[Savage RIFTS] Messin' with Texas

I'm continuing to scheme and postulate regarding how I'm going to present "my" version of the world of RIFTS when the Savage Worlds version drops (in PDF form) this summer.

In my last post, I started big by discussing my take on the Megaverse and promised a follow-up post detailing an overview of the situation in North America. I'm going to push that particular post to next week, however, and instead dial things even further down to just talking about a region of North America. Specifically: where I'm planning on setting my initial campaigns.

But first, a short digression...

A few years ago, I ventured to produce my own North America map, showing the more radical sea-level rise I feature in my world (I mean, you can't have a whole new continent show up in the middle of the Atlantic and only expect to lose parts of Louisiana and Florida...). Going back to that map, however, I was disappointed to see that I kept some of the idiosyncracies of the original Rifts maps in terms of political boundaries.

Specifically, I'm looking at the Lone Star and Pecos Empire borders. After a 300-year Dark Age, massive geophysical upheaval, and the rise of brand-new political entities, there is simply no way the Texas Panhandle border would've remained intact.

This was of particular concern to me in the here-and-now because Texas is going to form the locus of my campaign region: you've got the Coalition State of Lone Star (and all those lovely mutant animals!), you've got the bandit kingdom of Pecos and the Free Lands promising some lovely Mad Max-style action, you've got the Gulf Coast if you want to bring in some Horune Pirates...and, of course, just over the Rio Grande, you've got the Vampire Kingdoms.

Thus, I sat down with a Rand-McNally map of Texas that helpfully included all those surrounding regions (and a bit more!) and started re-working coastlines and borders. I had two main goals in mind:

1) Have the political borders conform to more "natural" boundaries; things like rivers, the edges of mountain ranges and plateaux, even old Interstates (which will be long-gone by now but would have been around long enough to leave their mark, as it were). I wanted to avoid artificial, "surveyed" borders as much as possible, as it just doesn't seem in keeping with the rough-and-tumble post-post-apocalyptic world of Rifts.

2) Incorporate New Mexico into the region! In addition to the plain old illogical nature of the old west Texas borders remaining intact, as a New Mexico resident I'm somewhat irked that yet again my beloved state gets overlooked. The world of Rifts has write-ups for states and locations in Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, but apparently New Mexico is nothing but howling wilderness. I'm not buying it.

With those goals in mind, here's what I came up with as a "good enough for rock & roll" draft sufficient to get me grounded in where things are in relation to each other:

The Pecos Empire (the big red blob) is now worthy of its name, stretching from the rowdy biker town of San Antonio all the way up along the stretch of land between the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers and terminating at the frontier town of Burque. This forms a nice buffer zone for the State of Lone Star from the depredations of the wild vampires of Mexico, adding a nice gloss to the relationship between the two states.

And speaking of Lone Star (the purple blob), I've kept the state's central axis (running from Amarillo to the Lone Star Complex itself), but shifted the borders west, so that the state essentially sits upon the Llano Estacado ("Staked Plains"--a nice little pun for a region so close to vampire territory!). Having driven through eastern New Mexico and west Texas plenty of times, I can attest that this region is very much its own holistic entity, regardless of the artificial state boundary that currently bisects it on maps.

Other fun details have emerged as I've gone over the original road map and compared it to the new boundaries: Houston lies beneath the waves, and Nacogdoches is practically a seaside town! There was room to place the CS State of El Dorado (the blue blob) on the map, and so I did, centering the eponymous settlement on the former site of a pre-rifts town called Hope...

As I said, this is the roughest of maps, and I'll likely be working up something with a bit more polish to use in my games. But this is a good jumping-off point for now, and gives me a solid base to talk about North America in general next week (I promise!).

[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!

[Con Report] Chupacabracon III

Okay. After driving 22 hours and 1,400 miles over a 72-hour period, I have returned from Austin's own Chupacabracon and am here to provide the gory details.

(Actually, the con was thankfully quite gore-free, being instead filled with lots of gaming and talk of gaming and more gaming.)

