Houses of the Blooded fanfic: Dawn County

Meanwhile in Dawn County

The Dream Treader, pride of the Dawn County fleet, was on the horizon just as the sun rose. Their elder countess, just on the cusp of Solace, knew the importance of timing.  The countess had summoned her barons to the Rust Pier, an iron and orichalcum dock jutting out into the ocean, a monument the Sorcerer King’s left behind, made to dock ships not seen since the Sorcerer King’s departure. Some said they departed to other worlds in their sorcerous arks.

The countess’ House Guard docked first, in their smaller vessel, taking up points all over the pier, spears on their shoulders, free hands on the small of their own backs. Two veiled guards stripped down and went into the water with only their veils and their spears. When they climbed out of the water, having checked in the depths around the dock, the barons could see a spider-web tattoo over the veiled house guards’ hearts.

The Dream Treader was made by the countess’ brother, who crafted ships the way the Blooded of the Fox made opera. They say he built the Dream Treader after a vision sent to him by the Suaven. He was long dead, taken by a tentacled orc with marble white skin and veins pumping green blood to some dark heart or hearts. Old as the countess was, the whispers at the capital said she hunted for that beast still, hoping to avenge her brother. Darker whispers from the Blooded of the Serpent said she hoped to yet find her sibling alive. Others say she wandered the seas because she was an elder Blooded of the Falcon and the roads held no thrill for her anymore. Being so close to solace gave her an appreciation for the ocean’s deep mysteries over the road’s dangers.

Her clothes were white and blue, silk waves crashing into one another, brown wooden buttons of small brown boats up her side. I am ready for Solace but there are mysteries I want to unravel and there is work to do. The colors varied in their proportions but as the seasons passed, she made it clear that she was ready for Solace, ready to join the suaven as a revered ancestor/demi-god but some lore eluded her and finding that lore was work yet unfinished.

Her slow approach from her brother’s masterpiece on to the rusted metal dock was finished when the sun turned the dawn into a bright morning.  Her barons bowed and her feet turned to a fencing ready position and she muttered, “Tell me of love, fiend!” but her eyes became clear again and she looked suddenly surprised to find her barons before her.

“I’m back, my barons,” she said, smiling.  “I’m before you.” Even as she said that, her eyes clouded over and slight twitches made it clear that she was reliving some part of her life, some past moment, like watching someone dream while standing upright. Her hair had strands of what seemed to be a sticky webbing, as if she was falling through a cloud and some stuck to her and her eyes had grownmilky.

One minute and wind. Two minutes and spray off the docks as the tide became angry. Three minutes and the Dream Treader took some water from incoming waves. Four minutes and the barons stayed still, suddenly in a silent contest to see who would move first, who would show bad form. The serpent’s daughter, not yet old enough to wield her sword, didn’t move, didn’t flinch, didn’t even shift her weight while the countess drifted away and back.

She returned to the present with a smile at the youngling and the little girl smiled back. “What does it feel like, countess, great crone of the sea? What does it feel like to be this close to your honored end?”

Her father showed no expression. The other barons held their breath.

“Children. Lovely,” she declared, her posture and tone expressing dangerous anger while staring at the girl’s father but then the anger lifted and she smiled at the child, “It feels as if my life is a book that is almost entirely written and the winds of my life are rifling through the pages. I find myself in the midst of  old chapters, passionate moments, those moments when the dice were rolled and my fate was decided through style and cunning.” Her eyes became clear and suddenly she was rooted in the moment, pages no longer turning in the wind.

“Your child belongs in the capital, baron. I will see to her appointment as a handmaiden for the Duchess of the Fox. She will do well there. She is wasted playing petty games on the frontier.”

“Thank you, my countess.”

And that was how she came to the Hub of All Revenge, capital city of Shanri.

In which Judd fantasizes about how he’d end his game-fast.

Game-fast: in which a gamer stops playing games in order to focus on other pursuits and goals.

