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Episode 67: Crunch vs Narrative Mechanics
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Main Topic

We’ve danced around this for two years, so we may as well dive into it! The main divide in table top role playing games is between those that are crunch heavy and simulationist versus those that are crunch light and narrative.  You can think of this as an internal versus external orientation in a lot of ways and about the agency provided to the players. Both styles have rules, but their contours are important.

  • Crunch – A “crunchy” game is a game that has a lot of rules and rules that require application to the dice.  These are games that provide a strong framework of rules in books and in empowering the GM to control the overall flow of the world and game by creating an external power center from the table.
  • Narrative – A “narrative” game has fewer rules or rules with more leeway to allow resolution through description.  These are games that often empower the players to take control of the world and story creating a power center internal to the gaming table.
  • Player Agency – Usually stronger in Narrative games, player agency is how much power a Player has to impact the game and world through play.  Generally, the more power is in either the rulebook or the GM’s hands, the less player agency there is though this is also considered in relation to the play style we’ve discussed in other episodes.
  • GM Agency – Usually stronger in Crunchy games, GM agency is about the amount of power or authority a GM has to define the world and set the adventure’s tone.  Generally, the more narrative a game, the less control or Agency a GM has though this is also considered in the context of different play styles as we’ve discussed in other episodes.
  • Rules as Limitations versus Rules as Grants – This is a theoretical debate that can be applied to any game.  Are the Rules of a game as set out in the officially published materials a Limitation on players or are they a specific grant of power to players?  How you answer this question may indicate which style of game you prefer – many Narrative preferring players will see the Rules as Limitations such that anything is possible unless countermanded by a specific rule.  Conversely, if the Rules are express Grants of power where actions are only undertaken within the confines of these rules, you could be a crunchier player. Now, this question can be answered in any way – there are Limitation Crunchy players and Granted Narrative players as well.
  • Simulationist versus Fabulist – Guard-a-Manger uses this to describe a depth of rules or how close to wargaming a system is.  A Simulationist game is a game whose mechanics try to replicate reality, as it is understood in the game world, as closely as possible and often are crunchy conversely a Fabulist game is one that will throw “reality” to the wind in the interest of a story or a system’s design choices creating a more narrative tendency.  The big summer blockbuster that ignores the laws of physics is a fabulist example, but a simulationist narrative style game is possible like DW:AITAS where it very cleanly simulates the world it models, but in a narrative fashion.  

Stat Blocks

Joules – The Obsidian Ballroom

You thought you’ve heard a whisper.  During the long treks between towns, while working with family to prepare the evening meal.  This near omnipresent yet soft demand for attention while you’ve been negotiating with other vendors and swapping stories about life on the road.  You’ve chalked it up to exhaustion, frustration or nerves.

You’re unsure what was the exact trigger.  One moment you were chatting with a fellow traveling merchant, examining his selection of weapons.  Then the muffled whisper you’ve been hearing becomes clear. Your eyes lose focus, a grey metallic haze overlays your field of view.  You shake your head and you’re no longer at the merchant’s stall.

You only have a brief moment to take in your new surroundings. This room is huge.  It feels formal and foreign. Cold and sharp but not unwelcoming. Fully alien and yet intimately familiar. The entire room looks like it was made from obsidian and it’s slightly disorienting. As you try to get your bearings, a figure steps into view from your blind spot and bows. “May I have this dance?” the figure asks, extending a leather wrapped hand.

You’re whisked into a dance unlike any other.  Frenetic yet controlled. There’s a rhythm to it, a pulse.  You know it but can’t place it. Within a few seconds you’re consumed by it.  And in that moment you recognize the true nature of your partner. The glint of steel and a pommel wrapped in soft leather.  A sword. You spin and whirl. Leap and bend. You switch places; becoming the weapon, feeling what it is like to be wielded by a master.  You’re vaguely aware of another partner cutting in and the moves change seamlessly. The cold intimacy of a dagger being spun. Switching hands effortlessly.  A wooden staff, supple yet seemingly unyielding. The speed and flash of a whip. The heft and power of a flail. The dervish spin and impact of a kusari-fundo.  At times you are the wielder and at times the weapon. You dance with an untold number of partners around and around this ballroom of obsidian. You feel the rhythm of innumerable battles.  Duels, street brawls, exhibitions, assassinations. Fights for honor. Fights for revenge. The clash of dynastic armies. The desperation of a fight for survival.

After what feels like hours, the dance ends.  Your original partner approaches you, bows, and softly kisses the palm of your hand. “If you wish to dance again, you only need to ask.”

The scene dissolves and you are right back where you were, chatting with merchant.  No time has passed. Slightly unnerved, you take your leave and head back to your caravan to rest and process your experience.  Time passes and you are awakened to the sound of a scuffle outside. You sit up and fumble around your bedroll for something with which to defend yourself.  Your hand wraps around familiar a leather wrapped pommel. With a slight smile you grasp the sword firmly, turn to the exit and whisper “Shall we dance?”

Guard-a-Manger – Grabthum’s Folly

Golem’s are usually made out of matter – something you can touch and that has weight.  That’s what makes them so annoying and aggravating – you hear them coming and shuffling down hallways and through forests.  What happens when a golem is made out of fire?

It seems that there was a mistranslation of some of the older tomes for Golem Construction.  It wasn’t that they had to be made of the Earth, like rock, metal, or clay, but that they had to be made of this world, like one of the naturally occurring elements.  Grabthum is … was a brilliant alchemist and archeologist. He figured this out. He managed to translate the Manual and see where the old transcription error was made and how the kids these days didn’t pay enough attention to the declensions of nouns.  

He even managed to make a fire golem.  How? Maybe he burned the empowering sigil when he lit the flame so that it became part of the golem.  Maybe the fuel for the fire was arranged in the appropriate pattern. It isn’t really important because he is dead now.  His own creation killed him when he tried to snuff it out. Grabthum’s Folly is still here in the dungeon, and maybe you found a hint about it in a level closer to the surface but it is running out of fuel.  Can you provide it with something it wants, fuel to keep burning, or will you be the fuel it wants to keep burning?


Lees  plural noun

: the sediment of a liquor (such as wine) during fermentation and aging

History and Etymology for lees
Middle English lie, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin lia

First Known Use of lees
14th century

Bottom 30% of words

Closing remarks

Zendead- Black Star by David Bowie This episode is recorded on the 3 year anniversary of his passing. It is my humble opinion the best Album he has ever done. Go find it on a streaming service or buy the album if you still do that.

Joules- Escape Rooms/ Puzzle Breaks find one near you and do this.

Guard-a-Manger- Sleep.  It’s a New Year here on the American calendar and lots of people have resolutions to be better – eat better, live better, exercise more, et cetera.  Sleep matters and gamers will often forget how much that simple act helps in other areas. Get good sleep – cut down on the stimulants before bed, try to get a consistent 6-7 hours (or more) every night, and let your own body and mind heal in that rest.  

Music is courtesy of The Enigma TNG you can find his music on YouTube or on Bandcamp

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Zendead- Email, Twitter, Facebook

Joules- Email, Twitter, Facebook

Nulloperations-Email, Twitter, Facebook

Guard-a-manger- Email, Twitter

And Thanks to Merriam-Webster for our Lexicon segmentFind us on Patreon

Welcome back to the Card Catalog series on Castle Falkenstein! If you have not read the round up of both the system and the setting here on Seize the GM, please take a look here! We are following up our look at a Dragon Lord last week with a look at a Fae character to continue our non-human roll going!  This week, I will make a Fae Duelist with the optional rules from The Memoirs of Auberon of Faerie because you always want at least one character always ready to throw down and honestly, a boisterous and loud female duelist from the fae does amuse me greatly.

The Fae in Castle Falkenstein are a race that includes a wide variety of creatures and they each have their own strengths and strictures, which we shall review when we get to that part of the character build, but their real history isn’t fleshed out in the original book but rather the subsequent supplement The Memoirs of Auberon of Faerie. Without going into the hundreds of pages of work in the original books, these fae are tangible forms that inchoate energy beings are locked in when they are in this universe and world.  They are functionally immortal absent Cold Iron or Star Iron’s use but lack the ability to use Sorcery save for the oldest and mightiest of them, like Auberon and The Adversary. I’ll do my best to work through the character creation in the design notes but as a reminder, there are very few “crunchy” choices to make regarding character design, so the Design Notes will be more narrative and the Character Notes will be treated as excerpts from the Dramatic Persona Diary in proper Falkenstein form!


While other members of the party are capable in a fight, nobody yet is really excited to get into a fight and since the Duel is it’s own special thing in Castle Falkenstein, I wanted to make sure I had a Duelist in the mix.  I also saw a chance for a salty and boisterous faery character and decided that the two should go together. A fae lady who prefers to get into fights palling around with a disgraced russian noble, consulting detective, and an anarchist leaning mastermind could be a great story to tell.   Any type of Faery could contribute enough energy when mating with a human to create a Daoine Sidhe, of Seelie or Unseelie persuasions, and I am going to have one of the Baohbhan Sidhe Vampires, normally unseelie and self centered to an extreme, have a change of heart a few hundred years ago and forgo their own energy passing on to this Faery Lord existence.  This gives me an “in” on choosing a Nemesis later and role playing opportunities about family traditions compared to her choices – when Mom’s old pals come calling and you don’t want to take part in a Wild Hunt, things will get a bit dicey!

