Monthly Archives: July 2020
Apparently there REALLY IS a big demand to hear more about my first session of “Really Wild West: Doomstone.” You can read Part One (which covers the first fight on a train) here, and may find some useful context from the campaign notes I developed from this session.
After the fight, the PCs introduce themselves, and compare notes.
- According to the Transit and Portage Guild’s bylaws, since the PCs were instrumental in defending Old Number Seven, they have the right to a payment from the train. The acting conductor (the halfling porter) offers them a cut of the valuables from the robbers, or passes for free rides any associated vehicle in perpetuity (the end date on the passes is officially “Kingdom Come.” Every PC decides to take lifetime free travel.
- The soldier/mystic says he’s gonna talk to Vardalos, the dead Kasatha. PCs all follow, The soldier/mystic casts “grave words,” and the corpse says the following:
- Stormfront rolling
- The grass is all blue
- The venom king has returned – the signet ring
- My manticore gang – on the revolvers
- All is lost
- The teacup is in the meadow
- One of the Fonts & Bismark agents confirms a theory of the centaur paladin that the robbers wanted to send the train over the cliff and recover the item from the bottom of the gorge.
- The soldier/mystic goes to see Vardalos’ *very* strict and loyal pony, which he can talk to. Discover’s the pny’s training means it accepts help from and takes orders from only who its owner approves. It’s owner is now dead, but the owner had allowed the porter to feed it, so it takes orders from the porter. No PC or the porter wanting the pony, it’s decided to give it to the nice Moyer family (1 father and 5 kids, headed to a farm owned by the father’s sister, in Kansas for a fresh start. The mother died during the War, and the father need help raising the kids).
- The mechanic roboticist helps with the bridge – cuts the repair time in half
PCs arrive in beautiful Cheyenne – which was sacked by Martians.\Is the state capital… but the state and its capital are a mess. Notes about the city:
- Opera house biggest building left in town, serves as city hall for now.
- The Tivoli building is almost finished as new construction. It is a Pabst beer distribution center, and has “Mr. Satin’s Satin’s House of Refined Delights (an all-race, all-gender brothel) on the second floor.
- There is a cheap, reliable Cheyenne Citizen Hostel
- Also some homes that will let a room
The Fenrin Bounty Hunter checks on new Bounties:
- Chimera Kid is now worth 650c as of yesterday
- Bounty for “That Goddamn Manticore” 1000c posted by Ranch Master Dwargus Hardfist (a dwarf), go to the Circle Axe Ranch for more information
- This place is crawling with bounty hunters, assassins, guns fire hire, bodyguards, ugh-me-toughs
- Why? No clue.
- Old Blue (a fenrin bloodhound on the sheriff’s porch) says a “Year and a day” ends in a couple of weeks
- Records house burned to the ground, lots of people died, so there is a lot of land no one knows who owns it. It was decided you can lay claim to land it and if no one has a better claim within a year and a day, it’s yours. Those first year-and-a-day claims come up in a few weeks, and everyone is expecting there to be some trouble over it.
The PCs are invited to a meeting with Fonts & Bismark Station Master Ralston Adler (who turns out to be in a wheelchain) at 5pm, to discuss the mysterious package the bandits tried to steal.
- The Item is being held for a client who’s coming to get it (no details on who or when available). The item is a Martian crystal (tripod’s power core)
- Nineteen duplicates were shipped at the same time for security. Eight were attacked
- About the scrap of paper
- The handwriting appears to be that of one Felspark Klein – elf woman Regional Director for East Hudson Fur Trading Co. She is new to the position (her predecessor died choking on a chicken bone).
- She is staying at Vicious Hippogryph Ranch, adjacent to Circle Axe
- Significant disagreement about who owns what plots of land
- Biggest area of dispute has all the water
- Adler agrees to get the PCs a copy of an excellent map of that area (+4 to know where we are)
- Adler also knows that Dwargus hardfist of the Circle Axe has been claiming for months that a Manticore is loose in Wyomingn and feeding on ONLY his cattle
PCs decide to go check it out. They will wait until the map is ready before they take off to see about this manticore, and checkout Felspark Klein.
