[Call of Cthulhu] Jacob Ruppert

It's time for another installment of Digital Shoebox, the series where I post a complete, usable character, both for my own archives and so that you, dear reader, might take it and make of it what you will.

Past entries have featured characters intended for use by players, but this week's entry is presented instead as a resource for game masters. Specifically Keepers, as we venture into the realms of Call of Cthulhu with a most unusual potential patron...

Our man is Jacob Ruppert, the real-life owner of the New York Yankees from 1915 to 1939. (Technically, he was co-owner of the team from 1915 to 1922 with the intriguingly-named Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston.) 

Baseball aficionados will know that Ruppert is one of the most significant owners in the game's professional history, taking a marginal also-ran team and building it into an unstoppable franchise, inaugurating a tradition of excellence that continues to this day. It was Ruppert who acquired Babe Ruth for the team, who built Yankees Stadium, who oversaw the developments of the "Murderer's Row" and "Bronx Bombers" lineups.

What people may not be aware of are Ruppert's singular personal eccentricities.

Born in 1867, Ruppert was the grandson of German immigrants. In spite of the fact that he was raised in New York City, Ruppert spoke with a thick German accent his entire life. (It is often remarked that pronounced Babe Ruth's name as "Root," for example--he addressed everyone by their last names.) His father ran the massive Ruppert Brewery, located in Manhattan's Upper East Side and sprawling over three city blocks, from which Ruppert inherited his millions. He served in the National Guard, eventually rising to the rank of Colonel, and was elected by the Tammany Hall machine as a Democratic Congressman for four terms (1899-1907), but otherwise devoted his life to beer and baseball.

A great collector of ephemera and exotica, the unmarried Ruppert filled his massive mansion with books and art, particularly jade carvings, as well as animals: dogs, horses, and what was called "America's finest collection of small monkeys," in the words of Harvey Frommer.

Ruppert maintained a second home, a 400-acre estate, in Garrison, New York (on the Hudson across from West Point). Within the stony walls of that stately home, Ruppert set up a room--a shrine, really--devoted to his dear, departed Mutti, Anna, after she died in 1924. The room was kept stocked with everything Anna Ruppert would need in the event she came back to life.

So there's that.

Also of note is Ruppert's deep interest in exploration. He helped bankroll Richard Byrd's 1933 Antarctic expedition, providing one of the steamships (modestly christened the Jacob Ruppert) that took the expedition to the chilly shores of that icy continent.

Ruppert has obvious utility as a patron for player-characters interested in expeditions to foreign lands; in particular, he will be interested in acquiring rare and valuable jade relics. He may be inserted as a direct or associated sponsor for any published campaign expedition (including the infamous Carlisle Expedition), or as an interested party.

Then there is the matter of his maternal shrine in Garrison. What books sit lowering in the darker recesses of Ruppert's library? Perhaps works on necromancy and re-animation of the dead? Or is the shrine merely the sign of a lonely man isolated by his wealth and perennial bachelorhood? Ruppert could equally make for an unlikely sorcerous villain for New York-based campaigns or a fun, innocently eccentric red herring for any baseball fans in your group.

And, lastly, just what on Earth did Ruppert need all those small monkeys for?

Statistics

JACOB RUPPERT, Eccentric Millionaire

STR 55 CON 60 SIZ 75 DEX 40 INT 85
APP 40 POW 80 EDU 73 SAN 80* HP 13

* Lower if Ruppert is indeed a sorcerer.

Damage bonus +1D4 Build 1 Move 4

Fighting (Brawl) 45%, damage 1D3+1D4
Firearms (Rifle/Shotgun) 60%
Firearms (Handgun) 50%
Dodge 40%
Armor: None.

Skills: Accounting 65%, Animal Handling 40%, Appraise 50%, Archaeology 20%, Credit Rating 95%, Fast Talk 25%, History 30%, Intimidate 35%, Language (English) 35%, Language (German) 70%, Law 30%, Library Use 30%, Mechanical Repair 20%, Natural World 35%, Occult 25%, Persuade 80%, Psychology 55%, Ride 40%, Spot Hidden 50%.

  • Keepers who so wish could make room on Ruppert's library shelves for one or two books of Mythos or occult lore. Suitable choices include The Emerald TabletThe Golden Bough, The Key of SolomonMalleus MaleficarumThaumaturgical Prodigies in the New-England CanonTrue Magick, and Unaussprechlichen Kulten.
  • If Ruppert is a necromancer, he should also own a copy of Cultes des Goules, although he will not keep it in a publicly-accessible place. He will also be limited by his lack of proficiency with the French language. Presumably, the book sits near a French-German or French-English dictionary and a dog-eared notebook. Keepers should feel free to give him as many or as few spells from that dark tome as they feel is reasonable for his years of diligent translation.

[Savage Rifts] Gregor the Crazy

It's time for another Digital Shoebox entry! This is the series where I post a complete, usable character, both for my own archives and so that you, dear reader, might take it and make of it what you will.

Today's entry is a bit of a departure from the usual model. Although Gregor is "my" character, I did not make him. This is because whenever Sean Patrick Fannon runs a demo of Savage Rifts, he lets his players keep their sheets with the explicit understanding that these are now persistent characters in his campaign world; should the player ever sit down to play in another of Fannon's games, the player can bring that character back in. And, with his kind permission, I'm posting a transcription of the sheet here.

(This idea strikes me as a fun ode to the earliest days of the hobby--or, more recently, FLAILSNAILS--when players could take their favorite D&D characters from one DM's table to another, amassing items and experience that counted for all future games.)

I showed up at the session right before it was due to start after receiving a summons from Sean Tait Bircher of the Wine and Savages blog, so the other players had already made their selections from a pile of pre-generated characters. I was pleased to see that a Crazy was still available, as it has always been one of my favorite O.C.C.s while also being one of those most in need of fixing--I was quite curious to see how Crazies would play in Savage Rifts.

I'm happy to report that I think a sweet spot was located. Gregor complemented the party's Juicer, Rod Gritt, while still maintaining his own distinctive niche (gotta love those grenades!) and personality.

GREGOR, Crazy

Novice (0 points*)

* I received 5 Experience Points at the end of the session, but am waiting to make my Advance until after the Savage Rifts PDFs come out.

Agility d10
Smarts d6
Spirit d6
Strength d10
Vigor d10

Climbing d6+2
Fighting d10
Investigation d4
Notice d6+2
Psionics d6
Shooting d8
Stealth d6
Streetwise d8
Taunt d6
Throwing d8
Tracking d4

Charisma: 0
Pace: 12"
Parry: 8(7*)
Toughness: 12(5)
I.S.P: 10

* Gregor is at -1 to Parry when using his Chainsword.

Hindrances
Unstable Psyche (Delusional, Major)
Heroic
Loyal
Stubborn

Edges
Acrobat (+2 related Agility)
Arcane Background (Psionics)
Frenzy (2 melee attacks @ -2)
Gun Nut (Can use guns while Losing It, +2 Shooting)
Quick

Powers
Confusion
Deflection
Telepathy

Wilk's 447 Rifle, Wilk's 237 Pistol, Chain Greatsword, SFD Huntsman Armor, NG-S2 Survival Pack, 4 AP Grenades, 6 Frag Grenades, 4 HE Grenades, 2 Plasma Grenades, 700 Credits

Heroic Journey Rolls

Narrative Hook: Siege of Tolkeen
Psionics: Spend a Bennie to substitute Spirit for any Trait roll
Weapons: Grenades--always start a session with 1d4 Frag Grenades
Training: 1 Combat Edge (Frenzy)
Close Combat Weapons: Great Chainsword
Underworld & Black Ops: Streetwise d8, Forgery (Common Knowledge +2)

Other Notes

  • Losing It:  Go Berserk (+2 Fighting, Damage, Toughness; -2 to Parry; Ignore Wound Levels) at will as an Action. Also Fearless for duration.
  • Getting It Together: Shake off "Losing It" condition; Smarts roll at -2. All Trait rolls suffer a -2 (due to wracking guilt, depression, fears, delusions, etc.) for a duration dependant on the outcome of the Smarts roll: 24 hours (Critical Failure), 1d6 hours (Failure), 1d10x10 minutes (Success), 1d6 minutes (Raise).
  • Bio-Regeneration: Natural healing roll once per day.
  • Enhanced Speed: Pace is doubled (factored in).
  • Enhanced Strength: Increase Strength by two die types (factored in). No maximum.
  • Heightened Senses: Investigation, Notice, and Tracking rolls are at +2. Ignore the first two points of Range Penalties (no penalty at Medium, -2 at Long).
  • Minor Psychic: Factored in.
  • Super Endurance: Increase Vigor by two die types (factored in). No maximum. Only half-normal amount of sleep required. All Fatigue resistance rolls are at +4.
  • Super Reflexes: Increase Agility by two die types (factored in). No maximum. Uncanny Refelxes (-2 to be hit in combat). Quick Edge (factored in).
  • Distinctive Appearance: M.O.M. implants, tattoos, piercings, etc.
  • Needs Action: During "slow" times, make a Spirit roll. Failure means -2 Charisma and -1 all Trait rolls (presumably until things pick up again).

