (-2), Entangle (as Web), Plant Growth.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Heist Plan #1 - Mutiny on the Dowry

The Job: Mutiny on the Dowry

The Score: The heir apparent of your city's nobility, Prince Heinrich, has just celebrated his wedding nuptials with the Lady Mernau, the fair and somewhat older daughter of the Duke of Okkuz. Their honeymoon journey will consist of a carriage caravan transporting the happy couple and their respective entourages between Okkuz and your fair city. Though most of the gentry assume that this is just an overly public and traffic-causing ceremony, you've learned that the real purpose of this cross-kingdom convoy is to transport all of the new princess's worldly possessions to her new home.

Why It's Impossible: There is never a point where the caravan is unguarded. Soldiers from both Okkuz and your home city have been assigned to protect the newlyweds, not to mention the constant swarm of servants, drivers and other support personnel. If even one carriage goes missing, the entire procession will lock down and the militaries of both cities will be tasked to bring you in at any cost.

The Cracks
  • The aforementioned swarm means that disguised folks can easily 'join up' with the caravan, provided that they have a good enough story.
  • At night, the caravan runs on a skeleton crew of paid professionals. If they can be distracted or misdirected, the rest of the caravan will be relatively unprotected.
  • Lady Mernau's entourage only contains a single wizard, Flidwick Pontos, who tends to enjoy a good drink. From what you can gather with your magical senses, only the prince and princess's carriages are protected by spells.
The Twist: The gems, gold and other finery in the caravan are protected by another guard entirely. Flidwick Pontos's real talent is not in sorcery, but magical tinkering. Concealed within the majority of wealth-bearing carriages are mechanical sentries disguised as brooches, lamps, candlesticks and other potentially stealable items.

  • Brooch Bug HD 1d4; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (1d2 + paralysis); Move 9; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Immune to Sleep, Charm, Hold Person; Paralytic Bite (Save or Paralyzed for 2d4 turns)
  • Lantern Sentry HD 1; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 flame spout (1d6 fire damage); Move 9; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Immune to Sleep, Charm, Hold Person

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A September of Short Adventures

Every once in a while, the Old School blogosphere has these collaborative events, both official and unofficial: the April A to Z project, Zak's Secret Arneson Gift Exchange and Gigacrawler and the most recent Building a Better GM, inspired by ckutalik's over at the Hill Cantons. Of the different events that I have taken part in, I've always felt that they have at least encouraged me to post more regularly, if not more competently.

This month, Matt at Asshat Paladins convened a little challenge called the September of Short Adventures, where each of the participants will create 25 compact adventure scenarios over the course of the month. If anything, something like this is just what I've been looking for to keep me hunched over my notebook on a part-time basis while I look for work.

I intend to create a series of different adventures, capers and conflicts for at least two different settings and systems during this September: Bullets and Tequila, my cinematic Wild West adventures with a slight twist towards the strange, and Heist D&D, presenting thefts, swindles and break-ins for use with Old School fantasy-type RPGs. Where stats are concerned, B&T will be dual statted in Savage Worlds and Stuart Robertson's Weird West RPG and Heist D&D will be put together in Swords and Wizardry-style Ascending and Descending AC.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Making the Western Weird Again

As much as I love the Deadlands setting and its alternate-history stylings, I have definitely come to terms with the fact that it's really codified a lot of what constitutes Wild or 'Weird' Western gaming nowadays. In the same way that fantasy RPGs are expected to have elves, bags of holding and giant abandoned tunnel complexes under most mountains, the 'Weird West' tends to contain a fistful of steampunk technology, some real-world figures that are actually demons or Draculas and a few Native American ancestor spirits, all topped off with zombies, zombies and more zombies. A lot of genre works or roleplaying games replicating genre works can get bogged down in this inspirational marsh: potential players want to have a certain amount of familiarity in their settings, a sort of 'buy-in' that allows them to imagine the world more clearly than a written description.