This was only the second gaming con I've ever attended (Gen Con 2015 being my first) and was my first "regional" con. The scale proved quite the contrast to Gen Con's monolithic excess. For one thing, I was actually able to stay on site at the con, a trip from the convention hall to my room taking, at most, five minutes. What a concept! I was able to easily drop in on games and seminars alike. Hell, even the Celebrity Game Professionals in attendance dropped in on things; Ken Hite showed up in the audience at one panel to just hang out and occasionally heckle the folks at the front of the room. This was the same panel that John Wick, wandering past the open door to the room, decided to "crash" (his words) as a panel member while he finished up a plate of grits and bacon.

If this implies a certain level of loose accessibility, then you are picking up what I'm putting down. I had brief but productive conversations with Mr. Wick himself, Shane Ivey of Arc Dream Publishing, Jodi Black of Pinnacle Entertainment Group, and Sean Patrick Fannon, late of the Savage Rifts project/behemoth.

The panels, too, were more like upper-division college seminars, with audience numbers being only slightly greater than the number of panelists! There was a nice level of back-and-forth interaction with the audience, and a very loose and open approach to running the seminars. I think my favorite was the "Inclusivity and Diversity" panel, which was thoughtfully moderated by Kevin G. Nunn; the only frustrating element there was the fact that, at only an hour in length, there was really only enough time to merely touch on the changing face of the gaming hobby and bring up some important talking points to take home and muse about.

The highlight of the con for me, though, was finally getting to participate in some actual convention gaming. I sat in on two games, neither of which I knew I was playing in until about 10 minutes before they started.

The first--and boy, what a baptism of fire to the world of con gaming!--was a Savage Rifts game run for me and eight other folks by Sean Patrick Fannon himself. Not only that, but that particular game was filmed by a professional camera crew, presumably for editing and release to the masses of Kickstarter backers!

So yes, I've finally gotten a chance to find out directly how this whole Savage Rifts thing is coming together, and I have to say: believe the hype. This was the most fun I've had playing in the Rifts universe in more than 20 years, and the game very much felt like Rifts while still running like Savage Worlds. Fannon and company keyed in on the secret behind the setting: that it's basically post-post-apocalyptic superheroes, and our nine-person team really had that "superhero team-up" vibe going on, with various powers and abilities nicely complimenting each other.

Highlights from that game include:

  • My character (a Crazy) and the team's Juicer raiding a Coalition camp and, with a combination of sheer bravado and liberal grenade-lobbing, getting the entire company to chase us back up the road, where an ambush was lying in wait. (This sequence also featured a preview of an exciting new rule that's slated for inclusion in the next printing of the Savage Worlds core rules...)
  • The Glitter Boy, with help from the Wilderness Scout, getting camouflaged with mud and a net, lying in wait, then taking a shot at the UAR-1 Enforcer as it came into view--and taking down the Enforcer with a single well-placed shot!
  • The Cyber-knight just wading into combat and absolutely owning a succession of skelebots, Dead Boys, and Dog Boys.
  • The Juicer ("Rod Grit"), his death wish in full effect, standing at the foot of a bridge with a chainsword in hand, staring down an entire platoon of grunts, daring the Coalition forces to come at him, underlit by surrounding flames summoned by the team's Burster. A wonderfully, heroically hellish vision.

My inclusion in that game was so last-minute, I didn't even have dice or a pencil or my Savage Worlds rulebook with me; even worse, it meant I had to skip lunch, so I was a little subdued from hunger. Yes, I am a convention newb and am still having trouble managing my time and resources. Nevertheless, I had a total blast playing Gregor the Crazy (and yeah, Crazies in Savage Rifts definitely seem more balanced with Juicers now and get to be properly delusional right out the gate), got a few laughs, and didn't make too many rules oversights, so all was well in the end.

The other game I played was an adventure for Sean Tait Bircher and Robin English-Bircher's The King Is Dead setting for Savage Worlds. This is a setting I've been tracking with interest ever since the Birchers first started working on it, and I'm looking forward to them Kickstarting the setting this autumn. In the meantime, you can get a feel for the setting--a horror-fantasy mashup centered on bringing down a ruling caste of (literally) vampiric aristocrats in an 18th century that never was--via their recently-released adventure, VARGR, which is being sold as a Pay What You Want product.

Both Sean and Robin were running TKID events all weekend, but due to the constraints of my schedule I only managed one game with Robin. She revealed after the session that this was something like only the second or third time she'd ever run a game, to which I say: this woman has a very bright future ahead of her as a GM! She did a phenomenal job, especially considering the rather hectic and distracted environment that was the main gaming hall on that "Savage Saturday Night".

