Sword Noir Rising

This weekend I’ve had a couple of moments in between preparing for a move in early August. It’s mostly been in the morning along with my coffee, so it’s been pretty productive. At this point, I’ve completed updating the mechanics section in Sword Noir, and I’m delving into the GM section. This will give me a chance to discuss explicitly the sharing of narrative control I use in my games. I was much more clear in Kiss My Axe about how I run Sword’s Edge System – as it became known – and this will give me a chance to do so in Sword Noir.

by Ed Northcott

I am also thinking about removing Everthorn as part of the core book and publish it separately along with the different adventures written for it – the intro adventure in Sword Noir, the Kheufer Scrolls, and Crossing the Millers. Given how abstract Sword Noir is, the setting and series of adventures might sell better separately. It wouldn’t be system neutral, but I think it could be an excellent resource for any RPG.

This won’t be appearing any time soon, because I believe that very soon my quiet moments are going to be fewer and farther between. That said, I’ve finished a freelance assignment, have put Starship Commandos in for layout, and am updating Sword Noir, so I’ve been pretty productive on my break from my MA program.

On a side note, updating Sword Noir has reminded me that I actually really like the system. I think I’m going to get back into running it after leaving it for about five years.

Posted in RPGs | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas in July

SEP is participating in DTRPG/RPG Now’s “Christmas in July” sale, so my PDF RPG products are available at 25% off. If you have been thinking about grabbing something, now might be the time.

Posted in News, RPGs | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ottawa Game Publishers Podcast

Three other local designers and I were sitting down for drinks and it all got recorded. We’re going to see if there is interest in yet another podcast, this time about game design and publishing. The first episode is available on the Accidental Survivors feed. If this turns out to be fun or there is some actual interest in this, it might become a regular occurrence and then it’ll find it’s own home. For now, since the Accidental Survivors have kind of folded, it seemed like an okay idea to release it there.

You can find the episode here.

Lots of Accidental Survivors episodes here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GMs Should Not F#$k With Player’s Characters

For the Screenplay playtest group, we had what was intended to be the last game in our High Plains Samurai campaign. Didn’t turn out that way, mostly because of a late start and a couple of extended rules discussions. Turns out, I have very strong opinions about protecting player agency in regards to their characters.

GMs should not fuck with player’s characters.

The first incarnation of my character Mauser as envisioned by Kieron O’Gorman.

For me, the character is the one part of an RPG that the player truly owns. Even if the player is involved in creating the campaign (in something like Spark, or the campaign creation system in Nefertiti Overdrive) or has shared narrative control, it’s not the same as the player’s character. The character is the player’s avatar in the game, it is the focus of the player’s wish-fulfillment in some cases or a finely crafted drama-machine for the player’s interests in others. In games in which all other aspects of the story is taken away from the player, the character is the focus of the player’s creative efforts.

The character is the player’s.

Now, in consultation with the player, the GM can certainly mess with that character. If the GM has an idea to create drama, excitement, or pathos, and the player is onboard with this, awesome. Who doesn’t love a chance to increase the importance of the character to the plot? But don’t do this without the player’s buy-in.

I would honestly refuse to play a game in which the GM could permanently effect change on a player’s character without that player’s consent. And, honestly, that includes death. I, personally, am okay with my characters getting killed – though I would prefer it be done in a suitably dramatic fashion – but I honestly don’t believe that death must be a viable option in order to create tension. Did anyone honestly believe any of the main characters in the X-Files could die? Or Star Trek? Did that remove tension?

But that’s kind of a whole other story. If the player isn’t happy with offering up their character for death, it shouldn’t be forced on them. That isn’t fun and the whole point of this exercise is fun. Why would we do something that isn’t fun for one of the members in our group? Don’t be a dick.

In the end, the player character is the player’s character, and it should be sacrosanct. In many games, the GM has all the other power, and it is unnecessary to give them power over PCs.

In my (not so) humble opinion.

Todd had me take over Broken Ruler Games to tweet the proceedings. The deluge starts here.

You can find more information on Screenplay here.

You can find more information on High Plains Samurai here.

Posted in RPGs | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Sales for Second Quarter 2016

Things are more than a little quiet over in Sword’s Edge Publishing land, but Nefertiti Overdrive continues going strong, which is very nice. There’s not much to say other than this is likely the new normal. I would expect Nefertiti Overdrive sales will slow to something like Sword Noir‘s once we hit a year of its release (which will happen in Oct 2016). At least I’m not losing money.

