Friday, July 17, 2015

Groundhog Day

So I popped my head out of my burrow, had a lovely look around and am ready to go back and hibernate. I'm sure I'll be back eventually. I always show up at least once or twice a year. I would like to stay in touch in the meantime, though.

     I have been writing a lot and have some material nearly ready for the mail. If you'd like to get something from me in the post from time to time, please drop me a line via gmail at christian.writes.zines. If you think I already have your address, just write "Gimme!" in the comments section.

     See you when I see you. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Full Moon Rebellion

Jay Penn illustration
Cambria Irving’s grandfather, Gerald, is a werewolf. He doesn’t know how he contracted lycanthropy, but he’s pretty sure it happened while he was hitchhiking in New Mexico in 1972. He was high on peyote for days on end, so his memories are hazy at best. Gerald’s getting on in years, so he no longer chases down terrified prey nor does he run with a pack.  

     When he lived alone, Gerald was content to lie by the fireplace during full moons and to dream of past hunts. On rare occasions, he would limp out to the back porch, sniff the night air and let out a long, sorrowful howl. Things are very different for Gerald now.  

     Gradually, Gerald started to forget things, important things like turning off the stove and to take his medication. Gerald’s daughter, Helen, finally moved him in with Cambria and her husband, Martin. That’s when things started to get bad.  

     In short order, Martin hired an attorney to declare Gerald incompetent and was granted conservatorship. Helen was not comfortable with this, but Martin convinced her that it was for the best. Nervous about having a senile werewolf under his roof, Martin has confined Gerald to his room when the moon is full, since Gerald has no control over his transformation on those nights. In fact, he’s forbidden any transformations. Martin even went so far as to hire a contractor to install a steel reinforced door and to put iron bars on the windows of Gerald’s room.  

     All of this depresses Cambria. Although she’s a fairly typical teenager in that she is moody, withdrawn and can’t stand her parents, she feels bad for her gramps. He’s harmless, lonely and just wants have his belly scratched when he is in wolf form. Besides, as a teenager she’s a bit wild at heart and she hates to see a natural born maverick—a wolf—locked in a room when it should be able to gaze at the stars.  

Jay Penn illustration
     In an act of defiance, Cambria has started sneaking Gerald out of his room. Because they don’t want to be woken up by Gerald’s moans and growls as he makes the painful transition—changing shape doesn’t get any easer when one is 66—Cambria’s parents have taken to drinking a few glasses of wine with an Ambien chaser during the full moon. This makes it easy for Cambria to lead Gerald out of the house. The two are content to sit on the front porch, but sometimes they take a walk through the woods.  

     Cambria isn’t worried about being bitten and infected with lycanthropy. Gerald is pretty docile in his old age and doesn’t seem to have much of a fighting spirit. Cambria can only imagine what her dad would do to her and Gerald if she also started howling at the moon.  

     The ruse has gone well for the past several months, but Cambria is starting to worry. Last month while sitting on the porch, another wolf padded up to the edge of the property line and paused. Despite his age, Gerald still managed to growl and bear his teeth as the hair on his back stand up. The old werewolf looked pretty impressive and Cambria was both proud and a little afraid.  

     The other wolf dipped its head, turned, and padded away. Gerald has said that he’s not aware of any other werewolves in the area, but perhaps as he is aging another lycanthrope has moved in. For now the other wolf seems to be keeping a respectful distance. Cambria is hoping that the wolf they saw was simply a wild animal, but that’s unlikely. While plenty of weird things happen in Whitaker Cove, there are definitely no feral wolves roaming the streets.

Using Cambria and Gerald in Play  
     Characters might meet Gerald and Cambria in a number of ways. Perhaps the PCs are out at night when they see a young woman and a large, yet aged, wolf walking in the park. A rumor of a werewolf living in Whitaker Cove might also spark the PCs’ interest, prompting them to seek out the shapeshifter.  

     Charles McCollough (coming soon) has been hired by Helen and Martin Irving. They want Charles to represent them in court as they seek to become conservators of Gerald’s estate. Due to the fact that Gerald is a werewolf, Charles hires the party to look into the situation in order to provide him a fuller picture of the situation.  

     Finally, Cambria might be friends with one of the PCs. She will tell him or her that she is freaked out by the other wolf that has been checking out her grandfather. She wants to know who the other wolf is and what it wants.  

Role-playing Suggestions    
     Gerald Ervin used to be full of piss and vinegar. In the 60s he rode a motorcycle from Oregon to the southern tip of Baja California. In the 70s he lived in a cabin on the beach he built with his own hands. He smuggled pot in the 80’s and managed to father a child, Helen, along the way. He always bucked the system, so he was never able to settle down and the by the rules of “The Man.”  