If I ever run a Western game of any stripe in the future, I want the buy-in to be the Western genre itself. There is so much unexplored gaming territory in the straight or slightly twisted Western just waiting to be mined that it's almost criminal. Action and suspense fans can have gunfights on top of moving trains or high-noon showdowns, planners have bank robberies and jailbreaks and social gamers have poker games and contests of intimidation. If I ever wanted to add Weird elements to the game, it would be more as an accent to the ongoing action rather than the be-all and end-all of the campaign. It would still be a recognizably Western game, just with a couple of interesting tweaks to vary the formula, not transforming the game into a fantasy or horror campaign with Western trappings. Of course, this is under the assumption that the only way to add Weird elements to a Western game is by including the supernatural or other types of mythical monsters. There are plenty of ways to make your Western weird without delving into the codified lists of fantasy creatures in spurs and Stetsons.

I think I'm going to take a couple of entries to talk about the different ways that a campaign can still remain a Western game at heart, even while adding strange or extraordinary elements to the mix.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mappening is what's happening...

And once again, my nemesis is revealed...

As the son of an architect, I grew up with a lot of graph paper around the house: big reams of it, small pads, just about any measure of the stuff that you can imagine. Yet I never really felt compelled to use any of it for mapping purposes until I started checking out older versions of Dungeons and Dragons. I always get kind of jealous when I look at the fairly amazing geomorphs that folks like Dyson and Risus Monkey put together because I've always been awful at putting my ideas about a building or a city down onto paper. Everything always ends up too symmetrical or too empty. This might not mean much when designing a loosely-structured western town or an asteroid haven for space smugglers, but it matters a hell of a lot when you're marking jugs for a Dungeons and Dragons heist.

The map that I'm holding in the picture above is the Temple of Manymon, a potential heist site that supposedly holds the bottled soul of one of the land's greatest poets in its sacred wine cellar. This is the product of three hours of draw, erase, conceptualize the space, draw again and erase again. I was intentionally trying to avoid making the temple too symmetrical and blocky, but ended up running into my second problem. As much as I do like the exterior structure of the building, I have no idea how to stock the damned thing. The only thing that I really have so far is the giant eyeball altar in the middle of the temple and the Greek-style open colonnade entrance. Maybe I should get back to space, where my head's clearer...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Starting From the Planet Up

Some of the best advice that I have gotten from this whole extant blogging community has been to start your campaign planning small. When it comes to setting up a world for characters to explore, I had always assumed that one needed to draw a map of the entire campaign world and populate it with cities and kingdoms before starting. After all, what would happen if one of your players wanted to see the map to expand their travels? (Actual answer: nothing, because this never happened.) Now that I'm back in the campaign planning saddle, I figured that I would put this advice towards my criminal sci-fi sandbox, Assholes in Space. After a week spent watching episodes of Cowboy Bebop and playing the free Steam weekend of Brink, I've been jonesing for a little space western outlaw action.

Back in the April A to Z challenge, I came up with the idea of convict planets as a way of integrating "outer planets" post-apocalyptic action to a presumably cosmopolitan space opera setting. I figure that a single planet where the PCs are forced to explore until they can formulate a way to escape is a perfect starting point for a universe that's built upward. The convict planet has a great framework for faction conflict, environmental hazards and plenty of non-linear thinking on both the player and GM's parts.

My first step is going to be sketching out a general environment overview of the planet. If anyone out there has a good name for a planetary prison colony, let me know.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

...Aaaaaaaand we're back

So, it seems like a whole lot of stuff has happened in the past two months that I've been MIA from the blogging world: the Google+ explosion, International Gygax Day, lots of new projects and quality gaming material and the requisite amount of bellyaching. However, I can now safely say that Fistful of Coppers will return to a regular posting program!

As of now, I have received my Master's of Library and Information Science and relocated to my new apartment in Southern New Jersey. Apart from the standard settings-up and necessary organization, I've definitely been thinking about gaming again. It's been way too long since I was able to contemplate a regular campaign and, now that I have some spare time on my hands, I can foresee this space getting a whole lot of use across a variety of different settings and styles. Expect brainstorming on Heist D&D, modern crime gaming, Assholes in Space, the Dresden Files RPG and probably anything else that filters through my brain. On top of all that, I'm thinking of starting to run an online Savage Worlds Wild West game for ConstantCon, if there are folks interested in something like that.

Expect more in the near future...

Monday, June 6, 2011

A quick update

So, there sure hasn't been a lot of updating over here.

