Archive for the ‘Roll Dem Bones’ Category


Oooooh A New Phantom Movie on Television

June 17, 2010

Roll Dem Bones

by Alan Meranda

What does one make of a new Phantom movie that takes a classic hero and modernizes them? Strike that. Blasts the classic hero into a futuristic world is a more apt description.  All of us get to see this Sunday on the SYFY Channel, 7PM EST.

“The Phantom is one of the first ‘masked’ heroes to come out of the 1930s,” said Dynamite president and publisher Nick Barrucci. “This story is a passion project for all involved. … This is the journey of today’s Kit Walker, who is working towards making the world a better place through the Walkabout Foundation.  But can he escape destiny?  And where will this adventure bring him?”

SYFY has found a way to more than irritate their fan base with movie adaptations of pulp classics. The recent Princess of Mars received a fair drubbing.  Let’s use the first Iron Man film as an example. The film was not shot with state-of-the-art computer graphics technology. The film worked beyond the special effects driven nature of the film. The plot was solid but not blatantly divergent from what most fans of Iron Man recognize as canon.

It’s hard to take SYFY serious in their movie efforts. It’s annoying, boring and tiresome to see the same recycled CGI spiders and scorpions in five different movies. Hollywood in the past was notorious for B-movies and dare I say: grindhouse movies. Yet out of some of those B-movies, classics were made. Tarantino hopped on the grindhouse garbage truck and tried to convince folks that exploitation was more than schlock.

As any serious fan realizes that sci-fi isn’t science fiction. We are at a huge cinematic cross-road. The film industry can now take any work of classic literature, comic book, historical tale, pulp novel, science fiction classic and create a realistic representation of that world. What do the makers of films inflict on us? Transformers movies, movies based off of computer games and movies off of television shows. Most people don’t really want to see a Gilligan’s Island movie.

If a movie like The Phantom is faithful in its scope to the original classic tales of the Phantom all of us would appreciate that. Just don’t give us a dish of dog poop and tell us its chocolate ice cream.

Here’s an overview of the SYFY Phantom movie.


Zombies in the Night

June 1, 2010

Roll Dem Bones

by Alan Meranda

Once again we are delving into an intriguing posting at the Savage Worlds Yahoo Group for Savage Worlds.


> Hi Fellow Savages,

>I’m trying to model the kind of zombies seen in films like 28 Days Later, and was wondering if anyone had any suggestions. So rather than the slow, groaning walking dead of the George Romero sort, these guys are really fast and really angry 🙂 I want a group of 3 or so to be a challenge even for a veteran (40 XP character. I already have a mechanism for the infection (it’s not nearly as fast as the movie, more a slow, gradual thing with the possibility of a cure).

 > Also, does anyone have good general tips for how to scale the opposition to be an appropriate challenge to a group of PCs? For example, are there any guidelines for how much toughness, parry, and damage an opponent should have for a PC of a given # of XP?

 >Thanks for any help,

 > Manu



In the Game Aids section of the Savage Worlds forum I posted a Zombie Escalation table. It’s brutal, but the intent is to perpetuate the hopelessness of fighting a growing swarm of undead.

 The Gang-Up rule from Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition states: “Ganging up on a foe allows attackers to flank, exploit openings, and harass their outnumbered opponent.
Each additional adjacent foe adds +1 to all the attackers’ Fighting rolls, up to a maximum of +4.” This is huge when a mob of zombies attack.

 The Zombie Mechanism
Another concept to realize about zombies is soft tissue disease and infection carried by zombies. Zombies smell their prey. The soft tissues of nasal passages and throat are diseased and corrupted. When a zombie smells something beyond its undead stench, it triggers a surge of electrical activity that inspires them to action. Instead of shambling the zombie chases after the prey it smells. Because of the cellular corruptions of the soft membranes; the zombies have a heightened sense of smell (bonus to the Notice roll). When the zombies “smell” prey it also triggers an endorphin rush (bonus to Agility based rolls) and adrenaline surge (bonus to Strength based rolls). The zombies also have a bump to their ability to hunt down their prey (bonus to Tracking roll equal to the bonus given to the Notice roll).

