Friday, December 14, 2018

Blackwood: Getting Paid in the Elder Kingdom

Magu (literal trans. "Hemp Maiden"), Taoist immortal
The 7 Errants is winding down  with only a few more characters and organizations left to detail. Also I'm going through SWADE behind the scenes, putting together an unofficial Borchardbriar Jumpstart and a kung-fu quickstart. In the meantime here's three sources of trouble and adventure for the Blackwood Codex.

Rare Herbs - The Blackwood paradoxically sustains and threatens the Kingdom. Average folk brave the Wood's dangers every spring to harvest the natural bounty of wood, Dark Ladies(1), forage, game, but -most importantly- medicinal herbs. Harvest festivals provide warmth and relief in the present age of chaos, the Vosserlin Picking draws woodkin, riverfolk, and Errants from around the region and can set the common folk up for the rest of the year. Various rituals anchor the festivals, for example the village Drachenkissen holds Lou's Pursuit. The festival begins as prospective hunters re-enact the folk hero's desperate search for the Elder Root King, setting off into the Blackwood armed with only a staff, a gourd and a small dog, ending the festival when over half the hunters return while the others, hopefully, trickle in later. Errants could go looking for missing persons, follow Lady Ceryneia's lead by providing some security, or enter the Pursuit themselves to find the Elder Root King themselves.

Lost Techniques and Wisdom - The Kingdom didn't spring forth fully grown from the Elder King's brow. It was built on the bones of Old Kingdoms. From Kingdom of Light to Winter Kingdom to Elder Kingdom, inheriting centuries of accumulated wisdom still used today. Ancestor worship, clockwork, herbalism, and numerology are all cultural products handed down alongside a wide range of folkways. The nobility quickly dismiss the more immaterial customs as superstitious, cultural mores gone vestigial in need of trimming. Sages argue this perspective stems from a place of cultural ignorance, an imperfect transfer of knowledge robbing the Kingdom of context. Both nobles and sages will pay well for cultural artifacts and art objects from the Old Kingdoms, moreso for the truly rare and exotic. Lost martial manuals and living weapons(2) command the highest price. Less scrupulous Errants may opt to steal rare objects from a collector's wonder room.

The Post - North of Grand Delving, the Kingdom quickly unfolds like an untamed, green quilt. Civilization and settlements strewn across the Blackwood with only Hedges and rivers connecting them.Combine distance with elves and pagans and that's an obstacle insurmountable to your common subject. Luckily Errants aren't common subjects. Though some fellowships will act the courier, bitter rivals Thurn & Taxis and Tristero's Bravos exclusively transport mail. You won't find a work shortage any time soon, someone will need a letter delivered to Grandma's house and who knows what dangers might lurk beneath the boughs.

1- I'm not sure if Dark Ladies are run of the mill silkmoths, pack hunting carnivores, or Mothra. We'll figure that out.

2- Other living weapons could be figurines of wondrous power, pagan menhirs, and living taxidermy.

The 7 Errants are a fellowship of heroic martial artists and wanderers for Eli Kurtz' Blackwood setting - a mash-up of Wuxia action and frontier fairy tales. You can find the book for sale here and a free quick start bundle here

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Blackwood: This Little Light

When folks talk about the Hartsworn you hear the same tired things - an Errant fellowship lost to the Wood, the spitting image of heroes past, and gone too soon. Composed of masters and their apprentices, their deeds were the stuff of legend. In a short time they defeated the Six Eared Howler, turned a Lonely River (1) away from swallowing Talbrand, and brokered peace with the Scarlet Child. Set on reviving the Kingdom of Light's lost secrets to pacify the Blackwood. Falcon Master Wulf Schafer spearheaded the expedition into the Eastern Wood and the fellowship was never heard from again. Until now.

Two years ago folks on the Margin gossip that one of the Hartsworn's returned from the Elven Deeps. Not long after terror stalked the streets of Talbrand. First the chandler apprentices formed the Ghost Light Gang and carved a bloody swath through the local underworld, claiming the Tenderloin district. Then Pigeon Hawk, a crackshot and fearsome fighter, was found skewered with pagan arrows in the village square. Glistening in the morning light.

Now the Gang spreads to town and city while the list of skinless masters continues to grow.