That is, of course, one of the potential issues with con gaming: the constant background noise. I found that my hearing's not quite what it used to be, and it was tough at times to separate what was being said at the table from the general roar of a dozen gaming tables all around us (including two Savage Rifts games!). Not much to be done about that, I'm afraid. And in the end, I still had an absolutely fantastic time (quite literally "fantastic," as I was basically playing an Age of Reason X-man and the adventure culminated with my character, who was something of a mashup of Beast and Mystique, in disguise as a half-vampire princess, jumping from the basket of a hot air balloon and falling into the river below, transforming into a giant fish at the last possible moment...).

Other highlights:

  • Being seven minutes away from an In-N-Out! As a former 20-year resident of California, I miss my In-N-Out experience something awful, so it was great to indulge in that particular peccadillo.
  • Having John Wick enthusiastically compliment my Esoteric Order t-shirt and tell me he'd pay me $25 for such a shirt; guess it's time to finally start looking into merch options...
  • Seeing the inimitable Rob Schwalb and Greg Stolze prognosticate; those men both have, in their own ways, extremely entertaining ways with words.
  • The lovely drive from Santa Fe to Austin and back. I had some harrowing experiences out on the road (particularly on the return leg) and I do believe I'll fly out next time, but, having returned in one piece, I can say I'm really happy I had that experience.
  • Making some excellent networking connections and talking excitedly about certain upcoming projects I'm not quite at liberty to post about just yet.

My main complaint was the hotel itself, which was pretty funky. My room smelled rather strongly of the wacky tobaccy when I checked in; there were no towels in the bathroom; the bath tub was never cleaned to my level of comfort (there were still droplets of someone else's shampoo visible around the edges, for example) and the tub's faucet handle was half-broken; the fact that when I called down about the lack of towels, they told me that I'd have to come down and get them since they were short-staffed that night; the oily stain on one of couch cushions (and the two stains on the flip side of the same cushion). Not the worst hotel experience I've ever had, but pretty bad. If I hadn't gotten a good convention rate, I would've been even more miffed.

Posting Schedule and Blogging Agenda

One of my objectives with setting up sirlarkins.com was to get back on the blogging horse. I started my old blog, The RPG Corner, more or less on a whim back in 2008 (back when I was known to go by the nom de Internet of "shiro") and never really had any theme or plan when it came to posting. At the time, I had enough stuff bouncing around in my head that it all just flowed out quite of its own accord.

But, as the steady decline in posting frequency over there indicates, that lack of focus and schedule eventually took its toll. Thus, I'm hitting the reset button and starting fresh with this blog.

And, well, I've been at this for a couple-three weeks now and have got a few posts under my belt, so I think I can go ahead and formalize my posting schedule plans and have a reasonable expectation that I'll be able to stick to them (for the most part).

  • Tuesdays are earmarked for posts in which I muse about things relating to RPGs and tabletop gaming. Games I'm excited about, campaign plans, agendas, and so forth. I will also use Tuesdays as my platform for announcing upcoming projects and publications, and perhaps posting excerpts, designer's notes, or other additional information from said works.
  • Thursdays are my day for posting game-mechanical crunch (characters, monsters, and so forth) or otherwise making general administrative announcements (as with this post).

I'm excited to be blogging again--writing on The RPG Corner really was the beginning of the journey that ultimately led to me deciding to get into the gaming industry on a professional footing--and the schedule is so far proving an excellent way of maintaining focus. I've got a nice little backlog of drafts queued up, and lots of stuff to share.

Here's to many more posts to come!

One last note: I'm planning on attending Chupacabracon in Austin, Texas this weekend. I'll be driving in on Friday and driving back Sunday afternoon, so it'll be a bit of a whirlwind trip, but I'm hoping to play in a Savage RIFTS game as well as a session of Sean and Robin Bircher's "The King is Dead" setting.

If you see me, feel free to say hi--I'll be the guy wearing the Esoteric Order of Roleplayers shirt (yes, I have one for each day...).

Workin' on Savage RIFTS, Pt. I

Back on my old blog, and a dog's age ago, I started musing about the world of RIFTS. That ended up turning into a whole other project, one that eventually took me away from the world of RIFTS entirely (as can often happen).