Characters encountering the zombie, by smelling the zombie stench, risk infection. A small burst template would be the area of potential infection. The test is a Vigor roll. A Failure means the infection takes hold in several hours equal to a roll based on the infected characters Vigor. A Critical Failure is much worse. The infection occurs within minutes instead of hours. One further necessary check is a Guts check after the character realizes they have been infected.

The bottom-line goal is to make zombies a fearsome creature to be avoided.

 ~Horror Master Noire


Slaying the Dragon

May 15, 2010

Roll Dem Bones

by Alan Meranda

Just saying “Slaying the Dragon” is an evocative statement. Swords swung by soldiers in silver armor striking the serpentine neck. You get the picture, more importantly the feeling of that experience. Those of us that are of the gamer persuasion, ahem, role-playing gamer, quite possibly have entered into combat with a dragon in the past. The complicated part is the “slaying” portion of the encounter. Or is it?

I have been into gaming for over 30 years. Yesh, most of that was playing D&D. I have progressed from D&D into Savage Worlds. Savage Worlds is a simple and powerful gaming system with incredible flexibility at the core of the play. The fruits of my joining with the Savage Worlds gaming system is Pulp Nocturne 1930, a supernatural horror setting in 1930’s New York. Within Pulp Nocturne 1930 I have blended many of the elements found within Call of Cthulhu along with the atmosphere of film noir. Throw in some pulp heroics and you are feeling me dog.

Now the cartoon question mark over your head in a thought bubble is: “What does this have to do with Slaying Dragons?” It was important for me to develop the foundation for the whole concept of “Slaying the Dragon”. Let’s see, the “Dragon” portion of D&D has classically been the ending point of most role-playing adventures. It’s the last part of the journey, the destination. Shocker of shockers, it doesn’t always have to be a dragon. In Pulp Nocturne 1930, it could be one of many supernatural forces drawn to a gathering of immense cosmic repercussions. Heck, it could even be a waiflike girl in the vein of Wednesday Addams in stature.

Gaming wisdom ignored too often by the players: When dealing with dragons tis good to remember thou art tasty with ketchup. I asked one of the gamers in my Sunday gaming group, Matt Bielanski abut slaying dragons. Matt’s recollection was being able to overcome a green dragon that was younger. This is a way of looking at the whole gaming experience. Gamers will be able to tell you all kinds of stories about their gaming adventures: the conquests, the bone head stunts and everything in between. My friend John Jamieson relishes telling other gamers about a convention role-playing game where both of us killed off SG-1 of Stargate.

“Slaying the Dragon” is essentially a metaphor and also a euphemism. It’s the meaning of the game overall. You strive as the player to get to that finality. The game master also wants to get the players to that point. But in the games I run I try to make it a long difficult ordeal. It had better not be easy for the players. The efforts that any game master goes to make that happen are quite honestly Herculean. Its not finding a $50 dollar bill in the parking lot after having spent all your money and most of the night carousing. A solid gaming experience has to give everybody concerned, players and game master alike, an opportunity to discover, explore and grow. For the players, that can come from encounters that are not necessarily obvious regarding a course of action.

This metaphor from the Heroes TV show that I twisted around comes to mind:  “Slay the Dragon, Slay the GM”. Sometimes a game master has to gloat over a good roll that causes anguish to the players. By the same balance, in a past Pulp Nocturne 1930 game using the Savage Worlds rules, I had a player perpetrate 68 points of damage, with a whip no less, against a supernatural entity that was in the form of a clown. After deducting for all the benefits of being a supernatural entity it still caused seven wounds of damage! That killed off one of the sinister uber villains in the game. That villain was supposed to get the players via parlay to the answer behind the “mcguffin” hunt.

One thing that I would like to submit is that players are too often their own worst enemy. Not all encounters are intended to be solved by physical violence. In one of the recent adventures of Pulp Nocturne 1930, the players encountered somebody that was after one of there friends. Rather than discovering, exploring and investigating why their friend was targeted, the players took the “Chicago” approach and attacked the individual chasing after their friend. Let’s just say:  Supernatural Entity 10, players 0. One of the players took me to task for putting them up against something that had a Toughness of 18. Let’s change this encounter: Your trusty party of fantasy adventures enters a cavern. Its pitch black inside and you indirectly realize that something in here is rather big and bothered you are there. Do you draw a sword and strike at the only thing you have identified, its serpentine neck?

