Friday, 13 March 2015

Dread Cthulhu Questionnaires

Boo! Happy Friday the 13th, a perfectly dreadful day to release some custom material!

For any and all interested, below are the character questionnaires I designed for a recent Dread game I ran several times that used the Call of Cthulhu scenario: Dead Light. I've been referring to this mash-up as Dread Cthulhu (or in this case specifically, Dread Light).

Although a couple of the questions relate mostly to the scenario (mainly the plot hook), with a bit of tinkering these questionnaires could easily be used in any early turn-of-the-century setting that utilizes elements of supernatural/cosmic horror.

Aside from the plot hook, most of the queries are based around the characters' backgrounds and their relationships to each other and don't directly relate to the story of Dead Light. Since the scenario itself is mostly straightforward survival horror, there were few questions I felt I could ask without directly spoiling some elements of the adventure. This I believe makes them general enough for use in other scenarios.

That said, I also think utilizing these characters for best effect (and this true for nearly all Dread games), is by providing them with interesting answers; I tried to make the questions ripe for potential. The players just need to provide meaty story hooks that can add to the atmosphere of the session; don't let them pass with run-of-the-mill pedestrian answers, I imagined most of these characters as fitting into common lovecraftian tropes and archetypes (both classic and pulp).

Don't be afraid to play these to the hilt, otherwise the characters may become too passive and static, only reacting to events but never being proactive (even if they're proactively bringing about their own doom). It's up to the players and the host to breathe life into these characters and make them interesting, that way there's more player investment in them and each pull of the tower more dire. This is a one-shot game, don't be afraid to play up the characters.

On the other hand, not every question has to have a detailed answer, as the host only ends up using a few of them directly in the game anyway; I think they're there to help flesh out a character and get the player into their mindset.

Anyway, that's all common Dread advice, but it's worth mentioning again I think.

I created nine character questionnaires for players/hosts to choose from for variety, I also tried to keep their orientation gender-neutral, leaving up to the individual gaming group to sort out if a role is setting appropriate for a particular gender or not.

You can download a PDF for printing here or a google Doc for editing here. Or you can just view/copy/paste the text dump below:



[Clerk]

You just had to personally retrieve some relevant case information from up north. Why do you think this whole trip was a ploy by your office rival?

Though you've been a legal secretary for about a year now, only until recently people still treated you as a lowly clerk. What did it finally take for the men to respect you?

What do you consider your best feature? What's your worst?

You've had to defend yourself against those whom are threatened by your nonconforming independence. What item do you keep close to help protect yourself?

Why don't you go to church anymore?

You recognize that character from a scandal your firm helped keep from going public a few months ago. Whom is it and what was their part in it?

If you had the power to dispense justice, why would you have your own grandfather executed?

Whom or what are you anxiously waiting to come home to? Why would you loose social standing if anyone else knew?

What's your name?



[Farmer]

You hail from one of the many of the farmsteads of central Massachusetts, but what recently brought you East from your home?

Your daughter got you one of those new-fangled pocket lighters before you stopped talking to each other. Why do you still carry it although you no longer smoke?

What dead animal did you come across as a child that profoundly affected you? How?

What do you dislike about the character sitting next to you? Who would you rather sit with and why?

What handy item in your pack did you have the opportunity to pick up whilst in town?

Years ago, you had an appendage amputated after it was crushed whilst you were repairing a traction engine. On which limb was it? Do you use a prosthesis or aid?

People say you're superstitious because you do what?

As much as you dislike the city, how has this trip made you feel better than you have in years?

Only family members refer to you by your given name. What's your full name?



[Scholar]

You just attended a reading of an old colleague's will in Ipswitch and have caught the motor coach back to Arkham. What strange object did they bequeath you?

You've studied many languages during your spare time at Miskatonic University, but why do the texts in the Special Collections Room make you uneasy?

Though you'd be practically blind without them, what do your bifocals help you with the most?

Why do you keep from listening to the radio or using the telephone despite being so apt at electronics?

What are the first things others notice about you?

Why do you feel the need to blame others for your own shortcomings?

Who amongst the other characters makes you nervous and why?

What gives you the strength to face another day?

What does the nameplate on your door say?



[Driver]

A few months ago you started to bus people around the county in your converted charabanc. Why can you no longer stand being in town more than a few days?

Why do you think you have such control issues? What is the real reason?

Though you took it to the garage in Arkham last week, what part of the motor coach is still giving you problems?

What happened during your childhood that makes you hate it when people whisper?

What do you keep underneath the driver's seat just in case?

You were quite an athlete in college before you were expelled. What did you compete in? Why were you expelled?

Despite having a deep-seated grudge against their kind, which character did you let board the coach and for what reason?

Why do you believe your string of bad luck is about to change?

What's the name on your bus drivers license? What's your actual name?



[Veteran]

You have been making your way south through Massachusetts via motor coach to Kingsport to see distant relatives. Why do you dread this visit?

You wouldn't have lasted long as a medic in the Great War if you hadn't been so reliant upon it. What do you have with you that you've been unable to part with?

Why did you save that old woman instead of the child?

What about your appearance makes people recognize you as a member of that lost generation?

You once had to evict a fellow tenant because of their bizarre and unsavoury practices. What possession of theirs have you secretly kept?

What injury of yours has never quite healed right and occasionally drives you to the morphine syringe you keep in your jacket?

Why are you deeply afraid of relapsing to the person you became during the war?

Despite all you've gone through and witnessed, what keeps you from taking your own life?

What name is printed upon the dogtags you still wear?



[Artist]

The first thing you did after being discharged from the sanatorium was travel. Why are you compelled to return home to Salem?

Why do you think your parents would've preferred a son?

