How to Referee a Murder

One of my favorite genres of movie is the mystery. I’m not talking about film noirs and gangster pictures – though I love them as well – but the films in which a wealthy man or woman is found dead in her mansion, and a detective has to weed through a bunch of suspects to find the real killer, all the while more victims are piling up.

This sort of plot can be a fun diversion for a game of Grit & Vigor, provided you have players interested in such things. A small group of players, from one to three, works very well with such a mystery. Usually, one player is the head detective and the others are his or her assistants. To get you started, here’s a handy list of potential suspects. Roll as many times on the table as you see fit, but the more suspects there are, the longer the mystery should take.

1 The man-child – always large, strong and dangerous
2 The devious woman – manipulative to the extreme, and after money
3 The wayward son – wealthy young man, usually with a drinking problem
4 The genius – a house guest, usually a scientist, psychologist or doctor … with a secret
5 The housekeeper – an older woman, cold in demeanor
6 The playgirl – female version of the wayward son, she loves “unwisely”
7 The maid – a young woman of common parentage, either stalwart or superstitious (or maybe a mix of both)
8 The caretaker – an older man who looks after the grounds, suspicious of everyone
9 The chauffeur – usually seems worried that he is suspected
10 The ingénue – young, pretty and destined to inherit a fortune
11 The butler – did he actually do it?
12 The ardent – a foolish young man in love with one (or more) woman in the cast of suspects

Each suspect should have two of three of the following – motive, means and opportunity. One suspect, the murderer, has all three. Each suspect should also have a piece of information useful for solving the crime. It is the job of the detectives to clear the suspects and gather the clues, all the while running against the clock as suspects (and their information) are eliminated by the murderer. The murderer will try to eliminate the most useful pieces of information first.

The action should all take place in a mansion, with nobody permitted to leave. In a pinch, use a Clue board for the first floor, with note cards to represent the cellar, the attic and the upstairs bedrooms and any other rooms you want to include. A few useful clues should be spread around the rooms, so detectives have a reason to search them. The least useful clues should be the easiest to find.

And don’t forget secret passages!

Eurafrika Attacks!

Around about 1929, a German architect by the name of Herman Sörgel came with an idea he called Atlantropa. The idea was simple (no, not really) – he was going to create a new utopian continent out of Europe and Africa by building hydroelectric dams in the Strait of Gibraltar and Dardanelles and the mouth of the River Congo. This would allow the lowering of the level of the Mediterranean Sea, to create more habitable (and farmable) land, the irrigation of the Sahara Desert, and the generation of all the electricity the new continent of Atlantropa or Eurafrika could ever need. The idea was based on his desire for a massive, peaceful project that could bring the warring European nations together and which would improve the lives of millions.

Strangely enough, the idea was not pursued seriously other than by Sörgel and a handful of others. Perhaps the idea can be used to fuel a modern “fantasy” campaign, though.

Eurafrika Attacks

The Eurafrika Attacks campaign is going to take Herman’s idea and mess with it a bit. First, we’re going to move the idea back to the dark days of the First World War, and give Europe a running start at the project. For our purposes, by 1927 or so the project is complete and Europe is seriously deep in debt. Weimer Republic-style deep in debt. This facilitates the rise of a pseudo-fascist dictator called Hynkel, who now has the power of Europe and Africa at his disposal and uses it to start the Second World War in 1930.

Eurafrikan forces quickly move into the Middle East and Ukraine, and soon they convince a China desirous of revenge against colonial powers to join them. Thus, we get a WW2 with an axis composed of Eurafrika and China against the allied powers of the United Kingdom (who never quite joined the Eurafrikan cause, though a faction of the country is heavily invested in the project and desires Hynkel’s success), the Soviet Union and Japan, with the United States practicing semi-neutrality until submarine attacks on its shipping draw it into the war in 1934.

The Hook

So what’s the point of this campaign, other than novelty. Well, novelty is probably the main point – a sort of mixed up WW2 that occurs years before it is supposed to and without some of the more disturbing elements of that war.

The real hook, of course, is the use of a bunch of interesting military equipment from the “interwar” period in a hot war. Between the Spad and Spitfires in the 1920s and early 1930s there were all sorts of interesting aircraft, ships and land vehicles designed and constructed, but never really used. Now some of these vehicles have a chance to show what they were made of, and at the same time a few anachronisms might make their way into this WW2, especially cavalry.

A campaign could be organized around a particular military unit and its march into Eurafrikan territory, modeled on the film The Big Red One (1980) starring Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill, which followed a group of soldiers in the U.S. 1st Infantry Division from North Africa to Sicily to Normandy and eventually to the liberation of a concentration camp. A fictional campaign might move through Baghdad to the Balkans and Carpathians and finally into the heart of Europe.

There is also room for espionage in London, Paris, New York and Cairo, jungle fighting in the Congo basin, the Soviet couteroffensive against re-invigorated China in Mongolia, resistance movements in Europe, anti-colonial movements in Africa, or the defense of Japan against a new wave of seaborne invasions from China (will the “divine wind” protect the island nation again?). You can also play on the new geography of the Mediterranean and Sahara, tying in with notions of Atlantis buried beneath the sands of the Sahara being rediscovered, or pre-human settlements that were hidden under the Mediterranean being revealed.

The campaign offers many opportunities for realistic and supernatural gameplay in a period often forgotten due to its being sandwiched betwen the Roaring 20’s and the Second World War.

A trio of Siskins patrol southern England for French bombers

Yo Joe!

If memory serves, I promised to do this post two weeks ago. How time flies! In between, the family has gone through a high school graduation and a college orientation, and I’ve written about 8 quarterly reports for my real job. But now it is time – some G.I. Joe vehicles for GRIT & VIGOR.

I’ve spent the last four weeks writing High Frontier, a setting toolbox for GRIT & VIGOR based on the “retro-future”, or the future that people in 1950 dreamed they and their children would enjoy from the 1960s to the futuristic year … 2000! We’re talking moon bases, space stations, space colonies, lots of cool airplanes and concept cars, etc.