In N.Y.C.:

  • Solo Houses of the Blooded game with Janaki where she can ride dragons, get into duels, adventure in Puzzle Houses, debate ven policy in the Senate and have sexy romances.
  • Sit down with Rob, Jason, Witt, Melissa and Janaki and play Misspent Youth.
  • Get together with Bret and run a Ghost Rider Marvel Heroic game where folks who can make it show up and guest star as their favorite Marvel characters.
  • In a Wicked Age with Bret, Janaki, and Carly with sangria and mojitos.

In Ithaca:

  • I’d show up to Barry’s house in the middle of the night, plop down World of Dungeons and a 1 Page Dungeon in my clipboard and play until the sun comes up or City of Fire and Coin, depending on who is around.
  • Sit down with Paula, B.C., Cole and Evan and play Monsterhearts on summer evenings.
  • Get my roommates, Anthony, Andrew and Sarah, to the table and make characters around Anthony’s idea of playing an Imperial Engineer in the Warhammer world using Burning Wheel.
  • Grab my old Tiefling Rogue/Sorcerer and jump into Jim, Charlotte and Aaron’s 4e game.
Visitors and Such
  • City of Fire and Coin with Drew and whoever is in arm’s reach.
  • Dust Devils with Samurai with my dad.
  • Marvel Heroic’s Civil War with Storn, Pete, Anthony, Andrew and Sarah.

But I won’t. I’m staying on target and keeping those flying monkeys in the sky. And ya know, as much as I want to game it feels good to put it aside and concentrate on what is important. It will make gaming that much more satisfying once it hits the table again.

The job search grind is grinding on me.

Leading Chargen, an underrated GM skill

In the realm of GM skills, facilitating character creation is the most under-rated. That is what I’m looking for when folks are making characters, that moment when their eyes light up because we’ve figured out together a way for the person at the table to put on that character’s clothes, something has made a connection. The next important step for me, something done right there at the table is making damn sure that character is as hooked in to the campaign as the player is hooked in to the character.

Like a fighter wins the fight through the hard work of their training camp, or a strong weight lifter lifts the weight based on how well they set up their mind, feet and posture before the lift, as a GM, the strength of the campaign is based on how well I lead that character generation. Leadership, to me, isn’t being overbearing but being a strong and fun hand in making the foundation of our gaming.

Important Parts of Chargen

  • Questions – asking players questions about their character, players asking the GM questions about the world, everyone getting a feel for the game.
  • Concept – everyone has to be bought in, excited about the idea that is bringing you all together every week.
  • Firm and Clear – if something feels odd, say so, voice your fears clearly, always with everyone’s fun in mind and never with keeping some kind of lame-ass patriarchal control of the table at stake. “I’m worried that this character has no motivation to do anything exciting.” “I’m worried that this is another bad-ass ninja-wolverine who is going to sit with his back to the wall growling all game.” “I’m worried that this character isn’t combat capable enough to survive.”

I’ve talked, e-mailed, IMed and skyped with tons of gamers who are having campaign trouble and every time it is linked to either some kind of real life power discrepancy at the table (“I can’t kick him out of the group; he’s our landlord/boss/whatever”) or something that went wrong or showed its face during character creation.

My friend, Anthony, taught me this and he taught it to me by making characters that he wouldn’t have any fun playing but more importantly, he made characters that made it impossible for us to enjoy his presence at the table.  We were playtesting Houses of the Blooded and in a game we had decided was friendly, he made a bastard/jerk of a sorcerer.

Me: What are you doing during the opera?

Anthony: My character is going into an alley, trying to dig up secrets about the other characters, hating the world, hating himself, hating and hating.

Me: Okay, what do you do after that is done, man? Are you interested in playing this game?

He insisted that he was and when scenes would pop up where his character was off, bathing in hate, he’d gleefully take up roles as NPC servants or children or peasants or whatever. When he was given space to contribute to the game he was great but his character wasn’t helping.