Nothing that I do in the role-playing games I run is ever a transitional adventure. Transitional adventures are predictable and too often lack imagination. Most plot elements need to have attachments to other plot elements. Sometimes you need to nudge the players in a particular direction; otherwise what happens is unexpected and far from boring. Doing things like this results in a gaming experience, regardless of genre, that takes on a seemingly natural atmosphere and allows everybody to enjoy things more.

“Slaying the Dragon” even takes on some lofty philosophical ideals. It’s the wisdom behind that ideal that players and the game master need to realize and apply to everything that matters and has meaning to them. One last aspect to consider is that ultimately having fun in whatever you do results in “Slaying the Dragon”.


Another View to a Truth?

April 28, 2010

Roll Dem Bones

I have to admit that where Pulp Nocturne 1930 comes from is something of a mystery. It could be claimed that Pulp Nocturne 1930 comes from an amalgamation of Film noir, Pulp fiction and the musical term Nocturne. Pulp Nocturne 1930 is an ongoing supernatural horror clawing at the sensibilities of normal and rending it apart. Pulp Nocturne 1930 is relentless and liquid: A darkness flowing into every exposed nook and cranny seeping slowly deeply within and filling the soul with terror and dread.

Pulp Nocturne 1930 is the inexplicable unbearable wetness of sensation crawling upon your flesh. This doesn’t rub off; it clings and spreads with growing horrific visions and impact soiling the sensibilities irrevocably that the world around us makes sense.

Below are some of the definitions classically associated to loosely explain, yet they do not define the truths.

Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood’s classic film noir period is generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hard-boiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Depression.

The term film noir (French for “black film”), first applied to Hollywood movies by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, was unknown to most American film industry professionals of the classic era. Cinema historians and critics defined the noir canon in retrospect; before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic film noirs were referred to as melodramas.

Film noir is a loosely defined category that refers primarily to stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize moral ambiguity and sexual motivations. The original attempt at a definition—by French cineastes Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton in 1955—described film noir as “oneiric, strange, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel.” In 2005, American author Charles Pappas declared film noir to be “the language of losers…always about the same things: Sex. Violence. Money.” Decades of debate over what constitutes film noir have resulted in no critical consensus. Thus, the applicability of the term film noir to characterize any given movie is subjective. The term was used neither in the American movie industry nor in American film criticism during most of the 1940s and 1950s, the period now regarded as the classic era of film noir.

Pulp magazines (or pulp fiction; often referred to as “the pulps”) were inexpensive fiction magazines. They were published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, a half an inch thick and 128 pages long. Pulps were printed on cheap paper with ragged, untrimmed edges.

In fact, the name “pulp” comes from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. Magazines printed on better paper were called “glossies” or “slicks.” In their first decades, they were most often priced at ten cents per magazine, while competing slicks were 25 cents apiece. Pulps were the successor to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short fiction magazines of the nineteenth century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, the magazines are best remembered for their lurid and exploitative stories and sensational cover art. Modern superhero comic books are sometimes considered descendants of “hero pulps”; pulp magazines often featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, and the Phantom Detective.

Pulp magazines often contained a wide variety of genre fiction, including, but not limited to, fantasy/sword and sorcery, gangster, detective/mystery, science fiction, adventure, westerns (also see Dime Western), war, sports, railroad, romance, horror/occult (including “weird menace”), “spicy/saucy” (soft porn), and Série Noire (French crime mystery). The American Old West was a mainstay genre of early turn of the century novels as well as later pulp magazines, and lasted longest of all the traditional pulps. In many ways, the later men’s adventure (“the sweats”) was the replacement of pulps. Many classic science fiction and crime novels were originally serialized in pulp magazines such as Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, and Black Mask.

 A nocturne (from the French for nocturnal) is usually a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night. Historically, nocturne is a very old term applied to night Offices and, since the Middle Ages, to divisions in the canonical hour of Matins.

(Note: Elements of the definitions portion of this document originated from Wikipedia.)



April 25, 2010

Roll Dem Bones

The following commentary comes from a discussion on the Savage Worlds Yahoo group.


I don’t normally allow that in all of my Savage World games. I would like to point out that in so doing that it places the magic user with a greater chance for magical backlash to devastate them. Another thing to look at is in the Fantasy Companion is an Arcane Background Edge called Alchemist. It would be easy to adapt the tenets of that to make an Artificer. With some tweaking, you can have a magic user able to craft magical items and still cast under the auspices of one Edge.

