Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shadow of the Demon Lord Impressions

This isn't much a review, it's a blog about my impressions of this new tabletop RPG. I haven't read the whole book yet. I decided to take a pause amidst my frantic devouring of pages and pages of this book to share my enthusiasm with you. It has no structure, just impressions randomly tossed in.
Above is what appears to be a live recording of a seminar the author of the book was a guest at last summer.
I must say I haven't had that much fun reading a RPG core rules book in a long time. This really talks to me and the realistic expectations of running a campaign. It's structured to be 11 sessions (adventures) of 3-4 hours in length. Your character is defined as your group goes up in level.
I love the Warhammer Fantasy influence. WHFRP 1st edition was one of the first RPGs I played and he really captured the feel.
I really like +Robert Schwalb's design decisions with this game. Because my experience with D&D was really short I don't care how the designer seem to define his game in relation to the world's favorite game in the video. Perhaps it was simply because of people in the audience that participated in the Q&A. I think the fact that he was part of the design team for many editions of that game but decided to go a different way with SotdL speaks for itself.
I'd like to see how he would do Sword & Sorcery for D&D 5e. I think he would respect the tropes mechanically much better than Sasquatch Games did with Primeval Thule.
Anyway, if you're looking for a dark fantasy RPG that feels like d&d and Warhammer Fantasy but without the bullshit; if you want a tight design, a modern game that caters to old school gamers; if you want a professional looking book with a great layout and awesome artwork; if you want a game you can easily digest, this is the game for you! I mean this game is badass! What other games do you know of that your character can become so insane he decides to gouge his own eyes out? Cthulhu maybe but it's a different genre with different tropes where such terrible fate is expected for your character.
The only minor quibble I have so far is that there are too many Afflictions (Conditions) to keep track of. Compared to D&D this is standard. Compared to other games I like such as Savage Worlds, Gumshoe, AGE or AW this is a problem for me. The less time I spend looking up rules when I'm trying to run a game, the better.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Making a Star Wars hack for Savage Worlds

So of course, with The Force Awakens out I'm thinking of running some Star Wars. Though it may be tempting to outlaw Jedi knights from the game because the lightsaber alone is kind of an "I win" button, I'm fully aware Jedi are part of the appeal and I'd be taking away what makes it Star Wars.
From a Clint Black advice, I decided to take a look at the Super Powers Companion. SWD stats a lightsaber at Str+d6+8 AP 12. Ok cool.

Now let's take a look at the "Attack, Melee" power. 

  • Armor piercing mod. It costs 6 points to give it AP 12. 
  • Lethal mod removes one point so we're at a 5 pts cost so far.

Now with the actual damage. It's 2 pts per level, each level is +1d6 damage. So 2 more points for the d6. The +8 damage has got me baffled though. How many more level do you think this represents?

And here's another question. If you were playing in a game and someone other than you played the Jedi, would you feel your character isn't as cool as a Jedi because of lack of lightsaber? Would you want to be compensated for that disparity?
Okay, that was two questions. :)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Beasts & Barbarians On Air! Final Preview

It's almost time for the first episode of The Beggar King, our Beasts & Barbarians campaign for Savage Worlds. On Friday November 13th at 10:00 pm EST, you will be able to follow the arguably best RPG campaign I've ever been a part of. My hope is that this may give your own group ideas or tips on how make your own games memorable with any system, online or not. I also hope you'll find this entertaining even though a RPG session is an interactive experience rarely as fun to watch as it is to participate in.

It's been two months since we last played this game. In the meantime, I ran some one-shots that most of the players have joined for some of the games. One of those games, The Heart of Darkness, was recently recorded and is available on YouTube. I needed the break to refuel and prepare but now I'm anxious to get my boys back. Judging from their feedback, I get the impression they are excited as well. One of them cannot join us yet because of his work schedule but I look forward to his return.

As promised in the previous preview I will now expose the Setting Rules I will use for The Beggar King. Most of them are straight from Beasts & Barbarians Golden Edition and Jalizar, City of Thieves, some are taken from other settings, inspired by other Setting Rules or house rules. While most of them are proven and tested, some of them, particularly house rules will be introduced for the first time.

Beasts & Barbarians Golden Edition

Henchmen and Right Hands

Henchmen have three wounds and no wild die while Right Hands have a wild die but no wounds. I've rarely used this rule before but plan on using it more to challenge the player and highlight some important NPCs without giving them Wild Card status.

After the Adventure

This includes Savings and Events. Savings means regardless of many Moons (B&B currency) they've accumulated, once they've gone back to town to carouse they're left with just enough to resupply and pocket change. 100 Moons per rank is all they're left with at the beginning of the next adventure. This is game is about daring exploits, not looting the bodies to carry around thousands of gold pieces for that vorpal sword.

The Events are what happened during downtime between adventures. The player draws a card from the action deck and the DM comes up with something according to the results on a table which can be good, bad or somewhere in between. It can drive a whole sub-plot and I will certainly use that as inspiration for the next adventure. I will limit the option to pick a card to only one player at a time in order to avoid confusion and to shine the spotlight on only one player at a time.

I usually hand-waive resource management and use common sense instead of micro-managing an economy. I've never once been a part of a fun "count your money" or 'let's haggle with the merchant" encounter. With only two hours to play I'd rather use that time for more interesting scenes. As for the After the Adventure Events, the last chapter of our campaign was one long adventure with no breaks in between so we didn't get a chance to use it. Now we will.


Beasts and Barbarians uses the Blood and Guts, Born a Hero and Joker's Wild rules from Savage Worlds Deluxe. Bennies for everyone on a Joker and they can spend bennies to re-roll damage. Those two are very popular in our group.

Jalizar, City of Thieves


A character that has spent enough time in Jalizar or is from there gains one contact per rank. This works like the Connection Edge but the character must spend a Bennie to activate it and can only use it once per session.
I did something slightly different with this. A few months ago I asked every player to design two NPCs with ties to their character, one friendly and another one unfriendly. I want to use the friendly NPC as a Contact or story hooks and the unfriendly NPC as a potential minor enemy or story hook. Only two players worked on that so I can guess they are the only ones that will benefit/suffer from this Setting Rule.

Looking Miserable

Appearance is everything in the city of thieves. If you look like a beggar or put on an otherwise non-threatening appearance, when rolling to see if surprised, potential victims have a -2 to that roll.

Life as a Thief

This is a rather extensive collection of rules meant to expand on thieving operations such as begging, concealing items, disguise, forgery, pickpocketing, shadowing, tightrope walking and traps.

There is only one roguish character in the group so I'll use those if the need arises. I prefer the shadowing rules in Deadlands Noir over the ones in Beasts and Barbarians so I'll be using these. Disguise isn't as Fast (as in Savage Worlds Worlds' Fast, Furious and Fun motto) as I'd like so I'll likely simplify it to one roll instead of having to roll for preparation AND interpretation.

House Rules

Critical Failures

You cannot spend a Bennie if you roll snake eyes. Untested.

Loincloth Hero

I'm changing how this edge works. Instead of granting a free soak roll while wearing no armor it gives a +2 bonus to soak rolls like the Unarmored Heroes Setting Rules in Lankhmar City of Thieves.


This is inspired by the Role rule in Streets of Bedlam. On select episodes, I will direct the spotlight on one character. This may be the result of an "After the Adventure Event" table result or because the story simply demands it.
There are three different roles for these Spotlight sessions: Hero, Sidekick and Plot Twist.

The Hero is the star of this episode, the spotlight is on him. The outcome of this episode will have repercussions and affect that character only.
He can do the following:
  • Implicate one of the characters with the Plot Twist role to gain a Bennie, but only one. This must put that character in trouble in one way or another.
  • Spend a Benny to gain a +4 bonus to any rolls made toward escaping a bad situation. Once that character is out of immediate danger, the bonus no longer applies.
The Sidekick is there for the Hero, he's there to make him look good. As such, he can do the following to help him out:
  • Deliver a uplifting speech in a non-combat situation to motivate the Hero. This is similar to how Interludes work in its execution but must relate to the situation at hand. Consequently, the Hero gets a +4 to his next roll.
  • Share his Bennies with the Hero as per the Common Bond edge but with the Hero only.
The Plot Twist is the wild card. He's the special guest star. He can be a the guy that arrives at the right time to save the day or he can be the one who's arrival will make things worse for the Hero. Here's what he can do:
  • Spend two Bennies and arrive at the scene providing additional help. The player must also provide the circumstances that lead to this and can be vetoed by the GM.
  • Inject his character into the scene but his character must bring complications with him. Maybe he was being chased or followed. Or maybe his own goals competed against the Hero so he steals the MacGuffin right under his nose. Maybe he makes his appearance as the villain's hostage. Regardless of the reason, every player-characters at the scene receive a benny and the Hero can play an extra Adventure Card in this scene, but only once per session.
  • Find an excuse to leave the scene and give the Hero an important bit of information (provided by the GM).
This has yet to be tested but I like the idea and I think the players will have fun with it. We like collaborative storytelling and improvisation. I look forward to the results. I will revisit this House Rules as needed then.

And this concludes the previews for The Beggar King. I hope you enjoyed it and will be following the "show".

Happy gaming!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Beasts & Barbarians On Air! Preview #3

In this blog, I announced a new actual play online/YouTube stream featuring our group playing Beasts & Barbarians for Savage Worlds using the +Fantasy Grounds VTT and Hangouts On Air! for cam and voice. I also introduce myself as a role-player and Game Master.

In case you didn't know, it premieres November 13th at 10pm EST. Announcements will be posted on my "circles" feed (so add me if you'd like to receive it in your feed), the Beasts & Barbarians G+ community and the Savage Worlds G+ community.

In the first preview, I explained what Beasts & Barbarians is all about and why our group absolutely loves it. I also introduce one of the players of the group, +Stephen Dragonspawn .

In the second preview, I shed some light on what happened during our first year of gaming together and where the characters are at. This is where I introduce +Daniel McLaughlin , another player of the group.

Now, in this blog, I'd like to share some insight from behind-the-screen on where the next chapter of our Beasts & Barbarians campaign—The Beggar King—is going and why.

The first chapter of the campaign that took place over a year span was a mix of elements from two official modules: Death of a Tyrant and The Green World. It started out and concluded in the Red Desert but some time was also spent in the Green World (a pocket dimension inside a green orb). It had a distinct rural and barbarian feel to it that featured a Tulsa Doom-like sorcerer-priest as the villain. Long-winded character arcs were also developed during that campaign.

The prologues to the first chapter were a collection of one-shots episodic in nature. There wasn't much room for character development there as you would imagine but it was over-the-top and featured a lot of action scenes while I got to introduce the players to many interesting Dread Sea Dominions locations.

With The Beggar King I'd like to go back to those roots while introducing more character arcs. We previously showcased +Michael Lee's Kazan The Hidden and +Daniel McLaughlin's Prince Elkyr but it's now time to bring +Wulf Gar's Argoth the Vanquisher and +Stephen Dragonspawn's Kron the Barbarian to the foreground. Basically, the goal is to inject some continuity while using new episodic stories each week. Easier said than done when you only have two hours I know.

