Snippets from Calteir: The Story of Chakola and Gembrig

Set in a semi-mythical past, Chakola & Gembrig is a traditional play in Morensia. It is considered one of the classic plays of familial tragedy. The author is uncertain.

The story

Chakola and Gembrig, at the fateful revelationIn the play, Gembrig and Chakola are brother and sister. They grow up quite strong and agile; the first scene is traditionally the two of them performing various acrobatic and martial feats to best each other. They join a mercenary company and see the world.

War comes. (In recent performances, this has been the Morensian Interregnum.) There is a great battle. Chakola and Gembrig’s units are split. They end up thinking the other is dead.

Months later, Chakola’s unit continues to fight as a mercenary band. Gembrig’s unit, having sworn loyalty to a lord who lost, has turned to banditry to support itself. Chakola’s fellow troops call her the Golden Sun, for her shining prowess on the field. Gembrig’s call him the Castle, for his unswerving loyalty.

Chakola and Gembrig find love in their new units. Chakola loves a beautiful, fierce woman named Terjada. Gembrig falls in love with a rock-hard sergeant named Terjad.

There is a fierce forest battle, where forest spirits cause confusion. Chakola ends up killing Terjad, and Gembrig kills Terjada. In a scene with the two troops’ camps, on opposite sides of the stage, the sister and brother swear vengeance on the unknown killers of their lovers: “This Sun shall set!” “This Castle shall fall!” The two sides rest for the night.

In the morning, there is another great battle. The two sides slaughter each other in horrible but very entertaining ways. (This is traditionally done with a mix of amazing acrobatics and seeming gore, using red streamers and the like.)

In the end, out of the confusion, two implacable helmeted foes face each other: the Castle and the Sun. In the end, the Sun strikes down the Castle, only to find that she, too, has been dealt a mortal blow. She removes her helmet, and the Castle’s helmet, and discovers the horrible truth.

One of the dead soldiers stands up and says “Let us, the spirits of the dead, remind you: tearing down your enemy’s Castle may tear out your own heart. The setting of every Sun may come at the cost of eternal night.”


This story is almost always performed as a stage play. It is sometimes recited, but it was apparently created with the stage in mind.

The story occupies a place in Morensian society similar to that of Romeo & Juliet, or the Legend of the White Snake.

Categories: Drama, Mercenaries


Snippets from Calteir

Calteir wiki masthead imageNow that I have The Bandit Map published, my attention turns to the next big project: Calteir.

It’s a fantasy game setting I’ve been working on for many years. I developed it alongside Blade & Crown, but neither requires the other. It exists as a wiki, as I’ve mentioned here before. The wiki format allows easy cross-referencing, search and modification. Calteir is designed with adventure in mind, making life easy for the busy GM.

Calteir is analogous to early medieval Europe in terms of technology. The first culture I’ve detailed in Calteir is Morensia, which resembles 11th century England, with some important differences. But I think other cultures will not give such a Eurocentric feel.

There are many mysteries in Morensia and Calteir, from what happened to the Dwarves, to who will succeed King Perseda, to the very origin of humanity itself. Calteir is already very deep, and I hope to make it far deeper. There is a strong sense of place, and adventure lurks around every corner.

This is the first post in a series of snippets from Calteir, like hitting the “random article” button at Wikipedia. Hopefully this series will help give some of the flavor of Calteir, and entice you into wanting to know more!

The Bandit Map: Available at the Source

For anyone who wants to flip through the pages first, The Bandit Map is also available for purchase at The Source. (You know, the best FLGS in the universe.) They have both the color and the B&W editions. Go check it out!

The Bandit Map on sale at The Source

It’s great that the Source continues to support small-time publishers like me. Thanks, Burl!

The Bandit Map: It’s Here!

The Bandit Map is finally ready to buy! You can buy it in either a B&W printed format, a color printed format or a color PDF.

It’s the first official adventure supplement for Blade & Crown. In it, the PCs find a mysterious map — a map that might help them stop the bandits who’ve been plaguing the area. It can be played in a single session, or form the core of an extended campaign.

The Bandit Map is something of a sandbox, with some great side-adventures. The Bandit Map includes extensive maps, illustrations and GM tools.

The Bandit Map is available for purchase three different ways:

And to celebrate, Blade & Crown is on sale! The main game will be 25% off (regardless of format) until September 30.

Please check it out, and let your friends know!

Bandit Map promotional banner

Review: Timeline

A month or so ago, I had a chance to play Timeline, the inventions edition. I had some frustrations with it, but overall liked it a lot, so when I went to Rogue Robot and saw Timeline on the shelf, I bought a copy.

Photo of Timeline (Historical Events edition), cards displayed without dates -- no spoilers!

Timeline is a very simple card game about history. Players take turns putting cards down, guessing whether they happened before or after what’s already been played. Was the crowning of Charlemagne before or after the Battle of Hastings? Which came first, the Grand Canal of China or the Great Wall? Was the shopping cart invented before or after the beginning of World War I? That sort of thing.

As play progresses, the timeline of cards gets more and more dense, and the decisions get harder and harder. It ramps up very naturally and elegantly.

There are, as I mentioned, some frustrations. Almost all of them are because the game’s definitions of some historical events seem a little wonky. For example, when was the start of the Cold War? I’d say the Yalta Conference, but I could see an argument for the end of WWII, the dropping of the first nuke or the Berlin Airlift. Yet every card in the game has a single, solitary, definitive year listed. Distilling history down to single, defined dates necessarily involves some simplification, and sometimes oversimplification.

Another example: in the Inventions edition of the game, there’s a card that says simply “Uranus”. Presumably this means the discovery of it, rather than, say, its formation out of the solar system’s protoplanetary disk. Even so, Uranus was never “invented”! The game kind of resembles Trivial Pursuit, in that it’s as much about figuring out what definitions the card-writers are operating under as it is about knowing the facts.

Still, though, it’s a very good, fast card game. It makes a great filler for when you’re uncertain what to play next. It takes about 30 seconds to figure out how to play it, and a complete game of Timeline can easily take only about 15 minutes.

The game as written recommends a sort of “sudden death” round in the event of a tie, where all players who put down their last card on the same round keep going until someone messes up. But the game is simple enough that this isn’t the only way to play it. I mostly play where simultaneous wins are possible. This both gets rid of the player elimination, makes the game less competitive, and makes it shorter.

There seems to be a little bit of strategy (in addition to paying attention in history class): hoard your really easy cards (“the beginning of the universe”, “death of the dinosaurs”) until the end.

I can already see that the game doesn’t have a huge amount of replay value — after playing only a few sessions, I’m already starting to memorize when the first hot air balloon flight was and when (they say) the Cold War started. Good reason to buy more editions, and mix them together. But that’s not replay value of the original game, just adding supplements.

Still, for about US$15, it’s quite a fun little game, with a good amount of replay value, and it makes a nice, portable, quick, easy-to-learn filler game.

New Traits for Blade & Crown: Oblivious

Another Trait that came out of a session with the monthly group:


You are Oblivious. Little things don’t bother you, and even the big things aren’t that big a deal. It’s not that you’re stupid (which would imply a low LOG) or have poor senses (which would mean low PER). It’s just that you tend not to be fazed by things. This can mean that you don’t get bothered when someone tries to influence you, or when scary things are about, or when more attuned people would be getting anxious. And of course it can also mean that you don’t pay attention to things you should, or that you’re excessively focused at times.

Another cool FLGS: Rogue Robot

About a month ago, I was going through Duluth again, so I stopped at another well-known FLGS: Rogue Robot.

Photo of the entrance to Rogue Robot games

Don’t let the basement location fool you. Rogue Robot is quite a large space, with multiple rooms. The store is connected via back hallways to the other offices in the building. The restrooms are also on this hallway.

Rogue Robot sells a wide and deep range of things. They have a good selection of comics, including tons of back issues; a decent selection of RPGs; lots of minis; a big selection of boardgames; and tons of HeroClix. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much HeroClix on sale in one place.

They have a fairly huge gaming room in the back. In terms of total area, I think it’s about equal to the Source’s back gaming area — plenty of room for multiple minis games, a bunch of boardgames, some RPGs and card games all to go on at the same time. They also have a large selection of minis scenery on the shelves. The temperatures here seemed fairly high on the day I visited, but maybe that’s an aberration.