Now a magic user that does elemental magic probably should have a primary devotion. Secondary devotions, different trappings, could be used with each new Rank attainment. The secondary devotion would cost one Power Point more than the primary devotion. Trappings would allow them to modify the different elemental focus and what they could do. Finally I would think if they had ie. fire as their primary devotion that the secondary devotion(s) could not be an elemental focus in direct opposition, water.

— In, Telas <TelasTX@…> wrote:
> In my campaign, magic is divided up into elemental (magic) and divine
> (miracles).  AB is house-ruled as a profession, which allows anyone to take
> it.  Once taken, you have access to all the elemental spells or the divine
> spells (but you only start with 2-3, as normal).
> The possibility exists of taking a second AB, and one of my players is
> interested in it. * I’d like to know your opinions on “what you should get”
> for that.  *
> A couple of questions:
>    – Is the new PP pool is mingled with the old one, or does it stand on its
>    own? If mingled, how many PP does the new AB Edge bring with it?  (0, 5, or
>    10?)  The campaign setting could go both ways on this.
>    – Does taking the AB Edge a second time grants the full compliment of
>    powers, or just one power?
> Regardless, the new Skill (Spellcasting or Faith) must be bought and built
> up.  You can’t suddenly cast elemental spells by Faith alone…
> A few options:
>    – Just like the *New Power* Edge, you get one spell of the new ‘domain’,
>    but can take more later.  PP are drawn from one pool, which you can modify
>    with Rapid Recharge, etc.  No additional PP are gained.
>    – Just like taking the *Arcane Background* Edge the first time, you get
>    2-3 new powers, and 10 PP in its own pool, subject to its own modifiers.
>    – You gain 1-3 new power(s), and 5 or so new PP in the ‘mingled’ pool.
>    This is entirely new to the game, but it is what the player seems to want.
> I don’t see anyone taking Option 1, mainly because it is so expensive, and
> SW characters are most effective when they specialize, not when they
> generalize.
> On the other hand, Option 2 *seems *like a bookkeeping hassle.
> Option 3 looks like a kludge, no matter how you cut it.
> Thanks for any input!
> Telas
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



April 17, 2010

Roll Dem Bones  

The following is a post that appeared at the Savage Worlds Yahoo Group. It brought back memories of role-playing games past and the intense debates about character balance, the dungeon master and you the player.

The amazing thing about Savage Worlds is the flexibility to make characters that are realistic and powerful. The realism adds so much more to role-playing the character being played. Which often results in some of the more amusing experiences the player can and does enjoy.

Kudos to Shane Hensley and company for this powerful tenet of the Savage Worlds role-playing game experience.

Building races

Posted by: “Bruce Anderson”   germund40

Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:17 pm (PDT)I’m making another attempt to convert Sky Realms of Jorune to Savage Worlds, and having a few issues with converting the races. Without going into too many painful details at this point (I’m still hammering out the final details), the Jorune player character races are fairly complex and it has taken quite a few Hindrances and Edges to reproduce them. At this point, the non-human races (Muadra and Boccord) are sitting at -6 points for  hindrances and +8 points for edges. Is this too many? Even the Humans in the setting are at -2/+4 (including the free bonus edge). I was thinking to keep the Muadra and Boccord from getting too out of control that I should suggest that at creation they do not get to take any additional Hindrances or Edges. Would this be out of line?I realize it would be easier for others to judge by actually seeing the
races, and I will post them when I get them closer to completion. If anyone has any general advice on this at this point, however, I would appreciate it.



Bruce Anderson

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

– Alexander Solzhenitsyn


 Allow to point out something about races that are chock full of special characteristics. Most everybody decides that the race in particular can do all of those special characteristics immediately without penalty or learning curve. It’s human nature.

Rather than the race not being faithful to the intent of its original source, why not have the race start with a few of its many characteristics at Novice rank. At Seasoned rank, the remaining characteristics arrive, similar to puberty and/or social enlightenment.

You aren’t denying the player anything, they just have to wait to get everything.

Back in the day this was the solution to balance the Elven Drow which had so many powers and little means to balance them in a reasonable means.