Fonts & Bismark agrees to equip the PCs with horses and supplies. Also note that a couple of other people are asking about these events, and if Adler is convinced they are assets, he’ll diect them to the PCs in the morning to see if the PCs want to join up with them.
End of game. XPs: 650 per PC.
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A number of people have asked for more details about the train fight in the first Really Wild West game session (with the campaign entitled “Really Wild West: Doomstone”), so I have adapted notes taken by my wife Lj who is playing a fenrin operative bounty hunter named “Sawyer.” Some context may also be available from the campaign notes I developed from this session.
(“Sawyer,” by Jacob Blackmon)
I specifically set up this fight to bring the player characters together with a common interest. Here’s the set-up.
Female Fenrin Operative Bounty Hunter (Seeking a bounty)
Female Centaur Paladin Mercenary (Seeking an ancient evil, the Venom King)
Female Human Mechanic Roboticist (Seeking to access Martian tech found in the field, rather than the picked-over scraps she can get hold of back East) – has stealth drone mechanical dog, “Pinion”
Male Human Soldier/Mystic Criminal (Seeking to tip the balance for past bad deeds)
1891 – Spring
- The Fenrin bounty hunter is looking for the Chimera Kid, who he shot a federal judg. The Kid is a Ksatha missing one of his four arms. Fights with poison pistol, flame pistol, ram-headed hammer.
- Currently tracking Gavra Vardalos, a previous associate of the Kid, who is headed West on the Old Number Seven train out of St. Louis. Vardalos wears a black bandito mask with a green scorpion tail. Vardalos seems to be waiting for something.
Evening of day two – around 36 hours into the trip – as the sun sets
- Alarm bell goes off as the train comes to an emergency stop
- Bridge is out ahead. Fresh damage.
- This might be what Vardalos was waiting for
- He gets up and says he’s gonna check on his pony
- Fenrin bounty hunter gets on top of the train and follows
- The porters arm themselves
- Vardalos says his pony needs medicine and wants to get into the baggage car
- A halfling porter takes him around the outside to the caboose
- Gunshots ring out from within the back of the train
- Just after the porter knocks on the caboose door, Vardalos attempts to kill him. Vardalos has two sabers enhanced with jury-rigged Martian heat-ray crystals. The distinctive sound of them powering up can be heard throughout the train, and including by the mechanic roboticist. Fenrin bounty hunter jumps down to stop vardalos.
- The halfling caboose porter rolls under the train and pulls down a shield with a gun port from the bottom of the caboose, then locks his gun into it
- The centaur paladin, suspicious of Vardalos’s possible involvement because of the scorpion-tail mask, also comes to stop him.
- A stamer trunk turns out to be a mimic, and attacks a Fonts & Bismark agent guarding a package in the boxcar.
- Outside the train, thin lizardfolk step out of the air – serpentfolk (5) from a hidden reality. Everyone not already engaged helps fight them off.
- They shoot old revolvers. Poisoned bullets.
- The mechanic roboticist and Pinon run to the back of the train to investigate the Martian tech sounds, and run into the Fonts & Bismark agent fighting against the steam trunk mimic. Stop to help.
- The caboose door rotates out, revealing an old, beat up robot breakman, with a 2ft spanner
- Moves to attack the serpentfolk who is attacking the porter
- When Vardalos dies, his body writhes and breathes out a green vapor
- As serpentmen overpower the conductor guarding the engine, soldier criminal comes running up the center of the train, shooting it from 2 cars away and preventing it from powering up the train and running it over the broken bridge into a gorge below.
ON VARDALOS: 2 manticore stamped revolvers; 2 jury-rigged Martian metal sabres; 350 credit chips issued from the East Hudson Fur Trading Co.; under a glove a signet ring with a scorpion tail with a green teardrop signet stone; scrap of paper with Fonts & Bismark Service# written on it – these go on whatever F&B is shipping that the mimic went for. The scrap has a watermark from the EHFTco. The fenrin bounty hunter can confirm it’s not written in Vardalos’ handwriting.
