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[Games on the Brain] Pirate Adventures for Fun and Buckling of Swashes

September 18, 2015

Let’s do something fun now. Because after the last few weeks, it’s definitely time for some fun.

A few weeks back, I was turned on to a little contest being held by fellow RPG gaming geek, Kevin Smith at his blog, Melvin Smif’s Geekery. The contest was to see who could pitch him the best ideas for both a Deadlands: Reloaded adventure, and separately a Dungeons and Dragons adventure for him to run at the upcoming AcadeCon. Well, I decided to write up a little idea I had been holding on to for Deadlands and sent it to Kevin. Turns out he liked my adventure pitch, titled “The Lady & The Casket”, enough to name me the winner. Thanks Kevin!

My little adventure write-up is now in Kevin’s hands, and it’s his to post publicly (which I assume he will do after the Con he wants to run it at). But I decided that I would like to flesh out some similar ideas that I had bumping around in my head. So, for your enjoyment, and the benefit of all mankind, here is a pirate-themed adventure pitch, in much the same style as my winning Deadlands pitch.

Personally, I highly recommend running your tales of ship battles and swashbuckling using the Savage Worlds rules, but you should of course adapt this to whatever game system puts the wind in your sails. There aren’t any rules-specific stats used below anyhow.


The Wreck of La Diabla Plata (or perhaps El Angel Plata?)

Adventure Ideas for Pirates of the Spanish Main, 50 Fathoms, or any other piratical campaign setting you might have in mind.

Not far from their home port, the player characters spy a Spanish galleon run aground on a reef, far from shore. Her sails are flapping in the breeze, loose and tattered. There are more than a few cannonball-size holes in her hull. There is no sign of her crew above decks.

So what’s going on, and what’s inside the ship? Funny you should ask. Draw a card and look at the suit:

Spades: Treasure! The hold is filled with silver and valuable timber. The few remaining Spanish sailors on board are wounded, and are below decks. Among them is a passenger, the beautiful young daughter of a Spanish nobleman. The ship full of pirates that has been pursuing them arrives on the scene minutes after the PC’s discover the wounded crewmen. If the PC’s represent themselves as proper Brethren of the Coast, the pirate captain may be willing to let them bargain their share of the treasure, but the lives of the sailors are forfeit in this case. If the pirates discover the girl onboard, they will insist they have “the right” to hold and ransom her.

Hearts: Xitlanhualpilli, and ancient undead Aztec priest. (If you have Deadlands: Reloaded, you can use the stats for Aztec Mummy.) He is disguised as living human, and a particularly charismatic and persuasive one at that. He will seek the PC’s help in establishing his cult in the Caribbean, beginning with their home port, and will promise each of them their heart’s desire. Just don’t ask about what happened to the crew , or the bodies of sailors stashed in the hold that are missing their hearts. (It’ll make him angry.)

Xitlanhualpilli is pursued by a religious monster-hunting privateer and his crew, who arrive by ship approximately an hour after the PC’s meet the ancient one. The privateer will stop at nothing to track down the undead priest and see him destroyed.

Diamonds: The Holy Grail! (Feel free to substitute the Ark of the Covenant or any other religious artifact of your choice.) The surviving monks onboard are members of the Catholic Church’s secretive Order of Saint George. They discovered the Grail in the Andes Mountains, and were attempting to return it to Jerusalem when they were attacked by a ship of the Knights Templar (who just happen to have a letter of marque from the English governor of St. Kitts). The monks won’t easily divulge the exact nature of their mission or the artifact that they are carrying, but they will promise “great earthly rewards” and the gratitude of the Church to those who aid them. The Knights Templar who arrive on the scene shortly after will make similar promises about spiritual power and a place in the “new order”.

Clubs: It’s a trap! The hold of the ship is loaded with gold, but there’s a terrible curse laid upon it. Once any living person touches the gold, the undead pirates who last attempted to claim it materialize and attack. (Use stats for zombies. These are the somewhat intelligent, weapon-using kind of zombie pirates.) They will attempt to trap the PC’s in the hold if they can. Whether the undead are defeated, or the PC’s simply escape, the cursed dead will show up later to reclaim their gold if any was removed from the ship. The curse can be lifted if either the gold is all thrown overboard, or if the galleon is blown to smithereens. There are twelve barrels of gunpowder on board that should do the trick, but at least eight of them have to be gathered in one place for a concentrated enough explosion. The power of the curse will prevent the galleon from simply burning.

Joker: Ninjas! Come on, you need a write up for this one? OK, fine. The descendants of the Koga Clan have tracked a lost sacred scroll of theirs to the Caribbean, and are onboard the galleon torturing the crewmen who can possibly tell them where to find it. One of the crewmen does know the scroll’s whereabouts, but he doesn’t want the ninjas to know that his ancestor helped steal it in the first place. If the Koga reclaim the scroll, they will use it to summon a water demon to plague pirates and smugglers throughout the Caribbean. (It’ll be a test run for when they summon a demon to overthrow the Shogunate back home.)


