Thursday, May 31, 2012

Half-Dozen Heroes: Solomon Kane

Got a pretty decent response for the Half-Dozen Heroes for Caladon Falls...and I had my Solomon Kane book sitting right here when it was requested for the here goes!

Everything on this page was created soley using the Savage World of Solomon Kane book.

Thomas Serpentbane was a family man and mediocre farmer until his family was attacked by poisonous snakes one hot summer day. Thomas grabbed his sword, and old family heirloom he had recently inherited, and killed the snakes. The next day, snakes attacked again, and this time Thomas wasn't so quick. Given the vicious, multiple attacks by snakes, he became convinced that there was something more to their a larger force was controlling them. Soon, he became convinced that snakes were all part of a larger conspiracy, and when he encountered his first Snake Man, it settled his delusions into his skull.

What Thomas has never figured out is that his sword is the very reason serpents react in a malicious manner, be they garden snakes, giant serpents or snake men. Attor, a Snake Man priest, has been tasked by his vile Gods with killing Thomas and destroying his sword before it can slay any more maybe he's not completely crazy after all.

Thomas Serpentbane
Agility d8
Smarts d6
Spirit d8
Strength d6
Vigor d6

Fighting d10
Guts d8
Investigation d6
Knowledge (Serpents) d4
Notice d6
Riding d4
Survival d6
Throwing d4
Tracking d6

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6"
Parry: 7
Toughness: 5

Delusional: "All snakes are part of an ophidian conspiracy" (Minor)
Vow: End the Ophidian Nightmare (Minor)
Enemy: Attor, the Snake Priest (Major)

Alertness (+2 to Notice)
Danger Sense
First Strike (free attack when an enemy moved adjacent)
Hard to Kill (Ignore Wound Penalties for Knockout tables)
Quick (Redraw cards lower than 5)
Trademark Weapon (Venom)

"Venom" Short Sword Artifact: Str+d6 damage, +8 damage vs serpents (including Snake Men), wielder is immune to poisons, all serpents within 12" can sense the blade's presence. Throwing axe (Str+d6)

Tenzan is an honorable samurai warrior who could have been a great general for the Empire...until he was set upon by undead fiends and nearly killed. The pilgrim Solomon Kane saved him, Tenzan's code of honor demanded that he walk Kane's Path instead, and Kane offered one demand: Protect the children of the Winthorpe family, whose parents had recently died. Tenzan now travels as the bodyguards of the twins, the boy secretly a sorcerer and the girl a swordsman who is capturing the samurai's heart.

Agility d6
Smarts d6
Spirit d8
Strength d8
Vigor d8

Fighting d8
Guts d8
Intimidation d8
Knowledge (Battle) d6
Notice d6
Riding d6

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6"
Parry: 8
Toughness: 9(3)

Code of Honor
Phobia (Minor): Undead
Vow (Major): Protect the Winthorpe Siblings

Block (+1 Parry)
Combat Reflexes (+2 to Shaken Rolls)
Command (+1 to Troops' Shaken rolls)
Sweep (Attack everyone adjacent with -2 penalty)

Katana (str+d8), Armor 3

Anthony Wyndham traveled in very dark circles, and for all his bluster, his heart grew cold when he came face to face with one of the dark forces that seek the worship of sorcerers. Wyndham tried to steer his allies from their path, but was rejected and set up to appear as a devil worshipper. Horribly branded as such, Wyndham was ultimately able to escape, but now he uses has arcane powers - and pistol - to fight back the darkness...and destroy his old circle.