Some folks would recommend going after the sorcerer with in-game but I have found that responding to a real world problem with fictional consequences is a terrible way of dealing with a problem. Harsh in-game consequences to crazy amazing crap your players do (pulling dragon’s tail, so to speak) is great. Harsh in-game consequences because someone is having trouble or being a jerk, not so great.

I wrestled with how to approach him. I imagined myself saying, “Your character sucks! What the eff, man?!” or “Bring that character in the game or make a new one.”

I find a nicer and more true way to articulate my thoughts, “Anthony, I like playing with you and this character is standing between you and the rest of the table because of the way you see him acting. Let’s make a character that let’s us play Houses of the Blooded with my good friend, Anthony.”

He smiled, his eyes lit up and we made up a new character. His evil sorcerer had a son, already established in game, and he made up that character. We decided the son had killed the father. All around, it was a fitting metaphor and best of all, we had Anthony back at the table, contributing and playing hard.

Holidays of the Blooded

I had to cancel the upcoming Houses of the Blooded game with the Thursday Posse but still day-dream about the world.  Making up fantasy holidays is good fun, here are some ven holidays.


“We celebrate the leaving of the aelva danna by gathering with our neighbors and watching the stars, thus strengthening our alliances and making the blooded more strong.”

“And don’t forget the watching of the stars, that is important too.”


“To watch for signs that the wicked ones are returning..”

This is said to be celebrating the anniversary of the Sorcerer-King’s leaving shanri or the date when the blooded rose up under their banners and drove them out, depending on who you ask.

Exodus is celebrated by visiting a neighbor, making tight bonds and strengthening the ven.  Some think this strength must be present in order to defend the ven when the Sorcerer-Kings return.  These bonds are made during lavish feasts under the stars, during which the blooded make pacts with their neighbors and watch the constellations in the crisp autumn air.

It is an auspicious day for wedding announcements and the planning of as-yet unborn ven’s tutoring.


“What if the sword is not my strong suit?  What of ven who see their souls represented in a quill or a sorcerous tome?”

“Ven have always been artists and scholars.  That is fine.  But on this day we set aside those tools and remember why we are blooded and the martial responsibilities at the heart of our baronies, counties and duchies.”

“But what if-“

“Then you lie and pay homage to the sword.”

This is the day the blooded spend with their swords, remembering the weapon that represents their lordly power.  This is also the day when those who have taken the black and gone under a veil may return via Senatorial decree.  If a great martial deed was done, a sword might be officially named on this day.  If a sword was damaged beyond repair, it would be buried in the family plot, just like any other living relative.

Swordsday is an auspicious day for a duel and an inauspicious day, bordering on bad form, to take the red and set aside one’s blade for the weapon of revenge, the knife.  It is never an auspicious day for Mass Murder.


“Thank you for being my teacher.”

“No, it doesn’t work like that.  When one is poisoned at a Thanksgiving feast, the poisoned must thank the poisoner in some sincere manner in order to get the antidote.  I haven’t poisoned you.”

“Oh, I didn’t understand.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t understand.  You should thank me for being your student, as I just poisoned you.”

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with blood relatives and the best of friends in order to feast.  It is also a time to play cunning games, as a tradition is to poison someone you love.  It is bad form to let the poison run its course and allow them to die.  Instead, the poisoning must be announced and the poisoned is given the opportunity to tell the poisoner why they are thankful to have such a person in their life.

Very often, someone is poisoned because they have taken someone in their life for granted.

This is an auspicious holiday for breaking off romances in order to concentrate on one’s life at home.

Entering Dawn County, please enjoy your stay.

I like these quiet little moments before the storm.  It reminds me of Beethoven.  Can you hear it? Its like, when you put your head to the grass.  You can hear them crawling.  You can hear the insects.


We finished up our Burning Wheel game, in which the players spent their dragon’s hoard, killed the serpent pope, unveiled the trinity who rule the Thieves’ Guild and started a wizard’s college founded on the concepts of adventuring, sorcery and carousing (its the wizardly party school, as per their whoring founder).  We stuck with Versus tests and it was good fun.