What odd skill have you acquired whilst gaining further insight into your art?

They said it was an accident but somehow you know it wasn't. How did your late mother die?

Which of the other characters do you instinctively feel you can trust and why?

What is that thing in your pocket and why haven't you thrown it away yet?

Why do strangers often feel compelled to tell you the intimate details of their lives?

What is your muse that inspires you through periods of darkness?

What is your full name? What do prefer to be called and why?



[Drifter]

You were picked up off the side of the road just as the weather was beginning to turn sour. What made you take to the road despite the coming storm?

You had no money to pay the coach fare. Which other character paid for you? Where do you recognize them from?

What do people automatically assume about you? And are they often wrong?

Why did you prefer to burgle houses to straight theft or armed robbery?

What awful thing did do to stay out of prison?

What do you have in your bindle that might alter the genial nature of your fellow passengers if they knew about it?

When things get tense, how do find relief?

When the world seems against you, what one thing keeps you going?

Long ago people stopped calling you by your birth-name. What do they call you now?



[Blueblood]

Normally you'd have the means to travel by rail but as of late you've been forced to contend riding motor coach. What brought about this change?

They say that it isn't becoming of one of your station. What is it and why do you do it anyway?

All lineages have their secrets, but your own has a long, dark history. Do you embrace or reject it? Why?

Though you try to dress chic and keep with current trends, what one thing is offsetting about your appearance?

What have these throbbing headaches generally preceded?

What gaudy heirloom are you compelled to keep close otherwise the family threatens they'll disown you?

Though you don't envy what they do, which of these crass characters do you respect the most and why?

When you finally inherit your legacy, what change do you most look forward to enacting?

What's your full name? You tend to go by a false last name when going abroad. What is it and why?



[Mystic]

Why did your mentor warn you against this journey back south? Why are you going through with it anyway?

What obviously gives you away as a member of an oft prejudiced group and what lengths do you go to to hide it?

You often have a recurring dream that you awake in a cold sweat from. What is it?

When you place your hands upon a person and concentrate, what can you do? What's the harsh side-effect for you?

What do you always have with you to keep you protected from evil?

What vocation are you forced to do you do to keep your family fed?

Though they'd be loathed to admit it, which other character has had to rely your unique talents before? Why?

What gives you hope through the trials ahead?

What did you have change your name to? Why?



Cheers! ;{١

Friday, 6 March 2015

GottaCon 2015

Last weekend was GottaCon 2015 here in winter-less Victoria, and though I was able to book 2 out of the 3 three days off for it I was extremely exhausted and still recovering from all that gaming the following days. Again, this is a testament to the sheer amount of fun had!


This year's convention kicked off on a bit of a sad note with the news of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, a.k.a Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame. I've never been as huge a fan of Star Trek as I have other geekdoms, though I still enjoy the franchise and the importance it brings to geek culture in general. Nevertheless, I was deeply saddened upon hearing his passing; it was nice to see that a memorial board was hastily erected at the convention where many fans added their own sign-off's to the legendary actor. Here's a quick photo I snapped of the memorial before I had to jet off to work Sunday:

Truly, he lived long and prospered.


Friday


I never ended up running Umläut, but
 it's nice to have spiffy cards for when I do.
It might be on my GoD roster for next year,
I stayed up fairly late the night prior doing some last minute editing to the joint EotE adventure Larry Spiel and I had been planning for our session on Sunday (more on this later), and I awoke early on Friday to make sure all my ducks were in a row for the weekend. Sometime after noon I went downtown to print and laminate some play cards for one of my Games-on-Demand selections: Umläut: game of metal, before I picked up my event coordinator badge early.

I then returned home, changed into my Medieval Chaos character Kampi's outfit, packed all I needed for the day (which wasn't much as I was just playing a single game), and headed back to the convention centre.

Before my first game I hit up the gamer auction to submit a bunch items for bidding: a spare copy of the D&D module Quest for the Silver Sword, Grimtooth's Traps Ate, my hardcover corebook of Savage Worlds (I now own the digest-sized book which I prefer over the hardback), and my unplayed copy of the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG.

Auction Items
Item submission went much faster than last year; the con organizers increased the amount of laptops used for item data entry to two (yet they were still limited by a single shared printer). Also it was soon decided that if sellers had all the correct forms already filled out when they were submitting their items (which I did), they could just leave said items with the forms and then the staff would later input them in the database and sync them to their respective accounts on the GottaCon app.

Aside from limiting the disruptive PA announcements from last year by sending convention notifications directly to the app, it also allowed auctioneers to remotely see/directly bid on items by scanning the item sheet's QR code with their phone's camera. Amazing what we can do nowadays! I never had the chance to peruse the auction for sweet deals and I only ended up selling two of my four items (Savage Worlds and Doctor Who) but I received over $50 for them, and I ended up giving Grimtooth's Traps to a friend who was collecting the series anyway.


Mythender


After the auction stuff was all dealt with, I killed a bit of time in the vendor hall before I headed to my first game of the con; Mythender, run by the designer himself: +Ryan Macklin.

Mythender appropriately uses an EPIC amount of dice and tokens.
In brief, Mythender is a game about playing mythic individuals that have colossal vendettas against a god; they seek their way to battle to the deity her/himself, increasing in power and corruption along the way, leading to a final climatic confrontation; your character fears not death, only becoming what they hate: accidentally attaining godhood during their quest from their mythic actions. This game is all about being cinematic and over-the-top. Turn the dial to 11 kinda stuff. Plus the base setting takes place in the heavy metal-esque Scandinavia realm of Norden. Several things I love combined into one!

Squeee! Signed copy!

The game itself is available for FREE on its website as a PDF; where you can also order a print copy and/or donate. I enjoyed our session so much I bought a physical copy from Ryan, and he even signed it for me! Also (being one of the designers of Fate Core), he gave me a set of Fate dice, which came in handy when I ran my FAE game the next day.

I can't wait till I have the chance to sit back and read through my copy and/or possibly run it.

After the game I chatted up a buddy of mine, and we walked about halfway to our respective homes discussing gaming theory in Medieval Chaos. A short but excellent day overall.



Saturday


Lamentations of the Flame Princess - The Gougou's Lair


I awoke early, dressed again as Kampi, packed the items I needed for GoD and the Dread game I was to run, and awaited to catch an early bus. Unfortunately transit is so reliable here at times two buses should've arrived during the span till one finally picked me up around 9am, the time when +Peter C's LotFP game was set to begin! Needless to say, I arrived late, but luckily I hadn't missed much.

This session was phenomenal. We had a great group of roleplayers and Peter was [is] an excellent GM. One thing I really enjoyed about the session is that we all played characters from various non-European cultures; I played a Persian Magus and our party further consisted of a Barbary Corsair, a Native Shaman, an Arabic Artificer, a Turkish Janissary, and a Japanese Samurai. I think the mix of cultures really added to adventure; it might've not been as fun with your standard European PCs. I also got the chance to play a magic-user; I like that the limited number of spells is balanced by their flexibly of use. LotFP does OSR very well.


Another thing I love about this game (and possibly/probably LotFP games in general) is the horribly amusing deaths: Near the end of the adventure when things were looking their grimdarkest, a few of us decided to imbibe a mysterious drug powder: my buddy David's PC gained a few points to his wisdom stat, tearfully seeing the error of his past ways as a slaver; the shaman believed himself a god (the great eagle; ca-caw! ca-caw!) and demanded all to worship him or die; and my character was driven to suicide by the mind-bending narcotic. His method of choice? Cast a maximized Summon spell right in his own viscera!

For those not in the know, Summoning in LotFP is particularly dangerous because you call forth a random Lovecraftian entity that may be more powerful than intended and/or beyond the caster's control (my precise intent in this case); a huge armoured fungoid creature burst forth from the Magus' guts and promptly began to devour the rest of him. Half the party slunk off with some treasure whilst the remainder slew each other in a delirious rage.

This might be my favourite game all weekend, but it's up against stiff competition.




Games-on-Demand - Fate Accelerated Edition: Benevolent Zodiac Delivery Force!


Unfortunately the LotFP game ran a tad late and I went to the foodtrucks outside the con to grab some lunch before I ran my first session of Games-on-Demand. Everyone else was trying to get food as well and the convention's food policy kept me from bringing my meal inside, so I ended up having to shove my burger in my backpack because I was already late and a full table was waiting for me.

Once I had presented my selection of Age of Rebellion, Edge of the Empire, FAE, and Umläut, my initially aloof group opted for my BZDF! game. Once we started getting into the ridiculous story of cooking, fighting, and food delivery, my group totally got into the premise, took the outrageousness of it, and ran with it.


We all seemed to have a great time (so far everyone seems to enjoy BZDF!); I'm both glad I quickly won over their initial disinterested nature and my very first Games-on-Demand slot was a success.


Games-on-Demand - Star Wars: Age of Rebellion - Rescue at Glare Peak


Once we finished our game another group approached me wanting to play some Star Wars; a couple of them were looking to run their own game in the future and wanted some experience with it, so after I quickly went and noshed my cold burger, we all sat down to play. We decided that the Rescue at Glare Peak adventure would work best crammed into the small timeslot we had remaining, and the group chose a mix of pregen characters from that adventure and my other EotE offering, Under a Black Sun (in fact I had six players and four of them were EotE characters and two were AoR characters, but the mix blended both narratively and mechanically seamless in our game.)


They didn't complete their objective before the slot ran out of time, but we all had fun. I offered to pick the session up Sunday when I was to run GoD then, but I unfortunately declined the next day as I was too exhausted. I hope they left with the confidence to run this system on their own. Also my whole vinyl covers/wet-erase marker idea worked perfectly.

Initially I wanted to run some games I wasn't as completely familiar with for my first time running GoD such as Fiasco or Dungeon World, but in the end it was a better choice going with RPGs I knew really well, especially EotE/AoR which are probably my strongest systems currently. That also turned out good because demand for those two latter games was high this year, and my buddy Larry was running the two former games in his GoD roster so there was a wide variety with little overlap.



Conan d20 - Escape from the Haunted Black Kingdom


After a brief break, I played in my buddy Ash's Conan game. Ash had been representing MC all day dressed in his garb as his Al'Akir, a Rak'Zanzen (catfolk, similar to the Khajiit from the Elder Scrolls series) character, and like his Centurion garb last year, continued doing so whilst he GM'd. Again, dedication.


I reprised the same role I had last year as Hievlan, a Nordheimer warrior, making use of my MC character Kampi's affects and accent but maxing out the personality: Livin' large and drinkin' hard.

I received a positive comment from a fellow player after the convention about the accent I was using: He's generally not a fan of accents in games, as they're usually cliché/just plain bad, and I agree that doing a believable accent is a difficult thing to do. I was flattered to hear the accent I was using (Kampi's accent) was quite believable for the character I was portraying. Like Kampi, the Nordheimer was based around historic/mythic Norse, so I had time practising that voice.

When I was developing it for Kampi, I wanted to sound Germanic/Norse but not have a stereotypically German voice nor have something goofy like the Swedish Chef ('bork! bork! bork!'). I watched a few youtube videos of native Scandinavian's speaking in English along with a pronunciation guide for Old Norse; from these I selected a few particular ways to pepper my speech, both with different letter pronunciations and use of specific words/phrases instead of their English counterparts. I think the secret to affecting a solid accent is subtlety: The more outrageous sounding an accent, the more comical it can become, and therefore less believable.

I'm pretty happy with what I've come up with for Kampi and I was really glad to hear it sounds convincing. I still seek to practice and improve it though.

Another cool thing that happened was I was able to lend a bunch of my Star Wars RPG material to another GM to fill-in a scheduling snafu. It was great to be able to help out.

Anyway, brief asides; the Conan session was a rather enjoyable game.



Dread Cthulhu



We concluded our session around 11pm but my long day of gaming wasn't over yet. I still had one last game to run: the Call of Cthulhu adventure Dead Light in Dread.

Sadly, I got took no action
shots of the tower collapsing.
I had made the questionnaires for this particular adventure late last year, and I had the chance to playtest it with a couple groups of victims willing participants and shoehorn the session into the 2.5 hours the timeslot allotted for.

Though Dead Light has a very simple story premise, it's slow to build tension before reaching a breaking point. It feels like I had to get very ruthless toward the end of the game to really hit the survival horror theme I was going for. No complaints though, the tower killed 3 out of the 5 PCs, a better death ratio than my playtest games. The session was fun, but I feel that if I wasn't as tired, it could've been more memorable.

Now that I've officially run my game, I'm going to release the questionnaires I made to go along with this adventure, along with some pointers in a future post.

My last slot ended just before we were told to leave for late night closing. I managed to catch a cab home with a pair of con goers heading in the same direction and were kind enough to offer paying for the whole trip. It's little offers of kindness that really stick with me, and remind me that many gamers are kind and wonderful people. :)



Sunday


Star Wars: Edge of the Empire - While The Hutt's Away


Early next morning after a brief sleep, I was up again relatively early preparing for the day. Larry picked me up and we arrived at the GottaCon before the public entry to set up for our dual-table EotE adventure: When The Hutt's Away.

+Larry Spiel and I began conceptually designing this adventure late-fall/early-winter last year, and had been working on it on and off since. The week before the convention was the big editing push that tied up nearly all the loose ends. The adventure itself is designed as a limited sandbox with plenty of interesting things that one group may do that may effect the other and vice versa, though we wanted to avoid direct competition between the tables and kept the groups from ever actually meeting each other. 

IMG_1501.JPG

Each group starts the adventure in different a locale inside the Hutt's multi-level palace built inside moonlet within the planetary ring that circles a gas giant; and each PC has a different pair of motivations/obligations (more like personal goals in the context of this one-shot adventure) and a limited opportunity to try and attain them. This is all compounded by a running timer that controls the three Act structure of the adventure, increasingly putting pressure on the PCs, and ending in a climatic escape and pursuit through the icy rings as the station plummets toward the gas giant during the final act.

Pending a few edits and rewrites, Larry and I shall be releasing our adventure on the interwebs sometime in the future.

The sessions (at least my own for sure) turned out awesome. I had a great group of players, with some really fantastic moments. I'd be interested in playing this dual-table adventure again at the next convention (GottaCon or otherwise) with swapped groups.

I'm glad all our effort paid off so well. :D



I was originally slated to run two more 2-hour Games-on-Demand sessions following our EotE game, but I starting to feel pretty burnt out, and as I wasn't able to get the evening off work I decided to take it easy before I went in for my shift at 5pm. My final hours of the con were spent perusing the vendors, snapping a few photos, and chatting up folks.

+Jeff Wike running some Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

My friend Nathan Patton running Feng Shui.

Larry running Dread.

From the vendor hall I grabbed a few things for the Missus: a rainbow chainmail anklet, a pair of scalemail earrings that looked like oranges/peaches (I presumed correct that they'd go well with her recent peach-dyed hair), and another replica Celtic penannular brooch from Gaukler Medieval Wares


For myself (along with the copy of Mythender I acquired Friday), I picked up a small bronze Mjölnir pendant for Kampi, a steel/deep violet chainmail dice bag, and a copy of the pocket edition of the Conan d20 RPG because I especially enjoy collecting small (height-wise) RPG books, even when they're of old games. Also I won a potion of stoneskin during the MC raffle on Friday, and my good friend +Steven Saunders of +Black Goat Games finally got me a shirt sporting the logo of his company:

Snazzy. The Missus braided my tiny beard the other night and I love it.

A very descent haul of con-swag if I do say so myself.

If I could do one thing different for next years GottaCon, it'd be getting a hotel room for the sheer convenience of catching much needed sleep and storing all my stuff rather than lugging it around. Plus the amenities would be a bonus.

Unfortunately I missed the appreciation dinner hosted for the volunteer GM's on Tuesday as it was my better-half's birthday plus I had to work that evening.

Since I missed my chance then, I want to sincerely thank all my friends, players, GMs, volunteers, and RPG managers (especially +Mike G and +Angela Gruber, you two are solid champs!) for everything that made this year the best year at GottaCon for me thus far!

Cheers! ;{١

Sunday, 8 February 2015

LARP Sheath - Start to Finish

The past few weeks I've been working on several projects for my character Kampi's LARP kit for start of next season of Medieval Chaos. This is one of those projects: constructing a sheath out of leather for my Seax/Scramasax dagger. Below is the final result:



Herein I aim to list what I did and learnt whilst building it from conception to completion. I used a couple basic pointers from this Instructable on Leatherworking, but the majority of this was experimentation.


