Monday, August 13, 2012

I thought I would start cross linking my column here, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Northlands Saga GenCon PCs

Bolla Ulfdottir Female Half-Nuklander (half-elf) Ranger 1

There are not many Half-Nuklanders in the Northlands, and the few that there are tend to be in the northernmost lands such as Estenfird. Your father had a grand adventure in his youth that took him and his brothers far up the Ice River north of Nieuburg. While traveling in the frozen reaches of Nukland, giants attacked them and your father was the only survivor. Left for dead, he was found by a tribe of Nuklanders and nursed back to health. One of that tribe, Jasil, was your mother, and the two fell in love during your father's convalesces and the long winter that followed. The next spring your parents tracked down the giants and brought terrible vengeance upon them. Leaving her people behind, your mother returned to Halfstead and became one of Jarl Olaf Henrickson's best woodsmen, even going so far as to accompany him on several forays into Seagesterland. At her feet you learned of woodlore, and the ways of her people, excelling at the former but often having trouble with the latter. Still, you are one of the best scouts of your generation and should one day take your mother's place as your jarl's premier woodsman. Sadly, marriages between Nuklanders and Northlanders do not always go well. The differences between the cultures, not to mention the races, are often too vast for both parties to handle. His wife often eclipsed your father, and he became jealous of the time she spent off in the woods or on the jarl's journeys. He turned to drink, and his already mayfly human life ended early. Tofa Gormdottir: Your mother's people would stone her as a witch, but this is not Nukland, and so these aberrations must be accepted. Agnar Gormson : A half-giant! In the jarl's household nonetheless! What is this world coming to? Kraki Hallason: You played together as kids, but he has grown into too traditional of a Northlander to ever be a suitable mate. Still, you are good friends to this day. Ingvar Thordson: You have not had much use for your father's gods, and instead call on the spirits of the land as your mother and her people do. Sigvid Arison: A constant irritation and known gossip, being saddled with him is an affront to decency.

People of the Jarl's Hall

Jarl Olaf Henrikson : A good man, a ring giver as his people call him, brave and honorable, but also somewhat reckless when away from home. Jasil the Nuklander: Your mother has always been a great part of your life and you have followed in her footsteps. Halla Gyrdsdottir: Proof that women can be warriors amongst the Northlanders, and good ones at that. Berg Geirson: Can this man complain any more than he already does? One-Eyed Sven: When you were little he was like a kind uncle, if only he would stop and act like a companion and borher in arms. Ljot the Elder: Dour, stern, and bitter. Ljot the Younger: This untested youth is of more danger to his fellows than the enemy. Hauk Arinbjronson: A failed bearsarker, but just as crazy, and deadly. Thord Cnutson: Even more annoying than his son. Skuld the Slave: This girl has strange eyes, she is more than she seems. Hild the Bold: I may leave the Jarl's service and join her crew, if not for her witchy family.

Agnar Gormson Male Giant-Blooded Barbarian 1

You were found alone and naked on the Moors by your adopted father, a hirdman of some standing in Halfstead. As a babe you were large, but not terribly well developed mentally, however Gorm took you in and raised you as his own. To the surprise of Gorm and his wife (not to mention their only other child, Tofa), you grew at a prodigious rate, at least physically. In three years you had gone from a mewling toddler to the size of boy of ten years, though at this point you had only learned a few words. By the time Tofa was thirteen, her brother was larger than most men, but had the intelligence and personality of a ten year old. Your strength and endurance quickly became legendary, and Gorm put his son to work on the farm. At first you were capable of only the simplest tasks, but after a few years you could be trusted to perform more complex variations of lift that or carry this. You have become very popular with those needing to build new structures, as you can carry a fifteen foot beam all on your own, and hold it in place while the pegs and lashings are applied. To all and sundry it has been assumed that you have giant blood, and that most likely you are the product of a giant and a Northlander captive. How you got lost is unknown, but all are impressed by your physical might, attracted to your open and friendly ways, but fearful of your terrible rages. Often you can’t control the anger that flows in your veins, likely a result of your giant heritage. The best thing is to avoid confrontation, something fairly easy to do when you are taller and broader than any other man in Halfstead. Last year you tried to join a bearsarker cult, hoping that by channeling your rage towards a holy purpose you might be able to control it. Sadly, they would not take you because you are suspected of having giant blood, Instead you have entered the jarl's service as one of his warriors. Fighting is not something you enjoy, but it is fun to lift bulls for the jarl's guests. Tofa Gormdottir: Your sweet 'little' sister, you are as protective of her as she is of you, only now you are adults and it is she that needs to be defended from those who would harm her. Her gift is strange and scary, but it is something you have come to accept. Kraki Hallason: A boon companion and good man, if only you could learn to fight with skill like him, instead of brute force as you are inclined to. Ingvar Thordson: He talks to gods! That must be such a strange thing to do. You asked him to explain about the bersarkers and how they worship Odin, but you just didn’t understand. Boll Ulfdottir: She is a bitter face. Sigvid Arison: He knows secrets, and will tell them. Did you know there is a blue skinned dwarf who lives in the jarl's cellars? For thirty pieces of hacksilver Sigvid will show him to you.