Next up for us is Houses of the Blooded.  I read over the descriptions of the counties and we agreed to set the game in Dawn County.

Dawn County

Description: These islands are on the easternmost face of Shanri.  The seas beyond Dawn County are guarded by ferocious orcs, bred by the Sorcerer Kings to both guard their eastern shores and thwart the escape of their slaves by boat.  The county seat is a sprawling port city called Garshan di’Nathorc Haas (Where Slaughter Rests) or as the peasants call it, Scabbard City.  Unethen I’ilinnen (High Kings Sword) is the river that runs from the capital city in central Shanri to the east coast.

Nickname:  The Sunrise Barons

Count: Your countess is a fearless admiral of a fleet.  A baron would have a difficult time figuring out where she might show up as she is often out hunting sea orc or whaling or using one of these pretenses as an excuse to visit one of her barons without warning.  She is an old ven, the crone of the sea, who will likely fade from the world before too long.  Some say she will become a suaven prayed to by sailors and fisher-folk.

Her husband is Blooded of the Bear and rules the city with an iron fist while raising their many children.


Sea Falcon
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are traveling by sea, braving Shanri’s tides.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they use stone terrain against you.
Compel: Feels compelled to risk life, limb, ship and crew while at sea for glory.

Morning Ven
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you awaken at first light to get work done.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are in a conflict with you late in the evening.
Compel: Feels compelled to take terrible risks at first light.

We’ll make characters next week and until then, there isn’t much to do.  I’ll dig up a map of the county’s islands, maybe have some island outlines, the coast with the river and county seat.  Rather than have a hard and fast map, I’ll likely have some islands to choose from and the players will choose them, place them on the coast and we’ll make the map as we go.

I’ve got some details to daydream about – an adventurous elder countess/admiral, her hardy husband, their many children, a sprawling port city, the river that leads past the River Barons to the capital city, the Hub of all Revenge.  Fun toys.

The nice thing about having a menu of counties is that I not only have ideas for the county where the players will have their baronies but I have rough concepts for other neighboring counts and such.

Anthony was in the original playtest group and Aaron has read the book but the other two players are not familiar with the setting at all, which will be fine.  I’m thinking about a primer for setting info:

  • Revenge/ Love, same word, different inflection.
  • A timeline with Sorcerer Kings gone, High King mad and deposed, return of the Falcon, modern day…
  • Meaning behind wearing different colors
  • Sub systems: Dueling, Mass Murder, Romance, Insults, Art,  Season Actions
  • Little details to pick up in play: Sorcery, Armies, Senate, Shanri as enemy, Revenge, Opera

That is what’s brewing on the winter gaming table.  I’m eager to see it all come together.

Links for my own storage:

Scabbard City

River City


Houses of the Blooded: A Menu of Counties

EDIT: When I wrote this, I didn’t know that it was John Wick, the designer of this game’s birthday.  

Happy birthday, John! Wear some purple and be entertained!

We’re considering what to play for our Thursday game once the latest Burning Wheel mini-campaign is done and one of the games on the table is Houses of the Blooded.  This always get’s me thinking of ways to make the game a little easier to ease into.

I wrote two previous posts on color aspects based on what different colors mean to the ven and past job quasi-lifepath aspects based on the different vassals barons can have working for them.  My next aspect post will have childhood aspects.

Hopefully, having menus of aspects will allow players to not only pick and choose if they want but will give them models of solid aspects that are also cliff notes for ven society and culture.

I like having the barons be related through some kind of geographic feature, some way to bring them all together under one count.  Houses of the Blooded, just through its dice, estate management and initial set-up has enough situation so that the county itself really just needs to have color and not impending doom dripping from every word.

Once everyone made up their baronies we’d likely make a rough map of the area.

Also, this kind of thing is helpful to have around so that I can have an idea of the larger world outside of the players baronies, with outlined counts and other baronies around shanri.  This was a whole lot of fun to write up, so I’ll likely bang out six more in the coming weeks.

