The Town Drunk

Emily never knew why her father tolerated Mr. Coffer. He was the opposite of her father, a lazy shiftless drunk and he smelled. Unfortunately he knew something. He knew about the notebook and the cutter and that meant he knew more than that.

She found him at the train station with his top hat placed precariously over his eyes, perched on his dog cart. Three men were trying to rouse him from sleep, but despite calling out to him quite loudly, he would not budge. In fact he would only snore the louder. Eventually, as any sane man would they abandoned them.

Emily walked up to him, prepared to strike him with her parasol until he roused, but was given a start when from under his hat called out to her “Good day Ms. Drake. You’ll be needin’ a ride home then will you?”

With as much indignation as she could muster she scolded him, “Mr. Coffer! You had three men trying to employ your services and your lazy ways have done you in. You sleep all day atop this cart, I wonder if your horse has had any exercise today.”

Coffer raised his hat onto his head and smiled, “Those business men are not in a business that I’m interested in. If I had  taken them, how could I be talking to you? It is for the purpose of speaking to me that you’ve come isn’t it?”

Emily, still annoyed at his ways was taken aback by this. He had been playing coy with the men. There was a seriousness in his voice that she had never heard before and it was chilling. “Indeed I have. I want to know about this man Griffin that broke into my house and stole my property.”

His eyebrows went up, “Griffin’s involved in this? So early? Eh, well that can’t be helped. I’m sorry lass, there’s not much left for you to do then but wait.” He muttered under his breath something that Emily couldn’t make out.

“Mr. Coffer, these are dangerous men. I will not just leave my father to them. They wanted his notebook, why?” She demanded.

“Aye these are dangerous men and without the device or the notebook there’s not anything you’ll be able to do. It’s time to go home and wait. Hop on and I’ll take you home.” He said.

Emily smiled “And what could be done if I still had one or the other?” Coffer considered this for a moment. “Well Ms. Drake in that case I’ll be takin’ you to yer father’s boilerworks.”

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Fatal To Enter

 

If I had a band, this would be it’s name. I don’t have a band. Or any discernible musical talent.

I guess it’ll just have to be the warning on the entrance of my secret lair.

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The Acoustic Gun

The sound was so loud that Griffin had to pull the earflaps off. “Something just happened, we might have to go in.” He suggested. Harold just grinned. He wanted to go in and smash the place an take what they wanted but Griffin had got in his way. Jake looked worried. “It’s day, can’t go in durin’ the day.”

Griffin lowered the earflaps again. He  could hear movement in the room now. It sounded strange. Mr. Drake had not returned, his footsteps were heavier than this person’s. He was trying to figure out the breathing but it was moving around too much. As long as he could keep the horn of the gun centered on the person inside the building, he could hear the slightest sound they made.

Had Drake sent in that old fool Coffer to retrieve his things? There was the sound of papers being moved or no, a book’s pages being turned. Then the sound of a gasp. Griffin checked the gun, the voice sounded too high pitched. Something had to be out of adjustment. He checked the adjustments but they all checked good.

He could hear something metallic drag across a wooden surface. He had been trained to recognize common sounds like that.

“Wha’cha hearin’ boy?” Harold demanded. He was just hired muscle but for some reason he thought he was running the operation.

“Someone is in the room but something isn’t right, it’s not Drake or Coffer. Now be quiet and let me figure out who he is.” Griffin shushed.

“No no, we can’t be seen breaking in!” Jake moaned.

“Quiet Jake, you were paid enough to do this, if we need to. . .Shh! What is that?” Griffin focused. There was a gurgling sound, a sizzle and then a loud whistle. Even the other men heard it coming from the house. “He’s got the cutter! That’s settles it, we can’t wait.” Griffin raised the gun and fired a bullet, not of lead or copper but of pure sound at the person inside. Normally he would not have missed, even when firing through a brick wall like that but the whistle of the cutter made it hard to figure out where his target was. The cutter turned off. Griffin hoped he hadn’t damaged it.

