Wednesday, September 17, 2014

AVERAGE JOES AVAILABLE IN PDF

Average Joes is available once again in PDF. 

When eco-terrorists interrupt a day of shopping at Bellpoint Mall, a group of ordinary citizens rise to the occasion and kick butt.


Average Joes is a combination source book and game module for Terror Network that presents a different way to play the original game. It comes complete with the mall scenario, special rules for playing Average Joes, and ideas for future campaigns.

Available in PDF here: AVERAGE JOES

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

DESIGNING SERVANTS OF GAIUS

When we released Servants of Gaius once again in PDF it did surprisingly well compared to its initial launch, which is leading us to consider further support. We have a great mystery adventure already to go and that may be the first. We may also touch up the original book in terms of physical presentation. But right now I'd like to talk a bit about the concept and the design for those who are not familiar with the game. 

Servants of Gaius is set in 38 AD during the reign of Caligula. It is an alternate history RPG where the central conceit is that Caligula was never crazy or wicked but rather an enlightened god and the target of a supernatural conspiracy. Though we leave the nature of this conspiracy up the Gamemaster, Caligula believes it is a mystery cult devoted to Neptune. He establishes a secret order of Romans to wage a silent war against the god and his minions: the Servants of Gaius. 

When Bill and I started Bedrock Games we knew we wanted to do a Roman RPG at some point (well I knew I wanted to do one and Bill was happy to indulge me). I am a massive fan of the I, Claudius miniseries and the early Roman Empire has always been my favorite period of history. When I was younger my father gave me a copy of Caesar and Christ, the third volume in Will and Ariel Durant's The Story of Civilization series. That had a huge impact on me. I immediately took an interest in sword and sandal films like Spartacus and tracked down books on Rome and its emperors. I developed a particular fondness for two: Caligula and Marcus Aurelius. The first was evil and probably insane, while the other was widely regarded as one of Rome's better emperors, sometimes even lauded as the first true "philosopher king". Caligula was a villain, a mad and wild villain of the sort you see in films starring Gary Oldman. Marcus Aurelius was a stoic and capable leader, he also wrote a book called The Meditations which offers an intimate description of his stoic beliefs. I don't know why but both figures fascinated me. 

Then I discovered I, Claudius. I don't recall what path led me to it, but I ended up borrowing VHS copies from the library. It is a 12 episode series and I stormed through it in a few days. I thought the writing and acting were tremendous. It was old (even back when I first watched it) but it held up well. It also had a number of surprises for the young geek that I was, including a terrifying performance by Patrick Stewart as Sejanus. But John Hurt's Caligula was the most memorable of all. He was evil and mad but there was a little more there. It wasn't a sympathetic 90s villain, but he was believable and human despite all his other outrageous qualities. The episodes covering Caligula's reign were by far the most enjoyable of the series and the relationship between Caligula and his uncle Claudius (to me) was the heart of the show. When we got around to Servants of Gaius, I knew I wanted Caligula to play a major role, but that presented some issues in terms of how close player characters could reasonably get to him. The historical Caligula was pretty liberal with executions and no sane party would deal with such a man if at all possible. It was also forced. It didn't feel like a natural fit. So we had to think on it some more.  

Before Servants of Gaius we had published Terror Network, Horror Show and Crime Network. Of these three Terror Network was the most successful. I tried to isolate what we had done right with it and why it had worked. I felt the reason it worked was because Terror Network was primarily an investigative game where players were part of a special or even secret organization charged with protecting the public. Bill and I agreed we should try to port this concept into our Roman RPG because it worked so well. 

At first the premise was more real history. The players were part of a secret order established by the mad Caligula to fight an imaginary threat. But that didn't really work. It was more of a running joke than anything else. Then I remembered another game, Colonial Gothic, which Bill and I had written an adventure for. That game employs secret history where past events are explained through the supernatural. I figured why not apply that to Rome 38 AD? No reason we couldn't change history. Rather than a madman claiming to be a god, Caligula really would be divine. Once that was established, everything else fell into place pretty smoothly. I also liked it because the supernatural realities of the settings were based on claims Caligula had made in life (at least according to sources like Suetonius). 

The design of Servants of Gaius was quite manic. Bill knew it meant a lot to me so he took a lighter hand in terms of critiquing material I came up with, at first. This allowed me to work faster. He and I still had many meetings and debates. We also started consulting with Dan Orcutt for the first time as a tertiary designer (which led to him being a co-designer of Sertorius). Then once it was all done, Bill would come in with that ability of his to find the weak spots and suggest improvements. I recall a particularly heated discussion over our poison rules, which led to a much better subsystem than the one I originally designed. Over the next several months we play-tested and tweaked and play-tested more. 

Right at the tail end of the project I got sick again (I had come down with some Crohn's Disease complications the year before and and once again would require surgeries). So there was this strange gap where I went for a bunch of surgeries and then moved to a new place before we resumed work on Servants of Gaius. By this time we were on to the art and layout phase. For me this established a marker in our timeline as a company where I think of pre-Servants of Gaius Bedrock and post-Servants of Gaius Bedrock. 

The end product was a delight to run. We immediately launched a campaign and my first adventure would later be turned into The Secret of Actium (a module still in the pipeline). Mysteries really suited the early empire setting. And the range of places was nice. My party tracked down a murderer through the streets of Rome, eventually finding themselves in Alexandria where intense political riots were breaking out. Later they would face werewolves in Germania and end up in a island on the back of a giant sea turtle. The ability to dial up or down the myth and supernatural was what made it work. The fact that I could port in monsters from Horror Show pretty seamlessly also helped (and the latter came in handy because the monster list in Servants of Gaius didn't include things like werewolves, it had mainly focused on Roman creatures and in particular the Minions of Neptune). 

The other thing that was important with Servants of Gaius was it showed me and Bill that the network system would work with a fantasy game. We had never run Network outside the modern era and were concerned it might not adjust to the needs of an ancient or medieval setting. Servants of Gaius demonstrated that this wouldn't be an issue. We were able to move into Sertorius with more confidence after Servants of Gaius. 

I think as a concept Servants of Gaius is one of our strongest.

You can find Servants of Gaius in PDF here: SERVANTS OF GAIUS PDF
It is also available in print here:  SERVANTS OF GAIUS PRINT
The Guide to Aegyptus is available here: POMPONIUS MELA'S GUIDE TO AEGYPTUS

Monday, September 15, 2014

ORLANDO'S GUIDE TO ORGANIZED CRIME AVAILABLE IN PDF

Orlando's Guide to Organized Crime is once again available in PDF. It offers a comprehensive overview of the mafia and other criminal organizations. A great resource for any modern crime campaign Orlando's Guide includes:


  • A break down of the American Mafia
  • Details on foreign crime syndicates
  • An overview of organized crime in Italy
  • Deeper treatment of Crime Skills
  • Information on the justice system
  • New optional rules for rackets and combat
  • Advice for running the perfect modern crime campaign



CASTLES IN THE VAARAN KINGDOMS

Site of an Iron Age Ring Fort
Those who have read Sertorius know it is much more like the ancient world than the medieval world. It has anachronisms for sure, with some arms and armor that wouldn't be developed in our world until well into the middle ages. But these were conscious decisions in each case for the purpose of flavor (in the same way that the movie Excalibur projects many 15th century assumptions onto the 6th century). So there are instances where something creeps in that isn't quite ancient. Generally speaking though everything in Gamandria is inspired by real-world history no later than the 5th or 6th century (and most of it is based on much earlier periods). 

Still we wanted a region vaguely reminiscent of a classic fantasy RPG setting, something that dipped its foot into at least the early medieval period if only by a hair. So we created the Vaaran Kingdoms. These are former provinces of a great empire that collapsed which have become subject to Gru incursions from the North and fallen into local conflict. Here there are kings, castle lords and minor lords. However these are not the castles of the 12th century or later. These are much more rudimentary and primitive. This has led to some confusion as it wasn't clearly explained in the book. And of course anyone is free to run Sertorius how they see fit. If you want 12th century or even 15th century castles in your campaign because you think they add something, by all means do so. However I want to explain what I had in mind when I mentioned castle lords in the book in terms of the physical structure. 
Plan of a Roman Castra
Created by Mediatus

First, there are always exceptions, while the structure I am about to describe is typical of the Vaaran Kingdoms, there are going to be cases where design is more innovative or different building materials are more readily available. For instance, someone with more Caelum or Ronian contacts will quite likely be able to erect a more substantial fortification. 