Horror Master Noire


Pig Sticker Etiquette 101

December 16, 2009


Roll Dem Bones

Out of mind on Tuesday moanin’! This my unofficial review of Battlefields 2009, which is a miniatures gaming convention run by ProorCon,,  at facilities on the campus of University of Michigan in Dearborn, Michigan. It was a wonderful experience as far as gaming conventions go. As expected I got to play in a civil wars game run by John Holcomb. John had a wonderful miniatures board set up. The rule set used was the regimental version of Fire and Fury, which also happened to be some quasi-beta version of rules yet to officially be published. I was more familiar with the brigade version of the game and greatly enjoy playing that version of the rules. 

Allow me to take a moment to explain what the difference is in playing brigade vs. regimental rules. On the field of play you have an army designation, usually 8-10 stands with three soldiers on each stand. Brigade play involves each stand representing several hundred soldiers and regimental which represents usually less than a hundred soldiers. Playing brigade rules is a better way to simulate the entire battlefield of a battle, ie. Gettysburg. Regimental rules allow you to focus on a smaller element of a major battle like Gettysburg, ie. The battle of the Roundtops. 

My point being, rules make a huge difference in how much enjoyment one might get out of a game. At Battlefields was this detailed role-playing game with a focus on miniature play adaptation of Stargate SG-1 run by Glen Cooley. The game featured a wonderfully detailed board set-up with a Jaffa pyramid ship and a planet-side representation of an ancient Egyptian-like pyramid complex. The attention to detail was astounding. Glen was using an adapted Spycraft D20 rule set for running the action. I am not a fan of D20 anymore. I have found joy and exhilaration running and playing Savage Worlds role-playing games. With the Savage Worlds rule set you get fast, furious fun without all the rules headaches of D20.

Glen Cooley told John Jamison and myself that he will be running his game at the Origins Gaming Convention and this is one game not to miss. Further, if you can’t wait until Origins, there is a good chance that you will see this game at MichiCon 2009 at the top of May. 

Now that I have done my part about some of my experiences at some of the gaming events at ProorCon, lets talk a bit about rules and swordplay in a role-playing game environment. I have been pondering this for as while. Some of this was inspired by a Star Wars RPG game John Jamison will be running using the Savage Worlds rule set. Quite honestly, the hardest character to capture for role-playing games is a Jedi. Jedi are the most twinked-out characters because of all the things that they can do with so many different character disciplines. The term twinked out comes from the award of a Hostess Twinkie that GM’s I have played with in the past gave to the players that found the most creative ways to abuse and misuse rules common and available to all players in the game.

A Jedi can do all these Force powers like: telekinesis, mind-control, lightning bolts, master swordsmanship, a weapon that deflects energy weapon blasts back at its source and a multitude of other powers. The light saber cuts through most anything, and as John Jamison describes, its damage is not character strength dependent. For simplicity sake I believe in KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) when it comes to role-playing games and that’s why Savage Worlds is so elegant. But herein lies the conundrum to all role-playing games. In a sword fight, not only is the sword an attack weapon, it is also used significantly for defense. Does a sword improve armor class and if so by how much?

Part of this comes from watching some programs on the History Channel, Warrior and Battles BC. Take a katana for example. It’s a rare and expensive sword in most settings. A katana does excessive amounts of damage depending on the role-playing system. Yet the missing intention in providing a katana weapon in game play is what a warrior can truly do with it. A warrior trained in the use of a katana should do excessive damage. A run of the mill warrior might be able to use a katana as a sword but would lack the elegance and skill to use it to it’s greatest potential, hence, the defensive bonus to armor class. An obvious thought on this is as a warrior gets more experienced; they too will improve their defensive uses with the katana. 

Savage Worlds, has as part of their rule set, an element called Parry. Parry accounts for a character being able to defend themselves in hand-to-hand melee combat. Basically how difficult it is to hit them in combat. A character’s Toughness determines how much damage happens to them after a successful attack that beats their Parry score. In addition, armor can also soak damage. This is the basis of Savage Worlds, simple, elegant and it works. With no hard rule set in place, a GM can make simple effective adaptations to account for a katana or light saber as they feel it applies to the gaming experience they are sharing with their players.

Wow! Over 900 words to get this out and share with you. Remember, sharing is good. Share your gaming experiences at the Metro Detroit Gamers website:  Roll Dem’ Bones!