“Come on!” He ran toward the house, and beckoned for his associates to follow. He was a faster runner than both of them and it was a good thing too. He wasn’t sure what Harold would do if they encountered any of the house help. If he stayed in the front he could at least try and prevent anyone from getting hurt.

A boy came out of the back door. He was probably a stable boy on his way to take care of the animals. Griffin raised the Acoustic Gun and shouted into the mouthpiece. The gun amplified his voice so powerfully that it knocked the young child right out and he collapsed to the floor. It was distasteful to Griffin to do that but he knew the boy would be fine in an hour or two.

They charged into the house, having only a vague idea of the layout of the house, they found themselves taking wrong turns a few times.

Finally they found the room, the door had been broken in and a massive brass candle holder lay on the ground and books lay all over the floor. Was someone else here for the same reason they were? Griffin rushed into the darkened room. “Jake strike a match.” As Jake complied the dim light allowed them to peer into the room.

Griffin was horrified, a young girl lay on the floor. He rushed over and knelt at her side trying to see if she was still alive. He had shot her! How could he have been so careless he wondered? No one in the family ever went into this room except Drake, why did she go in today? He looked for a wound but only found a bruise near her ear. Thank goodness the sound of the cutter threw off his aim. The young girl took a shallow breath, he hadn’t killed her after all.

“She’s alive, good! Quickly get the cutter and the notes, lets get out of here before someone sees us.” Griffin ordered.

“I’ve got the cutter.” Harold declared.

Jake looked around the room, “The notes aren’t here Griffin.”

“That’s too bad, I thought I heard her flipping pages. I would have expected it to be here. Let’s go!” Griffin and the two men left with the device.

The girl got up off the floor and pulled the notebook from the folds of her skirt. “Griffin. Now I have a name to track my father down with.” Emily said.

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Emily’s Discovery

Emily had never been allowed into her father’s workshop. She had tried to peak in from time to time but was never able to see past the large bookshelf her father put just beyond the door.

It had been a week since he disappeared and his usual associates in town could tell her nothing about what might have happened to him. All of them except Mr. Coffer, the old man that ran the dog cart. “If yer’ father’s gotten into trouble, he’ll be needin’ his notes from his workshop. An’ the device of course.”

Emily wondered if Mr. Coffer was playing some kind of a joke on her. He was always sly about something, or playing on words. Her father seemed to trust him though. She wasn’t sure what to say to him so she thanked him and rushed home. What did he mean by ‘the device’?

She came home and stood in front of the door of the workshop. She didn’t have a key so she imagined she might pick the lock somehow but after an hour of trying she had made no progress. In desperation she tried to use her shoulder to force the door open but her tiny frame did nothing to the door. She sat down for a moment when her eyes fell on the solid brass candlestand that graced the corner of the room. With a crash Emily found herself covered in books but she was in the workshop.

She found a candle and walked into the room that had always been denied her. A cushioned chair with a small end table lurked in one corner. A bound notebook sat atop the end table. Emily opened it up and examined the pages. The pages were full of calculations that Emily could not follow. A note in the margin caught her attention.

“The self focusing nozzle is a limited success. The steam pressure cutter can focus it’s blade up to a distance of two and a half feet. The principle is simple enough. A small arc light shines up through the nozzle and when the beam of light reflects back to the detector, the nozzle adjusts itself to the distance. At two feet the high pressure steam can cut through a four inch wooden beam or a quarter inch of iron plate in moments. My calculations show that it should do better than this. I must be missing something.”

Emily discovers her father's secret workshop What did he mean? What was this steam cutter? She waved the candle around the room. On the other end of it there was a work bench. Emily recognized some of the equipment on it. There was what appeared to be a miniature version of her father’s fireless soda engines. So small in fact that this one was designed with a system of straps so that a man could wear it on his back.

Attached to the fireless engine was a high pressure hose with some manner of nozzle on it. She found her father’s notes on how to activate the device. The engine gurgled as the soda of lime activated. The boiler almost instantly reached pressure and a blinding blue light shone up from the nozzle. Then a rush of steam burst from the nozzle with terrific force and heat. The steam formed a thin blade, impossibly thin and focused.

