Dogs is Out, Kheufer is In

The adventure for Sword Noir on which I have been working under the title Scroll Dogs is now titled the Kheufer Scrolls. The adventure is done, maps are done, and I thus I thought the manuscript was done . . . and then I went to edit the NPC section and realized it was not, in fact, done. Yikes!

Fear not, the Kheufer Scrolls will be revealed before the end of June. But here’s a taste of what you can expect.

2. The Contact
These are some possible introductory scenes, each providing the adventure hook based on a different possibility for the group’s occupation. These are just examples, and they could be adapted to address other group concepts, such as smugglers, merchants, or even wizards seeking the scrolls for themselves.

a. the Characters are part of the Urban Cohorts
In this scenario, the characters belong to the Urban Cohorts, but will be operating out of uniform. They may also be private contractors of a sort—people with a connection to the underworld and therefore better able to navigate it than one of the Captain’s regular crew.

The Captain is the leader of the Whites, who are considered incorruptible. They are also known for the excesses they will perpetrate against any individual or organization that threatens or harms any one of the 100 legionaries of the Whites. The Captain is feared by criminals throughout the city and its environs. Few are stupid enough to cross him. Those that do, always regret it.

[boxed text]You meet the Captain on Guild Bridge at the Dyers’ Tower. This time of night, the place is quiet. Business has subsided, as has the traffic on the Bridge. At the third bell of the evening, the gates are closed, barring all those save the residents of the Bridge. The Captain, though, can have pretty much any gate in the city unbarred if that’s his wish.

The tubs in which the clothes are dyed lay empty throughout the large hall. The Captain stands with Usanj, his constant shadow and quite possibly the most dangerous person in this dangerous city. The Captain eats an apple, looking out the window at the stars over Mother Ocean. Usanj leans against one of the wood columns supporting the tall roof, watching you.

“I’ve received word that something bad is going to happen. It’s got to do with some scrolls, supposedly cursed, definitely trouble. Don’t ask me where I get my information—that I can’t tell you. I can tell you that some very nasty people are looking to get these scrolls. They are called the Kheufer Scrolls, and are held in bone cases, inscribed with blood characters, and tied with a golden cord. They came by ship, across Mother Ocean. Word is, they’re in the city now.

“Someone brought them here, either to deliver them or market them. The scrolls must have moved through the Tides. I would bet a gold soldus that the Shore Wolves and their boss Lachlainn are involved somehow.

“We need to know who brought the scrolls here and who is trying to sell them. Find the scrolls, find out who wants them, and I’ll round them up. Get me the scrolls, get me the people with the scrolls and the people who want the scrolls. Find their fences, their snitches and their thugs. Get a line on their horses and their fucking pack mules if they’ve got them.

“I’m not playing games or telling tales when I say this is bad. Some very big people started sweating when they heard these things were coming into town.”[/boxed text]

Gutting Mooks in Sword Noir

Eloy Cintron had a few questions about the combat system in Sword Noir, and he agreed to allow me to share them.

If you haven’t purchased your copy of Sword Noir: A Role-playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery, I expect you to go do so now. It’s okay, we’ll wait.

Got it? Great. Let’s move on with this.

Those of you reading this, I will assume you’ve read the combat example, as Eloy’s questions originate with that example

Eloy asked:

1. In the multiple opponents combat example, Tara loses the initiative in the first roll, yet her first action is to attempt to seize the initiative. Doesn’t losing the initiative on the first roll imply that you need to spend that first round defending, and then declare an attempt to seize initiative at the end of the turn? By the combat example, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Tara loses initiative on the first roll, and her first action in combat is to attempt to seize initiative.

This is a good question, as it strikes to the very heart of how combat works in Sword Noir, and how it will work in Kiss My Axe.

Combat in Sword Noir is not the back and forth common to games like D&D or Savage Worlds. In Sword Noir, there is an attacker and a defender, and in the combat round they both act at the same time. When a character attempts to seize the initiative, that is the character’s defence—and if the character fails, it leaves the character undefended.

Given that being undefended, as illustrated in the example, is a really good way to get dead, attempting to seize the initiative every round isn’t necessarily a good idea. If the character has Qualities that can modify the initiative Test, the character is built to seize the initiative, and so will likely end up as the attacker in most combats—until that one in which the Test to seize the initiative sucks, and then it’s a white knuckle round, hoping the next roll isn’t the character’s last.

Eloy continues, and while he’s phrasing these as questions, he’s got it dead-on:

My next question is what happens if the Cohorts had lost initiative in that first roll? Say Tara rolled a 14 on the die, with her modifier effectively at +0, she still wins initiative against the Cohorts’ TN 12.

Now, depending on the answer to question 1, the cohorts either spend a round defending, or they can attempt to seize initiative.

2. If the cohorts try to seize initiative, they go as a single unit, no?

So, Tara’s attack modifier would be her Agility of Good (+2), plus her Concept of Mercenary, Good (+2) modified by -8 for her four opponents, so an effective -4. So she makes a single roll against the Cohort’s initiative number of 12.

If she misses, the Cohorts take the initiative and things proceed as per the posted combat example. But if she rolls a 17 (-4) = 13, the Cohorts fail to regain initiative, so they all become helpless against her.

That means that Tara would get the opportunity to roll her attack (-4) versus a TN of 9 for each opponent that turn. If she rolls 13 or greater in each of the four rolls, she could wipe them all out in a single turn, no?