At the end of this introductory fight, the fenrin bounty hunter wants to follow up on the clues around Vardalos to see if they lead to the Chimera Kid. The centaur paladin wants to follow up because the green vapor and scorpion-tail clues are her best lead to find the cult of the Venom King. The mechanic roboticist wants to follow up because somehow Vardalos got access to fresh Martian heat-ray technology. The soldier/mystic wants to follow up because this seems like a good opportunity to earn some karmic balance.
The session didn’t end there of course.
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(Logo by Perram, pistol art by Jacob Blackmon)
I ran my first actual session of my first full Really Wild West campaign, called “Really Wild West: Doomstone”
Here are some notes from that sessions.
The “New Wild”: Due to the Ravages of the brief War of the Worlds in early 1890, the lawless West is much more expansive in 1891 than it was just a few years earlier. While major towns exist, and are mostly as controlled and regimented as one would expect, the entire central area of the United States — from the Mississippi River to the Cascade Mountains — is simply not yet back under government control beyond sight of a major settlement. Wherever an army unit or even US Martial circuit patrol happen to be, it’s fairly lawful. Some towns, sheriffs, mutual aid societies and land-owners can also enforce rules within their own demesne (which some do fair-mindedly and others… don’t).
But the fabric of society has not yet recovered from either the direct effect of being overrun by alien war machines that destroyed entire cities and killed millions, or the psychological effect of learning aliens exist, want us dead, have better technology than Earth, and that often women and children and immigrants were crucial to slowing their advance and evacuating those in their path despite being often discouraged from such roles by society.
From the Mississippi to the Cascades is the New Wild. Stay alert. Be cautious. Strap iron.
East Hudson Fur Trading Company: Multinational trade and mercantile… and banking, private security, espionage, manufacturing, and land exploitation. They actually call one of the services they offer “land exploitation.” Had war declared on them by the Lakota for “Crimes Against Man and Nature.” Merciless. Efficient. Profitable.
Fonts & Bismark: A powerful “service company,” that handles deliveries, finances, and vault storage. Grew out of an adventuring company in the 1840s. Mercenary, but have tight ethics controls on who they work for… but a contract, once signed, is fulfilled.
Sometimes do government work. Sometimes hired to protect against the government.
Lost Walkers: When the Martians realized they were dying off, many hid their machines (mostly tripods, but also some flying machines and digging machines) and mothballed them. The Central Power Core of these machines, once cold, can only be brought back to life with an active Central Core.
Only walkers that were captured during the war without being destroyed, or the first few grabbed when the earliest Martians succumbed to viruses, had their Central Core taken intact and active. Thus these are among the most valued of artifacts. Most are in the hands of national or state governments, with a much smaller number controlled by the rich and powerful (Edison is smugly vocal about having two. Tesla dodges the question when asked. A young Polish scientist studying in Paris, Marie Skłodowska, is warning anyone who will listen not to stand too close to the things.)
When a Lost Walker is found, there is a “Tripod Rush” as people tear it apart for rare elements, crystals, and circuits, and scour the surrounding territory for any other Martian relics. But if anyone ever managed to repair and restart a tripod with a Central Core, it would immediately become a notable regional power.
Newgauge: Even before the War of the Worlds caused technological advancement to explode, most industrially advanced nations were moving to Newgauge trains — massive mass-transit vehicles twenty feet wide, nearly thirty feet tall, with locomotives and cars each up to 150 feet long. Since the war, Newgauge trains have become rolling battleships, each normally equipped with heat-dispensing armor on critical cars, and with at least one Rail Monitor car with artillery and units of troops.