People of the Jarl's Hall

Jarl Olaf Henrikson: He is the master of all, obey his words and deeds. Jasil the Nuklander: She is scary, like her daughter. Halla Gyrdsdottir: I once stole a spear from her, she was kind in punishing me herself and not telling mom and dad. Berg Geirson: Berg always say we will all die, but he is never right. One-Eyed Sven: Always has sweets and likes to share. Ljot the Elder: Another bitter face, and never shares his mead. Ljot the Younger: He is even clumsier than me! Hauk Arinbjronson: Scary, and not in the good way. Thord Cnutson: He won’t let me into his godi house, and that is not nice. Skuld the Slave: Why do people fear a tiny little girl? Hild the Bold: Aunt Hild paid me a whole pig to carry some cargo off her ship. Nice lady.

Ingvar Thordson Male Northlander (human) Godi (cleric) 1

Like many Godi, you inherited your occupation and position from your father, the chief Godi in Halfstead. You grew up in the small cottage that sits behind the shrine, and started helping with services as soon as you were able. When not busy at the shrine, you tended the family's farm alongside your seven older siblings (and later the six younger). When the jarl went on a journey, your father went along, and your oldest brother took over the shrine. It was a good life, and the gods repeatedly blessed you father with fortune and glory. When you came of age, you naturally became a Godi of Thor, but as your brother inherited the shrine and adjacent farmland, you were left with nothing but a name and the promise of a place to sleep. Jarl Olaf doesn't need another Godi, but has agreed to take you into his service as a warrior. How better to serve your patron deity than through glorious battle? In the Northlands, clerics are called Godi and normally don’t dedicate themselves to one patron deity, but lead prayers and worship for the entire pantheon. You have given yourself to Thor, but like all Godi can perform rituals to all the gods of the Pantheon. Being a Godi is a part-time job, and there is no conflict with living a warrior's life at the same time. However, you are still expected to uphold the tenets of the Northlander gods (i.e. honesty, honor, and courage), as well as perform religious services as needed. Tofa Gormdottir: Your father always said the cunning women were our main competition, but Tofa is far too pretty to be a rival. Perhaps if I can make a name for myself I can offer her father some cattle for her hand, and then the cunning blood will be in my family. Agnar Gormson: I am not sure we are supposed to accept giant blooded into our communities, but he does seem all right, at least for now. Kraki Hallason: This is the sort of man that makes Thor proud, tall, strong, and brave, with an open and honest face. Like the jarl, Kraki would be a good man to serve one day, and no doubt will in time become a ring-giver himself. Boll Ulfdottir: I have never seen her at the shrine, or taking part in any of the festivals. This cannot be a good sign. Sigvid Arison: Loki probably fathered this one.

People of the Jarl's Hall

Jarl Olaf Henrikson: A great leader, a ring-giver, filled with mind's worth and firm in the shieldwall. Also, he respects the gods. Jasil the Nuklander: A strange foreigner with strange gods, and not even human! Halla Gyrdsdottir: Kraki's mom gets so angry when he and I make trouble, thankfully we are grown men now and never make trouble. Berg Geirson: The gods are kind, but he still thinks they have picked him out for special cruelties. One-Eyed Sven: Always a kind word from him, but I am a godi of Thor now, not a simpering babe and expect to be treated as such. Ljot the Elder: He needs to hear a sermon about the kindness of community. Ljot the Younger: Once when we were kids, Kraki and I threw Ljot the Younger into a pile of manure. Didn’t fertilize his brains any, did it? Hauk Arinbjronson: I have some doubts about a man who they say failed at joining Odin's sacred bearsarkers. Thord Cnutson: I will make my father, and his patron god, proud. Skuld the Slave: Just as a precaution, we should burn this one. Hild the Bold: Another woman who prefers the path of the sword over the butter churn, not a good thing.

Tofa Gormdottir Female Northlander (human) Cunning Woman (sorcerer) 1

You grew up on a wealthy farm, your father one of Jarl Olaf's hirdsmen, a rich farmer who can report for war with a full array of weapons and followers of his own. As a child you spent most of your time romping through the woods or across the fields, your adopted brother close at your heels. Many a night he carried your small exhausted body back to the farmstead, and some of your fondest memories are of sleeping safe and secure in his arms. Some of your worse memories are of defending him against bullies who preyed on his childlike demeanor, and of keeping him from hurting them (at least too much) when he became filled with rage. Your mother's line is known to produce cunning women, women with the gift of magic. Most of them become midwives and other healers, though some have taken to traveling with bands of warriors and having wild adventures. You mother did not have the gift, and so at the age of thirteen you left your farm and went to live with your aunt, a cunning woman, in her cottage not far from Halfstead. You learned a lot about magic and healing, and were close enough to visit with your parents and your brother, Angar. It was a comfortable life, but not what you wanted. Although your aunt is a kind woman and well respected in the community (though a bit feared for her otherworldly powers), you wanted to be more like your other aunt Hild, a famed warrior-woman who uses her magics to aid a band of wandering warriors in their adventures. Oh the stories Hild would tell when she came home to visit! Far off lands, battles against giants and other monsters, hidden treasures in sunken ruins, not to mention the tales of menfolk she whispered to your mother late at night when the kids were supposed to be asleep. When you came of age, you entered the jarl's service; he is always wiling to give someone a chance (especially someone with bizarre powers). Your mother disapproves of your choice, but is happy that you can remain near Angar and keep him out of trouble. You are certain that aunt Hild would be proud, but she has been missing for the past three years. Agnar Gormson: Oh, poor overgrown child Agnar, let your sister guide you, I am a cunning woman after all. Kraki Hallason: You were out gathering herbs for your magic when you saw him at the hot springs where the people of Halfstead go to bathe. Maybe you were gathering herbs there because you knew he would be at the springs. Anyway, that's one fluster inducing man. Ingvar Thordson: Your aunts always warned you about the Godi, but this one seems less interested in casting dispersions on your abilities, and more interested in something else. Boll Ulfdottir: How can so one so pretty and skilled be so bitter? Sigvid Arison: Prattle on, prattle on, no one of worth is listening.

People of the Jarl's Hall

Jarl Olaf Henrikson: He let your brother live, accepts cunning women as part of his house, and is abrave, honorable, and just man. Jasil the Nuklander: Strange, but not as bitter as her daughter. Halla Gyrdsdottir: A fine warrior who produced a very fine son. Berg Geirson: How can I convince him that there is hope? One-Eyed Sven: He has been like an uncle to you, and you always feel safer when he is around. Ljot the Elder: Bitter, angry, and odd. Ljot the Younger: Like your companions a young man looking to make his way in the world. Hauk Arinbjronson: This man is not right in the head. Thord Cnutson: He always speaks out against cunning women, what is his problem? Skuld the Slave: This one is definitely touched with power, but doomed by the station of her birth. Hild the Bold: Aunt Hild, what wild life you live.

Kraki Hallason Male Northlander (human) Fighter 1

Your mother was a rarity in the Northlands, a woman who not only became a warrior, but rose to the honored position of huscarl. Of your father, there is not much known, and your mother does not speak of him other than to say he died before you were born. You grew up in the jarl's hall, a part of the household since your earliest memories. Like your mother, you showed an early interest in all things martial, and have grown to be a fine example of Northlander warriorhood. One thing has always troubled you, and that is although your mother has dark hair and eyes, you are fair-haired and have blue eyes. As a child you assumed this came from you deceased father, such coloration is more common in the Northlands than your mother's darker colors. However, in facial feature, though definitely not in build, you bear a slight resemblance to Jarl Olaf's eldest daughter, Inga. No one has ever commented on this, but there is often tension between the jarl's wife and your mother, especially when the jarl takes your mother with him on one of his journeys. Tofa Gormdottir: So pretty, too bad she is a cunning woman and thus poison to any man who has her. Agnar Gormson: Well, having a stupid brute can be useful, and at least he is friendly. Ingvar Thordson: Always a good friend and companion, and touched by the gods as well. Boll Ulfdottir: When you were children you were friends but she has become distant of late. Her skill and woodslore is impressive, and she should be respected for that, if nothing else. Sigvid Arison: A skald should sing men into battle, not tell lies behind other's backs.

People of the Jarl's Hall

Jarl Olaf Henrikson: The best of men, a great leader, ring-giver, and warrior. Jasil the Nuklander: Too foreign to talk to, and much more like a creature of the wild than anything else. Halla Gyrdsdottir: I wish I could be half the warrior my mother is. Berg Geirson: Lighten up, you are ruining the morale of everybody for no purpose. One-Eyed Sven: The second best tutor in the arts of a warrior than any could have, and a fine fellow to have in the shield wall. Ljot the Elder: Best axe-thrower I ever met. Ljot the Younger: This callow youth needs more time practicing before he is ready for battle. Hauk Arinbjronson: A warrior should keep his wits about him at all times, not like this one. Thord Cnutson: You spent half your youth at his house with his younger son Ingvar, and Thord has been like the father you never had. Skuld the Slave: Who? Hild the Bold: She has forsaken the first duty of a warrior, to defend hearth and home, to become a noted viking and pillager.

Sigvid Arison Male Northlander (human) Skald (bard) 1

Oh the tales to tell! From your first memory your head has been full of tales, legends, and gossip. You came by it naturally, your father is the jarl's herald and chief skald, and your mother is the head cook (and lead gossip of the hall, why, even of all of Halfstead). As a child of the household, you were always underfoot and often overlooked. As a result you have heard things you were not supposed to, some of which you told to your mother for further dissemination, others you kept to yourself. You know that Asgeir the stable master skims off some of the cream from the jarl's cows and eats it himself. Gorm, the hirdsman didn't find his giant blooded adopted son, he bought him from a giantess for a kiss and three goats. Frothi the thatcher is in love with Osk the miller's daughter, but is three times her age and so won’t do anything about it. When he was nine, Ingvar stole some butter from the jarl's pantry while on a visit with his father. There is a blue skinned dwarf who lives in a secret room in the cellar. Tofa's aunt Hild was seen with her ship, Dragon Eyes, off the coast of Monrovia last spring. Sibbe the Unkempt, a wild witch woman, haunts the forest west of Halfstead. Kraki Hallason is the jarl's bastard child, as is Skuld the slave girl. There is an outlaw who lives in the woods behind the hall, his lover is a washerwoman named Thora, and she brings him meat and mead from the jarl's table. Ulf, father of Boll, didn’t drink himself to death, his Nuklander wife poisoned him out of despair and shame at what he had become. You also know tales of heroics and of the gods. The usual stuff any skald knows, but the gossip is what interests you the most, that and finding your own tales to tell. You can sing, play the harp, and roar men into battle, like any good skald, but these small stories of daily life, these are the songs you wish to sing. Tofa Gormdottir: Wonder what this pretty one has been doing, spying on a certain blond warrior? Agnar Gormson: How will his story play out, giant blood tells and he becomes a tragic villain, or a hero who overcomes his heritage? Kraki Hallason: Picture a hero from an ancient tale, now look at Kraki, yep, same person. Ingvar Thordson: Godi rises from obscurity to greatness? Or falls from grace? Boll Ulfdottir: Her mother's tales are many, and if the daughter is the same her tales will be, interesting.

People of the Jarl's Hall

Jarl Olaf Henrikson: Tales have already been sung about this great man, but none about his, shall we say indelicacies with the ladies? Jasil the Nuklander: A great warrior and hunter, but she won’t share her people's tales with me. I wonder why? Halla Gyrdsdottir: Kraki's mother is as accomplished as the Jarl, and just as sneaky in the dark. Berg Geirson: Just shut up already. One-Eyed Sven: He lost his eye to a Southlander in a drunken street fight in Halfstead. Ljot the Elder: He once kept three thralls as his personal harem, until they all died of the pox three years ago. Ljot the Younger: Picture a fool from an ancient tale, now look at Ljot the Younger. Yep. Same person. Hauk Arinbjronson: His tale will end badly. Thord Cnutson: Despite his great protestations to virtue and honor, he once bedded Hild the Bold while on a mission for the Jarl. Skuld the Slave: That one, he, he, she will have some degree of power and madness one day. How much for the Jarl's bastard daughter, and how to get the hacksilver? Hild the Bold: Naughty Hild, what have you been doing?

Interplanetary PCs for GenCon 2012

Lance Corporal Carlos Xavier Casablanco

Lance Corporal Casablanco was born in a small fishing village on Nuevo Mexico. There he grew up as the son of an artisan lobster fishermen, an occupation that harvested select lobsters for high-end markets. Carlos took to his duties as one of the fourteen children in the Casablanco family, proving to have a knack for both operating and maintaining anything with an engine. His oldest sister was slated to take over the lucrative lobster contracts and license, and most of his other siblings either married and moved to the edge of the colony or got into a Terra-side college. Left to his own devices, Carlos fell in with a group of street racers in the colony's capital, Leon. At sixteen, Carlos was involved in a multiple car pile up, and sent to the colony's work farm for two years. When he returned home, his father and oldest sister marched him off to the USMSC recruiting center and brow beat him into enlisting. The experience awakened a savage curiosity to see the stars. Carlos lives hard and drives fast, rather it is in his squad's M134 Warthog or GSDS-836 Valkyrie. He has become infatuated with Old Earth classic movies, and when off duty affects a style he calls 'outlaw biker'. First Lt. Anthony Wong: Yes sit, right away sir. Stuck up ring knocking Earther. Pfc. Sally XXII: You could learn so much about life baby. Let's take a walk in the woods next R&R, hmm? Pfc. Elizabeth Cartwright: Big beautiful and deadly. Lance Corporal Lisa Stevens: Hello, miss techie, I've got a busted, uh, something or other in my bunk. HM3 Johnny Kraken: Ick, he may be the best doc in the fleet, and I'll kick the ass of anyone who says otherwise, but he is one weird dude.

First Lt. Anthony Wong

The Wongs are a wealthy San Francisco family with a hand in industry and politics. Anthony grew up one of the privileged elite on Terra, and even toured the inner colonies after graduating from preparatory school. With an eye towards a political career, he was encouraged to enlist in the US armed forces, and an appointment to the USSN academy at Aldrin Station, Luna was arranged. To his family's dismay, instead of a safe tour in the USSN (most likely on a Sol System fleet cruiser), Anthony instead opted to join the USMSC and serve on the Frontier. Lt. Wong is a by the book officer, though he is flexible enough to throw it out when it conflicts with the mission. He is an honorable and honest person, one who has internalized the martial disciplines taught him in the academy. Once Wong saw the state of affairs on the Frontier, he decided that a short tour and then back home to run for city council was not right for him. He can do better work and help more people here, where civilization ends and the wilderness begins. Lance Corporal Carlos Xavier Casablanco: Professional, resilient, but far too independent minded to make an excellent marine. Pfc. Sally XXII: The model of the brave and loyal marine. Pfc. Elizabeth Cartwright: Mars makes big woman and the best enlisted in Exlpored Space, and Cartwright is a fine example of that. Lance Corporal Lisa Stevens: Stevens is a gifted technician, but too much of her between mission time is spent on personal grooming. HM3 Johnny Kraken: Efficient, but frequently intrusive.

Pfc. Sally XXII

Sally was designed to be the latest generation synthetic trooper nearly fifty years ago, but the program was terminated and the fertilized embryos placed in cryogenic storage. Three years ago this 'over sight' on the part of the Department of Defense was reveled, and at the insistence of pro-synthetic political groups, the embryos were thawed out and brought to term. Sadly, most did not survive decades in storage, but a few proved viable. Sally was one of the lucky ones, and a near-perfect clone of the others of her model. After undergoing a crash indoctrination program, Sally was given three hundred dollars, a suit of clothes, and a ticket to any planet she wanted. Instead, she walked out of the indoctrination center, took a left, and enlisted in the USMSC. She still doesn’t know why, but something in her compelled her to join the US military. Her surname was what the instructors at the indoctrination program called her, numbering each 'Sally' in order to make their own lives easier. Lance Corporal Carlos Xavier Casablanco: This is what freedom gives to people, clear head, strong body, and, well, freedom. First Lt. Anthony Wong: Friendly but aloof, you often feel he thinks of you as piece to be moved around the board. Pfc. Elizabeth Cartwright: My only friend in this squad. Lance Corporal Lisa Stevens: What have I done to her to deserve such regular disdain? HM3 Johnny Kraken: What went wrong with his batch?

Pfc. Elizabeth Cartwright

Elizabeth grew up on Mars hearing stories of that famed hero of the USMSC, Elizabeth Lang, having been named after the women called the Savior of Mars, St. Elizabeth, or the Battle Valkyrie of the Red Planet (Martians are known for their hyperbole). It was no wonder that young miss Cartwright joined the USMSC as soon as her apprenticeship as a miner was over. As a native of Mars, Cartwright has what has become known as the 'Mars Look'. Her features are a blend of Asian and European genes, and her physique hints at the early stages of the colony's settlement when massive genetic manipulation programs were attempted in order to create humans better suited to living and working underground on an alien planet. Sure she won’t win any beauty contests, but she is more than capable of winning hearts with her warm personality, cheery demeanor, and firm grip on her M46 SAW. Lance Corporal Carlos Xavier Casablanco: How weird it must have been to grow up with clear skies and next to an ocean. He's cute too. First Lt. Anthony Wong: A strong leader and a good officer, like the Corps always produces. Pfc. Sally XXII: She's really only a child, you know, but it’s not her fault. Lance Corporal Lisa Stevens: This little thing keeps rubbing her nose in my business. She knows her job well, but seems to think being a marine is about looking good while fixing a tank. HM3 Johnny Kraken: His hands are as cold as his heart.

Lance Corporal Lisa Stevens

The child of freelance computer technicians, Lisa grew up in the shadows of the big corporate arcologies. Her parents refused to work for the corps, and instead set up their own repair shop on the edge of the slums. Never wealthy, they were able to pay the dependant tax for one child, and poured all their love and support into raising Lisa. They were also able to afford to set aside a small amount of money so she could go to college, not a Terran one, but a fine school in the inner colonies. Unfortunately, United Technical Support opened up a shop in the neighborhood, and soon undercut the Stevens. One day, a man in a suit came into the shop and commented on how it would be a bad thing if anything happened to it, or to the Stevens. The family took the hint, and Lisa's college fund was needed to pay for the family to immigrate to the Frontier where their skills would be needed and they could avoid corporate harassment. As her parents left for Franklin, Lisa left for the USMSC, finding it a viable place to get the advanced training she needed to strike out on her own. She is a complete professional, focused on the job above all else and not prone to fraternizing with her squadmates. In truth, Lisa has never gotten the hang of social interaction, preferring to spend her time with computers and other technical hardware. Lance Corporal Carlos Xavier Casablanco: He spends so much time alone, and when he's not he's with Cartwright. What a shame. First Lt. Anthony Wong: Like the people who ran your family off of Terra he gives orders, but at least he is competent. Pfc. Sally XXII: Synthetics should have been discontinued years ago, we don’t need them taking our jobs. Pfc. Elizabeth Cartwright: What a brute of a woman, and not too bright as well. HM3 Johnny Kraken: I think he has the bedside manner of a welding robot, and the personality as well. Shame he's TriVid star hot.

HM3 Johnny Kraken

According to Federal Law, Johnny should never have been born. His was an illegal synthetic batch, grown in violation of the US Constitution to serve as the personal nurses and playthings of a well respected conservative Senator. When the existence of Johnny and his six cloned siblings (the batch was half male and half female) they were freed and the Senator was sentenced to life at the penal colony on Franklin. Johnny was sent to an indoctrination center and released. His designation as a service model prevented any respectable hospital from hiring him, and he lacked the funds to immigrate and start a new life. Seeking a way to avoid a life in porn or brothels, Johnny enlisted in the USSN. Figuring that sailors were called 'squids' Johnny decided he would be a Kraken. Needless to say, no one is amused. Although a figure of perfect physical beauty, HM3 Kraken does not posses much of a personality, being somewhat aloof and awkward. He tends to treat people, especially patients, as inanimate objects he is forced to deal with. He does not have a bedside manner at all, but is one of the most technically proficient medics on the Frontier. Lance Corporal Carlos Xavier Casablanco: Good health, suffers from some minor self-inflicted injuries due to promiscuity and alcohol consumption. The unit has been treated with broad range antibiotics and anitvirals, as well as counseling. First Lt. Anthony Wong: Maintains adequate fitness levels, but has occasional bouts of depression, though he denies it. Does not respond to counseling. Pfc. Sally XXII: Excellent combat model that suffers only from psychological defects concerning her role in the world as a synthetic. Pfc. Elizabeth Cartwright: If this unit does not perform routine maintenance, she will lose muscle tone and gain excess adipose tissue. Advised unit, but received a rather passive-aggressive response. Lance Corporal Lisa Stevens: Similar to Lance Corporal Casablanco, this unit indulges in recreational activities that are counter to good health and hygenie. Unit also spends a lot of time on personal maintenance beyond need for adequate physical and mental conditioning.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What is Pulp?

Every couple of years 'pulp' becomes the popular genre in the gaming community, and then is cycled out of favor to be replaced by something else (I think super heroes is the current popular genre). Now, some may call me an elitist or a snob, but I am a firm believer in using literary genre labels to describe RPGs of differing genres. To this end, I am afraid to tell you gentle readers that there is no such thing as a 'pulp' genre. Still, the tag seems to be used by nearly everyone in the industry to describe any game set in the 1920's and '30's. In a sense, it has become shorthand for high action adventure, often with some nod to a historical period, set before WWII yet after WWI. Sometimes the decades are expanded to include the latter part of the Victorian period, and often conflated with both that era and the following Edwardian era.
So, what does pulp actually mean? In short, it is a type of paper, a low grade and thus cheap paper that was used for popular fiction magazines from the 1890's to the 1950's. These magazines were themselves often genre specific; there were detective pulps, western pulps, horror pulps, fantasy and science fiction pulps, even romance or true crime pulps. These magazines were aimed at the working classes amongst whom there was a growing literacy rate, and prior to the advent of radio and TV, provided a much-needed form of entertainment. They were not something that 'proper' people read (though they did, like most things 'proper' people don’t do). The quality of the writing was generally poor, the illustrations pushed the limits of the decency laws of the time, and the stories themselves were lurid, sensationalist, often violent, nearly always fairly far-fetched, and in general considered at the time to be of little literary value. However, it is out of these pulps that some of the greatest writers of the age came, most notably Bradbury, Chandler, Heinlein, Howard, L'Amour, Leiber, London, Lovecraft, Wells, and even Vance. Notice any names on that list that had a large and positive influence on fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and RPG's? Yes, the literary critics of the day were shortsighted in their view of the pulps, neglecting to see that amongst the rough there were pearls. We should all learn a lesson, especially those of us who are elitists, that being a snob is the antithesis of elitism, for we must always strive for and seek the best, no matter what rags it may wear.
Thus, pulp is not a true genre, but a style of publishing and writing. How then is it a genre of RPG's? Ignorance would be my best guess, but partially through the means by which a language grows and changes. It is quite normal for words to take on different meanings, though it can be very annoying when one is speaking of technical terms, and those who use pulp as a means of defining a genre should not be chastised for it (at least not too much or too frequently).
A pulp game should be high on the action, short on the plot, and thoroughly done for the fun of it. It should tend towards sensationalist and over the top behavior by the PCs and NPCs, and most of all should keep the action flowing. Character development should follow a relatively shallow track, we're not doing Masterpiece Theatre here, and emotionally responses should be played up almost to ridiculous heights. The Rule of Cool needs to be in effect, and a large amount of suspension of disbelief on the part of all involved is not just expected, but required. In this way you are holding true to the pulp magazines of yore, and to the style they put forth. Sex was often a selling point of the pulps, at least on the magazine covers, and although your game needn't be explicit, it should have some titillation. Fur and chainmail bikinis are optional, but both genders should receive a fair amount of 'cake' if you know what I mean. Why, there was even a 'caged heat' genre aimed at heterosexuals and homosexuals of both sexes (though it should be noted that these and other highly sexual pulps were rare and sold under the counter).
By treating pulp as a style and not a genre, you can then apply it to any genre you desire, thus emulating the magazines (and the crappy paper) that yielded the name. Considering that the pulps were the birthplace of many of the genres we now enjoy, from Sword and Sorcery to Super Heroes, this is not just appropriate, but nearly a requirement. Looking at gaming this way, I can safely say my current Barbarians of Lemuria game is a pulp fantasy (and made more so by the introduction of the PC named Sexy Fat Man). Many of the games I have ran in the past are pulp styled, and that's fine, it’s a style I love and love to see more of. It's just not a genre per se.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Evil PCs

Every couple of years this topic seems to come up in one of my games, namely someone wants to play a member of the party that is an evil PC. Most of the time I simply will not allow it, but occasionally a good concept comes my way and the evil PC enters the campaign. The question always is, what do you do with that character? Evil PCs have different motivations than good aligned heroes, and are not always moved by wealth or fame like other PCs. Usually when someone decides they want to play evil, its not just to be a money-grubbing villain or anti-hero, they want to do bad stuff, or at least work for an evil agency of some type.
Once you have allowed an evil PC into the campaign, the next question is what to do with it. You don’t have to do anything special, you can just let the evil PC develop and play out as any other character, however you would then be missing out on some great opportunities for storytelling, not to mention letting less than pleasant things into the game without some form of payback for the extra work and headache. Four good options are to play out a plot arc based on redemption, descent into madness, betrayal, or just retribution.
A redemptive storyline is the most positive option to play, but requires a good role-player to pull off. Basically, you should sit down with the player of the evil PC and determine why he is evil and what will turn him towards the light. This can either be a long process where the cause of the character's evil inclinations is slowly worked away, or possibly a face turn situation. In a face turn situation, the PC has a moment of revelation where he is forced to confront his evil and decides to turn away from it. However the decision to become one of the good guys happens, the road to redemption should be a long one fraught with temptation and peril. Eventually the PC faces his demons (possibly literally), makes good the damage he has done (or learns to live with the guilt and shame) and becomes a good guy in the campaign. Just keep in mind that one good act of redemption does not make, no matter how big that act (unless it is self-sacrificing, the redemption in death trope is a good one), a good aligned hero.
One of the most difficult story lines to play out, but one that can be a lot of fun, is to have the evil PC descend into madness. This is a classic in some genres; the bad deeds and horrible acts wear away at the character's sanity until the inevitable break with reality occurs. At this point the PC is thoroughly evil, but may not be entirely responsible for his actions as he is now insane. Be careful not to creep out the other people at the table, but make sure it is obvious to the other characters that one of their own is now bat-shit crazy. This sets up a couple of story lines, such as the other PCs having to put down their rapid-dog companion, seek out a cure, or possibly the evil PC finds redemption through madness.
Betrayal is a dangerous plot arc to follow, and can lead to bad feelings amongst the players. Basically, set it up before hand that the evil PC will at some point betray the party to their enemies. This should be something big, not a petty turning them over to the local tribe of orcs, but instead something along the lines of handing the artifact they have been questing for to the campaign's big bad guy. This should lead to the other PCs hunting down and brining the evil PC to justice, or if they fail some other force for good within the campaign will do the dirty work for them.
Finally, the evil PC can be allowed to run amok with the understanding that at some point law and order will catch up to him. This might be in the form of another PC, or it may be the local authorities, but some how, some way just retribution for his evil acts will come down upon him. Playing a character who it is predetermined will be taken down is not for everyone's liking, but it does set up a nice plot arc. Consider what the reaction of the other characters will be when one of their number is imprisoned, charged with a crime, or pursued by bounty hunters. Will they defend their companion, or turn him over? This sort of situation is one that good drama, and good role-playing, is made of.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I have begun experimenting with a little old school style gaming with my weekly Pathfinder game. First of all, the campaign is set in the Forgotten Realms in the year 1368 DR, basically the AD&D Second Edition era. Second, the factor that is a true experiment is that I am handing out experience points for gold pieces. That's right folks, I am putting my campaign into the way-back machine and giving one experience point for each gold point worth of loot the PCs manage to pick up. Extreme? Maybe, but we'll see how it goes.
I am doing this because I feel that one of the things lost in recent editions is the encouragement to explore and to find non-combat related means of resolving issues. True, the GM has some leeway in how XP is handed out, and can reward the type of game play the campaign encourages, but often this is a rather fuzzy metric and not clearly defined in the rules, or at the table. BY giving the PCs a definite bonus that they know ahead of time, they can calculate the risks and rewards better when deciding their character's actions.
There are a few issues that are apparent with this experimental XP award system. First, there is already a built in reward for finding treasure, and that ties directly into the magic item economy inherent in Pathfinder. Since we are playing in the Forgotten Realms, magic item shops are rare, but still present in a few cities. In effect, the characters are getting rewarded twice for loot, once as XP and a second time as what that loot can purchase (or in the case of found magical items, once for the GP/ XP value of the item and once for its utility). This is Ok, as what I am trying to do is encourage exploration and, for lack of a better word, 'lateral thinking'. Finding ways around the problems brought about by the plot that are not tied to the 'kill them and take their stuff' mentality. Another issue is that this increases the amount of XP a party receives, but this can be compensated for by using the slow progression column on the level table.
If you get more XP, and thus faster level progression and thus more cool powers by looting than by killing, it changes the game play. Caution becomes more important than simply charging in and attacking. Stealth and good planning replace amount of damage dealt per round as the primary means of success. Finally, since the set up for the campaign is work as caravan guards, and the PCs are allowed to do some trading of their own on the side, this double reward means that attention paid to the mercantile side of the campaign gains greater importance.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Who's Yer Con 2012 Wrap Up

This past weekend, Con Team Alpha attended Who's Yer Con in Indianapolis, a free local convention put on by Who's Yer Gamers. We ran games to promote Northlands Saga and Interplanetary, and although we had poor attendance on Friday; Saturday and Sunday picked up and we got to show off our games to several people, and meet some great gamers at the same time. In short, a good time was had by all.
Who's Yer Con is small, I don’t have the attendance figures for this year but would guess at less than five hundred attendees. The Pathfinder Society games were packed, and some of the other venues saw a fair number of people at tables. The exhibitors' hall was tiny, but had five exhibitors plus the convention's raffle table. This is one feature I really liked, as they raffled off hundreds of prizes throughout the con. I won a copy of Atlas Games' Cults of Cthulhu, but as I am not a boardgamer I traded it at the Arsenal Game Room and Café booth for some old Forgotten Realms titles. The convention had several other nice features, a large open play area, a game library, and several ongoing free demo events (in addition to ours). There was a film hall, LARPs, and costume contest, the usual things one expects at any decent gaming convention. The convention staff was generally friendly and helpful, and even the ones who were less than helpful were still friendly. We will be back next year, but most likely only for Saturday, the cost in time and dollars is too much to warrant a full weekend.

Games at Who's Yer Con

We ran three sessions of two events, Spring Rites for Northlands Saga and Terror on New Cumberland for Interplanetary. Sadly, Spring Rites ended up being at bad times, Friday (a day of low attendance) and early Saturday (again, few people at the con at 9am). At a larger con the numbers would have been better, but there simply was not enough people to be able to attract a decent table size. We did have better luck Sunday morning, and had a full table for Spring Rites. This group did very well, rescuing the three daughters of Jarl Olaf without loss of any PC. I was introduced by one of the participants to the Viking themed metal band Amon Amaruth, and will have to check these guys out. The session ended with everyone having a good time, and lots of interest in Northlands Saga.
Of our three Interplanetary events, we had full tables at two and a half table at one. In all cases it was a fun time as the marines of the USSN corvette Ira Hayes dropped on the tiny mining colony of New Cumberland and proceeded to investigate the causes behind a garbled distress call. Aliens were met and vanquished, mysteries were (sometimes) resolved, and colonists were rescued to varying degrees (one session only took away two survivors of the hundred and fifty trapped on the colony). This led one player to rename the site of the colony "The Valley of Bad Decisions". In nearly every event the dam was blown and the colony flooded, putting an end (hopefully) to the alien menace.
A few new contacts were made, especially with the Arsenal Game Room and Café and the IUPUI Gamers' Guild. Con Team Alpha will have a presence at their events in April, more on that in the weeks to come. If you missed Spring Rites and Terror on New Cumberland at Who's Yer Con, both events, as well as the Northlands Saga event Spears in the Ice and The Archangel Incident for Interplanetary will be ran at Gen Con 2012. Don’t forget, this year we are introducing Con Team Alpha Character Upgrade Tokens. Attend one Con Team Alpha event and get a wooden token you can keep. Bring it back to another event, and get an upgrade to your character. Your tokens carry over from convention to convention, so hoard them up and show them to your friends!

What is Con Team Alpha?

Con Team Alpha is a group of genetically engineered elite gamemasters who escaped from a federal penitentiary for crimes they wanted to commit. They escaped to the RPG underground and now travel the Midwest promoting games written by their dark master, Ken Spencer.
OK, maybe not, but we are highly experienced gamers who love to run games at conventions and promote Ken Spencer Freelancing. Currently, Con Team Alpha consists of Ken Spencer, Matt Carlson, Jeremy Hedge, and Ted Snider.