Pages

Saturday, June 13, 2020

St.Tropez spy-noir

St.Tropez spy-noir

* I wrote this as a set-up for a solo-game i am running in Modern AGE by Green Ronin. So far i've run about a single "session" (a somewhat arbitary term in solo games). I think the spy-genre is a great for solo (or duet) games as the focus usually is on a single character anyway. Pushing that character to it's limits and reflecting on moral choices also feels safer in a solo enviroment. I'm sure it looses some elements that a group could provide, but provides opportunity for some self-reflexion which is not always available in role-playing games. 


St. Tropez in the 1970s. Haunted by celebrity and decadence. The nightlife is exciting, beaches are full with the bold and the beautiful. 

Money flows fast. Drugs are everywhere. Everyone gets laid.

In this world crime is also rife. The corsicans run the underside of the glitz. Gangsters are popular figures in the imagination of the young bon vivants. But underneath their glamorous exterior the underworld is ruled by money and guns.

The world around is changing. Superpowers are jockeying for power. Spies and turncoats are everywhere. The riviera is a prime location for exchanges and honeytraps.

JaneArt / CC BY-SA
Background

In the autumn of 1976 the french banker Christophe Lallemand is gunned down by persons unknown on his way to La Croix Valmer. The police investigation finds evidence that someone was in the car with M. Lallemand, but the investigation is halted after a few weeks.

In London MI6 commander Sebastian Bristol suspects that Russian intelligence might be involved in the case. M. Lallemand was an MI6 asset and his last report mentions that he has met a young woman named Lily Bonin. Bristol thinks Bonin might have been in the car with him. He goes to St. Tropez in an attempt to find the girl, but he also goes missing after filing a single report.

Commander Bristol’s wife Marcia Bristol is in the US working for the UN, but has secretly been recruited by the CIA. When her husband goes missing she contacts a friend in the Agency and begs them to look into her husband’s disappearance.

The CIA agent Howard Feldman is sent to England to liaison with the MI6. The CIA has knowledge that a prominent St. Tropez gangster, Yanis Mignot, might be working for the Russians. Commander Bristol report mentions that Ms. Bonin and M. Mignot knows each other, and his report contains a picture of them together.

Together with french MI6 agent Ava Baudet, Feldman recruits a french-american girl studying in England. M. Mignot is a prominent part of St.Tropez nightlife and is known to surround himself with beautiful women. A honeytrap is set for the french gangster.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Bloody basic - Weird Fantasy Edition


Note: This is the first of a series of posts about the games that I have on my shelf. The goal with these posts are not to review the games, but to write something personal about them and why they are on my shelf. There might be some opinions, some ideas or just a story about playing the game.

I have written about John M. Stater's (of Land of Nod fame) games on this blog before, with a review of Deviant Decade.

The Bloody basic series of games from mr. Stater serve as introductions to his fantasy heartbreaker game Blood & Treasure. The Bloody basic games (and Blood & Treasure) are OSR games, but they are not retro-clones. System-wise i read them as a stripped down 3rd edition meets Swords & Wizardy. Simple, not simplistic, old-school but not nostalgic (so firmly OSR stuff).

System however, is not the reason i picked up Bloody basic - Weird Fantasy Edition. I wanted it because it feels like old time phantasy when you read it.

You don't play a figther or a magic-user in this game. Your class isn't going to be rogue. In Weird Fantasy edition you can play a Magus or a Puissant. You wear a byrnie of maille instead of a chain shirt, and just as easily fight with a poinard as a dagger. The list of clothing articles include caftans, codpieces and a cotehardie. You pay quadruple for a vestment decorated with brocade.

This use of language is even reflected in character stats. Where characters with high Strength are mighty and those with high Wisdom are sophic while low Charisma characters are vile. There is a Rake subclass and a subclass called the Odalisque. Familiar first level spells have names like Illuminate and Slumber, and a completely original race is called Grotesques.

Language is a powerful thing and choosing resonating terminology can provide inspiration in my mind on a level that regular fluff texts rarely manage. I found myself thinking about Shakespeare's The Tempest and ancient pastorals when i read the game for the first time.
Frontispiece to The King of Elfland's Daughter
(
1924 limited edition) by
Lord Dunsany (image found here)
Of course there is a lot of Lord Dunsany in it, and other proto-fantasy, as well as the fantasy dreamscapes of one Howard Phillips Lovecraft and, to my mind, perhaps Catherine Lucille Moore most of all.

The game is, of course, about sword & sorcery adventure, but it is also about experiencing wonder. There are suggested XP rewards for having your senses shattered by wonderous vistas or for falling in love with a non-human resident of a fantasy realm. The author suggests that the game be used for a portal-fantasy where inhabitants of the real world cross over into phantasy, but i think both a fantasitcal take on history or just building your own beautiful land of otherworldy phantasy, populated by men with "ruddy jackets of leather that reached to their knees" and elven princesses named Lirazel.