Sales for Second Quarter 2016 (Apr – Jun)
All sales venues

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms, 1

Covert Forces
In Her Majesty’s Service, 1

Other
Centurion, 4
Nefertiti Overdrive, 22
Nefertiti Overdrive Quickstart Rules, 28

Sword’s Edge System
Kiss My Axe, 7
Sword Noir, 6

Total Sales to Date
Albenistan
Albenistan: Election Day (Modern Dispatch 113), 42
Khorforjan Gambit, 12
Qalashar Device, 135
Raid On Ashkashem, 177

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms, 65
For Simple Coin, 6
Gifts of the Elder Gods, 40

Charity Products
Relief Effort, 55

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section, 111
Covert Forces, 100
Covert Forces Redux, 183
In Her Majesty’s Service, 159

Other
Centurion, 186
Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit, 43
Line Zero, 40
Nefertiti Overdrive, 80
Nefertiti Overdrive Quickstart Rules, 627
Operation Nearscape, Free Product, 430

Sword’s Edge System
Crossing the Millers, 154
Kheufer Scrolls, 199
Kiss My Axe, 218
Suffer the Witch, 95
Sword’s Edge System, Free Rules 1669
Sword Noir, 649

Posted in News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Revenge of Spec Ops Burn

Next up in our return to Burn Notice as an RPG campaign, I’ve got something modern for you. Given that SEP started publishing special operations-type supplements and adventures for d20 Modern, one would hope I might have a grip on this one.

You be the judge.

Originally presented on 17 Sep 2008.

So, I’ve written up mini-settings for Burn Notice campaigns in both a fantasy and Victorian horror genres. Let’s look at the modern genre now. Granted, Burn Notice is a modern action-adventure, so rather than a spy character, let’s cook up a Burn Notice special ops military campaign.

For Spec Ops Burn, I’m going to have the characters all as part of one team. I envision them as an extraction team, similar to Drift in the Mundus Novit setting. They get sent into Albenistan to extract an intelligence asset from Khorforjan, only to receive a note at the front desk that they have been disavowed. The note indicates that the team is under suspicion of rogue actions, though no specifics are given. The note also indicates a restriction to Khorforjan and its environs. Should the team leave Khorforjan, they will be considered rogue and a wanted notice would be circulated to all nations. The team knows that they have made lots of enemies, and should their identities be compromised, they and their families would be in extreme danger. It is hoped that the GM would get player buy-in before attempting to restrict the characters in this fashion, as without buy-in the players are likely to concoct some elaborate plan to get out of Khorforjan–likely just because that’s where the GM wants them to stay.

The team gets co-opted into small jobs by the local private military contractors and then later through the local law enforcement. It will likely become known pretty quickly that there is a “rogue” unit in town, but that they are “white hats.” This could actually increase the team’s pull with the local authorities.

The jobs the team would encounter could be very similar to what is seen on the series. Khorforjan is not completely lawless, and there is an attempt to lead normal productive lives by most of the population. People are running businesses, taking the bus to work, trying to get by. But there is a strong lawless element in Khorforjan, that could become a kind of regular nemesis, requiring the characters to keep a low profile, and also providing easily identifiable bad guys.

One of the PMCs is a CIA plant, and through him the team should begin to learn that their burn was based on a mission they completed in Pakistan–very black book. Turns out, the guy who tasked them to the mission was actually off the reserve. He had gone rogue. Rather than admit to this, the agency for whom he worked implicated the team. At some point, that rogue agent must travel to Khorforjan for a drug deal. This gives the characters a chance to capture him and clear their names. He is, though, aware the team are present in the city, and will be taking exceptional precautions.

For the characters, I can see them as a more serious version of the A-Team. Michael is the leader and tactical planner. Fiona is the combat expert, possibly with stealth skills. Sam is the fixer, though I think his connections and the information fed to him should be narrative. More on that later. Sam can be combat-capable as well, but with lots of social skills and some stealth skills.  The last character, let’s call her Natasha, nick-named Nate, is the tech-head, with all sorts of engineering and technical skills, including break-and-enter skills.

I say that Sam’s connections should be narrative due to their importance to the plot. In the series, the information Sam gets is required to move the plot forward. If this is the same in the game, you do not want Sam to fail or the game is stalled. Therefore, I would give Sam information to move the plot forward when required, otherwise his contacts come up empty.

For these characters, I would make Michael would likely be a warrior with a Spy occupation. Fiona would be a warrior with a Special Operator occupation. Sam would be an expert with a Con Man occupation. Nate would be an expert with the Technician occupation.

This game would likely be relatively violent. Unlike the show, force and the regular use of firearms would likely be common. Whether it was done in an action cinema fashion or something grittier would really be up to the players.

Posted in RPGs | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Return to Victorian Burn

And now, after a brief pause (I suck at this!), we’re back revisiting the use of Burn Notice as an RPG campaign.

Originally presented on 13 Sep 2008

Continuing Burn Notice as the basis for a campaign, I  want to look at horror. Now I’m not much of a horror GM. I don’t really read it, watch it, or write it. Rather than horror, I’m going to go occult, something like an X-Files or Supernatural in the past, but only dealing with occult threats.