With the impending release of Savage RIFTS, I've decided to make an effort to return to the baseline RAW ("RIFTS-as-Writtten") world, or as close to it as I feel comfortable. My Rifts:2112 project did provide me with tons of food for thought and insights into the setting, however, and I intend to port over at least some of those ideas into my own Savage RIFTS campaign.

As such, this is the first in a small series of posts in which I lay the groundwork for how I envision "my" Rifts-world.

Let's start with the big picture: the Megaverse.

Now, call me an unimaginative fuddy-duddy, but the prospect of being able to connect the world of RIFTS to other intellectual properties (be it Robotech or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or My Little Pony or whatever) has never appealed to me in the slightest. I had a Destroid Monster mecha show up back in my adolescent RIFTS campaign and even then felt slightly dirty about it.

My vision of the Megaverse is one that is contained more or less to our own time-space continuum. Considering how inconceivably huge the universe is, this is hardly limiting things! I make allowances for "pocket dimensions"--stuff like elemental planes, wizard's towers, and the like where the laws of physics and time may be different--but otherwise stepping through a rift is going to take you to a world that exists in the same universe in the same time continuum.

That being said, if a player wanted to bring in a mechanic or piece of equipment from an existing game line, I'd have no problem with that. For example, if someone wanted to use Huckster magic from Deadlands, I'd tell them to go nuts. According to Hoyle could just as easily be a magical tome in the world of RIFTS, after all. Or that Destroid Monster? Just put it down as the latest creation of the Northern Gun engineering team and move on.

(I might also consider that certain worlds or properties that aren't explicitly set on Earth might be part of our actual universe: the worlds of Shaintar or Hellfrost, for example.)

And speaking of the space-time continuum, I'll close off this entry with some thoughts about the timeline.

I've decided to keep my Rifts:2112 idea and have the Cataclysm occur on December 21st, 2012. However, I will keep the RAW conceit that there has been a dark age of 300 years or so.

Hell, our world today already has most of the tech that we see in RIFTS, even if it is oftentimes in extremely embryonic form. Because we know that there are parts of the world that manage to maintain a continuity of civilization and technological development, 300 years is more than enough time for us to see the emergence of super-tech such as power armor, plasma guns, cyborgs, and so forth--particularly when you consider that aliens coming through the rifts are often bringing their own higher technology, which could have been captured and reverse-engineered!

(It also maintains the Rifts:2112 idea of having things like juicer rigs and M.O.M. implants as emergent tech, nicely explaining the many bugs and deficiencies in those systems.)

But why set the Cataclysm in the early 21st century to begin with?

First of all, the conceit that the Cataclysm occurs circa 2098 posits a world that, nearly a century hence, is still pretty much like our own world but with cooler toys. I'm no big booster of the Singularity, but I think it's pretty clear at this point that, for good or ill, the world 80 years from now will resemble our own in but a very few ways. So by setting the Cataclysm back to our own time, the zeitgeist of the pre-rifts world remains relatable, just as it's presented in the game books.

Secondly, and on that note, I've noticed that, with very few exceptions, whenever "pre-rifts artifacts" are discussed or depicted in the canon, they're almost always from the late 20th century (unless, of course, they're some sort of super-weapon). This makes a lot of sense, of course: it's nearly impossible to depict mundane artifacts of daily life in a future decades ahead of us; also, depicting artifacts from our own time ("A boxed set of video discs marked 'Star Wars'...") increases the pathos and the sense of a lost world, a golden age of yesteryear. By having the Cataclysm occur in 2012, we can feature those late-20th/early-21st century artifacts without any loss of verisimilitude.

Next time: some thoughts on North America, including the Coalition, Tolkeen, and the Federation of Magic!

[Savage Worlds] Alternate Vampires for RIFTS

I'm still mulling over how I want to approach running Savage RIFTS (and will be posting my thoughts in greater detail next week), but I figured I should at the very least stat up cihuatateos and chupacabras for Savage Worlds in case I opt to go with my alternate take on the Vampire Kingdoms--or even simply to offer a couple variant vampire-types alongside the classic RIFTS vamps.

As befits the tone of Savage RIFTS, this version of the cihuateteo is bit less overtly horrifying and a bit more Satanico Pandemonium...

(That clip, incidentally, is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the female cihuateteo and the male chupacabra.)

