Sunday, 30 August 2020
Sunday, 23 August 2020
Sunday, 16 August 2020
If you've been paying attention to RPG news (and really, who doesn't gobble up every least crumb?) you'll have noticed a lot of fuss over Combat Wheelchairs in D&D. In brief, Sara Thompson, a writer for R Talsorian, thought it would be fun to design a D&D wheelchair. Idiots objected. There was fuss.
The chair itself looks like tons of fun. Sara obviously put a great deal of thought into it. In broadest possible terms it's a Sports Wheelchair design with extra bits, and to be honest until this post came up I knew sports chairs existed, but not in such variety. If you want to know more about Sara's design the documents are posted in her Google drive and Sara can be found on Twitter over here. I follow her; I think some of you would enjoy following her too.
It made me think about wheelchairs in Pelgrane's game worlds. I'm not going to talk about Swords of the Serpentine as Sara's pretty much covered that ground already. If you wanted to use that design in Swords it would want some tweaks since it's for a different game system, but fantasy is fantasy and even if you have to rationalize some of its abilities differently there's no reason why you couldn't rationalize them.
In Trail, Esoterrorists, Fear Itself or Night's Black Agents a wheelchair-bound character is entirely plausible. Possibly a bit too plausible; after all, characters do put themselves in remarkably dangerous situations. Accidents happen.
A Trail (or for that matter Call) character lives in a world that's very wheelchair-unfriendly, but on the flip side she shares that world with a lot of people who have physical issues of one kind or another. The Great War generated a truly staggering number of permanently impaired people - over one million life-debilitating wounds, according to Yale University's research. They'd be very common in Europe, but over 2.8 million Americans served on the Front Lines overseas - that figure presumably doesn't count the Americans who served in foreign armies like Eugene Bullard - and many of them would have come back with permanent injuries of one kind or another. So the world around her is used to people like her, which may come in handy.
Sara's design presupposes a combat use but Trail, like Fear Itself, really isn't a combat system. Frankly if you get into combat in Trail you've probably made a serious mistake. This is why Fleeing is such an important ability. However as Sara notes the combat wheelchair is Swift, particularly downhill. I'd be inclined to give a character going downhill an additional 3 points to their Fleeing pool, so long as the character doesn't mind the risk of ending up in a crash at the bottom. I'd probably ignore most of the upgrades since they aren't really meant for this game world nor are they necessarily beneficial. However the armor plates (extra 2 Health) and mounted pistol look handy, and putting a permanent pack on the frame for books, cameras and scientific equipment is reasonable. As far as Tripping opponents goes, I'd make it a straight Athletics check difficulty 4, or difficulty 5 if you want to delay the target for more than one round. I see this more as delaying a chase scene opponent than a combat trick, but the player may see it differently.
Esoterrorists and Night's Black Agents both suppose a much more dangerous world. The combat aspects of the chair become increasingly important. On the other hand those spider legs look sweet, and totally in keeping with a Stakes style NBA game. Q Branch would be proud, and so would Dracula Dossier's Tinman. Besides if Douglas Bader can become an air ace after losing both his legs there's no reason why your Muscle can't be a vampire-hunting hero in a wheelchair.
Added to the chair's usual add-ons is the Conceal option. Frederick Forsythe leads the way in Day of the Jackal, where the assassin out to snipe De Gaulle hides the parts of his weapon in a disabled veteran's crutch and finagles his way into a veterans-only celebration.
It can be very useful to appear weak. People underestimate you to their detriment, particularly if you have a sniper rifle hidden away. This probably wouldn't work if your chair was being electronically scanned, but there's bound to be a way to spoof the simpler scanners out there. Besides a scan might not pick up garlic or crucifixes hidden away, and that could be more important than a mercury-tipped rifle round.
Gadgets ... anything that allows you to apply Blocks or Banes is a definite plus. Exactly what that entails depends on the vampire type, and there are so many versions it's pointless going over them all. Still, there are some all-purpose gadgets. A simple GPS function, perhaps designed to trace Surveillance targets. If Bond can follow a GPS tracer in Goldfinger (a film that's nearly 60 years old now) then surely someone can come up with a chair attachment that does the same thing. Small one-shot Flamethrower for those moments when Intimidation just doesn't cut it? Taser? Ooo! What if the entire chair was effectively a taser and the user was insulated by the seat, but anyone touching the chair got zapped?
This is beginning to sound like a Wire Rat's dream come true, and it's probably a good build for that kind of character. However any or all of the agent builds can make use of the chair option. You'd need to finagle it for your table and some of Sara's ideas are a non-starter in a modern (ish) game with no blatant magical effects. Looking at you, Beacon Stone. That said, the modern world is much more chair-friendly than the 1930s and there's really no reason why a chair-bound character shouldn't go wherever they like.