The stage is set by the return of Michael Weston to London on May 31, 1859, welcomed by the chimes of Big Ben. Michael had served time with the Foreign Service in British India, but was quickly disillusioned by the high-handed and often brutal policies of the East India Company. He found a mission he believed in  when faced with evidence of a resurgent Thuggee cult. He helped to ferret out and confront the last of the evil cult, and this led him to some frightening places and inhuman foes.

The final straw came with the Indian Rebellion. Michael wondered if his countrymen were that much better than the murderous Thuggee. While there would have been many opportunities for him once the government of India was transferred to Britain, Michael Weston returned to England, hoping to forget the things he had witnessed.

That was not to be.

Things had been released. Spirits and demons long held in check by ancient rites and ceremonies had been awakened. Some blamed these entities for the madness apparent on both sides of Rebellion. Whatever they were, and whatever their purpose, they appeared in London just as Michael Weston arrived. Someone in the Foreign Service believes Michael is somehow tied to these supernatural manifestations. The Foreign Service declares Michael cannot leave London until the danger has been dealt with–but not by Michael. His linkage to the supernatural makes them worry.
Accompanying Michael is Sam, a disgraced doctor who found service as a regimental surgeon with the British East India Company. Michael befriended Sam in India. Sam had become inured to the suffering around him, but Michael helped him to regain his lost humanity. Sam intends to get his medical licence back, and perhaps start a practice, but as events evolve, he decides to use his connections and his skills to help Michael.

Along with Sam, Michael returns with Fiona. That is the name under which she travels, but it is not her real name. She is an ex-Thuggee, an assassin trained in secretive unarmed combat techniques. Sent to murder Michael Weston, she realized he was not a cruel slaver as she had been told, and this led to her learning the Thuggee had become nothing more than assassins for hire. Still an adherent to Kali, the Thuggee assassin took the name Fiona and became Michael’s constant companion and bodyguard. In the movie, she’ll be played by Aishwarya Rai (are you listening, Matt Nix?).

In London, Michael returned to his family’s town home. Meeting his younger sister, Natalie, he learns that his father drank himself to death, and drank the family fortunes along with the way. Natalie herself is a recovering opium addict, and is haunted by visions of ghosts, wights, and other evil creatures. Natalie believes the Foreign Service is correct, that there is a tie between Michael and the entities. With their mother declared insane and sentenced to Bedlam, Natalie and Michael have only each other.

I see Michael as an Expert, with an Occupation of Spy. His work in the Foreign Service was just that, spying. For Sam, another Expert, but with the Soldier Occupation. He’s a doctor, but his time has been spent in the army of the East India Company. Fiona would be, of course, a Warrior, with an Occupation of Martial Artist. Natalie would be a Psychic, with an Occupation of Urchin (as in street urchin, the Victorian version of the homeless for children)–Natalie’s not a real street urchin, but her time as an opium addict puts her in that world.

In this campaign, the small jobs that Michael does are all linked to the central problem–the rise of the supernatural and its possible ties to Michael himself. The short adventures could be hauntings or other supernatural incidents of which Michael or one of his companions learn. Each adventure should add one piece to the puzzle.

The truth is that the supernatural manifestations are not tied to Michael. The aura that sensitives note regarding Michael comes from his confrontations with the evils of Kali in India. This aura should slowly fade, and become less and less noticeable. It might seem logical that this corresponds to the supernatural threats are being eliminated, though it is actually because of the time passing since Michael faced the evil manifestations in India.

The truth is that Fiona is not the only adherent of Kali in England. Sir Nigel Whitney Gull, a physician with ties to the royal family and a Freemason, returned from India just a few months before Michael. He has been ensnared by an avatar of Kali and is attempting to bring on the Kali Yuga–the time of Kali–through evil rituals. These rituals have raised the supernatural manifestations.

Sir Gull has many more connections than Michael, and is an important part of the Freemason leadership, as well as having strong supporters in Queen Victoria’s court. He should be introduced to the characters in the second or third adventure, probably through Sam–who, as the fixer, might also be a Freemason. He should always know just a little bit more than anybody else, yet prove only slightly unhelpful. The information he gives might help the characters, but it will be dated enough that it won’t really help them too much.

His plan to usher in the Kali Yuga requires specific sacrifices and a specific rituals. At least one adventure could be a kind of pre-Jack the Ripper as Sir Gull attempts to secure his sacrifices and commit the rituals. His identity is not known to those in his small cult, so even once the characters realize what is happening and avert it, they may not catch Sir Gull.

Sir Gull may continue to be an adversary even after the supernatural threats are averted. Once the cycle of rituals is broken, the threat is gone. The Foreign Service still doesn’t trust Michael, but they have work for him in London and elsewhere, as supernatural threats continue to exist, and there may be even more mundane adventures ahead. Michael might no longer be shackled to London, but he certainly won’t be able to leave England. Once the Foreign Service feels it can trust Michael, well then they might have work for him abroad.

Posted in RPGs | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment