The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’ War 3.4

Ugh, what a night. Turned on my computer to write and I had to wait while the longest update I have ever seen for windows 10 sorted itself out. Felt like I was waiting for a game to load on my old Commodore 64… thanks Microsoft!

Regardless, here is the next installment of the Shadow Wolf Sagas.

You can read the first post in this arc here.

You can read last week’s post here.

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Diamond Silvermane left the Doxies’s Union in Chaos. Quorum was called and the The Twins were chosen to lead the Union, but it was done with grim faces and nervous glances. We left long after the meeting was finished, but Eiskra was still fuming and Vethri was not feeling talkative.

The Doxies’s Union was a force to be reckoned with in Myrrhn. They controlled all of the prostitution houses in the city. That unity afforded the Union a measure of control that even the Seven Families, The Nightblades, and even the Merchant Houses could not ignore. The Union, in turn, protected its members from the depredations of vicious street pimps, malicious customers, and helped them retire when they wished it. The members paid a tithe to the Union in return for memberships.

That was what made Diamond Silvermane’s parting quip so poisonous. No one likes paying a tithe, and many of the younger members of the guild, who had never faced the uglier sides of the profession questioned the usefulness of The Union. By saying that they would never have to share with “cut-up, old bitches”, Silvermane was attacking The Twins, but also making an age-old appeal to selfish greed. In the North, she would have been met with anger and derision, but this was Myrrhn, where the common dream was wealth.

“We will have to start sanctions,” said Vethri, breaking the silence of our carriage ride.

“Yes,” said Eiskra. “A pox on them all.”

“It would be better if we approached this with cool heads, dear one,” said Vethri. “We will have to let word circulate, let the customers know what is going on before we start.”

I could tell Eiskra wanted to protest. Her facial scars made her look even more ferocious when angry. She nodded though, seeing the sense of it. Sanctioning meant that anyone frequenting an establishment outside the Union would be refused service at one of the Union houses.

“I’d love to know what Lily Gemarkand thinks she is playing at,” said Eiskra. “You’ve met her Ragnar, what is her endgame here?”

“She might even be doing it out of spite. I thought her interest in the guild died with Sapphire. I–“

The carriage ground to a halt. We were still some distance from home. I was tense, but could not sense anything out of the ordinary, only a courier. After a moment, the driver opened a panel and slid a piece of paper through.

“Message. Urgent apparently.”

I sniffed the paper to be sure, then handed it to Vethri who broke the seal and scanned it rapidly.

“To Burning Hill driver,” she said, handing the paper to Eiskra.

“What is it?”

“There’s been a murder, Ragnar.”

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Teaser Tuesday

Tis Tuesday and time for a teaser!

Bloodlust TSM cover

This is part of one of my favourite scenes from the series.

Teven came up to the line of cannons, coming to rest beside Hephus. He saw what was left of Bosh hooked to the bloody banner of the Sixth Cohort. He saw Vintia. He heard the Third, the Second, and the First Cohorts moving into place behind him. He felt their shock at the vista before them. He saw Bosh’s lips moving. After that first moment, however, the emotions of the Legionnaires boiled into iron rage and they snapped into formation, ready and eager.

It would have been easy to lose himself in the grim sight before him, but instead Teven focused on the dawning realization on the faces of the Vvath as Warbound Vintia pulled back and the angry guns of the eighth cohort were revealed.