Castles in the Vaaran Kingdoms are usually made of wood, not stone. Occasionally they do have stone walls, but this is rare and the interior structures are almost invariably wooden. They are not the classic European Castles you see in movies. Rather these are more like iron age hill forts built on mounds atop which you will usually find a circular wooden wall (sometimes stone ring walls). Around the wall you might have a series of ditches and ramparts. These do vary in appearance but that is a general description. Inside the wall you may have a tower built of wood and the home of the castle lord (usually also wood and little not terribly elaborate). It will often enclose a small settlement. 
A German Ring Fort

Still they share the function of a medieval castle which is to protect the personal residence of a lord or aristocrat and/or the nearby population. So in form they resemble hill forts, ring forts or even Roman Castra's but in terms of purpose they are in line with castles. 

So a castle lord (called either a castellanus or maorides depending on whether it is a Ronian or Latar kingdom) in the Vaaran Kingdoms would control the land around such a castle but the castle itself might encompass both his residence and a settlement depending on the local circumstances. This land would belong to be granted at the discretion of the King to the Castle Lord and his descendants in exchange for both military service and annual pledges. 

Keep in mind these castles, while they are meant to keep away Gru invaders and local attackers serve another purpose as well. In Gamandria when spell casters misuse magic they can become Grim Beasts, terrible creatures with vast power and fortitude. The Vaaran Kingdoms, perhaps because it rests atop the ruins of ancient Nong Sai, is home to a much bigger population of Grim Beasts than other regions in the world. So the castle walls are meant to keep these out as well. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Horror Show is Available in PDF

Horror Show is once again available in PDF. 

Horror Show is a toolbox designed to help the GM emulate any movie in the genre. Whether it is a classic horror movie, an 80s slasher or a modern found-footage film, Horror Show gives you the tools to make it work as either a simple one-shot or full length campaign. 

Includes:
  •         A flexible and light-weight system
  •        Complete rules for creature and villain design
  •        Dozens of skills and occupations to choose from
  •        Mechanics for emulating your favorite horror movies
  •        A scalable and open approach that allows for different styles of play



Available Here: HORROR SHOW PDF

Friday, September 12, 2014

PATRIOT INCIDENT AVAILABLE IN PDF

Our Terror Network investigative adventure The Patriot Incident is once again available in PDF. 

This is an award-winning scenario set in Boston featuring an unexpected threat as the players race against time to thwart a deadly attack. 

You can purchase it here: PATRIOT INCIDENT 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Designing With Bill: Average Joes

I am going to start sharing some of my memories designing with Bill here on the blog as a way of coming to terms with his passing. When you work with someone on creative collaborations for as long as I did with him, you become very close, almost like brothers. Now that Bill is no longer here, this is starting to occur to me as I continue on the things we had started working on. 

Lately I've been putting most of my energy into finishing Orcs of the North (which is based on Bill's last Sertorius campaign) and uploading our modules back onto RPGnow (something we had begun about two weeks ago). Today I started preparing Average Joes for upload and it immediately brought back memories of our work on that project. This book is particularly significant because of how it came about. 

Back in 2010 or possibly early 2011, Bill called me on the phone and said he had either a totally brilliant or completely terrible idea for Terror Network but wasn't sure which. He had just seen Paul Blart Mall Cop and thought it would be cool to make a module set in a mall attacked by terrorists but instead of the Player Characters being normal Terror Network PCs (CIA agents, FBI, etc) they'd be regular folks (plumbers, mothers, grandfathers and even children). I thought this was a really great concept and we started regular meetings to figure out how to make it work. 

Because we had other projects eating up our time we decided to contract a writer to write the module but we still had to do plenty of planning to give the writer clear instructions. The first thing we realized was doing a module like this required new rules for playing unconventional characters. This meant the first part of the book would cover character creation and the campaign concept and the module itself would be more of an example of how to run an "average joes" campaign. So right away this was more than a simple module. 

Terror Network was our first book and Bill's idea injected something new into the line. We already had three modules for it at that point and I think neither of us wanted to cap it with a book that just repeated what we had done so this gave us an opportunity to do something we never really thought was possible with Terror Network: comedy. Bill was by nature a comedian so Average Joes was right up his alley. I just remember brainstorming ideas at my kitchen table and him chuckling when came up with some new twist on the idea. It was the first time we really laughed making a Terror Network product and that felt good. 

I have fond memories of that project. Even for books he and I didn't write ourselves, we'd have to meet and go over lots of details together. Average Joes was a book that required weeks of these sorts of meetings which were always one part working in my kitchen and part eating in my kitchen. We might watch a movie after on TV as well. 

The phone initial phone call about the project was classic Bill. He'd always preface a big idea with whatever led up to him having it, and he'd always frame it as a multiple choice scenario (in this case was it a good idea or a bad one). When I got a call like that I knew I was in for an enthusiastic design session.