I may never find the right time and the right group to play this game, but my dreams and the implied setting of this game are made of the same stuff. So it truly deserves it's place on my shelf.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Blog necromancy

Well, hello there...
I don't seem to remember owning a blog...

Ah... i'l cut the crap...

It has been a few years since i posted anything to this blog. I simply didn't have the energy or the time for it anymore in 2016. The stress of putting stuff out there on the internet was triggering my anxieties and left me depressed too much of the time. (And i'm a white cis (mostly) heterosexual male, so i don't have to deal with the bulls*it that marginalized folk do.)

I don't know if my situation is much better at this point, but i am feeling a genuine desire to blog about RPGs again.

And now the world is hit with this Covid-19 situation... 

I really love this hobby. I have realized as i went through a year (2019) that was filled with loss and greif, that my interest in role-playing games is really central to me. I'll be 38 this year and i've been playing RPG since i was 11. That is 27 years, a substantial portion of my life.

So in honor of a good friend and adventuring companion that ended his life in 2019 because the darkness inside became too much to bear.
...
And in honor of those friends that are with me in the loss and grief as we keep playing these games that we've played since childhood.
...
In honor of choosing my own way in life, and not letting others decide for me.
...
I will return to this blog. To write, occasionally and when moved, without fear.

Roll dice...

Monday, April 4, 2016

Easter Dungeon World play report

This easter i had the pleasure of running my first Dungeon World session.
Dungeon World is written by
Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel.

The “powered by the apocalypse”-games have really sparked my curiosity over the last year and i was exited to it a try.
Games under the "powered by the apocalypse" umbrella seems to exist in that less-than-clearly defined space between traditional and more indie/freeform-type of games.
Not having run this kind of game with these particular players (some of my oldest friends) made last night feel, in a sense, like an expedition to uncharted territories. This is an account of what happened.
Omissions have been made to protect the innocent.

Adventurers three

They met in a tavern. Barbosar the Melancholic a dwarf barbarian cast out from his home for causing the death of his own father, the King under the Mountain, by elven assassins.

Ragnar, a fighter, had left his home village after it was destroyed by the warlord Pollax. His pregnant wife killed during the attack. Regrouping at the forest inn Ragnar plans to get his revenge.

The bard Baltazar the Bedazzeling, perhaps better known as the bastard of Blue Garden, was also run out his hometown after “having his way” with the Earl of Blue Garden’s daughter. Baltazar’s kryptonite is boredom and his cure is spurring his companions to unplanned action.

A bounty hunter and elf warriors

The adventure began when Barbosar approached the only newcomer at The Full Mug on a fateful moonlit evening. The newcomer turned out to be Falur, a bounty hunter from Blue Garden, seeking a price on Baltazar’s head and offering the dwarf great glory and wealth if he betrayed his comrade.

Using subterfuge(!) Barbosar stalled for time and alerted his companions. Not long after Falur found himself ambushed by the heroic trio in the stables of the inn. To save his skin Falur offered to tell the adventurers a secret.

When Falur had passed through a hamlet called Volderon’s Hollow he discovered that the wizard Volderon had abandoned his tower. Looting a wizard’s tower would be both profitable and glorious the heroes figured and decided to seek it out immediately.

Going to secure some important supplies beer from the innkeeper Raltvak, Barbosar finds that a party of elves have arrived at the inn. There is no love lost between Barbosar and the “Fair folk” and the indignant dwarf slaps Raltvak in the face before explaining to the innkeep how he feels about the pointy ears. The confrontation with the, possibly charmed, innkeeper escalates quickly with elven warriors rushing down the stairs of the inn.

Outside Baltazar and Ragnar have helped themselves to the elf band’s horses as Barbosar flees the inn. Elven arrows whistle by their ears, a few even strike true, as they make their escape towards Volderon’s Hollow with the elven warriors in pursuit.

Volderon’s Hollow

Arrving at Volderon Hollow the heroes encounter Gresham, a toothless old man, who seems to be last surviving villager. Gresham claims that ever since the wizard Volderon left his castle the villagers have been “eaten” by the shadows of the village.

Indeed as the heroes take a rest in Gresham’s hut they are attacked by a shadow creature which they fortunately manage to kill. After the figth they realize that Gresham is gone and they catch a glimpse of him running towards the abandoned wizard’s tower.

To the Tower…

The heroes rush into the tower crushing a pair of undead minions as they search for Gresham. He is easily found, as his mad howls to his master lead the heroes to a castle hall with a strange black gate covering most of the wall. When wicked flying shadow vultures burst from the gate and skeletal archers kill the tragic Gresham the heroes find themselves in a desperate battle.

Heroes, however, are want to prevail. They destroy the skeleton archers and drive the nightwings back into the black gate.

As they search the goods that Gresham have accumulated in the hall in an attempt to placate the entity beyond the darkness, Baltazar discovers that the old man still draws breath. With his dying words Gresham inform them that Volderon is captured beyond the black gate.

Then, in a somewhat stunning reversal of motivations, the three heroes decide to leap into the shadow void to rescue the wizard Volderon.

Into the void

Me being a TuffBoy preparing for the session.
Enveloped in utter darkness the heroes encounter the Lord of Shadow who, reasonably enough, inquires as to why they are in his realm. The heroes explain their presence and inquire about what they will have to do to escape the Shadow-realm.

It was a rather faustian deal.

However, seeing no other way, the heroes take it. Leaving the Shadow Realm, alongside the wizard Volderon, they are all bound to the service of the demon lord.

Good fun was had by all.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Worlds of the Alba system: Novus Albion

The Alba system is a small Stars Without Number setting i'm presenting on this blog.


The primary planet in the Alba system is Novus Albion.

Novus Albion

The largest planet of the Alba system is a temperate world, rich in water and reminiscent of Old Terra in many ways.

A vast agricultural continent stretches on both sides of the equatorial line, like a belt between the water covered poles of the planet. This belt also settles much of the planetary population in farming towns and smaller towns.

In addition to foodstuffs, there are large mineral deposits on the planet as well.

Population

Total population reach several millions. Humans comprise about 60% with the rest being the native Shisa.

Tech level and society

Tech level on Novus Albion is 4, with a few specialties like hydroponics and agricultural science.

Like all the Alba worlds Novus Albion society is ambitious and honorable, but Novus Albion is somewhat more conformist that Novus Victoria and Novus Virginia.
Pastoral life on Novus Albion

Religion and politics

Religious life on Novus Albion is dominated by Marian Catholicism. Most parish priests are women with the men serving a handful of monastery orders dedicated to the saints.

Among the elites of Novus Albion there is conflict between those that maintain isolationist policies and those that advocate seeking interstellar contacts. Due to the continuing Civil War the isolationists have thus far won out, but the continued de-escalation of that conflict might shift the political winds.

New Camelot

New Camelot is both the planetary capital and the spaceport. It is located on a foggy island north of the main continent. Control with peripheral settlements on the planet is accordingly weak.
One of many spaceport bars in New Camelot

The spaceport on Novus Albion is the only full spaceport in the system.

The Civil War left much of New Camelot in ruins after bombardments. Its architecture is now a mishmash of neo-victorian remnants from Old Terra and newer functional buildings of steel and glass.

Poverty and crime exists in New Camelot, most prominently at the spaceport where workers and refugees from the other Alban worlds seek a livelihood. Policing of the spaceport is weak since security resources are usually spent protecting governmental installations from Black Brigade-terrorists.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Aliens of the Alba System

Aslans

Lion Warrior by Demarcos
The Shisa are lion-like bipedal humanoids. They populated Novus Albion before the humans arrived but their medieval technology level was no match for the First settlers and the Shisa were quickly pacified.

The Shisa have about the same height and weight measures as humans. They have a slightly longer lifespan, up to 140 years, but reach sexual maturity after only six or seven years.

In the centuries since they have either lived on closely observed reservations maintaining their traditional way of life or have served as slaves for affluent humans. Lately Shisa have regained some of their position on Novus Albion, but many Shisa are hesitant of becoming to integrated with a human society viewed as too technologically focused.

Honor and tradition are very important to the Shisa. Their society is democratic and democratic participation is tied with honor. Breaking the trust of the community are one of the worst sins in Shisa communities.

Shisa architecture is dominated by a fascination for stone circles and pagoda-like structures. Their dress is reminiscent of Asian cultures on earth and so is their expertise in sword-making. This art form almost died out during the first years of slavery, but swords have lately become fashionable among the elites of New Camelot.


The Alba system Shisa are inspired by the Aslan-race from Traveller and the Rakasta from the D&D module Rage of the Rakasta.

Pechs

These green-greyish humanoid bipeds live mainly underground on both Novus Virginia and Novus Victoria, but on Victoria they are believed to be close to extinction.

Pechs have large heads and large eyes on top of spindly bodies. They are species of sentient fungoid and don’t have a circulatory system. Pechs have a single sex and reproduce by planting spores into decaying plant or animal remains.

Goblin Necromancer by NetherRealm
Growing conditions are important to pech size and lifespan. Most pechs are between 0.9 and 1.2 meters tall with a mass of about 20 kilograms, but smaller versions (even under 0.3 meters) have been encountered and the largest pechs observed have been over 2.5 meters tall with a mass of around 150 kilograms.