While I believe good preparation and structure helps keep a story interesting I'm no fool. I know that, ultimately, the players will decide what happens. After a year playing with them I can tell when something captivates them or when I have to let go of a story I hold dear but really isn't engaging them.

While carousing is a prominent trope of the sword & sorcery genre, we haven't had the chance to delve into that because, for the whole year, every sessions took place in the desert or a jungle with no tavern to carouse in. It's that simple. That's another reason why I'd like to keep each adventure short: so we can finally use the neat Carousing setting rule Beasts & Barbarians has and that I will explain in the next preview.

I could have sent the group on a wild cross country chase and featured more of a Dread Sea Dominons. I could have picked Tricarnia as the main location since there's a whole sourcebook out on the subject but this is in Prince Elkyr's wheelhouse and that character had plenty of spotlight in the first chapter. I could have used the material in one of the adventure modules entitled The Book of Lore to set the events of the next chapter in Ekul, Northeim, the Iron Mountains, Kyros or even put together a mercenary campaign but I ultimately chose Jalizar, City of Thieves.

I chose Jalizar because I wanted an urban environment to contrast with the rural setting of the previous chapter. I wanted a place where they'd never run out of establishments to get in trouble in. I didn't want a location where they couldn't carouse because they were in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to push my boundaries and be forced to role-play more NPC encounters despite the fact that, as a non-native English speaker, it is one of my weaknesses; something I tend to hand-waive but know too damn well it's an important element to a story. It's what makes the players feel they are part of the world their characters interact with. I also wanted to exploit the fun role-play possibilities of putting Kron the Barbarian in an urban setting and see what +Stephen Dragonspawn will come up with. And finally I chose Jalizar because... Lankhmar.

Yes, like +Ron Blessing and +Kristian Serrano, I'm a big fan of the Lankhmar setting and almost gave in to GMADD (Game Master Attention Deficit Disorder) and ditched B&B to run Lankhmar. Turns out I don't really have to do that. Jalizar is Lankhmar with it's serial number filed off. Here I've got these awesome players with a lot invested in their characters so why should I ask them to make new characters to play in a setting who's DNA is 99% compatible with Beasts & Barbarians?

So here we are in Jalizar, City of Thieves. Most of the characters are Heroic Rank and undoubtedly about to clash with the main powers and most likely tip it's fragile balance. With so many factions at my fingertips, old demons coming back to haunt them and the certainty they'll get themselves in deep trouble several times without my own doing I believe I've got more than enough material to keep things entertaining.

Finally, here are some recurring themes I feel will help me stay focused: cloak and dagger, intrigue, sleeping evil, legacy, a rotten city, famous heroes and cosmic horrors. Yes, I will add a Cthulhu Mythos touch to these stories because pretty much every game I run has an element of horror and because why not? Over-the-top pulp heroes facing cosmic horrors has got "win" written all over it.

In the next preview I will share the official Beasts & Barbarians setting rules and tell you about additional setting rules I will use for The Beggar King.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Beasts & Barbarians On Air! Preview #2

I've been working hard on the preparation side of things for the next chapter of our Beasts & Barbarians campaign. A campaign I decided to call The Beggar King. This campaign, announced a couple weeks ago, is scheduled to go live on Google Hangouts On Air! (and Youtube) on November 13th at 10pm EST. I've since released the first preview and player introduction.

Because the Virtual Table Top application +Fantasy Grounds offers many campaign management tools, I've been updating my reference manuals (B&B and Jalizar, City of Thieves pdf) for easy in-game look up, creating dozens of NPCs cue cards and, as you can see in the picture above, creating a new desktop. This theme, I hope, will help players feel like their characters are indeed in Jalizar.

While I have an eye peering into the future, allow me to gaze into the past and summarize the events that has lead our group of heroes to where they are today.

This all began with a ragtag group of thieves, fallen nobles, ambitious lotusmaster, former gladiators and barbarians. They came to Jahballan, a town in the Red Desert hoping to harvest the rare and previous Desert Crystals. Soon, they were recruited to find the ones responsible for the attempt on the Sultan's life. They were eventually duped by the man who had hired them – the Sultan's very own brother. They thought they had found the culprit but when the battle was over, they found out they had actually slain the Sultan instead of the mastermind behind the assassination attempt. The Sultan had gone to the meeting place under disguise with his bodyguards believing he could ambush the ones responsible for the attempt on his life. This was all too well orchestrated by the Sultan's brother. They soon found themselves imprisoned in the dungeon while the brother was taking his place on the throne. One of them managed to escape before the others but did not come back to help them – his name was Jond Al'Khal. Another one of them – Elkyr – lost a precious artifact in the process.

For a decade, are "heroes" went into exile, hunted by the Red Nomads sent after them by the new Sultan.

But it was time to face their demon so they found their way back to Jahballan with revenge in their hearts. Meanwhile, the Sultan had become a worshipper of an evil God, Ulasha the Devourer. It was during the Night of the Devoured Sun, when the Tyrant of Jahballan was to be vulnerable that an arrow from Kazan the Hidden struck true and defeated their long time enemy.

Fleeing into the desert they found the tomb of Kazan's beloved Kira. All this time, he had been looking for a cure to her death, a cure his friend Elkyr had promised him so they had hidden and preserved her body from her murderers. The body was missing though. For Nameless, Kira's brother and guardian, had witnessed everything, He watched helplessly as Kira was taken by lizardmen through a mirror, to another world called the Green World.

In the Green World, they found that Jond Al'Khal (their former friend who was first to escape the Sultan's dungeons) was working for the Tyrant now and had been tasked in keeping them prisonners in this world. To pour salt into the wound, he had managed to revive Kira and she now had love to give to Jond only.