     Now that he’s getting old—Gerald is 66—he lives with a heavy heart. His mind is fading and it frustrates him to no end that he lives like a second-class citizen. He just wants to run and to live free, but he can’t. He’s broke, his health is failing and his son-in-law is a prick.  

     With this in mind, Gerald should be played as a pitiable codger whose eyes reveal a great deal of sadness. He will be kind and respond well to anyone who treats him with respect and who will let him ramble on about the good old days.  

     Cambria, like many 17-year-old girls, has bad posture, doesn’t fully enunciate her words, and rarely removes her earbuds. She thinks her mom is okay, but cannot stand her dad. She doesn’t know why he’s such a control freak nor why he seems to hate Gerald so much. Her hobbies include Facebook, blowing off her homework and doing anything that might make her dad mad.  

     Cambria will be awkward and reserved around adults, responding best to young males between the ages of 17 and 20. She’s moderately attractive, but doesn’t have a boyfriend. Like her grandfather, she has a bit of a wild heart and doesn’t feel comfortable in her own skin. However, she has no desire to become a werewolf. On the subject she will simply state, “Why would I want to have fleas and lick my own butt? Gross.”

SM 0 (5’ 5” tall, 105 lbs.);
ST 9 [-10], DX 10, IQ 10, HT 11 [10];
HP 9, Will 9 [-5], Per 10, FP 11;
Basic Lift 13, Damage: Thr 1d-2/Sw 1d-1;
Basic Speed 5.25, Basic Move 5;
Dodge 8, Parry (see below), Block -;
DR 0

Advantages and Perks
Attractive [4], Patron (Parents, 15 or less) [30]

Disadvantages and Quirks
Dead Broke [-25], Odious Personal Habit (Depressed, Apathetic Teen) [-5], Social Stigma (Minor) [-5]

Area Knowledge (Whitaker Cove)-12 [4], Computer Operation-12 [4], Driving-9 [1], Stealth-11 [4], Swimming-12 [2]

Undisciplined hair pulling and slapping-9, Range C, Parry 7, Damage 1d-3 cr

GERALD IRVING (79 points)
SM 0 (5’ 10” tall, 175 lbs.);
ST 9 [-10], DX 10, IQ 11 [20], HT 9 [-10];
HP 9, Will 19, Per 12 [5], FP 19;
Basic Lift 20, Damage: Thr 1d-2/Sw 1d-1;
Basic Speed 4.75, Basic Move 4;
Dodge 7, Parry -, Block -;
DR 0

Advantages and Perks
Acute smell 3 [6], Alternate Form [78], Pitiable [5], Speak with Animals (Wolves only, -80%) [5] 

Disadvantages and Quirks
Bad Sight (Farsighted, Mitigator (glasses) -60%) [-15], Poor [-15]

Area Knowledge (Whitaker Cove)-14 [8], Gardening-11 [2]


SM 0 (5’ long, 80 lbs.);
ST 10, DX 12 [40], IQ 11 [20], HT 12 [20];
HP 10, Will 11 [10], Per 15 [25], FP 12;
Basic Lift 20, Damage: Thr 1d-2/Sw 1d;
Basic Speed 7.0 [20], Basic Move 10 [15];
Dodge 10, Parry -, Block -; DR 1 [5]

Advantages and Perks 
Animal Empathy [5], Discriminatory Smell [15], Extra Legs (four legs) [5], Fur [1], Night Vision 2 [2], Sharp Teeth [1], Temperature Tolerance 1 [1]

Disadvantages and Quirks 
Bad Temper [-10], Dead Broke [-25], Horizontal [-10], Lunacy [-10], No Fine Manipulators [-30], Phobia (9) (fire) [-7], Reputation (dangerous predator, everyone, all of the time; -3 to reactions) [-15], Sleepy (half of the time) [-8]

Brawling-14 [4], Running-12 [2], Stealth-12 [2], Survival (Forest)-15 [2], Survival (Mountains)-15 [2], Tracking-15 [2]

Bite-14, 1d-2 cut, reach C

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Skin Lab

Today I received a copy of the Stronghold Zine. On the back of the envelope Boric drew a gorgeous little map. I love it! What follows is a wee dungeon description to "flesh it out" so to speak.

The Skin Lab
     The crafting of flesh golems is a rather grim affair, but the citizens of Drainpipe don't mind too much provided none of their relatives end up being used for spare parts. In this secluded work space, a powerful wizard (her identity remains a secret) crafts flesh golems.

     Once completed, the golem lives in the hidden caves behind the lab until a buyer can be found. Flesh golems are not cheap, so finding a buyer with adequate coin can take a while. The most recent sale was to Colin Crumb, a purveyor of extra-planar trash.

     The lab is full of all kinds of jars, surgical tools, sutures, arcane manuals, and so on. Most of the work occurs on the table in the lower left corner of the map. Once the flesh golem is sewn together, it is lowered into the pool at the upper right of the map. The pool is full of electric eels that shock the golem into semi-consciousness.

     The materials within the lab are worth 5,000 gp but stealing them is a death sentence. The wizard who owns the lab could locate the pilfered goods through magical means. Once located, the thieves would no doubt end up as spare parts for the next golem.

     Save for the flesh golem (link to stats) in the caves, the lab is unguarded. After a few rounds of poking about, intruders will come face to face with a 7' tall Frankenstein-like monster looking to tear someone apart.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Morning Coffee Map

I wanted to scan this map I drew while drinking coffee this morning, but a photo will have to do.

     I had an underground bunker in mind. It's a place where the wreckage of many wars fought on any number of planes winds up. There's a junk monger who lives among the twisted steel, mangled armor plating and empty ammo boxes. He's fashioned himself a hovel where he does business with those who wish to buy junk from him.

     The wreckage of warfare can be put to new use as breast plates, shields, axes, etc. Given the low tech level of the setting, no one knows what to do with the Tiger tank or damaged Trident missile, but perhaps someone can figure it out.

     The junk monger, Colin Crum, has no idea how the junk materializes in this space. It just does. Like I said, I drew this with my morning coffee, so I wasn't quite awake. I accept that this makes little sense. :)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Conversion Experience: Sheriff Tubbs' Beatin' Stick

Southern Bastards #2; Image Comics; May 2014; $3.50

Earl Tubbs' daddy used to be the sheriff in Craw County, Alabama. According to Earl, he loved the county more than his own family. In his day Sheriff Tubbs was tough as nails.

     His signature weapon was a club that was always by his side. Some say that the stick was signed by Bear Bryant, legendary University of Alabama football coach. By all accounts, the sheriff swung a mean club and many law-breakers felt its wrath.

     Fast forward many years and now Sheriff Tubbs lays in a grave in his front yard. A massive, gnarly old tree grows out of it. The tree is every bit as unyielding and tough as the sheriff.

     On the night his aging son Earl plans to leave Craw County for good a bolt of lightning shatters the tree. Within the tree is none other than his daddy's club. How could that be? It's impossible! Whatever the cause, it's a sure sign that Earl is meant to stay in town in order to take care of the evil that has festered during his father's absence.

Sheriff Tubbs' Beatin' Stick
Consider the weapon an Extra. When used in combat it provides the wield one extra shift in combat, two if the wielder is a descendant of Sheriff Tubbs.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Conversion Experience: Dusty Tutwiler

Southern Bastards #1; Image Comics; April 2014; $3.50

A lifetime ago I was accepted to graduate school at the University of North Carolina and the University of South Carolina. Sometimes I regret not attending either school (I chose San Diego State), but things have worked out okay. Still, my interest in the South remains, so how could I pass up a title like Southern Bastards?

     In this first issue we learn of Coach Boss, a local kingpin who happens to be the high school football coach. In the South, football has a an almost religious aspect to it. The vehicle of this knowledge is Dusty Tutwiler, a terrified man with bloodshot eyes and a penchant for thievery. The fear evident in Dusty is an excellent story-telling device. The nastier the villain, the greater the terror he inspires in his victims.

     In Fate Accelerated, you can use Dusty as generic street-level rabble who has made a powerful enemy. He's desperate and scared, yet still retains a bizarre sense of honor.

Dusty Tutlwiler
Stoned and stupid; In a heap o' trouble

Good (+2) at: Stealing, football trivia
Bat (-2) at: Fightng, common sense

Stress: [_]

Notes: Dusty has a wad of stolen cash on his person.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Restless Dead

Those who perish in the black waters of Whitaker Cove have a disturbing habit of returning to exact hate-filled vengeance upon the living. The attacks always occur at night and target lone individuals.

They "live" to throttle the living

Good (+2) at: Spreading terror, choking the life out of lone victims
Bad (-2) at: Pretty much everything else

Stress: [_][_]

Notes: When one of the restless dead rises from its watery grave, the event can be terrifying for anyone unfortunate enough to be present. At the start of the scene, the GM should roll 6 dice. (4 dice for its attack modified by two dice more for its affinity for spreading terror.) The attack is not a physical one, but still targets the stress track of the victim as it represents emotional trauma.

A player can defend normally, or perhaps they can voluntarily  take themselves out of the scene (earning a Fate point in the process) and perhaps dictate that they flee in gibbering, wailing terror.

Video Note: Fender Squire running through a Catalinbread Belle Epoch into a Vox AC4. One of the reasons for my prolonged blogging absence was a partial tear of my right ACL I suffered while surfing. I spent nearly 18 months rehabbing and trying to get back into form, but sadly my days in the water are over. It's been a crushing blow, but to help me cope I picked up the guitar. It's not a total loss, I guess. :)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Conversion Experience: Panda-Bot Mk V

Empty Zone #1; Image Comics; June 2015; $3.50

Today's read is a William Gibson/Cyberpunk/grim future kind of thing. It was a rather decent issue and I look forward to seeing where this series goes. In this installment of Conversion Experience, I want to share an awesome looking robot that appeared briefly. No name was listed for the machine, so apologies for my rather lame moniker.

Robotic Killing Machine

Skilled (+2) at: Breaking things and killing people
Bad (-2) at: Diplomacy, creative thinking

Because the Panda-Bot Mk. V Makes Sudden, Violent Entrances, once per session the robot can appear unexpectedly in a scene and immediately attack a foe. In the comic, the immediate attack came in the form of broken shards of a door it had kicked impaling/bludgeoning people.

Stress: [_][_]

Notes: Its attacks can be either physical (punching, kicking) or via a beam weapon that emanates from the palm of its right hand. Per the comic, the robot is capable of being reprogrammed to make it a docile servant.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Finn's Golden Sword of Battle

Available for about $25 in many comic book stores, this plastic replica of Finn's Golden Sword of Battle from the cartoon Adventure Time, is an indispensable monster slaying tool. Although it's made of plastic, in the hands of a true believer (see below) it can cause actual harm to beasties.

     In Fate, treat the weapon as an Extra and note the following text on a character sheet:

Finn's Golden Sword of Battle
     When used in melee, it can inflict damage to a monster's stress track as if it were a real sword.

     If a character does a bit of research on the topic of lethal toy swords (I suggest a Careful approach) and scores a Good (+3) result, then he or she will learn the following from a paranormal research discussion board:

     "The precedent of toy swords being able to harm malevolent creatures was set in the summer of 1979 by Joe Gibbs of Venice Beach, CA. At the time, eight-year-old Joe and other children in the area were plagued by a disturbing number of attacks and abductions targeting children. Joe and his friends armed themselves with home-made wooden swords. Joe spray painted his sword silver and tied a black bandanna around the hilt.

     Armed with their humble weapons, Joe and his friends were able to defend themselves from further predation. Joe's sword is currently in the possession of members of the "Thursday Night Fight Club", a paranormal investigating team based in Los Angeles.

     As to why the toy swords can harm monsters, it is speculated that the monsters made themselves vulnerable to attack by violating a centuries old compact regarding quotas relating to predation upon children. Because the monsters violated the "rules of warfare" so to speak, the concession was that children (and perhaps those adults who retain a child-like belief in the supernatural) could now better protect themselves."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Troubled in Their Dreams Again

When the weather turns foul, the citizens of Whitaker Cove, a quiet fishing village in the Pacific Northwest, suffer. The phenomena is well-documented in various metaphysical and paranormal journals.

     One form of torment that the residents endure are bad dreams that portend their deaths. On more than one occasion, the dreams have come true. Skeptics have dismissed such incidents as coincidence, but the wise know that it's better not to scoff.

     The next time the wind howls and the heavens open up to unleash a torrent of rain, roll appropriate dice to select one of the investigators in the campaign. Next, have that investigator roll 1d6 to determine the kind of prophetic dream he or she experiences. The nightmare depicts the character's demise, so the table below will determine the cause of death. Feel free to elaborate on the dream during play.

Bad Dream
roll 1d6
1. The character drowns in turbulent waters.
2. The poor soul is burned to a crisp in a fire.
3. A terrible car accident claims the investigator's life.
4. The PC dies from a gunshot wound.
5. A ferocious beast tears the character to pieces.
6. The investigator falls from a great height.

     The dream should factor into play at a later date. The next time the character is in a stressful situation where the key element from his or her nightmare is present, that element should be represented by an Aspect. The game master should then tag/compel that Aspect to heighten the drama.

     For example, if the investigator is having a violent encounter on a boat, the game master could add "Watery Grave" to the scene and inform the investigator that he or she is reminded of a bad dream that foretold death by drowning.

Video Notes: I found some cool footage online and recorded a guitar part over it. I think it came out okay. I'm playing a Fender Modern Player Short Scale Telecaster though a Catalinbread Belle Epoch delay pedal into a Vox AC4 tube amp.