Near this gaming area, they had lockers. Is this a Duluth thing? I’ve never seen lockers in Twin Cities FLGSs, but now both the stores I’ve been to in Duluth have them.

As I breezed through, I bought a copy of the card game Timeline (more on that in a later post), a few dice (they had some nice d12s, good for use with Blade & Crown) and a pop. Rogue Robot has the usual snacks on sale, a fridge of pop, etc.

The woman working behind the counter hit just the right level of customer service: friendly, open to helping without being obnoxious, etc.

Rogue Robot doesn’t seem as huge or as RPG-focused as Dungeons End, and parking wasn’t quite as convenient. But it seems like a pretty good FLGS nonetheless.

A statement of principles

Photo of a rainbowI have gotten the message, at times, that one of my biggest potential selling points for my game(s) is that they’re written by a trans woman. I feel pressure to publicly appeal to that fact in order for them to succeed.

Why don’t I discuss that part of myself more? Well, first, I don’t like discussing it, because I think — I know — that it opens me up to a lot of abuse. Abuse that I get enough of from other aspects of my life, and don’t want to invite more of. Because of many things going on in my life, I try to — I need to — steer clear of those issues. The result is that I am forced to be silent, and to lose opportunities, because safety is a pressing concern.

Second, I don’t like discussing those things because I don’t want my games to need to be about such narrow foci. Those aspects of my identity are important to me, of course, but so are other aspects of myself. I don’t want to be, as Elizabeth Sampat puts it, “professionally female”.

A lot is going on right now in fandom: D&D 5′s active but non-ideal inclusion of gender diversity; the handling of harassment in fandom (WisCon, skeptic circles, San Diego Comic-Con, various online fora and many, many other settings); confronting video game publishers who treat women characters as afterthoughts, at best; and so many other loci of change. (I would like to include background links here, but I honestly don’t think I could come close to summarizing everything that’s going on right now.) We are coming up against a lot of deep-seated, insidious issues in fandom — issues that a lot of us have been experiencing for a very long time, but which haven’t gotten enough airplay until now. I’ve personally put up with a lot of crap that is part and parcel of all of this.

As a result, I feel like I should express where I stand. I’ve been working on an essay about feminism, diversity, exclusion, marketing, identity and other issues. But it’s getting too painful, convoluted and long.

I’d like to see, instead, if I can boil it down to the basics. I’d like to make a brief(er) statement of principles:

  • Gaming fandom should be for anyone who’s interested in gaming, and who isn’t a jerk.
  • Because of the missing stair problem, we need to be open about jerkiness in our midsts, and work openly to get rid of it. Jerkiness won’t get rid of itself, much though it should.
  • It’s good that we’re starting to openly discuss the jerkiness in our midsts, and beginning to get rid of it.
  • Fandom is about being interested in things, and enjoying those things. It should not require a particular budget, nor a particular level of fame, to be involved or accepted within it.
  • Fandom should not be about geek hierarchies of who’s more fannish, acceptable, out there, famous, wealthy or whatever. So long as we’re decent people, we’re all equally worthy of fannish respect.
  • Gaming and fandom in general should not have to, nor try to, gain social acceptance by elevating famous exemplars, pushing arguments that appeal to “productivity” or by dumping on other nerdy hobbies.
  • If we always put our attention — money, time, conversation, whatever — into those who are already famous or conventionally successful, we won’t break down oppressive structures. (Remember, tabletop roleplaying gaming can be one of the most revolutionary art forms/hobbies out there, and it has never required fame or even wealth to be enjoyable. ) If the same old elements put on new hats and continue to speak for us, things will not improve, at least not fast enough.
  • A game can be inclusive or exclusive, regardless of whether it’s old school or new school or something wholly other. System matters, but not absolutely; it’s possible to do a game about any topic with any system. Some systems make it easier to do some topics, certainly, and some may carry bad baggage; but it’s entirely possible to (for example) run a game about trans issues using a relatively old-school approach like Blade & Crown.
  • It’s great when oppressed people feel comfortable enough to speak up about what we’re enduring.
  • It’s also great when we practice self-care and give ourselves time away from the front lines (to the extent that we’re able).
  • It can be great when our gaming addresses social issues.
  • It can also be great when women, people of color, LGBT people and other marginalized folks can get a breather from having to address social issues. Many kinds of gaming can be good.
  • It’s terrible when cis, hetero, white guys try to make gaming exclusive to people like them, or when they operate under the notion that women, people of color, LGBT people, etc. are somehow encroaching on ‘their’ turf. (As if anyone owns fandom; and as if we haven’t been here since the beginning.)
  • It’s nice when cis, hetero, white guys…
    • …remember that they are not the default.
    • …remember that women, people of color, LGBT folks and all the rest of us exist, and use language and actions that reflect this.
    • …form groups (podcasts, editorial boards, web fora, panels, boardgame clubs, etc. etc.) that don’t consist solely of cis, hetero, white guys.
    • …realize that “woman”, “person of color” or “LGBT person” is not and cannot be a person’s sole defining characteristic.
    • …understand that having (for example) more than one woman in a group is not somehow more than necessary, nor is it a passing or occasional fancy. You don’t round out your gaming group, podcast, editorial board or concomm by occasionally having one woman, or one gay guy, or one person of color. Treating it that way is tokenism.
    • …work for including marginalized folks, even when it’s not easy.
    • …note it loudly when women, LGBT people, people of color, etc. are being excluded.
    • …argue in favor of inclusion.
    • …realize it isn’t their place to “allow” or “include” diversity. Diversity doesn’t come from the top down.
    • …know when to stand down and get out of the way so women, LGBT people, people of color, etc. can get our voices heard.
  • Gaming and fandom in general can be great places to have fun. We should make sure that the largest possible number of people get to do that, without harshing anyone else’s squee.