Conception

The first thing I did before anything else was sketch out the basic design and dimensions of what I was aiming to create. Historically, seaxes varied in shape and construction but one of the most commonly related factors among them was that these single-edged blades were kept horizontally inside a scabbard with the edge facing upwards. As I was looking to do something similar and this proved to be beneficial since the construction of the foam seax meant the back of the blade was the thickest part, which made it easier to shape a piece of leather around it with the edge facing the seam and suspend it from a belt rather than the other way around.


I had a pair of snaps on swivel hooks from a couple old wallet chains sitting around (because I hang on to 'useless' junk like that) and decided they would make excellent straps for attaching the sheath to a belt. Not exactly period but hey, this is for a fantasy LARP so to Hel with exact authenticity. They make the sheath a bit more modular without having to undo ones' belt to add/remove the scabbard. I can also attach each snaps to each other if I ever need I larger mount. Also my reasoning for placing the slightly shorter strap near the throat of the sheath was to give it a tiny upturn to the hilt-side of the blade.


Mock-Up

Now that I had my basic blueprint, the first thing I did was construct a mock-up sheath out of cardboard. I actually did this twice, as I realized the first one I made was going to be too tight for the rivets and lining I was planning to add (also I redesigned the point); I adjusted my plans accordingly and made another mock-up with the correct dimensions. I also used a bunch of binder clips instead of staples to close the mock-up and simulate the rivets; I used them to figure out their general placement along with the eyelet straps, and tested the balance of the whole piece by wearing it around.



Cuttin' Time

This was a vital part for me, I had to make sure my pattern was correct else I'd be wasting precious leather. I took my mock-up, unfolded it, and placed it upon my vegetable-tanned leather, where I then traced its outline upon it and then cut the piece from the leather. I then wrapped the piece around the blade and clipped it up, again testing its arraignment.


Because the inside of the leather would be too abrasive on foam dagger and might rub the paint off the blade, I measured a piece of felt the length and circumference of the blade for a protective lining.



Making Impressions

I wanted to try my hand at making actual designs on the leather, as so far it looked a little plain. The difficulty arose lacking the specific tools to carve and 'tool' (leave impressions on a moist surface); also since the local leather supplier had closed I was unsure where I could acquire these tools; so I made do with the (somewhat unorthodox) items what I had available.

I didn't have any transfer paper to move the vector images I had selected onto the surface, and I didn't trust plain paper to hold up to the stress of being drawn upon with a stylus against wet leather. Rooting through my junk I found a bunch of printable labels, so I experimented with both the sticky label and the non-stick back by printing the appropriately scaled images on both sides.


Using a damp sponge, I moistened the leather so it'd take an impression better. Using a pointed wooden stylus (normally used for sculpture) I traced the lines of each of the printed images through the template onto the surface of the leather. Both the label (serpent) and it's non-stick, water-resistant backing (raven) worked fairly well for their purposes; though the label held fast enough to the damp surface to get a reasonably accurate transfer without slipping, I was initially concerned that when I peeled the label off of the moist leather it raised some of the surface along with it (noticeable in the top-right photo), but fortunately that has since disappeared.


The basic imprints looked okay, but since I lacked a swivel knife to carve a deeper impression, I opted to use a solid-point burning tool to make the images stand out more. Following the impression lines was fairly easy and the results look great.


Painting

Now, many people dye their leather; I, instead, opted to paint mine using acrylic paint. A couple of the reasons for this are a) I don't know how to confidently dye leather, and b) the Missus used just paint on the leather helmet she built for me and it looks awesome. Any future marks to the leather can easily be touched up with a bit of paint. After the paint dried I gave it a quick layer of boot polish.


Then I stitched a small strip of rabbit fur to the end of the felt liner facing the mouth of the sheath (partially to provide additional tension on the blade, as a wipe, and for looks) and glued the whole thing to the inside of the sheath.

I ran into a bit of a challenge as the glue we opted to use was a wood glue that was too liquid-y and seeped through the felt and into the leather before it had time to dry. I then used ordinary white glue, which better suited my purposes.


Hammer Time

Once everything was dry, it was time to punch holes for the eyelets, rivets, and the stitches. We have/had a proper leather punch somewhere, but I was unable to find it where I last recalled it being. Instead I used a hollow length of thin copper pipe with a partially conical end; it worked perfectly for punching the eyelet and rivet holes. I placed the rivet holes relatively evenly across the spine of the sheath approx. every 2 inches, and placed the eyelets between them about 6 inches apart.



Stitchin' Time

I used a proper stitching awl for puncturing holes. I knocked numerous holes into and stitched together the sheath point with a thicker buttonhole thread that I waxed prior by drawing it through a lump of beeswax (to improve weather resistance and prevent the thread from drying out and cracking). I worked along the seams one way making a 'Z' pattern, then went in the opposite direction with an 'S' weave.


Once I had both sides of the sheath's point sewn up, I did a similar process along the spine towards the throat. I didn't place the stitch holes as frequently as I did on the point (thank the gods); about every centimetre. I kept the rivets in loosely, to ensure the binding didn't offset the punched holes.

I may have made a mistake because when I reached the throat at the opposite end, as I went and fully hammered in the rivets; doing so might've made my attempt to back-stitch down the spine extremely difficult (I broke a needle and my patience in the process). Even when punched, sewing hard leather is arduous for the uninitiated/those without the proper tools. Probably would've been far easier with an actual sewing awl. Plus my stitch holes weren't lined up as parallel as they should've been.


I am unsure if the rivets were to blame and/or if the initial stitching itself combined with poor hole placement made the whole thing too taut to do my back-stitch. I feel the final result might've looked more complete, but with the current mixture of rivet and stitch, I have no concerns about the overall sturdiness of the sheath.


Finishing Touches

I hooked the two swivel straps through the eyelets, and bent them closed. Finally, I gave the whole thing another coat of shoe polish and then blasted it with a heat gun to really bring out the shine.