Anthony Wyndham
Agility d6
Smarts d12
Spirit d8
Strength d4
Vigor d6

Driving d4
Fighting d4
Guts d8
Healing d4
Intimidation d6
Investigation d6
Magick d10
Notice d4
Shooting d6
Taunt d6

Charisma: -2
Pace: 6"
Parry: 4
Toughness: 5

Branded (-2 Charisma)
Death Wish (Break up his old circle)

Arcane Background (Sorcery)
Dirty Fighter (+2 on Tricks)
Jack-of-All-Trades (+2 on Smarts based skill rolls)
Marksman (+2 on Shooting)
New Power (x3)
Strong Willed (+2 on Taunt/Intimidation)

Grave Speak
Shape Change

Two-Barrel Pistol (2d6+1)

Gwandoya is an escaped slave, paranoid that he's being hunted, so rarely staying in one place. Gwandoya has dreams telling him where to go, and the giant man does so, sticking to the fringes of society and helping people as best he can. Gwandoya does not believe he has a greater destiny before him, even as he's unwittingly used as an instrument for good.

Agility d6
Smarts d4
Spirit d6
Strength d10
Vigor d6

Climbing d8
Fighting d6
Guts d6
Intimidation d8
Survival d6
Swimming d6

Charisma: 0
Pace: 8"
Parry: 5
Toughness: 6

Clueless (-2 Common Knowledge)
Glass Jaw (-2 Soak)


Club (str+d4)

Nicodemus Dowling is an inquisitor who roots out evil wherever it can be found...with "evil" defined as "having differing beliefs". Nicodemus is an adept leader and ample combatant who can prove terrifying if he's allowed to corner a foe. Nicodemus believes fully in his cause, which gives him frightening power at times...luckily, he can usually identify the larger threat in a given situation, so he and his men often target the darker fringes of society, though they have occasionally focused on the well-meaning instead.

Nicodemus Dowling
Agility d6
Smarts d8
Spirit d10
Strength d6
Vigor d8

Fighting d6
Guts d6
Intimidation d10
Persuasion d10
Riding d6
Shooting d6
Taunt d8
Tracking d8

Charisma: +2
Pace: 6"
Parry: 5
Toughness: 6

Code of Honor
Jingoistic (Minor)
Vow (Uncover and destroy the witches)

Strong Willed

Is Basil Flynn the greatest swordsman who ever lived? He would tell you yes. An absolute beast with a blade, Flynn can strike you when you move near, strike you before you move near, strike you if you fail to strike him, hold off multiple combatants at once, and one of his favorite tactics is to dig in close, hook your arm and dig into you stomach with his dagger.

Basil Flynn
Agility d12
Smarts d6
Spirit d8
Strength d6
Vigor d8

Fighting d12+2
Gambling d6
Guts d8
Lockpicking d10
Notice d6
Persuasion d8
Streetwise d6

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6"
Parry: 11
Toughness: 6

Big Mouth

Close Fighting
  Improved Close Fighting
Dirty Fighter
First Strike
Mighty Blow
Professional (Fighting)
  Expert (Fighting)
  Improved Riposte
Trademark Weapon
  Improved Trademark Weapon
Weapon Master
  Master of Arms
Wall of Steel

I nearly made a pirate and a blind swordsman, but I ditched the latter because I couldn't figure out how to make him work without him being horribly penalized to the point of unplayable. Of the six, I think I would most like to play Gwandoya in a game, even though Thomas Serpentbane is loosely based off my real experiences!

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tommy's Take on Dark Harvest: Resistance

Last week I reviewed Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein, an interesting alternate history set in the closed-borders country of Promethea, better known to you and I as Romania. Now, I've been given the opportunity to review the Resistance supplement in advance of its release.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The cover lists a retail price of $29.99, but you can buy the PDF at RPGNow for $16.99. The core was about 216 pages in PDF, this one is about 177. The art in this line is typically gorgeous, and the cover of Resistance, showing a Frankenstein-ish creature being shot in the back as it carries a woman to safety (at least, that's how I saw it), is no exception.

The book opens with a couple of foreword type pieces before launching into a comic which didn't really hold up the quality of the fiction or art in the first book.