What had her father been doing? Why would he have invented such a device and how could it lead her to finding him?

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Getting Started On Artwork

I got my drawing hardware in and learning how to use it. I’m also learning how to draw Victorian clothing. Here are my first attempts. My dapper fellow in blue is a bit distorted, I was playing and getting the hang of things so he’s really just a style study.

The second piece I did, I’m a bit happier with. I actually referred to clothing pictures and it has a proper Victorian inventor feel. Maybe it’s not steampunk yet but I want to be able to do things a bit more realistically first before I start getting crazy.

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The Mapingauri

We just finished up the game that was running on 1KM1KT. There was a creature that the players were hunting down. When I went looking for something for the players to go after I was looking up wildlife in Brazil, thinking that it would be some kind of big cat they would encounter. Then I stumbled on some cryptozoology from the region and knew I had to use it.

The Mapingauri is supposed to be a Bigfoot or Yeti like creature. It’s big, hairy, elusive and stinky but that’s about where the similarities end. According to legend it has scales like a crocodile and long read hair. It’s feet are supposed to be backwards facing and it doesn’t always stand on it’s hind legs but it can rear up. It also is supposed to be able to let out a horrible shriek that stuns people that hear it.

Well now that sounds like pure fantasy doesn’t it? Except when you match it up with a creature like the Giant Sloth or Megatherium and some of it starts to line up. Backwards feet? The Giant Sloth did not walk on the soles of it’s feet. It walked on their sides. Not exactly the same but similar. Scales like a crocodile? The Giant Sloth had hard nodules on it’s skin that were probably protection from the teeth of sabertooth cats. The hind legs of the sloth could support it’s weight.

This was an interesting challenge for the characters. Here are the stats I used.

The Mapingauri has two types of attacks. The creature can let out a shriek that has the effect of stunning everyone that does not pass a Will test. Characters have to beat the creature’s will score, for every point its will score is higher than the character’s, they are stunned for one turn. The Mapingauri attack damage is based on their Strength score minus their prey’s strength score. One point of damage is done for every point of strength over it’s prey.

Attributes
Story: 20
Intelligence: 0
Will: 5
Honor: -2
Agility: 5
Perception: 4
Strength: 10
Charm: -3

Untrained Methods

Obscurity Int +1 Per +1
Because the creature is an unknown or rare it is harder to know what it’s habits are.

Slow Metabolism Will +2
The creature rarely needs to hunt and therefore moves around less making finding it more difficult.

Cautious Per +1 Will +1
The creature won’t make a move unless it sees the coast is clear.

Knows the Jungle Int +1 Per +1
This is the creatures home turf.

Cleanly Per +2
The creature does not seem to leave scat and probably has one location that it does so in or near it’s den.

Flee – Agility +2
The creature moves quickly through the woods.

Pass Through Brush – Agility +2
Because of the creature’s strength and weight it can push through brush and undergrowth that a human cannot pass through.

Swat – Strength +2
The arms and claws of the creature are fearsome.

Charge – Strength +2
The creature uses it’s full weight to attack.

Horrid Shriek – Will +3
A cry that shakes a man to the bone.

Foul Stench – Will +1
The smell of the creature can turn men away.

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Hey Brother, Can Ya’ Spare A Dime. . . I Mean Art?

It’s no secret that SPF needs art in a bad way. If you’re an artist that would like to get in on a project let us know. We could use your help.

I’ve been wanting to start drawing for SPF for a while now. I’ve got some ideas on a style but I’m waiting on some hardware (excuses excuses). My drawing time is squeezed between trying to write and trying to do all the other important life giving activities (cry me a river, who’s isn’t). Most importantly, even though I enjoy steampunk art, I’ve never done any myself so I’m a little bit afraid. I know the solution is to just jump in and get the shock over with but it doesn’t make it any easier. I know I’ll probably like it once I get started, so I should just get started.

Still, if you’re reading this and would like to help this project out by contributing some art, even if it’s old steampunk stuff your not using for anything, please let me know.

One more thing, one of the advantages of steampunk, is that it doesn’t have to rely on drawing for it’s art. Plenty of people have awesome costumes. Photographs would be a great way of setting the game apart from other games.

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New Material

I’ve been doing some work on new advanced game rules and Events and putting them on the wiki. Here’s some of what’s now available.

Club Member

Dualist

Sea Captain

Shipwrecked

Running the PBP game at 1KM1KT has brought up a few ideas for rules and reminded me of a few more that I forgot to write down.

Untrained Skills – This rule allows the character to use a skills methods that they do not have the skill for but at a price.

Advancing Skills – This rule allows a character to get better at a skill.

Environmental Difficulty – Adding difficulty modifiers to character conflicts.

Passive Tricks – Some tricks really shouldn’t be able to be turned off by not selecting them. This was added mostly because you don’t have to turn on armor and airships don’t really require much to fly but they are special conditions. Making them passive allows skill slots to be freed up in play. You decide if that’s a good thing or not. One could take the stand that an armored vehicle or person is slower and therefore should lose a slot.

Role Play Reward – A lot of games say “you should” role play out situations in the game. This is designed to encourage that mechanically. Watch out, the GM can get this bonus too!

Alternate Skill Choices – Don’t want to have to pick an event with Marksmanship because you’ve already gotten it twice? Well there’s a solution to that proposed by J. K. Mosher. Now I just need to implement this in the Events.

Core Item Bonuses – A lot of the time, players are picking things like elephant guns for their core items. This got me thinking that core items should get a bonus to their effectiveness. I’m a little split on applying this to Power Items but it may not be so bad.

There’s also a new skill, Hunting to be tied in with the Big Game Hunter Event in the advanced rules

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Story Seeds – Swashbuckling

The Swashbuckler is a character that is an idealist hero. By choosing this story seed the player indicates that they would like to play such a role. The Swashbuckler is also strongly associated with swordplay and often makes use of a damsel in distress as a motive for the PCs to act. With this story seed, the good guys are noble and principled while the bad guys are despicable villains.

Swordplay

To encourage swordplay, a setting may be slightly earlier in the steam age (1770-1815) when firearms are less reliable and repeating firearms may be too expensive or rare for most to use. The setting may also take on an alternate history, perhaps with firearms being illegal but swords are still permitted for the gentry and army. Another option could be an invention that renders firearms useless but swords are still effective.

Chivalry

The virtues associated with knightly honor play a large part in the hero’s action. These virtues vary but are most often honor, respect for women and charity. Honor most often means the PC would not act in cowardly or craven way in this setting but in general a chivalric character would work hard to maintain their Personal Code and perhaps openly proclaim their virtues in following it. Respect for women in this setting is most often protecting them from danger and unwanted romantic advances. Charity can include giving to the poor but in this sense it is used in the sense of protecting or fighting for the disadvantaged.

The Damsel

In the Swashbuckling setting the Damsel may be a nobel (literally or figuratively) lady that has been put in a bad situation and is now at the mercy of a vile villain. Because of circumstances beyond her control she is required to suffer the advances of the villain. The hero’s job is to release her from the grip of the villain.

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Bad British Food?

I cook and bake quite a bit. I’ve seen a lot of cook books from a lot of cultures and one of the cultures that never impressed me was UK cooking. I’ve actually wondered out loud to people “Why do the British have such awful recipes?” I wondered if they just didn’t have the culinary sense. It just didn’t seem right.

Thats why when NPR wrote about why the British have bland food I took notice. The article explains how it was partly rationing from back to back wars, the great depression, and the dismantling of the Aristocracy that destroyed the British food culture.

The good news is that in the Steam age, none of that has happened yet. It may not happen at all dependent on the setting. The article goes on to describe what would be in style in the 19th century aristocrat’s home. For one, hand made fancy molded ice creams. Artisanal cheeses would probably be made on location. Then there are delicacies being brought in from all over the world.

I thought I’d share this mainly because the dinner party was such a big part of the upper and even middle class culture that it would be a mistake to miss it in your games.

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