Last week, I headed up to Oberlin College, my alma mater, to attend the commencement of the Class of 2011. Not only was my girlfriend walking, but also many of my close friends and compatriots in the Dead Hear Footsteps, the radio detective show that I used to direct. Great fun was had by all, credit card bills were run up at restaurants and my old band, the Bucketkickers, reunited for probably our last show ever (after having 8 previous Last Shows Ever in other years).

Unfortunately, I was laid low on the way home by a particularly vicious virus that rose my temperature to 101 and basically prevented me from talking, using the computer or doing homework. Potential sources for this mini-plague are still inconclusive: heat-related, drinking out of an old water bottle, playing the show in a mildewy garage full of appliances (punk rock!) Regardless of the source, it knocked me on my ass up until now.

So with a satchel full of schoolwork that needs to be made up, of course that's when gaming has been on my mind almost continuously. Since Mike's back in town, I've wanted to get the gang back together and play some Bullets and Tequila, Gamma World, Assholes in Space or just about anything that I can think of at the moment. But unfortunately, all of that prep time is really taking away from the necessary schoolwork that needs to be done. I'll most likely be going dark at Fistful of Coppers for the foreseeable future while I get back on track at school and my internship.

But after that... games with low prep-time and maximum fun!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Different Lens - 4E Alternate History Fantasy World War I

So apparently Edition Wars are still happening, which makes me very glad that all the blogs that I follow are full of creative and positive people who don't really truck with the whole "My Edition is better than yours and you should feel bad for liking the things you like" bull honkey. I just can't understand that kind of mentality.

What I can understand is "this edition of the game doesn't really fit my playstyle or what I imagine D&D to be like." One of the common sentiments around the blogosphere is that people's personal backlash against current editions of D&D would be lessened if the game was called something else or had a different focus other than dungeon bashing and exploration. So why not shift the focus, genre or style of games to offer a potentially more enjoyable alternative?

A Different Lens - 4E Alternate History Fantasy World War I

I've been reading a pretty fantastic young adult novel called Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, the author of the Uglies and Midnighters series. It's a rollicking adventure story set on the outbreak of World War I, where the war is not only fought between the Central and Allied powers, but between diesel-powered war machines and genetically modified beasts of war. The titular Leviathan refers to a British airship created from the genes of over 100 animals, built in the 'chassis' of a sperm whale. Keep in mind that all of these fantastic creations are illustrated by Keith Thompson, whose art you've probably seen if you like awesome gaming inspired work.


The interesting thing about World War I as a potential adventure setting is its comparative ambiguity when compared with gaming in its sister conflict, where you can't really have a whole lot of PC sympathy for the Nazi war machine. Saying that Germany and Austria-Hungary are the "bad guys" of the piece isn't really a nuanced view of the war as a whole either? So who can serve as the antagonists for a ragtag player group of potentially mixed nationalities?

There's another World War I based fantasy RPG that I'm fairly fond of, but a console rather than pen-and-paper game. The Shadow Hearts series are Playstation 2 RPGs set in the early part of the 20th century that play fast, loose and goofy with actual history: Al Capone can be allied with a gangster cat who knows drunken boxing and your adventuring party in Revolutionary Russia can consist of a puppeteer who fights with a marionette of his dead daughter, a flamboyant vampire pro wrestler and a magical camera-wielding Anastasia Romanov. The combat system of Shadow Hearts - Covenant actually reminded me of 4E's area effects and strategic maneuvering, which put the game in my mind when I was reading Leviathan.

Regardless, the villains of the Shadow Hearts games are generally ruthless or driven individuals who want to take advantage of the misery and malice that the Great War generated and use it towards their own dark purposes, generally world-destroying chaos. As Chaosium has noticed before me, World War I is a great setting for investigating and battling mind-destroying horrors, both human and extraplanar, and the Shadow Hearts games feature plenty of Cthonic monstrosities and creatures brought into being from physical and spiritual trauma.

Cthonic monstrosities and creatures brought into being from physical and spiritual trauma that you are supposed to PUNCH IN THE GODDAMNED FACE. Though there may be doubts and introspective dread, none of that should prevent you from giving them a sound ass-kicking.

So yeah, that's my framework for a reimagining of 4E to take it out of the dungeon and into left field. Next time, I'll be working on character creation and how to make classes your own with the magic of reskinning.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I have invented a maneuver...