The first major section of the book is an essay covering the Resistance, where we find out that they occasionally spread propaganda that may be exaggerated in order to draw extra ire against the government. Personally, I think this is at least somewhat forgiveable, given the horrific abuses present in the government. This chapter goes into detail on their methods as well, including how they generally strive to strike targets in ways that aren't immediate threats to innocents, and how sometimes two secret cells occasionally clash without realizing they are techically on the same side. It's not an easy life, with "retirement" usually involving meeting an accident and Resistance members often working with a depressing lack of equipment. Some helpful advice is given on running the Resistance, noting that they often times have to get their hands very dirty and that they are very much up against the wall.

Next up are the Promethean authorities. Here we get it reiterated that Victor Frankenstein's country is partially the result of people abusing the advances he brought them and not entirely the end result of his goals. Road to Hell, good intentions, all that. In fact, it establishes that Frankenstein has become more and more consumed with his work, leaving the actual running of Promethea in the hands of others, which has contributed to the more vile excesses of the nation. We also get a sidebar that perfectly exemplifies the paranoia of Frankenstein, revealing that he completed the first anti-aircraft weapons while zepplins and airplanes were on the drawing boards in order to ensure that the Promethean borders remained protected. We also learn that the idea put forth in the core rules that the military are nothing more than mindless footsoldiers of Frankenstein is an exaggeration. While some augmentation has been used to control some soldiers, most are lockstep with him due to his treatment and promotion of the military. Some tips are provided on playing as military instead of Resistance.

The next chapter talks about the more subtle forms of resistance going on, like the pamphlet spelling out the moral case against Frankenstein, which nearly drew him into an open debate with his detractors. There is also the group known as The Will of Frankenstein, complete zealots who hang on his every word...and act on them with brutal efficiency.

A slew of map layouts for military bases are also provided.

Like with the first book, this one also includes three pieces of short fiction, including a very important story detailing the first encounter between Frankenstein and the Creature since the Resistance began.

All the setting stuff out of the way, we move onto rules material, starting with an overhaul of the money system, placing everything in the currency of Promethean leis. A broader selection of weapons are also provided, ranging from melee weapons to a variety of firearms, from derringers to machine guns. Even a list of vehicles, from canoes to cars.

New rules include combining effort on actions, various weapon effects (like using suppressive fire), and new augmentations like Small Hands (for finer manipulation) and quadruped adaptation, allowing you to run on all fours! A step by step example of character creation is also provided.

More NPCs are also provided, with a mix of generic stat blocks (presented in the same manner as the core, with plot hooks for each) as well as fully fleshed out NPCs with names, personalities and art.

An introductory adventure is provided, using five characters kidnapped from a circus, augmented, and set loose to be hunted. Unlike a lot of intro adventures assuming a certain amount of characters, instructions are provided up front for scaling the adventure down if you have less than five. Outside of the introductory scene and the end scene, the rest of the adventure can be played in any order, the hunters are some unique...and horrifying...adversaries. Especially The Hound. I'm somewhat glad no art was provided for him. If the PCs succeed, tips are provided on how to continue the adventure into a full fledged campaign.

The book concludes with an appendix (full of useful links for research), an index, full credits for everyone involved, and an ad for The Fires of Promethea, coming soon.

WHAT WORKS: Again, another book just jam packed full of material. It does a great job of showing the dark side of the Resistance and the noble intentions of Frankenstein and his military, establishing the shades of grey world. More augmentations are always nice, and I again love how the present the NPC stat blocks. The hunters in the introductory adventure are absolutely terrifying, in a great way. The fiction again does a nice job of bringing you into the world of Promethea.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I could never use the introductory adventure as a campaign launcher, because of the incredibly specific start (the PCs are circus performers) and it would be difficult to replace the pregens with home made characters. That said, I think it would, in fact, make a fantastic convention scenario. The comic short at the beginning didn't really feel like it added anything to the book (though it was hardly a huge strike against it, either).