Overall I'm quite happy with the end result, though I have a minor gripe beyond the incomplete back-stitch: I found the white interface backing of the rabbit fur around the throat far too noticeable when viewed up close; it looks better now that I've painted it a darker shade but I would've rather if I didn't have to do that in the first place.

I've worn the sheath during rather vigorous activity and it performs admirably; it's tight enough the blade doesn't slip or fall out, but not too tight as to make it difficult to draw. All-in-all this was a good project that improved my confidence, know-how, and skills when working with leather.


Advice, Comments, and/or Questions Appreciated!

Skoal! ;{١

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Belated Rebellion Day [Character Sheet Tip]

The last day of January, I ran the Star Wars Roleplaying Rebellion Day gamekit at a FLGS, who originally got the kit for FFG's event back in September of last year but had neither the time or people to run said event. Eventually, some time was put aside last weekend to run it after I inquired/volunteered to helm it.


Only a couple people showed up to game (one of which was my friend who'd already played the system), but the experience was still enjoyable and the new player left with positive impressions of the system and a set of narrative dice as a prize. Beyond gaming I had the chance to chat with a few familiar faces; reminds me how much more I need to get out and about, and I'm considering running a RPG at the game store on the last Saturday of each month (or each weekend before and/or after GottaCon and Medieval Chaos).

Speaking of GottaCon, I was trying out a GM aide that session: Though printing character sheets is somewhat low-cost these days, many don't have access to a printer or suffer from various printer issues: lack of ink, poor print quality, etc. Or a times you may get access to very nice colour prints of (usually pregenerated) character sheets and it seems a shame that they're going to end up marred by pencil, pen, and eraser marks. Additionally, let's say you're GMing the same adventure repeatedly at a convention; that means you need to provide fresh copies of character sheets to your players every game. A bit of a hassle.

For example, the Rebellion Day kit came with several full-colour pre-generated character sheets, and I was considering reusing them at GottaCon later this month as one of my Games-On-Demand selections, but lamenting that I'd only be able to do so a few times before all copies were trashed.

I quickly came across a solution to many of these problems: Vinyl Sleeves and Wet-Erase Markers. You just slide the character sheets into the appropriately-sized sleeve, give each player a marker along with their sheet and POW they can write on the sheet all they want. All you need is a bit of water on hand (like a small finger-pump spray bottle) and a tissue to make corrections and clean up the sheets afterwards for reuse next session.

I choose Vinyl and Wet, not Dry-Erase markers for a couple reasons; Specifically, Dry-Erase markers don't work as intended on vinyl surfaces (too porous); they smear messily when you attempt to clean them up and may stain the surface (as I learned in my younger days both with a vinyl tablecloth and a battlemat in a household of gamers). Also, since Wet-Erase markers don't wipe away without water, this means that you can safely transport a stack of sheets without worrying what's written upon them being erased.

I presume you could go with another type of plastic sleeve (in a pinch, magazine sleeves used by collectors work for both ink-types; inexpensive but they aren't as sturdy nor as nice looking IMHO) and possibly Dry-Erase for quick-wipe, non-permanent marking, but these were the options I went with.

Even if you're not using fancy or pregen char sheets, I think using these sleeves it on regular sheets are just as useful at the gaming table: the sheets last longer because they're not longer subject to the constant writing and erasure wear (particularity in the areas of hit points) and are protected from food stains and drink spills. Maps can easily be sleeved and wrote upon without fear of permanent marks, and clever GMs could have their own sleeve for keeping notes/tracking initiative (and in the case of EotE/AoR, Group and Base sheets respectively; making tracking and editing Obligation/Duty easier).

The map provided in the Rebellion Day kit was full-page, but the PCs only had access to part of it.
Solution: Fold it in half and stick it in a sleeve with a blank sheet and presto, a place to track initiative.
The trial run of this idea at the Rebellion Day event was a success and I plan on using this aide when I'm running Games-On-Demand at GottaCon; since the sheets provided with the kit are only one-sided, I went and printed the pregens for the free EotE adventure, Under A Black Sun and sleeved them on the reverse, giving me quick access to both current flavours of the Star Wars RPG for interested players.

[Quick aside: I really like how FFG has designed the pregens in both these adventures; they allow a bit of customisation and such choices actively effect the related adventure with a slim-down version of the Obligation/Duty mechanic respectively. Brilliant.]

Regardless of system, I think that this whole concept has merit and despite the initial cost, might prove invaluable. I'm considering implementing this beyond my convention games.

Cheers! ;{١

Friday, 23 January 2015

A Red & Pleasant Land - Impressions and Stuff

I've finished absorbing +Zak Smith's latest work, A Red & Pleasant Land; which for those of you not in the know, is a pseudo-campaign setting for use in D&D, retro-clones, and other fantasy-minded RPGs; which is heavily based off of Lewis Caroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and it's sequel Through the Looking Glass; mixed with Eastern European vampire folklore (think Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Báthory).

There's plenty of reviews out there already that praise this piece of work and one would say I'm fashionably late to the croquet game; regardless, I'll just give my general impressions and note the parts I particularly enjoyed:

I had way too much time on my hands that day...
First off, the book itself is a gem of a gamebook: approximately digest size, covered red fabric, and printed in gold-leaf, it fits nearly perfectly next to our copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Coincidence? Nah...
I'll say now that I'm a big fan of smaller books height-wise for their portability and whatnot; also, I think all hardback books should come with a cloth bookmark; they're too damn useful! What are RPG books mostly used for? REFERENCING; a built-in bookmark doesn't loose your page like a slip of paper can!