Along the way, I ran across a Wikipedia article on a G.I. Joe fighter plane, and realized I could probably stat those up as well. Where possible, I used the specifications published for these vehicles, and I filled in the gaps with info on the real vehicles on which they were based.

Notes:

Jet aircraft are given a generation [G]. This is added to the aircraft’s maneuverability (and thus AC) and attack rolls during combat.

Damage followed by a single asterisk (*) is multiplied by 10. Two asterisks (**) means multiply by 100.

Conquest X-30 | G.I. Joe 1986

Type: Huge Fighter G4
Hit Dice: 30 (105 hp)
Armor Class: 21
Attacks: 2 x 25mm cannons (7d6), 4 x AIM-12 Light Sparrow AAM (1d10**), 7,000 lb of bombs
Speed: 1600 mph
Maneuver: +8
Climb: 8500 fpr
Ceiling: 55,000 feet
Crew/Passengers: 1/0

These G.I. Joe fighter planes are based on the real Grumman X-29 (which appears in High Frontier). It is notable for its forward swept wings.

Phantom X-19 | G.I. Joe 1988

Type: Gargantuan Attack G5
Hit Dice: 45 (158 hp)
Armor Class: 18
Attacks: 2 x anti-satellite lasers (10d6), 2 x BY-106 Little Guy (1d10**), 1 x Bullseye III cruise missile (xxx), 2 x 2000 lb bombs
Speed: 2400 mph
Maneuver: +6
Climb: 6000 fpr
Ceiling: 72,000 feet
Crew/Passengers: 1/0

The Phantom is inspired (loosely) on a model that purported to be the “stealth bomber” (the F-117 Nighthawk) that turned out to look nothing like it.

Night Raven S3P | Cobra Command 1985

Type: Gargantuan Fighter G4
Hit Dice: 47 (165 hp)
Armor Class: 19
Attacks: 2 x 20mm cannons (6d6), 4 x SRAAM AAM (1d10**)
Speed: 2200 mph
Maneuver: +8
Climb: 6800 fpr
Ceiling: 86,000 feet
Crew/Passengers: 2/0

The Cobra Night Raven was based loosely on the SR-71 Blackbird (which means Cobra was as good at hacking the Pentagon as the Chinese, Russians, etc.)

Rattler | Cobra Command 1984

Type: Huge Attack G3
Hit Dice: 30 (105 hp)
Armor Class: 18
Attacks: 2 x 20mm cannon (6d6), 1 x 30mm cannons (8d6), 2 x AAM (1d8**), 2 x Renegade ASM (6d6*)
Speed: 450 mph
Maneuver: +5
Climb: 1000 fpr
Ceiling: 45,000 feet
Crew/Passengers: 2/0

The go-to combat aircraft of Cobra in the cartoons.

Skystriker XP-14F | G.I. Joe 1983

Type: Gargantuan Fighter G4
Hit Dice: 42 (147 hp)
Armor Class: 23
Attacks: 1 x 20mm cannons (6d6), 2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder AAM (1d8**), 2 x AIM-54 Phoenix (6d6**), 2 x AIM-7 Sparrow (1d12**)
Speed: 1500 mph
Maneuver: +8
Climb: 7500 fpr
Ceiling: 51,000 feet
Crew/Passengers: 2/0

The Skystriker was G.I. Joe’s principal combat aircraft (and clearly superior to the Rattlers).

Mannix!

Mike Connors recently passed away. He’s best known for playing Joe Mannix, private investigator, on the TV show Mannix, which ran from 1967-1975. Great show, and one of my all-time favorites. It was also an odd duck for its time because it forewent the idea of a detective with a gimmick (fat, wheelchair-bound, old, etc.) and just created a detective in the hard-boiled tradition.  James Rockford was probably Mannix’s spiritual successor on television.

Mannix is an interesting character with an interesting history, and that interesting history makes him a perfect character for a game of GRIT & VIGOR.

R.I.P. Mike Connors, and thanks for the fine entertainment.

Joe Mannix
High school football and basketball star, Korean War veteran, former P.O.W., mercenary in Latin America and current private investigator

5th level fighter, 7th level private eye

Strength: 13 / +1
Dexterity: 14 / +1
Constitution: 16 / +2
Intelligence: 11
Wisdom: 13 / +1
Charisma: 11

Hit Points: 3d6 + 4d10 +14
Armor Class: 11
Attack: +4
Saves: F11 R10 W12

Feats: Pugilist, Power Attack

Knacks: Athletics, Communicate, Drive Car, Endure, Pilot Aircraft

Fighter Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure*, Jump, Lift Gates, Ride Mount

Private Eye Skills: Cant, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand, Track (humans only)

Class Abilities: Note clues and concealed items, mull things over, backstab +2d6, extra attack vs. opponents with 3 or fewer Hit Dice

Equipment: Colt Detective Special (1d6), 1975 Chevrolet Camaro (in the show’s final season, but Mannix drove an astounding array of cool cars over the course of the series – check Wikipedia’s entry for a list)

Lest We Forget

Today is Veterans’ Day (formerly Armistice Day) in the U.S. of A. First and foremost, I offer my thanks to those who have served – God bless you.

Since this is a game blog, I now offer Grit & Vigor stats for a couple genuine war heroes, Sgt. Alvin York and Audie Murphy.

Sgt. Alvin York

Class: Fighter
Level: 4
Hit Points: 26

Strength: 14 / +1
Intelligence: 9
Wisdom: 12
Dexterity: 13 / +1
Constitution: 16 / +2
Charisma: 11

Feats: Dodge, Elusive Target, Point Blank Shot

Knacks: Climb Sheer Surfaces

Alvin York was an odd choice for military heroism. When he reported for military duty during the First World War, he let his superiors know that, as a Christian, he didn’t believe that he could take part in fighting.

After many discussions with the camp chaplain, and a lot of soul searching, he finally decided that a Christian could fight if called to do so. With that, he was off to Europe, where he soon earned a Medal of Honor for, according to Wikipedia, “leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 35 machine guns, killing at least 28 German soldiers, and capturing 132 others”.