CONCLUSION: You certainly don't NEED this book to run Dark Harvest, but it does alleviate some things that were missing from the first book (like a character creation example)...but if you LIKE Dark Harvest, there's a lot to like in this book, from a setting standpoint (the fiction, the essays on the Resistance and the Military) and from a game standpoint (the extra augmentations and NPCs, especially). I am very much intrigued to see what is coming in Fires of Promethea now.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tommy's Take on Dark Harvest: Legacy of Frankenstein

This is the first of two reviews I'll be doing for Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein, starting with the core rules (makes sense, right?).

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Published by Cubicle 7, the PDF is a surprisingly thick 216 pages (formatting makes it appear to be 110 in PDF readers) and is currently $19.99. The PDF I have lacks bookmarks or clickable links in the table of contents, which does hurt utility a bit.

Compatible with the Victoriana RPG (which I'm not familiar with), Dark Harvest is an alternate history RPG in which Victor Frankenstein, posing as "Prince Baden", has taken over Romania and replaced it with Promethea, a country-sized monument to his insane creations. The game is set in 1910, and the world has convinced itself that the Frankenstein in question must be a grandson or something, for Victor Frankenstein should either be dead or much older than he appears to be.

The heavily industrialized Promethea is a feudal society devoted to beauty and protection (as Frankenstein sees it), to the extent that the upper strata can order that the lower class can be forced into The Harvest, in which their better "parts" can be removed and added onto the wealthy in order to keep them alive and healthy. However, Promethea is wracked with civil war as The Resistance wages war with Frankenstein's upper class...The Resistance led by The Creature (Frankenstein's original monster). The lower class also have "scar gangs", which damage those with physical beauty, in order to keep the wealthy from harvesting them.

The first two chapters cover the history of Promethea and the current situations, including the processes of Augmentation and Evisceration (in which a person is basically torn apart...and kept alive and conscious for it far behind normal human limits) in excruciating detail. For instance, by law, the dead are turned over to the state for Harvesting, and the poor will often attempt to delay the certification of their dead in order to prevent harvesting...or even cripple and scar their own children in order to do so.

The book includes a gazetteer that breaks down all 41 counties in Promethea, ranging from a short paragraph to half a page, depending on size and importance, as well as a listing of "generic locations" like military bases and augmentation facilities. The details about the fortifications on each border are included as well, from the staffing and barriers to the time it took to close the borders.

If that doesn't give you enough of a feel for the setting (and there's a lot of information in the first few chapters), then there's also an anthology of short stories included that take you into life in Promethea through the eyes of citizens. After all of that...we get into the rules themselves.

Dark Harvest uses the Victoriana rules (modified), which I am not familiar with, but everything required for the game is included in this book. It's a d6 dice pool system, using an attribute and a skill to build your pool, and any 1s or 6s are counted as successes, with any 6s being re-rolled for the possibility of more successes. Essentially a 1 in 3 chance of a success for every die you roll, and the success chart doesn't count a "full" success until you've gotten two or more. However, if you are making a particularly contested roll, you have to roll a number of Black Dice, whose successes can cancel your own.

Damage is a bit odd, until you see the character sheet. There are a number of "dice" printed on it with 2 pips each, and whenever a damage roll is made, each success rolled on the damage roll is a pip of health. Every two pips of damage taken, you add a Black Die to future rolls. There are four shaded dice, and when those are covered, you pass out and are in danger of death.

Character creation is point buy. You start off selecting your concept and social class (the top tier isn't open to PCs), and then you assign six attribute points among three physical attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Fortitude) and mental (Presence, Wits, Resolve). You then get 50 points with which to buy Skills, Talents, Privilegs, Contacts, Assets and Augmentations.

The skill list has about 27 common skills (firearms, improvised weapons, streetwise), and you can also purchase specialities like Demolitions, Engineer, Lip Reading, etc.

Talents include the likes of Acute Sense, Backstabber, Deadly Shot, Drinks Like A Fish and Speed Reader.

Privileges include things like Military Commission and Society Friends, while Assets are things like Shops, Trained Pets, Legendary Reputations.