There are even adaptive chairs for skiing, and apparently there have been versions since the 1940s. Cue the Bond-style ski chase! Bonus points if Propellerheads is playing in the background.
Anyway I hope this gives the Directors, Keepers and players out there something to think about. There's all kinds of ways to play this - pick the version you like and have fun with it.
Sunday, 9 August 2020
Sunday, 2 August 2020
At the outbreak of the war as men marched off to fight, the unexpected resource drain pushed women to unexpected workplace gains. Particularly in the early years when entire unions, streets and schools volunteered in a body, industries and schools discovered they had neither workers nor students. Though initially resistant many professions recruited women to replace the absent men, in all sorts of roles - including tram drivers.
You wouldn't know it by looking today, but in 1914 electric trams were the preeminent form of public transport in London. In fact, London led Europe in tram use and the system was ever-expanding, but the War delayed things substantially and it would soon be obvious trams were on the way out. The car and truck would eventually take over where trams left off, but that wouldn't happen until the 1930s when cars were more affordable, and available. In 1914 the tram was still vital, and the tram lines desperately needed conductors and drivers.
Trams were more glamorous than omnibuses, writes Adie, cleaner and quieter, and they soon were used in numerous cities as part of the recruitment campaign. Rochdale trams bore posters asking 'Are you fighting for Rule Britannia - or only singing?' Southampton and Leeds went one better and dressed their vehicles overall with coloured lightbulbs. They looked magnificent, clanging over the rails with 'God Save the King' illuminated in huge letters ...
The women driving and collecting tickets on these trams garnered many nicknames. To some they were conductorettes, to others clippies or lady conductors. They did the same jobs as men and took the same risks; in 1916, during a zeppelin raid, conductor Sally Holmes was blasted clear out of her tram and was lucky to escape with a badly injured leg.
All of which brings me to:
If she has a name, your Bookhounds don't know it. She only answers to Clippie. She walks with a noticeable limp, but that doesn't stop her covering her beat; she's a well-known book scout whose specialty is Oxford, particularly the colleges. Nobody knows why, but if you want to know which don's library is about to be sold or what some academic literary lion is looking for this month, ask Clippie. She knows.
Bookhounds who do a little digging (Oral History, possibly Library Use) discover that before the War she worked as a tweeny at one of the Oxford colleges, following in the footsteps of her older sisters. She started when she was 12 and stayed till she was 16. That's why she knows Oxford so well; she was born there, and several of her relatives still live and work there.
Shortly after the War started she moved to London and worked for a time for the London, Deptford and Greenwich Tramways Company as a conductress. She loved the job and the life, and was a fixture of her route. Everybody knew the Clippie. She worked the trams until 1917, when her career was abruptly cut short.
On the evening of 12 September Clippie's tram was on it way back to the depot when a Gotha raid bombed London, killing 30 and injuring 64. Clippie was blown clear out of her tram, the only survivor; everyone else on board were killed. From that day to this she refuses to get on board a tram, or go anywhere near electrical devices. She was temporarily homeless until taking up life as a book scout; these days she lives by candlelight aboard a barge in Greenwich.
Funny thing about that barge; it's covered in electrical diagrams and books of all kinds about electrical machinery. Clippie spends every waking hour studying them, when she's not earning a crust. She never says why.
- Clippie's a megapolisomancer who just wants to get control of her life again. She knows there's something out there stalking the tramlines, something fierce, vital and lethal. She's looking for a way to bring this paramental entity under control, but she hasn't given any thought to what will happen when she does it. Once she has a killing creature as her personal emissary, what will Clippie do? Or is Clippie's obsession the reason this thing exists at all?
- Clippie shares her head with four ghosts: the conductor and passengers of Tram #38, who have an elastic approach to time. Sometimes they recognize the passing of the years, and sometimes it's still 12 September, 1917. Clippie's secret is not well-kept, and several occult groups and societies have tried to use her as a window to the afterlife, a medium with a hole in her mind, capable of being filled by almost anything. She always refuses to perform in any room fitted with electric light or electric devices of any kind. One would-be student of the occult (a Bookhound, perhaps?) decides to challenge the norm and tricks Clippie into performing in a room with electric fittings, which proves a real problem when the final, unexpected ghost appears - Tram #38 itself, an entity with (among other things) Scuffling 16 and +1 Damage (electric shock).
- Clippie's a go-between for Yithian outposts in London and Oxford. There was a time when Clippie herself was a Yithian agent, but the 12 September bombing put paid to that. However she remains loyal to the cause and now knows as much as anyone about Yithian activity in London and Oxford. Her obsession with electrical equipment has to do with her deep desire to recreate the devices she half-remembers from her time as a Yithian. She thinks she might just be able to translocate herself from the London she hates to the far-off Other she loves. When not running errands for her masters and buying books to keep a roof over her head she experiments with strange devices, out on the river where there are few witnesses.