When I haven't been doing schoolwork or playing in Scott's Tunnels and Trolls game, I've been playing some old favorite Legend of Zelda games. Not only do games like Link's Awakening, A Link to the Past and the other Zelda games have a great adventure framework, they've also gotten me thinking about how elements of these games could be integrated into Basic D&D.

Link can generally do a few things with his sword, mostly slashing and stabbing, but also the charged Spin Slash maneuver which attacks all enemies around him. In later editions of D&D, something like this would be covered by an Encounter or Daily power that you could use in a combat encounter. But as much as I like the Power framework, I don't just want to graft it wholesale onto the Basic rules. If I wanted to use them, I would honestly be better served by playing 4th Edition. So how do you make things like special maneuvers work for Basic fighters without 4th Edition style powers?

My idea has been to base it on weapons used. In the Basic and Expert books that I own, there's not much mechanical difference between using a staff or a sword other than the damage dealt. If wielding a warhammer gave you the ability to knock enemies prone or a spear giving you a bonus to AC when used two-handed, it could add a little bit of mechanical variation to things. Hell, it might encourage the use of weird weapons like bolas or whips if they had cool little bonus effects alongside the standard damage.

Is this how Weapon Mastery works in the Companion or Master set? I don't have either of those, but I've heard that they add a bit of proficiency boost to the Fighter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A non-gaming related endorsement

Some friends of mine are attempting to break our college radio station's record for longest continuous broadcast. They've been at it for about 9 hours at this point and will continue on in the studios of WOBC until tomorrow afternoon at 5pm EST. Mike and I worked together on the same detective radio play in college and he's been in just about every RPG session I've run over the past three years. They've been doing a great job of finding good nerdy topics to discuss so that they don't get bored over the next 20 hours or so, so if you'd like to hear some sweet music and discussions about the Star Wars Extended Universe or summer blockbusters, tune in at WOBC's webcast and click Listen.

Now I'm off to play some Tunnels & Trolls.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Some magical weapons that I cooked up at the library yesterday

Solar Knife - A dazzling wide bladed golden dagger (+1, +3 when exposed to sunlight). At night, the blade of the Solar Knife emits light as a Light spell. Double damage against the undead.

Aegis Hand - A massive giant-sized gauntlet traced in gold and embedded with a glowing emerald. Functions as a Gauntlet of Ogre Power that does 1d10 damage when used in combat and cannot wield any other weapon. Blows from the Aegis Hand can knock down normal doors with a single blow. Larger reinforced doors may take longer to sunder.

Black Bastion - A stout jet black shield (+2) with the unsettling outline of a face and a pair of fangs at its base. Once per day, the Black Bastion can be struck against the ground to create a Wall of whatever material covers the ground (default is a Wall of Stone)

Mosquito Blade - A thin rapier with a scintillating insect wing hilt. Counts as a +1 magic weapon for the purpose of immunities. Always hits, regardless of armor class, but deals 1 damage plus or minus Strength modifiers for each blow (Thanks to Telecanter for the idea on this one.)

Wingthief Boomerang - A boomerang (+1, +2 vs. flying creatures) made of an unknown bright green wood and inlaid with bronze. Flying creatures hit by the Wingthief Boomerang lose the ability to fly for 1d6 turns.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Man, I hope that post comes back

And we're back to the world of the blogging. Unfortunately, my most recent post on the Mentzer box sets and my younger influences was also swallowed up by the catastrophe. I am a bit miffed, as I'd gotten some great comments on it, but I can hope that the post will return once the repairs to Blogger have been finished.

On the other hand, I've really been inspired by this whole campaign idea, coupled with a few other cool posts I've been reading (Telecanter's unbelievably cool Five Swords post and Zak's Sandbox ideas, which are now unfortunately missing). Thinking about this confluence of old influences and current ideas has been really fun for me. When I was reading old sword and sorcery pulps in an attempt to understand older D&D editions, it was a good experience but not exactly nostalgic for me. My roleplaying origins definitely lie with Lone Wolf and Legend of Zelda as opposed to Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and that's neither a good nor a bad thing. It has more to do with what my generation really identifies as fantasy than levels of literary quality or inspirational source material. The fantasy of the 1990s was very heroic and probably more inspired by the Mentzer and AD&D 2nd Editions than the older, pulpier games. Is it any wonder that saving the kingdom or defeating the dragon is ingrained in many of us? Even when playing a roguish character, I'm all about doing what's right.

