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Dark Tides Session 3
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The third session of Carrion Crown

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Derek @seizethegm

Josh @Joshposey

Aj @nicholson_aj

Marty @mhooie

Joe @joe_rpg

Music is “Dark Times” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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The Town of Ravengro

Episode 68: Romance at your Table
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Main Topic

Romance can be kind of a third rail in gaming. Please remember that we are not medical or therapeutic professionals and that nothing we say should be taken as medical or therapeutic advice. Things to keep in mind:

  • Consent. Consent. Consent. – Romance is one of, if not the, most intimate activities a character can undertake.  It is important to talk to your players and know where their comfort levels are and where they are absolutely not comfortable.  
  • Character versus Player – Suffice it to say that this is a role-playing game.  It is important to remember that there is a distinction between the player and the character but that characters will not always be able to make perfect suspension of disbelief.
  • NPC romantic interests – Most commonly, you may have players who want their characters to have existing romantic interests or, in many cases, look for them during the game
  • Romance doesn’t always mean S-E-X.

Games

Blue Rose

Stat Blocks

Zendead-

Electron Ring-

This simple unassuming ring is a masterpiece of modern tech-wizardry. Buried in the ring is a complex series of circuits and wifi enabled tags. Just a simple knock on the door activates the ring kicking on the wifi to connect to the electronic locking mechanism. The second knock sets off the AI which in nanoseconds rips through all the code to figure out the first set of alarms attached to the lock and sets to disable them. And with the third knock it sets to work running the combinations to the lock. It can take from a second to a minute.

The Electron Ring is a modern tech miracle for the pilferer of goods and people. Yes you heard me right. Most people don’t use it for trafficking in people but some do. The few that know someone that can make one of these have put them up for sale on the black market right next to Cybernetic interface systems.

Once you get your hands on one it can be a massive boon but be sure you know it that mark is home or not. The jail time may not be worth it.

Joules-

Recycled Whimsey

Hi-diddely-o, didn’t ya know?

You fade once you glow

Didn’t ya know, child?

After the rhyme, high time

Diddely-o, didn’t you know?

You fade once you glow

Didn’t ya known, child?

After the rhyme, high time

We’re all forced to grow up.  To discard the joys and innocence of our past to make room for the lessons and pains of our future.  To forget the mother goose tales and trade them for heavy allegories and rote formulas.

But we all remember, don’t we?  We remember what we wanted the future to be.  Full of opportunities and magic and infinite possibilities that have no ties to the real world.

But where do our dreams go?  And the possible realities we longed to manifest?

It’s said that there is a vault.  Guarded by the fair folk. When children cast aside their dreams and grow up, it is a race against time for the pixies and brownies.  They rush to save the remnants of the dreams before they fade away. And they’re not always successful. Yet they still try to save what they can.

It’s a truly heart wrenching task.  But necessary.

To keep nihilism and despair from subsuming the world.  To keep the idea of “a future” alive. To sustain the magic of hope.  The fair folk learned their lessons well during the industrial revolution.  The concept of a childhood was nearly destroyed back then.

Recycling the make believe of the past, saving it for a child who may be able to keep it and grow it.  Children who, even if they do grow up, still keep a thread, a scrap, a remnant of that magic. And who can pass it on.  That’s where our storytellers come from, our comedians. Creators of toys and games. Teachers who grow the magic within a child instead of snuffing it out.  Giving hope to the hopeless. Saving a child from despair and arming them against the creeping dark.

