Sunday, 25 November 2018

Operation Underworld: A Homefront WW2 Campaign

The impetus behind a lot of the action in this
Usually whenever you someone talks about running a WW2 campaign.  They're referring to one where the players play frontline troops, more often than not elites of some kind.  Marines, commandos, rangers, paratroopers that sort of thing.  Even when they're not playing elites they're still playing infantryman on the frontline.  You will never see a game set behind friendly lines, though you will see plenty behind enemy lines.  Now granted playing the company supply sergeant or some paper pusher back at the command post isn't really exciting.  Not the stuff that great campaigns are made of, does that mean that there's no way to run a behind friendly lines?  Of course not, you just have to go a little farther behind is all.  Possibly all the way back to the home front.  Now you may be asking yourself what's so interesting about playing civilians during the biggest war in history?  The answer is you don't play civilians.  You play the enemies to society who just happen to be the enemy of the enemy.  Who is now your friend.  You play Mobsters.  That's right Murder Incorporated is under new management and who's the new boss?  Good old Uncle Sam.

There's been a lot of speculation as to the extent of the Mafia's collaboration with the US Government during WW2.  Whenever the subject is discussed the opposing viewpoints generally fall into two camps.  Those that deny any cooperation between the Mafia and the Naval Department.  Dismissing it all as wild conspiracy theories.  Then there are those that insist that the exiled mafiosi in Sicily prepared for Operation Husky much the same way as the French Resistance did for Overlord.  Who's right?  How much of it is true?  Who's to say?  All I know is that it's the sort of thing that great games are made of.  I've even prepared a little timeline of the various string of adventures I'd use for this campaign.

The aftermath of the Normandie fire which the players are
going to cause.  Some people suspect it was the Mafia that
set fire to the cruise ship, in hopes of negotiating to keep
the harbours safe in exchange for the release of Lucky Luciano.
February 1942 - The characters members of the diminished Mafia hit squad Murder Incorporated. Are called in to do a job for their boss Albert Anastasia's brother Anthony "Tough Tony"Anastasio.  The president of the Local Longshoreman's Union.  He wants them to set a fire, the target?  The SS Normandie a French cruise ship currently being refitted as a U.S. Navy troopship.  It's a job that requires a little delicacy, they can handle it however they want.  As long as nobody is found with a bullet in them.  Within a few days of the job the characters are hanging around as Military gentleman comes in.  Wishing to speak to Tough Tony and his brother.  From then on the characters are put work for government service.  Handling some things that has the Naval Department a little antsy.

March 1942 - Mostly spent dealing with problems along the waterfront.  Preventing strikes by longshoremen, possibly incited by an outspoken Italian American union member.  Who refuses to load cargo for a country that plans to go to war with the "Old Country" and has created himself a small following.  Stamping out a ring of thieves that's selling tires on the black market.  (At this point there's a rubber is a rationed commodity).  If anyone's gonna profiteering off of the war effort it's gonna be the Mob anyways not some unconnected crook with some spare tires.  Talking to thieves that are looking to steal Military ordinance to fence on the street.  That sort of thing.

April 1942 - This one is a nice little detour from what will have become standard fair by this point in campaign.  After a month of dealing with Military related matters, the players are called on to take care of a little family business.  Albert Anastasia wants them to clip Tony Romanello a fellow member of Murder Incorporated.  Who was arrested/questioned by the police a few months ago.  Part of the ongoing prosecutions against MI.  Romanello knows too much and has outlived his usefulness.  To make this a little bit more than just another guy who needs to be killed.  I'd probably make Romanello a recurring NPC in the campaign in the sessions leading up to this.  Maybe even having helped out with a few of the jobs that the players have been doing up to this point.  Hopefully to the point that they feel a little affection towards him.  Causing something of a sorrowful moment that's a staple in a lot of Mob films.  Anastasia will tell the characters to take Romanello with them on another long job.  This time visiting several neighbouring cities.  Namely Newark, Elizabeth and Philadelphia all of which are closely aligned with the family.  Doing some of the routine tasks they've been doing on the docks of New York.  On the last leg of their trip before they turn back they're to kill Romanello and dump his body in the countryside.  Outside of Wilmington a city with significant shipyards in Delaware.

May 1942 - After the Romanello hit there's still work to be done.  The usual dealing with union troubles, possible Axis sympathizers that sort of thing.  This is also the same time that Gas as well as Sugar rationing come into effect.  Which presents a whole host of new problems for the players.  Not only do they have to lean on black marketeers selling the restricted goods.  (If they don't pay the family its due protection money).  But also their own reduced access to gasoline since they are classified as non-essential personnel and as result will only receive 4 gallons a week.  Much less than would be needed for them to go about their usual business.  An interesting idea would be being sent to deal with a Teamster (truck driver), who's been getting a lot of military contracts.  Allowing him access to unlimited gasoline as long as it's vital to the War effort.  Which the driver has been siphoning from his tank and selling at a significant mark up.  It just simply won't do.

Richard Quirin one of eight German saboteurs to infiltrate
America as part of  Operation Pastorius.  He was described by
fellow saboteur turned defector George Dasch as a "true believer"
June 1942 - This is what I'd imagine to be the campaigns finale.  Through their handlers in the Naval Department the PCs are given a little job.  To keep their eyes out for some suspected German saboteurs.  Delivered to the shores of America by a German U-Boat.  According to the government's source they are somewhere in New York and an all out manhunt is looking for them.  After some investigation the players are of course the ones that find the would-be saboteurs.  Two of whom are Nazi true-believers, while the third in fact wants to defect to the US.  Depending on how it plays out the players may end up in a running gun battle where all the saboteurs are killed.  Or they actually manage to catch them completely off guard in their hotel room.  Handing the spies over to some rather embarrassed FBI agents.  Who will no doubt deny to the newspapers that the Mob assisted in the capture of the dangerous enemy agents.

So with that my little campaign pitch comes to a close.  I was considering either running this with GURPS WW2 particularly the Dogfaces sourcebook or Gangbusters.  (Updated to a date of 1942 of course).  I apologize for the long hiatus hopefully it won't happen again.  I also apologize for the shortness of this post in comparison to some of my others.  It is due in part to my being absent from the keyboard for so long.  If you liked this post please let me know what you think in the comments below.  Be sure to +1, re-share and follow this blog.  Until next time may you roll many crits.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Legacy of Lindisfarne - A Viking Campaign for Runequest

So I've been on kind of a Viking kick the last few days.  I had originally planned to use a hack of Pendragon for this.  However that ended up not being as doable as I thought it would be.  For a number of reasons that I won't go into for the sake of brevity.  So after being left wanting by Pendragon, I started looking around for alternatives.  I had considered GURPS prior to Pendragon, but it seemed clunky and not conducive to the sort of campaign I wanted to run.  While I love the Powered by the Apocalypse engine, Sagas of the Icelanders didn't quite fit either.  So for a while there I thought I was at the end of my rope.  This campaign idea sputtering out before it even caught fire.  Until I came across the Vikings Sourcebook for Runequest II by Mongoose publishing.  Now we're cooking with gas.  Let's get right to it.

The Pitch

Roughly what this campaign will be about.
Now the reason I originally chose Pendragon was because I wanted to make this a multi-generational campaign.  Much like how the players in Pendragon play knights and slowly build a family legacy.  Playing their original characters' heirs and their grandchildren (possibly even great grandchildren) building themselves a dynasty.  So too would the players in this campaign build a lineage, only Vikings instead of knights.  The idea would look something like this.  The players start out as young residents in a dirt-poor settlement (or rather a collection of neighbouring homesteads), somewhere in either Norway or Denmark.  (I'm thinking Rogaland or Jutland respectively).  Which of the two is entirely up to the players' personal preferences.  More often than not they'll be non-landholding members of society.  Even the wealthiest among them will not own land.  (If they play someone of the Jarl class it's almost required that they are not the heir to the family lands and fortune).  In a time and place when wealth is measured by the land you own.  The players will be somewhat lacking...  Point being that they'll have plenty of motivation to go out, raid and conquer.  The types of character concepts conducive to this campaign are as follows.

  • Bondi or Tenant farmers, who owe their land (as crummy, sandy and rocky as it is) to a larger landowner for a fee.  
  • Leysingi or Freedman, former thralls who likely own no land of their own.  But likely possess freshly acquired weapons with which to take some.
  • Second sons of both Jarls and Karls (nobles, freeman respectively) who stand to inherit nothing.
  • Outlaws and outcasts of all kinds.  Those trying to put their past behind them and make a new life for themselves.  A process that land and newly acquired wealth tends to help with.  Your obligatory shield-maiden falls under this category.  As a woman dressing and fighting as man does is transvestism and punishable by outlawing of the offending party.  
The players first adventure or dungeon if you will.
Anyways you have all these opportunistic individuals who nothing to lose and everything to gain.  And you set them on a course to build a legacy for themselves.  In Norse religion there is no life after death unless you die well in battle (earning yourself a spot in Valhalla) or are a completely evil and irredeemable bastard (thus earning a spot in what's essentially Viking Hell).  So all that really matters is what kind of a name you leave for yourself before the Norns cut your thread of life.  So as the GM you start out small giving the players a little taste of the riches in store.  Participating in some of the earlier Viking raids.  Personally I seek to start with the infamous raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne.  The proceedings would follow a path somewhat along these lines.
  1.   Start the players off with a short introductory scenario in the Spring of 793 AD.  Involving a bear that's been harassing what little livestock there is.  The hunting of said bear would serve as a way to get the players acclimated to the setting.
  2. Have word come to the settlement, possibly later in the year.  Right before summer of the wealth of the monastery at Lindisfarne.  If the players opted play Danes in Jutland throw in a  mention of the recent atrocities committed by Charlemagne against pagans in Frisia.  (The king of Frisia is related to the king of Denmark).  Possibly as a roleplaying hook for those characters that decided to play devout Pagans.  
  3. Have the local Jarl put out word that he's going to Lindisfarne to sack the place.  The players and possibly several of their NPC family members are welcome to come along.  
  4. From there conduct the voyage to the Holy Island.  It won't be a simple matter of getting from point A to point B.  Sea voyages were dangerous back in those days.  
  5. Then there's the actual raid, which is a cakewalk.  Everyone involved makes out like bandits.  Treasure in the form of tithes/donations and various religious paraphernalia is plentiful.  The players can even take a few captives to be sold as slaves.  If anyone's feeling antsy for a fight, they can vent their murder-hobo tendencies by killing some unharmed monks and layman.  It's one of the few times in a game I'd run where they'd be able to get away with it without consequence.
  6. Now while getting the loot was easy enough the trip back won't be.  Turns out somebody else had the exact same idea as the players' raiding party.  Just as they're leaving the area, a small of fleet of ships roughly the size of their own comes into view.  Who they are depends on a number of factors.  If the players are Norwegian make them Danes.  If the players are Danes make them Norwegians come down from a base in the Orkneys.  If a player has a character with a particular hatred of a nation (say the Frisians, after all they're the ones who had numerous of their people drowned on Charlemagne's orders) or if a player has an enemy from back home.  Have it be them.  Point is they came here to loot the riches of Lindisfarne and found you leaving the burning ruins.  They are not happy and spoiling for a fight.  
With the first adventure over and done with the possibilities are endless.  Do they go on another raid? Where to this time?  Against coastal villages in England or Frankland?  Perhaps find another monastery to loot?  Or do they prefer to stick close to home?  Getting involved in local politics, choosing to instead raid their ancestral enemies.  Be it the next settlement over or a across the ocean against the Danes, Norse, Swedes or whoever.  Once they tire of raiding or perhaps have built themselves up something of a reputation and some experience.  They may join in on the invasion of Ireland or England becoming the foot soldiers of the Great Pagan armies that conquered those lands.  My lofty ambition is to play an adventure for each year of the timeline.  Though if the players decide they don't have any great plans in mind we can always skip a year or two here or there.  Eventually the players may find themselves in a position to acquire land after years of fighting.  Of course they'll always end up with land located right on the frontier of the conquered lands.  Allowing for all kinds of opportunities for adventure.  Even when the players are supposedly settled.  There's always the possibility that the natives of the conquered land or even other Vikings will send them packing.  Forcing the players to go back to square one as landless wanderers.  Allowing the GM to switch things up, sick of fighting in Ireland or England?  Maybe go settle a farmstead in Iceland or go on a trading expedition to Constantinople.  Or help old Rollo intimidate King Charles the Simple of the Franks into giving him a duchy.  The possibilities are endless.  Each generation that comes as the original players settle down and have children will provide a way build on their legacy.  As well as provide replacement characters should someone ever bite it or get maimed in the midst of all that fighting.  

Anyways that's about all I have to say on the subject.  If you liked this post be sure to +1, re-share, follow this blog and comment any feedback down below.  As always may you roll many crits and have a nice day.  

Monday, 2 July 2018

Merli Basmi Reloaded - Another Re-statted Character from the Night City PD Campaign

So seeing as the Winter post was such a huge hit.  I decided to get off my but and re-stat Merli, Winter's partner and fellow SIFT-Div detective.  For those of you were awaiting this and you know who you are.  There you go I'm a man of my word.  For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, I refer you to this link here.  So without further ado let me tell you about Merli.

I think Merli's player would appreciate the humour in his
character being portrayed by Will Smith.
Merli Basmi was born into a large Corporate family of Brazilian origin.  His parents worked for Biotechnica, and died when he was a child.  They were smart though and made sure that their children would be provided for in the event of their demise.  Merli and his siblings were raised in a Corporate creche for the rest of his childhood.  (In fact he became incredibly attached to one of the nannies working there seeing her as something of a surrogate mother.  She remains an important part of his life even though he is now an adult).  Merli possesses a genius level intellect and a doctorate.  Yet he chooses to work as a Detective for the Night City Police Department.  You read that right, not as a Forensics Specialist or Pathologist as a Detective.  He routinely does his own autopsies and lab work, rather than pushing the work onto the already overworked NCPD Crime Lab.  Needless to say he's regarded as something of an eccentric.  Nobody doubts his skills though, as he has proven himself a capable investigator in both Narco and Homicide.  He was a natural choice for a special unit such as SIFT-Div.

Merli has an interesting origin in terms of character creation.  Instead of playing a pre-gen since he was a first timer Merli wanted to generate his own character.  I remember it took up most of the first session of the campaign (and is partly the reason I now have a Session 0 policy), and took many a strange turn.  It started with me reading out the available roles for Cyberpunk 2020.  (This was before I stopped using the roles, and switched to more free-form style).  I figured he'd seize upon a Solo or a Cop, you know a combat role since that's what most first time RPG players want to do.  Is just kill stuff.  Nope, he decided he wanted to play the party's healer.  In this case that meant playing a MedTech.  Yeah it kind of threw me for a loop.  How do you explain a MedTech being part of a police unit?  It's not like they're Edgerunners who can't afford to explain to the hospital how they got shot.  It's a question that never really got answered and I just rolled with it to save myself the hassle.  The stuff about him being a Pathologist was more an explanation Winter's player and I came up with in between games.  That we never really remembered to share with Merli's player.  Everything about Merli was odd.  He actually had a +9 in Driving, why?  Your guess is as good as mine the player just wanted to invest the points that way.  He also didn't originally have any Cybernetics (due to the player wanting to actually play before the session was over).  The player actually ended up creating his own personality type for the life path for Merli.  Intelligent and outlandish.  It fit his as well as the jumpsuit he wore over his corporate business suit.  Like I said Merli was an odd guy.

Whoever made this poster could've made it about Merli's
work situation with SIFT-Div.
Yet in spite of all of that.  He was the one sane man in SIFT-Div.  May sound hard to believe but it's true.  His partner Winter was an ex-cyber criminal, not much better than a spoiled brat.  Who was so obsessed with Johnny Silverhand that she would've abandoned Merli if someone offered her a chance to go to a Samurai concert.  (An event that never came up in game, and for that I'm somewhat grateful).  Then you had the leader of SIFT-Div (whose name escapes me now) who was a Machiavellian schemer.  Who basically used SIFT-Div as his own personal hit-squad.  And was only able to get the unit because he blackmailed the mayor of Night City.  In hindsight Merli may have been crazy but you know compared to his colleagues he was the voice of reason.  Now while I said he was the voice of reason, that doesn't mean he didn't do some pretty dumb things in his career.  The crowning achievement being practically kidnapped by a drug-dealer and then being beaten by said drug dealer's cook with a rolling chair.  Now to be fair Winter was supposed to keeping an eye on him so she could tail the drug dealer and Merli after they left Club 404.  But that's a story for another time.

I'm actually quite happy with how Merli turned out this time around.  Other than some adjustments to his Social stats (COOL, ATTR and EMP) to fit his personality more and a boost in Reflex.  He's pretty much the same in terms of Stats.  As it turned out 2 Luck was the correct amount for him since he had a bad habit of getting the short end of the stick.  He was Murtaugh to Winter's Riggs.  I've also taken the liberty of giving him the Cybernetics he was missing in his first incarnation.  Which I gotta say was kind of hard to do.  Since R. Talsorian seemed to make Cyberware more with Solos and Netrunners in mind than MedTechs.  His skills have also been adjusted to better suit his police training.  Most notable being the addition of the Rifle skill.  Much to my regret Merli and Winter were issued a shotgun for some additional firepower which was constantly being left in the stake-out van.  Due to the fact that neither of them had the skill to use it.  As I mentioned before he's gotten a little bump in his Reflex stat so he'll be a bit more combat effective.  Since more often than not he was the primary combatant in the partnership.  Largely due to the fact that the person who planned to play a Solo dropped out before the first session even started.  I've also given him the Nightmares disadvantage to reflect an event on his life path regarding an accident he had.  An accident that I don't remember ever being specified.

