Savage Rifts

For the three people who haven’t heard, Rifts is Coming for Savage Worlds!

Pinnacle Entertainment Group announced today the development of Rifts for Savage Worlds, their award-winning tabletop roleplaying game system.
Pinnacle released a mock cover, using art from Palladium’s 2005 Rifts Ultimate Edition with permission. The cover artist for the book was Scott Johnson.
“We are thrilled to follow up Kevin’s post with this announcement that we do, indeed, have the license to develop Rifts for Savage Worlds,” said Savage Worlds creator Shane Hensley. “We are early in the process, but anticipate having a core rulebook for the setting released in time for Christmas.”

In last week’s Palladium update, Kevin had mentioned someone had licensed Rifts. Savage Worlds was neither my first guess or my first choice in system but I’m interested. I’m sure I’ll buy at least the first book.

Open Letter to OBS

I have read your open letter about it and it does not pass the smell test.

“Similarly, no matter how one feels about Gamergate, it is likewise too current, too emotionally frought, and too related to violence to be an appropriate subject for satire.”

Let me introduce you to games you’re also selling:

ROLF: The Pimp, the Protester, and the Po-Po http://www.rpgnow.com/product/95579/ROLF-The-Pimp-the-Protester-and-the-PoPo about OWS. May I point out that Occupy is active and unlike GamerGate actual violence including rape, assault, and police brutality occurred at Occupy camps. Why are those not too close to real violence to not belong on OBS?

Crack Wh-r-: http://www.rpgnow.com/product/18490/Crack-Whr–Solitaire-Adventure-Dice-Game?it=1 A game about being a crack whore. How is that not too emotionally frought or related to violence to remove? How is last night, which is the last time I saw a person that matched the title, not too current?

Porn Masters: The Board Game: http://www.rpgnow.com/product/18963/Porn-Masters-The-Board-Game?it=1 Did the exploitation of women in the porn industry suddenly end? What is that, the exploitation of women in porn is overstated? Given there are zero actual events of physical violence in gamer gate, who exactly is doxxing is still debated, and there are questions about some people creating their own harassment to gain sympathy GG is clearly behind porn in terms of exploitation where there are documented events.

There are unofficial Cards Against Humanity sets. You do realize Cards Against Humanity has cards describing actual phyiscal harm occurring real life individuals, especially Glenn Beck who has at least three devoted to his being harmed:

Blenn Beck being harried by a warm of buzzards.
Glenn Beck catching his scrotum on a curtain hook.
Glenn Beck convulsively vomiting as a brood of crab spiders hatches in his brain and erupts from his tear ducts.

They did, however, apologize about the “passable transvestites” card.

As a result, I just don’t believe you. I believe one of your larger vendors made threats and you caved. Occam’s razor says it’s the easiest explanation for why this one game was so offensive.

The alternate conclusion is that the rejected game made fun of the wrong people and that OBS, like the makers of CAH, are fine with jokes about violence against people they don’t like (often in the name of tolerance) but if one of their sacred cows gets it the long knives come out (again in the name of tolerance).

If you look at my records you’ll see I’ve spent $674.28 and received $0.65 in affiliate credits in 2014. Clearly I’m a regular customer. With the addition of POD of the OWoD and some NWoD games I missed as well as lots of PDFs of out of print books and many games released only through you, you were a good hobby source.

Given your recent action I have to conclude you’re either happy letting people use their politics to dictate what games I can buy from you or you are happy to use yours. Even in the places where my politics agree with those of the gatekeeper in question I cannot approve of this practice for two reasons.

1. The precident established it can be used against things I like.
2. More importantly it feeds the politicization of everything. I can’t watch TV anymore to escape this. Movies are gone and most of mainstream publishing as well is more interested in being politically correct or safe than interesting. Gaming was one of the few refuges and I will not support those taking it away.

OBS has a strong corner on RPGs but as a result of your choice to police either people Red Hat or OBS doesn’t like you will be a source of last resort from this point forward.

It’s been fun but maybe we shouldn’t hang out so much anymore.

101 Days of Rifts: Rules III

My buddies and me are getting real well known
Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone

I get around
Get around round round I get around
From town to town

A classic part of old school campaigns, and Rifts&reg is no exception, is travel. Old school D&D players often use hex maps and I was initially inclined to do so for Rifts&reg Laramie. However, since I sat down to write encounter charts, the next big project, I’ve had second thoughts. What are the important issues with travel on Rifts Earth and how should we handle them in-game.

