Saturday, August 27, 2016

Steamboat Deck Plans

This one might be a bit of a stretch, insofar as the intended subject of this blog is concerned, but I thought I'd share it anyway. I'm a fan of the comic series The Sixth Gun, which kickstarted an RPG last summer. Inspired by that, I drew up deck plans for a river steamboat.

1. Pilot House
Perched atop the riverboat is this small cabin from which the pilot controls the vessel. To that end, there are a number of features in this area, such as a speaking tube that leads to the boiler room; a wheel for the ship's rudder; pedals that activate the ship's bell and steam whistle; and the like. The walls of this room are mostly glass windows, proving a commanding view of the surrounding water and terrain.

2. Promenade
Located around the main, middle and upper decks are these open areas, enclosed by waist-high guardrails. They provide a place for passengers and crew to take in some fresh air and to enjoy the scenery through which they are passing. There are also staircases leading to decks above and below each area.

3. Bathrooms
While the size and relative comfort for each of these areas varies from deck to deck, their features are pretty much standardized. There are toilets, sinks and showers for those who visit them.

4. Crew Quarters
Each of these rather spartan accommodations is furnished with a bed, a storage locker (underneath the bed) and a sink. Each member of the crew does have one's own room, though.

5. Elite Cabins
Along with the furnishings found in the crew quarters and standard cabins (Areas 4 and 7, respectively), each of these rooms also boasts a writing desk and chair.

6. Cargo Hatches
On the main deck of the vessel, in the bow and stern, these broad (ten feet by ten feet) hatches provide access to the lower deck. The one in the bow opens into the boiler room, providing a means of loading the endless supply of wood needed to fuel the steam engine, while that in the stern grants egress for goods and supplies, along with any passengers' belongings that can't be stored in the cabins.

7. Standard Cabins
These rooms are outfitted in the same manner as the crew quarters, detailed above.

8. Dining Hall
Nine wide tables, surrounded by eight chairs apiece, dominate the center of this room. It is here, of course, that meals are served. Since not all of the passengers and crew can be seated at the same time, passengers who are booked into the elite cabins are given priority, followed by other guests as well as the crew. When entertainments occur, the tables can be left in position (such as for gambling events) or removed to the cargo hold below (for music, dancing and the like).

9. Boiler Room
The most striking attribute of this area is the heat. Since it takes a lot of burned fuel to power the steamboat, the boiler room is always smoldering. The huge boiler dominates the center of the chamber, while stacks of firewood line the outside walls. A team of laborers is located here at all times, ready to follow orders delivered via the speaking tube from the pilot house above.

10. Kitchen
Only slightly more tolerable than the boiler room, this is where all of the food for the passengers and crew is prepared. There is a broad cooking stove that shares a wall with the ship's boiler, along with a pair of broad tables for preparing food. Doors from this area lead into cold and dry storage rooms, which are kept stocked with food and beverages.

11. Cargo Hold
All manner of goods, supplies and other items can be found in this cavernous space.

12. Sternwheel
People don't normally come back here. In the event that it becomes necessary, however, then the Judge is encouraged to make it into a difficult and dangerous situation.

Detailed here are some of the characters who can typically be found aboard a riverboat.

The person who provides the money behind the operation can be either idealistic or ruthless, or a combination of the two. Usually, running a successful operation requires balancing the desires of the owner against the technical ability of the pilot and engineer.
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Boating d4, Gambling d4, Investigation d6, Knowledge (History) d6, Notice d4, Persuasion d6
Charisma: +2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Charismatic, Rich
Hindrances: Impulsive
Gear: Fancy suit, pocket watch, box of cigars

Hotshot pilots have a reputation throughout the American frontier for taking daring risks and, most of the time, succeeding at them. They are often flamboyant and even arrogant individuals, but their specialized skills makes others tolerant of this.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d4, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Boating d8, Fighting d4, Guts d6, Knowledge (Area) d6, Notice d4, Repair d4, Shooting d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 4, Toughness: 5
Edges: None
Hindrances: Arrogant, Overconfident
Gear: Clothing, Colt Navy .36

The engineer is second only to the pilot in importance aboard a steamship. He is in charge of stoking the boiler fire and making sure that there is as much steam as possible—but not too much, lest it cause an explosion.
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Boating d4, Investigation d6, Knowledge (Science) d8, Notice d4, Repair d8
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Scholar
Hindrances: Bad Eyes
Gear: Clothing, pocket watch, spectacles, tools

When it comes to hauling cargo, helping force the steamboat past obstructions, foraging for wood and similar tasks, these are the men for the job. They can be a rough and surly bunch, but they give respect to those people who show it to them.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Boating d4, Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Notice d4, Shooting d4, Swimming d6
Charisma: -2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 7
Edges: Brawny
Hindrances: Mean
Gear: Clothing, Bowie knife, chewing tobacco 

These women tend to be polite and agreeable, but not necessarily servile. Some are content with a life of relative freedom and a decent wage, while others dream of meeting someone who can take them away from it all.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Knowledge (Area) d6, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Stealth d4, Streetwise d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Alertness
Hindrances: Curious
Gear: Uniform

Here's a link to a PDF version, too. 

Steamboat Deck Plans PDF


Friday, August 19, 2016

Gen Con 2016 Recap

Since it's almost two weeks after the Con, I figure I should offer a recap. Also, since I'm not a picture-taking type, I'm borrowing some photos taken by Donna Prior from Green Ronin Publishing, for whom I was running games.

Here's the banner that marked the room. There were all manner of Green Ronin-supported games, including my Pathfinder Freeport sessions and the ones on the banner. 

Here I am in action with my players. 

Here's one more from another round. 

The scenario I ran was called "Tales from Freeport: Out of the Darkness." It went well. The story centers on an investigation of recent murders in the Merchants' and Temple Districts and Drac's End. Some of the highlights included:

  • Every time Horace managed a critical hit with his pistol--there's something special about quadruple damage. My favorite was the final shot to take down the shadow demon enemy. 
  • An aerial battle over the Temple of the God of Knowledge with gargoyles pitted against an enchanted half-orc barbarian. 
  • The damsel in distress, dropped by her gargoyle kidnappers, only to fall into the arms of Horace the pirate--who threw a 20 on his CMB to make the catch. 
  • Lots of jumping from second-story windows and other such swashbuckling action. 
  • When the shadow demon's fear spell sent the rogue, fighter and barbarian running, leaving the cleric and sorceress to hold the line. 
This marked a return to Gen Con for me after missing the past three years--and that came after attending for sixteen years in a row. I'll give shoutouts to DJ Douglass for doing the legwork to make it happen, to Corey Russel for being a good roommate, and to Donna Prior for coordinating things for Green Ronin. 

Outside of running my sessions and prowling the dealers' hall, I didn't do a whole lot. There was a night of Star Wars trivia at Champps that went well, but the thing I enjoyed the most was going to the Con and being surrounded by people who enjoy geeky things and who were engaged in those geeky things. I've been working on some space fantasy adventures for Pathfinder, and was feeling some inspiration while at the Con, so I spent a decent amount of time sitting around, writing, and watching people. 

It was great. 


Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Abyssinial Chain Review

This is the second installment in the new Return to Freeport series from Green Ronin Publishing. Please refer to my previous post about the first installment, "Curse of the Brine Witch," for a disclaimer about my bias in favor of this setting.

With that said, I think this is a good second entry in the series. It builds on events from the first adventure, revealing that some of the disappearances from around Freeport weren't caused by the enemy from that scenario. This leads into some more investigation, eventually taking the PCs to the lairs of some local villains. I like the flow of events that this adventure uses, with evidence gathering that makes sense, although I worry that the players might start to feel tired of investigation. There are some interesting new villains in this adventure, too, ones that really make use of different options from The Advanced Bestiary and other Pathfinder books. The proofreading could be tighter, something that I find distracting; hopefully that'll be cleaned up in future versions of the PDF.

All in all, it seems like a solid scenario; I'll post an update after I run it.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Books Review: The Daedalus Incident, the Enceladus Crisis, the Venusian Gambit

I'm including this review on the blog because I think these three novels would appeal to fans of the old Spelljammer campaign setting. That is, in fact, the reason why I tried out this series in the first place, since I was looking for space fantasy novels. While they weren't entirely what I expected, in the end I enjoyed them quite a bit.

The first novel, The Daedalus Incident, starts with two parallel storylines. One is the aforementioned space fantasy type, an alternate history in which the New World does not seem to exist on Earth, and the Age of Exploration took humans into space aboard alchemically-treated wooden sailing ships. The story uses a main character's journal entries for a lead-in, and then creates an interesting setting with engaging characters and action. The parallel storyline, however, takes place in a realistic sci-fi future on the planet Mars, In that setting, the main character finds the journal, which has writing appearing on its pages. The two storylines are gradually interwoven in a plot involving extra-dimensional powers, and builds into a slam-bang finish.

The second novel, The Enceladus Crisis, takes this premise one step further by splitting up groups of characters into four separate storylines, While this might seem overly complicated, in fact the author does a good job of using all four streams to weave a complicated but engaging plot. There are likable characters, too, making for a read that grabbed my interest and held it.

Finally, the last in the series, The Venusian Gambit, brings everything to a satisfying and exciting conclusion. Throughout the series there were surprises, but no disappointments. All in all, I found myself wishing that there was an RPG campaign setting for these novels so that I could play a character in its worlds. (On that note, I think Pirates of the Spanish Main could be a good ruleset to use for such an undertaking.) I recommend these novels strongly for anyone who enjoys space fantasy, but I think that harder sci fi fans would enjoy them, too.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Curse of the Brine Witch Review

I should preface this review by saying that I can't be unbiased in writing it.

Back in 2000, when there were only two full adventures to be had for the newly released 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons--the other one being Three Days to Kill from Atlas Games--I purchased Death in Freeport at Gen Con to kick off new campaigns once I went back home. That launched the first of four such endeavors, run with the D&D 3.0 and 3.5, and Pathfinder beta and release, rulesets. For that reason, Freeport has been the most consistent campaign setting in which I've ever run scenarios. Many of my players have played in multiple campaigns, allowing me to weave a real sense of history into the setting. This new adventure marks the beginning of a new story arc that takes Freeport into the time period represented by the massive Freeport: The City of Adventure hardcover, starting a whole new era.

With that said, I was satisfied with Curse of the Brine Witch. It introduces a mysterious situation, the investigation of which leads the heroes to various locations and personalities throughout the city. There are some seven encounters leading to a small dungeon crawl situation, followed by four more and then another such crawl. What is more, there's a table for introducing more conflicts for GMs who prefer slower advancement. The story is weird enough to be appropriate for Freeport, with hints toward an even greater plot.

All in all, this scenario is definitely worth the $4.95 price for GMs running urban Pathfinder campaigns, and it goes without saying that Freeport fans will get their money's worth.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cape Coast Castle Revisited

For all the Savages out there, this is a link to a short PDF presenting Cape Coast Castle for use with Pirates of the Spanish Main.

Cape Coast Castle


Monday, March 28, 2016

The Sampan

Presented here is a deck plan for use with any number of nautically-themed RPGs.


The Sampan 

This small boat is a familiar site in the East. It has a relatively flat bottom, and can be propelled with a single sail or oars, or even with poles in shallow water. Given their small size and low profile, sampans are generally used close to land. They are commonly used for fishing as well as for transporting small groups of passengers or amounts of cargo. Sometimes the owner of a sampan erects a small shelter over part of the deck, leading to them being used as floating domiciles in certain areas. In this way the model presented can be used as something of a template for larger vessels or ones that have more elaborate structures built onto them.

The deck plan below is sized so that it can be printed and cut out for use with miniatures or other figures on the tabletop. 

Finally, here's a link to the information above presented as a single PDF.