And when it is their time, the pixies and brownies visit them again.  And as a gift, the dying get to see what their lives truly were. No glamour to hide the truth.  And as they pass through the vale, the pixies and brownies call them heroes and record their names.  For it is said, he who saves one child saves the entire world.

nulloperations –

Sword Eater Glove
“Apparel that’s quick to the cut.”
It appears as a simple leather and chain mail glove, but adorned on its knuckles are several blades that appear as mouse sized weapons. But these weapons look worn, scratched, and used. It is not until someone wearing the glove wields a sword for the first time that the glove manifests its power. The sword will vanish in the user’s hand, suddenly becoming a small blade on the fingers of the glove. Don’t think the wear is defenseless now, as the wearer defends themself against their attacker they will find they can deflect blows with the glove as if wielding a full blade. More, their punches pierce and slash with the damage of the most effective blade adorning the glove.
The Sword Eater is a partially intelligent item, selecting whatever weapon it has consumed to use against a foe. It only consumes the weapons it has in hand, and not those it blocks or parries. Weapons cannot be removed from the glove without destroying the entire glove in the process.

Guard-a-Manger

Alethia’s Loupe

By all appearances, this hand magnifier is just what it seems.  A simple and useful tool that consists of the magnifying lens, it’s case, and a simple way to attach it to ones spectacles.  It is most certainly an excellent addition to any craftsman working with the finer details like a jeweler or a geologist. It may be a bit too delicate, or refined in its case to truly be useful that far outside, but do treat it as one would.  

The secret, or at least the truth about his Loupe is when you look beyond the detail work at hand.  It works so well, so easily there, that why would you ever think to have this Loupe up to your eye when you walk down the street or into an audience? It would be absurd, wouldn’t it?  For whatever reason, you can’t seem to get it to stay affixed or otherwise be permanently attached – it must always be a temporary fixture on your head and face. Why would you want it there? Because it shows The Truth.

The details it helps magnify and show the wearer extend beyond the simple physical facets of a gem, or the precise angle of a blade.  Alethia had a loupe that showed the precise details of the world. The amount of information at the wearer’s fingertips astounds the mind.  It is not enough to know that the room of powerful people controls the city, no. You can see which one holds the leverage in the room. It isn’t enough to see that clouds are rolling in for the afternoon shower – you can see the currents behind the front pushing it forward.  How this fell from Olympus is a question we dare not answer.

Be careful, though, because that much Truth can reveal more than you intend.  And perhaps more than you are ready to comprehend.


Lexicon

Temerity    noun te·mer·i·ty  \ tə-ˈmer-ə-tē \

Definition of temerity
1 : unreasonable or foolhardy contempt of danger or opposition : rashness, recklessness
2 : a rash or reckless act

Origin and Etymology of temerity
Middle English temeryte, from Latin temeritas, from temere blindly, recklessly; akin to Old High German demar darkness, Latin tenebrae, Sanskrit tamas

First Known Use: 15th century

Popularity: Top 30% of words

Closing remarks

Zendead- Sandpoint Light of the Lost Coast  Such a great book packed with a great deal of ideas and points of interest. It is a deep dive into a small coastal town that is pivotal to many things in Pathfinder.

Joules- Grab a book of Fairy Tales or Fables from your local library.

nulloperations- SCP First Contact. Wonderful machinima of building tension set within the Secure Contain Protect universe. Good for some inspiration for adding horror into a campaign.

Guard-a-Manger-Marvel’s Runaways.  Yes I am late to the TV show, but catching up on it after starting a free Hulu trial for the second Fyre Documentary.  Fun characters with good use of romance and coming from a new cult classic of a comic book.

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

Find us

Show- Email, Twitter, Facebook

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 herre on Seize the GM, please take a look here! This post is coming up late, and so my apologies.  I got trapped in a temporal distortion in one of the Three Roman Time Zones, which I’ll mention more about below but I should be back on track for the next few series. To finish our the look at Castle Falkenstein, I am making a Mastermind! This is the archetype I would most likely play myself given the opportunity as you get all of the SCIENCE! Of a Mad Scientist with the desire to put something into play to actually make your plan have a real world impact! It is noted that Otto von Bismark is considered a Mastermind because his infernal invention or device is the plan to take control of New Europa so this this is everything from Captain Nemo to Moriarty.  