But you absolutely cannot run Newgauge trains without building entirely-new tracks. While in the densely-populated Northeast and West Coast, that has been done extensively enough to least linked the biggest cities, the Martians did enough damage to the central parts of the country that even old rails are no longer properly transcontinental, and no Newgauge rails to speak of have yet been laid down… or even surveyed to accommodate the additional massive easement needs. Thus smaller “Old Rail” trains must be used, and occasionally have to fend for themselves between cities.
Old No. 7: An ‘Old Rail’ train with variable-gauge axles, Old No. 7 is a more-than 50-year-old 4-4-0 locomotive and its associated cars that was pressed into service as a military transport during the War of the Worlds (and armored, and equipped with an automaton-operated Combat Caboose with Rail Repair devices), survived numerous hits from Heat Rays and, despite showing buckled plates and grime-caked engine, remains a mobile defensive platform. Its normal run its along an exiting Old Gauge Line from St. Louis to Colby, Kansas and then to Cheyenne, Wy, and then return.
Trustee: The Really Wild West is a world where heroes, monsters, oracles, madmen, and adventurers have existed for thousands of years. Nations, towns, organizations, and businesses have evolved to deal with the fact that sometimes if a wandering hero or expert doesn’t save you, no one else can.
Thus it is common for individuals and small bands to be on a path to be considered “trustees” of groups and governments. These are outsiders who have earned the trust of a government or organization of note. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are trustees of Scotland Yard. The Spectral Rider is a trustee of the town of Eagle Net, New Mexico. The Kestrel is a trustee of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and so on.
Bigger organizations have numerous steps of trust that occur before you are a trustee, but a trustee is generally considered to be competent, potent, trusted, and an ally of the group that names them trustee. A trustee does not necessarily agree with all actions of the bestowing group, and individual members of the group might mistrust the trustee (think of Batman as a trustee of Gotham PD), but the organization as a whole formally cuts the trustee considerable slack.
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This isn’t a game-related story, or something to inspire your gaming table. It’s just a tale I don’t recall having ever told that, at 2am, my brain has latched onto as a focal point for a lot of my pain and depression right now.
Feel free to skip it.
I love dinosaurs. It’s one of my very oldest fandoms.
Before Star Wars. Before D&D. Before Micronauts. Before sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes, and powered armor.
Maybe the first thing I grokked as a group of things, and loved, were dinosaurs.
When I was a very young child my mother took me with her grocery shopping one day. The store had a bin of soft, fuzzy stuffed-animal dinosaurs.
And I fell in love with one, in particular. So I asked my mother to buy it for me.
It was, she said, out of our price range for toys.
So, I asked, if we don’t buy it… what happens to it. What if NO ONE buys it?
Well then, she said quite reasonably, it’ll stay here and someone can buy it tomorrow.
And asked, genuinely aghast, you mean they’ll leave it in the store. At night? With the lights off?
I sat on the floor of the grocery store, and burst into tears. Not quite little trickles, but snot-out-my-nose, can’t-see, gasping-for-breath tears.
Look, I’m not saying I was above feigning being truly upset to pressure my mother to buy something for me… though I don’t recall that ever actually working. And this was more than 45 years ago, so I can’t claim to have perfect recall. But as I remember it, I was just truly TERRIFIED for the stuffed dinosaur.
I needed to know it would be safe. Be loved. And if I couldn’t do that, I was afraid no one ever would.
My mother stared at me for several seconds, then picked up the dino and told me it could come home. I could barely pick myself up. I don’t even think I thanked her.
(BTW — Thanks, Mom.)
And so I ended up with a bigger-than-most-of-my-animals stuffed dino. I slept with it for months, and then it joined the Council of Pluff that usually just sat on my toy chest. It served as chairman for many years (until I got a Stuffed Polar Bear As Big As Me, which is a different, and much more on-brand for me, story).
But if I saw sad, or upset, or afraid? If I needed to hug something and none of our cats was up fro the job?
For a lot of years, that Dino was my go-to.
For tonight’s Really Wild West game, I drew out the train “Old Number Seven” on a very simple 1-square-is-30-feet scale. That got the whole (short, 12-car) train onto one map, and character tracked where they were (inside a car, on top of a car, or outside the cars) on that map whenever they were not dealing with anyone in melee.
