Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Not with a bang but a whimper"

When I set out to create my blog, one of my goals was to write something every day, to establish Really Bad Eggs as a source of inspiration for roleplaying gamers interested in swashbucklers and to hone such writing skills as I possess. Writing every day was a real challenge, and even composing a substantial post three or four times a week proved to be difficult.

Since the spring of this year, even maintaining this modest output proved very difficult, not for a lack of ideas and topics - there are some fifty partially completed posts sitting in my queue as I type this, and dozens more ideas floating around in my head - but simply because the time I used for writing was devoted to other things, primarily keeping up with the Cabin Girl and the Cabin Boy's array of activities, but also a growing social circle of families. One of the unexpected benefits of participating in youth arts and sports is the other parents you meet; I've been fortunate to make some good friends in the process. As a happy consequence, what free time I have fills even more quickly.

Even maintaining my desultory pace of posting is difficult. There are only so many hours in the day, and in prioritising that day, blogging simply doesn't rank highly on the list. What time I have to devote to gaming I want to devote to my campaign directly: keeping up my wiki, which is badly in need of updating and expanding, as well as playing by email in the months between when we can play face-to-face or via Skype. Put another way, playing is more important than writing about playing, given my constraints.

I've pulled back from the handful of forums where I participate as well; those are an even worse time-sink than blogging, and with far less to show for the effort.

This is not good bye; as I said, I have far too much that I still want to address. What it is is the recognition that Really Bad Eggs will, for the foreseeable future, be relegated to the status of an occasional pastime.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Pen and the Sword: Treasure Island

At last in strode the captain, slammed the door behind him, without looking to the right or left, and marched straight across the room to where his breakfast awaited him.

"Bill," said the stranger, in a voice that I thought he had tried to make bold and big.

The captain spun round on his heel and fronted us; all the brown had gone out of his face, and even his nose was blue; he had the look of a man who sees a ghost, or the evil one, or something worse, if anything can be; and, upon my word, I felt sorry to see him, all in a moment, turn so old and sick.

"Come, Bill, you know me; you know an old shipmate, Bill, surely," said the stranger.

The captain made a sort of gasp.

"Black Dog!" said he.

"And who else?" returned the other, getting more at his ease. "Black Dog as ever was, come for to see his old shipmate Billy, at the 'Admiral Benbow' inn. Ah, Bill, Bill, we have seen a sight of times, us two, since I lost them two talons," holding up his mutilated hand.

"Now, look here," said the captain; "you've run me down; here I am; well, then, speak up: what is it?"

"That's you, Bill," returned Black Dog, "you're in the right of it, Billy. I'll have a glass of rum from this dear child here, as I've took such a liking to; and we'll sit down, if you please, and talk square, like old shipmates."

When I returned with the rum, they were already seated on either side of the captain's breakfast-table—Black Dog next to the door, and sitting sideways, so as to have one eye on his old shipmate, and one, as I thought, on his retreat.

He bade me go and leave the door wide open. "None of your keyholes for me, sonny," he said; and I left them together, and retired into the bar.

For a long time, though I certainly did my best to listen, I could hear nothing but a low gabbling; but at last the voices began to grow higher, and I could pick up a word or two, mostly oaths, from the captain.

"No, no, no, no; and an end of it!" he cried once. And again, "If it comes to swinging, swing all, say I."

Then all of a sudden there was a tremendous explosion of oaths and other noises—the chair and table went over in a lump, a clash of steel followed, and then a cry of pain, and the next instant I saw Black Dog in full flight, and the captain hotly pursuing, both with drawn cutlasses, and the former streaming blood from the left shoulder. Just at the door, the captain aimed at the fugitive one last tremendous cut, which would certainly have split him to the chine had it not been intercepted by our big signboard of Admiral Benbow. You may see the notch on the lower side of the frame to this day.

That blow was the last of the battle. Once out upon the road, Black Dog, in spite of his wound, showed a wonderful clean pair of heels, and disappeared over the edge of the hill in half a minute. The captain, for his part, stood staring at the signboard like a bewildered man. Then he passed his hand over his eyes several times, and at last turned back into the house.

- Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Effective Social Rank: Gloire

Social Rank in Flashing Blades is a significant part of the game's intended reward system; more than a means of 'keeping score,' Social Rank manifests in feedbacks throughout the career system as well as the character's costs of living. In my campaign, it's also an important part of social skill checks in my FB campaign via the following house rule.
. . . I allow the difference in Social Rank between two characters to modify certain Charm-based skill checks, such as Captaincy and Seduction. I did this using the Social Standing attribute score in Traveller years ago, and Thijs Krijger, moderator of the Flashing Blades Yahoo group, used this in his house rules for mistresses (which are sadly absent from his blog). In some cases, a non-player character in the service of another may use their master's Social Rank, frex, a guard on the gate of the château de Bauchery uses the baron's Social Rank of 12 rather than his own rank of 3 in determining if a Captaincy check will persuade him to stand aside.
As noted, I originally conceived of using social position as a skill modifier while running Traveller. As in F;ashing Blades, Traveller's Social Standing is a nominal reward system, but one more closely tied to the game's lifepath chargen rules; there's also a bit of symbiosis here, in that FB's careers drew some inspiration from Traveller. In my Traveller house rule, Social Standing is more about social affinity than 'pole position'; the difference in Social Standings between a player and non-player character was divided by two and rounded down; that value was then used as a negative modifier on the reaction roll table. The effect was a feeling of 'one of us,' as reactions tended to worsen the further one went from one's own social grouping, either up or down; an 'average Joe' with a base Social Standing of 7 would be equally disadvantaged in dealing with someone of Social Standing 4 or Social Standing 9, and it reflected a de facto caste system IMTU - that's 'in my Traveller universe,' for the uninitiated.

For Flashing Blades' 17th century France, however, social status is both highly stratified and extremely competitive, so the difference between Social Rank can be either a positive or negative modifier: those with higher social status are readily and reliably able to manipulate those beneath them, as shown in the rules for influence.

Social Rank in Flashing Blades increases as characters climb the career ladder, with great wealth, and as a reward at the gamemaster's discretion. Without rewards, Social Rank tends to climb somewhat slowly, as promotions occur annually in most careers. The relatively static nature of Social Rank is actually a pretty fair reflection of Early Modern France, but for a game of swashbuckling adventurers, I feel like there should be something more than banging away toward that promotion next year . . . if you roll 9+ on 2D6. Toward that end, I added another house rule, called Effective Social Rank.

A player character's effective Social Rank may increase, as noted, as a reward, at the gamemaster's discretion. These are permanent increases in most case, and therefore basically indistinguishable from other sources of Social Rank bumps. I decided that a character could also receive a temporary increase in Social Rank as well, for some act likely to give the character a favorable reputation. The mechanism for this was simple: any character holding a Gloire point receives a + 1 bump to their Social Rank until all of the character's Gloire points are used up. The increased Social Rank provides a bonus to social skill use, as noted above, as well as entry into an organisation with a minimum Social Rank requirement; however, the character must actually achieve the required Social Rank permanently within one year of entry, or risk losing the position.

This allows player characters to gain an edge by their conduct as well as increasing access to different careers for the characters to pursue if they wish.

Now, if a character can gain a bonus for a favorable reputation, couldn't that same character also earn a penalty for infamy? Of course! Characters may earn a Black Spot, which is the subject of tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DVR Alert

On Tursday, 10 October, TCM presents an Eastern-flavored swashbuckler, Son of Sinbad, starring Dale Robertson and Vincent Price. The movie is perhaps most notable for the Forty Thieves - all women - and the film debut of burlesque stripper Lili St Cyr (don't worry, the link is boringly safe for work).

Check your local times and listings.

Monday, October 7, 2013

There Is Nothing Extraneous in the Players Handbook

On my lengthy list of things to do is a post about why 1e Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is a good game for running a swashbuckling campaign.

But Zak got the gist of it already, so go read his post instead.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Quick Note About That Hiatus

I've been having trouble sleeping.

I went for weeks with nothing more than two or three hours of fitful, wakeful sleep a night, leaving me in an increasing fog which got to the point where I was forced to take a day off work or risk hurting myself or someone else. I tried all the usual methods for dealing with insomnia without success.

Fortunately, I figured out the cause - recovery muscle pain in my legs from being back in the gym for the last month - and developed a treatment plan - a couple of aspirin an hour before bed - and now I seem to be back on a relatively normal sleep schedule.

Posting resumes tomorrow.