This is where it gets a little complex; when groups are attempting to seize the initiative. There is only one initiative Test but four combat Tests. I would run it that the first roll, Tara’s first attack, is both against the first Cohort and the seize the initiative attempt. Tara rolls a 13, so not only do the Cohorts fail to seize the initiative, Tara has also scored a hit against the first Cohort, who—as with all the Cohorts—is undefended.

Tara is going remove these guys with extreme prejudice. This is not going to be pretty. Which—in my mind—would be totally badass, and we’d do a little cinematic scene of her sliding past the defences of each Cohort and putting that Cohort down, a la the Takeshi Kitano version of Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman when he’s basically walking through a bunch of mooks.


Eloy continues:

3. The -8 modifier would apply to each attack in that case because there were 4 opponents at the start of her attack, no? In other words, the modifier does not change in the middle of the turn, does it?

For example, if her first roll is a 14 -4 = 10, she kills the first cohort. For her second roll, the second cohort is a TN 9, but does Tara’s penalty persist at -8 or does it go down to -6 because there are only 3 opponents left? I understand it to remain at -8 for the duration of the turn, as the turn is an abstract length of time and she has to fight all 4 opponents at the same time.

The only correction I would make to this would be if the first roll were a 10, the Cohorts would have successfully seized the initiative, and we’d move into the next round, with Tara as the defender. Now, if we go with the first roll being a 13, the example is dead on. The -8 remains through all the attacks. Consider it a penalty for multiple actions as much as it is a penalty for multiple opponents.

Consider: should Tara decide to only attack two of the Cohorts, her penalty is only -4. The problem with this strategy is that she is considered undefended for the other two Cohorts, and she’ll likely regret that.

In case I haven’t mentioned it enough: one does not want to find oneself undefended. It usually results in something messy, the kind of messy that is definitely not good.

Thank you, Eloy, for the questions and for letting me post them to the website. If anyone else has any questions, the SEP email address is right over there on the left. Drop me a line and hopefully you’ll let me share them on the site.

Where Be Dragons? Beasties and Sword Noir

Curt Meyer had an interesting comment about Sword Noir that I wanted to answer here.

Curt said: “My only complaint is no bestiary. Conan and the Grey Mouser both battle weird creatures from beyond, etc.”

Curt agreed to me answering this in public, but the crux of it was in my email reply to him: “Short answer for no bestiary: I was leaning to the Noir over the Sword, and I feel that if one wants to do straight up S&S, that Jaws of the Six Serpents has already done it right.”

Sword Noir is part S&S and part hardboiled crime/detective fiction. Part of its appeal is in its removal from the standard fantasy RPG. It is different, it is somewhat unique—in its own little totally carbon copied way. Adding monsters and beasts to fight turns the dial back toward standard fantasy, removing some of its unique character.

My Sword Noir stories, however, are not devoid of monsters. “Flotsam Jewel,” which can be found in the Sword Noir fiction collection For Simple Coin, has a demon that is rather central to the story, being a primary obstacle for the main character to overcome. Saying that, writing Sword Noir—to me—is far different from playing Sword Noir, just as my fantasy writing is pretty far removed from my fantasy gaming.

So sorry to Curt and any others who wanted to fight the beasties. You can find those in the upcoming Kiss My Axe as well as the soon to be released print on demand version of the Sword’s Edge System.

Monthly Sales for April

Wow, what a month. We added Sword Noir on 3 April and we’ve sold 106 copies by 30 April. Considering that makes it our third highest selling product (not counting free stuff), that’s a heck of a paradigm shift in sales. It buoyed up sales of For Simple Coin—which has short stories in the Sword Noir genre—and possibly Arcane Kingdoms, though excellent reviews of both might have helped. Still, for those reviews to have an effect, there had to be visibility. That’s through Sword Noir.

This upcoming month there will be a Sword Noir adventure coming out, tentatively titled Sword Dogs—though that will almost certainly change once I come up with a good title. The next release likely won’t be until July—when Kiss My Axe will appear.

Here’s a question for anyone: would you consider helping to finance—though something like IndieGoGo—a further genre-specific version of the Sword’s Edge System, this time for Roman Legions. The book would likely be 3/4s a discussion of running legionary campaigns in the Republic, the Principate, and the Dominate, and 1/4 rules adaptation. Let me know and I might set out a budget and see if we can get any joy.

Sales for April
Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms       8
For Simple Coin       12

Spec Ops
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section       1
Covert Forces Redux       1

Sword’s Edge System
Sword’s Edge System, Free Rules 325
Sword Noir 106

Total Sales
Albenistan: Election Day (Modern Dispatch 113): 28
Khorforjan Gambit: 86
Qalashar Device: 100
Raid On Ashkashem: 139

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section: 81
Covert Forces: 100
Covert Forces Redux: 128
In Her Majesty’s Service: 113

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms: 17
For Simple Coin: 22

Sword’s Edge System
Sword’s Edge System, Free Rules 325
Sword Noir 106

Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit: 35
Line Zero: 32
Relief Effort: 52

Modern Medieval
Gunpowder Plots: 73
Man-At-Arms Advanced Class: 36
Mercenary Advanced Class: 39
Spy Advanced Class: 34
Modern Medieval Compilation: 46
(for Japanese Disaster Relief)

Roles & Classes
Capable Hero: 84
Combat Hero: 83
Counter-Terrorism Assaulter: 95
Covert Hero: 92
Spec Ops Recce: 93
Special Operations Marksman: 93
Talent Trees Assembled: 68

Treasure Chest Unlocked
Gems: 66
Incense: 7