Referencing Zak S. of Playing D&D with Porn Stars seems to be a habit but again it is appropriate. What can I say, the man makes you think about what you want and how to get it. We can, for Rifts&reg paraphrase Zak and say your characters know more about Rifts Earth than Kevin Siembieda and your GM combined. His point is the characters in the setting know the choices about travelling between two places such as time, danger, and even the amount of knowledge available about that route. As a result the key information in getting between two places is not a map directly but two or more ways of getting there. A map for a game where travel is more about getting interesting places than mapping a large unknown area might be better represented by a network graph than a hex map.

Getting back to Rifts: Laramie let’s take an example. The party is seeking to meet The Great Dream Snake of Yellowstone whose existence is unconfirmed. Perhaps the party has contracted with the Lone Star produced reality program, Demon Hunters. The most recent sighting is at Devil’s Tower to the north and slight east of Laramie. In broad terms there are two general ways to get there: well traveled routes and cross country. In this case the well traveled route would be the remains of the pre-rifts railroads. You would travel south east from Laramie to Cheyenne then in a zig-zagging line north towards Gillette and finish up with an eastern route until you’re almost directly south of the site. A short overland trip of about 20 miles finishes the trip. Using Google Maps on roughly parallel highways (which are just as reasonable but the railroad give the flavor I’m after) this is about 350 miles. A straight line is about 240 miles. The well traveled path isn’t a road so we can assume the same 20 miles a day for riders.

Based on distance and movement rate clearly we want to go overland. The trip is 12 versus 18 days give or take. Why isn’t the other route well traveled (beyond Devil’s Tower having a lot of magic and a place that is generally avoided). Well, the number and risk of encounters is different. Also, your ability to arrive unseen or avoid being detected by someone hunting you is different. What if we developed a table that looked like this:

Point A Point B Route Days Encounter Table Encounter Rate Stealth Hiding
Laramie Cheyenne Trail 2 Eastern Wyoming Traveled 3d6 10% 15%
Laramie Devil’s Tower Overland 12 Eastern Wyoming Wilderness 2d6 40% 60%
Laramie Casper Trail 4 Eastern Wyoming Traveled 3d6 5% 5%
Cheyenne Devil’s Tower Trail 16 Eastern Wyoming Traveled 3d6 10% 15%
Casper Devil’s Tower Trail 13 Eastern Wyoming Traveled 3d6 5%

The encounter rate is how many and what type of dice to roll each day. For every 1 roll once on the encounter table. Stealth is the odds of arriving at the destination unknown while hiding is the chance each day of avoiding pursuers or someone searching for the party.

Now the encounter rate, their danger, and how much delay they might cause is a factor. We can just let the party know the contents of the table as well as the encounter charts because the characters would know this. Also, if they are being chased they know the odds of being found.

A chart like this shouldn’t be hard to draw up. Major points would need one line for each pair on wilderness travel, but route travel would only need to be covered for the nearest points. For Wyoming I might use Laramie, Cheyenne, Casper, Jackson (as a proxy for the Teton region), Rock Springs, Medicine Wheel, and Devil’s Tower. I can fill in later as needed or approximate points along those routes.

This avoids the need to hex map everything while giving the players an easy way to understand their choices. If they need to get to Devil’s Tower within 14 days to stop the summoning of The Eight Demons of the True Diseases or they are heading there to take a rift to the Happy Hunting Grounds while being pursued by a group of traditionalists out to stop their entry overland might be worth the risks. If they just need to take some shots of them searching for a Great Dream Snake but don’t even need to see it before it leaves (think of what you get in an episode of Ghost Hunters) but want to get the film back to make a buck a leisurely, possibly full of delays, but relatively safe trip up the old Union Pacific roadbed probably fits their needs better.

101 Days of Rifts: Law and Order Laramie

Player characters love to get in trouble. From a good old-fashioned bar fight to assassination with robbery and extortion in between it seems PCs commit more crimes than the average character on Leverage and Burn Notice combined. It’s what makes them interesting and not a bit scary.