I am also going to expand the world a little beyond the written work here.  With the limited number of supplements, Castle Falkenstein has not yet described the entire world.  So with a little historical flair, I am going to also work in some of the alternate Italian history and what is going on because the Castle Falkenstein book notes that by 1870, the Papal States were not unified and the Northern half of Italy was still part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire so Giuseppi Garibaldi has a different career arc in my head. Pardon the slight world building diversion but sometimes, you’ve got to world build when it strikes you.   

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!

DESIGN NOTES

Somebody needs to be the brains of the operation, and while Anatole is sharp, he is much more of a reactive type while we want a proactive genius with a plan, a Mastermind, to round out this crew.  Enter Louise. She is the least connected to any particular power structure which means that her general desire to see one or more of them fall apart is quite understandable. As with other Dramatic Personas, you start with a single Great ability, Education for Louise, and four Good Abilities – Tinkerer so she can build her CASH mechs, Perception for the general sharpness, Courage because she is icy and rationale, and Social Graces so she can slip in and out of societal expectations.  For her Poor talent, I choose Fencing as she doesn’t quite get how to make the pointy end go in the other person.  I really want to make her a bit more Mastermind, Evil Genius style, though. Looking at the options from the main Castle Falkenstein book, I can increase her Education to Excellent from Good for only two additional Poor traits.  If my math serves me correctly, I can get to an Excellent, a Great, and 4 Good with 3 Poor traits.  Education becomes Excellent which has a large repository of knowledge that comes along and Tinkering becomes Great.  To add to her Poor Abilities, I will have her be rather lacking in Stealth and Exchequer. The latter especially is because she keeps spending all her coin on her creations and prototypes.   

For her personality, Louise is most assuredly acerbic in a biting way being an intelligent but discontent woman in Steampunk Paris. This sharp tongued nature is tolerated because of her sharp mind so her insightfulness is paired here so when she speaks it is with little frippery or small talk.

In creating a Dramatic Persona, you are also asked to think about a Virtue and Vice to help anchor your character.  As we discuss in our World Building excursion below, our favorite Mastermind is definitely a rather radical and ambitious woman so it will come easily when we look to her Virtue and Vice.  The Virtue of Iconoclasm is her strength where she can frequently look at situations for novel solutions.  She “thinks outside the box” as the term has become overused in modern parlance. Her Vice, as may not be too shocking, is a deep seated harboring of Resentment – she does not forget a wrong and holds many accountable for their transgressions against her or against her own kind.  

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.  The designs for her CASH are an obvious item she would hold fast too, but even above that she values her diploma – the recognition of being accepted and excelling in academia means the most to her. The most important person to Louise is her still living, and not above poking her nose where it shan’t belong, mother.  While her father sadly passed away in a regrettable failed rebellion, Louise mother Margaret lives yet in Paris and the two of them spend a day, once every fortnight or so, catching up on life and the goings on of iconoclastic women. Finally, she values Equity – her belief in the freeing of the indentured servitude of labor is because she rapaciously seeks for humanity to see itself on equal footing; it need not be that everyone is treated equally but that everyone has the same opportunity.  

She has indeed made a few enemies, not the least of which is the Austrian-Hungarian Special Service. They are even more concerned of late because their watch over Lord Ladoni has now overlapped with their watch over her. Additionally, in her time rallying the people and the workers, she has offended several business magnates but none so personally as Sir William Gordon-Smyth of Wellington Steel & Fabrication – one of the so-called Steam Lords of England.  The other side of her work and activism are her collection of supporters and indeed allies such as Giuseppe Garibaldi. He may be an aging idealist railing against the wealth and power of the world, but he has a softness for the young and brash Louise who carries on the torch. Her work has also left her in good stead with the World Anarchist Brotherhood, even if she does not always agree with the vitriol, and exothermic, nature of their protests. Her goal for the CASH is to free the workers from their own toil and see the value of their selves be rated above the value of their labor – this separates the means of production from the human element and Karl Marx is quite pleased to have her slowly coming further into the Brotherhood’s deeper fold.