Analysis

Playing Gregor was a lot of fun, and I can see how getting to play a Crazy over the course of a campaign would be even more interesting and rewarding.

The name "Gregor" just popped in my head, so I went with it. I gave him a comical Russian accent based on his having seen pre-Rifts footage of the wrestler Nikolai Volkoff--I figure Gregor is actually just a run-of-the-mill farmboy from Iowa, but he thinks he's actually a Soviet soldier.

Every Crazy starts with a Major Delusion, and Gregor's strange personality was how I represented it. Sean said that he had one play tester decide that his Crazy saw the whole world like a Disney cartoon. You can't really beat that!

This iteration of Crazies reminds me a lot of the "boosted vets" in the Underground RPG, and I love that (particularly since I always wanted to play Underground but could never get into the Mayfair house system).

I decided that when Gregor is "getting it together," his natural Loyal and Heroic Hindrances are magnified, turning him into something of a mother hen who dotes on his companions and tries to solve everyone's problems. Fun stuff.

And this was all coming out of making stuff up on the fly on an empty stomach. There's a lot of potential for fun with Delusions and Losing It with a bit more thought, I'm sure.

(An interesting note on Losing It: it's pretty much in the Crazy's best interest to indulge every combat. Combined with "Getting It Together" penalties afterwards, this means the Crazy is going to be swinging wildly between hyper-competence in combat and crippling penalties outside. It'll be a rare time, I'm sure, that a Crazy isn't under the effects of some sort of bonus or penalty!)

Astute readers will have noted the "Heroic Journey" section. This is one of the elements of Savage Rifts I'm most excited about. Not only do you get some instant baked-in background ("Siege on Tolkeen"--interesting!) but you also get a suite of randomly-determined equipment and other goodies that have a real mechanical effect on your character. I can't wait to pore over all the tables and write some additional entries of my own.

All in all, a most satisfying treatment of one of my favorite classes!

Digital Shoebox: "Ten Dogs" Tse, Demon Hunter (Savage Worlds)

For my first Digital Shoebox character, I thought it would be fun to do an ad-hoc Savage Worlds conversion of the Demon Hunter O.C.C. (Occupational Character Class) from Palladium's Mystic China sourcebook. As with any SW conversion, I'm aiming to capture the feel of the source material rather than do a line-for-line conversion. This character will also give me a chance to see how SW handles martial arts, always of perennial interest to me in an RPG system. (To that end, I'll be referencing the Deadlands Player's Guide--and the free "Player's Guide to the Flood" PDF--for extra options beyond those presented in the Savage Worlds Deluxe core rules.)

As usual for a Palladium product, my read-through of Mystic China has been marked by equal parts frustration and inspiration. The inspiration for this character came from the O.C.C. write-up:

If there was a job posting for a Demon Hunter, it would look something like this:
Wanted: Loud-Mouthed Big-Muscled Jerk. In need of someone who takes risks, bets against the odds, and is a good loser. Must be obnoxious, capable of blustering and/or pleading for mercy but also charming and fast-talking. 
Criminal record of gambling, drunkenness, vandalism and carousing required; skill with confidence games (i.e. "Con Artist") a plus. Please, no one with moral or ethical compunctions need apply, yet applicant must be ultimately honest in outlook and practice, and completely resistant to threats, bribery, coercion or blackmail. No job security, unpleasant travelling conditions, and very little hope of monetary compensation.
Of course there are no such advertisements. Demon Hunters hunt demons because they love doing it. It's the ultimate challenge, putting mountain-climbing, bungee-jumping, and alligator-wrestling to shame.

Fantastic! I'm always a fan of Bruce-Campbell-style characters. But what really sold me on the character concept was this bit:

Demon Hunter Finances: Overall, the Demon Hunter's finances waver somewhere between disaster and calamity. No matter how much they make, it seems like they're always spending/losing more. The fact that Demon Hunters don't really live for the future means they have a nasty habit of borrowing money from loan sharks.
[...]
Income: None. If worse comes to worst and no work is available, the Demon Hunter can always fall back on dish washing in a restaurant for $250 per week.

I immediately pictured this character at the start of a campaign as working in the steamy, blistering confines of a tiny kitchen in a dim sum palace in Hong Kong or San Francisco, annoying the bejeezus out of his coworkers as he talked a constant stream of shit from behind his pile of dirty dishes. Little do his irate colleagues realize that this guy is merely killing time while he waits to hear of the latest morsels of demonic activity in his local area. Or perhaps this is where the other PCs find him as they go about "getting the band back together" to take down a Yama King?

With this vision in mind, I sat down to make the character...

SHI GOU ("Ten Dogs") TSE, Demon Hunter

Veteran (50 Experience Points)

Agility d8
Smarts d8
Spirit d8
Strength d6
Vigor d6

Fighting d8
Gambling d6
Guts d8
Intimidation d6
Investigation d6
Knowledge (Occult) d6
Notice d6
Streetwise d6
Taunt d8

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6"
Parry: 6
Toughness: 5
Power Points: 20

Hindrances
Arrogant (Major)
Big Mouth (Minor)
Poverty (Minor)

Edges
Martial Artist
Arcane Background (Chi Mastery)
Feet of Fury (Spin Kick)

Powers
Demon Snare (Entangle) d8
I-Ching Mirror (Banish) d8

Lion's Head Sword ($200) Str+d6, Bedroll and Normal Clothes, $5 cash

Analysis

I used the random Chinese name generator in Mystic China to come up with Ten Dogs' name. It seemed quite fitting, considering the somewhat dodgy aspect of his concept.

I also decided to make Ten Dogs a Veteran so that I could play around with his Edges and Powers a little. Seasoned would've worked as well, but I really wanted that "Feet of Fury" Edge, and it's Veterans only!

For such a loud-mouth braggart, it's interesting that his Charisma is still 0. I considered taking something that would give a Charisma penalty, but at the end of the day I still wanted him to be ultimately likable.

The Powers granted by Chi Mastery nicely reflect the equipment effects given in the original O.C.C. write-up. Speaking of which, the bulk of the text there is advice on how to permanently defeat demons through subterfuge and trickery: challenging them to a gambling contest, outwitting their egos, or simply tickling them into submission(!). So I made sure to give Ten Dogs a nice selection of skills to support that type of "demon hunting"--stuff like Gambling, Intimidation, and Taunt. I also included the optional Guts skill, as I figured any campaign revolving around demons would (and should!) feature it.

I elected not to give Ten Dogs a formal martial arts style, as the O.C.C. specifically mentions Demon Hunters being too intractable and distractible to master a single form, instead developing their own, magpie-like, by borrowing from a bunch of different styles.

Making a Savage Worlds character, even at Veteran level, is always an exercise in compromise and resource management. All in all, I'm extremely happy with how Ten Dogs turned out, and would love to play him in a Big Trouble in Little China-style campaign!

Old Habits

I love gaming with folks who are new to the hobby.

Not only is it a lot of fun to vicariously experience their thrill of discovering this new thing that they love doing, but it often serves as an interesting reminder of how I was when I was first starting out. This includes old habits that perhaps were unfairly allowed to lapse.

I've got a player in my Sunday group who loves making characters. For example, during our run of the Great Pendragon Campaign, she spent a day while she was sick in bed simply rolling up all the knights in her extended family. (This had the practical benefit of providing her with a pool of backup characters that lasted the rest of the campaign.)

As enjoyable as it's been to see her enthusiasm on display from afar, it's also reminded me that I used to be just like her. I used to roll up or design characters just for the fun of it. I even developed a filing system (of sorts), keeping them in an old shoebox that eventually turned into a general archive of papers from campaigns of my youth (and which I still have to this day!).

Making characters for fun isn't just a great way to spend a sick day, either. It teaches you the system. It provides you with a stock collection of characters to use either as a player or GM. It familiarizes you with the setting. It fires creativity.

In the spirit of reconnecting with old habits, I'm going to start making characters just for the fun of it and posting them here on this blog, my very own "digital shoebox." (Please feel free to steal said characters and use them as you wish.)

Another old habit I'm trying to reconnect with, inspired by recent musings on Palladium's Mystic China sourcebook, is reading gaming books with no ulterior motive. This is something else I used to do all the time, and something that fell by the wayside as busy adulthood asserted itself. But I once again find myself with a compelling reason to read widely of gaming books: as a professional creator, it's important for me to examine what other people are writing, and how they write it.

This part may not translate into blog posts quite as clearly as my character creation project, but I imagine I will occasionally be inspired to write about something or other based on stuff that I read.

Stay tuned!