Merli Basmi

INT: 10  REF: 7/7 TECH: 8  COOL: 7  ATTR: 8  LUCK: 2  MA: 6  BODY: 5  EMP: 7

RUN: 18  LEAP: 4.5  LIFT: 200  SAVE: 5  BTM: -2
DAM: +0  REP: 3 (Just an eccentric Cop trying to do his job)

Alienation Check: 7  Skill Points: 62

Skills: Awareness/Notice +5, Biology +6, Bureaucracy +3, Chemistry +4, Diagnose Illness +6, Drive +3, Education & General Knowledge +4, Expert: Forensics +3, Handgun +5, Human Perception +5, Interrogation +5, Know Language: English +8, Know Language: Portuguese +8, Library Search +2, MedTech +2, Persuasion & Fast Talk +5, Rifle +2, Streetwise +2

Bilingual Background 4 SPs

Close Personal Tie (Former Nanny) -2 SPs
Nightmares -2 SPs

Cyber Optics (with Image Enhancement, Micro-optics, LowLite, Infrared) 3  2430 EB
Chemical Analyzer                                                                                         4  200 EB

Concealable Armoured Vest (Consult the Datafortress 2020 NCPD Sourcebook)
Shoulder Holster
Armalite 44 Semi-automatic Pistol (equipped with 911 chip, cookie cutter and gun cam)
Street-tech "Burst"
2 spare magazines of 12mm ammo
Badge, Police ID (Acts as a marker for NCPD cookie cutters)
Officer in Distress Button (Consult the Datafortress 2020 NCPD Sourcebook)
2 sets of Plascuffs
Evidence Kit

Anyways that about wraps it up.  I'm very happy and proud of my work here.  I feel so much better about this version of Merli compared to how I felt when we first rolled him up.  Lately I've been thinking about re-statting and roughly detailing some NPCs as well as the first adventure from the NCPD campaign.  Which I ran Merli and Winter's players through.  If you'd like to see that be sure to +1, re-share, follow this blog and comment down below.  Until next time have a nice day and may you roll many crits.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Winter Hyland Remastered - A Re-Statted PC from Night City PD Campaign

So today I thought I'd do something different.  Rather than a writing about a campaign idea I may have had or character concept I'd thought up.   I thought I'd tell you about an old Campaign I once ran and one of the PCs that was involved in that game.  It was back in High School I had just left my first gaming group and struck out on my own.  With the intention of playing games other than Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition.  I'd run a few games of Boot Hill (which was my first non D&D love when it came to Tabletop RPGs) but those had been poorly received.  Clearly the group I started out with enjoyed Roleplaying for different reasons than I did.  So I made the decision to start my own group and run games with them.  Not an easy task at a Catholic High School in a small town in Canada.  It wasn't exactly a breeding ground for players.  Somehow I did manage to get something that resembled a group together.  Though a large part of the recruitment was done by the one friend I'd been able to talk into playing with me.  The rest of the group was made up of co-workers and acquaintances of hers.  In the end it ended up only being her and one of her co-workers that actually played for long.  (One actually left after character creation and never came back, the other never showed up to character creation and proved to be a problem player when he did finally show up.  The single friend from high school who I'd recruited's brother showed up for one session.  Only to get his character's arm blown off by his own grenade!)

This is basically what I had in mind when I was thinking up
this campaign concept.
Now what was the campaign you ask?  Well around this point of my life I was watching a lot of Countermonkeybard videos.  Specifically the ones about Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun.  The idea of playing augmented cyber-criminals intrigued me.  Of course as you may have noticed I never do things the easy way or the way it was intended.  Also around this time I really into Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex (I didn't see the Film until my later teens/early twenties).  It was pretty much the only contact I'd had with Cyberpunk as a genre.  And if I'm honest it's kind of a bad starting point.  Since now being more educated on the subject I'd call the GITS franchise more Post-Cyberpunk.  But I'm rambling, point is I decided that I wanted the campaign to be about Cyber-cops rather than Cyber-criminals.  Specifically a special task force within the Night City Police Department known as SIFT-Div.  (I no longer remember what SIFT was supposed to stand for).  It was supposed to be kind of along the lines of a unit that didn't get tied down by red tape and got results.  I actually had a plot line in mind that never got explored about how the NPC head of SIFT-Div (the PCs' boss) had gotten dirt on the Mayor of Night City and blackmailed him into approving the creation of the unit.

While this image looks nothing like Winter
it does pretty much sum up her approach to
life.  Being a bratty, angst-filled college
drop-out, know it all.  Poking her nose
where it didn't belong.
I'm getting side-tracked again, sorry about that.  I'm supposed to be talking about the character not the campaign overall.  So the character was Winter Hyland the daughter of a Microtech technician.  With a promising future awaiting her in the field of Computer Science when she graduated.  What happened you asked?  She tired of paying off her tuition with money earned tutoring dumb Corp kids.  So she turned to a life of Cyber-crime, stealing money from various places on the net.  She built quite a reputation for herself as the Hacker known as a Lady Cypher.  So-called because of her avatar's appearance as a Victorian era aristocrat with a face of ever-shifting green code.  In hindsight Winter really wasn't much of a hacker, her reputation owed mostly owed to her prolific activities and pure dumb luck.  Her crowning achievement was infiltrating the ZetaTech data fortress.  Her last crime before she was picked up by NCPD's NetSec Department.  She was looking at jail-time if the head of SIFT-DIV (who was in need of a computer specialist) hadn't stepped in to place her under his authority.  It was either work for the NCPD or go to jail, some choice.

Back when we first started this campaign Winter's player didn't know anything about role-playing.  So the approach to character creation went something like this.  I gave her the campaign pitch and told her what kind of roles I had in mind for the SIFT-DIV team.  Then gave her the option of calling dibs on one of the roles listed.  She immediately went for a Netrunner/Tech hybrid.  (Back then I was using the Interlock Unlimited from over at DataFortress 2020.  Which allowed for hybrid role characters.  I've since done away with the Role System in my campaigns).  Rather than rolling the character herself she left that in what she referred to as "your capable hands".  I went home created a character then came back the next day and showed it to her.  She was instantly in love.  I actually wrote up a little biography for Winter which I'm still very proud of.  If you're interested I managed to dig out the original document from my files and upload it to my GoogleDocs.  Despite the fact that I imagined her as sort of a Cyberpunk version of Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  (The Lifepath results for look & style as well as a personality of moody and rash were really pointing towards it).  The character sort of took on a life of her own when the player got ahold of it.  She developed into a huge Johnny Silverhand fan.  (After the player read some quotes by Mr. Silverhand in the Core Rulebook when she finally got around to reading it).  In hindsight Winter probably would've worn a bunch of Silverhand and Samurai patches on her leather jacket.  Proudly displaying her allegiance, not unlike what a metalhead friend of mine calls a battle jacket.  Her fascination with the Rockerboy came to the point of obsession.  (She very easily could've gone the direction of obsessed fan that every musician lives in fear of).  She once actually only went out with a guy because he could get tickets to a Samurai concert on very short notice.

Anyways all this reminiscing about the old days got me going back through the old files.  And I realized how much of a mess Winter was in terms of stats.  I clearly had no idea what the hell I was doing when I made her for her player.  (Keep in mind I was 17 and new to Cyberpunk).  Now that I'm older and have my gaming style a little more established.  I thought it'd be fun to go back and revamp the character a little.  Using the character creation method that I currently use for my campaigns.  (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about I refer you to this link).  Overall I'm quite happy with how the new version of Winter turned out.  She's a great deal more rounded out than when I first built her.  (She actually has a believable level of training in firearms for a Criminal turned Cop in a special unit.  She can somewhat handle herself in a fight with minimal skill.  And she has enough skill in Drive to have a license.  Something she lacked when she was first built).  She also has social stats more in keeping with her personality.