The options for making a Faery Lord were presented as a regular Dramatic Persona creation in the regular rule book, but the aforementioned Memoirs provided for an alternate way to create Faery Dramatic Personas. Normally, you would select one Ability to be Great, four to be Good, and one to be Poor.  The rest would be Average. For the Fae, they have a large number of Abilities that are already defined because they have bound themselves to certain stories.  Each particular “breed” of fae had a certain set of Abilities that could not be changed to begin. For a Daoine Sidhe, or Faery Lord that is partially human and partially descended from the Tuatha de Danu or other faeries, begin with Great Athletics and Physique and also Good Fisticuffs, Perception, and Stealth.  There are also a handful of specific Faerie Abilities, and the Faery Lords have Enchantment and Glamour at Good, but Etherealness and Shapeshifting at Average.  I’ll go into that a bit more later.  There also must be two Poor Abilities selected so I will start with Tinkering as an utter inability to comprehend machinery and also Connections. We’ve already done a character who isn’t human that doesn’t understand Social Graces, so that wasn’t something to repeat.  Poor Connections means Mary Louise is mired in the lower class members of society which also makes sense with some of the drunken antics she gets up to. To make a Duelist, though, I need to add Fencing, so I look to the rules from the Castle Falkenstein Book to have another Great Ability and I can achieve that with a single Poor Ability to compensate and just to make it a complete joke I will add a Poor Marksmanship Ability – great with the swords not so much with these human inventions like guns. I had thought about increasing Courage or Comeliness as well but I don’t think I want that many Poor Abilities since they all must come from the main Castle Falkenstein list . Also, as with all player fae, Poor Sorcery prohibits the use of magick like humans and does not count towards any increased Abilities.  

Mary Louise’s personality seems to be summed up as Brash and Boisterous. She very much delves deeply into the pleasures and indulgences of a physical form – she understand both the formlessness of the true fae but also the allure of the physical as only the Daoine Sidhe seem to.  In creating a Dramatic Persona, you are also asked to think about a Virtue and Vice to help anchor your character. This brash, boisterous, and impetuous fae duelist does possess a singular virtue of Adventurousness. Her Vice, as many of her kind seem to have, is a thoughtless Arrogance. The general belief in fae superiority is easy to understand and it’s not like her mother, even reformed as she may have been, provided a greater empathy for mere humans. This leads to some high handed behavior and insults barely smoothed over as well as charging in where perhaps discretion is better warranted. Her Adventurousness is not quite fearlessness nor Courage as much as the desire to experience this world and she will drag her fellows along to ensure they do not miss out.    

Dramatic Personas are centered around what they value and who they are aligned with once firmly set in our mind is the basic character of our Hero.  Creating a Faery is a little different, because the person, item, and concept cherished and rewarded may be terribly different especially if the additional context of the Memoirs is used. For an item so revered is a piece of her history – a small memento from her father left behind after her birth – a knife roughly hewn and well used though with no explanation of why from her long dead father nor from her mother’s lips. A person she so protects is a dear friend in Spain she sees rarely, but well when she makes quite the noise.  Enrique is a connection for her to the world that isn’t something all fae share and could create a repetition of what happened with her mother, should she ever learn that truth.  Finally, she values Epicureanism – the indulgence in the joys of this world and life, though not in as lewd a manner as gluttony – in it’s modern usage rather than the classic philosophic search for The Good. Her  greatest nemesis is in fact Lord Dracula – in many ways a dark reflection of her own life.  They share a history as children of Vampires and Daoine Sidhe, but they took different paths since.  At every chance, Mary Louise reminds Dracula of how his mother sided against him with The Adversary and lashes out seeking to ruin her attempts to not be drawn into the fae politics and fights beyond the Veil.  He and his agents, in his tour of New Europa’s capitols can always show up with ill intent. Thankfully, she has not gone without friends as being a Fae is worthy of some repute in New Europa generally and the Belle Epoque City of Paris doubly so.  Her time with Lord Ladoni has seen her be far closer to a relationship with the Dragons than most fae and she is also not an unknown person to Napoleon III’s Court. These help insulate her but Lord Dracula is never far from her heels.

Her goals are all that are left to determine. Romantically, she knows that she could have a life and children, with a mortal, though the chance of surviving her creating another Daoine Sidhe is much smaller, but she is drawn to Enrique in ways other solid forms have not drawn her in before. Socially, she has been well taken care of as a Daoine Sidhe, and taught the secret history of her race and the secrets of the Veil, but she wants to be accepted in fae society as much as she is in human society and for that she will need allies. Professionally, she has a drive to be recognized as a the greatest of the duelists in New Europa – simply but still taking some effort yet to achieve.

While some of this is certainly written in a good narrative style, check below for the abridged diary version, and click the link for the PDF of the full diary sheet.  Anatole will provide a look at a more classic Castle Falkenstein Diary beginning, not unlike the one found in the original book as an example.

Special Fae Rules

First, player character Fae do not have Sorcery – all Fae have Poor Sorcery.  The last two of the Tuatha, including Lord Auberon and his Daione Sidhe surviving children, have Sorcery but that is not generally a character available.  Fae have additional Abilities that humans do not have like Etherealness and Shapeshifting. All fae have these powers which determine the ability to manipulate mass and form respectively.  Mary Louise has them at Average for the time being. Finally, there are Kindred Powers which is the catch all Ability for the special powers of each type of Fae. For the Faery Lords and Ladies, Enchantment is their power which is stronger than other fae allure powers. This means that they can make an opposed feat against the target’s Courage that they can see to have the target find them to be a boon companion, best of friends, or close lover until otherwise chosen by the fae.  Powerful indeed.

As a drawback, there are mythological and faery tale prohibitions that occur as well for all fae.  First is the Cold Iron issue – while more about “Star Iron” which is apparently from meteorites in the Castle Falkenstein world, Star Iron causes not only pain and discomfort but can cause instant death in sufficient amounts just by being near Fae.   It also causes a final death rather than allowing the fae to return across the Veil and reform their inchoate energy selves to return. It is bad news for the fae. The Daoine Sidhe, and the Seelie Faery Lords particularly, have the following bans – A discomfort on the holy lands, symbols, and accoutrements that is part of their very being; while the “Cold Iron” ban exists, the Daoine Sidhe may treat their Courage as a step higher to resist fear or panic of it; and finally if their spouse sees them change shape, they must return to the otherside of the Faerie Veil until that person has died.  


The Memoirs of Mary Louise Barton, Faery Lady of the Daoine Sidhe

Volume the Third

This volume of my memoir begins on the Twenty Second of January, 1870 as the humans tell time in this solid place.  I, Mary Louise Barton, have continued my life endebted to the suggestion of Lord Auberon amongst humans and in the midst of this Belle Epoque in Paris on New Europa.  While the lands of the United States and the Bear State Empire do attract my attention, for now I shall remain in New Europa. If you were not aware, I am fae and a Daoine Sidhe born of the intermingling of the blood of faerie and human.

* * *

I found that the ways of war were what I desired – the flash of swords and the celebration after were what appealed to me.  As such, despite not needing to learn how I threw myself into the world of a duelist. You may say, as all my kind are, that I  am exceptional of my physical pursuits [Great Athletics] and of my fortitude [Great Physique] with a well developed sense for recreation [Good Fisticuffs], pastimes [Good Stealth], and being able to discern the difference [Good Perception]. I also have some facility with the way in which the glamour may be woven [Good Glamour] and that mortals may be shaped by it [Good Enchantment].  While we Faery Daoine Sidhe are not known for our Etherealness nor Shapeshifting, they are not beyond our abilities[Average]. I chose to ensure that I was of some renown with a blade [Great Fencing] but I must shamefully admit to not understanding these firearms that the humans use [Poor Marksmanship]. They are so impersonal, but they also have built these constructs and machines that elude my understanding [Poor Tinkering].  I also seem to get along better with the humans who have a dreary existence than the ones who want to be like the fae [Poor Connections] though the ability of the humans, and dragons, to weave specific knots of energy is as foreign to me as all my kind [Poor Sorcery].

* * *

It is what my mother has left me of my father, this knife.  I keep it close, though the metal is not always comfortable.  I don’t know what this rough hewn and well used blade meant to my father nor why my mother has passed it to me but it connects me to something more than other fae.  I worry for Amando in Spain these days. After Queen Isabella was deposed and is here in France, the Cortes do not seem to know who should lead them. I may need to visit Enrique again and make sure that he is safe while this question of “nation states” is being resolved in Spain. I shall make the most of what time I have here on this Earth in their stead.  I seem to have been called an “Epicure” here as well, where I dive deeply into the sensations and feelings that this solid world offers in terms of food, drink, arts, and life. I value those who will drink as deeply as they can from this rare gift.

* * *

The previous few years shall be a bit of a blur.  The first two Volumes of my memoirs should suffice for those interested in what can truly be called the past.  Since keeping my own path apart from my mother’s vampiric and Unseelie family, I have sought to make something of this life for myself. It was easy to spend the time in Spain, amongst the duelists and their Magic Circle.  It was easy to ignore the world and the growing power of Lord Dracula and Otto von Bismark in my own corner of New Europa. Then the war happened and Lord Auberon stepped onto the field, with the Bayernese Aeronavy and the Magical Engines redefining the world’s boundaries.  My wine, sherry, ballestro, and blade could no longer ignore that meaning could be found in larger circles than just the Magic Circle of a fencer and her opponent.

Read the entire Diary entry here for the full character

Castle Falkenstein and Cygne Dore’ Cabaret Overview Here

Castle Falkenstein, Steam Age, New Europa, and all characters and creations in the book are trademarks of R. Talsorian Games Inc. Castle Falkenstein is © Mike Pondsmith, 1994. Seize the GM is a fan work using the trademarked and copywritten components for noncommercial criticism, review, and explanation.  No claim of ownership is intended or implied.

Welcome back to the Card Catalog series on Castle Falkenstein! If you have not read the round up of both the system and the setting here on Seize the GM, please take a look here! We are now going to take a turn into the options in Castle Falkenstein that are not humans.  This week, I will take a stab at making a Dragon Lord that has come into Paris for his own reasons and been caught up in the wave of human excitement. Dragons, aside from being magically using pterosaurs have a genetic memory where they will recall the memories of all of their line before.  It isn’t made clear just how long lived each one is, but I always took them to be the sorts who outlived humans on top of that. There are also a few special rules and considerations for Dragons which we will address as we go through the creation process below. I’ll do my best to work through the character creation in the design notes but as a reminder, there are very few “crunchy” choices to make regarding character design, so the Design Notes will be more narrative and the Character Notes will be treated as excerpts from the Dramatic Persona Diary in proper Falkenstein form!