I tend to keep my scenarios open-ended so I can to give the players the opportunities to make the big choices in the game. If anyone gets any mileage out of any of these ideas at the game table, I’d love to hear about it. I’d like to run a game for my friends soon, but right now, I just don’t know when I’ll be able to make time for it.

Good sailing everyone!

My Father, Bruce Weinstein (7-29-1951 to 8-31-2015)

September 11, 2015

Dad&Me2013So much I can say about the recent loss of my dad. I’m not quite sure yet how much I want to say in this space. I have been inundated with condolences, support, and offers of various kinds of help from family and friends over the past 11 days. Now it seems I come to the quieter stage of the grieving process. Let’s just start with this, because I’m pretty sure it’s not just me that feels this way.

Despite whatever happens while he’s alive, it’s hard to see your dad as less than invincible until he’s gone.


Some People Smarter Than I

August 26, 2015

Please, shed no tears for my poor neglected blog. I assure you, it’s more emotionally hardy than it looks.

Not surprisingly, after letting this blog go for more than six months (seven? eight?), hardly anyone showed interest in the silly piece of flash fiction I posted two weeks ago, which was basically inspired by an internet meme from the 90’s. That’s fine, since I really wrote it down just to get it out of my head. (And stay out, you!)

I haven’t been sitting around on my ass during this time away from blogging. Work continues on The Liberators (I’m still hoping to come up with a better title), and I’ve assigned myself the goal of finally completing a first draft before the end of the year. Hey, they’re my goals, and I reserve the right to be as unrealistic about them as I choose.

There was also the amazing trip to Australia with my wife back in April-May. I got to see a live cassowary in the wild! I got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef! I got to hold a wombat! I got to watch my wife be mobbed by kangaroos! Sure, they mobbed me too, but it’s more entertaining to watch a bunch of kangaroos surround someone else and pester them for the bag of kangaroo feed that they’re carrying.

Anyhow, it’s quite a nice continent they have down there. Select pictures and videos may be forthcoming to this spot. Maybe.

For now, how about some writing that inspires writing? Here’s some folks whose recent blog posts makes me feel more like writing (and less like doing the work I currently get paid for).

Sacha Black: Nine Secret to Successfully Completing That First Draft 

Can you tell why this post struck a chord with me?

Chuck Wendig: I Smell Your Rookie Moves, New Writers

Good o’l Chuck Wendig. His blog terribleminds is chock full of ass-kicking, take-no-prisoners pep talks. And they’re compiled into e-books for sale as well. (Just follow the links.)

Kristen Lamb: What Went Wrong with Season 2 of “True Detective”? Cautionary Lessons for Writers

Kristen Lamb analyzes the most disappointing elements of this last season of True Detective, and turns it into a cautionary tale that all of us storytellers can benefit from. I pretty much have to agree with her assessments.

For some reason, a well-written article about what not to do, or the difficulties of writing professional-quality work, often inspires me to put my but in the chair and force the creative brain juices into my typing fingers. I’m not sure I care to analyze why that is.

While I’m at it, I suppose I should also link to the Ditch Diggers podcast, wherein professional writers Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace discuss the trials and tribulations of writing as a career. Their episodes will either give you something to look forward to, or make you depressed. It probably depends on where your outlook is to begin with.

And now, let me leave you with this awkward image of me grinning like an idiot and holding a wombat.




Ninja Ecology [Flash]

August 12, 2015

“A common misconception about Shinobus furtivus,” the biology professor began, “better known to most of you as the Greater Ninja, is that he is a mammal. In fact, this is only partially true. Ninjas are monotremes, which both lay eggs and nurse their young in the same fashion as the Duck-billed Platypus and Spiny Echidna.”

Ichiban had heard enough. He could not allow this careless old fool to spill his clan’s secrets to a lecture hall full of students. He took aim with his blowgun and envenomed dart from his hiding spot in the rafters.

The professor continued, “and so, another commonly held opinion on Shinobus’s lethality is found to be-.” The professor stopped abruptly, a dart embedded in his forehead.

The students gasped.

Ichiban allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief as he crawled his way, still unseen, into the ceiling air duct he had used to enter the hall. For at least another season, his wives’ egg clutches should be safe.


December 24, 2014

Even if I’m waaay late, I’d still like to say congratulations to everyone who completed a novel in November. I didn’t (as I predicted I wouldn’t), but I did write [some number] words of a story that I might not have otherwise, and completed an outline for a novel that I will return to in the future.

The break from my more serious project did me some good. Since December 1st (oh, alright, really since the third) I’ve been making some real, measurable progress on my wasteland novel. It’s now titled The Liberators. I began to hate that title the moment I wrote it down and will be looking for something better. That’s the way it goes, I suppose.

Anyhow, I hope you all have a happy last day of Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, a jubilant Kwanzaa, and a hoppy new beer! Or that you at least get to enjoy a day off work. I’m already sick of Christmas carrols and will be turning up the Rob Zombie the next couple of days. (Reminder to self: buy a Rob Zombie album.)

If you’re stuck in a ‘bah humbug’ funk, I suggest listening to this oldie-but-goody episode of the Drabblecast, featuring an “update” of a classic holiday poem, and a story by Tim Pratt about holiday-related crypto-zoology.

How can you go wrong with a story that has an illustration like that?

The Curses/Blessing of November

November 13, 2014


NaNoWriMo is kicking my ass this year. (And naturally I feel the need to declare that publicly. Because.) Even though I got off to a decent start (by my standards), I haven’t been able to maintain the pace, which wasn’t especially fast to begin with. Try as I might for the next 17 days, it’s looking like I may very well not finish in time. It’s just a tad frustrating, because I’ve successfully finished before. It just wasn’t during NaNoWriMo proper.

November is a tough month for trying to write every day, let alone 1,667 words every day. There’s damn good reason that the last time I tried this, I chose March. I mean what the hell ever goes on in March? (Ok, I had two friends get married in March this year, but that’s about it.)

Add to this, I’ll be attending LosCon at the end of this month. So, that big holiday weekend following Thanksgiving that all those more sensible NaNoWriMo participants will have for finishing their novels just before the deadline? That’s a Saturday and probably most of a Sunday I won’t have.

Writing on Thanksgiving? We’re hosting a family/friends dinner in our apartment. (Don’t ask me why.) Slim chance of having any keyboard time that day before the food coma settles in.

I’m not giving up in the slightest,- don’t make that mistake! A 50,000-word book is not an end goal. Only a milestone. This latest book is one I’ve wanted to write for while. I envision it as the beginning of a series. It will have a life beyond this month regardless of the wordcount on December 1.

Besides, you can’t really “lose” a contest where your only competition is yourself. For now, I will keep plugging away (when possible) and try to leave as much brain juice on the page as I can squeeze out before midnight on the 30th.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, feel free to leave your own laments, complaints, or whatever in the comments. (Misery loves company and all.)

Here, Have a NaNoWriMo Excerpt

November 5, 2014

As my country votes resoundingly for two more years of pissing into the wind, I find that I’m glad that I’ve chosen to write light-hearted fantasy this month. Working on my darker, more dystopian book would just feel a bit, I don’t know, too much on the nose maybe?

Anyhow, here’s a little excerpt of what I’ve been writing. This is rough, rough draft material, filled with excess for the sake of wordcount, and in the NaNoWriMo spirit, I will be trying my damnedest  to avoid revising until after Nov. 30. World, meet Valyssa, one of the Three Scholars.

Val paid her coin for the booth in the water merchants’ tent, and made herself as comfortable as she could on her makeshift couch of old tattered pillows. Since her flight from Larh, acquiring enough money for food and basic needs had not been a serious problem. In the two weeks time it had taken her to find her bearings in the villages of the Fringelands and join a caravan to traveling to the Tents of Xel, she had been able to find short-term work first as an interpreter for a Gedlander merchant, then as an identifier of salvage from one of the many dig sites at one of the many ancient villages that were found along the Fringelands caravan routes. Her knowledge of spoken Geddish was rough (her accent was atrocious, she was told), and most of the salvage had been scrap barely fit for recycling (a box of ancient pistol ammunition and a tarnished silver necklace were the notable exceptions), but combined with the money her father had provided her with, she had been paid well-enough to eat, drink, and rent a riding gecko for her trip to the oasis town she presently found herself in.

Val was thankful that some of the esoteric knowledge she had been forced to accumulate in her life actually had a practical value outside the walls of Lahr. The rural Fringelands that separated the city-states of the Civil Coast from the wild Madlands were constantly being traversed by those seeking to profit from the knowledge and treasures of the Earth’s obscure past civilizations. This happened to be something of a specialty of the religious orders headed by each of her parents. These skills also enabled her to perform just enough research to learn that an Inokian vault had been located some months ago in the Madlands, not far from the Tents of Xel. Without having any other vector to pursue, it seemed as good a path to follow if she was to attempt to aid her family in any way.

The worst part of her flight from Larh had not been fear of providing for herself, except in the very beginning. But after the paralyzing terror of her first night camped outside the walls of Larh alone (in a storm no less), Val resolved to enjoy her freedom. It certainly seemed to her that it would be temporary. Her father, and especially her mother, were masters of their city’s political scene. How long could their persecution possibly last?

Val considered the worst parts of her last two weeks to be a dead toss-up between the lice she acquired from the inn she had stayed at on her second night, and the lusty leering advances she had to endure from the men of questionable hygiene she had encountered on her travels. It was enough to make her reflect fondly on her Kellian, even as she remembered how stoic and boring he could be.

The Tents of Xel, an oasis town settled by a tribe of nomads who one day decided that an oasis was a suitable place to change their lifestyle, and now named for it’s de facto mayor, had proven to be the least civilized place Val had encountered yet. Which she supposed made sense, considering its location. Quickly discovering that her previously profitable talents were less in demand here due to local competition, she turned to her skills in mathematics, particularly her knowledge of statistical probabilities. She knew that some on the losing side in a game of chance might consider her use of these skills to be cheating, but, she reasoned, that was only because they were on the losing side.

I’m only about 3,000 words short of today’s target wordcount. If I can avoid falling farther behind, I’ll be in good shape.

How’s your November going?


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