Winter Hyland

INT: 9  REF: 6/6  TECH: 9  COOL: 4 ATTR: 7  LUCK: 7 MA: 6 BODY: 6  EMP: 6/5

RUN: 18  LEAP: 4.5  LIFT: 240 SAVE: 6  BTM: -2
DAM: +0  REP: 7 (As Lady Cipher persona), 1 (as plain old Winter)

Alienation Check: 27  Skill Points: 58

Skills: Athletics +3, Awareness/Notice +2, Basic Tech +9, Brawling +3, Composition +4, Cyberdeck Design +4, Cybertech +2, Driving +2, Education +3, Electronics +6, Fast Talk & Persuasion +3, Handgun +5, Human Perception +2, Interface +2, Know Language: English +8, Programming +6, System Knowledge +2

Advantages: Computer Aptitude 4 SPs, Technical Aptitude 4 SPs

Disadvantages: Compulsion (Johnny Silverhand Groupie) -4 SPs, Criminal Record (Paroled) -4 SPs

Neural Processor                            2 1000 EB
Interface Plugs                                1  200 EB
Universal Link                                 4 400 EB
Chipware Socket                              2 200 EB
Cyberaudio Basic Hearing Module 3 500 EB
Phone Splice                                    3 150 EB
Wearman Stereo Music System       7 100 EB
Wide Band Radio Scanner               5 100 EB
Total Alienation: 27, Cost: 2,650 EB

Concealable Armoured Vest (Consult the Datafortress 2020 NCPD Sourcebook)
Shoulder Holster
Armalite 44 Semi-automatic Pistol (equipped with 911 chip, cookie cutter and gun cam)
Street-tech "Burst"
2 spare magazines of 12mm ammo
Badge, Police ID (Acts as a marker for NCPD cookie cutters)
Officer in Distress Button (Consult the Datafortress 2020 NCPD Sourcebook)
2 sets of Plascuffs
Evidence Kit
Used Cyberdeck (All she could afford on a student budget).
Tech Toolkit
Electronics Toolkit

Commands: Detect/Conceal +2, Locate +2, Infiltrate/Login +2, Query +2, Edit +2
Targets: File/Database +5, System +5

Anyways that about wraps it up for me.  If you liked this post be sure to +1, comment below, re-share and follow this blog.  Who knows if things do really well I may re-stat Winter's partner Merli Basmi. Until then have a good day and may you roll many crits.

Update: Came back and edited a few things that I left out and forgot the first time around.
Update #2: For those of you waiting for Merli's re-statting, rejoice.  It's here.

Monday, 18 June 2018

The Mines of Kessel - A Campaign I'll Probably Never Run

I know it's been some time since I posted something on this blog.  And I apologize for that.  When I first started writing posts for Stories and Other Such Distractions a year ago, I prided myself on the fact that I updated at least monthly.  May ended up going by without a single update from yours truly.  A fact that I deeply regret and find inexcusable.  So this is me trying to make up for lost time.  For those of you who still read this blog I am eternally grateful.  Without further ado let's get to what you came here to see.

The Pitch

The subject of today's campaign pitch.  The kidney
shaped Prison planet of Kessel and it's
garrison moon(given its appearance
it might be more accurate to
 describe it as an asteroid.
Anyone who is at least the tiniest bit familiar with Star Wars has at least heard of Kessel once or twice.  Who could forget the famous line?  "It's a ship that made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs."  Now in the original novelization of the film of A New Hope Han was just supposed to be talking out of his ass.  (A parsec is a measure of distance not speed for those of you not in the know).  Later on the expanded universe went on to fill in the blanks on the Kessel run (adding in a black hole that the Kessel system orbited known as the Maw that would be smugglers would fly dangerously close to in order to shave time of their route) and the rest as they say is history.  You didn't come here for a lecture on the Star Wars Expanded universe though.  You came here to read about a campaign idea centred around the stinking place.  

Kessel is known for two things, the spice known as glitterstim.  (Which is said to give those who imbibe it the force-like ability to read the thoughts of others, incredibly useful in interrogations.  Which is why the Empire keeps such a tight grasp on its excavation).  The other is its infamous prison facilities where the spice is dug up the cruel Spice Mines of Kessel.  (Imagine something akin to a Nazi concentration camp or a Soviet gulag).  Now many an RPG campaign has kicked off with the escape from such a place.  But very few have taken a look at what it'd be like to have the characters adventure be indentured for an extended period of time in such a place.  

"But..." you say "that's boring."  Is it now?  There's a lot of sources of conflict to be had in an Imperial Prison.  Remember this is a place that's run by what amounts to Space Nazis.  There's bound to be conflict in such a place if you know where to look for it.  Here's a few things just from the top of my head.
  • Remember how old Han Solo made the Kessel Run?  Well what was he smuggling?  There's nothing else of value in the whole Kessel system but glitterstim and free prison labour.  Yet both are so highly regulated, that amounts to pretty much nothing.  Unless...someone's been double-dealing under the table.  Perhaps the staff at this mine aren't the tight-asses you think they are.  They're still immoral pricks, they just care about lining their own pockets than they do the Emperor.  Shipments of Spice may be turning up light, or prisoners may disappear.  (The latter sold into slavery, hey prisoners die all the time in the mines).  

  • And like in every situation there may be some stickler for the rules that wants to blow the whistle.  Maybe the players can manipulate him somehow?

  • In the expanded universe Kessel is described as being littered with ruins of Sith origins.  Up for a little Star Wars dungeon crawl?

  • Just like prison in real life it wouldn't be unlikely for the mine the PCs find themselves at to have rival gangs inhabiting the place.  They could join one of the existing ones or start one of their own.  

  • The population of the Kessel Spice Mines is 78% Alien, 22% Human.  You could literally have a prisoner of every species for PCs of a particular species to interact with.  You could even have one of the most feared prisoners be an incredibly violent Wookie.  (Don't upset him).

  • Then you have the ultimate source of good in the Empire.  A large number of Rebels are sent to the Imperial controlled mines.  As punishment for their betrayal of the Emperor.  If your players tire of being locked up they could mount an escape.  If they take some of these guys with them they've got an in into the Rebel Alliance.  (And you get a way to continue a campaign with established characters if you decide to take a break and come back to Star Wars).


Now personally I'd use Star Wars d6 for this campaign.  It's simpler than say the Fantasy Flight or Wizards of the Coast games and it has a large online community dedicated to it.  And presents a number of useful templates to base characters off of.  Any one of the following would fit right in in such a campaign.  They could be sentenced for any number of crimes, real or trumped up charges it doesn't matter.  If you manage to piss off someone with the right connections within the Empire.  Your ass just earned a one-way ticket to Kessel.

  1. The Smuggler
  2. The Gambler
  3. The Brash Pilot (remember lot of rebel POWs end up at Kessel)
  4. Any of the Alien Templates (Again the Imperials are Space Nazis)
  5. Pirate
  6. Merc
  7. Outlaw
  8. Outlaw Tech
  9. Slicer
Anyways I think I've rambled on enough for my first effort after my hiatus.  If you liked this post be sure to tell me what you think in the comments below.  Be sure to +1, like and follow this blog.  As always have a nice day and may the dice be ever in your favour.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Men of Many Crimes and Countries - Character Concepts for Kozaki of the Steppes

"Dwelling in the wild, open steppes, owning no law but their own peculiar code, they had become a people capable of defying the Grand Monarch.  Ceaselessly they raided the Turanian frontier, retiring in the steppes when defeated; with the pirates of the Vilayet, men of much the same breed, they harried the coast, preying off the merchant ships which plied between the Hyrkanian Ports." - The Devil in Iron by Robert E. Howard

It's not often that I write a continuation to a campaign pitch I've written.  The Kozaki of the Steppes pitch went over so well though that I thought it warranted something special in celebration.  A lot of times I don't have that much to write about a pitch once it's been published.  I find myself in a unique situation though, in that there was more I wanted to explore with the Kozaki Campaign.  I don't know if Game Master does this, but I often indulge myself in fantasies.  Day dreams if you will about the type of characters that players could create for the campaigns I run for them.  Since one of the many fascinating things about the Kozaki is their diverse membership.  It seemed only natural that I'd do some writing about some character concepts that I had dreamed up about that membership.  Without further ado let's dive into the characters that've been floating around in my mind.

The Hetman 

In the foreground Olgerd Vladislav once a
hetman among the Kozaki of the Zaporoskan
river.  Seems to have a bad habit of losing
leadership of one such band and then gaining
it with another.
Every band of kozaki needs someone to lead them.  That man is the hetman.  He it's he who leads them in battle, finds them targets to rob and plunder.  Acts as their captain when they do battle against the Turanians.  This duty comes with its share of privileges.  Such as when it comes time for the loot to be divided evenly among the band.  The hetman gets first pick often taking the finer portion of the plunder for himself.  Add on top of this when the band takes captives, the hetman also gets first pick. If he decides to take all of the captives for himself?  Well that's his prerogative.  Of course all these privileges come with their share of risks as well.  A greedy hetman would be wise to remember that his rank is by no means permanent.  Any man may in the camp may challenge him for leadership.  These challenges usually take the form of single combat between the current hetman and the challenger.  Since the only real condition for membership among the Kozaki is whether you can handle yourself in a fight.  Logic dictates that their leader would be the strongest warrior among them.  As such it behooves a successful Kozaki hetman to keep his followers happy.  This usually involves keeping them occupied with raids on caravans and Turanian outposts.  The best way to a kozak's heart is through his stomach and his purse (the occasional woman doesn't hurt either).  A few generous gifts (read: bribes) from the hetman's share of the plunder to particularly skilled, loyal and daring followers doesn't hurt either.  The hetman does pose some interesting opportunities and problems to a Game Master though.  Some groups won't like having one player have power over their characters.  And while the idea of PvP over leadership makes for a great story.  Players might have a hard time not accepting the results of the subsequent battle, which can lead to conflict among the group.  A GM taking this route would have to be mindful of that.