This Green World was a world within an Orb of demonic origin used by the Keronians and their slaves to escape the devastation brought down by the Dread Star, a meteor that changed the world into the Dread Sea Dominions, the world as we know it today.

They found their way out of the Green World, defeated Jond Al'Khal and the Tyrant but Kira, now with powerful artifacts –the Green Orb and Three-Faced staff– managed to escape. One of their friend, Kara, a damsel in distress they rescued in the Borderlands, has gone missing. Everybody knew she was pregnant. What they didn't know was that apparently her lover, Arctophylax, isn't the father. No, it appears one of the heroes is the father. She would not say who the father is and the couple fled Jahballan.

After months of searching they finally picked up a trail. That trail has lead them straight into Jalizar, City of Thieves, Flower of the North. Laden with treasures from the Tyrant's Palace, our heroes are getting settled in their new home, looking for Kara and Arctophylax and, of course, indulging in the finest carousing the Dread Sea Dominions has to offer.

This is where our story begins...

Now on to the next player introduction.

+Daniel McLaughlin is as much a Beasts & Barbarians fan as I am. Him and I are probably the most knowledgeable about the Dread Sea Dominions in the group. He's a fine strategist and has managed to master the Savage Worlds rules over the year I started role-playing with him. His character, Elkyr is multi-dimensional and has gone through so much over the first season. Daniel understands storytelling. He'll give me a lot of food-for-thought with his character's decision during a game and inner struggles through character journals. He's very easy-going and place himself last for the benefit of the group whenever he feels it's necessary. You can't help but notice how much he enjoys playing Elkyr and I fear the day when the dice Gods claim his beloved Elkyr's life. I feel we've barely scratched the surface here. Until then, I'll enjoy the great storytelling opportunities he gives me through his play style and interesting character.

This is what Daniel had to say about himself as a gamer and his character:

"I don't know when I first became aware of games as RPGs. I just called them adventure games. I remember playing computer RPGs on an original Apple II with text programs like Adventure and Dungeon Adventure and my first graphicals, The Dragons Eye and Akalabeth. I played all sorts of text adventures especially enjoying the Infocom offerings.  It was the early 1980's. I was 11 or 12. I read a book called Hobgoblin by John Coyne that made me study Brian Boru, as this was the protagonists player character . I saw the movie Mazes and Monsters and became fascinated about the cleric Pardiuex, Tom Hanks player character. By then I had my first TSR red box and had found pen and paper proper. I held games and introduced people to the setting. My library expanded: Twilight 2000,  Middle Earth Role Playing, Call of Cthulhu. I was hooked, but it felt like I was always hooked, caught between the paper and the digital world, computer RPGs like Wizardry, The Bards Tale, Might and Magic, the Ultima series. The blend between these two styles of gaming is what make Fantasy Grounds such a compelling platform for me.

I play the disenfranchised Tricarnian, and very slight of build, Prince Elkyr.  Elkyr has forsaken his royal position, murdered his father, spent his time as a wastrel and drunken carouser, seeking his solace from his actions in the forbidden pleasures of this world. He bore a demon possessed sword, that gave him the ability to leverage his sorcerous powers to make his battle mighty.  This relationship became co-dependent, unhealthy, and broken when the sword was stolen.  For ten years Elkyr walked the Earth with the geas to reclaim this weapon that he commissioned as Endbringer. A legacy of high adventure followed, culminating in a final conquest for the blade, in which its possession was gained, but the cost was disenchantment. Elkyr continues his wandering,  piecing together events that seem more than happenstance, gradually becoming uncertain of even his own freewill in his life's decisions."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Beasts & Barbarians On Air! Preview #1

I would like to expand on the new actual play stream announcement I made last weekend in this blog.

On November 13th, our group will stream live (and on youtube the next day) the next chapter of our Beasts & Barbarians campaign on Google Hangouts On Air!.

You may not be familiar with the GRAmel's setting for Savage Worlds called Beasts & Barbarians so let's start by explaining what it is. Written and developed by +Umberto Pignatelli , Beasts & Barbarians is a Sword and Sorcery setting. defines Sword and Sorcery as a sub-genre of Heroic Fantasy that is less glamorous and all about fast paced action. "Sword and Sorcery stories are about mighty warriors fighting supernatural horrors with blade in hand, either an Eldritch Abomination or Evil Sorcerer." goes on to say that "Robert E. Howard is widely seen as the trope make of the genre with Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock being the trope codifiers a generation later."

What you get with Beasts & Barbarians are all those influences with a heavy dose of Clarke Ashton Smith thrown in. A dose that ties everything in with pure poetry. Basically, it's Conan the Cimmerian, Elric and Lankhmar with the serial numbers filed off at it's core but with Umberto injecting it's own mythology. The setting is very well supported with many adventure modules containing Books of Lore (gazetteers) and expansion books for mercenary or gladiatorial style campaigns as well as full-on regional guides like Jalizar, City of Thieves or Tricarnia, Land of Princes and Demons.
I feel the setting rules really capture the tropes of the genre. I've been running Beasts & Barbarians game for over a year now and it's always fun. It all started with a few one-shots here and there online.

The hook was simple and very old school. "You are a group of adventurers, carousers and anti-heroes who steal, pillage and raid temples or ruins in order to fund your carousing habits. When your purses are empty you go back out still hungover and find some more coins to spend on more wine, women and entertainment." It was simple yet effective. The same people kept coming back for more, embracing the larger-than-life nature of their character. I had to make this a real campaign for a few reasons.

First, I realized I had found the RPG setting for me. I was burnt on traditional "tolkienesque-inspired" fantasy. This was dark, primal and made me embrace the neanderthal in me. It was the same sort of epiphany I had after watching the movie Fight Club and reading the novel.

I also felt I had a core of players I connected with it. I didn't have to explain where I was going with these adventures much. Everybody played their characters according to the tropes of the genre. Every one of them had read Sword and Sorcery tales. Everything fell into place. Their characters were vibrant.

Which brings me to the last reason why I wanted to turn this into a full campaign. Simply put, I wanted to learn more about these characters the same way you keep reading a novel or move on to the next book in the series. We had barely scratched the surface. We needed to go more in depth.

So we did. Some players wrote journals and made artwork. This, folks, is when you know the players are enjoying their characters and the campaign.

In the next preview I will give you an overview of what happened during the last year. I might even use some material from the character's journals some player wrote. But in the meantime I'll introduce one of the player and share with you what he had to say about his life as a gamer and his character.

+Stephen Dragonspawn is an eloquent and charismatic player. He brings a spark at the table through a vivid impersonation of his character Kron the Barbarian. He adds all these small details and quirks to Kron that makes it feel real. Just when you think you have his character figured out he brings another dimension to it. He narrated the best Interlude I've heard by revealing how Kron likes to defend the weak. Stephen is also the king of puns and sexual innuendos during game sessions and helps keep the mood light and fun for everybody.

So I will leave you with what Stephen had to say and see you next week for the next preview:

"Reading thru Marvel comics on the late 70s and 80s, I saw adds for the D&D RPGs and was curious about them, but not having any hobby stores near home and not having access to a suitable means of conveyance to get to them, I had to wait until high school when I would be old enough to get on a bus to the closest hobby shop (which was 10 miles away, in the freezing snow, and uphill both ways, LOL!). There I bought the famous Red Box, with money saved from my summer job. I tried to get some friends on my street interested, but it didn't seem to be for them. I still bought the Blue, the Green and the Black boxes, reading thru them and daydreaming of all the adventures I could be having, if only I had some willing victims, I mean players, PLAYERs, that's what I meant, yeah, that's the ticket."

"It was not until high school and college that I would find my first D&D group by answering an add on the billboard of the same hobby shop where I had bought my Red Box. But this group were already experienced players, they played AD&D. So I graduated to AD&D too.Later on I discovered other systems & settings, such as Robotech, TMNT, Shadowrun (1rst ed.) Cyberpunk 2020, Earthdawn, TORG, Storyteller, Legend of the 5 Rings. After a break from RPGs, D&D 3rd ed. (and of course 3.5 and 4th). Another short break and I discovered the Shaintar setting which made me get my Savage Worlds rulebook out of mothballs. I briefly joined a friend's Pathfinder game, but to me it just seems like "D&D-the Quest for Stuff". I've been running my Shiantar campaign now for 2 years and I love it, and so do my players.I play Kron, the loincloth bearing, battle-axe wielding Barbarian. Dark of hair, blue piercing gaze and rippling muscles. He cleaves thru enemies and stands up for the downtrodden or bullied. His birth is marked by special yet mysterious circumstances. He was exiled by his father under some difficult times. After that, Kron traveled and took on odd jobs to subsist and enjoy a few aspects of civilization that he discovered, such as fine wine and fine women. He met Argoth when he willingly entered the gladiatorial pits, in order to pay off serious debts. He has travelled with Prince Elkyr in order to aid the man regain his honor, get revenge on his brother as well as find a way to heal Kazan's beloved, which is still completely unresolved. What does the future hold for the sabled-haired barbarian? What does Destiny or Fate have in store for Kron? What is was his birth supposed to bring about, or perhaps stop from happening? We shall see.regards from Stephen."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

New Actual Play Online Stream

After ironing out a few details with +Daniel McLaughlin , a tech-savvy player of mine, and upgrading my Internet connection, I decided it was time to broadcast some of the games I run every month.

While we're really interested in exploiting the possibilities that TwitchTV offers we figured it'd be wise to start with Google Hangouts On Air!

+Jerrod Gunning and +David Scott have been doing it for a few years now. I feel these "Actual Play" Savage Worlds broadcasts can be helpful to people new to Savage Worlds and online gaming in general. They use both Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds for VTTs (Virtual Table Tops) with web-cams and mics. Their catalog of "Actual Play" sessions has over a hundred games and has been watched by thousands. I'm looking at adding more options to viewers basically. There aren't any other visible options I know of. That is a shame.

So here I am, ready to make a fool of myself for everybody to see. Awesome!

One of my groups have been playing a Beasts & Barbarians campaign for about a year now. We concluded the first season in September and thought it'd be appropriate to start season two with a broadcast.

The first episode of Beasts & Barbarians is scheduled for November, Friday the 13th at 10pm Eastern time and will be available on Youtube the next day. It will run for approximately two hours and every other Friday. As mentioned before, it will be on Google Hangouts on Air! and the event shared to my circles and the Savage Worlds G+ community. We'll be using Fantasy Grounds as our platform, webcams and mics.

Who's this guy?

Hi there! I'm Eric, aka mask_of_winter on the Fantasy Grounds Forums. I've been playing table top RPG in one form on another since the mid 80's. I started off with the Lonewolf books then moved on to a French adaptation of the German game Dark Eye as a child, As a teenager, our group played Warhammer FRP, Rolemaster, MERP, Vampire, two French RPGS: In Nomine Satanis/Magna Veritas and Bloodlust. This is when I started being the Game Master when I was 15 years olds with Warhammer. I've been the GM almost exclusively ever since.

I discovered Savage Worlds while following Keith Baker's blog at the time where Pinnacle Entertainment Group had just launch their new Explorer's Edition of Savage Worlds. I believe that was in the summer of 2009.

Earlier that year I had started using Fantasy Grounds to supplement my gaming needs. For the last few years I've been living this hobby exclusively online. I run two campaigns and many one-shots each month. During that span, I've met role-players from all over the world and I believe this has made me a better GM. I can't say whether I'm old school or indie in my approach to the game. I like to stick to what I know works for me while staying open-minded and receptive to new storytelling philosophies in order to keep it fresh and fun. I aim for everybody in the group to have fun and I like to think I deliver on most nights. Pacing is very important to me, and so is player input.


In the weeks leading up to the broadcast I intend to introduce the players (and their characters) of the group, provide a recap of our Beasts & Barbarians campaign season one and share a preview of what's to come in season two.

Most of the games I run uses the Savage Worlds rules system but I've been known to run some Gumshoe, D&D 5e and Powered by the Apocalypse games from time to time. The Beasts & Barbarians will most certainly be a Savage Worlds game but some one-shots I run on the weekends may or may not be all Savage Worlds. That's why I don't think it would be fair to call all my On Air! Savage Worlds Actual Plays.

We hope you'll be watching!


Here you'll find links to the previews I've been posting since this blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Behold! The Bacon Golem

Bacon Golem

Few creatures have the rare ability to instill both fear and desire in the heart of men and women at the same time as the Bacon golem can. With it's crispy skin and nimble limbs sizzling with grease it's a match for veteran crime fighters, investigators and champions alike.

Created by the most vile and depraved occultists by layering strips of bacon and reciting incantations from the Baconomicon Ex-Porkis it can quickly decimate a population, leaving a trail of burnt bodies.

Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d8, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Taunt d8
Pace: 6; Parry: 6; Toughness: 7 (1)
Special Abilities:

  • Sizzle: The Bacon Golem's skin is constantly sizzling, sending drops of burning grease all around. Opponents who start their action adjacent to this abomination must succeed on a Vigor roll or be Shaken.
  • Crispy: Hardened skin gives it an armor of 1.
  • Slam: Str+d4
  • Entice: Because he is delicious and knows it, the Bacon Golem can discharge an effluvium in a Large Blast centered on itself as a free action. Every target within the template must succeed at a Spirit roll or be Shaken.
  • Construct: Being nothing more than animated organic matter the Bacon Golem adds +2 when attempting to recover from being Shaken, suffers no additional damage from called shots, he doesn't suffer from Wound penalties or disease and poison.

Story Seed

One of the local college fraternity has just made it's new members purchase over 200 lbs of bacon as part of their initiation. One of the frat leaders found a strange book bound in pig skin containing strange words. On the night of the ceremony they made the recruits shape all the bacon into a humanoid form and recite the words from the book.

The next day, the whole fraternity shows up for class with burns all over their bodies but won't tell anyone what happened for fear of ridicule.

Needless to say, days later the frat boys aren't the only one to sport those burns and strange rumors begin to circulate.

Can the team of investigators get to the bottom of this? What really happened? Where did that book come from?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Halloween Games and FG Con7

To celebrate Halloween this month I decided to run as many horror-themed games in October as possible.

It all starts with some Deadlands Reloaded Saturday October 3rd on Fantasy Grounds. It's free for everybody and there are still a few seats left.

It's also FG Con7 on October 16-18th and since we themed it Fright Night to celebrate Halloween I'll be running some more games there. I kick off the celebrations with some Savage Ghostbusters on Friday night followed by Beasts & Barbarians on Saturday. There are a few seats open for these also so come on in! Again, it's free (trying to kill the myth that you always have to pay money to play on Fantasy Grounds -- is it working? hehe). Check out the other events as well. There's some Pathfinder Society, Savage Worlds, D&D 5e, Call of Cthulhu, Trail of Cthulhu and more.

There is room for more games as well. I really want to run Chickens in the Mist and tie it in with ETU. I should probably run some Trail of Cthulhu as well but I only have the Murderer of Thomas Fell and Ritual Pursuits ready.

I also plan on purchasing the Savage Tales of Horror this week and if I can find a tale short enough to accommodate a three or four hours time slot I'll probably run some of that as well.

And of course, with the new season of The Walking Dead starting this month I should probably dig out my War of the Dead game.

What are you running or playing this Halloween?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

10 free Halloween Savage Tales

My favorite holiday of the year is a little over a month away. My trick-or-treating days are behind me but I still enjoy decorating the house and watching horror films.

I also love to run Halloween or horror themed Savage Worlds one-shots. So much I wish Halloween lasted a whole month.

In case you’re feeling uninspired but still interested in running a Halloween-themed Savage Worlds game for your group here are ten free options. Some of them require more than just the core rules to play, some of them also include pre-generated characters and other props which is great.

This is  free One-Sheet written by Dave Blewer involves a Dark God Cult and takes place in a hospital. If you’d like to delve into madness this is a great option.
Penned by Savage Worlds rules guru Clint Black and John Goff the man who gave you Night Train, this Rippers adventure pits the player characters against demon worshippers.
Written by Shane Lacy Hensley, this free adventure for Deadlands Reloaded also requires the Horror Companion to play because the stats for the main villain are in there.
For years this was the adventure that came with the Test Drive Rules for FreeRpgDay before it was replaced by Triple Cross for the Lankhmar setting. Again, John Goff has written a solid and fun adventure. It comes with pre-generated characters, figure flats, handouts and the test drive rules. Very plug and play.
This fan made adventure by Chris Jackson takes place at a Halloween party in a friend’s house.
Scooby Doo anybody? +Brian Reeves  puts out a well written Halloween adventure that comes with pre-generated character sheets of the character we’ve come to love.
Another great offering from +Brian Reeves  featuring the characters from the Bram Stoker novel. It has setting rules, new powers and pre-generated characters.
Written by Sean Preston of Reality Blurs, this Agents of Oblivion mini-mission takes place during the Pumpkin Festival.
While it requires Zombacalypse from Silver Gryphon Games, this One-Sheet adventure by Kevin Rohan could be run without it. It’s an interesting twist to the zombie genre.
This Savage Tale for Beasts & Barbarians takes place during festivities where people dress up and wear masks (sounds like Halloween to me). Umberto Pignatelli definitely gets the sword & sorcery tropes but this dungeon crawl also follows some of the Lovecraft tales of horror tropes with some of the creatures the heroes will have to face. If your group prefers the Fantasy genre, you can’t go wrong with this. It could easily be adapted for another setting if you don’t have the Beasts & Barbarians book. But if you do, there are pre-generated characters available.

With all these options I might have to make Halloween last for the whole month of October.There are certainly more options out there. Maybe you’ve written something for Halloween that my google-fu failed to pick up. Why don’t you share it with us? What else would you recommend for this spooky holiday that is free?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Life after the Shaken bomb

Back in May Clint Black dropped a bomb on us:

"At the beginning of their action, a Shaken character makes a Spirit roll to recover. On a failure, he remains Shaken. On a success, the character removes their Shaken condition and may take their action normally."

For many Savages, it was literally the end of the world. Some took it well, others not so much. This simple change was dissected and analyzed. Every concern brought up was valid to me. Everybody experience Savage Worlds differently even though we all use the same book. To some it meant more power to the player characters, to others it meant a few edges and tactics like tricks, combat reflexes becoming less effective. My reaction to the change was mostly positive but with reserves.

Four months and about twenty game sessions later with two different steady groups, half a dozen one shots and between twenty and thirty different players I'm ready to share my experience and opinion.

Players still perform tricks but they are more selective. Before the change to the Shaken rule, if an enemy was Shaken many players would then shift their attention onto another threat whereas now they work as a team. If an enemy is Shaken, the next friendly actors in the initiative order will concentrate on taken him/her/it out because now they don't have that round when they know the bad guy is no longer Shaken but will not be able to act. I believe that any game mechanic that encourages players to work as a team is a good thing. This facilitates the bonding process. This also creates an atmosphere of urgency and players pay more attention to the initiative order instead of just waiting for their turn to roll dice.  
Combat reflexes is more important and useful than ever because unless of a critical failure or being wounded actors in a fight will "Unshake" and be ready to act. Yes, you could get rid of the Shaken condition and act before (still can) by spending a benny but what I see now is players spending more bennies on re-rolls.

I've also noticed the combats have gotten even faster and I've had less bookkeeping to do.

These are my impressions. But what about the players? Honestly, none of them has said a word about it. Not one complaint, not really any positive reactions. It's as if it hasn't made a difference...

I guess it wasn't that big a deal after all.

What about you? What's your experience with the Shaken rule change?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Top 5 campaigns I'd like to run next

Besides all the one-shot games I run over the weekend and for online RPG conventions I run two campaigns. 

Every other Tuesday morning we play the Savage World of Solomon Kane. This started over the summer and after five sessions we just passed the introduction to the Path of Kane plot point campaign. I've been using mostly my own tales and we're having fun with the episode/comic book format where every story is one game session or two long at the most.

On Friday evenings it's Beasts & Barbarians. What started out as a series of one-shots a year ago has become a very steady campaign driven by character story arcs. The players are comfortable with their characters, the group has gelled well and our games are filled with laughter and cheers. We've just completed what I call season one so we're on a hiatus until the beginning of November where we'll play season two set in Jalizar, city of thieves, flower of the north. The group is mostly comprised of Heroic rank characters and, despite running Savage Worlds for many years, I've rarely had to challenge groups above Seasoned. This should be interesting.

But as you know, a GM's heart is often one step ahead when it comes to planning or at least day-dreaming a campaign and I'm no different.

Here are the campaigns I'd like to run in the near future in no particular order.

1. The Dracula Dossier: Super spies vs Dracula for Night's Black Agents. A giant sandbox, collaborative campaign with gorgeous handouts that looks totally epic. This would be very challenging for me. I would need to prepare for this like I've never prepared before. As a GM always willing to improve, I'd love to be part of this.

2. Apocalypse World: I've wanted to run a successful post-apocalyptic campaign for a while. The prep sessions using Fate Core were a very interesting and engaging experience but the actual play didn't go so well mainly because of everybody inexperience with the Fate engine. I'm still contemplating sticking to Savage Worlds and using material from Deadlands Hell on Earth Reloaded, Broken Earth and World of the Dead but since I really want to try out a Powered by the Apocalypse game, the one that started it all sound like something my Beasts & Barbarians group would rock to no end because we thrive on bouncing ideas off of each other.

3. Achtung! Cthulhu: The Mythos, Nazis, Indiana Jones, World War II, 'nuff said!

4. Primeval Thule: I don't even have the D&D 5e books from the Kickstarter yet. I have very little experience with 5e but I like the system as far as class-based systems go. The Forgotten Realms don't inspire me at all. Every time I hear elven ranger, dwarven cleric or wizard I throw up in my mouth a little bit. Primeval Thule on the other hand is a sword & sorcery setting of Conan vs Cthulhu. It feels fresh and exciting to me. And if you can't tell yet, I love sword & sorcery and horror genre campaigns. This seems like a good match for me.

5. Savage Barsoom: Like I said, I love the sword & sorcery tropes, this just takes them to Mars. Space 1889 looks great but I'm not really into the whole Victorian thing, I loved Princess of Mars, it really moved me and I think this could be a very engaging campaign. With the Mars books from Adamant Entertainment, ship rules from 50 Fathoms and Pirates of the Spanish Main, the Science Fiction Companion and a bit of elbow grease I think I could get this airship up an flying.

What do you think? If you could play in my next campaign, which one would you prefer and why? If you've played in one or more of those already, what was it like?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Noir Knights Review

The Skinny
Noir Knights is a Savage Suzerain setting part of the continuum. That means you can hop from one setting to another with the same characters. This setting is designed for Heroic rank characters in mind and requires both the Savage Worlds core rules and the Savage Suzerain setting book to play.

Savage Mojo calls Noir Knights it’s American Grit setting. Back in 2010, it joined the Daring Tales of Adventure series from Triple Ace Games and Thrilling Tales from Adamant Entertainment as 1930’s pulp options for Savage Worlds players. Deadlands Noir came much later. It has since gone through an update in 2014 to bring it inline with the “continuum”, minor edits and a brand new cover. If you don’t know much about Savage Suzerain this review will not go in depth to explain what it is so I encourage you to do your own research. I will only say that it is a line of Savage Worlds products primarily geared toward higher tiered play with character creation options that caters to that. It offers groups to jump from one setting to another without having to change characters. Caladon Falls, Set Rising, Dogs of Hades and Shanghai Vampocalypse are among the settings you can choose from. Each one has a Plot Point Campaign and character options.

So onto Noir Knights. Take your typical 1930’s Noir setting with gumshoe, gun moll and G men characters and inject a large dose of the supernatural and you get Noir Knights. The player characters are recruited as part of a task force for the SPA (Special Projects Administration), a precursor to the FBI. So in a way, think X-Files meet the Great Depression.

This book deals with themes of the Great Depression, famine, supernatural threat, industrialization and corruption. The Everglades, Dust Bowl and Washington D.C. are the default backdrops where most of the Plot Point Campaign takes place.

Besides the typical character archetypes of the genre you can create a ruizologist which is a weather controlling elementalist; a railworker who uses sigils to wander the railroads of America; or a taximancer, part voodoo practitioner part taxidermist who uses it’s artform to animate specially prepared vessels and pray to the loa spirits. You also get very fun new Edges, vehicles and powers.

The GM is full of behind-the-scenes information on the setting, some explaining real historical events. All that content is very clever and littered with many ideas a resourceful GM can draw on to run his own campaign.

Then comes the 12 Plot Point Campaign tales with 18 more Savage Tales, along with new NPCs and critters of Noir Knights. It’s hard to talk about this section without giving out any spoilers but I will say it is epic and varied. In one mission you’re at the carnival and in the next, in one of Henry Ford’s factories. Yes, it’s crazy like that!

The Good

The production value is top notch. It’s easy to read with it’s layout and nice to look at for it’s artwork. I mean, look at the cover! Savage Mojo never disappoints in that department. You wouldn’t expect any less for a product Aaron Acevedo designed.

The writing is also very good and easy to read. Stuart Gorman doesn’t waste any words in this 146 pages book, Every word is a new idea, a new painting in your head.

The new Edges are varied and fun and help illustrate the setting as it should be. The new Pulse Paths (arcane backgrounds in Suzerain) are wicked fun.

Not necessarily in this book but the fact this is well supported with many one sheets and pack of pre-generated characters really adds to the value of Noir Knights.

The Bad

Artefacts of D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder are still present in the form of secondary arcane backgrounds. You can’t help but think: “prestige classes? really?”. This is more of a knock on the whole Savage Suzerain line as every setting has it’s own set of Pulse Paths. This is however offset by the fact that when you pick a secondary Pulse Path you get two powers and a d4 in the related skill for free. Why not just offer new powers options and give guidelines for the Trappings instead?

Again, another knock on Suzerain in general, the rank requirements. Most groups want to start out as Novice characters and make their way up. I understand that this setting was written for larger than life characters but the plot point campaign is also a large investigation. Surely, an effort could have been made to scale a Novice to Legendary progression. Yes, you could start in Caladon Falls which is a Novice Rank plot point campaign but who wants to play through 30 sessions of another setting when it’s Noir Knights you want to play? This has been a barrier for me for a few years now. That and the “prestige classes for Savage Worlds” are keeping me from totally buying into the Suzerain continuum.

The Savage Suzerain corebook used to be a free pdf download. Not anymore. And if you prefer hardcopies this still meant you had to purchases the Savage Worlds core rules and Savage Suzerain books in order to play Noir Knights. But you can’t even get away from that by buying in digital format now anyway since like I said, even the pdf has to be purchased now. This may be manageable with Pinnacle Entertainment Group digital products since they tend to be $10 or less but Savage Mojo products are usually around $25 each. For print, you’re going to pay between $30 to $50 depending on your desired print quality. To their defense, they often run good sales so be on the lookout!


This is a solid Savage Worlds setting I’ve been meaning to play for a while. I think it’s a very niche product and it’s probably why it flies under everybody’s radar. A lot of it’s new Edges could be mined by creative GMs for other settings. Groups looking for something really different to play will be spoiled by this product.

Right now I’m still trying to find the right angle to approach Noir Knights. I either need to get over the mental hump of starting straight at Heroic and use the article I wrote for Savage Insider, V2I2, Taking Action entitled Character with History (shameless plug) or to start my group off as Novice and scale the opposition down.

If you're interested, Noir Knights is currently on sale on DTRPG as part of the Savage September sale.