Pechs have developed crude steam technology used primarily for mining and warfare purposes. Still they do not pose much of a serious threat to the human colonial populations on their home worlds. However, occasional abductions and subsequent ritual murder of people and livestock, for the purpose of growing new Pechs, have made them both feared and hated by the humans.

The fact that such a low-technology species appears on two planets have continued to puzzle the science community of the Alba system. No definite answer has been given, but in popular media theories of an ancient space-faring race moving the Pechs from one planet to another have grown popular despite the lack of evidence.

Pechs are inspired by the standard D&D goblins with a steampunk twist and the "get out of the way peck!" line from the movie Willow (1988).

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

History of the Alba System

A starship flying over a cloud covered planet
The Alba Sector's history of Civil War has almost depleted the
fleets of the Queen of Alba and the Republic of Novus Victoria.
I developed the Alba-sector setting for a one-shot Christmas game of Stars Without Number.

As the setting for a one-shot i went somewhat overboard, but that means more blog posts.


I will start with some history for the Alba system.

Settling the system

The Alba System was settled late in first wave of humanity’s expanse into the stars.

Its primary settlers were born on the British Isles and the first city founded on Novus Albion was named New Camelot. The second and third habitable planets of the system were named Novus Virginia and Victoria.

A unique system with three human miscible and rich planets the Alba star- system grew quickly into an important trade hub after the indigenous alien races, the Shisa and the Pechs, were pacified.

The construction of a jump gate in 2320 solidified the system’s economic standing.

The ruling oligarchy of First settlers kept immigration to a minimum and developed a stratified social system support their own economic dominance, but still allowing later rounds of settlers to prosper.

The Scream

Following the Scream the Alba systems economy faltered as their interstellar connections disappeared. The First settlers tightened control over resources at first, courting an uprising of the lover classes, but in 2695 Genevieve “Ginny” Rassendyll, the President of the First Council, opposes the First Council’s policies by refusing to sign legislation that would condemn both Third settlers and the Shisa minority to extreme poverty and possibly starvation.

After this President Ginny continues to push liberal agendas, ensuring cooperation by all classes in maintaining economic safety and social order for all inhabitants. She even included policies that would give the Shisa full citizenship and remove settler status or species as requirements to hold public offices.

A faction led by Count Dennis Victor, commander of the Albion Defense Fleet, from Novus Victoria tried to oust the President in a coup in 2699, but were stopped by the Albion Constabulary Forces in a firefight inside the Council Palace itself. The incident left Count Victor himself dead and his faction in disarray. Following the Count’s death his daughter Beatrice Victor, commander of the ADF cruiser “Belfast”, ordered an all-out air strike on the New Camelot spaceport nearly crippling it before she returned to Novus Victoria.

Civil War

Civil War within the Alba system was now a fact and on Novus Victoria Beatrice declared herself president and denounced the First Council on Novus Albion. In a somewhat surprising move Ginny Rassendyll declared herself Queen of the Alba system and the First Council instituted a monarchy after a hastily organized referendum.

After about five months Novus Virginia also recognized Queen Genevieve following an armed uprising instigated by the Victorian government. Although the instigators and some of the leaders of the uprising were executed, while others were imprisoned, many with Victorian sympathies were allowed to leave Novus Virgina.

The first year of fighting saw the decimated Albion fleet repel three invasion attempts by the Victorians. Both sides had lost much of their fleets and the space war was reduced to defensive posturing.

Groups loyal to the opposing side on both planets formed irregular military units that fought ground wars with the local forces. The Albion loyalist militia on Novus Victoria was the most successful and threatened Capitol City at one point. This success prompted the first cease fire and negotiations between the sides in 2702.

Although negotiations put an end to planetside warfare it left the larger issues unresolved. Both sides claim the right to rule and have not been reconciled over the centuries. The sides have continually been in a state war since 2699, but active warfare has only been occasional.

The current state of affairs

There is a continual defensive posturing of space fleets. Most interstellar ships were destroyed during the first bombardment and early fighting. The Victorians only have access to a handful of spike drive ships, the Albions only a few more. The system frigates and fighters exchange torpedo fire from time to time, but there is no real space war between the two sides.

Both governments have adopted isolationist policies and have funneled resources into building defensive systems against the other side. Exploration of the region surrounding Alba is limited to a couple of systems.

On Novus Albion the isolationists have been challenged by a growing movement that supports more interstellar exploration. It is rumored that this movement has gained support from royal circles lately, but this is unconfirmed.

Proxy- and low-intensity warfare have been conducted by both sides. Espionage and industrial sabotage operations are the most common.

The Victorian sponsored Black Brigade have been the most active on Novus Albion the last decade.

The Victorians have been blamed for an attack by Hochog mercenaries on Novus Virgina, although they deny the charge. There have also been terror attacks, usually bombings, on New Camelot which have caused tensions between the government in Capitol City and the monarchs of Novus Albion.