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?