Audie Murphy

Class: Fighter
Level: 5
Hit Points: 35

Strength: 13 / +1
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 11
Dexterity: 16 / +2
Constitution: 13 / +1
Charisma: 12

Feats: Ace Shot, Diehard, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot

Knacks: Electronics, Handle Animals

Skills: Demolitions

What Audie Murphy did in real life would seem unbelievable if you saw it in a movie. Serving in the U.S. Army in the Second World War in Italy, he took part in many distinguished acts of heroism. Via Wikipedia, here’s what earned him the Medal of Honor:

“The Germans scored a direct hit on an M10 tank destroyer, setting it alight, forcing the crew to abandon it. Murphy ordered his men to retreat to positions in the woods, remaining alone at his post, shooting his M1 carbine and directing artillery fire via his field radio while the Germans aimed fire directly at his position. Murphy mounted the abandoned, burning tank destroyer and began firing its .50 caliber machine gun at the advancing Germans, killing a squad crawling through a ditch towards him. For an hour, Murphy stood on the flaming tank destroyer returning German fire from foot soldiers and advancing tanks, killing or wounding 50 Germans. He sustained a leg wound during his stand, and stopped only after he ran out of ammunition. Murphy rejoined his men, disregarding his own wound, and led them back to repel the Germans. He insisted on remaining with his men while his wounds were treated. For his actions that day, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. The 3rd Infantry Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions at the Colmar Pocket, giving Murphy a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for the emblem.”

This was after several bouts of malaria and losing a bit of hip muscle to gangrene. Murphy left the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant, and later achieved the rank of Major with the Texas Army National Guard.

Happy Veteran’s Day to all you veterans!

Back from Vacation

After a week away from work (the real job), I’m back delving into the wonders of the Las Vegas real estate market. Over the past nine days, I managed to almost finish NOD 29 and got some heavy work done on my World War II supplement to GRIT & VIGOR. I also watched some B-movies, did some yard work, got the hard copy of MYSTERY MEN! Second Edition created and ordered a proof copy (it’s going to be in color), found some cheap old AD&D artifacts at a used record store, watched my daughter in her first Shakespeare play (she played the nurse in Romeo & Juliet) and didn’t shave.

I also didn’t do any blog posts, though I did keep in touch with the gaming community via Google +. For those who didn’t see that, I present two characters for GRIT & VIGOR, one a character from an old movie, the other an actor. For those who did, I’ll throw in a third character – a dangerous lady.

Vince Kane – A Character You Probably Do Not Know

Vince Kane is the main character in an old George Raft picture called A Dangerous Profession (1949). It’s not a great movie, but a movie doesn’t have to be great to inspire usable game material. The beauty of B-movies and simple stories is that they’re usually easier to adapt into modern game scenarios. Much of what makes a movie great – strong characterizations, interesting character relationships, etc. – does not always translate well into a game, or at least should come from the interaction of the players and game master, rather than be programmed and forced on everyone. A good game often revolves around a good plot that is not too hard to follow, since players are usually grasping around in the dark during game play. Vince Kane is also an interesting idea for an detective who isn’t technically a professional detective, much in the way that Matlock and Perry Mason are detectives who are technically lawyers.

Vince Kane is an ex-cop turned bail bondsman. Things heat up when a buddy of his from the police force, Lt. Nick Ferrone (played by Jim Backus) picks up Claude Brackett, who skipped bail a few years back for an embezzlement charge. Checking Brackett’s room, Kane discovers that he’s in town with the woman who broke his heart, who turns out to now be the embezzler’s wife, Lucy Brackett. When Claude Brackett turns up murdered, Kane investigates and discovers a web of lies.

N Private Eye, LVL 8, HP 36, AC 11, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R7 W9

Str 10 Int 12 Wis 15 Dex 14 Con 13 Cha 8

Special: Detect clue (2 in 6), detect lie (4 in 6), get a clue from Venture Master, back stab, note concealed items, +2 save vs. fear

Knacks: Cant*, Influence People

Skills: Cant*, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand and Track (humans only)

Feats: Grappler, Iron Will, Lighting Reflexes

* Cant in this context is the tough talk of old Hollywood gangster movies

Hoot Gibson, A Man More Interesting than His Characters

Now we shift from a character to a real person who was, himself, quite a character. It’s not too often you come across an actor’s biography which is more interesting than the characters he played. Hoot Gibson is one of those fellows.

Hoot started riding horses as a boy in Nebraska, and after the family moved to California he started working on ranches. He showed a talent for it, and soon started competing in rodeos, winning several honors. It was during his rodeo days that he started acting in silent movies. After a stint as a sergeant in the Tank Corps in World War I, he went back to rodeo and movies, usually as a bit player and stunt rider. In 1922, when demand was high for cowboy pictures, he moved into starring roles and made a whole slew of pictures. Hoot also learned to fly planes and even got injured in a crash while racing planes.

Like I said, he was an interesting fellow.

N Cowboy/Fighter, LVL 7/3, HP 39, AC 12, MV 40, ATK +4, SV F9 R8 W12, Str 13 Int 9 Wis 11 Dex 16 Con 13 Cha 13

Special: +2 save vs. trample attacks, rope (add half horse’s HD to lasso attacks), select exceptional horses, surprised 1 in 8, no penalty when grappling large animals, extra attack against opponents with fewer HD

Knacks: Don Disguise, Handle Animals, Pilot Aircraft

Skills (Cowboy): Appraise value (livestock), endure, gamble, handle animal, jump, ride mount, survive outdoors, track

Skills (Fighter): Bend bars, break down doors, endure, gunnery, jump, lift gates

Feats: Dodge, Knack, Pugilist

Weapons: Colt Single-Action Army (1d6), Winchester M1894 repeating rifle (2d4)

Ma Barker

I don’t know how much cache’ the gangsters of the Depression have these days with the young people, but they once had a standing approaching folk heroes. Bonnie and Clyde, ‘Baby Face’ Nelson, John Dillinger, etc. And then there’s Ma. Ma Barker. Ma Barker had four criminal sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred, and served as their ring leader … or did she?