Expect more material in the near future. I'm on a roll here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


This week, I finally bit the bullet and cracked open my Mentzer Red Box to check out the goodies inside. Though I did notice some of the rules differences between it and my older Moldvay box set (Thieves knocked down again! Why?), I really liked the organization and especially the introduction. It reminded me of the old Lone Wolf books that I used to borrow from my best friend Conor when I was in middle school. I'd always loved Choose Your Own Adventure books ever since I was small and the addition of combat and roleplaying elements to the standard "if you want to go east, turn to page 26" formula gave them a lot of re-read value.

In my online searches for Lone Wolf books, I came across a website called Project Aon, where you can read and play all of the Lone Wolf books for free, legally and with the expressed permission of Joe Dever, the original author. Naturally, I started into the first one, which got me thinking: what would it have been like if I'd gotten this box set when I was 12? My influences at the time were the Lone Wolf books, Magic: the Gathering cards, games like the Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and emulated copies of Chrono Trigger and Shining Force. Reading the Mentzer Red Box made me want to revisit all of those old sources and see if I could put together a whimsical kind of D&D campaign with them in mind.

I'm still a heroic kind of guy at heart. Saving an imaginary village from rampaging ogres is definitely more satisfying for me than acquiring imaginary loot. So whatever this campaign would be like, it would have plenty of danger, monsters and potential good to be done on top of the normal loads of treasure and magic items. I think 12 year old me would be satisfied.

(Note: Looking through my old Magic cards, I had no idea that Liz Danforth and Tony DiTerlizzi did so many illustrations for them. It's cool thinking back on how the worlds of RPG and CCG art intersected before Magic really took off.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Has this happened to anyone else?

Have you ever dreamed a phenomenal dungeon?

It's been a day of registering for classes and the like, but I'm still remembering parts of the dream that I had last night and how they would make a great D&D dungeon. The start of the adventure was fairly mundane: I can recall giving the signal to my sister and a couple of my friends on the edge of a baseball field, where we all got into black burglar clothes and started making our way towards something.

Here's where it got pretty crazy. Apparently, the heist that we were meant to pull off was in this crazy dungeonesque castle which was really just a massive manned tank around a gigantic octopus. Like the size of a skyscraper. A series of rope bridges connected different parts of the castle aquarium, including some that went directly over the octopus. I was trying to get into the structure through one of these bridges, but the weight of me and my gear made it sway in the high air, so I had to crawl the rest of the bridge's length on my belly until I reached a small portal where I could enter. Inside, the stone walls were damp and had algae growing on them like the inside of a fish tank.

I really want to expand on this whole idea for a dungeon and hopefully I've gotten enough written down to remember the inspirational aspects of the dream. The thing that really stayed with me was "what happens if that octopus gets mad? Utter chaos, that's what."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

But look on the bright side...

Last week, I went to my local library's Friends group book sale in search of some cheap mystery novels or YA books that I wanted to read. Imagine my surprise when I came across a pair of Mentzer-era D&D box sets, still sealed in shrink-wrap and basically perfect, apart from a triangular-shaped box dent on the back of the Basic set. Total cost: $2 each.

Thank you, old ladies from the Friends of the Library group. You didn't quite know what you had. Now should I open them or leave them in their pristine sealed condition for a rainy day?

A Crisis of Confidence

I think I've lost my game mastering touch. Or rather, I've been trying to run things in a way that I really can't run them.

On Thursday, my friends, girlfriend and I got together to play some pistol-packing, wild West Savage Worlds. We had a group of great characters, including a half-Mexican drifter with a buffalo rifle, a two-gun wanted outlaw and a delusional rancher out to see the world with his unlucky cowhand. Using the phenomenal Adventure Generator from The Day After Ragnarok, I whipped up a cool adventure idea involving a group of bank robbers recruiting ex-Confederate soldiers to "retake the South" while fattening their wallets. It was a good adventure seed and I was using a system that I'm intimately familiar with, one that I've said I know like the back of my hand. So what went wrong?