The best way to survive the dinosaurs’ extinction is magick and opposable thumbs.  The Dragons of Falkenstein did just that. In designing Lord Kaornik Ladoni I needed to come up with a good reason and way for him to be part of the Cabaret scene and interact with the other Dramatic Personas so I settled on extreme wealth.  While Dragons are always going to be given respect and a wide breadth, a curious Dragon who has more money than common (human) sense seemed like fun.

For the dramatic persona’s Abilities, you select one to be Great, four to be Good, and one to be Poor.  The rest are Average. You can create new Abilities besides those listed in the book, but for the Card Catalog purposes, I will stick with the examples listed.  As I mentioned, Kaornik will have a Great Exchequer to represent how much of his wealth he can use at any one time in Paris and his general attitude towards money.  For Good, I know for sure that I will have Sorcery there to increase his ability in the magical realms, Good Physique to be strong of limb, Good Courage to be strong of Mind, and a Good Perception so the Dragon may be insightful into human ways.  For his Poor Ability, I choose Social Graces. He doesn’t know his way around human culture, at least human culture that isn’t beholden to a Dragon, so his etiquette failures must be endured and his friends will have to work around that problem.

In creating a Dramatic Persona, you are also asked to think about a Virtue and Vice to help anchor your character.  Lord Kaornik has a fondness for kindness. It may be more from a noblesse oblige standpoint, but he does do his best to help others in need – he more than Olga or Anatole is a Heroic Hero.  His Vice, though, is a stubbornness when his mind is set and being dissuaded to convinced contrary is rare and will often cause trouble, especially in conjunction with his Poor Social Graces.   Additionally, Dragons all have Collections. This is the Falkenstein version of the Draconic Hoard, but it carries more than just the matter of gold and money. As Dragons carry a genetic memory back to their progenitors, the Collections provide a tangible thing to anchor memories to so they will collect items of import and matter to help them with their own memories from lives past.  Having chosen Ladoni as the name, and looking to the Greek mythological Ladon. Ladon guarded the Golden Apples of Greek Myth and was the brother of the Nemean Lion.  As such, I am going to have Lord Kaornik Collect recipes and food. I will say the 100 heads of Ladon symbolize the Ladoni, draconic descendants, and the myths of guarding apples comes from Collecting food and recipes.   

Like many Dragons, Lord Ladoni may be described as Aloof but also as Earnest.  The combination of Poor Social Graces with his inherent kindness and stubbornness means that he comes off as very sincere even if apart from the mortal needs. This sort of distance but straightforward action is often at odds with the decorum and politeness of the Salons and Clubs of New Europa.  

Dramatic Personas are centered around what they value and who they are aligned with, so now we turn the items and allegiances to further flesh out Lord Ladoni’s relationships.  Looking to his person to for whom he would sacrifice himself, his missing Son takes that role nicely. He needs to seek his missing son out, but also will be a doting and loving father as he has for his other children thus far. His physical possession he cherishes is an accounting of Ancient Greek dishes – perhaps the only cookbook of that era. Finally, Lord Ladoni values Family above all else.  You can see how that takes its shape from his other traits for sure and he can make Humans a bit uncomfortable once he considers them family. An Allegiance or two of note has developed over the years for Lord Ladoni – he specifically has ties with the Filiki Eteria who may have had some influence in Greece leaving the Ottoman Empire as well as unofficial recognition by the First Dragon Emperors of the East.  This could well be where his Nemesis came from that may be behind his son’s abduction or disappearance – The Austro-Hungarian Secret Service has taken a distinct look at Lord Ladoni here as one who may cause problems for them around Ionian and Adriatic Seas though the Ottoman Empire would not be beyond dispatching it’s agents in retribution. Lord Ladoni’s goals are not ones that are unknown or unknowable. As a Romantic goal, it is time again to find a mate …errr wife as they call them here in human society so that the Ladoni line continues.  Socially, Kaornik would prefer to find a better way to organize the Hundred Heads of Ladon as his family is known, and the glory that would come from such an understanding . Finally, a Professional goal is to bring back not only recipes for his Collection but to hire on a permanent chef to return to his mountain fief to assist in the organization and cataloging of the Collection. While children have died before, never has one vanished. It is a regret, and his greatest, that he does not know what has happened. As someone with memories inherited from lifetime to lifetime, not knowing what happened is harder than the loss.  As for his greatest accomplishment, Lord Ladoni is quite fond of the fact that he has indeed had a feast made for all one hundred heads of Ladon based entirely on Greek comedies.

While some of this is certainly written in a good narrative style, check below for the abridged diary version, and click the link for the PDF of the full diary sheet.  Anatole will provide a look at a more classic Castle Falkenstein Diary beginning, not unlike the one found in the original book as an example.

Special Dragon Rules

Dragons do not have the limitations on Sorcery that humans do – they can potentially cast any spell.  Their limitation is that they can only draw up to 5 Cards from the Sorcery Deck to meet the challenge.  When you remember that a draw is a good 1 minute of time each, you realize that Sorcery is rarely a mid combat activity in Castle Falkenstein.  Also, Dragons may change between their draconic and human forms, but it does take 10 Minutes and may only be done three times per day. Finally, the breathing of flame, or Flamecast is actually a spell and treated as such!


The Unusual Written Memories of Lord Kaornik, Ladoni, Dragon Lord and Inheritor of the Collections of Food

I do not pretend to understand why the humans record their memories like this – I am aware that they do not have the line of thought through the Ages but I must admit a failure of comprehension on my part.  I am Koarnik, Ladoni, Dragon Lord and this is my story for those whose Collections may make up such things even as I seek out the recipes and food my kind so loves. It is, as the human nations say, January 15, 1870, as I do put my pen to this paper.

* * *

I am known well in Paris for the depth of my wallet [Great Exchequer] but as all of my kind I am also skilled in working Etheric Knots into spells [Good Sorcery]. The Ladoni are known to be strong of limb, and I am no exception [Good Physique] but it has been paired with a firm will [Good Courage] and a steel trap mind [Good Perception]. Sadly, I do not yet understand how these humans comport themselves, though it would likely benefit me to learn their customs one day [Poor Social Graces].
While I do admit to being considered Stubborn by many of the humans I have met, it is only in service to what I already know.  My Kindness and Generosity runs deep, and the rarity with which these humans will sometimes move to help their own leaves me confused.  If I must move myself to help them, so be it. It is important to keep the Collection I carry from my father and his father and his father before him continued.  We of the line of Ladon find that food and the Recipes behind them carry the richest of life’s memories. I must admit that my decennial trip into the human cities does provide a greater opportunity to find what they have begun to cook.

* * *

I should explain then what my habits are and how we Ladoni have comported ourselves.  Every decade or so of time, I, or my ancestors, would come to human cities from the mountains of Greece, and find a mate.  It may be more like that of what you would call a wife, as they are cared for henceforth. To continue the line, we dragons require breeding with humans and it is far easier to woo than threaten a village with immolation.  And so, I returned to Paris in search of my son left here with his mother to be raised the first decade of life amongst the humans as a human. Arrangement were made to ensure that they were taken care of and would want not for a comfortable life but the letters did stop a few short months ago.  I therefore came to Paris as I planned to find no trace of them. The line of money to draw upon had been left and not emptied. The house where they were to have lived was in one piece though abandoned for what looks to be a year at least. I must now look forward and find my son, find the next mother a Ladoni, and continue our future.  To that end, I have engaged Monsieur Clemenceau as a Consulting Detective to begin the search in this matter and in the meanwhile I am taking in the sights and sounds of Paris, including the Cabaret in which I have found the most remarkable of humans.

* * *

In this endeavour, I hope to remove the stain on my honour to not know what has happened, and perhaps find a new way to do things amongst my brethren[Social Goal]. I can summon the Hundred Heads of Ladon again and we can feast, as once we did, in finding our family’s continued survival.  In this end, I shall also set my sights on finding a chef to hire on to my fief to set about organizing and cataloging what we Ladoni have Collected thus far [Professional Goal].

Read the entire Diary entry here for the full character

Castle Falkenstein and Cygne Dore’ Cabaret Overview Here

Castle Falkenstein, Steam Age, New Europa, and all characters and creations in the book are trademarks of R. Talsorian Games Inc. Castle Falkenstein is © Mike Pondsmith, 1994. Seize the GM is a fan work using the trademarked and copywritten components for noncommercial criticism, review, and explanation.  No claim of ownership is intended or implied.

Episode 66: How to Choose a System: Modern System
Regular Shows

00:00 / 56:51

Main Topic

The third main pillar of tabletop role playing games are games set in a modern setting.  This runs the gamut from Palladium’s simulationist war RPG RECON to Evil Hat’s Modern Fantasy based on the Dresden Files that would evolve into the FATE system.  Because Modern games give us a look at a world like, or mostly like, our own they provide an untold amount of variety … so how do you choose one that works for you and your table?

First Consideration – Campaign Flavor! We are flipping considerations around because unlike the Fantasy and Science Fiction system choices, this time the specific campaign flavor matters even more.  Modern Systems can mean everything from a simulationist war game only a step removed from the tactical mats of yore to a narrative setting bathed in magic and or near future tech.  So first and foremost – is this a realistic or fantastical modern campaign? A realistic campaign can still have fantastical elements as T.M.N.T. and other Strangeness is a great example of that.  Realistic has more of a grounded and “low power feel” where a HERO system game would use a Real Weapon Limitation while the fantastical version of the same setting would have the same item as just a Focus. Even the World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness games from White Wolf are Modern Settings and they themselves can show a wide variety of realistic to fantastical options.