From the sound of it, Ma Barker as criminal mastermind of her sons’ foul play is the bunk. One gangster, Alvin Karpis, described her as “superstitious, gullible, simple, cantankerous and, well, generally law abiding.” She was clearly an accomplice in the criminal activities of the gang, helping them before and after crimes, but probably was not the gun-totin’ mama of popular culture. When J. Edgar Hoover described her as “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade”, he was probably full of shit. I know – J. Edgar Hoover, an agent of the federal government – lying is hard to believe.

But in GRIT & VIGOR, when truth isn’t stranger than fiction, we slap it around a little until it is. Our Ma Barker is the gangster of the movies, engaging in gun play and maybe even chomping on a cigar while her minions rob banks.

NE Rogue, LVL 8, HP 28, AC 10, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R9 W10, Str 8 Int 15 Wis 13 Dex 11 Con 11 Cha 12

Special: Backstab for +2d6 damage, note concealed items

Knacks: Gather Intelligence*, Treat Injury

Skills : Appraise Value, Cant, Don Disguise, Gather Intelligence*, Hide in Shadows, Influence People, Listen at Doors, Move Silently

Feats: Exploit Weakness, Improvise, Iron Will, Leadership

Weapons: Thompson sub-machine gun (1d6)

THIS JUST IN – GRIT & VIGOR ON SALE NOW

Well, it took 5 years of starting, stopping, and starting over again, but GRIT & VIGOR is now real. I put it up for sale last night on Lulu.com and rpgnow.com. So, what is GRIT & VIGOR? I’m glad you asked …

GRIT & VIGOR is the game of bold ventures for rugged fellows. Roll up a character, buy some gear, and get down to business. G&V is rules lite and options heavy. In its 200 pages, you’ll find everything from monsters to machine guns, with advice on running all sorts of modern campaigns, from gentlemanly mysteries to espionage to explorations into the unknown. It also includes a timeline of adventure, covering the years 1880 to 1939, with important events of those years as well a selection of the firearms, cars, planes and military vehicles of those years. Future supplements will expand that coverage back to the Golden Age of Piracy and forward into the far future.

GRIT & VIGOR is compatible with most old school games, including BLOOD & TREASURE.

What do you get for $10.99? I mean, beside my blood, sweat and tears …

  • A system you know and know how to run, that is broadly compatible with BLOOD & TREASURE and pretty much every OSR clone and D&D rules set that popped up before 4E – six ability scores, d20 to attack, etc.

  • Lots of classes and sub-classes

  • Random character backgrounds instead of fantasy races – roll d% thrice, ladies and gents, and nail down those formative experiences of your misbegotten youth

d% Youthful Experience
01 Collected trading cards (Appraise Value knack)
02 Won big game at school (Athletics knack)
03 Escaped from jail (Bend Bars knack)
04 Worked as a volunteer fireman (Break Down Doors knack)
05 Ran with a gang of toughs (Cant knack)
06 Received a chemistry set for birthday (Chemistry knack)
07 Climbed the tallest tree in your neighborhood (Climb Sheer Surfaces knack)
08 Grew up in a city with many immigrants (Communicate knack)
09 Invented a cipher for you and your pals (Crack Code knack)
10 Played with firecrackers (Demolitions knack)
11 Burned the midnight oil studying (Display Knowledge knack)
12 Participated in the amateur theatrics (Don Disguise knack)
13 Got first place in the soapbox derby (Drive Car knack)
14 Built your own crystal radio set (Electronics knack)
15 Rowed crew in school (Endure knack)
16 Escaped from kidnappers (Escape Bonds knack)
17 Received a fine home training (Etiquette knack)
18 Forged parents signatures on report card (Forge Documents knack)
19 Played cards with the boys (Gamble knack)
20 Always had an ear cocked for gossip (Gather Intelligence knack)
21 Ran away and joined the circus (Acrobatics knack)
22 Grew up on a farm (Handle Animals knack)
23 Pulled pranks on Halloween or Guy Fawkes Day (Hide in Shadows knack)
24 Ordered a book on hypnosis from the back of a comic magazine (Hypnotize knack)
25 Fleeced the marks at a sideshow (Influence People knack)
26 Jumped over the creek on a dare (Jump knack)
27 Was a nosy little cuss (Listen at Doors knack)
28 Helped out in the garage (Mechanics knack)
29 Sneaked out for beer and girls (Move Silently knack)
30 Learned from an amateur cracksman (Open Locks knack)
31 Spent time in vaudeville or music halls (Perform knack)
32 Befriended pilots at the aerodrome (Pilot Aircraft knack)
33 Had to help support the family (Practice Vocation knack)
34 Raced a bike down Dead Man’s Hill (Ride Bike knack)
35 Hunted with the lads – Tally Ho! (Ride Mount knack)
36 Worked summers on a boat (Seamanship knack)
37 Spied on the girls at summer camp (Search knack)
38 Spent your afternoons in pool halls (Shoot Billiards knack)
39 Wintered in the mountains (Ski knack)
40 Jumped off a roof using a blanket for a parachute … and survived (Sky Dive knack)
41 Worked the crowds as a pick pocket (Sleight of Hand knack)
42 Explored an abandoned mine (Spelunk knack)
43 Summered in California or Hawaii (Surf knack)
44 Spent a week on a deserted island (Survive Outdoors knack)
45 Raised by the water (Swim knack)
46 Got ventriloquist dummy for birthday (Ventriloquism knack)
47 Learned to hunt from an old scout (Track knack)
48 Took care of little cousins and siblings (Treat Injury knack)
49 Helped an older relation in the shop (Woodworking knack)
50 Caught frogs in the black of night (Blindfight feat)
51 Looked out for the little kids (Bodyguard feat)
52 Never said “uncle” (Diehard feat)
53 Interested in everything, never took a rest (Dilettante feat)
54 Shot at while trespassing (Dodge feat)
55 Learned the sweet science (Expertise feat)
56 Worked as a prize fighter (Exploit Weakness feat)
57 Took up archery (Far Shot feat)
58 Stole home base or racked up the runs (Fast feat)
59 Lived off the land for weeks (Great Fortitude feat)
60 Raised in poverty (Improvise feat)
61 Learned to trust your instincts (Intuition feat)
62 Stood up to the class bully (Iron Will feat)
63 Formed a gang as a kid (Leadership feat)
64 Narrowly escaped death (Lightning Reflexes feat)
65 Kept your head on swivel (Look Smart feat)
66 Studied physics (Modern Archimedes feat)
67 Played lots of football (Nip-Up feat)
68 Hunted rabbits as a kid (Point Blank Shot feat)
69 Felled a bully with one blow (Power Attack feat)
70 Had to learn to fight dirty because you were small for your age (Rough & Tumble feat)
71 Made many daring escapes after stealing apples (Run feat)
72 Always had a big mouth (Taunt feat)
73 Scrapped with the fellas (Toughness feat)
74 Took fencing lessons from an old master (Two-Weapon Fighting feat)
75 Worked on the docks (Workhorse feat)
76 Lots of hard labor (+1 to Strength)
77 Studied advanced mathematics (+1 to Intelligence)
78 Spent time hunting in the wilderness (+1 to Wisdom)
79 Was excellent with a slingshot (+1 to Dexterity)
80 Always ate your vegetables and drank your milk (+1 to Constitution)
81 Had to talk yourself out of many scrapes (+1 to Charisma)
82 Raised a stray pup (gain a dog as a free sidekick)
83 Lived with a gypsy family (+5% chance of psychic powers; See Appendix A)
84 Went abroad for the summer (learn one foreign language)
85 Worked hard, lived simply (double normal starting money)
86 Escaped from a burning house (+2 save vs. fire)
87 Never sick a day in your life (+2 save vs. disease)
88 Kept yourself morally straight (+2 save vs. temptation)
89 Wrestled with the big kids (no penalty when grappling with creatures up to one size larger)
90 Spent the night in a real haunted house (+2 save vs. fear)
91 Stood lookout for friends (only surprised on 1 on 1d8)
92 Worked as cowpuncher (+2 save vs. being trappled)
93 Dove for pearls (hold breath for twice as long as normal)
94 Well versed in the classics (+1 reaction with scholars)
95 No stranger to the saloon (+2 save vs. alcohol)
96 Inherited money (bonus $100 to start game)
97 Studied meditation from a master (+2 save vs. psychic powers and magic spells)
98 Trained to run a marathon (+2 save vs. fatigue)
99 Born under a lucky star (re-roll one failed roll per adventure)
100 Roll again, and take bonus roll