By the ancestors, it was glorious.

~~~~~~

Vintia had brought them the time to get into to the perfect position. The guns were massed perfectly.

The would fire grapeshot and incendiaries in alternating loads, at short range, against an enemy that was unprepared and closely packed together. It was all academic now, and the equation was very much in favour of the men standing behind the cannons.

All academic, save for one tortured Warbound andthea tiny handful of Legionnaires still holding against the horde that were also within range; the human cost that Hephus would have to carry the weight of for the rest of his life.

“FIRE!” shouted Hephus before the gunners could hesitate. He almost cursing Artillery Master Grannoch for being wounded.

The guns roared, and the day was won in smoke and fire.

RPG Building: On Dice Mechanics and Consistency.

I was actually referencing this post for a project I am fiddling with, when I realized that it was better than what I was working on and switched over. That got me to thinking about dice mechanics in general again.

I am also reading Ready Player One, which has a lot of D&D references, so that helps as well.

The player should always know what dice they are rolling. It speeds up play and increases confidence in novice players. It seems like a stupid point, but so many games are bogged down in dice pools (older) or fancy, custom dice (newer) or finicky mechanics.

D&D is a good example of this in action, especially after 3rd edition. Most rolls are resolved with a single toss of a d20. It becomes reflexive at the table. I feel 5th edition actually stumbles a bit with this since you must figure out advantage before rolling, you cant just drop the d20 and be certain that it holds. Minor quibble, but I do think it holds.

Some of the player’s rolls in a d20 game are other dice, but these are fewer and tend to be damage rolls or percentile rolls that the player has control of and are very easy to keep track of. After 3e it is also important to note that all high rolls were positive rolls for whoever was acting. This mean that seeing high numbers on your dice always made you feel good, even before the final resolution.

Contrast this with another of my favourite game systems, Champions. This game dominated my youth, since you could play almost any genre and make very interesting characters if you were familiar with the system.I still have my 5th edition Champions in my book-case, and while the game is complex, it opens up universes of play with amazing depth.

Champions used six sided dice exclusively. The problem is that they vary both in number rolled, how they are counted, and even whether high rolls or low rolls are desired. This is a flaw in an otherwise superb game, it introduces needless complexity for simple dice mechanics in an already demanding system and really does not gain anything for it. Mutants and Masterminds recognized this, snivved some of the ideas and added a simpler dice mechanic, and it does quite well.

Then again, sometime you can simplify too much. The old White Wolf dice pool systems had a variable number to get a hit on each die. The newer ones count a 7+ as a hit, which cuts out a lot of the flexibility in the earlier systems in favour of a trivial gain in ease of use. It is not hard for a player to count successes from different numbers, especially if high rolls are always good, and the number of dice rolled is consistent.

Anyways, I was thinking about this and then I realized how awesome a Yahtzee style dice mechanic would be for an RPG. I’ll be in my bunk.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’ War 3.3

Good evening friends, it is time for another installment of the Shadow Wolf Sagas. This is the third such tale and is written raw and unedited, every Thursday.

Here is the first post of this arc.

Here is last week’s post.

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The Twins stepped forward to address the assembled members of the Doxies’s Union, the doors to guild hall yawned open. Heads snapped back, and people stirred, memories of The Devout attack surfacing and setting them to murmur. My hands snapped to my weapons.

The woman stood in the open doorway, pausing at the edge of the shadows for effect. Even in a room full of people who made it their business to be beautiful, striking, or unique, she stood out. Eyes the colour of a clear winter sky swept the room, dismissive and commanding. Full lips, painted rose red, curled into a smirk as her gaze came to rest on The Twins. Her silver hair, a tangle of curls held in place by glittering ornaments, gave the impression that she was an untamed thing, come from the wild despite the expense and art behind such furious coiffure. As the shock of her entrance, so obviously intended for drama, strangled the room, she stepped forward into the light.

“Fucking bitch,” muttered Eiskra, though I doubt anyone other than me saw her lips move, let alone heard a sound.

A collective gasp went through the room as the light within the hall struck woman’s dress, seeming to set it alight. Diamonds, a King’s ransom worth, worn as a clothing. I was immediately reminded of Lily Gemarkand; who else but the woman who controlled the gem trade in the most important port in the North could fabricate such a garment?

The diamonds twinkled and glittered as she strode forward boldly, her eyes fixed on The Twins. Vethri met her gaze calmly, while Eiskra bristled.

Before she could reach her destination, the woman in the diamond dress was stopped.

“That is far enough,” said Rana, the head doorman of the guild. Tall and strong with a white skull tattooed over her ebony skin, Rana was well known for her ability to defuse violent situations with a snarl and a glare. “Who are you and why are you here?”

“You may call me Diamond Silvermane.”

The name was unfamiliar to me. She did not seem intimidated at all by Rana, or the sea of potentially hostile Doxies surrounding her, continuing “I am the new boss at the Pink Pearl.”

“Welcome to the Union Diamond,” said Vethri,making a valiant effort at congeniality. “We would love to show you around after we attend to tonight’s business.”

“That will not be necessary,” said Diamond. “I won’t be staying. The Pink Pearl will not be joining the Doxies’s Union. The City Council has granted us a permit of operation. Anyone who is beautiful and talented and tired of sharing their hard earned money with cut up old bitches is welcome to join me.”

The room erupted into anger, but Diamond Silvermane walked past a roiling sea of sneering, angry Doxies as if she were taking a stroll on a pleasant beech. By the time the anger subsided she was gone.

I exchanged glances with The Twins. It appeared that The Whore’s War was not finished.

Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Will to Power (Domains of the Chosen #2)

bloodlust_wtp_cover2

An intense rivalry over the greatest prize imaginable.

“Why are you doing this Karmal?” said Sadira. Her body was battered, but she too was full of power. She saw now that Gavin and Giselle and Vintia and Cleothera had all been right; Karmal was no longer her fiery rival and fierce friend. She had become a monster, inside and out, a woman who had given up her friends, principles, and humanity to be the next Chosen.

“Because I am better than you,” replied Karmal.

They circled. This time, when Sadira’s eyes met Karmal’s there was no give in them, only hurt and defiance. Karmal saw this as a weakness.

“Why prove it in a Deathmatch?” asked Sadira.

“It’s all about power, you dumb bitch,” sneered Karmal. “You are the only one standing between me and my rightful place. Valaran is old news. He got soft and I took his place. You should have backed out when I declared Ut Nex. I’m the strongest now. I might even have saved a place for you and Gavin in my Hearthbound harem. But you stayed in my way, hogging the spotlight as always, all flash and no substance, and now I am going to FUCKING KILL YOU AND CARVE YOUR SKULL INTO A CROTCHPIECE…, and just so you know, I wasn’t exactly rooting for you, even back in Dreadwood.”

 

Big News in Gaming: Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop Part Ways.

Rumours have been circulating in gaming circles for some time now. Games Workshop, the dominant company in miniatures gaming for decades. Lately GW has been a favourite subject of my ruminations, especially in regard to their treatment of The Old World, the most popular grimdark fantasy setting in gaming.

Fantasy Flight is a relative newcomer to the field. It was started in 1995 by Christian T. Peterson and rose steadily in prominence over the last decade or so, often through clever use of licensed IPs, including Warhammer and other GW properties. After a merger with Asmodée in 2014, Fantasy Flight has arrived at the pinnacle of the tabletop gaming industry.

Fantasy flight knocked Warhammer 40k, GWs most reliable miniatures line out of the top spot in the coveted US market in 2015.  This is kind of a big deal, especially after GW has dropped Warhammer Fantasy Battles in an effort to retool their fantasy lines to greater profit.Leveraging the Star Wars license is just the latest and most successful foray for FF Ginto the miniatures space. For years their boxed sets have been fantastic collections of figures while GW charges 40+$ for a single space marine captain.

It seemed inevitable that as FFG rose, its relationship with GW would change. GW has met with success in its re-opened specialist games division, boardgame-like products that it has abandoned for years, that compete with FFG. Then at Gencon 2016 Fantasy Flight announced Rune Wars, a tabletop miniatures that moves directly into the space vacated by GW’s defunct Warhammer Fantasy Battles. This signals that the parting of ways is less than amicable (Though not necessarily sour) and that the two former allies will now be competing directly for market share.

It is hard to speculate exactly what precipitated the parting of the ways, but it is very interesting news.

Here are some of my thoughts on this.

  • Fantasy Flight will ‘win’ this confrontation, at least in the short term. FFG has a good market strategy and holds the upper hand with the star wars license. The real winners will be gamers I think, because both companies will step up under increased competition. GW, in particular, is going to have to take a serious look at the price point of their miniatures — FFG offers much better cost per figure than they do (although Cool Mini or Not
  • The real downside to these two companies parting ways is that some very good games will just disappear. These include Chaos in the Old World by the amazing Eric Lang, one of my personal favourites as well as an extensive list of Board Games and RPGs.
  • Rune Wars is not an especially strong entry into the field (The IP is underdeveloped and pretty generic), but it comes at a time when few companies, none of them with clout comparable to FFG are in the space of making big class of armies miniatures games. Their timing is good here, people are excited, and if they capitalize on early successes and release new content intelligently they will still dominate for a while.
    • FFG is hit and miss on innovative mechanics. They love custom dice, cards, dials, and movement templates and Rune Wars has them all. Sometimes these work such as the Star Wars games or the Star Wars RPG, and sometimes they fall flat. I’m leaning toward functional.
  • Talisman is returning to GW. I preferred the old characters to the new, generic take on the game so I am looking forward to a new release.

That’s all I have to say on the matter now, but it is very interesting.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’ War 3.2

Tis Thursday once more and time for some Shadow Wolf!

For those of you who missed last week’s post here it is.

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The racket was simple enough. For whatever reason Lily Gemarkand, the ruthless head of one of Myrrhn’s Seven Families wanted control of the Doxies’s Union. Her motive was profit and influence, no doubt. Once upon a time she had been working with her ‘long lost’ sister, a prostitute who went by the name Sapphire, to undermine Madame Glorianna who was the leader of the Union at the time. That plan ended in bloodshed and a clash with The Devout, followers of a mad ideal that placed conquest above all. Sapphire and Madame Glorianna both died ugly deaths. That should have settled the matter.

In her last testament, Madame Glorianna endorsed the The Twins as her best replacements. It seemed reasonable, Eiskra and Vethri knew the Union better than anyone alive, and were greatly respected by their peers. It should have been easy, but this is Myrrhn and Lily Gemarkand was not a woman to give up easily.

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The Union Hall still bore the scars of The Devout attack more than a year later. Most were concealed, shattered tiles and broken doors having been replaced with near perfect replicas, but Madame Glorianna’s office had to be replaced entirely after Lord Torvul, the Devout leader, had used his magic to blast it apart. I thought I could still smell dark magic and old blood, but it might have been a trick of the memory. It was a bad time.

“Ragnar, are you ready?” Vethri’s voice broke my reverie.

“I am.”

“Relax, old wolf, you’re just here for decoration,” said Eiskra. “Just stand behind us and look handsome.”

I rolled my eyes. Tonight was a formality. After more than a year of wrangling The Twins had asserted their dominance over the various factions in the Union, enough that they could call quorum and bring the matter of leadership to a vote. I was there because I still had some clout within the Union from my days as a doorman and an agent for Madame Glorianna.

“As if I could do anything else.”

“This is serious, you two,” said Vethri.

“Is something wrong?” asked Eiskra.

“I don’t know,” returned Vethri. “My sources say we have the votes, but someone just bought the Pink Pearl, today.”

“Who?”

“Tell me its not Gemarkand,” snarled Eiskra.

“I can’t say for sure, but few others have that kind of capital, and the timing is very suspicious,” said Vethri.

“What can she do if you have the votes?”

“We’ll soon see, I’m afraid,” said Vethri.

“Relax, Rat-ears, we’ve been through worse,” said Eiskra. “Let’s see what she has in store for us together.”

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The Twins were not really twins. In fact they did not really look, or even dress alike most of the time. Vethri was a tall Dark Elf with long ears, which Eiskra swore reminded her of a rat.

They earned the name from the distinct scars that Gentleman Jim had left them with over twenty years ago. Most noticelable were the jagged cuts extending from the sides of their mouth toward each ear, like a monstrous smile. Their necks also bore scaring from a rope garrote, almost like they’d been hanged.

The Twins were Twiceborn, like me. Gentleman Jim had tortured them, raped them, and killed them along with dozens of others than night. The Twins, however, had risen from the ashes like vengeful furies.

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The Union hall was full to brimming when we made our appearance. The Twins swept in from the back of the crowd rather than just appear before them, a bit of symbolism that I appreciated. I could sense excitement and some resentment, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Vethri and Eiskra wore neither masks, nor makeup to hide their scars. It was a statement, especially to those who knew they trade. As they took the stage, applause and cheering broke out. It was time to heal old wounds and get back to business.

But then the lady in diamond dress walked in, and everything changed.