Second Consideration – Setting! This drills down even deeper.  As with other system choices, there are options for licensed properties like the Dresden Files game mentioned above or Marvel Super Heroes but the wide open expanse of Modern Systems has to be narrowed first.  Superheroics? How about Heroes Unlimited, Mutants & Masterminds, or Marvel Super Heroes? Espionage game?  You can go all the way back to Top Secret or use a HERO system build.  Modern Fantasy or Horror? World of Darkness, In Nomine, and Savage Worlds all offer ways to evoke that.  D20 even put out a modern system and Numenera has generated a setting agnostic system called The Cypher System.   Each choice provides strengths and weaknesses with some more simulationist and others far looser with their laws of physics.

Third Consideration – Player Familiarity! This is the simplest question to answer.  If your game involves players slowly having a different world shown to them, or it is mired in existing popular culture like a Mission:Impossible style Espionage game, there is little concern for the Player’s familiarity with the world! We’ve talked a lot about how the system can be adapted or introduced to players and also knowing exactly what your table wants from a game.

Fourth Consideration – GM Familiarity! Here is one thing to be aware of in a Modern Setting – your players may know more about certain real life topics than you do.  You may need to be ready to engage them to provide background information or to flavor descriptions to match how they know the world really works. If you’ve got a player who has military training, they may have trouble with a suspension of disbelief if your strategic plans don’t match up with good sense or a Doctor may have trouble in a simulationist game if a plague jumps vectors.  Make sure you are ready to handle those sorts of issues which come up more in a Modern Setting game than others.

None of these are impossible barriers to your science fiction gaming, but are thoughts you should have similar to the ones we outlined for other styles of gaming. But drop us a line on our Facebook Group, on Twitter, or on Instagram and let us know your favorite Modern Setting and why you choose it!

Stat Blocks

Zendead- The Yule Log

The blowing snow caked on the front of the small cottage in the forest. The inside was a humble affair. A long table that would seat 10 on wooden benches. The walls didn’t have special things hanging just a few decorations showing that it was close to the winter solstice. The fire was barely burning. There was only a single log next to the fire place. And on it was just a small sprig of holly. At least at first glance.

The gathering of folks started to trickle in to the cottage. As the first fellow came in he kicked the snow off his boots and started to get his cape off when the next person came in and she pushed him out of her way playfully. They both started to take items out of packs and such. Animals and a few tubers. Once the next couple of folks arrived it was obvious they all knew each other and then the couple of children showed up and the cottage was full.

The old man of the group bent down to pick up the log and held it reverently. And then he spoke.

“Another year has passed for this my family. I am glad we could all make it to the gathering once again. As I place this piece of the family Yule Log on the fire may it keep us all warm and bright.” and with that he placed the log on the fire. The runes flared to life as the fire licked up the wood. Touching them set the fire to burn warmer and pushed back the chill of the winter. Then the table groaned under the weight of the food and drink that appeared. All said a small thanks for the bounty and for their family both of blood and friendship. The feasting lasted for a fortnight and the fire never wavered and the food and drink stayed the whole time.

Happy Holidays folks I hope you all had a great holiday season.  

nulloperations – The Armor of Spent Kings

It looks worn; damaged, battle scarred, and clearly stored improperly. Yet looking at the armor gives you a sense of hope. Of determination.

The armor has been seen in rumors, stories, legends, and certainly myths. It has been at the front of myriad battles. It was present during countless passionate speeches. It has the sweat and blood soaked into it of those whose right to rule was destiny foretold. It has held them closely as so many of them passed to the next world.

And now, it was here. You can’t even think of how it could have gotten here, but you could just take it. This is the cuirass that took the grand spear like it was nothing. The plates that deflected so many arrows and bullets. The cape that so many soldiers followed behind. It can only be worn by those who are on the path of righteous rule. And it was here waiting for you.
But you remember the cost. All who wore were challenged. It is, after all, a symbol of a ruler. If someone else but took it from you, they could rise to the top. They could rule what you would rule. They just had to kill you to take it. To make the it their banner of righteousness.

You look at it, and the weight it sinks room is almost overbearing.

But you could take it.

Guard-a-Manger – Erika Obscurones

Sometimes there is no catch.  Sometimes you catch a load. Erika Obscurones had retired from a long life working for the government.  She didn’t have any family you know of and doesn’t seem to talk about them. You met Erika when you went fishing.  She was there and didn’t mind the company, lazily fly fishing to pass the time. There was something calming about her presence, and you certainly caught your fair share of fish.  It was unimposing, unassuming, and a comfortable company on your day off.

Maybe you called her up, or maybe she was just there, the next time you went fishing but you have come to value her company.  Occasionally, there is even a nugget of wisdom or just an ear to listen to your own troubles. It’s always nice to know someone who will listen. You never asked what her government job was or how exactly she earned her pension, and something told you that you didn’t want to.  Her warm and open face with that reassuring timber in her voice was all you needed to know.

It’s been a year or two since you first met her, but now she invited you to a party at her house.  She is having a holiday get together, and you and your friends have been invited. Thoughts run through your head – what do you wear to a house party with a retired government functionary …. And what will you learn about her life from who shows up around the punch bowl?


Nihilism  noun
ni·​hil·​ism | \ˈnī-(h)ə-ˌli-zəm

Definition of nihilism
1a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless

b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths

2 : a doctrine or belief that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake independent of any constructive program or possibility

History and Etymology for nihilism
German Nihilismus, from Latin nihil nothing

First Known Use of nihilism

Top 1% of lookups

Closing remarks

Zendead- The Gazetteer Writer’s Manual This is a great book so far on the basics writing gazetteers for your games or your books if you are an author from two of the folks that wrote in the Mystra World Gazetteers.

nulloperations- Warframe – Fortuna “We All Lift Together” Taking a setting we’ve known for years and expanding the scope further and further outward. Introducing flawed and failed characters and using the protagonists as the means of revitalizing them.

Guard-a-Manger- Indiana Jones (Any of the 4) – Looking at a modern setting, Indiana Jones is a little stretch, but a pulp or atomic age inspired adventure with clear cut heroes and villains is a refreshing change of pace from morally ambiguous anti-heroes for the new year. All available again on Netflix as of 01/01/19.

Music is courtesy of The Enigma TNG you can find his music on YouTube or on Bandcamp

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Welcome back to the Card Catalog series on Castle Falkenstein! If you have not read the round up of both the system and the setting herre on Seize the GM, please take a look here! For our second Castle Falkenstein character, I am going to look at the Consulting Detective concept! In the world of Castle Falkenstein, the Consulting Detective is an example archetype and you are honestly thinking about whether you could build Sherlock Holmes.  For this character, as a contemporary of Holmes in New Europa, I wanted to make a somewhat tortured or flawed hero that could also provide an entry to the larger Castle Falkenstein world outside of New Europa. I’ll do my best to work through the character creation in the design notes but as a reminder, there are very few “crunchy” choices to make regarding character design, so the Design Notes will be more narrative and the Character Notes will be treated as excerpts from the Dramatic Persona Diary in proper Falkenstein form!


Anatole Clemenceau is an archetype I love – the Consulting Detective! In Victorian era stories, you will see a detective character like Sherlock Holmes who is not always a member of the constabulary engaged to solve mysteries.  I actually used one of the inspirations for Holmes in the backstory for Anatole. Anatole has returned to Paris after missing the entire Prussian aggression because he was in the middle of the American Civil War with the Pinkerton Company after travelling East until he came around to North America.

For the dramatic personas Abilities, you select one to be Great, four to be Good, and one to be Poor.  The rest are Average. You can create new Abilities besides those listed in the book, but for the Card Catalog purposes, I will stick with the examples listed.  For Anatole’s Great Ability, I choose Perception which is a requirement for good Consulting Detectives. For his Good abilities, I choose Connections, Education, Charisma, and Fencing.  This however isn’t quite right for me. You can choose additional Great or better Abilities, but you have to match them with additional Poor Abilities. I upgrade Anatole’s Connections to Great because I want him to have a person or friend in every corner of the world from his travels.  His Good Education covers not only the book learning but his on the job work with the Pinkertons while his Charisma shows his usual method of noticing and asking questions to solve his cases. His fencing comes from his own French background but then I will add a Good Exchequer Ability – this is money and wealth.  Anatole has done well for himself and is honestly a member of the nouveau riche in Paris. Sadly, though he is Poor in Tinkering being a throwback to an earlier time and Poor in Performance as his ability to lie, even for Art, is limited.

In creating a Dramatic Persona, you are also asked to think about a Virtue and Vice to help anchor your character.  Truthfulness fits for the Virtue in Anatole’s character. It makes sense for his difficulty in Performance and for his job as a Consulting Detective to root out the truth behind the mysteries, though honesty is something different than the truth. His Vice is much more viceral than a reverse of his virtue – he dips too often to the glasses of champagne and absinthe in the Belle Epoque.  It is a way he carefully covers his ongoing pain of a lost family using inebriation in the place of grief.

As a person, Anatole is sharp witted and charming.  In many ways, Anatole has a bit of a cutting wit that can sometimes set people off the wrong way, perhaps another manifestation of his own wounds but is also at the same times a charming person that is kept around.  You know this very type of person today who, with disarming snark can set people off but has a smile that seems to salve over all wrongs.His dislikes are far easier to find, as he is still haunted by the loss of his wife and child – prams in particular can set him off on a trip to visit the green faerie.  No, absinthe not a literal green faerie but in Castle Falkenstein that is a fair question. His likes are about the focus that his job provides to extricate himself from the permanence of memory such as balls, sport, and large gatherings of people where he can lose himself in just observing humanity’s folly around him.