Cihuateteo

Attributes: Agility d10; Smarts d6; Spirit d8; Strength d12, Vigor d8

Skills: Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Intimidation d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Stealth d10, Tracking d8

Pace: 6 (walking), 10 (flying); Parry: 5; Toughness: 8

Special Abilities

  • Claws: Str+4
  • Change Form: As an action, a cihuateteo can change into a rattlesnake with a Smarts roll at -2. Changing back into a humanoid requires a Smarts roll.
  • Charm: Cihuateteo can use the Puppet power on the opposite sex using their Smarts as their arcane skill. The power may be maintained indefinitely, but may only be cast on a single subject at a time.
  • Drain Life: The creature may make a Touch Attack instead of a regular attack. Victims must make a Vigor roll opposed by the cihuateteo's Spirit. Failure causes the victim Fatigue and gives the cihuateteo the Hardy ability (and heals a wound if it’s a Wild Card). The victim’s Fatigue can cause death. Victims who survive the attack heal one level of Fatigue every 8 hours.
  • Fearless: Immune to Fear and Intimidation.
  • Flight: Cihuateteo may take to the air and fly with no visible means of propulsion. Flying Pace 10, Climb of 3.
  • Infravision: Halve penalties for dark lighting against living targets (round down).
  • Invulnerability: Cihuateteo are immune to all forms of damage save fire. They can be Shaken by other attacks, but never suffer a wound.
  • Seduction: Human male characters wishing to attack a cihuateteo do so at -2.
  • Shadow: In their natural state, cihuateteo are insubstantial beings. They may materialize with a Smarts roll at -2, and must do so to attack or drain life. They may dematerialize with a Smarts roll. While in their shadow-form, cihuateteo are treated as Ethereal creatures.
  • Sire: Adult male victims killed by the cihuateteo's Drain Life ability have a 50% chance of coming back as chupacabra (see below) in 1d4 days; women so killed may rise as cihuateteo themselves (25% chance) in 1d4 days. (Women who die in childbirth and aren't cremated have a 75% chance of rising as a cihuateteo within 24 hours if there is a cihuateteo within 20 miles.)
  • Undead: +2 Toughness; +2 to recover from being Shaken; called shots do no extra damage; half-damage from piercing weapons; immune to disease and poison.

Weaknesses

  • Weakness (Bloodlust): Although they do not need it to survive, cihuateteo crave the blood of the living. If a pint of blood is thrown over the creature (requires a successful Throwing attack), it must make a Spirit roll or be Shaken as it licks up the blood.
  • Weakness (Infanticide): Cihuateteo are driven into hateful frenzy at the sight of human young and pregnant women. If a cihuateteo sees an infant, toddler, or visibly pregnant woman, it must make a Spirit roll or focus its actions for the following round on going after that target, suffering a -2 to Parry and -2 to Notice rolls while doing so. It must make this roll every round the target is present.
  • Weakness (Fire)Cihuateteo suffer full damage from fire-based attacks.
  • Weakness (Stake Through the Heart): A materialized cihuateteo hit by a piercing weapon with a called shot to the heart (–6) must make a Vigor roll versus the damage. A failed roll paralyzes the creature, and it quickly begins to decompose. If the stake is ever removed, the cihuateteo reforms in 1d4 rounds.
  • Weakness (Sunlight): Cihuateteo suffer a cumulative 1d6 damage per minute spent in direct sunlight (1d6 the first minute, 2d6 the second, etc.)--clothing and armor do not protect.

Chupacabra

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d4, Strength d6, Vigor d6

Skills: Fighting d6, Intimidation d8, Notice d4, Stealth d6, Tracking d6

Pace: 8; Parry: 5; Toughness: 7

Special Abilities

  • Bite/Claw: Str+1
  • Fearless: Immune to Fear and Intimidation.
  • Infravision: Halve penalties for dark lighting against living targets (round down).
  • Half-dead: +2 Toughness; +2 to recover from being Shaken.
  • Vampiric Bite: When a chupacabra gets a raise on a Fighting roll, it sinks its teeth into the victim's flesh and begins drinking its blood. This causes the victim Fatigue and gives the chupacabra the Hardy ability (and heals a wound if it’s a Wild Card). The victim’s Fatigue can cause death. Victims who survive a chupacabra attack heal one level of Fatigue every 8 hours.

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!