CULTURE - Riverfolk - Raised by big cities and bustling river markets, the Butcher gains the Dirty Fighter Edge.  
BADGE OF ERRANTRY - A necklace of large prayer beads. The only thing he has left from his previous life.
STATS - Strength D8 Agility D10 Vigor D6 Smarts D6 Spirit D10
SKILLS - Fighting D10, Intimidation D8, Notice D8, Persuade D10, Shooting D10, Stealth D10, Streetwise D8, Thievery D8

EDGES - Acrobat, Dirty Fighter (+2 to Agility Tricks), Frenzy, Improved Frenzy, Martial Artist, Prospective, Worthy, and Master of Falcon School, Worthy Student and Master of the Firecat School, Prospective and Worthy Student of Red Bear School, Versatile Student (Fang can benefit from 2 Schools at once)
HINDRANCES -Driven (Major, It will take blood and great violence to pacify the Blackwood. The Elder Kingdom would be better prepared for the task if the fighting arts were wider spread.), Vengeful (Major, Frog's shortcomings shamed Wulf and failed the Hartsworn. He will kill his failed student.)

THE CLAW - STR+D6, +1 damage for each successful attack. AP 1
NAILSPITTER - 2D6+1, Ranged weapon, Wound penalties apply to Pace. AP 1

LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE - The Butcher learned how to conjure the dead and bind them to their skin. With these grisly materials he crafts lanterns and interrogates the trapped spirits when the lantern is lit. Wulf is stalking masters to learn the secrets of their fighting arts, disseminating them among the Ghost Light Gang.
OGRE MASK - Double the bonuses from Wild Attacks, ignore Wound penalties, and Armor 4.
SHEDDING DEATH - Put him down and he just keeps coming. When the Butcher gets his third Wound he exits the scene, suggesting his death but not leaving a body. He can't do this in his workshop. Or can he?

The Ghost Light Gang's brand. From Wikipedia.
The lines between cult, secret society, and criminal organization are fuzzy on the Margin, the Ghost Light Gang plows right through them. Initially organized among apprentices, under the Lamplighter's tutelage their membership and activities quickly spread. Their distinctive take on the ancestor lantern marking their turf is now a common sight in major cities. Inductees often come from trades with secret knowledge and initiations of expertise, the Lamplighter exploits their frustration and impatience as avenues for recruitment. He gives them a sense of belonging and control over their lives, equipping them with weapons and guidance.

Tactically the Gang harries their foes, using the rudiments of Falcon School to stay out of reach and pepper their opponents with arrow fire. Baiting or driving them into dead ends where the Lamplighter has become the Butcher, lying in wait. Within the Gang's mythology the Lamplighter and the Butcher are two sides of the same coin. The Lamplighter kindles the flame of secret knowledge among the Gang, while the Butcher demonstrates his lessons. Unleashing them on hapless criminals and the occasional Sentinel who gets in his way.

STATS - Strength D6 Agility D8 Vigor D6 Smarts D6 Spirit D6
SKILLS - Athletics D6, Fighting D8, Intimidation D8, Knowledge D6, Notice D8, Shooting D8
EDGES - Prospective Student of Falcon School (They can run through the air.)
HINDRANCES - Mean (Major,  Rule #1 - The Wood does not know mercy, and neither do we.) Delusional (Minor, Rule# 2 - The Light has chosen us. We serve the Light.)
Axe Str+D8
Bow 2D6, Ranged
LIGHT THE LANTERN - On the second round, one of the Ghost Light Gangsters lights a sky lantern. 2D6 more gang members show up at the end of the round.

1 - I first mentioned Lonely Rivers back in the Blackwood Giants post. They're roving bodies of running water that rove the Blackwood and swallow things whole. What if the River Lethe was a sandworm?

The 7 Errants are a fellowship of heroic martial artists and wanderers for Eli Kurtz' Blackwood setting - a mash-up of Wuxia action and frontier fairy tales. You can find the book for sale here and a free quick start bundle here

This particular entry was inspired by the film Human Lanterns, you get a great summary and discussion by the Jianghu Hustle guys here on episode 19.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Blackwood: Our Dear Mother Night





Just a few names woodkin parents invoke to terrorize their children, "If you don't go to sleep; She will draw close, scoop you up in her sack, and steal you away." They warn, "Talk back to your mother again and the Beldame'll introduce you to Her knife, Leech." Stories of collecting tongues and eating fingernails craft an ogreish semblance. Something too absurd to be real and forgotten with age. But all these nightmares stem from a very real figure, the witch called Mother Night.

Mother Night sealed her first pact with her right eye when still a child. She traded her birth name in the second. All doubt flees when you see her: wearing a skirt of Elf totems, her right hand tasting the air, her left gripping a leaking sack, and bogles clamoring 'round her feet. This one-eyed pagan rivals the 7 Fair Consuls with her ire for the Elder Kingdom. She blames the Elder King for stealing her only child. A child prophesied to cast down the reign of phantoms. If she had her way a pagan horde would sweep the elderfolk and their allies from the Blackwood. Held in check by 4 of the 7 Consuls who hold sway over segments of her soul, the Leech-queen has her agents among the outcast and the elf touched probing the Kingdom for any rot within. She also charged them with finding her lost, little moth should they still survive.

CULTURE - Elf Touched Mother Night has an additional 5 Power Points and the Outsider Hindrance. Her right hand ends in a copperhead and the scale pattern covers her skin.
STATS - Strength D8, Agility D8, Vigor D8, Smarts D6 Spirit D12
SKILLS - Fighting D10, Healing D8, Knowledge (Elves) D10, Notice D8, Pact D12+1, Persuasion D10, Research D6, Taunt D10
EDGES- Additional Power Points, Arcane Background (Elf Pact), Dark Sight, Elan, Leaf Step, Luck, New Power x 3, Witch (Mother Night has one additional power of your choice)
HINDRANCES - One Eye (Major, Cut from her head when she was still a girl. Her first sacrifice to Elven lords), Outsider (Minor, You can't mistake Mother Night for anything but a pagan), Superstitious (Major, Having accrued so much arcane power, she has a dozen little taboos she will not break), Treebond (Major, Everyday Mother Night must spend time in contact with a tree)

LEECH - STR+2D4 Damage, recover 1D6 Power Points on a successful hit. Double the Power Points recovered if you hit with a raise.
ADDERHAND - STR+D6 Damage, Poison (Roll Vigor at -2, causes petrification) Only make this attack when someone engages or disengages in melee with Mother Night.


FONT OF MAGIC - Mother Night can use the mega-powers from Savage Rifts.
NEVERENDING BAG OF BOGLES -  A gift from one of her fey lovers, 3D4 bogles pour out with Mother Night is hit (use cats from the core book, adding Athletics D8 and a tendency to Grapple en masse).

POWERS - 25 POWER POINTS- armor, barrier, boost/lower trait, greater healing, intangibility, puppet, quickness, telekinesis

It's a bogle.

The 7 Errants are a fellowship of heroic martial artists and wanderers for Eli Kurtz' Blackwood setting - a mash-up of Wuxia action and frontier fairy tales. You can find the book for sale here and a free quick start bundle here

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Savage Worlds: Going Loud

Check out Jackie Droujko's delightful short - Bang Bang!
In crime fiction and RPGs, things go wrong for 1 reason - a perfect job is a boring job. While a flawless heist/operation is good for a thriller once or twice, I love a character instigated pell-mell far more. Reservoir Dogs and Heat are great examples of a careful and thought-out heist spinning into chaos because of poor impulse control/inability to plan for everything. Here's some mechanics to create incentive for PC's to stir up trouble.

Each Wild Card starts with 5 points of Noise. You may spend Noise to roll an additional D10 to any Trait or damage roll. this die can Ace like any other, and if a Benny is spent to re-roll the action then re-roll the D10 too. As you spend Noise you'll earn a reputation. This comes with benefits and drawbacks. You get the benefits immediately, while the drawbacks should show up when they'll royally screw things up.

5 - Just your average yegg.
4 - Thing are looking a little hairy. Earn a Benny if the action is particularly public/violent.
3 -One of the crew is approached by law enforcement and pressured to flip on you. Who is it?
2 - A dogged investigator nips at your heels. Gain the Enemy (Major) Hindrance and an Edge of your choice, ignore requirements.
1 - You're a loose cannon, too dangerous to keep around. A kingpin puts a bounty (worth an Advancement) on you.
0 - The Bureau and the Great Machine is watching out for you. Gain an Advancement.

In counterpoint, GMs should keep a tally. Let's call it Cacophony. Better yet, Racket. Every time they spend Noise. Every time they use brute force. It builds up Racket. The higher the Racket, the more force Law & Order responds with. This is should dovetail with the new SWADE Chase rules you can find here.

2 - A squad car shows up to check it out. The officers attempt to take the characters alive and arrest them. Private security shoots to kill.
4 - Police forces converge on the characters, multiple squad cars and long guns start popping up. Officers shoot to kill (Shooting D8). Increase the penalty from complications by 1.
6 - The Department tries to contain the incident. Roadblocks and spike strips are deployed to hinder vehicles while a helicopter keeps them in the spotlight. Sharpshooters aboard take their shots (Shooting D8, ROF 2).
8 - Here come the SWAT (or NOOSE or The Sweeney, etc). Riot vans, ARVs, and multiple helicopters swarm the Crew and let the bullets fly (Shooting D10+Wild Die). The crew now suffers chase complications on Clubs and Spades.
10 - Every conventional way out of the city is blocked off, the roads barren of any civilian vehicles. With civilian bystanders minimized, things look grim as law enforcement really cuts loose (Shooting D10+Wild Die, ROF 3).  The crew has to egress in an unexpected manner or lay low, otherwise it never ends.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Blackwood: Heart of the Web

For 14 years the Elder Kingdom has staggered forward headless. Provincial governors, burgomeisters, and chief sentinels find their interests overlap and conflict with no Elder King to sort it out. Conflicts of interest and jurisprudence only serve to atomize and isolate resistance to the Kingdom's greatest internal threat - the Jeweled Fan Society. By all appearances a trade organization heavily focused on herbal harvesting and refinement, the Society's true activities concealed. The Society's true purpose? The steady, upward redistribution of goods, assets, and favors from the fringes of the Blackwood to the City Astride the River, Span.

Barring a buffoonish nephew, the Brandts are a respected and well-heeled family with bloodties to Span's founding. Their oldest estate rests atop catacombs housing their oldest ancestors. It was here Renata found the Judas Silver, rolling free from funerary clothes. A trinket associated with her great-great-great-grandfather and thought lost. The coin's true nature was made apparent when Renata touched it. The relic emphasized her worst self and allowed her to control others, bringing their shadows to the fore as well. With this power she created the Society and spread throughout the Kingdom. Controlling what she could and destroying what she could not.

By pulling taut her web of influence, she will form a new kingdom. The Jeweled Kingdom. Her Kingdom.

STATS - Strength D6 Agility D8 Vigor D6 Smarts D10 Spirit D10 (D6 without the Judas Silver)
SKILLS - Athletics D8, Gambling, Intimidation D10, Knowledge (Battle and Business) D8, Notice D8, Persuasion D10+2, Riding, Taunt D8, Thievery D8
EDGES - Command, Hold the Line, Luck, Great Luck, Merchant, Noble 
HINDRANCES - Curious (Major), Decadent (Minor), Greedy (Major)
FLIT OF THE FAN - Use Persuade instead of Fighting to Defend. She can also use either Perfume or Smoke.
FLICK OF THE WRIST - 3D4 Damage, ROF 4. Thrown, 5'/10'/15'. A hail of needles fly from her fan. If she has Polish, it's been applied to the needles.

ENTOURAGE - Renata is accompanied by at least 5 bravos. Some are hired muscle and others are suitors
FEARLESS & HARDY - See the core Savage Worlds rulebook.
YOU WOULDN'T HIT A LADY, WOULD YOU? - Calculate Parry using Persuade, instead of Fighting.

PARLOR TRICKS - Through the Jeweled Fan Society, Renata has access to herbs that would make a witch jealous. She always has some botanical tricks up her sleeve. Choose 2.

  • Powder - All the makeup and perfume hides her Undead nature. (+2 Toughness, can't be Shaken)
  • Polish - A nail lacquer made from beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, and vegetable dyes. It's bright red hue a warning. Contact poison. Touched characters roll Vigor at -2 or suffer a Fatigue level. 
  • Musk - Perfume made from the 40 Wink Orchid, renowned for its soporific effects. Targets roll Vigor at -2 or become Shaken, uses the Large Burst Template
  • Smoke - A case full of  hand-rolled cigarillos made from Ulix' Nightmare. When Renata exhales a cloud of smoke opponents fly into blind panic. Targets roll Spirit vs Fear -2, use the Cone Template


The relic has 15 PP and can Awaken Darkness (puppet) and Call For Help (summon ally).
Puppet - Use Persuade as the arcane skill. The subject also gains a Major Hindrance for a lunar cycle, possible amplifying a Minor hindrance to to Major.
Summon Ally - Summons 2 constructs resembling a houndmaster and his mastiff (treat as ogre and dire wolf in the core rulebook).
DRAWBACKS - Holding the Judas Silver inflicts a Major Hindrance, highlighting your worst trait. Prolonged use has other side effects.