You can get more points with Complications, like Illiterate, Bad Reputation, Mute and Shy. You might need those if you want your own twisted augmentations like claws, gills, night vision and tails.

Each and every listing is detailed, with specialities, mechanics and the like.

Rules are provided for Augmentation in-game, influenced by a number of factors, including including the social class of the character. If things go badly, there arae complications, like drug dependency or even permanent flammability.

A lot of games allow for additional manipulation by the players, and Dark Harvest has Fate Dice and Scripting Dice. Fate Dice can be used to add successes to actions and reduce damage, while Scripting Dice (gained by spending 6 Fate Dice) can allowing for re-rolls, saving characters from death (mortal wounds are now very bad, but not lethal, wounds, etc). Rounding out the character stuff is Reputation, gained largely by Assets, which allow you to influence people around you.

A listing of stock NPC stats are provided, but it's really quite nice, as each stock type gets a paragraph, following by the streamlined NPC statblock, an example (character wise) of an NPC of that type, and a plot hook for that NPC type (from Priests to Servants to Socialites). Then we get into Promethean Creatures, which start with basic stuff like horses, monkeys and wolves and get into augmented bears and Promethean dire wolves.

The book rounds out with fairly detailed adventure hooks, a good sized bibliography, an index and a character sheet.

WHAT WORKS: The presentation is fantastic. There's a lot of information in here, but it never feels overbearing. The art is well-done and well-placed, never dominating the book but adding appropriate flavor. The setting is quite disturbing, with the wealthy preying off of the poor in a most unique manner, and the horrors of Frankenstein's machinations revealed in excruciating detail. The sealed off nature of Promethea also allows for extra intensity in setting that might not be there in a more "open" environment.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The health system seems unnecessarily complicated. I probably would have liked more Talents, but with Augmentations, Assets, Privileges and Contacts, there are more options there than it appears on the surface. Perhaps my biggest gripe with the setting is that, as cool as it is, it seems to be building to a Frankenstein vs Creature encounter (okay, it says so a few times), and that seems like it would exclude the PCs from playing the major role in the future of Promethea.

CONCLUSION: A top-notch product with an inventive spin on alternate history and the Frankenstein mythos. Certainly not the first product I've seen to place the Creature in the role of the hero and Frankenstein in the role of megalomaniacal madman (Dean Koontz' series did it as well), but it still has its own spin on it that feels quite cool in its own right. Not sure I'm 100% sold on the system, as it has a few parts that feel unnecessarily complicated (like Health dice), but that may just be unfamiliarity with the system shining through. The setting alone places it on the higher end of alternate history games I've read.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Deadlands Noir, or Take My Money, Please

So Pinnacle had been teasing a new setting by John Goff recently, and when they pulled the trigger on it, it was bigger than I had thought: Deadlands Noir. The Deadlands timeline moved up to 1935 and, presumably, wearing the trappings of both the Weird West and hard-boiled noir. Even more impressively, the Kickstarter has almost doubled the goal in less than a day.

I am a Deadlands fanboy. I dig noir. Needless to say, I am absolutely pumped. With pledge goals that include PDFs ($20), hardcovers ($50), a special deck of cards ($75), unique bennies ($125) and a retailer package that includes copies of Deadlands Noir, Savage Worlds, maps and more, there are plenty of options, and yes, I plan on pledging (trying to figure out if I can budget in the deck of cards). Very awesome, and very unexpected, announcement from Pinnacle.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May RPG Deals at RPGNow

Hey folks...been crazy busy with multiple projects, but I did want to take the moment to drop a line and point out that you can get a slew of PDFs at RPGNow for 20% off using the code DriveThruApril (yes, they have been told that it is, in fact, May). These offers are good until June 14th.

Noir Knights (Savage Worlds) [Savage Mojo] (

I particularly recommend Noir Knights, Realms of Cthulhu and the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion.

Working on some new reviews to share with you over the next week, so look for those!