  • A simple skill system

  • Firearms and vehicles

  • Rules for intoxicants and radiation sickness

  • Animals, humans and monsters to fight

  • Supernatural stuff in the appendices, so you can ignore it or use it as you like

  • Advice on working in different genres – Crime, Mystery/Suspense, Kung-fu, War, Sieges, Horror, and Explorations into the Unknown

  • A timeline of adventure from 1880 to 1939 – that goes year-by-year presenting major events that might inspire or inform your adventures, and provides stats for firearms and vehicles, such as:

1939 The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler introduces Philip Marlowe, Hewlett-Packard founded, Francisco Franco comes to power in Spain, King Faisal II (Iraq), Slovak-Hungarian War ends, Italy invades Albania, New York World’s Fair opens, Batman makes first appearance in comic books, Pan-Am begins transatlantic flights, Tientsin incident, last public guillotining (France), Siam changes name to Thailand, Molotov-Ribbentrop pact signed, first turbojet-powered jet Heinkel He 178 takes maiden flight, Germany invades Poland, World War II begins, u-boots sink SS Athenia, HMS Courageous and HMS Royal Oak, Soviet Union invades Poland, Stewart Menzies appointed head of MI6, Soviet Union invades Finland

Arisaka Type 99 LMG (Japan): CAL 30, DMG 2d4, ROF 150, SHOTS 30 (Magazine), RNG 1320 ft, WT 23 lb

BSA Welrod “Assassin’s Pistol” Silenced Pistol (UK): CAL 35, DMG 1d6, ROF 1, SHOTS 9 (Magazine), RNG 40 ft, WT 3 lb

DS-39 MMG (Russia): CAL 30, DMG 1d10, ROF 200, SHOTS 250 (Belt), RNG 3280 ft, WT 32 lb

MP 40 SMG (Germany): CAL 35, DMG 1d6, ROF 80, SHOTS 32 (Magazine), RNG 330 ft, WT 9 lb

Oerlikon 20mm Autocannon (Switzerland): CAL 79, DMG 5d6, ROF 75, SHOTS 100 (Belt), RNG 3000 ft, WT 150 lb | Anti-aircraft

Pistolet Mitrailleur MAS Modele 38 SMG (France): CAL 22, DMG 1d6, ROF 100, SHOTS 32 (Magazine), RNG 300 ft, WT 6 lb

Type 97 20mm Anti-Tank Rifle (Japan): CAL 79, DMG 3d8, ROF 1, SHOTS 7 (Magazine), RNG 900 ft, WT 114 lb


Bedford OB Bus (UK): Huge Construct, HD 22 (77 hp), AC 14 , SPD 40 mph, ACC 10 mph, MVR -5, CP 1/29, WT 7.2 tons

Bentley Mark V Compact (UK): Large Construct, HD 9 (32 hp), AC 15, SPD 97 mph, ACC 35 mph, MVR +0, CP 1/3, WT 1.2 tons

Chevrolet 1/2 Ton Streamliner “Woody” (USA): Large Construct, HD 10 (35 hp), AC 15, SPD 85 mph, ACC 30 mph, MVR +1, CP 1/7, WT 1.5 tons

Ford DeLuxe Coupe Roadster (USA): Large Construct, HD 9 (32 hp), AC 15, SPD 87 mph, ACC 35 mph, MVR +1, CP 1/1, WT 1.4 tons