Well, pardner, in building Laramie after the Rifts has a basic judicial system. The Sheriff, , and his four deputies, a, b, c, and d, are around town and ready to pick up those caught or suspected of crime. The system does give you a speedy trial with jury. Six locals are recognized judges and as soon as one is found he’ll round-up a baker’s dozen of jurors and give you a trial. Civil trials work the same way. In either case you’ll be expected to pay half of the judge’s fee and each of the jurors although in civil trials the loser often pays the winner court costs. For those familiar with the book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress if you’re thinking this sounds a lot like Stu’s trial you’ve nailed my inspiration.

The following tables are for run ins with the law in or around Laramie:

Who is arresting us (d10):

1-3: Deputy William Rouge
3-6: Deputy Frank “Dead Eye” Canton
7-8: Deputy Joseph Canton
9: Deputy Mathew Angus
10: Sheriff Nathan Kirk Boswell

Who is the judge (d6):

1: Head Librarian Thadeus Jurgen
2: Big Steve the Weapons Man
3: Samuel the Axe (Lumber exporter)
4: Chip Carson, Owner of the Cowboy
5: Henry Tay, Owner of the Branding Iron
6: Chief Water Mother, Matriarch of the Local Traditionalist

Jury’s Verdict (d4 for minor crime, d6 for civi suits, d8 for major crime, d12 for capitol crime):

1 or less: Not guilty
2-3: Small fine (1d4 days expenses)
4-5: Large fine (2d6 days expenses)
7-9: Hard labor for 2d6 days
10-11: Hard labor for 2d6 weeks
12: Hangin’

Modifiers:

+/- 2 for citizen witness against or for you (if multiple just apply for the bigger set)
+/- 1 for second class citizen or outsider witnesses against or for you
+/- 2 for failed or successful skill roll to persuade jury (yes, you could talk your way into a noose but you don’t have to make a skill roll)
+1 arrested by the Sheriff

101 Days of Rifts: Notes and Gamer ADD

This is not the Rifts post for the day, that is already in and scheduled. As was my want back when I last regularly updated it is inspirational art.

In fact, my plan is the Monday through Saturday posts will mostly follow my old schedules:

Monday: pointers to interesting articles
Tuesday: campaign information (not so random campaign ideas)
Wednesday: Inspirational art
Thursday: Rules material
Friday: Buried Treasures (all Palladium for the period)
Saturday: Appendix N

Now, as to how hard this “nothing but Rifts and Palladium I can use in Rifts for 101 days”. Monday the new issue of Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad arrived. Yesterday my huge, heavy, coffee table style Guide to Glorantha books arrived (from the Kickstarter a couple of years back). I have to wait for December to read them.

Let’s Read Influential Aricles: Believe It or Not, Fantasy Has Reality

The second time I read an article in a gaming magazine that change how I viewed RPGs it was about the reality of fantasy. While it might seem odd today (or maybe not) in the first decade of D&D realism was a large concern. This isn’t surprising in context as board wargaming had a huge realism fetish in the years just prior and D&D culture was still largely part of wargaming culture. Realism was the driving thought behind a lot of games at the time. It was a heated topic in the letters column of The Dragon. Even Gygax wrote columns on the issue.

Into this mix came an article in The Dragon #40 by Douglas Bachmann entitled “Believe It or Not, Fantasy Has Reality”. However, in contrast to most of the realism articles which dealt with sword weights, the problems of the cube-square law for giants (a multiple issue letter war believe it or not), and similar concerns Bachmann addressed a different kind of reality. He advanced adherence to mythic realism instead of the reality of contemporary fantasy novels or pulp greats like Howard. He was more interested in those who inspired Tolkien and the works of Joseph Campbell. In fact, the article was the reason at the tender age of thirteen I tracked down The Hero with a Thousand Faces and tried to read it.

Brief Outline

The article is in ten parts: Introduction, Home Areas & Wyrd Areas, Game Objectives, Honor, Character, Oaths & Vows, Legends & Dooms, The World Pattern, Adapting for AD&D and Concluding Remarks. The introduction stakes out Bachmann’s claim in contrast to Gygax’s recent remark that he did not believe in the “stuff of farie”. He contrasted it to Tolkien’s remarks about fantasy as an objective excessive realtiy. He then moves on to introduce Campbell’s theory of the Hero’s Quest as the pattern for understanding the reality of fantasy. In a brief outline of the steps in the quest he makes a remark which seems prescient of both the second edition’s path and the OSR’s reaction to two decades of it:

It is my contention that we need to incorporate the Quest Pattern into our game playing in order to enrich our games by relating game activity to the objective reality of Faerie. Without the Quest Pattern, we are playing “sword & sorcery” games, with it we may achieve “High Fantasy.” Very briefly restated, the pattern is as follows: 1) The hero leaves his everyday world, 2) successfully encounters a guardian at the crossing into the World of the Dark, 3) journeys through a strange land and has strange encounters or tests, 4) undergoes a supreme ordeal, 5) wins a reward, 6) journeys back to the everyday world, 7) recrosses the threshold, and 8) brings a boon which restores the world. The object of this Quest Pattern is twofold. The first object is the transformation of character in the hero, and the second is the restoration of life in the hero’s world

The emphasis is in the original. The path the rest of article took, however, is much more a path not taken by later games than a forecast of more quest oriented D&D.

Home areas and wyrd areas is about the division of the world into the everyday world and the strange world of adventure. It is the cornerstone of the first and last parts of the quest pattern. He argues for a clear division both of the areas and of the kinds of games played them. The former is a land of governments, law and order, crops, and other mundane items. He argues it is essentially the place for a historical style game. The later is the land of mystery and wonder. It is the site of a magical quest game. The last paragraph provides rules for only gaining experience while leaving the wyrd and provides a short chart on possible loss of earned experience based on being on horseback, having an escort, being in flight, and plan old luck.

Game Objectives is about exactly what it says. It contrasts the objective of the quest game, the transition of a youth into a hero and the fulfillment of epic destinies. To this effect he provides three goals: gaining power, popular acclaim, and transformation. He then provides uses for experience: gaining powering in the form of levels, gaining popular acclaim in the form of honor, and gaining inner transformation in the form of character. He briefly touches on the usage of experience in Chivalry & Sorcery to gain each pointing out the uses are mutually exclusive.

Honor and Character provide more details on the gaining (and losing) of each (leaving levels to the game system). Honor represents the ability to resolve problems in home areas non-violently through leadership. It provides a simple, fairy tale like class structure for birth and methods for advancing into the Lesser Nobility which consists of the normal forms of Barons, Dukes, and Kings. A key point is the non-feudal structure because, Bachmann aruges, “nor is the essence of Faerie feudal”. Nobility is something earned not gained by birth. Character, by contrast affects inner characteristics and provides for experience modifiers, encounter modifiers, and the possibility of a destiny. It also aids in the ability to enter the Great Nobility of “the Brave”, “the Faithful”, “the Just”, and so on. Interestingly, disposition of treasure as charity enhances Character but dings Honor in a 1 to 6 ratio.

Oaths and Vows provides a system obligations for characters. It ties relief of the penalties to completing Quests and Geas. The difference in Oaths and Vows is Lesser Oaths affect honor while Greater Oaths and the fulfillment of Vows affect character.

Legends & Dooms are a system of backgrounds and hooks. Legends describe stories told in the world that are believed to be true. They are meant to guide player actions and choices. The story behind that sword driven through an anvil into a stone would be a legend. Dooms are things people are waiting to happen such as the appearance of a King to restore the land. Based on the character stat a character might become attached to a Doom with modifies for moving towards it (positive) or away from it (negative). Finally, a doomed character may only have a quest spell cast on him that matches his doom.

To reflect the attachment of the characters and their action to the world, The World Pattern is introduced. It’s a track of order in the world which, if upset, causes comets, bad weather, famile, and so on. Character actions such as war, spells, theft, and others can move the world to disorder. It naturally moves towards order.

Adapting for AD&D is what it says on the tin. The rules in the article are meant for C&S and this section suggests versions for AD&D. One amusing comment at thirty years distance is “AD&D has a very different feel as one plays, and seems to be amuch tighter, more rigid game system.”

The concluding remarks begin with a restatement of the thesis. Bachmann also points out the honor, character, and world pattern systems can be adjusted to reflect different perceptions of morality. The goal is not to prohibit any action but to create consequences for actions taken.

Fantasy Has Reality Today

As I said, this changed how I thought about gaming. For much of the 80s I tried to implement the ideas in the article with little success. First, I really didn’t get them at the time although I was excited by them. Second, I didn’t have players who would have enjoyed them as a high school and college student. After dropping out of college and joining the Navy I tended to see more traditional realism in the likes of GURPS.

However, this was still the first article I read when I got my CD-ROMs of The Dragon and even today it carries weight. While some games have covered much of the same ground, most notability Pendragon five years later, it hasn’t gotten much attention. The quest focus second edition was more mundane for the most part and provided mostly for the gain of power and to a small degree honor but nothing on character. It also didn’t make them choices so that Rurik the fighter would wind up choosing to become Duke Rurik while his friend Otto the cleric became Otto the Wise and their friend Timon the magic-user become Timon the Enchanter would have experienced the same adventures but gotten different results by choosing honor, character, and power.

Recently when thinking about a set of ideas I’ve called “Fantasy Nouveau” this article kept coming to mind. Fantasy Nouveau is a campaign idea for OD&D centered around late Victorian and Edwardian literature and art such as Lang’s Fairy books, Pyle’s books of Arthur, and Pre-Raphealite painting. I think those inspirations almost demand the inclusion of Bachmann’s ideas or a close relative. I think they could be added to OD&D (in the pure, supplemented, or cloned form) to create a recognizable but still unique game. Based on its sources, I might consider the recently released Seven Voyages of Zylarthen might be a good starting point.

Also, other ideas could be adapted. The later Gloranthian trend to “all myths are true, even contradictory ones” could be added. What if the world pattern and honor systems of a pseudo-historical Europe of 1100 and Middle East of 1100 both worked in their respective areas? Imagine a crusader game where much of the Islam world is wyrd for the crusaders while the kingdoms of Outremer were wyrd for Muslims. Perhaps Outremer would be wyrd for both with the founding of the Kingdoms being conversion from wyrd to home areas (which Bachmann discusses). Missionary success could move the current ruling side’s word pattern negatively and the other’s positively with conversion of the area occurring when they cross.

I think this article is worth tracking down and reading today. Maybe it won’t change your game but it will given many people new ideas on the directions they can go instead of just following what the RPG mainstream is doing.

Monday Pointers, December 16, 2013

D4:Strange Stones Finds Inspiration
Lots of great stuff is at archive.org and Strange Stones has some links.

D6:Off to Venus
Swords & Stitchery and it’s sister blog Dark Corners Of Role Playing also links to inspiration from archive.org but as single items with notes in using them in OSR games.

D8:Obsolete Simulations Roundup
Savage After World is hosting a blog hop for obscure RPGs of any era at the end of the month. You could sign up to talk about your favorite lost RPG.

The Motorhead: A S&W Whitebox Class

If there is a classic example of “better living through chemistry” the Motorhead is it. Using advanced pharmaceuticals, DNA techniques, and nano-tech they can push the human body (including the brain) beyond its natural limits. Of course, when you violate nature there is a price to pay and as the Motorhead up powers more and more their body or mind may simply collapse from the strain.

The Good: Up reaching a level the Motorhead can pick up to his level number in improvements but can pick fewer or even zero. The improvements are permanent. The same item can be picked multiple times at the same level:

  • Improve STR, DEX, CON, or INT by +1
  • Add 1d6 HP
  • Add +1 to armor class without armor
  • Add +1 to saving throws
  • Add +1 to BAB
  • Add +1d4 to HtH damage

The Bad: The human body is still just a human body. After selecting your improvements record their total value (+1 for most, the die results for Hit Point improvement, and the roll of 1d4 for the extra HtH die). When you next go up a level before picking improvements make a saving throw versus death with the total value of the prior level’s improvements as a penalty. The Motorhead is the classic example of living fast and dying young.

The Ugly: However, some Motorheads aren’t that lucky. If you survive the saving throw versus death make a second one with the same penalty. If you fail roll you suffer a permanent disability. Roll d4 and apply the following:

  1. Enfeebled: STR and CON reduced by your new level
  2. Drooling Idiot: INT reduced by your new level.
  3. Fragile: Lose level d3 HPs and your unarmored AC is reduced by your new level.
  4. Unbalanced: DEX is reduced by your new level and you gain a a to hit penalty equal to your new level.

This disabilities stack. If you suffer disabilities at levels 2 and 4 and roll a 4 both times your to hit penalty is -6.

In all other respects treat the Motorhead as a normal Swords & Wizardry Whitebox fighter.

The Motorhead is a class for my RiDoR Project