Raid Leader

Every leader needs a reliable second in command, someone to lead in his absence.  That's the Raid Leader.  Sometimes a target is too heavily defended so you need a decoy to draw the defenders out.  Either to lead them on a wild goose chase across the steppes or to lead them into a pre-arranged ambush.  Whatever the case may be the Raid Leader is the man for the job.  It's incredibly risky and it carries a great deal of responsibility.  With that responsibility comes privileges, when captives are being divided up among the Kozaki.  The Raid Leader is second only to the hetman when it comes to getting first pick.  Conan in the story A Witch Shall be Born is a great example of a Raid Leader.  Of course just like Olgerd Vladislav a Kozaki hetman has to be mindful that his Raid Leader.  Doesn't get too ambitious as his followers may soon call for a change of leadership.

Hetman's Assassin

Possibly what a hetman's assassin would look like.
With leadership so often shifting among the kozaki a chief may often have to rely upon the loyalty of a few choice followers.  To keep him aware of when mutiny is being fomented in the camp.  Sometimes rebellions like this need to be nipped in the bud.  Preferably when these are just unhappy murmurings around the campfire.  Sometimes all the plunder and gifts aren't enough to keep a would-be rebel satisfied.  That's when the hetman's eyes and ears become his blade.  As mentioned before the Kozaki divide loot evenly among themselves, but sometimes members don't feel they've gotten their fair share.  If such is the case a kozak can challenge another kozak to a duel for possession of their share of the loot.  These duels are always to the death as it is part of the Kozaki code that any man who cannot defend his property (that includes his woman) deserves only death.  Such are the harsh laws of the steppes.  These duels make excellent pretexts under which to kill an instigator of insurrection against the hetman.  The assassin gets the deadman's share of loot in addition to his own and possibly a share of the winnings the hetman won from betting on his enforcer.  (You read right Kozaki bet on these duels).  A hetman's assassin can make himself a very wealthy and incredibly feared (possibly hated) man among the band.  It's a good thing that he has a reputation of skill with a blade.  Perhaps too good?  Sometimes a hetman having someone do this kind of dirty work for him creates a monster.  That needs to be put down by a new assassin before he starts getting the idea that he might make a better hetman.

The Outrider

An outrider doesn't always have to travel alone.  Sometimes they travel in
groups of a dozen at most.  Splitting into smaller groups to evade capture
by the Turanians with prearranged members of each group with orders
to return to the main band if their own group should be compromised.
The Kozaki are in many ways much more than a band of mounted bandits.  They're an army of insurgents that not even the soldiers of Turan, the greatest empire of the Hyborian age.  Has been able to completely destroy.  An army needs eyes and ears; scouts.  Someone to do reconnaissance so that group doesn't get crushed between two forces of Turanian (or for that matter Kothic, Zamorian or Shemite) cavalry.  Like metal between a hammer and anvil.  While some hetman like to do their own scouting not unlike Hannibal (yes that Hannibal) it's not always practical.  As a band can't always be relied upon to show up at a prearranged rendezvous (why kill the hetman when you can just abandon him on the steppes) and can't afford to stay in the same place for too long.  Thus outriders serve the critical role of riding out ahead of the band keeping their eyes peeled.  For oasis's/springs to water the band's horses at, possible ambushes and other dangers that could spell the Kozaki's doom.  It also sometimes helps to have someone keeping an eye on your potential target.  So you're not in for any nasty surprises when you attack it.  (That caravan doesn't actually carry any goods and there's a Turanian ambush over the next ridge). Much like the raid leader a good outrider commands special privileges, namely being ahead of the average Kozak when it comes time lay claim to any captives.  


If you had a guy like this among your band,
it'd probably be wise to worship whatever he
Howard didn't write a lot about about the Kozaki so there are lot of details that missing about them.  One of the missing details is who they worship.  Howard wrote a great deal about the religions of the Hyborian Age.  Creating such deities as Crom, Bel, Ishtar and Mitra.  So it leaves a question up in the air, who do the Kozaki worship?  Are they agnostics?  Living only for the present moment and hedonism?  Leaving the concerns of the afterlife to the priests and those who expect to live long lives?  "Plenty of time for the earth in the grave."  So to speak?  Do they like all thieves and bandits pay lip service to Bel the Shemitish god of thieves?  It seems unlikely that they'd worship Tarim/Erlik the god of their bitter enemies the Hykanian of Turan.  With some of bands having escaped Stygian slaves in their midst, do they turn to the Stygian serpent Set?  Liking the sound of his advocate of the strong devourer of the weak thing.  Or they might not like the idea of having to serve him unquestioningly.  Mitra doesn't seem a likely choice given the Kozaki's propensity for theft, lying and betrayal.  Perhaps they worship the spirits of the natives of the steppes.  A faith not unlike that of the northeastern Hyrkanians.  Whatever the case the Shaman leads this worship and possibly acts as a mixture of healer (the Kozaki trade is violence and that means wounds) and advisor to the hetman.  

Native Kozaki

A lot of Conan Games I've come across rely on character race and homeland.  The problem with the Kozaki are that they are a mixture of foreign slaves, fleeing criminals and deserting mercenaries.  Am I forgetting something?  Oh yeah and the pastoral tribes native to the steppes that they inhabit.  Howard wrote very little about these natives.  Quote, "The non-Hyrkanian dwellers of these territories are scattered, unclassified in the north, Shemitish in the south, aboriginal, with a thin strain of Hyborian blood from wandering conquerors." end quote.  From that we've gained that they are some variation of Shemite, but obviously with some cultural differences due to their different habitats.  When compared to their desert dwelling cousins.  A Native Kozaki comes from one of these tribes perhaps raised in a tradition of resisting the Turanian conquerors of their homelands.  

Red Brotherhood turned Kozak

Step 1. Acquire a ship and a crew
Step 2. Proceed to take the Turanians for everything they have
Step 3. Profit.
The Kozaki aren't the only ones giving the Turanians trouble.  The Hyrkanians have built their cities along all but the northern shore of the inland sea of Vilayet.  There's is an empire built upon trade with numerous eastern nations.  Principle of these is the importation of goods across the Vilayet from distant Khitai.  Such is the bulk of the goods imported that innumerable merchant galleys.  These galleys need to be crewed however and it is often cheaper in the long run to crew them with slaves.  (As the Turanian bazaars are famously glutted with cheap slaves).  The Turanians are cruel masters and as result it is not uncommon for slave crews to mutiny and take to the sea as pirates.  Becoming members of the Red Brotherhood, a nation of pirates known to be even more fierce in their hatred of the Turanians than the Kozaki.  Going so far as to charge Turanian Naval vessels on sight.  They fight for vengeance just as much as they fight for plunder.  Sometimes though it becomes necessary for these pirates to lay low when the Turanians start cracking down on their raids.  So every once in a while pirates will take to the steppes joining up with a Kozaki band.  Raiding with them until the Turanians start cracking down on the Kozaki, thus prompting the pirates to return to the Vilayet.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  This is concepts presents a lot of opportunities for colourful origin stories.  Such as Kushite Corsair captured by the Stygians and sold into slavery in Turan.  Only to be liberated by the Red Brotherhood and return to their life of Pirating, now with a part time job as a Kozak.  Another idea is a Barachan, Zingaran or Argossean expat that's come to the Vilayet to plunder the riches of the Empire of Turan.  Only to now have to go into hiding on the steppes after making too much of a name for themselves.

Brythunian Rescuer

Natala from The Slithering Shadow.
A typical Brythunian female who could
serve as an inspiration for this character
type's loved one.
Brythunian women are like the Hyborian Age equivalent of the Twi'leks from Star Wars.  What I mean by that is if the villain has a harem chances are he'll have at least one Brythunian slave girl in it.   Howard wrote very little about Brythunia and never wrote any stories set there.  The only things we know about the place is that the women are blonde with blue eyes and are often kidnapped into slavery.  (More often than not by Zamorian kidnappers).  After all these damn kidnappings of their women you'd think the Brythunian menfolk would get sick and tired of it.  That's exactly what the Brythunian rescuer is.  A Brythunian male who's tracked a kidnapped female loved one all the way to the slave markets of Turan.  The loved one could be his sister, daughter, wife or fiancee it doesn't matter.  Point is you've found them and fully intend to take them back home.  The problem is Turanian slave owners don't like having their property stolen from them.  (That's right property under Turanian law it doesn't matter that she's your loved one.  To the Turanians she's a slave owned by a master who is their fellow countryman.  Something you are not).  You may have been jailed or enslaved yourself as the result of a failed rescue attempt.  Only to escape to the steppes and take up with the Kozaki.  One day when the Free People (what the Kozaki prefer to call themselves) take the fight to Turan, you'll be at the forefront.  In hopes that you'll see your loved one again and take her back home to Brythunia.

Darfari Cannibal

The Darfari are a tribe of the Black Kingdoms with a fearsome reputation.  They worship a Demon known as Yog whose doctrine demands that they consume human flesh at least once a month.  That's right they're cannibals.  They file their teeth to points and use mud to style their hair into the shape of horns.  Giving them an almost demonic appearance.  You'd think with such a reputation as cannibals the peoples of the civilized Kingdoms would give them a wide berth.  You'd be wrong apparently the Stygians often capture Darfari and sell them as slaves.  (Who would ever want to who could potentially kill them and eat them in their sleep?  Search me).  As such Darfari tribesman are often found abroad, even in Turan with its slave markets.  Zamboula is actually a Turanian city where Darfari walk the streets freely.  Practicing their dark rites to Yog with impunity at night.  The idea of a Kozaki band having a Darfari in their midst is just too good to pass up.  Who should you be more afraid of the cannibal?  Or the guys who knowingly ride with one?  Few players would be willing to play a cannibal though, so maybe this particular case is reformed?  Being something like the Hyborian Age answer to Friday?

The Woman Behind the Hetman

The favourite concubine of a particularly
wealthy Kozaki hetman.
Women are rare among the Kozaki and the majority of those among them are wives, concubines, etc.  Of course the rules of membership are that anyone who can ride and fight is welcome among the ranks.  As such female characters aren't an issue, beyond occasionally having to deal with some harassment over their gender.  Every once in a while.  The Hyborian Age isn't exactly the shining beacon of sexual equality.  Three types of women often show up in Conan stories.  Ones that can hold their own in a fight (Belit, Valeria and Red Sonja), femme fatales (Salome, Thalis, Atali) and the damsels in distress.  It's the second of these archetypes that this concept deals with.  A woman of power within the band, perhaps the hetman's wife or his favourite concubine/slave girl.  She's privy to his thoughts and plans, possibly acting discreetly as an advisor.  Such subterfuge is often necessary in order to survive on the steppes.  Many times when a hetman is slain his women and children are abandoned or killed.  To prevent them from seeking vengeance for the slain husband/father.  A hetman's concubine/wife makes a point to keep him in power.  If that proves to be impossible she does whatever she can to get within the good graces of whoever takes her man's place.  Maintaining her position of power within the band by taking her place at the side of the new hetman.  This really would work better as an NPC concept but if a player wants to try playing this concept.  Hey more power to them, the Temptress Class in d20 Conan is a perfect fit for this.

Anyways that just about wraps it up for me.  I had a lot of fun writing this post and I hope you found similar enjoyment in reading it.  Thank you for tolerating my ramblings about various character ideas for Kozaki of the Steppes.  If you enjoyed this post be sure to +1, reshare, follow this blog and discuss in the comments down below.  May you roll many crits and have a nice day.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Campaigns I'll Probably Never Run: Kozaki of the Steppes

"On the broad steppes between the Sea of Vilayet and borders of the easternmost Hyborian kingdoms, a new race had sprung up in the past half-century, formed originally of fleeing criminals, broken men, escaped slaves, and deserting soldiers.  They were men of many crimes and countries, some born on the steppes, some fleeing from kingdoms in the west.  They were called kozak, which means wastrel." - The Hyborian Age by Robert E. Howard

A lot of people don't like the game made by Mongoose.
Which I can respect, but you gotta admit it has some
damn good looking art.
If any of you weren't aware I am a huge Conan the Barbarian fan.  Hell, my first official D&D character Thogetor Hawklight was a Conan expy.  More in line with the Schwarzenegger Movies from the '80s than the stories by Howard.  (At the time I had only seen the films and read the Tower of the Elephant).  Being such a huge fan of the character it has long been one of my ambitions to run a Campaign; set in Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age.  A number of factors have prevented me from achieving this goal.  One being a lack of players willing to play in such a game.  Compared to the Tolkien-esque dungeon crawls that people usually think of when you bring up Tabletop Roleplaying.  The Swords and Sorcery setting that Conan inhabits is hurting for popularity.  Another factor is that I kept wheedling about what system I'd use to run such a game.  Should I use the one from Mongoose Publishing?  Hack D&D 3.5/Pathfinder for use in the Hyborian setting?  Or use the Conan Sourcebook from GURPS?  So it seemed that my dream of a Hyborian campaign would be stuck in development hell for an indeterminate amount of time.

Now some of you regular readers have probably noticed that there's been a lot of inactivity on this blog.  Despite my promises and best efforts I've fallen behind on updating.  Rather than putting out my usual four posts a month I've ended up cutting back to two.  This has been caused by a combination of a decrease in free time and just generally feeling uninspired when I do get a chance to sit down in front of my laptop.  In short I've got writer's block and less time than I used to.  A deadly combination when you're writing.  I do feel obligated to update when I can though, so this is me trying to make up for lost time.

The Campaign

The style of game I eventually settled on.  A Kozak game.
When I first envisioned running a Conan campaign I always figured that it'd be a thieve's game.  Specifically one set in the Zamoran city of Shadizar.  A city that Howard had written notes about but never set a story in.  The idea of a running a game in a city so wicked that it's own creator never set a story in it appealed to me.  The fact that there was a great supplement written about Shadizar by Mongoose games, helped too.  I eventually lost interest in it though.  There just seemed to be no real source of conflict to a game about thieves in the most wicked city in the world.  It just lacked that something that would've made it distinctly feel like it was set in the Hyborian Age.  There're plenty of settings about playing thieves in a corrupt city.  Dungeons and Dragons probably has several of them.  I needed something more that would make it feel unique to Hyboria.  (I was a little disappointed about not playing in a Zamoran city since The Tower of the Elephant is one of my favourite Conan Stories).  My thoughts next turned to a campaign about Piracy (Queen of the Black Coast is another favourite) but again, there are several games like that in regular D&D.  That's when I remembered another favourite story of mine A Witch Shall Be Born.

It's unique in terms of Conan stories in that Conan himself is hardly in the story.  He's reduced to playing the role of the cavalry that arrives after the threat has been defeated by the other heroes.  While he does arrive late there was something about the forces he's leading that always intrigued me. He's leading an army of eleven thousand Zaugir raiders.  Little more than bandits, yet enough to be seen as a threat to a city-state and the mercenaries occupying it.  This idea of such humble forces being a legitimate threat to a government, is something that I seized upon.  From there it was just a matter of thinking on how to turn that into a game.  

The Kozaki prefer to strike against Turan but they aren't adverse to turning
their sights elsewhere.  The border regions of Zamora, Shem, Koth and its
subject kingdoms of Khauran and Khoraja are often targets of their raids.
Once I had the initial idea though it went easier than I thought it would.  The characters would be the leaders of a small band of Kozaki.  Nomadic bandits that live on the north-western steppes claimed by the Turanian Empire.  They dress and fight like the Hyrkanians/Turanians.  Riding atop horses, wielding bows, lances and scimitars.  Despite dressing in the style of their enemies, they are not of their culture.  Some were born on the steppes of Shemite stock with some Hyborian blood thrown in. Others came from as far west as Zingara, as far east as Khitai, as far North as Cimmeria and others still as far south as the lands of the Black Kingdoms.  Some were brought here as slaves, others criminals fleeing crimes in their homelands and some are just mercenaries/military deserters turned bandit.  The Kozaki or the Free People as they prefer to call themselves.  Aren't picky about who joins their ranks as long as a man displays skill at arms, horsemanship and a hatred of Turan.  He is welcome.  This willingness to take in anyone is great for a GM because his players can play whatever character race their little heart desires.  The same goes for character classes/types.  Though some roles might have a harder time fitting in than others.   The beauty of the setting though is that you can create characters that come from many walks of life.  Having been soldiers, thieves and pirates well before they were Kozaks.  Much like Conan himself.  The campaign also offers some opportunity to travel, so the characters won't always be out on the steppes.  They could visit the deserts of Shem to do some horse trading with the Zaugir.  Perhaps raid a Shemitish caravan on it's way to Aghrapur on the trip back to their homelands.  They could take a trip Shadizar (I still want to have them at least visit it once) to dispose of their ill-gotten gains.  The possibilities are endless.
  •  Take up mercenary work as caravan guards with merchants who have lost faith in the Turanian Outriders' ability to protect them from Kozak raids.  In true Roman fashion they hire barbarians to protect themselves from other barbarians.
  • Raid Turanian outposts, cities and forts.  Maybe even one day actually take one of them as their first step in carving out their own empire.  
  • Strike up a clandestine alliance with the piratical Red Brotherhood of the Vilayet Sea.  (An opportunity that occurs to me is to have them meet Valeria as their contact with the Brotherhood.  I'm aware she's a member of the other Red Brotherhood but hey if Conan can gallivant around the continent why can't she?)
  • Ally themselves with other bands of Kozaki in hopes of forming an army to face the Turanians head on.  Perhaps even a band lead by Olgerd Vladislav the former Kozaki hetman who later leads the Zaugir in A Witch Shall Be Born.  
  • Evade capture/slaughter by soldiers/mercenaries hired by the Turanians to stomp out the Kozaki.  Perhaps led by Constantius the Desert Falcon.  The Kothic Mercenary that crucified Conan in A Witch Shall Born, he makes a great villain for the players to hate.  
  • Attend an exchange of hostages at the Turanian Fort Ghori.  Exchanging Turanian prisoners for the release of their fellow Kozaki.  
Those are just a sample of the ideas that've been bouncing around in my head.  I think the concept holds a lot of promise.  Too bad I haven't found the right group to play it with.  I played with a guy in High School who always wanted to have a character that led an army.  I'm sure he would've salivated over the possibility of leading a band of raiders like the Kozaki.  Anyways, I think I've ramble long enough.  I hope you enjoyed reading this, hopefully I'll be able to write more than I have been later this month.  If you liked this post be sure to +1, re-share, follow this blog and share any opinions you have in the comments below.  Have a nice day and may you roll many crits.

Edit: I've written a sequel to this post, dealing with various character concepts that might appear in a Kozaki band.  You can find it by pressing this link.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Looting the Corpse - Cyberpunk Style

My earnest attempt to make up for February's lack of posts continues.  I was looking around for something to do when some inspiration came my way.  As some of my long time readers may know I'm a member of the Cyberpunk 2020 group on Google+, recently one of the members Jon Smejkal posted an old write up of his.  Specifically he detailed a deck of cards that he used whenever his players used to loot dead mooks in Cyberpunk 2020. Go show him some love over on his blog, he's a fan of Paul D. Gallagher famous for writing Augmented Reality.  (Click here for the PDF and here for the Dead Tree Version if you don't know what Augmented Reality is).  So he can't be all bad. I very much enjoyed some of the ideas John put forward for what you could find in someone's pockets.  I made a comment on his post in the Community about how I might use the cards with some modifications for my campaigns.  That's when he replied, that he'd love to see me post those modifications once I made them.  To be honest when I first said that it was mostly meant to be polite. Since I haven't been running a lot of Cyberpunk lately.  But then he got me thinking why not make those modifications now?  I mean with my single player busy with schoolwork it's not like I'm doing much in terms of gaming.  I've got a lot of free time on my hands, I might as well.  So here's my attempt at making a custom Loot Deck for my Cyberpunk 2020 Campaigns.

Logical place to start this kind list really.

  • 1 EB*
  • 16 EB*
  • 25 EB*
  • 64 EB* 
  • 81 EB* 
  • 144 EB* 
  • 169 EB*
  • 254 EB*
  • 289 EB*
  • 400 EB*
*I used EB because it's in the official Rulebook, but this could easily be Credits, NuYen or GURPS Dollars whatever your favourite Cyberpunk system uses.  I personally use Credits.  If the numbers seems kind of random, don't worry they're supposed to be that way.  I wanted to simulate how people never seem to have a logical amount of money on them except when leaving the bank.  If you want to simulate this even more remove on EB from the amount given and roll 1d100.  This can be in Credstick or Cash form, your choice.

  • Car keys.  (Vehicle may be the dead group of mooks getaway vehicle or maybe off-site your choice). 
  • Pack of Non-Cancerous Cigarettes (1d20 left, let's face it Smoking's cool dying of cancer isn't.  So in my setting most Tobacco companies have removed the carcinogenic elements from their products.  Extra points if you take a page from Gibson's book and have them be Chinese.
  • 1d6+2 Doses of Street Drug (If you use Ocelot's Drug Lab like I do your typical Drug addict needs at least four doses to make it through the day). 
  • Deck of Cards or Pair of Dice roll 1d6 to decide which. (Even in the age of phone games there's nothing like shooting the shit before a job over a game of dice or cards). 
  • Key to Housing (May get you into a shitty cube in the Combat Zone or maybe into a Corporate Dormitory.  Maybe you could burglarize it for more stuff, use it as a temporary warehouse or just sell the key on the black market so some other guy can burglarize it.  If only you knew where the guy lived).
  • Cellphone (1d100 percent Battery Power, most likely a Prepaid Burner). 
  • Business Cards (May be plot-relevant, may just be for the local strip-club or escort service). 
  • Cigarette Lighter (1d100 percent fluid left) 
  • Matchbook (1d10 matches left, I put two methods of lighting your smokes in hopes that the poor sap will have kind of light).  
  • Lottery Ticket (In Night City this would be LateNite BodyLotto, in my setting this might be an official lottery or the local Numbers Game.  Roll 1d1000 twice if the same number comes up twice you've got a winner.  Good luck trying to collect though.
  • Skillsoft Chip +3 (1-4 chance on d6 that it's for the predominant language of the local area, 5-6 it's an incredibly detailed Tourist Map, giving a bonus to Area Knowledge).
  • Pen (even in the Cyberpunk Future People need to write stuff down)
  • Phone Number hastily scrawled on a scrap of paper.
  • Swiss Army Knife or Multi-Tool 
  • 3D Printed Vending Machine Pistol (Probably a .22 or .25 caliber, useful for point-blank assassinations and last minute self-defence against unarmored targets and not much else). 
  • Small Notebook (40% chance it contains notes about the plan of attack against the PCs, otherwise it's something personal.  Grocery list, love poem, etc.  Let your imagination run wild a little if they really seize upon it).
  • Sunglasses (Following Cyberpunk Tradition they are probably mirror-shades).
  • Small Piece of Cheap Jewelry (Chains, Earrings, maybe a Wedding Band if you want to make the players feel bad). 
  • Absolutely nothing! (To quote Scott Pilgrim "Wow what a jerk.")
  • Wireless Earbud Headphones (If the corpse has a phone on it, there's probably music on the phone.  It seems that every corpse the PCs loot has lousy taste in Music).  
  • Package of Snack Food (10% chance it's full, otherwise the porker ate it all.  Future equivalent of Skittles or a bag of peanuts). 
  • Snack Bar (%90 chance it's just an empty wrapper, otherwise you've got yourself the equivalent of a Snickers or a Granola Bar). 
  • Pocket Sized Photograph (Sentimental or perhaps it's a mugshot of a target.  The PC or an NPC Macguffin they're in charge of would do nicely). 
  • Hip Flask (10% it's been drained dry, might explain why the guy's now dead.  Otherwise you just scored yourself some free liquor). 
  • Slightly Pornographic Magazine (He's just reading it for the articles, honest.  50% chance the centrefold's been torn out). 
  • Braindance or VR Chip (Never something complex, essentially the equivalent of a Dating Sim for a Handheld Console.  At least in terms of complexity).
  • Miniature Cybertech Toolkit (Used for personal maintenance). 
  • Small Book of Crossword Puzzles (roll 1d100 to determine percentage of completion). 
  • Small Box of Unopened Condoms (He's not gonna need them anymore). 
  • Bottle of Medicine (Pills might be for allergies, insomnia or a host of other mundane medical problems.  Could probably get you high, about enough for one dose). 
There you have it my attempt at making a deck of cards for when the players loot the body in Cyberpunk.  What I have here amounts to about a deck of Forty which is about what Jon had for his.  I figured I'd restrict myself to the same limit, it falls just short of your standard deck of cards.  There's plenty of things here that might add some colour to when your characters loot corpses after a gunfight.  When they loot, just draw 6 cards and that's what they get.  Some of it they might find a use for, other stuff has no real use other than when fenced.  (I actually quite like the food entries myself, it's something you could describe your character munching on the deadman's snack.  Hey killing people's hungry work).  I might construct a deck of cards with these entries on Roll20 for use in my own games.  I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did while writing it.  Hopefully it's of some use to you, it kind of took a Film Noir bent to it in hindsight.  I probably shouldn't be surprised since for me part of the appeal of Cyberpunk is it being Film Noir in a Dark Future.  If you liked this be sure to +1, re-share and follow this blog for more, posts like this.  As always have a nice day and may you roll many crits, I'll see you later.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

GURPS: Hellraisers MC - A Campaign I'll Probably Never Run

With the Actual Play reports on hold until the GM of my current game is done with her semester.  It looks like I'll be writing more about Campaign ideas like I used to when I first started this Blog.  My updates were few and far between in February.  For that I apologize, I've always prided myself on updating regularly.  In terms of posts February 2018 was probably the least productive months in the history of Stories and Other Such Distractions.  Hopefully it never happens again short of author burnout, sickness or death.  I take great pride in what I do here and feel obligated to put out content on a regular basis.  So with that in mind here's an idea for a Campaign that's been kicking around in my head for a bit.

I've had a sort of love, hate relationship with GURPS ever since I discovered it.  On the one hand I loved the idea of a System that conceivably run any Campaign or Character I could cook up.  I also very much loved its Third Edition Sourcebooks which I found to be a great resource for numerous campaigns I've thought about running.  On the other hand though I wasn't too crazy about the System itself. It struck me as complex, almost Byzantine.  Requiring to look through the rule book time and time again to find specific rules to cover certain things.  Which for quite a bit of my Role-playing career was rather daunting considering I was mostly just starting out.  That aspect sort of scared me off of actually using the ruleset, instead restricting myself to running other more familiar ones.  While using the Fluff in various Third Edition Sourcebooks as reference material.  (Example: Using the Old West Sourcebook for a Western Campaign).  It wasn't until I grew older that I realized "You don't have to use all the rules.", which is kind of obvious in hindsight.  But honestly hindsight is the only part of my vision that is 20/20.  I still shied away from it due to a lack of familiarity with the actual mechanics and rules.  Over the past few weeks though I've been leafing through various Sourcebooks and it's gotten me excited to try it at least once.  But what would the subject matter be?  It was a question that had me wracking my brains out for quite some time.

Getting My Answer

Where my answer eventually came from.
Recently an acquaintance I know from over on YouTube and Discord turned me onto a TV show.  A show that I had heard off but honestly had had no real interest in.  Until this friend pushed me to watch it.  "You're into the Mafia and Organized Crime right, you'll love this show."  Is pretty much the words she used to convince me to watch it.  Once I did I was hooked, I'm still watching it whenever I can find the time.  The show I'm talking about is Sons of Anarchy.  Hamlet dressed up as Hell's Angels.  The show's been off the air for about six years now, which is ancient by TV time.  Why had I not seen it?  Number of reasons.  I'm not really into Motorcycle culture, honestly before watching SOA I probably couldn't have told you the difference between a Harley and a Kawasaki.  I also was put off by the exotic grunginess of Outlaw Bikers, it was a world very different from the Italian American Mafia.  That I was so used to reading about.  After a while of watching it though I began to see how this could be used for a very interesting and different Campaign.  

Choosing a System

This very nearly ended up being the campaign.
Now I knew I wanted to run an Outlaw Biker game, centred around the illegal activities of a Club.  The problem was coming up with a System that would support that kind of a game.  GURPS was on the table from the start, but it almost didn't end up being picked.  Other systems I considered my personal favourite Cyberpunk 2020 (modified for a Modern-Day setting of course) and Classic World of Darkness.  Cyberpunk was tempting because I am intimately familiar with the system.  But I ultimately didn't choose it because I feel I rely too much on it.  I wanted to use a new system for this. Classic World of Darkness was another tempting
This guy could very much have been an NPC if I'd stuck with the
World of Darkness idea.
choice, because the thirteen year old inside of my head loved the idea of Vampire Bikers!  Or Werewolf Bikers or Monster-Hunting Bikers depending on which lens I decided to put the WOD system through.  It very nearly ended up being the course that the game took.  An interesting piece I found while I did my research was this thread here.  Discussing a Vampire the Masquerade game about a Club of Sabbat Neonate Bikers.  A number of factors kept me from using Classic World of Darkness though.  One was the fact that I didn't want to run a 70s Exploitation Film, I wanted to run Goodfellas on Harley's.  The Second factor was an unfamiliarity with World of Darkness' Storytelling System.  So that put the kibosh on the idea that my inner thirteen year old was salivating over.  Ultimately it was back to GURPS, now it was just a matter of figuring out how to put it all together.

Figuring out Character Creation

Statting up guys like this is a lot harder than it
Now I know that GURPS is a little more free-form in terms of Character Creation when compared to D&D.  I personally like to have a little structure so my players have an idea what I expect for characters they create.  Which is why I love the Templates for GURPS, hell one of my favourite series of GURPS sourcebooks is the World War 2 line.  Which for Third Edition had the most Templates out of any of the one's I read.  Though I'm pretty sure that's changed with Fourth Edition.  So I set out in search of a Template to help inform character creation choices.  The closest I came to was the Nomad template from GURPS After the End: Wastelanders.  Which didn't quite work, since it focuses more on wasteland survival than being a criminal.  I was about to give up my search when I found this post by one Mook over at Game Geekery.  I can't thank him enough, while it's not quite what I'm looking for.  It was more of a baseline than I had when I started.  Be sure to go over there and show him some love.  With a base-line in place I could figure out how the hell I was going to go about creating something that resembled a guideline for character creation for this game.  I still needed a little something more though.  I needed to figure out what the players would get from being part of the club.  Thanks to one of the lesser known GURPS Sourcebooks Boardrooms and Curia I was able to do just that.  Basically it allowed me to work out a stat-block for the Outlaw Motorcycle Club I wanted the characters to be a part of.  Including their point cost as Patrons, Enemies, what Advantages their Members typically have.  All that good stuff.  It gave me a guideline that looked something like this.  

Point Total: 200 just between Heroes (or rather Villains) starting out and those that've established themselves.
Attributes: Maximum 14 in Any Stat, I'd encourage only spending a maximum of 130 points total for Stats.
Advantages: Claim to Hospitality (Any other Chapter) [10], Organized Crime Rank* [2 per level], Patron (The Club, appears almost all the time) [30], Signature Gear (Club Cutaway and Bike)** [2].  Combat Reflexes and High Pain Threshold would be wise investments as would any non-supernatural Advantage.  If the player wanted it I'd be willing to at least consider it.
Disadvantages: Duty (To the Club, on 12 or less) [-10], Enemy (Law Enforcement; FBI, ATF, Police you name it, 9 or less), Social Stigma -1 (Biker treat as Criminal) [-5].  Members are also expected to have Code of Honour (Biker same as Pirate's) [-5] though it's kind of hard to enforce what a person actually thinks.  Other than those the players are allowed to choose up to a total of 55 more points (if they took the Code of Honour it becomes 50)  of disadvantages.
Skills: Guns (Pistol, SMG, Shotgun and Rifle), Melee, an unarmed fighting Skill of some kind, Streetwise, Savoir-Faire (Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs), Drive (Motorcycle), Heraldry (Cuts) are all musts.  From there it's free-reign.  Though suggestions include Mechanic (Gasoline Engine), Area Knowledge (State), Merchant and some manner of Social Skill.  (Intimidate and Fast Talk being solid choices).  

 *Just for reference the Ranking for Motorcycle Clubs works out something like this.
0 = Prospect or Probate Member
1 = Fully Patched Member
2 = Chapter Officer (VP, Sergeant at Arms, Secretary/Treasurer or Road Captain)
3 = Chapter President or National Enforcer
4 = National/Regional Vice President
5 = National President

**Also a little explaining the Rulebook defines Signature Gear as being items that are part of your Legend.  For Han Solo it was the Millennium Falcon, for King Arthur it was Excalibur.  For Outlaw Bikers it's their Cutaway (the Leather or Denim vest that displays their Club's colours) and their Hogs or Bikes.  

Speaking of Cuts I have an idea of what I want the one for the Club in this Campaign to look like.  The name of the Club would be The Hellraisers (no relation to the patch pictured, which I found in a lucky Image search I came up with the name after the Ozzy Osbourne Song) using the Colour scheme from the patch with the matching name.  Though replacing the logo with some more resembling the Black Riders logo.  A skeleton dressed as a Biker, wreathed in hell-fire with a Whiskey Bottle in one hand, while he brandishes a sawed-off shotgun in the other.  (According to the dictionary a hell-raiser is "a person who causes trouble by drinking, being violent, or otherwise behaving outrageously" nothing says violent, drunken or outrageous to me more than a skeleton drinking whiskey, brandishing a shotgun, dressed as biker. The font would be changed a little to one called Fire-Starter which you can see an example of on the right.  Also the bottom Rocker wouldn't say San Andreas, it'd probably say something else.  Maybe California.

The Elevator Pitch

"You guys are members of the California Chapter of the Hellraisers Outlaw Motorcycle Club.  A group of violent, hard-drinking, drug-dealing and gun-running bikers.  Over the course of the game you'll deal with Law Enforcement crackdowns and other criminal groups encroaching on your turf."  That's roughly what the campaign pitch would be in general.  More would have to be worked out after the group sat down for a Session Zero where'd we'd create characters.  Figure out such specifics as whether they're just rank and file members, officers within their own chapter or the Mother Chapter of the whole Club.  I do have some ideas of what kind of illegal activities I'd want the Club to be involved in.  Where the characters would fit into those activities would be figured out during the Session 0.  Oh yeah I should probably have mentioned that there is a content-warning for this game.  
Warning this Campaign contains instances of:
- Violence
- Drug & Alcohol Abuse (that includes Tobacco) 
- Suggestive Sexual Situations
- Political Incorrectness & Foul Language (These are Bikers after all) 
If you are offended any of the content listed above, consider yourself warned.

I think that about wraps it up for me.  Considering that I'm kind of jonesing for a game, I might actually try to see if I could put it together over at Roll20.  If you're interested don't hesitate to show your interest in the comments, down below.  Be sure to +1, reshare and follow this Blog.  As always have a nice day and may the dice be ever in your favour.