Those are my principles, such as they are. That’s what I try to live by and work for these days in fandom.

Hmm, still not all that brief. Well, these issues are complex. Hopefully I’ve said it all clearly enough.

I love gaming, and fandom in general. I enjoy many aspects of this great family of hobbies, in many different ways. I intend to keep enjoying them in all the ways I can, as long as I can. And I intend to keep working to make sure lots of different people get the opportunity to do the same, in all the ways I can.

Con of the North 2015: What to run?

A compass roseAs with last year, I’m wondering what to run at next year’s Con of the North. Somehow the submission deadline always comes up too quickly!

Here’s what I’m thinking of so far:

  • The Dooms that Came to Chaegrae. This is kind of an experiment in high-powered Blade & Crown — PCs who are truly unafraid of mundane death, because they know their fates are glorious. There will be a tomb to explore and hopefully some good intra-party goofiness.
  • The Year-Song. A group of priests and their escorts travel against a background of civil war to learn an important religious ritual. What will test their faith?
  • Microscope. This is always fun, and sometimes very intense.
  • Og. Goofy, low-vocabulary fun.
  • Something else. Maybe The Quiet Year? Or Fiasco?

What do you think? If you plan to be at Con of the North and have preferences, let me know!

B&C errata

I just noticed a couple small errors in Blade & Crown. That means errata!

From page 68:

Combatants declare in order from lowest Initiative Phase to Initiative Phase to highest. Therefore, those with the highest Initiative Phase get to react to what everyone else is doing. If someone wants to bid for a higher Initiative Phase (see Initiative Phase & Turn Order, below, for more on this).

The parentheses there got placed wrong. It should probably say something like:

Combatants declare in order from lowest Initiative Phase to Initiative Phase to highest. Therefore, those with the highest Initiative Phase get to react to what everyone else is doing. If someone wants to bid for a higher Initiative Phase, they may do so; see Initiative Phase & Turn Order, below, for more on this.

And on page 69, a smaller typo:

Your Initiative Phase is 7, meaning you go before everyone else, but also meaning that you have to take a penalty of (Initiative Phase = 3) — 7, or ­-4, to all your physical skill rolls this round. Let’s hope being first was worth the effort!

That em-dash should of course be a subtraction symbol, so it should read something more like:

Your Initiative Phase is 7, meaning you go before everyone else, but also meaning that you have to take a penalty of (Initiative Phase = 3) – 7, or ­-4, to all your physical skill rolls this round. Let’s hope being first was worth the effort!

It seems like B&C is pretty error-free, but I’m sure there are a few others lurking in there somewhere. Let me know if you find any other mistakes.