The 7 Errants are a fellowship of heroic martial artists and wanderers for Eli Kurtz' Blackwood setting - a mash-up of Wuxia action and frontier fairy tales. You can find the book for sale here and a free quick start bundle here

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Savage Worlds: Catch As Catch Can

Grappling has vexed RPG design for-seemingly-ever. With good reason. Grounded styles are complex and difficult to parse without firsthand experience. Hence BJJ's emphasis on live sparring. But.
It seems Savage Worlds may have cracked the code.

In case you didn't know, there's a new edition of Savage Worlds on the horizon and with a new edition there are previews. Adventure Edition has some cool new Multi-Action rules allowing characters to use the same Skill multiple times in a round. Combined with Savage Flash Gordon's elegant Grappling and new Conditions, ground and pound seems really cool. It just needs a little help. Here are some new Edges trying to capture the feel of rolling and clinching with the new Savage Worlds rules in mind.

REQUIREMENTS: Athletics D8, Fighting D8, First Strike
Once per turn, you get a free Trick (Strength or Agility) against a single foe who attacks you in melee and misses. Use the failed attack as the Difficulty. If successful, the opponent is Vulnerable.
If you have the Martial Artist Edge then you can use Fighting instead.

REQUIREMENTS: Athletics D8, Martial Artist, Seasoned
Ignore the first Multi-Action penalty when you Grapple an opponent.

REQUIREMENTS: Chess of Limbs, Veteran
If you have Grappled an opponent and they are Bound, you can make an unarmed damage roll with their Toughness, ignoring Armor, as the Difficulty. If successful, deal damage as normal and the opponent suffers the One Arm (Major) Hindrance until they receive medical attention.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Borchardbriar: The Skinner

From the Far South, where the land is scorched by 2 Suns, the Skinner walked. He chased a vision, a prophecy whispered in his ear by the Ant Seers. The Wheel of Seasons was stuck and the World sickened as a result. The Skinner had a part to play in the Great Story- to bear a blessed blade North and excise the rot. He crossed the Shuddering Sea and slipped through Clowdertown unseen by Autumn's Hounds and Resistance alike. The Land trapped in harvest turned the Skinner's stomach and still he walked with purpose. Undetected through Borchardbriar's uneven halls he stalked the canker, stealing up to the 4-Sided Throne room. Too bad Old Mad Craw was waiting for him amidst the spoil and bones. The Skinner met his match and lost his name.

Leashed to the Foxlord's will, the Skinner stalks Reynard's foes and steals their hides.

Now the Skinner's part is played by someone else. Walking North from the Burning Lands and bearing a blessed blade.

STATS - Strength D8 Agility D10 Vigor D8 Smarts D6 Spirit D8
SKILLS - Athletics D10, Fighting D10, Intimidation D6, Notice D8, Performance D10, Stealth D12, Taunt D10
EDGES - Thief, Trademark Weapon (Fortune Cleaver), Quick, Extraction, Improved Extraction
BITE - STR+D6 Damage. The Skinner can go for a Grapple after a successful BITE attack.
FORTUNE CLEAVER - +1 To hit. STR+D8+1 Damage, Ranged 30', Blessed, returns to hand.  When a Wild Card spends a Benny to soak add that Benny to the GM's pool.

MADDENING GIGGLE - When the Skinner is hit but not Wounded, all other characters in the scene must make a Spirit test at -2 or become Distracted.
ONE THROAT, MANY VOICES - The Skinner is a skilled mimic and ventriloquist, he gets a +2 to Trick/Test opponents with  Performance and Taunt.
REGENERATION (FAST)- The Skinner's flesh pulls itself together, regardless of trauma. Per the core rules.
STUDENT OF FLESH - The Skinner knows how close to death everyone in a scene is. When he hunts the wounded, their Wound penalty is a bonus to hit. (Example: If you are suffering a -2 Wound penalty, the Skinner is +2 to hit you).
THICK HIDE - Armor 3

WEIRD POWERS - Choose 1 or 2
BONESNAP - Biting with a Raise deals +D10 damage, and inflicts the Crippled (Minor) Hindrance.

CULLING SONG - The Skinner croons a low song of slaughter. If the Skinner hits a Distracted opponent he rolls a number of additional D6's equal to raises on the attack roll.

TERMITE'S COUSIN - The Skinner bears wyld gifts from the Burning Lands. With a successful Spirit roll his little cousins cause a building to collapse under its own weight.

Borchardbriar is a Savage Worlds setting I've been working on since May 2017. It owes a lot to Brian Jacques' Redwall series and Garth Nix' The Old Kingdom. So hopefully if you enjoy those, the you'll enjoy Borchardbriar.
You can find the initial outline here. All posts can be found here