Lincoln Continental Full-Size (USA): Large Construct, HD 11 (39 hp), AC 15, SPD 115 mph, ACC 40 mph, MVR -1, CP 1/5, WT 2 tons

Royal Enfield WD/RE Scooter (UK): Medium Construct, HD 1 (4 hp), AC 16, SPD 45 mph, ACC 10 mph, MVR +1, CP 1/0, WT 130 lb

Fiat M11/39 Tank (Italy): Huge Construct, HD 30 (105 hp), AC 16 (Steel 1), SPD 20 mph, ACC 4 mph, MVR -4, ATK 1 x 37mm gun, and 2 x light machine guns, CP 3/0, WT 12.3 tons

Kliment Voroshilov Tank (USSR): Gargantuan Construct, HD 59 (207 hp), AC 18 (Steel 3.5), SPD 22 mph, ACC 4 mph, MVR -4, ATK 1 x 76mm gun, and 4 x light machine guns, CP 5/0, WT 49.6 tons

Panzer IV Tank (Germany): Gargantuan Construct, HD 47 (165 hp), AC 20 (Steel 3.5), SPD 26 mph, ACC 5 mph, MVR -4, ATK 1 x 75mm gun, and 2 x light machine guns, CP 5/0, WT 27.6 tons

Sd.Kfz 250 Armored Car (Germany): Huge Construct, HD 20 (70 hp), AC 16 (Steel 0.5), SPD 47 mph, ACC 10 mph, MVR -4, ATK 2 x light machine guns, CP 2/4, WT 6.4 tons


Boeing 314 Clipper Seaplane (USA): Gargantuan Construct, HD 44 (154 hp), AC 13, SPD 210 mph, MVR +1, CEILING 19k ft, CLIMB 250 fpr, CP 11/74, WT 24.2 tons

Brewster F2A Buffalo (USA): Large Construct, HD 12 (42 hp), AC 20, SPD 321 mph, MVR +5, CEILING 33k ft, CLIMB 410 fpr, CP 1/0, WT 2.4 tons

Junkers Ju 88 Bomber (Germany): Huge Construct, HD 18 (63 hp), AC 15, SPD 317 mph, MVR +1, ATK 5 x light machine guns, and bombs (3,100 lb), CEILING 30k ft, CLIMB 130 fpr, CP 4/0, WT 5 tons

Lisunov Li-2 Bomber (USSR): Huge Construct, HD 25 (88 hp), AC 14, SPD 186 mph, MVR +0, ATK 3 x light machine guns, 1 x heavy machine gun, and bombs (4,400 lb), CEILING 25k ft, CLIMB 200 fpr, CP 6/24, WT 8.7 tons


Admiral Hipper-class Cruiser (Germany): Gigantic Construct, HD 120 (420 hp), AC 3 (Steel 3), SPD 37 mph, MVR -2, ATK 8 x 8” guns, 12 x 4.1” guns, 12 x 1.5” guns, 8 x medium machine guns, and 6 x 21” torpedo tubes, AIR 3 x Arado Ar 196A-3, CP 1372/0, WT 15,900 tons

MS St. Louis Passenger Liner (Germany): Titanic Construct, HD 130 (455 hp), AC 2, SPD 18 mph, MVR -6, CP unknown/973, WT 16,700 tons | Undertook the unsuccessful “Voyage of the Damned” to deliver people from persecution by the Nazis

Scharnhorst-class Battleship (Germany): Titanic Construct, HD 130 (455 hp), AC 25 (Steel 14), SPD 35 mph, MVR -5, ATK 9 x 280mm guns, 12 x 150mm guns, 14 x 4.1” guns, 16 x 37mm, 10 x 20mm, and 6 x 21” torpedo tubes, AIR 3 x Arado Ar 196A-3, CP 1669/0, WT 32,100 tons

In the future, I’m going to produce some supplements that will highlight other time periods, or delve into sci-fi, post-apocalyptic and other kinds of play.

I’m also going to try to make Mystery Men! and Space Princess as broadly compatible as possible with G&V, to give people a nice toolbox to work with.

Give it a chance, if it piques your interest. Print versions will be up for sale in a couple weeks.

$10.99 for a 200 page PDF

LULU

RPGNOW

Until then – stay gritty!

Your Kung-Fu Could be Better …

When writing GRIT & VIGOR, I wanted to include some martial arts. You can’t very well have manly adventures without a few face kicks and quivering palms. To that end, there is a sub-class of fighter called the boxer which is, essentially, the monk class without the supernatural abilities.

Since the game uses feats, I decided to create several feats to simulate different styles of martial arts. All of them have prerequisites, of course, but could probably be taken by 6th level or so. Here’s a little preview of the martial arts master feats. You might find them handy in your game if it uses feats or something similar, or perhaps you could adapt them as special abilities for a martial artist class in your game.

Aikido Master

Prerequisites: Int 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer), Dodge, Expertise

An aikido master can sacrifice his own attacks against a grappled opponent to lock them into combat. Each round, the aikido master makes an attack roll, noting the total. To break the lock, the aikido master’s opponent must make an attack roll with a result higher than the aikido master’s Armor Class and higher than the aikido master’s attack roll. If he fails, he may not move or attack anyone else. If he succeeds, he may either count the attack towards the aikido master and deal damage as normal, or instead move or attack another.

Bagyazhang Master

Prerequisites: Con 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Great Fortitude, Iron Will

The baguazhang master adds his Constitution bonus to his Armor Class and to Reflex saving throws. This is in addition to his Dexterity modifier, not in place of it.

Bartitsu Master

Prerequisites: 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer), Dodge, Look Smart

When the bartitsu master gets his opponent into a grapple, the opponent must pass an Endure task check each round the grapple is maintained or succumb to pain and fall unconscious for 1d4 rounds.

Capoeira Master

Prerequisites: Dex 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Brawler, Lightning Reflexes

When fighting three or more opponents, a capoeira master may make one free trip attack per round, in addition to his normal attack, against one of those opponents.