Her goals are all that are left to determine. Her social and professional goals are somewhat interrelated – Professionally she is seeking to have the CASH program into full production so that her automatons may reach widespread use while Socially, this would mean she helps to birth a new age where labor is not required of the working classes. Despite her somewhat prickly demeanor, she does Romantically seek a deeper connection with love but she does not have a particular object of her affections.  A mastermind to match her own intellect must be out there and she has not yet decided to abandon that goal.

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.

World Building Notes

The Core Rule Book for Falkenstein has a brief throwaway mention for Italy as “The North controlled by Austria, the South feuding Papal States” in a sidebar.  If you are a European History buff, you know that by 1870, Italy had finished its unification fights when France was in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war. In the absence of the Kingdom of Sardinia making its strong push for unification earlier, I am going to make some modifications to Italy, and to Giuseppe Garibaldi in particular. The Northern half of what we recognize as Italy is still under the control of the Austrian-HUngarian Empire, so regions like Tuscany, Liguria, and Emilia-Romagna are all outreaches of the Hapsberg’s power but also hotbeds of rebellion.  The southern portions of Italy are the Papal States, which has a loose collection of different kingdoms all having sworn some form of allegiance to Rome. What does this mean in our Steampunk universe?

First, I have this odd love of the idea of the Three Romes.  Three different Romes are all sharing the same space and place, with the Vatican being the one location that coexists between them all.  Human sorcery and hubris is likely the reason but it is just an accepted part of New Europa these days. I expect that the Strega tradition of Sorcery may also become involved in a conflict with the Papacy.

Second, in the absence of successful unification, Italy sees numerous rebellious uprisings.  Giuseppe Garibaldi was known for his martial tendencies especially based on insurgent tactics, and in the absence of unification he has advanced to more radical positions that he held later in life.  When the Third War for Italian Independence had Italian forces of King Victor fighting against Austria, it allowed the Veneto to be annexed into the burgeoning Kingdom as a gift from France …. Since the Bayerne Aeronavy appeared here in Falkenstein, Giuseppe Garibaldi’s capture was for naught since the Venato was not ceded to France.  Instead, the Kingdom of Sardinia is trapped between an attempt to grow in power and unify Italy but with the Papal States controlling Rome and the environs with the the Austro-Hungarian Empire still at least solidly, perhaps not firmly, embedded in the North. The Kingdom could well have fallen apart after allying with Prussia and Otto von Bismark in this failed endeavor leading to the papal states increased size and conflict which can tie into the Three Romes theory. The Strega may well have contributed to this dissolution of Sardinia.  

Third, the only reason that the Papal States are not the focus of a more intense attempt at conquest is the annual Convocation of the Dragons every November in Rome, mentioned in Comme il Faute. The Three Romes theory helps explain why Dragons would like to meet in Rome, allowing both intimacy and distance between members of their kind.  It also buoys the background of the Ladoni I worked on with Lord Kaornik earlier.

While I could explore all of this a bit further, since I am already a day late, I’ll save the Falkenstein work on Italy for a later world building post.

CHARACTER NOTES

The Journals of Louise Bergeret
February 5, 1870

While I find this practice tedious at times, it is a useful break from my work on the Clockwork Autonomous Simulacra Homunculus – my CASH project.  It does take some notable endurance, mental and physical to achieve each step of success. This journal entry practice shall assist me in keeping my mind clear and my work my own


* * *

Perhaps it is best if I find a way to encapsulate who I am before I go further into the history of the oppression of the people of New Europa.  I am Louise Bergemet. If you are reading this, then by now you already know my name and my fame. I am an inventor and an idealist. I am a woman learned of Science and of the people.  I am here to ensure that the sweat and toil of the people of New Europa is never again needed to be wasted in service to Capital. I am assuredly well read as I have been educated at the Sorbonne [Excellent Education] and I have applied that knowledge to the mechanics and physics of the world [Great Tinkering].  I am well acquainted with what society and Society expects from a woman [Good Social Graces] but they are often at odds with what I can discern [Good Perception] and my lack of backing down [Good Courage]. I am perhaps unexpectedly rather accomplished in fisticuffs as well [Good Fighting]. Regrettably, this did not extend to learning the finer arts of the dance of the blades, save that I understand that the pointy end goes into the fleshy bits [Poor Fencing]. This carries on in my way of being forthright in the world as well as my thoughts [Poor Stealth] and I must be honest that I tend to spend every centime I can to improve my CASH rather than on myself [Poor Exchequer].
This peculiar combination leads others to see me as insightful yet acerbic. I expect that the thought of an accomplished lady scientist is not as developed amongst the population as that of the adventuress or the Demoiselle.  This does provide me a strength in that the Iconoclasm my insight offers provides new ways to solve these problems and new methods to change my inventions and the world at large, but it does sometimes grow to Resentment where those who have harmed me do not leave my memory.  My mind is my greatest treasure and my greatest weapon and those that have stepped against me or against the betterment of New Europa’s people have earned my enmity.


* * *

I must admit that Sir Williams-Smith of Wellington Steel has not yet stopped hounding my every move since that incident at his factory where I had the misfortune of being near. No matter, the Steam Lords take Britain, as I am more concerned my time with Garibaldi has left the Austrian-Hungarian Special Service to keep me in their sights.  I know that they loathe the idea of losing the Veneto and the Northern parts of the peninsula, but the Italian State should be formed and allowed to find its way apart from the Papal State’s. At least Garibaldi’s disciples and followers still grant me some succor. While they often take actions more radical than I advocate, the World Anarchist Brotherhood, and Msr. Marx have also been a valuable ally.  I would hope they see the CASH as a way of the future as well, and not merely as a tool for further polemic and trickery but I expect they wish otherwise. Their support helps to propel the acceptance and use of the CASH system [Professional Goal] and so I do continue to rely on them. SImilarly, they and Garibaldi may be the first to recognize that the future of labor is in the machines we build, especially as those Bayernese sky navy ships show the next stage.  [Social Goal]. And while Mere Margaret does ask about whether I will find someone with whom to share this life, and to provide a grand baby on which she may dote, I have not yet found one who can maintain their own sense of elan and wit in my presence. [Romantic Goal].

* * *

At this point, it is perhaps best that I return to the beginning of the story and remind the gentle reader, and perhaps myself, of my own history and how I got here.  While France, and Paris in particular, may seem to exude a timeless beauty and sophistication, it masks the history of rebellion and insurrection deeply engrained in the persona of our citizens.  My father was one of those who strove to better the lives of all Parisians and all French. He paid the price early in my life as the Army responded with the violence that the State holds over all of our heads.  My mother. Margaret, did not lose her way on her own. She proved that strength comes from within and is not so dependent on the body itself. It is no surprise that I slept soundly early in life and I took quickly to the books and solving problems.  My father’s friends would come into town and help my Mother if they could between fomenting uprisings in what they hope to call Italy and Spain.
.

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 2
Dark Tides Actual Play

 
 
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The second session of Carrion Crown

Contact us

Derek @seizethegm

Josh @Joshposey

Aj @nicholson_aj

Marty @mhooie

Joe @joe_rpg

Music is

“Dark Times” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Support us on Patreon as well.

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?

Lexicon

Lees  plural noun
\ˈlēz

Definition
: 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

Popularity
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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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!

DESIGN NOTES

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.  

CHARACTER NOTES

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!

DESIGN NOTES

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!

CHARACTER NOTES

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
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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?

Lexicon

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
1812

Popularity
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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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 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!

DESIGN NOTES

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.

CHARACTER NOTES

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
 
1X
 

The first session of Carrion Crown

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