I have this misplaced notion that I can run a game purely on improvisation. Given that I'm a repetitious mess making unplanned speeches and a fairly crappy jam session bassist, I have no idea how I made this assumption. To be fair, some of my best gaming moments have been spur of the moment ideas, but generally there is some sort of exterior structure to them. The only preparation that I had done was writing up some stats for the New Confederacy army and brief descriptions of the town of Hogan's Bluff, Arkansas. As my friends continued to ask questions that I didn't have the answers for, I found myself feeling more nervous than excited about the continuing adventures of my friends.

Also, my 'cinematic' Savage Worlds distances rule? Totally didn't work for me. While thinking about keeping the action fluid and improvisational, I'd forgotten how much I really do enjoy my vinyl gaming mat and miniatures for RPG combat. It's something concrete that can be focused on, something visual that helps shift that burden of constant improvisation on my part. Sorry, Robin Laws, but right now, I could care less if it takes away from the immersion as long as it helps me feel like I'm not having a panic attack.

My new game plan is as follows:
  • Plan out goddamned everything before running a game: My game notes are going to have to be detailed enough that I can give people the answers to their questions about game stuff without having to clearly make something up. Let the improvisation flow over a rock solid, well planned backbone, like all good printed modules or fellow blogger's entries. I need maps, I need names and I really need events and their logical consequences.
  • Don't be afraid to be comfortable with the way you run games: I like how SW works with minis, so I'm not really sure why I decided to throw all of that stuff out. From now on, I'm going with my gut on these things.
  • Separate things out: For the Bullets and Tequila game, I was simultaneously trying to help people make their characters while planning the adventure. Never again. Separate session for character creation, separate gaming sessions for everything. Not only will that give me more time for prep, it will help me tailor the game more towards the players.
So that's my current state of mind right now. I think I really need to take a little time and think about how to proceed with this whole thing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Aaaaand I'm done

As I noted before I embarked on the whole April A to Z challenge, it wasn't an extremely well thought out decision. I just wanted to see if I could update For A Fistful of Coppers 26 times that month. I enjoyed reading my fellow bloggers posts and hacking some cool ideas together (especially that Convict Planets idea!), but I am super glad that its over and that I can return to a regular blogging schedule of posting cool stuff that I've been thinking about instead of trying to find a topic that began with the letter Q (seriously, hard work).

Expect a bunch more stuff on my potential Bullets and Tequila game, as well as my first experiences with Tunnels and Trolls. I've got a few more days off, so I'd like to spend a little time getting reacquainted with all of you.

T is for Tunnels and Trolls

The other interesting thing that's happened over the course of this finals week was joining up with Scott from Huge Ruined Pile's online Tunnels and Trolls game. I was following the increasingly awesome Idrizoob posts and when the call for players came out, I couldn't resist.

Cue my first experiences with Tunnels and Trolls. I had heard about its more simple and lighthearted approach to dungeon crawling fantasy from bloggers like Scott and Tenkar, but I'd never encountered the game at all. By the time I started searching for RPGs in game stores in 1998 or 1999, Tunnels and Trolls was a fairly obscure and presumably out-of-print game. However, I think I probably would have liked it a whole lot at that age.

First of all, it's definitely a simple system, but not as bare bones as I thought it was going to be. I spent a whole lot of time outfitting my three characters (Rogue, Warrior and Wizard, respectively) with effective equipment, which was fairly hard to do with limited attributes and funds. I was engrossed in the equipment list, with its pages of oddly named knives and polearms (even more than 1st ed AD&D!) and separate pieces of armor and equipment. I also seriously appreciated the inclusion of Delver's Packs, a grab bag of useful dungeon items all bundled together with a single weight and cost like D&D Gamma World's Explorer's Kits. I haven't seen anything of what the game is like in play, but I really enjoyed making my characters.

Bonus! Here they are for all you T&Ters. Let me know if I did anything wrong.

Dax Coitus
Level 1 Rogue

ST 9 IQ 17 LK 11 CON 13 DEX: 7 CHA: 16
Adds -2 Encumbrance 304 /900
Armor: Leather Armor (6 Hits taken, 200u)
Weapon: Misericorde (2d6+1, 14u),
Gear: Clothing and Pack (10u), Delver’s Package (20u), Provisions for 1 day (20u), 10 ft. of hempen rope (50u)
Wealth: 0gp

For every gem stolen, secret uncovered or princess bedded, there must always be a responsible party. Dax Coitus may not be that party in all cases, but chances are he’ll tell you that he was. An inveterate liar, boaster and con-man, Coitus is generally regarded as a decent thief and a great talker. Surprisingly enough, he also conceals sizable magical potential, though he still hasn’t gotten the hang of the gestures.

Level 1 Warrior

ST 14 IQ 14 LK 8 CON 10 DEX 10 CHA 16
Adds +1 Encumbrance 510/1400
Armor: Full Helm (3 Hits taken, 50u), Gauntlets (2 Hits taken, 25u), Greaves (2 Hits taken, 40u), Target Shield (4 Hits taken, 300u)
Weapon: Trident (4d6+3, 75u)
Gear: Provisions for 1 day (20u)
Wealth: 0gp

Dax paid for Umanzor’s freedom after witnessing his talents in the arena. When the gladiator school refused to release him even after accepting Dax’s ill-gotten gains, the con-man had to find another solution. After the judicious application of two blowgun darts, a vial of acid and the best lockpick in the city, Umanzor was free to go as he pleased. He’s been by Dax’s side ever since. In the taverns of Idrizoob, he is well-known as a kind and soft-spoken individual. But his sweet talk dries up when he dons his full-face gladiatorial helmet, replaced with steely resolve.

Elisara Valiasto
Level 1 Wizard

ST 10 IQ 15 LK 8 CON 8 DEX 11 CHA 7
Adds -1 Encumbrance 125/1000
Armor: Arming Doublet (3 Hits taken, 75u)
Weapon: Baton (2d6, 20u)
Gear: Clothing and Pack (10u), Provisions for 1 day (20u)
Wealth: 5gp

Accused of perverse witchcraft in her puritanical home city, Elisara escaped a horrific death in the Umber Pits and began traveling with a caravan as a fortune teller. Of course, her predictions were all made up on the spot, but when you can create your own glowing crystal ball, people tend to believe you. Once she reached Idrizoob, her fortune telling opportunities dried up, as its residents were both more cynical and magically adept than her previous clientele. Her current position is as magical tutor to Dax, which pays the bills and that’s all she would like to say on the subject.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

S is for Saloon

"You know, a good, smelly saloon... is my favorite place in the world."
Paden, Silverado

One would think that the saloon in a western RPG could easily work in the same way as a tavern in a fantasy RPG. After all, their genre trappings are pretty similar: food, drink and pleasurable company, perhaps a game of dice or a hastily started fistfight. But apart from that, the two don't really serve the same thematic purpose. The standard fantasy tavern is a location to acquire information that leads to an external adventure: a guy in a cloak gives you a map to mysterious treasure or the local guard captain tells you about a series of toad attacks. As a gamemaster, you think more about the interactions that the PCs can have in a tavern, rather than the space itself. Other than the ubiquitous tavern brawl, there aren't really that many important gaming moments happening in the tavern.

Saloons are a different story. There are tons of climactic western moments that take place in the center of a saloon: the two opening gunfights in Desperado, the introduction of Clint Eastwood's Manco in For A Few Dollars More and the first sparks of righteous anger out of Robert Mitchum's JP Harrah in El Dorado all come to mind. But what sticks in my mind the most is probably this scene from Silverado of Paden retrieving his hat from one of the outlaws who left him for dead in the desert. It's been one of my favorite films since I watched it with my mom at about age 5, an unabashedly archetypal western with the man who wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back behind the director's chair. It distills everything that I like about the heroic Hollywood Wild West into an incredibly quotable package.

The saloon question has gotten me thinking about Robin Laws' section of Feng Shui entitled "The Map Is Not Your Friend." As Feng Shui is a high-kicking Hong Kong-style action movie, setting everything up in a 2-dimensional map space causes the players to "stop focusing on the action scene in their heads and instead directing them to a dead, lifeless piece of paper." Something tells me that I should definitely be considering something similar for my Bullets and Tequila game, even though Savage Worlds runs really well with miniatures. My previous cinematic combat rules, inspired by the combat rules for Gregor Hutton's 3:16, cut all of the different ranges down into five categories (Melee, Close, Short, Medium and Long) that can easily be qualified on the fly to players. If someone's got a sawed-off shotgun and is told that there are three enemies in Close range, it works well both for the game master (you don't need to make up absolute ranges on the fly) and the player (you always know who's in range). Still, I've never tried them out in practice yet, so we'll see how it goes.

Friday, April 29, 2011

R is for Random Tables

I was always one of those finicky game masters who always had to plan everything out in advance. In my youth, I felt that randomly generated results from a table didn't "produce good story" or some other ridiculous high minded bull honkey. But I'm also not someone who would completely rely on tables to stock a dungeon ("This room has... *clatter* 60 gibberlings and... *clatter* a pie crust filled with silver pieces.") or run social encounters. For me, random tables are imagination boosters. If I'm ever feeling lost or out of ideas when I'm constructing an adventure, I can always find someone's table full of dice-generated good ideas. For players, they can provide character hooks, equipment ideas or ideas

Probably my favorite random table out there comes from Ken Hite's phenomenal Savage Worlds campaign setting, The Day After Ragnarok, which details a pulpy post-apocalyptic world where Hitler's occult machinations actually summoned the monsters of Norse myth, forcing the Allies to slam a nuclear bomb into the Midgard Serpent. When the Serpent dies, it crushes Western Europe underneath its body and sends a venom-infected tidal wave towards the East Coast of North America. If you're a Savage Worlds fan, an alternate history weirdness fan or just a Ken Hite fan, you should really check it out.

I mean, look at that fucking cover.

Anyway, the back of the Day After Ragnarok book has a random Adventure Generator in it that really hits the right buttons for me. Each aspect of an adventure is detailed here, from the initial Hook that gets the PCs involved (anything from the Dying Message to an Innocent Beginning that belies something more sinister) to the antagonists involved or a potential Twist to add. But the best part of the Adventure generator is that it's fairly system-neutral: those they have references to setting items like Chimeras (monsters that were once human like ghouls and Stalinist man-ape hybrids) and the like, it's very easily adaptable to just about any setting. If I run out of ideas for Bullets and Tequila adventures, I'm gonna pull this thing out.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Q is for Quickly Now!

Now that my semester is over and the pile of finals coursework is finally done, I'm going to blaze through these last ten or so entries in the next few days. My gaming brain has been pretty solidly focused on my Savage Worlds anachronistic action western game over the past week or so (my rewards for finishing coursework have included watching weird spaghetti westerns and Maverick and playing Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood), but I've also been taking a real look at Tunnels & Trolls because of Scott of Huge Ruined Pile's super-cool Idrizoob stuff.

So if you see a few entries on your blogoroll in the next couple of days that seem behind the curve, it's just me catching up. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

P is for Pregens

The more that I prep and plan for potential games, the more that I like the idea of pregen characters. High School Me would be furious if he ever found this out.

Though one of my favorite parts of playing RPGs in character creation, it's something that I have a lot of practice doing. When you buy as many games as I have over the past ten years or so and only get a few chances to actually run them, you tend to spend a lot of time making characters in assorted systems. For a system that I'm fairly familiar with, like Savage Worlds or any of the Cinematic Unisystem games, I can whip up a PC in about 5-10 minutes and I'm sure that most experienced RPers can do the same thing. However, point-buy games like these two can often be daunting for the complete novice or occasional gamer. When I did character creation for my failed Deadlands game with my friends, there was a lot of that uncertainty on what they were going to play, until they took a look at the character ideas section of the Deadlands book.

In this way, I think class-based systems really have the edge in terms of novice player buy-in. Roles like Fighter, Magic-User and Thief are iconic: you immediately have a picture in your head of what kind of character you would be as one of those classes. For a western, there are plenty of these iconic roles, but I never really thought that they fit into a traditional class-based structure. So instead, I'm making pregens. For those of my friends who already have an idea of what kind of character they want to play, we can hammer out character creation on our own and hopefully, it'll be a painless experience. But for anyone who just wants to pick an archetype and play, I'ma have them covered.

My list of pregens came from a wide variety of sources, including the Deadlands Reloaded and Wild West Cinema corebooks, as well as countless movies and TV series.

Mysterious Stranger
Bounty Hunter
Kung-Fu Wanderer
Soiled Dove
Mountain Man
Indian Brave

Any other suggestions?