Dramatic Personas are centered around what they value and who they are aligned with, so now we turn the items and allegiances that help give Anatole some real depth.  As an item to which he most clings, the baby blanket that his daughter had outgrown remains something he cherishes. Sadly, he doesn’t have a person he clings to – this facilitates his actions as a tragic hero and one who is flawed in that he isn’t always ready to continue.  Similarly, he mostly values as a concept Loyalty, even above his own truthfulness, as it is what has shown him threw and where he has seen gentlemen lose their way. As far as allegiances and memberships, Anatole maintains strong ties to the North American continent from his time with the Pinkerton Detective Agency and his work with the United States Secret Service – President Lincoln was very impressed with him and by extension the Masonic Order secretly controlling the U.S.  Upon his return to New Europa, he also ensured that he had ingratiated himself to the Explorer Society as well as joined a fashionable Club … that limited its clockwork appurtenances. As far as a Nemesis, the World Crime Congress has a particular dislike of Anatole as he has on multiple continents gotten in their way. This also gives him a reason to become close to Olga, who is also hunted by the same Congress, while working for Lord Lagoni.  Anatole does have goals – his Romantic goal is to forget the pain of the loss of his wife for a widower is only sad so long as they cannot move forward. His Social Goals now focus on becoming much more of a true landed noble under Napoleon III taking as his exemplar Chevalier de Fronsac a century past. Professionally, his goal is simple – to retire as a gentleman of leisure and take the detecting only for when it strikes his fancy.

His greatest regret is actually having had a family – it isn’t the loss, but that he let himself be able to be so pained that he regrets for having loved and lost is far superior to having never loved at all once you know that difference.  His proudest moment is professional – solving the mystery of the Brass Bishop and earning the favor of eastern Dragon Lords can not be undersold.

While some of this is certainly written in a good narrative style, check below for the abridged diary version, and click the link for the PDF of the full diary sheet.  Anatole will provide a look at a more classic Castle Falkenstein Diary beginning, not unlike the one found in the original book as an example.


In the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight hundred and Seventy, the Eighth of January, I, Anatole Clemenceau, do recount the life of service and history that came in ways unexpected for this diary and memoir.

As a child growing up in France in the 1830s and 1840s, few things were straightforward.  It was still recently that Napoleon I had faced his defeat and not yet had Napoleon III found his way to the Second Empire’s greatest strengths.  My parents had but one child, and I would never be enough to keep the farm going for long. It was a simple and humble life of produce and livestock for my parents, but one I saw through early in my youth.  Blessed by God with an insight and clarity of mind, I saw the future in Paris and the great cities of New Europa. My loving parents agreed and worked themselves to death to finance my education. As I would tell Monsieur Dupin in my apprenticeship, they loved me like parents are intended to love their children and regretted only that they had but one child.  I shall return to my journeys later, but to set this image to your head, allow me to digress.

* * *

I must be honest in that my clear eyes and developed intellect are my greatest asset [Great Perception]. I am also well endowed with a great number of friends, acquaintances, and contacts through the globe both in New Europa’s finer circles as well as the continents of Asia and North America [Great Connections]. My training both in the formal halls of the ecole and in the field [Good Education] have helped me maintain a comfortable standard of living even through these difficult years [Good Exchequer]. That is not to say that I am a dandy, for I can handle myself well in a duel [Good Fencing] and have a certain pleasant mien enough to ensure I am invited to the best of social events [Good Charisma]. Sadly, though, these events seem rife with songs and poems for which I have no talent [Poor Performance]. I cannot quite see the way of the arts that are less than a truthful look at the world.  Similarly, these newfangled contraptions confound me [Poor Tinkering]. I shall remain observant with a clear eye, a pad of paper, and a pencil over these clockwork abominations.
Perhaps it is apparent that I strive for and am known for my Truthfulness. It is a Virtue that signals good breeding but also that provides a structure and knowable form to the world. Sadly, I must admit to being a bit overly fond of Champagne and Absinthe that so readily flows these days.  It seems easier, and perhaps an ill advised Vice, but they offer respite from my own mind when I cannot have it stop turning. When it is the faces of Claudine and Lili that I see. Yes, I do tend to hold tightly to Lili’s Baby Blanket. It was what kept her safe and only when she no longer had it did tragedy befall her and her mother.  I have no one else near as close – my parents, my wife, my child have all passed before me. I shall make the most of what time I have here on this Earth in their stead. In that vein I do value Loyalty. The money, clockwork, and magick that fuels this Age can distort and subvert those who are true. Loyalty is what will bind us as men and gentlemen, or men and dragons, or men and fae.  One’s word should be more than one’s bond.

* * *

I took this opportunity to depart the Asiatic lands and come to North America.  As I approached San Francisco, I saw that the still newly formed Bear Flag Empire was celebrating Emperor Norton I.  It was a heady time to be in the Empire and far superior to the war in the United States. I could not, however, stay away, and I proceeded across  the 20 Nations Confederation to the United States and took up with the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Chicago. I had amassed no small amount of funds, but I found that regular employ or at least time spent working as a detective kept my mind occupied.  I honed skills with these brash Americans working as a detective for the Pinkertons. The railroad barons there are very much like the Lords of Steam in England – constantly looking for new profit and working to find ways to enhance what they already have.  At the conclusion of the War between the States, my reputation as a world traveler and detective had even reached the ears of Pres. Abraham Lincoln. I helped the United States Secret Service start, and while I cannot fathom their unhealthy obsession with trinkets and gadgets, I was honored to help stop the Masterminds who seemed to be coming from the woodwork.  

Read the entire Diary entry here for the full character

Castle Falkenstein and Cygne Dore’ Cabaret Overview Here

Castle Falkenstein, Steam Age, New Europa, and all characters and creations in the book are trademarks of R. Talsorian Games Inc. Castle Falkenstein is © Mike Pondsmith, 1994. Seize the GM is a fan work using the trademarked and copywritten components for noncommercial criticism, review, and explanation.  No claim of ownership is intended or implied.

Dark Tides Session 1
Dark Tides Actual Play

00:00 / 47:47

The first session of Carrion Crown

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Welcome back to Card Catalog here at Seize the GM! This time, I am taking the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite games that I rarely ever get to play and a literal game design Hall of Famer – Castle Falkenstein from R. Talsorian Games by Mike Pondsmith! Back in the heady days of the 1990s, Castle Falkenstein won The Best Roleplaying Rules Award in 1994 at Origins Game Fair and the Nigel Findley Memorial Award for Best Role PLaying Product of 1995. Mike Pondsmith himself, the creator of Mekton, Teenagers from Outer Space, Cyberpunk 2020 and Castle Falkenstein, is an Origins Award Hall of Fame member, inducted in 2006.  

Castle Falkenstein is demonstrative of its era in many ways, but it is also groundbreaking and pivotal in ways that many R. Talsorian games are.  Castle Falkenstein is a narrative focused game set in an alternate 1870. I have not covered a lot of narrative focused games, and I wanted to cover this exceptionally evocative game as a way to really get into the new year with a fresh start! In a trend from the late 1980s and the 1990s, the world of Castle Falkenstein is rich and fully realized with history and factions creating layers of complexity and an immersive feeling.  The tension between the world as presented and some of the dark shadows in the game world stem from the rise of the cyberpunk genre, with games like R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk and FASA’s Shadowrun, through the World of Darkness series from White Wolf. Falkenstein broke new Steampunk ground, incorporated Live Action Role Playing potential with table top potential in a single book, and was also one of the major narrative focused games to balance rules structure with storytelling, or literary, concepts.

Moreover, the Castle Falkenstein Roleplaying Game is reflected in the setting’s story as The Great Game and the rule book is partially based around the idea that our point of view writer was making this Great Game available to the salons in New Europa to play “The Great Game”! While Steampunk has since become a common setting, Castle Falkenstein helped to popularize the genre as a game setting in the wake of The Difference Engine and Space 1889. You can see some of this setting’s enduring appeal in FASA’s recent 1879 game and setting! Honestly, after having a few days to once again immerse myself in New Europa with a battered old core rule book, I am off on a quest to get the supplements and send my mind back to the Victorian Era as it Should Have Been a bit more.


Castle Falkenstein has a very limited set of rules with the greatest opportunity for narrative play, and is especially well suited to Live Action Role Playing! Each player has a Dramatic Persona (rather than a character) which include not only humans, but also the potential for fae which have coexisted with humans for thousands of years, dwarves who rejected their fae nature to be able to work metals, or dragons which are magically active pterosaurs that survived the fall of the dinosaurs.  You can already see how much fun we can have! In a world of steampowered victorian tech and spell casting dragons, there are few things left that the imagination cannot reach.

Your dramatic persona is defined, in statistical terms, mostly by defining what Abilities are not average.  The Abilities are rated in a hierarchy from Feeble[0], Poor[2], Average[4], Good[6], Great[8], Exceptional[10], and Extraordinary[12].  Each of these Abilities is listed with a relationship to one of the fours suits of a deck of playing cards, which becomes important in resolving the Heroic Feats described below. The book contains examples of archetypes or concepts that can be made, such as the Dashing Hussar, Consulting Detective, and Inventor, with examples of which abilities should be the primary for that purpose.  When making your character, you choose one ability to be Great, four to be Good, and one to be Poor. The rest, when not noted, are considered Average; a simple and elegant way to handle characters! As an example, a Diplomat character is suggested to have strong ratings for Connections, Education, and Perception.

Resolution of challenges is handled by use of a standard deck of playing cards.  Falkenstein is considered to be the game that actually popularized the use of a deck of cards, if not one of the first, for gaming purposes later copied with great acclaim by games such as Deadlands. You draw a card and add the value to your applicable attribute to see if you meet the difficulty rating assigned by the Host (GM) to your dramatic action.  After the Feat, you draw another card to replenish your hand to four cards. This is complicated, slightly, by the use of the suits of the deck to add to the effect of the draw. This is the Fortune Deck mechanic well suited to Victorian Steam Punk Derring Do!

The Host shuffles the deck and deals a hand of four cards to each of the players with the face value and suit both mattering.  For the purposes of Castle Falkenstein, a Jack is worth 11, a Queen 12, a King 13, and an Ace 14. Jokers have a value of 15 and may be any suit when played. When you attempt a Heroic Feat (an action that requires a test), the Host and Player determine what Ability forms the basis, defaulting to Average if not otherwise listed in the character Diary. The Player then chooses one of the Fortune cards in their hand to play and add to the value of the Ability being used.  If the suit of the card matches the Suit of the Ability required, they are totaled while if the suit of the card does not match, it counts only as a one. The suits are:

  • Hearts – Emotional and Romantic Activities
  • Diamonds – Mental and Intellectual Activities
  • Clubs – Physical Activities
  • Spades – Social and Status-related activities

The Host will then play a card or cards for the Feat and the resolution to the Feat is based on comparing those results ranging from a Fumble, a Failure, a Partial Success, a Full Success, to a High Success.  Simply beating the required number of the Difficulty plus Host’s Fortune Card is a partial success. It is only when you begin to beat it by time and a half you have a full success while doubling the difficulty results in a High Success.   

Every roleplaying game has a fair share of combat, even the ones that are geared more to social aspects like Castle Falkenstein.  This means that often the most rules and the most special rules revolve around that aspect of he game. For Castle Falkenstein, there are only two types of attacks – melee and ranged.  There is a range table where you can exceed the “Effective Range” for a slight penalty to your Feat and a how many Wounds are caused at each level of success. There is a similar table of damage for the melee weapons.  Combat is resolved by an Opposed Feat where the Combat Ability + Fortune Card is compared against the Athletics Ability + Fortune Card. If there is a fumble, the suit does have a special effect on how badly the attack goes, but generally it resolves as described above. Every Dramatic Persona has between 3 and 10 levels of Health based on the combination of their Courage and Physique Abilities so the grit and determination matters as much as the body’s resilience. This doesn’t touch the special rules just for dueling because of how integral dueling is to the world and the setting.  

Any game with magic(k) has special rules for magic(k). Castle Falkenstein has a set of rules that mirror the regular rules but provide their own flavor to the “Scholastic Sorcery” that is evoked in this Steam Age High Adventure Game.  Anyone, save Fae, may cast spell sif they learn how. The ABility Sorcery is the defining Ability and it is given the same weight as any other Ability. Once you have Good or better Sorcery, you can perceive the Etheric knots that make up the world and try to manipulate them through existing formula and rituals that are the spells of Castle Falkenstein. These spells are contained in ancient books and libraries that are controlled by Sorcerous orders.  To be a spellcaster, one must be a member of one of these orders which limits the spell availabilities and may cause some political entanglements. To cast a spell that you have access to knowing, you will need a second deck of cards – The Sorcery Deck. From this deck, you will draw cards when you begin “drawing” etheric energy to create the etheric knot or spell at a rate of one card every two minutes or so of game time. This deck is what will be used by opposing sorcerers if in the same region to reflect the limits on changing the fabric of reality.  The spell effect has a total amount required that is based on the spell itself as well as various modifiers based on the range, number of subjects affected, and other factors. You subtract the value of your Sorcery Attribute for the amount you need to draw. As you draw, just like the regular Feats, the amounts are totaled if of the suit required for the spell and count only as 1 if not of the suit required. The suits different associations for sorcery are generally:

  • Hearts  – Emotional and Mental Magick
  • Diamonds – Material Magick
  • Spades – Spiritual and Dimensional Magicks
  • Clubs – Elemental Magicks, which means the Western Four Elements

If you choose to play something other than a human, there are a few special rules or concerns for each option.  When we make those characters, we will go through them individually, but generally you have access to special powers through your Abilities not unlike many other Abilities.  

Overall, the system is a very flexible way to create a narrative game which blends both the literary ability of a Host with enough structure and crunch to feel like a the group is not left out there with little more than an improv prompt.  The way to resolve these conflicts and hoe the mechanics work very naturally flows from the setting and the feel that the game is attempting to evoke. Leaning into the literary conceits of the system, there are not really experience points in a way that other games would recognize them.  Instead, the Host is given a great deal of leeway to adjudge when characters have made improvements in their abilities. This is tracked through the recording of the characters actions and life in their Diary. Similarly to how dice are not used and instead playing cards fill the role of a roll, there are not character sheets in this game but instead character diaries in which one records the descriptions of one’s dramatic persona as well as their history as it goes on. The game mastering, or Hosting, sections spend a great deal of time working through the tropes and beats that occur in a Victorian Story and encouraging a heavily literary take on the adventures. For the dramatic personae presented in this Card Catalog, I will reproduce much of the initial diary in the Character Notes sections, but also upload a PDF with a bit of formatting to make it look more like a good Castle Falkenstein Diary should.

Setting Overview

A game designer in 1994 is spellnapped and finds himself in an alternate Victorian era where magic, steamtech, and literary characters all commingle in New Europa.  Inadvertently ending up as a secret agent for King Ludwig III of Bayerne against Count Otto von Bismark’s march towards unifying New Europa under his rule with the aid of the Unseelie Host of the Fae.  In Castle Falkenstein, the world is clearly more than we thought possible. Thousands of years of cohabiting with Faerie on this planet have left more than a few differences than you may be ready for but New Europa, and indeed the entire world are rife for adventure and exploration in The Great Game.

For thousands of years, humans have shared this planet with Faery, the formerly faery dwarves, and the dragons.  The world unfolded with the ability to harness magic and the Faerie’s Veil shaping imagination and to way the world would work leading up to the the modern world’s birth in 1870 when Count Otto von Bismark made the Prussian Reich known even as the Second Compact of Men, Dragons, Faery, and Dwarves beat him back at the Battle of Konigseig. Austria lay defeated even in victory, the paper tiger that it had become, and the spectacular aeronavy of Bayern was what turned the tide of the day against Prussian Land Fortresses.  A new age dawned that day.

In a world where Jules Verne has a canon the size of a small castle to protect France and Professor Moriarty threatens the deposits of the Bank of England, few Feats seem unachievable.  The industrial revolution brought about a host of modern miracles, and doubly so once the dwarven forges became automated, but intertwined with the Scholastic Magic that taps into the Etheric knots of power the world holds.  Steamtech and Babbage machines proliferated over the last decades as well creating newfound productivity and avenues for exploration … and exploitation.

While no Faerie since the Tuatha de Danu in the Nightfall War ten thousand years ago have accessed this Sorcery, their glamours and powers keep them apart and in many ways above the mere mortals who populate the Great Game between the empires and industrial barons of the 19th Century.  The faerie have been with us for thousands of years, and only through the First Compact and the legerdemain of Lord Auberon have the Unseelie held their glamours back and have we not been swept up as collateral damage in their own attempts to destroy the Seelie fae generally, or exact revenge on Lord Auberon with aplomb. Intermixing with humans ever since the Nightfall war from both the Tuatha de Danu and the Firbolg sides, the Faerie still encompass a host of types from the diminutive brownies to the dark Trolls.

The dwarves in their Dwarfholds continue to create in ways that only their souls can truly understand.  They gave up their faerie selves to work with metal and gave up their ethereal nature to bind themselves to the Earth.  This stands in contrast to the shape changing and flying dragons. Sorcerous and unique to this planet, unlike the faery, the Dragons long lives and ancestral memory combine with an innate ability to cast spells like no human has shown creates immense power that thankfully is rarely belligerent.  Escaping the fall of the dinosaurs through luck and magick has made these rare and powerful dragon lords seek wives to continue their line on and on.

It is this brave new world of 1870 that calls to you in Castle Falkenstein’s home of the Second Compact and the spirit of adventure and derring do must be met.

Cabaret Cygne Dore’

While Munich and Bayern hold most of the attention of New Europa, it is Paris where our story unfolds.  Napoleon III’s Second Empire continues to bring it’s beauty and modernization to the world. The beautiful city, the heart of Napoleon III’s Second Empire, and the home of the most glamorous life on New Eurpoa, is a sight. The Salons and Clubs of Paris have seen many a strange confluence, but as France tries to ready itself for the inevitable return of Prussian aggression, The Belle Epoque commences and Tout-Paris began their celebrations!

While many were struggling after the war, the nouveau riche and the expanding middle class of France under the technological leadership of Minister of Science Verne saw the rise of recreation and celebration in a fashion that would often put the staid British or formalistic Austrians to shame. The City of Light was ready for the new way of life with Baron Hussman’s architectural changes and redesign of the City.  The wide boulevards and parks were playthings to the middle and upper classes belying the commuter class pushed to the edges of the City that supplied the workforce needed. At once, Paris is both the richest and poorest city in the Second Empire.

Taking a cue from a youth, Rodolphe Solis, who came to Paris after the Prussian 1866 defeat, a new kind of entertainment has spring up – the Cabaret.  While Cynge Dore’ is not as rowdy or subversive as Solis’ Le Chat Noir nor as widely known amongst tourists and travellers as others, it holds sway over a fair share of the nouveau riche and provides a chance for the Tout-Paris to have the same nights out as the workers rarely seen save when they come to or from the dwarven maintained Metro for their daily toil.  There are numerous attendees on a regular basis, including a young chef named Escoffier recently back from deployment with the military, Monsieur Flaubert the novelist, and others but they are not who we turn our eyes to in this story. A rather unusual group has seemed to make Cygne Dore’ their home, between salons, Clubs, Bistros, and travel to be true, but they are remarkable in the last several months for just such a reason. It is, it seems, the genius of the cabaret that such a circle may find themselves acquaintances and perhaps even friends late in the night over absinthe and champagne in La Belle Epoque of the Second Empire.

Olga Petrovna
Expatriot of the Russian Empire and secret Footpad

The Madam Petrovna has been in Paris for several years and is known to have left the Russian Empire behind.  She has told the tale of alternately being a lost noble whose family fell from favor of the House of Romanov and also being a descendant of the first tsarista of Peter the Great hunted by the Russians to find her and end that line.  For all her brazen living in La Belle Epoque Paris, she seems to not want for money though she lacks the easy money of the nouveau riche. What few know, save perhaps her growing confidants at La Cygne Dore’, is her involvement with the World Crime Congress as a footpad and the amount of her money that comes at the expense of unlocked doors and questionable morals.

Anatole Clemenceau
Haunted Consulting Detective

Recently returned from the United States of America, having trained with the Pinkertons and aided Pres. Abraham Lincoln in establishing the United States Secret Service. The growing tension between the 20 Nations, the Bear Empire, and the United States had finally grown old and it had been a decade away – Anatole returned home to Paris.  It hadn’t been since his wife died that he had seen the City of Light. It hadn’t been since before the Prussian’s were rebuked by Bayernese Aeonavy dreadnaughts that he had seen New Europa. While the rest of the world held wonders, and friends, it was in Paris that he had to come back home. As a Consulting Detective, trained by Monsieur Dupin with connections across the globe, Anatole has a great number of clients who find his skills remarkable, when not dulled by the absinthe.   

Lord Kaornik Ladoni
Dragon Lord & Worried Father

The Second Empire has a long history with the Dragon Lords.  As you well know, there are two different and distinct dragon lords with which one must truck – those that rule the Dragon Lands in the South East Indochine and those that live in the mountains of New Europa in pockets of independence they protect against the great nation states of the Age.  Even an Empire must worry about a single dragon – no other creatures possess their connection to magic and their Sorcery seems not to follow the rules other Scholastic sources prefer. They are given a wide breadth for that and a great respect from the sheer wealth of their Collections. A decade ago, or so, Lord Ladoni left a wife in Paris with an endowment to birth and raise his latest child.  As custom went, he left the child with his mother to come of age before he returned. And yet now they are missing. The war delayed his return and once in Paris, it seems that they have disappeared. Engaging Anatole was but the first step while the time amongst the humans new ways has been its own seduction.

Mary Louise Barton
Daoine Sidhe Duelist

Not all fae seem to alight between the different temperaments.  Mary Louise falls heavily on the martial traditions that her forbears held – The Tuatha de Danu fought and how can a Daoine Sidhe do less regardless of whether she comes from one of the Tuatha or from other faery blood! Her grounded nature left the Fae Courts and frivolity a bit unsettling.  It was after the Battle of Konigseig that Lord Auberon himself recommended that she seek humans out for what she lacked and to get distance from growing feud with Lord Dracula. His own time with the humans and his son’s rather glowing description left her inspired … but little did either know she would end up in the City of Lights.  It was the perfect time for her to find bravos on the street and company across the city. Her lithe beauty and remarkable prowess with a dwarfsilver sword have earned her a fearsome reputation. In Cygne Dore’ , she realized that there were humans who felt as displaced from their world as she from hers and with Lord Dracula hounding her for his own sport and amusement, friends were good to have.  It wasn’t merely the Fae Veil that separated realities, and in the Cygne Dore’ she could come closer to sharing realities with her boon companions.

Louise Bergeret
French Mastermind and would-be radical

Even the enlightened Second Empire couldn’t always see how a woman may succeed.  Name’s highest achievements in academia were not a matter so much as her feminine form, and this drove her further.  These laws and rules stifled where humanity could go and what humanity could achieve. By edict of Napoleon III, the College de Sorbonne had accepted those females who showed scientific and artistic promise.  Louise took full advantage of such edict as hers is a mind that comes along only once every generation. She was forced from the Sorbonne as she was outstripping the noble scions of achievement and of their pride but it didn’t stop her mind.  She had already begun work in her apartment on CASH, and though she often spent her francs faster than she could earn them on this goal, the Clockwork Autonomous Simulacra Homunculus, or CASH, would show them all! Paris deserved it’s own leadership and it’s own egalitarian democratic socialist leadership! Napoleon’s own edict would be his downfall. The CASH would free the working people from their toil!

Castle Falkenstein, Steam Age, New Europa, and all characters and creations in the book are trademarks of R. Talsorian Games Inc. Castle Falkenstein is © Mike Pondsmith, 1994. Seize the GM is a fan work using the trademarked and copywritten components for noncommercial criticism, review, and explanation.  No claim of ownership is intended or implied.

Welcome to the Card Catalog series on Castle Falkenstein! If you have not read the round up of both the system and the setting herre on Seize the GM, please take a look here! With that out of the way, I will turn my attention to the write up of the first of our series of cabaret goers who end up embroiled in high and low adventures in New Europa! While it took a good bit of words to work through the system in the overview, there are very few “crunchy” choices to make regarding character design, so the Design Notes will be more narrative and the Character Notes will be treated as excerpts from the Dramatic Persona Diary in proper Falkenstein form!


Olga Petrovna is a character who elides between two worlds in my design.  She is first a footpad or common sneaky thief, but also finds a way into high society events and the Tout-Paris life in Belle Epoque Paris.  She has claimed to possibly be the descendant of the first Tsarina of Peter the Great and few have challenged her claims, especially when unsavory characters have occasionally tried to snuff her out.  

For the dramatic persona’s Abilities, you select one to be Great, four to be Good, and one to be Poor.  The rest are Average. You can create new Abilities besides those listed in the book, but for the Card Catalog purposes, I will stick with the examples listed.  Olga’s Great Ability is Stealth and her ability to be a sly and sneaky young woman in her footpad ways. As a way to assist in that, I will also provide a Good Athletics Ability.  When I look at the other side of her story, which may or may not be true, Good Social Graces and Charisma go a long way to convincing the upper crust of her story. Finally, Good Marksmanship is something that perhaps many won’t expect from her.  That said, she has little understanding of the human body when not in motion and her Physician Ability is Poor – do not ask her to bind a wound.

In creating a Dramatic Persona, you are also asked to think about a Virtue and Vice to help anchor your character.  Olga is very much a Curious person with the virtue of wanting to know answers, but this also plays into the darker vice as she sometimes has trouble keeping her hands off of other peoples goods as a Footpad.  Her personality is best described as Guarded and Secretive – her time in the Russian Empire between the secret police, the Leshye, and the World Crime Congress have left her somewhat reserved. In that vein, she likes the bright lights of Paris and the energy of a city that is alive at all hours and likes the way in which she and her friends may even criticize the Napoleon without an immediate response.  She finds quite a bit dreary, though, in having to look at so many bricks and not enough trees. She likes the food for sure but does dislike the hot rains compared to a good proper snow.

Dramatic Personas are centered around what they value and who they are aligned with, so the next section of character generation focuses on that.  For Olga, I am going to have her cling to a locket from her grandmother that could prove or disprove her claims about being a distant relative of the Romanovs.  From her experiences and her avocation, she values Freedom greatly having had some truck with the World Anarchist Brotherhood and seeing the repression in the Russian Empire. Finally, the person she cares the most for is her cousin, Nikolai, who is as far as she knows in Poland.  Every month or so, they exchange coded post recounting their adventures. Every Dramatic Persona has a Nemesis because it is very Victorian to do in the world, and so when I look to Olga’s history I am actually going to make her life interesting by splitting it between two groups – The World Crime Congress and the Russian Secret Police.  The former because of her time as a Footpad in their employ and when she left their kind embrace after they got her out of Russia they took it personally and the latter because of her claims to be a Romanov which would throw off the lines of success for the current Emperor.

For her goals, Professionally she wants to show up the World Crime Congress by revealing their lines of communication while Socially she seeks to be accepted fully rather than conditionally by the Nouveau Riche of Paris.  Finally, her Romantic Goal is to find a husband who can dance the same dance she does, between light and dark, as thus far none have been able to flit between the two.

Her greatest regret is being separated from Nikolai in leaving Russia which still worries her but it comes with her proudest moment of being one who escaped from the Russian Empire’s Iron Grasp.

While some of this is certainly written in a good narrative style, check below for the abridged diary version, and click the link for the PDF of the full diary sheet.  For Olga, I’m going to present it as a letter to Nikolai rather than a straight diary for the sake of variety.


Dearest  Nikolai, I do hope that the newest year finds you well.  I know that our time apart has been difficult even though we have managed to forge a path outside of  Russian. My time in paris has certainly been eventful and I am grateful for my soft steps and light touch [Great Stealth].  The architecture here in Paris can be challenging but our time spent running in the forest has helped me navigate the streets here [Good Athletics]. It is good that we learned at our Nona’s foot because the manners here are strong, even amongst the newest members of the Tout Paris Set [Good Social Graces] but they have taken a fancy to my winning ways [Good Charisma].  While I have kept my practice up with the Pistol [Good Marksmanship], I am still at a loss for how to stop the bleeding when I hit my target [Poor Physician]. Show me sometime how you understand the body so well.

* * *

Despite my Guarded and Secretive ways here in Paris, I have had many compliments on how I present myself.  I certainly style myself a lady in exile from the Russian Empire and the conical crinoline dresses with embroidery show not only my place here in Paris but the slight flair from which we know the Russian Court prefers.  The strong features of our family are similarly striking ehre where my dark hair and cheekbones are the toast of many at the Cabaret. I do wish that you could be here dear Nikolai as you mean the world to me. Along with Mother’s locket, you are my last thread to our family.  While Freedom has given me a great deal, I do worry constantly that I shall not see you again in this life. I do worry that the Russian winters we left behind will instead of freezing our bones freeze our words.

* * *

Before you write back to ask, I have not found a husband yet.  I would dearly love longtime companionship and the comfort that we saw our parents have but I have yet to find a man who can keep pace with me.  I do feel that this could provide more of an acceptance here in Paris. While it is certainly a cosmopolitan city, I think a husband may take me further than on my own.  Finally, keep yourself safe. I have every intention of letting the World Crime Congress learn that they cannot prey on our family. I love you dear brother. Stay safe and do find your way to Paris soon.

Read the entire Letter here for the full character

Castle Falkenstein and Cygne Dore’ Cabaret Overview Here

Castle Falkenstein, Steam Age, New Europa, and all characters and creations in the book are trademarks of R. Talsorian Games Inc. Castle Falkenstein is © Mike Pondsmith, 1994. Seize the GM is a fan work using the trademarked and copywritten components for noncommercial criticism, review, and explanation.  No claim of ownership is intended or implied.

Dark Tides AP Pitch Session
Dark Tides Actual Play

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We all sat down and I as GM pitched a series of campaigns and the players pitched characters.

Fun was had and more to come.

Campaign chosen was Carrion Crown

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Welcome back to Card Catalog where we are taking our last look at TSR’s Star Frontiers from 1982 for the Bodaz G’Lunk’s crew! I knew that I would make at least one combat oriented or soldier style character and thought I would make the second human fill that role.  While I could have slipped in another one of the unique species created, maybe you noticed that I drew some loose inspiration for the original Bodaz G’lunk crew from the Larry Elmore illustration that graced Alpha Dawn’s cover. I will also look briefly back at Knight Hawks because they spend time detailing what a UPF soldier or marine would be and perhaps I can use that as a bit of inspiration for Kevin’s own history.  

I am also going to advance all the Star Frontier characters with about 50XP to show how you can optimize your chances or enrich your character as built.  

Design Notes

For Star Frontiers, you roll a percentile which is converted to a starting attribute score for four pairs of attributes that start equal in rating. For Kevin, I rolled 85; 80; 74; and 13 (wow!) which results in starting scores as follows:

  • Strength/Stamina 60
  • Dexterity/Reaction Speed 55
  • Intuition/Logic 55
  • Personality/Leadership 35

As a Human, Kevin can add 5 to any one Ability score, but not the pair.  I am going to add to his Dexterity because that is the primary Ability for his ranged combat raising it to 60.  Next, you can trade up to 10 points between the pairs – for Kevin, I want him to be smarter than the average grunt and maybe just a bit too literal at times so I will move 5 points from Intuition to Logic. Then, I am going to lean heavily into the stereotype of the gruff and unlovable combat character so I will slide a whole 10 points from Personality to Leadership.  This results in the following statistics:

  • STR/STA 60/60
  • DEX/RS 60/55
  • INT/LOG 50/60
  • PER/LDR 25/45

As a Human, Kevin has no other special abilities to note.  

As the resident soldier and enforcer, Kevin’s primary Skill Area is Military so that he will receive a discount on the skills purchased in that area.  That’s good because it is the broadest of all the skill areas even though they are the cheapest to buy anyway! Beam Weapons are the big starting skill for Kevin because lasers should be the default weapon for a Science Fiction Space Opera adventure like this one! While I am tempted to get another weapon based skill, instead I will provide a little bit of depth from Kevin’s background by taking a rank of Environmental Skill from Biosocial so he has an understanding of alien planets and also because it has subskills like Survival, Stealth, and Tracking.    

I’ve already mentioned Kevin as a male character, and based on the cover of Alpha Dawn that is the inspiration, I will make Kevin right handed.  I am leaving equipment for after I spend the 50 advancement Experience Points!

Advancement Notes

The great simplicity of Star Frontiers is that there are only two places for a character to spend experience points – abilities and skills.  The Abilities can range up to 100 and are a simple 1 XP for 1 Point expenditure. Straightforward and because the skill checks are percentile based easy to understand what your investment nets you. Skills are bought per level, from 1 to a maximum of 6.  Non-human characters can also spend points on their special abilities, but those are purchased just like the Abilities on a 0-100 scale and a 1 for 1 improvement rate.

Kevin is going to definitely round out a number of other weapons skill sin the MIlitary Area which are only 3XP for Level 1 for him.  With those 9 points out of the way, I’ll add 6 more points to Kevin’s Dexterity and then raise him Beam Weapons Skill from Level 1 to Level 3 (15XP).  That means that we are only at 30 of our 50XP so far! I am going to use our House Rule on Spaceship skills that we discussed in Kratog’s write up to add a Spaceship skill to Kevin’s sheet – Gunnery! For 10XP, Kevin will get one level of the Energy Weapon Gunnery skill! I will add a Level 2 Melee Weapon rank for 6XP, because I like Kevin not being as good at Grenades and for the final 4 XP, I am going to raise his Stamina which will also raise his HP.  

Now I am going to look at equipment, weapons, and defenses … which I may not pay too much attention to the cost because it’s a lot more fun just to get them outfitted. Also, the ship is under the Captain’s control with a Charter Letter with Streel Corp. as a reminder.  

Kevin is primarily a combat character so he is loaded with weapons and armor, trusting his fellow crew members will carry the rest of the equipment that they may need! He definitely starts with a Laser Rifle because that’s the appropriate thing for Kevin to have, and I’ll even add the battery backpack to have additional power charges available.  Similarly, I will go with an Electrostunner for a pistol and then a handful of grenades such as Doze, Fragmentation, and Smoke Grenades. . His melee weapons are the classic knife and nightstick, and the Nightstick provides a little bonus to its use so it almost catches up with his Blaster chance.

For defenses, since he plans to be shot a lot, Kevin is outfitted with an Albedo Suit to reduce the damage from the Laser weapons and uses an Inertia Screen to keep people close up, or with old fangled projectile weapons at bay.  He can even plug the Screen into the battery backpack he has!

His standard equipment is pretty unimpressive, except for the Sungoggles that he has to have to match the picture inspiration! He has the standard sort of gear you would expect like a blanket, machete, and flashlight but the most fun thing he has is a Parawing inspired by his experience with Yazirian’s of running away by jumping off a cliff followed up with a bit of “kaboomite” to set some explosives if needed!

Character Notes

Time and time again, the military has been a way up for dedicated and driver individuals who start off without a lot of advantages in life.  Kevin saw service in the UPF, that is United Planetary Federation, as a way off his planet. Like his friend, Brango O’Bourke, Kevin was from a human dominated planet with a representative democracy.  The question of scale comes up again and again for the theorists studying political systems, and the Lacknimonst planet’s attempt to provide tiered representation is used as a beginning study in inefficiencies.  IN the absence of clear direction, the O’Kilkirk’s and O’Bourke’s both suffered from a lack of mobility on Lacknimonst but did not lack enough to see a popular uprising. Leaving the planet was the only way forward.  

The UPF rarely involves itself with internal policies of its members – once you get into the planetary atmosphere, it isn’t the UPF’s problem.  The Second Sathar War required increased recruitment and the UPF needed marines to take and hold planets and so the Landfleet was created. Kevin & Brango had their chance out. The UPF could tell that Kevin wasn’t cut out for long term service, he just didn’t have the strong enough sense of self, but they were glad to use him on the ground and put him through an accelerated basic training when the slippery Sathar were once again bearing down on the Frontier Space! He made it through his training and found a way out to one of the last great sieges of Frontier Space – The Siege of Outpost.  As part of the Landfleet, Kevin spends two years with his fellow marines trying to take Outpost #1 where the Sathar have tried to barricade themselves. Nearly half of his cohorts died, and the end of the Second Sathar War meant an uncertain future for your soldiers.

The UPF was fortunate it didn’t have to give Kevin much of a chance.  He ran into Brango not long after returning from the front, and an altercation with a Gorlian Thug in a dive bar gave them more than reason enough to send him packing.  He was good enough to fight and die for the UPF, but they didn’t think he was good enough to lead a new era of UPF marines. It took a few years of wandering around before Kevin realized where he could be the most use.  He went out on assignment with Pan Galactic as hired muscle. Corporate Wars could sometimes use men of his talents.

Kevin had the sense about him of the lost and forlorn.  That’s why Drichu thought he should be given another chance.  After all, the Yazirian’s know nothing if not lifelong struggle against blood enemies, be they real or abstract.  Drichu convinced Capt. Bodaz to bring aboard this strong arm artist because sometimes, they would find themselves trapped in a difficult situation.  Drichu was right, and Kevin turned out to be what the Bodaz G’lunk needed. Simply enough he had trouble finding his own way in the world, but in a group as part of a crew he shined.  He and Drichu were inseparable … which became part of the biggest failure he ever had.

On Frilkium, Kevin couldn’t protect his friends who had pulled him out of a wandering and meaningless life.  The Frillites had ambushed them, and managed to wound Kevin while he tried to save Ghrilham. He could only stumble and limp as Kratog tried to ready the damaged G’lunk to leave.  Kevin was fighting back and trying to push everyone off him, so he could stop, so he could fall saving them … so he didn’t see another squad of his die.

He heard Drichu’s primal screech and knew what had happened.  The Yazirian had pulled his battle rage to the surface. The gentle scientist’s last words to Kevin were, “Run. Please.”

Kevin was left alive again after losing squad mates.  He has stayed with the Captain and the G’lunk. It is where he most felt like he had a new home.  He doesn’t know how much longer that will last, as V’orz and Jorgein came aboard with a corporate charter and vanishing into the undercities of Lacknimonst becomes a better retirement plan every day.

Kevin O’Kilkirk Human ex-Marine

Star Frontiers and Bodaz G’lunk overview here.

Star Frontiers © 1982 TSR Hobbies. All names and marks associated with Star Frontiers held by successors in interest to TSR Hobbies, Wizards of the Coast.  Wizards of the Coast, Star Frontier, and their logos are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the United States and other countries. © Wizards. All Rights Reserved. Seize the GM is not affiliated with, endorsed, sponsored, or specifically approved by Wizards of the Coast LLC. No claim of ownership is intended or implied.