Here are half a dozen counties, roughly sketched out so that we can flesh them out through chargen and play.

Dawn County

Description: These islands are on the easternmost face of Shanri.  The seas beyond Dawn County are guarded by ferocious orcs, bred by the Sorcerer Kings to both guard their eastern shores and thwart the escape of their slaves by boat.  The county seat is a sprawling port city called Garshan di’Nathorc Haas (Where Slaughter Rests) or as the peasants call it, Scabbard City.  Unethen I’ilinnen (High Kings Sword) is the river that runs from the capital city in central Shanri to the east coast.

Nickname:  The Sunrise Barons

Count: Your countess is a fearless admiral of a fleet.  A baron would have a difficult time figuring out where she might show up as she is often out hunting sea orc or whaling or using one of these pretenses as an excuse to visit one of her barons without warning.  She is an old ven, the crone of the sea, who will likely fade from the world before too long.  Some say she will become a suaven prayed to by sailors and fisher-folk.

Her husband is Blooded of the Bear and rules the city with an iron fist while raising their many children.


Sea Falcon
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are traveling by sea, braving Shanri’s tides.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they use stone terrain against you.
Compel: Feels compelled to risk life, limb, ship and crew while at sea for glory.

Morning Ven
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you awaken at first light to get work done.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are in a conflict with you late in the evening.
Compel: Feels compelled to take terrible risks at first light.

Dusk County

Description:  The westernmost edge of Shanri is where the Sorcerer-Kings are said to have sent their failed experiments and is infested with orc of all kinds who have bred and roared in the western lands for centuries.  The lands beyond these shores are unmapped by ven.  The county seat is the count’s own modest castle with a village built up around it.  The castle’s most notable attribute is a watch-tower, built by the Sorcerer Kings that reaches into the clouds.

Nickname:  The Frontier Barons

Count: The count is a quiet sorcerer, Blooded of the Serpent, who studies the orc and any markers left here by the Sorcerer Kings, sending his findings back to the capital.  As taciturn and introspective as he is, his wife is a vibrant ven, Blooded of the Fox.  Born and bred in the capital, she is often throwing parties to show off her husband’s latest discoveries, admiring art and hatching conspiracies.

Coronet Fetish
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you enter into a romance with the spouse of your betters.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they call you into a duel for your indiscretions.
Compel: Feels compelled to woo the ladies/lords with the most dangerous spouse possible.

Orc Scholar
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you study or attempt to communicate with orc.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they call you out in ven society for having an orc stink upon you.
Compel: Feels compelled to bring orc closer and closer to their lives and show them more and more mercy.

Gaol County

Description: The senate has bound something fell in the middle of your county and it is your duties to keep it imprisoned.  The county is a valley, surrounded by natural boundaries upon which each of your baronies are founded.  The county seat is a nearly deserted city that has not been fully populated since the days of the Sorcerer Kings.

Nickname:  The Wardens

Count: Why in all of the hells won’t the Senate replace this count?  The agents of the senate in silver and black who are sent through here to inspect the seals and wards refuse to take any part in county politics but it is clear that your count is mad.   His Falcon wife never seems to be around long enough to notice how erratic his behavior has become.

Touched by Yellow
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you communicate with spirits or other mad folk.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are calm and reasonable.
Compel: Feels compelled to show the weak foundations of ven society through simple profane actions.

Shanri is a prison
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are trying to keep something confined.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are not physically controlled by you.
Compel: Feels compelled to hold prisoners for their lord.

River County

Description: Unethen I’ilinnen (High Kings Sword) is the river that runs from the capital city to the eastern edge of Shanri.  It is a mighty river that brings fast travel, floods, trade and piracy.  The county seat is a raucous river city through which every craft shanri has to offer is bought and sold.

Nickname:  The Drowned Barons

Count: Your count is of House Wolf and is obsessed with hunting the river pirates and seeing them all dead, often traveling to the senate and demanding that his personal guard be allowed to be expanded so that he might keep the river traffic safe.  His martial mind means that his wife, a more sensible ven of House Serpent, sees to the trade.

Pirate Hunter
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you hunt pirates.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are evading you on land.
Compel: Feels compelled to put off other important matters in order to hunt pirates.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are taking something by force.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they lawfully attempt to stop you directly, invoking the word of law.
Compel: Feels compelled to take that which is not well enough defended.

Hub County

Description: These are the barons who guard the capital city, well positioned to know the going’s on all over Shanri.  These baronies surround the capital city monitoring all traffic in and out.  They also take a particular interest in any ven whose ambitions give them delusions of high kingship.  Wars that attempt to turn coronets into crowns cause bloodshed in Hub county more than any other.

Nickname:  The Hub Barons

Count: Your count is an overly ambitious Blooded of the Elk, married to another overly ambitious ven of  the same House.  He has made no secret that he does not plan to be Count for long and is hatching plans to claim the Elk’s Ducal seat.  The baron and baroness have made it plainly known among the Hub Barons that they will raise up any who aid them along the way.


 Power Behind the Throne
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you give advice to those in a position to gain power for themselves.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they confront you bluntly and directly.
Compel: Feels compelled to manipulate the ambitious and powerful in dangerous games of thrones.

Capital Style
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are flaunting the latest fashions from the Hub of all Revenge.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are in a political battle with you outside of the capital.
Compel: Feels compelled to belittle those who are not up snuff on the latest style.

Wheels within wheels
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are putting into motion plans that are part of even bigger plans.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they see that a trap is set but walk into it anyway.
Compel: Feels compelled to best their enemy through complicated machinations.

Wall County

Description: The Sorcerer’s Wall is a cyclopean mountain range of unknown origin.  Scholars who study stone formations and natural philosophy say that it is clearly not from shanri itself.  They say that the Sorcerer’s Wall is too arcane  even for Shanri’s alien geology.

Those who decode the histories of the sorcerer kings say the wall was made during a civil war among the ven’s former slavers.  This hypothesis says that the wall is a mountain range made to be a threat to the capital city or even launch lost war-lore down on enemies in the valleys below.

Nickname: Sky Barons

Count: The Count is Blooded of the Serpent, fascinated by the lore left behind by the Sorcerer Kings.  His wife, Blooded of the Wolf often accompanies him on adventures and keeps him from harm’s way.  Together they frequently winter with whomever offers the finest party at a Riddle House.


Sorcerer King’s Spell
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are studying something dangerous left behind by the Sorcerer Kings.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they use an artifact of the Sorcerer Kings as bait for a trap.
Compel: Feels compelled to put family and allies into danger through uncovering lost Sorcerous lore.

This menu of counties is based on counts, barons and baronial duties mentioned in several pillow book fragments and opera folios recently translated by professors Loinaz and Fuller in the Ithaca University Pre-Atlantean History department.

Magic Items as World-Building Tools: Magic as Magical

Inspired by this article, Magic and Mystery by Monte Cook

In these Legends and Lore articles, Monte is wrestling with the conventional wisdom of D&D, particularly 3.x and 4.0.

I don’t particularly like magic that is sold in shops.  It rubs me the wrong way, seems to take the magic out of the magic.

A curio shop that sells junk and other assorted bits brought in by adventures with dirt and moss from the dungeon still on it?  Sure, okay.

Ye Olde Magic Item Shoppe that will sell the the adventures the appropriate items so they can safely venture out and adventure?  Eh, not so much my thing.

I don’t have to wrestle with the conventional wisdom of D&D and here we are, talking about magic items.

They can also be tools for world-building.  In our Houses of the Blooded game, a player acquired a ring from a Puzzle House, I believe and it opened any door for him.  He found out later that when the Sorcerer-Kings ruled, it had been a High Servant’s ring, allowing that servant to go into any castle and serve its master without being barred.  Of course, it has other uses.

When the player put it on in the capital of Shanri, the Hub of all Revenge, his character could catch glimpses of Shanri as it had been under the Sorcerer-King’s reign.

In our Burning Wheel game set in the Forgotten Realms, the players uncovered an artifact and held it against an ambitious Red Wizard and her Gnoll shock troops.  The artifact they got was the Burning Wheel itself, viciously powerful if in the hands of a wizard or priest with Faith but to the Dwarven and Elven player characters, it wasn’t useful.  This made it really interesting because they got to decide where to store it, who got to use it and who to leave it with when they went adventuring.

In the end, Khelben Blackstaff used it to rain hellfire down on Skullport while they were slaying Old Snarl off in the east.  Good stuff.  So, magic items can also be political leverage.

There is a sentence that comes up when RPG discussions of magic occur.  “I like my magic to be magical.”  I totally hear that.  The first system that provided that magic for me was Ars Magica.  As the editions rolled on, the magic became more and more codified and, to me, it lost some of that raw magic that it had even up to the 3rd edition.

Don’t Rest Your Head and Houses of the Blooded have magic that allows the character to break the rules.  Magic doesn’t make you better.  DRYH allows the character to break the rules of reality.  Houses of the Blooded has magic that allows the characters to break the rules of the very codified ven society.

Burning Wheel’s Emotional Attribute magic (Orc blood magic, elvish songs, dwarven crafts) is more of an exploration of that stock.  The human sorcery is very D&Dish, actually with calls for tough choices and sacrifices all the way.  I’ve seen sorcerers in BW successfully cast their spell to break free from prison but pass out due to the strain.

Magic Items in BW are more rare, campaign tilting affairs.

Thanks, Monte, I’m thinking about magic a bit.

Thoughts on magic for the comments?

State of the Gaming Table: Summer ’11

Resumes are being hurtled at New York City until something sticks and I can join my lady-friend in the City that Never Sleeps.  Every game feels like it could be the last or could keep on keepin’ on for a good long while.

Burning Wheel, O’Declan Brewing Company: In which two dwarves, a gambler and a drunk, run a brewing company in MoBu City.

I love this game something terrible.  Dwarves are my favorite stock in Burning Wheel and I love the way MoBu City takes all of the stocks and tosses them into close quarters so that their Tolkien lineage is blurred with a pinch of potent New Crobuzon spice.  The whole rhythm of this game feels odd to me and I dig it.

Also, it is great to be back at weekly gaming with Aaron and Pete.  We were having real trouble finding momentum and ending the Forgotten Realms point at our fine stopping point and moving on helped, as did our schedules changing for the better.


Apocalypse World, Just Outside the City: In which mayhem and commerce are perpetrated in the Hudson River Valley.

Knowing that 2011 would be my last year in Ithaca, I wanted to get together and game with some friends I hadn’t seen regularly and hadn’t gamed with in a while.  It has been splendid to both see them again and raise a fictional ruckus alongside them.


Apocalypse World, Lights of Hoover: In which a doc, his ambulance driver and a psychic girl find their place in Hoover.

Our roommate game has been a victim of our hectic schedules and a real desire to only play when all four of us are at the table but when we do the game is amazing.  The group doesn’t have a go-to playbook for violence.  No Battlebabe, Gunlugger nor Chopper to shoot mofo’s in the head and it has led to an interesting campaign that is a fascinating contrast to the bullets in brains that has defined the Hudson River Valley.  The game’s still brutal but it doesn’t feel like a bulletocracy.


Houses of the Blooded, The Thousand Dooms of the Blood-smith: In which a young ven smith artisan schemes and crafts.

If there were 14 days in a week, I’d have a HotB game going with Pete and Aaron and probably the rest of my roommates.  As it was, I got a hankering to see chargen in action and hoped that it would become a game me and Pete could drag out when we both found ourselves up late at night.  Despite day-dreaming about the character a bit, we haven’t actually sat down to play yet.  This could have something to do with Pete being a hard-working single-dad and me being out of the house a whole lot.


Between conducting a long distance relationship, finishing my masters degree and just the lives of busy gamers with careers, school and kids the games have been sporadic.  It looks like there are 3 weekly games going but the Hudson River Valley game is more monthly than weekly and even our O’Declan brew is only sipped bi-weekly or so, though we’ve had a solid weekly run, which is nice.

Ending these games is going to be a sad thing; I’ll save my maudlin crap for when I depart.

What is on your summer gaming table?

“I use the tools the game hands me. Also, there’d better be some tools.”

From this SG thread.

Steve wrote:

What do people reckon is the best value for buck in terms of preparation for GMing a session?

At the moment Im thinking its working on a cast of NPCs and their motivations and goals.

But Im interested in hearing otherwise, or ‘yes and…

And I was all like…I dunno:

It really depends on the game. This has become an impossible question to answer without knowing what game you’re playing, what the game is trying to accomplish and the tools it provides.

And he was all like, what:

How do you mean?

And I was all like, does this work:

I use the tools the game hands me. If the game doesn’t hand me tools, I probably won’t be playing it long.

Burning Wheel hands me the players’ beliefs, instincts, relationships, reputations, affiliations and traits all crossed up with the campaign’s situation. Those are the things I’m day-dreaming about as I think about the game, as I burn up monsters or NPC’s.

Sorcerer hands me kickers, demons and everything on the back of the character sheet.

Apocalypse World hands me MC moves, threats/fronts and all of the little descriptors in the playbooks.

Houses of the Blooded has aspects, family, domain/seasonal complications.

So, when you ask what the best practice is for doing prep as a GM, I say that best practice for me is to choose one’s system wisely so that the tools the game puts on the table helps us all have a solid game.

More Houses of the Blooded aspects

The ven wear different colors to communicate their moods and pursuits to others in the Houses but for some a color’s mood is more than just a cloak or a hem.  For some a color outlines everything they wear, it is a part of their name, a part of their very being and will continue to be until they see a dragon and that color is erased from their soul.


Tears are not enough.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice you are creating something that will allow ven to remember your lost loved one.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they play upon your loss for their own gain.
Compel: Feels compelled to finish anything left undone by the deceased.


Spring is in my veins.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice in a social situation when you admit that you have done something wrong.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice reminding you of what you have done wrong in the past year.
Compel: Feels compelled to seek forgiveness.


Entertain me.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you draw someone to you to entertain you.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are being amusing in a social situation.
Compel: Feels compelled to seek out mirth no matter where it might be or who it might be with.


I want to know.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are seeking knowledge directly from someone smarter than you are (books and scrolls don’t count…but spectres and ork totally count).
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they debate you with cold, hard facts.
Compel: Feels compelled to seek out those wiser than you.


I am not playing the game.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice in a social situation when you are cutting through bullshit to get done what needs doing.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they mention that you are acting like a peasant.
Compel: Feels compelled to finish the task at hand.


I am ready.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you attempt to finish up the loose ends of your life.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are young, dumb and full of disrespect.  Kids these days!
Compel: Feels compelled to  dispense wisdom, whether its wanted or not.


I rule.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are acting as the highest ranking noble in the room, even when you aren’t, especially when you aren’t.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they acknowledge that you are their better.
Compel: Feels compelled to give orders.


I govern.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are dispensing justice in your domain or on behalf of the Senate.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they quote Senate Law.
Compel: Feels compelled to go by the letter of the law.


Help me.

(Yellow Note: There’s very little worse in a game than someone playing an insane person poorly.  Its insulting.  Every other player has to give their okay for this aspect.  Don’t use the Yellow to act goofy.  Bad form.)

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you seek help from another to cure the madness that infects your brain.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they play upon your madness in a social situation.
Compel: Feels compelled to do things that show the thin veneer that holds ven society together in ways that will make everyone very uncomfortable.