Jujutsu Master

Prerequisites: Int 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer), Expertise, Trip

When using the throw or trip combat maneuvers, a jujutsu master adds his opponent’s strength bonus to his own strength bonus when rolling his attack roll.

Karate Master

Prerequisites: Str 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Cleave, Power Attack

Karate masters deal triple damage with critical hits when making an unarmed attack. Items rolling a saving throw to avoid being destroyed by a karate master do so at a -2 penalty.

Savate Master

Prerequisites: Str 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Brawler, Power Attack

When a savate master makes a successful unarmed attack against an opponent and rolls a critical hit, the opponent is stunned for one round or knocked prone (player’s choice) in addition to suffering damage.

Taekwondo Master

Prerequisites: Attack bonus +2 or higher, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Flying Kick

You can make an unarmed attack against an opponent that is behind you at no penalty, or strike two flanking opponents by rolling an attack against each and splitting your attack bonus between them.

T’ai Chi Ch’uan Master

Prerequisites: Dex 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer), Dodge, Iron Will

When a t’ai chi ch’uan master is attacked in combat and missed, he may force his opponent to pass a Reflex saving throw or be grappled, or a Fortitude saving throw or be pushed back 5 feet.

Wing Chun Master

Prerequisites: Dex 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Dodge, Great Fortitude

Wing chun masters may re-roll failed saving throws made to resist combat maneuvers.

Xing Yi Quan Master

Prerequisites: Str 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Look Smart, Power Attack

When a xing yi quan master uses his power attack feat against an opponent at +3 to damage and -3 to hit and successfully attacks, he stuns his opponent for 1 round.

Grit & Vigor – Sample Characters

I’m finishing up on the final editing of Grit & Vigor this week (and maybe next), and thought folks might be interested in seeing a few randomly rolled up characters for the game.

The four characters below were created using the normal character generation rules – nothing special, no cheating – and should give you an idea of what 1st level characters might look like in the game.

For the first character, I’ll include a few notes in italics. Keep in mind I’m still editing and testing a bit, so there could be some changes between these fellows and the final product.

Emerson McLeod

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 13 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 17 (+2 bonus)
Charisma: 16 (+2 bonus)

Ability scores are rolled in the “traditional way” (whichever traditional way you like). The bonuses and penalties are as in Blood & Treasure. In this case, I rolled 3d6 in order for the first two characters, and then 4d6 drop the lowest in order for the second two. Honestly – roll the dice however you want!

Alignment: Chaotic Good
Class: Rogue (Private Eye)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 5
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F15 R13 W14

Again, nothing too foreign here. Alignment has much less meaning in this game, since it isn’t bound up on lots of spells and special abilities. The game has four main classes – fighter, scholar, rogue and daredevil, and multiple sub-classes. Private eye is a sub-class of rogue.

Background: Won the big game at school, got chemistry set as kid, talked way out of many scrapes
Knacks: Athletics (Str), Chemistry (Int)
Skills: Cant (Cha), Crack Code (Int), Gather Intelligence (Cha), Hide in Shadows (Dex), Listen at Doors (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Search (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Track (humans only) (Wis)
Feats: Dodge, Improvise
Weapons: Brass Knuckles, Switchblade, Pistol, Revolver
Abilities: Backstab (x2 damage), notice concealed items (1 in 6), notice clues (2 in 6), note deception (4 in 6), get a hint (Will save, mod by Int)
Drive/Hunger: Tobacco

Backgrounds are rolled randomly, usually three rolls, and replace the concept of “racial abilities”, giving starting characters bonus knacks, feats and ability score adjustments. The game uses the same task system as B&T, and feats in this one are not optional. Drives and hungers help flesh out a character – this guy has a tobacco addiction, so he’s probably a heavy smoker.

Starting Money: $80
Spent: $73.85
Gear: Revolver, 20 bullets, lock pick set, switchblade, brass knuckles, business clothes, overcoat, concealed carry holster, standard flashlight, binoculars, fake identification, camera, camera film

The money system uses dollars as a catch-all. I’m still playing with the values, but this gives an idea of a starting character’s equipment. Characters start with $5 to spend per point of Charisma (to keep it from being a dump stat).

Alvin “Doc” Bailey

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 6 (-1 penalty)
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 14 (+1 bonus)
Wisdom: 7 (-1 penalty)
Charisma: 10

Alignment: Neutral
Class: Scholar
Level: 1
Hit Points: 5
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F15 R14 W13

Background: Sneaked out for beer and girls, raised in poverty, worked on a farm
Knacks: Move Silently (Dex)
Skills: Chemistry (Int), Communicate (Cha), Crack Codes (Int), Display Knowledge (Int), Electronics (Int), Mechanics (Int) and Search (Wis)
Feats: Improvise, Toughness
Weapons: Dagger, Revolver
Abilities: Special focus (engineering), jury-rig devices, maximize performance
Drives/Hungers: Danger, Superstition

Starting Money: $50.00
Spent: $41.16
Gear: Dagger, revolver, 12 bullets, smoke grenade, tear gas grenade, gelatine, acid vial, electronics kit, chemistry set, travel bag, casual clothes, hip holster

John Harrow

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 14 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 9
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 10
Charisma: 14 (+1 bonus)

Alignment: Neutral Evil
Class: Fighter (Duelist)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 8
Attack Bonus: +1
Saves: F13 R14 W15

Background: Worked as prize fighter, worked summers on a boat, took fencing lessons from an old master
Knacks: Seafaring
Skills: Bend Bars & Lift Gates (Str), Break Down Doors (Str), Gymnastics (Dex), Jump (Str)
Feats: Dodge, Exploit Weakness, Two-Weapon Fighting
Weapons: Cavalry Saber, Foil, Dagger, Pistol, Rapier
Abilities: Dominate foes, specialist weapon (x2 damage with rapier)
Drive/Hunger: Superstition, Vanity, Women

Starting Money: $70
Spent: $60.65
Gear: Pistol, 50 bullets, 2 daggers, business clothes

