Wednesday, September 23, 2015

RPG Blog Carnival - Curses and the Magic skill in the Wicked West

As I'm sure you know, this month's RPG Blog Carnival is focused on curses, cursed items and campaign stories which feature cursed PCs. Historically curses are any expressed wish that adversity strike someone else, directed through foot tracks, the evil eye, book curses or any other method. Any sort of magical working that seeks to affect a person requires sympathy, you can read up on that here.  A great example of sympathy and cursing at work is the story "La Vuelta de Culebra" translated to English in this book.  Curses and cursed objects have a long history in RPGs, whether the bag of devouring or the King in Yellow, but beyond the bestow curse spell anything resembling the traditional form is quite rare. Especially considering how common curses are in real world cultures and stories.  
Below is a Fate Core Magic skill that bears a close, traditional resemblance and will be used in the Wicked West.  It is very similar to one of the magic subsystems in the Fate Toolkit with some stunts from the Secrets of Cats and other places.

Attack: There is no Attack with Magic.
Defense: There is no Defense with Magic
Create an Advantage:  Magic can be used to create thematically "Cursed" or Blessed" Aspects on characters and objects you have a sympathetic link with.
Overcome an Obstacle: Magic can be used to remove the above mentioned Aspects with a ritual.

Astral Projection: Once in a trance, you may spend one Fate Point to send your consciousness and those in physical contact with you into the Astral Plane, leaving your husks behind until you return.
Pin Cushion: Once you have a bit their hair and an effigy, you can Attack someone with Magic. The doll is destroyed once you inflict a consequence but you can minimize the damage to stress.  No limits on range.
Dowsing: You can undertake a mental challenge to seek someone out, difficulty will depend on how well you know them and if you have sympathetic link. 
Warding: You can Create an Advantage on a zone that can also be used to Defend against outside attacks and efforts to enter the zone.
Claw, Mane, Wing and Tooth: After consuming a noxious concoction of animal humors you may Create an Advantage of shapeshifting, you can invoke this aspect for bonuses to do animal things.

Special: The Right Tools for the Job
When using the Magic skill to undertake any action there are two things to consider: sympathetic link and the equipment in use.  You can still undertake a working without either, but your chances of success decrease accordingly.  Without a link or the correct tools, the opposition receives a +1 to the roll for each missing element.  Certain Stunts already specify the correct tools and the need for a link, depending on how well your character knows the target you may not need to forge a link with a particular individual.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Wicked West - Populations, Religions, and Intrigue

The Wicked West is sparsely populated, but on the rise

  • As more resources are discovered, more settlers are drawn out West to swell the townships.  And larger populations are more demanding when it comes to law and order.
  • The populace may find the local sheriff to be in someone's pocket, in that instance they might be best off turning to the Pinkertons: a private security firm that sticks to the letter of their contracts.  The Pinkertons apply a combination of new scientific methods with the old techniques of the Third Degree.
  • The First Nations are a rich composite of different cultures and societies, raging from nomads across the Great Plains to pueblo dwellers in the Southwest and the the great lodges of the Pacific Northwest.  All can agree that the encroaching wave of settlement is something to watch and prepare for. 
  • While the primary thrust of settlement is coming from the East to the West there is a trickle of folks coming from California eastward  constructing the railroads.  Most have already undergone a long journey from their homeland in China.

The Wicked West is fertile ground for human belief, and its practices
  • Every settler out West believes in the Messiah, but he's not necessarily the son of Yahweh.  The wide open wilderness and savagery rekindles dormant beliefs.  One town, Enoch's Hammer, is home to a church with a Christ figure nailed to a hammer and another sacrifices travelers to a Great Beast that crawled in.
  • Just as strange churches are occupying public life, constant exposure to numina has influenced private life as well.  The practice of seances has become increasingly popular among the more well-to-do citizens.  Through a medium a group can either invite things from Outside in, or project themselves Outward and visit Malum psychically.  Projecting mediums describe the World's super structure as treelike.
  • Sundering the Union of 13 has reinvigorated the possibility of magical practice in the untamed West and the First Nations benefit as well.  Their shamans and warriors draw upon ancient pacts and the land rises to their call.  The Malum corresponding to their Otherspaces are closer and the chances of coming across thunderbirds, puckwudgies, and baykoks are high
  • A group of Anglos are on pilgrimage across the frontier led by a prophet.  With his magical seer stone he translates a golden book and claims that Paradise is further West.

 The Wicked West is home to intrigue and skullduggery
  • Just as every tycoon keeps a cadre of Regulators in his pay to protect certain interests, Patent doctors do as well.  Many medicine shows cultivate the air of the carnival to obscure a core of murderous steel.  They have to always stay on the lookout for those who would steal their secret elixirs.
  • Secret societies that claim to know the True Way to Heaven crop up in the larger towns, some claim that the Cruach Mining Company hides something similar in Management's ranks.  The sun is shining....
  • The U.S. Government has started to send out Masonic surveyors to re-establish the cornerstones and recreate the Founding Fathers' greatwork.  They also have orders to whip up posses and kill Confederate Filibusters wherever they find them.
  • Settlers in Texas report seeing large, stepped triangular structures floating high in the sky.  The Mexican government has nothing to say on the matter.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Wicked West - Malum - the Apples of Creation

Classically known as the Otherworld and once peeled away from the West, the Malum are the disjointed houses of enduring spirit.  They are cities of the dead, tangible myths, the fruitful lands, insane ramblings enfleshed, and the high holy placesNumina stem from connections, no matter how tenuous, to these places and those connected to the Wicked West have been largely unmolested by the drone of the mundane.  The Malums' unexploited nature is the primary draw for the adepts, occultists, diabolists, mediums, sibyls, and warlocks swarming westward in a mystical gold rush.

Tied to the frontier by Branches, arcane trails that allows passage back and forth.  Though many are visible to the naked eye, it is through magic that one is able to perceive where the trail leads off.  Physical travel across Branches and Malum can be hazardous and it often pays to contract a guide, or psychopomp,to lead you through.  Traditionally they would only accept two copper coins, but the price of passage has gone up and now gold bars are required to enlist these particular services.
With such a high price is it any wonder why so many prospecting malleficarum opt to take a chance with their travel?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Wicked West - the Elite, the Occult, and the Wondrous

Here's more about the Wicked West.

The Wicked West is lawless, the elite only recognize silver or lead.
  • Each town is beholden to itself first and foremost.  Several have an elected Mayor, but true local power is held by the Sheriff.
  • The Mayors are often figureheads, elected by local business men and regional tycoons.
  • Sheriffs are often among the best gunfighters in the territory, many seeking recruitment into the Regulators or the Gunbrothers.
  • Tycoons are magnates of regional business, from them all opportunities flow.  Each one collects a cadre of the best local killers, referred to as Regulators, to protect their interests and harass their rivals.

The Wicked West is eldritch, the occult flock to the frontier.
  • Magical practice is distrusted as a rule, but the isolated settlements can't turn their nose up at a little witchcraft if they wish to survive for long.  With almanacs becoming less than consistent as the rainfall does not appear where and when it should, many farming communities surreptitiously attract water witches from Back East for help.
  • The Cruach Mining Company is openly hiring adepts and promoting them to foremen in their operations above and under earth.  They pay quite well, but the mortality rate is proving high.
  • Stagecoaches are the primary form of mail delivery and luxury travel between towns.  For protection they have contracted the Gunbrothers, a cabal of shootists whose guns promise Oblivion.
  • Any given medicine show or frontier circus will contain some morsels of true magic, wrapped up in layers of showmanship and patter.  Patent medicine is a much dicier proposition.
 The Wicked West is wondrous, the strange is behind every mesa
  • Numinous encounters are becoming increasingly common: strange lights, dream visitations, ectoplasmic extrusions, table rappings, and strange beasts whose track and spoor have not been witnessed in Aeons.
  •  Throughout the Wicked West there are areas known as Branches where taking a particular path will whisk you off to some Otherspace.  Known as Malum in occult circles, these places range from the mythical to the truly alien.  Entry may be simple, but egress could prove difficult.
  • Fabulists are folk born on the frontier that possess superhuman capabilities, the very stuff of tall tales.  While they may possess exaggerated physical properties, their emotions and appetites are similarly  magnified.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Wicked West - A World of Adventure for Fate Core

The Wicked West is the Old West of our past, and stretches from the Mississippi River to the Golden Territory of California. When Lewis and Clark crossed the continental interior, the truly wondrous, strange and terrifying spaces were pressed out through sympathetic cartography and mystic surveying.  But nothing ever truly disappears, memories of these spaces still persist in myth and story and the works of man are transitory.  The mass kin slaying of the Brothers' War has blotted out the explorers' magical workings with blood.

As countless souls surge across the frontier in search of Manifest Destiny they rub shoulders with those occluded spaces.  Some find themselves wandering through the Fruitful Land laid out by John Chapman, and other stranger, more dangerous places.  There are many enterprising occultists who have taken to plumbing these depths via astral projection, which is safer than physical travel.  They taken to calling these spaces "malums" or "apples."

The largest settlements follow the railroad, taking advantage of convenient transport and telegraph contact Back East.  Those towns not on the rail are fiercely independent and take a dim view to outsiders meddling in their affairs.  Typically mining towns, they only last as long as the lode does.  Those with operational mines are often ran by the Cruach Mining Company and bear a dangerous reputation.

When it comes to vices, there are few banned outright by the what little government exists.  Oftentimes the harsh landscape and reality of survival prevent most indulgences from taking root.  Alcohol, gambling, and hired flesh are all available in abundance, but in the more established, moribund townships you can find distractions more pleasurable and decadent.

Of course the frontier is not truly uninhabited, just largely untouched by the white man.  As the westward push continues, settlers are brought into conflict with the First Nations. Contact that rarely ends well for both sides and results in bloodshed.  Though many treaties are formed the settlers rarely honor their word, behavior rooted in arrogance, prejudice, and opportunism. The next violation may be the straw that breaks the buffalo's back, escalating what were prairie skirmishes into a full fledged war.

Next Post: The Elite, the Occult, and the Wondrous

Saturday, September 5, 2015

#RPGaDay2015 part 3

Last part of the RPGaDay 2015 questionnaire.  I'll do Zak S.'s additional questions tomorrow.

22. Perfect gaming environment

A table with a few good friends around it.  Some of these people kinda count, if you squint really hard.

23. Perfect game for me

I think the Wicked West will be the sort of thing that fills this niche for a long time.  It's a Weird West with less super science and more occultism.  It was an interesting time in American and world history, global empires racing to lay claim to the interior of continents and successive ideological waves washing over them.
So I will  strive to give my own spin to the whole thing.
24. Favorite house rule
Substituting 3.5 action points with M&M's hero points in Eberron.  Action points as written did too little for to give the game a pulp feel.

25. Favorite revolutionary game mechanic
  Aspects and The Bronze Rule of Fate - these mechanics create a universal language for the give and take of play.  Everything that could matter is an Aspect and everything that acts is a character, they're elegant solutions is a hobby where play is too often hamstrung by over specification and grousing the details.

26. Favorite inspiration for your game

 Books/comics followed closely by film.  Chuck Wendig's Blue Blazes and Ostrander's Suicide Squad have their fingerprints all over the Wicked West alongside Tombstone and El Mariachi.

27. Favorite idea for merging two games into one.

Haven't ever done this, but now I have to.  I'll get back to this one.

28. Favorite game you no longer play

Probably the Mutants and Masterminds campaign I had going.  There were two intermingled teams of heroes, one was much like the Justice Society (every character had some sort legacy that bore down on them) and the other was modeled after the Outsiders (aggressively pursuing criminal leads at the intersection of super and mundane crime.)
Above is character portrait my wife drew of her character The Outsider II, she has brain powers.

29. Favorite RPG website/blog

Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque or From the Sorcerer's Skull.  Jack Shear is pretty inventive, and has a great writing style.  I used to be a big fan of the Tao of Zen Nihilism when John Wick was posting nearly everyday.

30. Favorite RPG playing celebrity

Don't really have one, does James D'Amato from One Shot count?  I'm sure after posting this someone kind of obscure and random will come to mind.
Like Fairuza Balk.

31. Favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing

It's cliche and sappy but I'd say my wife.  She's awesome.  That's her with Colt Cabana in the foreground; Hernandez, Ivellise Velez, Karlee Perez and Tommy Dreamer from front to back behind them.
They're all wrestlers.

Friday, September 4, 2015

#RPGaDay 2015 Part 2

Continuing from the previous post.

11. Favorite RPG writer

Kenneth Hite easily, with John Wick as a close second.  They are both wonderful writers in their own way.  Both are largely setting guys, Ken’s settings brim with weirdness and John’s are chock full of drama.
Robin D. Laws is in there as well as an RPG writer.
Chuck Wendig is my favorite writer who happened to work in RPGs.

12. Favorite RPG illustration

See above.  The classic Deadlands cover tells you everything you need to know about the game.

13. Favorite RPG Podcast

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff or One Shot.  KARTAS features two of my three favorite RPG writers talking about a wide range of topics and how they apply to roleplaying.  One Shot instead is an actual play podcast with a rotating cast of improvisers and other entertaining types playing a cavalcade of changing games.

14. Favorite RPG accessory

Poker chips or Mardi Gras Doubloons.  Most of the games I run incorporate some sort of hero points and handing these to the players as physical items goes a long way to ensuring they are used.  The doubloons especially look cool and evocative.

15. Longest campaign played

I ran a campaign of Mutants and Masterminds 1e that ran for around three years.

16. Longest game session played

The great Dark Ages Vampire chronicle of 2005, I ran it through the summer for about a week with 6 hour sleep breaks.  So that’s pretty constant.  I always wanted to do a Werewolf Wild West game but never got around to it.

17. Favorite fantasy RPG

Old School D&D, it’s lightweight and flexible enough to be what you want when you want.  Even if (like me) fantasy isn’t your thing, minimal hacking can result in something akin to Stars Without Number or Silent Legions.  
The above picture was created by Tony Diterlizzi, he's pretty great.

18. Favorite SF RPG

 Ashen Stars is my hands down favorite, and probably the sci-fi game I've played the most over the past few years.

Eclipse Phase if it wasn’t so crunchy on the surface.  One of my pet projects is taking BRP and running transhuman sci-fi with it, cribbing a lot of elements from this.

19. Favorite supers RPG

Mutants and Masterminds 1e.  I enjoyed Champions the first couple of times I played it but character creation takes too long.  M&M1e streamlines that math and looks enough like the other games I had played that it was easy to pick up.
Mister Mystery was featured throughout the core book and was also in the Noir supplement.

20. Favorite horror RPG

Cthulhu Dark or Trail of Cthulhu.  In Cthulhu Dark your character simply and quickly generated so you can get to poking the shoggoth real quick.  Trail of Cthulhu gave us pillars of sanity which are essentially hit locations for mental degradation.

21. Favorite RPG setting

Day After Ragnarok since I am reading through it and Robert E. Howard inspired things are always great.  Eberron from 3.5 is my favorite D&D setting, I feel it is ripe for spy games.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

#RPGaDay 2015 Part 1

I started this post a bit late for RPGaDay 2015 so I'm running through the topics rapid fire to make up for lost time. Ten or twelve today and maintain that pace the next few days to get through them all.
1. Forthcoming game you're most looking forward to:

Probably The Sixth Gun RPG from Pinnacle.  I love the Weird West in pretty much all it's forms, everything from Robert E. Howard's "The Horror from the Mound" to K. J. Bishop's fantastic Etched City. Cullen Bunn's work on The Sixth Gun comics are definitely influential on my own Wicked West.
2. Kickstarter game you're most pleased you backed

That would have to be Raiders of R'lyeh, an Edwardian Age Call of Cthulhu spin off with an emphasis on exploration with a plethora of great tables for filling those empty spaces on the map.  I backed at the level so I'll be an unsavory NPC in the setting. I opted to use my actual name so if there's only one 'Aaron' - that's me.
3. Favorite new game of the last 12 months

Just arrived hot from Kickstarter: Feng Shui 2, haven't gotten a chance to play it yet but it's in queue.  Hong Kong heroic bloodshed movies have been very influential in how I run games.
4. Most surprising game

D&D 5e actually being good, I was skeptical at first but the game does just about everything it set out to do.  I have a 5e campaign currently on the back burner that I will be restarting some time soon-ish.  It's all very much in vein with Saladin Achmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon.

5. Most recent RPG purchase

 I just picked up Unknown Armies 2e, and it's great.  Full of inspiration and weirdness to throw into any game even though I'm not going to be playing it any time soon.
6. Most recent RPG played

Played? 4e D&D for the podcast.  Ran? Sabres & Witchery in a homebrew setting that's Castlevania meets Bloodborne during the Peninsula War.
7.  Favorite free RPG

 Cthulhu Dark takes the cake, it is fast and simple with lightweight rules that covers the basics- what your character can't do and interpreting the die roll.
8. Favorite appearance of RPGs in the media
The D&D references from the Ren-Fest episode of Home Movies.  Because Home Movies.
9. Favorite media you wish was an RPG

 I would say Adventure Time, but that's already been done. So instead Gravity Falls which would be pretty easy with Unknown Armies, Monsterparts, or Little Fears.  Anyone ever notice that most of the rpgs that focus on playing as children have too much going on?  Just a thought.
Tony Diterlizzi's Wondla would be pretty fun, just use Other Dust  or Gamma World 7e.

10. Favorite RPG publisher

  Pelgrane Press, foremost publisher of stabby detective stories.