Anyway, the layout is top-notch, printed on slightly-textured cream pages that provide excellent contrast to the bold art. The editing is tight with few errors, the largest of which is a printing goof that left us without the last two pages of the book: a map fragment handout and a larger version of a chess puzzle, neither of which is a huge loss; the puzzle already exists a couple times in the book albeit smaller. PDF version is complete and LotFP's website has the missing pages [here].

In the introduction and first chapter, our author gives us the whys-and-why-nots, the who-cares, and the whats about the wonderland of Voivodja (a.k.a the Place of Unreason) and some useful advice for GM's; I particularly like his brief dissertation on both the differences and similarities of 'whimsical' and 'creepy', as I think that both are important for GM's to consider when they set the tone of any game using AR&PL, or any RPG with similar themes.

On a related note, he cites several works to inspire mood and help set the theme beyond the source material (the Missus' owns a copy of Alice by Jan Svankmajer, which I find hypnotically bizarre). One could easily suggest the soundtracks of American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns for a creepy audio vibe or the Danny Elfman's Alice in Wonderland for something a bit more whimsical. But if I were to suggest a single audio inspiration, it'd have to be the surreal Alice in Wonderland soundscape by Randy Greif: part narration, part weird avant garde project.



The above sampling is only thirteen and a half minutes of a six-hour-long work that spans five albums. To a weird guy like me, this is an excellent audio paring to the strangeness of AR&PL. If you happen across a copy, it makes for good inspiration. Spice in nearly any classic Dracula soundtrack (by Wojciech Kilar, John Williams, Philip Glass, etc.) and you're set.

Anyway, back to my impressions.


The four pages that comprise Chapter II introduce the 'Alice' as a optional character class (for classic D&D rule-sets and the various incarnations derived there-from, though people have made 'Alices' for recent editions like 5e. Just Google it). The Alice has an interesting subset of random abilities/powers that are in a way tied to a meta-plot: the concept here is that the protagonist, despite getting into situations perhaps over their head, has the storyline occasionally conform beneficially to them.


In contrast to the previous chapter's length, Beasts & Peoples takes up a good chunk of the book. Zak has comprised a truly unique bestiary of individuals inspired from all corners of Caroll's works but seen through looking glass darkly. As I've said before, I really dig Zak's art-style and the books wouldn't be a half as evocative if his drawings weren't there to visually support his words. I like how GM's are given four factions to weave intrigue with (if you have factions of vampires, there has to be intrigue), along with a variety of unaligned creatures. 

A pair of Pale Rooks
Likewise the rank and file of the major houses' armies are arranged by four suits and ten ranks for the Card faction, and by eight ranks of pawns below the bishops, knights, and rooks of the three Chess factions. Because all the stats of the lowly orders scale with rank, it's relatively easy to randomly generate basic NPCs on the fly; as it should be. There's also a listing of vampire traits common to all or just to particular factions, ensuring that not all the vampires in the Place of Unreason have the same strengths and weaknesses. It's a tough choice, but I'm going to go with the rooks (all three varieties) as my favourite creatures; again it'd be a close call.

I was compelled to create my own unusual creature from a mix of inspirations: Animated Objects, Axe beaks, Borogroves (obviously), Flamingos used as croquet mallets, the one-legged version Groth-Golka (as depicted on yog-blogsoth), and the staggering variety of Poleweapons.

Borogrove

(Unaligned) 
These miserable, shabby-looking creatures appear as extremely thin, flightless birds standing upon a single leg whose bodies are surrounded by ruffled masses of feathers. The height of borogroves vary as much as the configuration of their heads and beaks, making them superficially resemble various types of medium-sized mêlée weapons or polearms. By gripping fast to any stable perch or surface with their single powerful talon, these creatures swing their hard beaks viciously at any perceived threats.  
HD 4 HP 16 Speed flutter-hop 1/2 as human,  
Armor as chain+shield Intelligence animal Reference ... 
ATTACK
  • Beak Strike: +1d8 (varies) to hit for d8hp damage
  • Mimsy: (once/day) as Ray of Enfeeblement cast by a d8 level Magic-User, but the target must also Save versus Paralysis or be overcome with such misery that they can take no action for the remainder of the spell's duration.
SPECIAL
  • If killed, the body of a borogrove becomes very rigid after an hour; provided it's relatively straight, it can function as a weapon of similar design.
A pair of Knights fighting with the plucked and prepared carcasses of dead borogroves
  • Borogroves with blunt, hammer-like beaks are highly sought after by croquet aficionados as status symbols that double as mallets; living specimens tend to fetch higher prices than dead ones. Worth d8x1000gp alive or d4x1000gp dead to prospective buyers. 
  • It is rumoured either the fruit or the nut of the Tumtum tree inebriates borogroves to the point of flimsy paralysis upon ingestion; the other kills them outright.



Like Smith's previous published work, Vornheim, AR&PL gives GM's a basic overview of the setting with a few major adventure locations (such as the Card Castle and the Looking Glass Palace), a basic worldmap (which uses clever rational why it conforms so easily to the grid of graph-paper), and a few sample locations but is mostly an open sandbox with all the tools for GM's to add elements on the fly. Many of these tools are several pages of random tables and drop-tables similar in design to those seen in Vornheim, most of which could be used outside of this particular given setting.

I don't think it needs to be said that I really like this book and have little negative to say about it: It's a solid piece of OSR work. If I had the chance, I'd run this thing in a heartbeat; I'm as equally as eager to drown in the bizarre setting as I am to see if all the tools presented function as well as they appear to.

If what I've gone on about seems intriguing, get this. If not in hardback, in PDF.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Busy New Year

So what have I been up to so far in 2015?

State of the Chap 
  • It's amazing to think that around this time last year I was coping with immense pain, mostly out of stubbornness and hoping the snail's-pace route I was taking through medical system would provide succour come March.
  • As of today, the 17th of January, it'll be exactly one year since I finally took action and checked myself into the hospital to deal with my VHL complications; it wasn't until 10 days following I had my dual surgeries on the 27th/28th, and a week following that I was finally discharged from the hospital. 
  • After a few months of somewhat speedy recovery, I've been in good health since. I'd been exercising during the warmer months, though not so much during the fall/winter. I've gained weight, but since I've always been a rail-thin guy, I'm happy to have the extra poundage. My hope is now I have mass to convert to muscle come when I get off my duff and begin exercising again.
Anyway, enough about me specifically, here's what I've been up to since the beginning of the new year. It's been busy, and yet paradoxically, I took time to write this post:





When I have time to, I've been consuming A Red & Pleasant Land, and hopefully after that the rest of LotFP stuff I received the first week of the new year, such as the revised Death Frost Doom and No Salvation For Witches. Good Impressions forthcoming. I'm also expecting a few other print items to arrive at my door in partial preparation for GottaCon.



Second-hand Loot
I organized a bunch of my old junk, and sold some to get more, smaller junk. I also sold my collection of Arkham Horror stuff to a friend. As much as I enjoy that game, I have neither the time or space for it anymore. I was glad to see it go to a good home.

Amongst the items I acquired was an interesting minigame by TSR called SAGA - Age of Heroes. I like the pseudo-Viking Age theme of it and would like to give it a try but the cardboard chits are unpunched, and doing so might lessen it's collectable value. I also picked up the eighth book of the ridiculous Grimtooth's Traps series, and a couple of modules, one of which was a complete and better condition of Quest for the Silver Sword. Score.




My best friends were to come over this weekend from Vancouver and we were looking to nerd it up hard, but unfortunately I've been unable to get the time off of work because of a busy promotion and limited staff. Hopefully I'll get the chance to see them next month for my own birthday or GottaCon.



Speaking of GottaCon, I've been working on finalizing my schedule:


Note: you might have to manually select the dates above because I can't figure it out to display specifically those days.

Hopefully any future changes I make will be updated above. During the 2-6pm slot on Saturday and possibly Sunday, I might be running a couple Games-On-Demand sessions (I have yet to figure that all out; still trying to build a roster of games I'm comfortable running with little prep).

I'll be running a late night Dread Cthulhu game, and Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game on Sunday; the remainder I'm planning on attending as a player. +Larry Spiel and I are still in the process of writing our dual-table EotE game, but I think the good majority of it is done.

The folks behind the Fate of the Norns RPG were nice enough to send me some material and offer to assist teaching the game via Skype; but unfortunately I've been unable to secure a slot to run the game, let alone confidently grasp the mechanics of FotN. I honestly thought the Runic system was going to be easier to initially grok and less crunchy than it actually is. My enthusiasm for running a new game I'd never learned met unreasonable expectations. :(

During most of the event I plan to dress up as my MC LARP character Kampi, both for larks and for some sweet in-game XP. On Sunday, if I have time to finish it, I might also cosplay a Scoundrel-type character from Star Wars.



And speaking of Star Wars, I've finally introduced my long-time Friday gaming group to EotE via the Beginner Game; they're having tons of fun with it. I'm hoping to bring them through the Long Arm of the Hutt arc before diving into the full game, rolling up characters, etc.



Additionally, I've been in contact with a FLGS on running their Rebellion Day material for Age of Rebellion. They received the game kits last summer but couldn't find the time/people to run the promo adventure. So tentatively I'm going to be running the game on the 31st of Jan. Better late than never!



    A local leather shop and supplier has gone out of business, so the Missus and I grabbed a roll veg tanned leather to fashion into another helmet and possibly a sheath for my new Calimacil Scramasax before they closed their doors. We got almost 12 feet square of leather, so we'll have plenty for future projects.


    The design we're following/aiming for is going to be similar to the Viking Spectacle-style helm constructed [here], but out of leather instead of steel. I'll try to keep posted on our progress. For a sheath, I'm thinking of something similar to this design [here], though I'm sure it won't look as stellar given my crafting skill, but I'm lucky to be working with my talented partner!


    A similar design we're aiming for.


    On Sunday the 25th of this month there is a free Live Action Apocalypse Role Playing Paintball (LAARPP) game that I'm considering attending. If so it should be fun, some friends and I are going as a beach-bum-themed raider band: the Zegema Beach Raiders. (Mostly a inside joke; bonus points if you get the reference.)



    Again on the topic of Star Wars, amongst all the things I've been organizing has been my still-too-large collection of SW memorabilia. Though I just sold off some of it, and I'm planning to sell more, I think a share of the items don't really have any resell value. So I was thinking that next month during the weekend before GottaCon is my birthday, and I might use all these things as decorations and prizes in a Star Wars-themed birthday party. I just need to find a venue as our place is way too small to entertain large groups.

    Incidentally, they could also make excellent table prizes for Rebellion Day/GottaCon games!



    Finally, on the topic of exercising again, I was hoping to get some weapon training for MC during the off season with another group in town since Vanguard is also closed for the season, but alas my work and personal schedule have been preventing so. But the Missus and I have been doing something to together just as awesome: Learning to Swing Dance! We just had our first lesson last Thursday, and practiced what we learnt the following eve at the drop-in dance, both by Red Hot Swing.

    Learning to dance has definitely made me conscious of just how uncoordinated I can be. Hopefully with practice and diligence I'll become at least a passable swing dancer. :)



    Anyhoo, that's me in a nutshell. What've you been up to so far this year?

    Cheers! ;{١