If greater resolution was needed, each car and its immediate surroundings were drawn on their own flip-tile. We actually only had to do that twice, and while I was initially worried about running one fight at two scales, my (brilliant, veteran) players had no trouble figuring it out or moving PCs seamlessly between them.
It also meant the fight took place over a distance hundreds of feet long, which I could never have gotten onto a single game table. Things like firearm range increments and who was more effective in melee had real tactical impact. (And we got some awesome cinematic moments like the centaur paladin in full plate charging down the length of the outside of the train, the fenrin bounty hunter flinging herself off the caboose’s roof to tackle a foe, and the human soldier running along a train car, civilians huddling for safety as his command at the sides of the car, while he fired at a foe in the aisle of the next car over… and hits!).
It also really helped drive home the genre of this campaign. Sure there were kastha… and snakemen… and centaurs and spells and pistol shots. But it was a fight on a steam train stopped by a blown-up bridge as brigands attacked it.
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As I work on running my first Really Wild West campaign, and write up weaponry for it, I find myself using new critical hit effects.
I’ll present a weapon list later I presume, but here are some new crit hit effects for GMs doing their own homebrew weapons.
(Art by warpaintcobra)
New Critical Hit Effects
When you score a critical hit, you may apply either its normal critical hit effect, or its alternate critical hit effect (listed in parenthesis), at your preference.
AoO (Attack of Opportunity)
Scoring a critical hit with the weapon causes the target to provoke an attack of opportunity from you. Normally only melee weapons have this critical hit effect.
A weapon with a trauma crit does double normal damage to living thing on a critical hit, to a minimum of its maximum normal damage.
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So, we’ve increased access to spells withspell guns and runethrowers, and then hex rounds and wandshells. Which might leave spellcasting classes saying :”Hey, those are our class features! It’s not like we can buy a potion of operative exploits!”
But in a galaxy with mnemonic enhancers, why CAN’T get you other some class features as 1-shot consumable items?
(art by meenkulathiamma)
Knackhacks Item Credit
Item Level Cost Bulk
Knackhack, 2nd-level knack 3 325 L
Knackhack, 6th-level knack 7 750 L
Knackhack, 10th-level knack 11 3,250 L
Knackhack, 14th-level knack 15 17,500 L
Knackhacks are 1-shot, consumable hybrid cyberdivinations that interface with armor to grant temporary access to techniques and abilities referred to as “prowesses.” A prowess may be a biohacker theorem, envoy improvisation, mechanic trick, operative exploit, or soldier gear boost. There are limitations to which of these prowesses you can use.
A knackhack slots into an otherwise-empty armor upgrade slot. It takes a full round to insert or remove a knackhack, but there’s no skill check or equipment required. A knackhack can only contain a prowess available to a character with a class level lower than the knackhack‘s item level. The prowess operates with a character level equal to the knackhack‘s item level. You can only benefit from one knackhack at a time.
The prowess granted by a knackhack cannot have a Resolve Point cost. It also cannot be on that requires or modifies a class feature or piece of equipment you do not have. For example, a character with no levels in biohacker could not use a knackhack to gain prowess with the theorems of field dressing (which requires a custom microlab) or hampering inhibitor (which requires the ability to use basic inhibitors). However, a non-biohacker character could gain prowess with painful injection, strange anatomy, toxic skin, treat condition, or treatment mastery. (By the same token a biohacker could use a knackhack to gain access to field dressing as a prowess.)
If the prowess has a limited number of uses (per day or other time period), or a limited number of uses that reset when you expend a Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points following a 10-minute rest, then you gain a single use of it with the knackhack (taking whatever action the prowess normally takes), and it is then expended. If it is an ability that grants passive bonuses or van be used at will, it takes a standard action to activate the knackhack, and then the prowess is available for 1 minute.
You cannot create a knackhack unless you have the prowess it grants.
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