Saturday, April 27, 2013

Quote of the Moment

"I stumble, but still I carry on, 'cause it doesn't have to mean that I'm wrong."
–Moriah Poppy, "Doesn't Have to Mean I'm Wrong"

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Beginning of a New World

Several years ago, I started working on some ideas for a basic, pulpy fantasy setting using the Savage Worlds rules. Life, circumstances, and the members of my gaming group, myself included, have all moved on and the campaign never materialized. What little I made for it has been languishing in a google doc since that time. Since my schedule continues to allow a dearth of actual content, I decided to throw the material up here.

The mechanics below will be of little use without referencing Savage Worlds Deluxe (see the link above), which if nothing else is a great bargain ($10).

Savage Worlds and all associated logos and trademarks are copyrights of Pinnacle Entertainment Group.

Etherweb: A Savage Worlds Swords and Sorcery Setting


The old empires are long fallen.  Their remains dot the landscape, ominous reminders of past mistakes to some, a vision of attainable glory to others.  Civilization is on the rise once again, scattered city-states joining together for protection or conquest.  Explorers probe the wilds seeking lost lands, lost treasures, and lost secrets, but dangers abound for those unwary or unprepared.  Bandits and scavengers prowl the shadows, crime festers in the cities, beasts and worse stalk through the wilds, and everywhere embers of conflict glow brightly, ready to burst into the flames of war.  Through it all flows the etherweb, a shimmering network of magical power springing from ethereal vortices, each in turn connected to at least two others by flowing rivers of ethereal energy called ley lines.  As with all sources of power, the etherweb can be both boon and doom to those that seek to tap its energies.

Character Races

When creating your character, choose one of the following five races. Characters using these races start with only 4 attribute points to distribute instead of five.

The tall, strong Humans dominate the chief powers of the known world.  While many nomadic, barbaric tribes still exist, city-states and self-styled kingdoms have begun to carve up the land for civilizing.  Humans stand 5-6 feet tall with hair color varying from pale blonde to black and eye color typically hazel, brown, or blue.  Humans inherent strength makes them well suited to the rigors of combat or exploration.
Starting characteristics:
  • Strength attribute starts at d6 instead of d4.
  • Choose one of these edges: Brawny, Fast Healer, or Fleet Footed.  (The character must meet the requirements for the chosen edge.)

The highly social Goblins are short but nimble. They enjoy luxury, though individual tastes drive exactly how the desire manifests.  In their own communities and often as part of the larger Human society, Goblins are valued as traders, cooks, weavers, and in any other trade that places a value on a skilled hand or tongue.  Of course, their natural abilities are just as suited to becoming a huckster or thief.  Goblins stand 3-4 feet tall, with ruddy, light green, or bluish skin tones and matching eyes.
Starting characteristics:
  • Agility attribute starts at d6 instead of d4.
  • Choose one of these edges: Acrobat, Charismatic, or Healer.  (The character must meet the requirements for the chosen edge.)
  • Alertness edge.
  • Small hindrance.

Fueled by their competitive nature, the stout Dwarv once created vast empires.  Those days are long past, but even as their race dwindles they retain a zeal for altering the physical world to fit their own image of perfection.  Those that remain are raised on legends of epic craftsmanship, lost caverns, vast riches, and the hubris and horrors that lead to their fall.  Their desire to make a permanent mark on the world leads them to favor stone and metals for accoutrement and building materials.  Being descendants of ancient lines of survivors, Dwarv often demonstrate an uncanny ability to react to sudden danger.  They stand 4-5 feet tall with grey to brown skin tones, brightly colored eyes, and stout builds.
Starting characteristics:
  • Vigor starts at d6 instead of d4.
  • Brawler, Danger Sense, or Elan.  (The character must meet the requirements for the chosen edge.)
  • Sensitive eyes ignore attack penalties from dim and dark lighting.
  • Pace of 5 instead of 6.

The mysterious Eld, like the Dwarv, once held sway over large parts of the known world.  Tales say the full power of the ether was theirs to command, though the storytellers have little to say about what became of them.  As the past age progressed they quietly vanished from the world, but they left behind more than just hidden ruins and mysterious artifacts, for a strain of their blood runs among the Humans.  These souls are given away by their exotic, androgynous looks, vibrant, unusual hair color, and totally black eyes.
Starting characteristics:
  • Spirit starts at d6 instead of d4.
  • Choose one of these edges: Attractive, Luck, or Quick.  (The character must meet the requirements for the chosen edge.)

The Saurians can be considered "lizard men" only in the sense that Humans are "monkey men."  Until recently, most people in the "civilized" world would have gone their entire life believing the Saurians were mere legend.  It is said that their society was already old when the Eld were young, but their numbers remained small, their tribal groups scattered and hidden deep in the deserts, jungles, and swamps they call home.  Of late, Saurians have begun appearing with increasing frequency in the lands of the other races, bringing with them knowledge and trade, and triggering more than a few tavern-room conspiracy theories.  Saurians stand 4-6 feet tall with rough, dry skin patterned in tans, greens, or greys, and sharp claws and teeth.
Starting characteristics:
  • Smarts starts at d6 instead of d4.
  • Environmental adaptation: choose one of +4 to resist environmental effects of cold, +4 to resist environmental effects of heat, or semi-aquatic (gain Fatigue level every 15 minutes the character holds their breath; on reaching Incapacitated, must make Vigor roll every minute or drown; Fatigue recovers one level per 15 minutes back in air).
  • Natural weapons Str+d4 (claw and bite).
  • Outsider hindrance.