Sally Rae Stewart

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 14 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 9
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 14 (+1 bonus)
Charisma: 14 (+1 bonus)

Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Class: Daredevil (Grease Monkey)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 7
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F13 R13 W14

Background: Studied physics, raised in poverty, helped out in the garage
Knacks: Mechanics
Skills: Appraise Value (Motor Vehicles) (Int), Drive Car (Dex), Mechanics (Int), Ride Bike (Dex), Search (Wis)
Feats: Improvise, Modern Archimedes, Stuntman
Weapons: Club, Dagger, Revolver
Abilities: Treat wrenches as maces, maximize performance (motorcycles, cars), increase top speed by 10%, can apply combat feats to vehicles, +1 to hit vehicles, + level in damage to vehicles
Drive/Hunger: Money, Tobacco

Starting Money: $70.00
Spent: $38.50
Equipment: Monkey wrench, revolver, 10 bullets, casual clothes, tool belt, CB radio, mechanical tool kit, duct tape (2 rolls), car opening kit, road flares (3), rope (150’)

Grit & Vigor … Almost Reality

Over the past weekend, I finished Grit & Vigor. Okay, 99% of it. Just need to rewrite an intro and do an appendix on how it can interact with Blood & Treasure. My first round of editing is done, though, and I have to say I’m pretty jazzed. When I write these things, I often write (and re-write) them in pieces, somewhat in the way movies are filmed. Reading through it to edit it was the first time I’d really look at it from cover to cover, and overall I was happy for two reasons:

1) I kept getting ideas for adventures and characters while I was reading

2) I kept statting characters in my head, and they made sense with the rules I’d written

G&V has been a pretty long time coming. It started life as Action X, but I never really liked the name and the game, as it stood then essentially a reworking of the Modern SRD into a more rules lite vehicle, had no soul. The shift to Grit & Vigor and “manly adventure stories” helped quite a bit – gave the game some direction and made it more fun for me.

What I thought I would do with this post is give a somewhat extensive “table of contents” for the game, so people could see what it looks like currently. My comments are in brackets. Here goes …

I. Rugged Individualists: Creating Your Character

… Ability Score [the basic six – you know them]
… Character Backgrounds [this replaces “race”, and consists of random rolls on tables to determine the four big moments in your character’s young life, and the feats or knacks or ability bonuses that go along with them]
… Character Classes
… … Fighters [with sub-classes Boxer, Commando, Dragoon, Dreadnought, Duelist, Gunfighter, Man-At-Arms, Ranger, Samurai and Sapper]
… … Brain [with sub-classes Archaeologist, Gentleman Detective and Inventor]
… … Rogue [with sub-classes Assassin, Gentleman, Grifter and Gumshoe]
… … Daredevil [with sub-classes Ace Reporter, Barnstormer, Big Game Hunter, Cowboy, Gearhead, Jungle Lord, Medic, Spaceman and Vigilante]
[The sub-classes are all really just variations of the main class, so they’re pretty simple for the most part and don’t take up much room]
… Feats [more integral to G&V than B&T]
… Character Details
… … Alignment
… … Drives and Hungers
… … Personality and Description
… … Patrons

II. Tools of the Trade: Gear and Gadgets for the Adventurous Man
… [this includes weapons, protective gear, artillery, miscellaneous gear and vehicles]

III. Man Versus: Overcoming Challenges and Providing Sound Thrashings
… [the basic rules of play, including rules for intoxicants and radiation]
… Tasks
… … Charisma: Cant, Communicate, Don Disguise, Etiquette, Gather Intelligence, Handle Animal, Hypnotize, Influence People, Perform, Throw Voice
… … Constitution: Endure
… … Dexterity: Drive Car, Escape Bonds, Gymnastics, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Open Lock, Pilot Aircraft, Ride Bike, Ride Mount, Shoot Billiards, Ski, Sky Dive, Sleight of Hand, Surf, Woodworking
… … Intelligence: Appraise Value, Bomb Target, Chemistry, Crack Code, Demolitions, Display Knowledge, Electronics, Forge Document, Gunnery, Mechanics, Practice Vocation, Survive Outdoors, Treat Injury
… … Strength: Athletics, Bend Bars & Lift Gates, Break Down Doors, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Jump, Swim
… … Wisdom: Gamble, Listen at Doors, Prospect, Seafaring, Search, Spelunk, Track
… Combat [includes the special maneuvers Airplane Spin, Bum Rush, Dazzle, Gouge, Ranged Disarm and Ranged Sunder]
… … Zero-Gravity Combat
… Damage & Death [includes rules for “the death scene”]
… Vehicles [I think I have some very simple rules for vehicle combat and chases here – pretty happy with them]

IV. Bold Ventures: Designing Adventures and Campaigns
… Genres: Crime, Espionage, Expeditions into the Unknown, Horror, Kung-Fu, Mystery & Suspense, Siege, War
… Timeline of Adventure: this covers the decades from 1880 to 1929, with notes on the overall happenings of the decade, fashion, adventure ideas, the price of gold and silver and then a year-by-year timeline of events that lend themselves to the game (wars, robberies, expeditions, discoveries, inventions) and stats for weapons and vehicles (and other things) introduced in that year, and some NPC stats worked in (see example to left)

V. Men & Monsters: Fearsome Foes to Fight and Conquer
… [the typical monster section, with an emphasis on animals and humans, but some cryptids and science-fantasy stuff thrown in as well]

Appendix A: The Supernatural
… [the book includes mentions of the supernatural throughout, especially in the Men & Monsters section, but I decided to separate the supernatural rules from the main rules in this appendix so people would understand that they are truly optional]
… Psychic Phenomena [rules for the chances a character is psychic, and list and description of psychic powers]
… Supernatural Sub-Classes [Occultist, Psychic and Vampire Hunter – all sub-classes of the Brain]

So that’s the book, as it now stands. There’s some more layout work to do, a bit more playtesting to do, and a bit more writing to do. At the moment, it looks good for a Fall release.