Characters may take any skill in the core rules except Piloting.


All hindrances from the core rules are available to characters except Doubting Thomas.


All edges from the core rules are available to characters except Gadgeteer, Mentalist, Mr. Fix It, and Rock and Roll!, but be sure to note the setting specific Arcane Background and Power Points rules in the Arcane Characters section below.

Arcane Characters

Magic is the only Arcane Background available to characters in the Etherweb setting.  The mechanics work as described in the core rules, with a few additions.

Characters using Magic channel the power of the etherweb.  Power points represent the caster's ability to gather the ether to himself.  In low ether areas far from ley lines or underground, power points take longer to regenerate.  When on ley lines or near vortices, power can be gathered faster, to a point.  At ethereal vortices or during astronomical events which cause the ether to flare, power can be drawn directly from the ether, but doing so can be risky.  In game terms, the following rules apply to magic powers and power points.
  • Time to recover power points is halved when on a ley line, and halved again when near an ethereal vortex.  These modifications stack with the Rapid Recharge edges normally (always round up to the nearest minute).
  • Time to recover power points is doubled in low ether areas, doubled again in very low ether areas, and impossible in areas without ether.  In such environments characters can recover power points by drawing from specially enchanted gems called etherstones (if available) at their base rate, up to the capacity of the etherstone.
  • To channel power directly from an external source, a character must make a Spirit test.  Every power point over the first one that is channeled in a given round or casting adds a -1 penalty to the Spirit roll.  Failing the test means no power is available and the spell can not be cast.  A critical failure indicates the ether was channeled, but the caster couldn't control it to properly cast a spell and suffers a backlash.
  • Characters with the magic arcane background can immediately evaluate the density of the ether in their immediate area, and players are encouraged to come up with trappings to describe the ability (wizard's sight, a background buzz in the ears, tingling pressure on the skin, etc.).

Optional Arcane Backgrounds

Magic is not something that can be denied in the Etherweb setting, in most places a character can literally go for a hike and find a river of it swirling across the landscape.  The physical presence of the ether is a huge source of the setting’s flavor.  Having only the Magic background available both emphasizes that centrality and potentially shapes how characters, player or otherwise, view arcane happenings in the setting.

That said, some of the other Arcane Backgrounds provide opportunities for the GM and players to tweak the flavor of the setting to their liking.  For example:

  • Miracles allow an alternative to Magic that does not suffer the complications of being tied to the ether.  Assuming characters using miracles do not draw their power from the ether (at least not directly), their power point recovery is unaffected by the environment.  However, this means that characters using miracles can not use external sources of power such as etherstones.  Players should devise the trappings for their religions, in consultation with the GM of course.
  • Weird Science can create ether-powered devices.  Taken as part of the default pulp fantasy setting, weird science could produce rare one-off oddities or be the first tentative steps toward a far-future ether-tech revolution.
  • Super Powers may describe individuals with a unique relationship to the ether who have more innate magic abilities than “normal” spell casters.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Note on Bioshock Inifinte

Spectacular use of music, great art and art direction, solid if unremarkable shooter gameplay (the skyhooks are nifty).  I suspect Bioshock Inifinte will go down as one of the classic games.

The first Bioshock played with the meta-narrative and the idea of agency in video games. Infinite takes it all to another level. And there is a moment, a line, that even (intentionally or not) calls back to the fact that it's all just a computer program. There's a great deal of philosophy going on in there, a great deal to examine if you wish to. It's fun too. And perhaps, in the end, that's all that matters.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Preserved Statuses

Thing seen on the highway: a Smart car plastered with Republican bumper stickers.

I love the smell of goose crap in the afternoon. Smells like leaving the office.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

From the Insomnia Files

One seeking solace
on the stormy seas of life
finds hugs are quite nice.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Quote of the Moment

"There have always been 'fools' in the imperial courts, but it's an interesting age when folks trust the court jesters more than the court itself"
–Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution (Introduction)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Watching the Watchers: Digital Currency

I don't have the time to give this a proper think, let alone a proper write-up, but it is too interesting a subject to let completely pass by. According to a blog post by Rachael King on the Wall Street Journal's site (caveat: dated April 1) Western Union is investigating digital currencies. This raises the specter of a corporation potentially creating its own currency. Though it would still be subject to governmental regulation, as holders of the increasingly valued Bitcoin virtual currency are learning, I wonder what the long-term implications of non-government controlled currency would be? In the extreme case, will we eventually have to check the exchange rate for our Visa-marks when converting to Amazon-cents to make a purchase? Can a single corporation sustain the collective illusion of "value" that a currency requires to function? What about a group of them? Interesting stuff to wonder about in any case.

See also: