Friday, December 30, 2011

SPACE:1889 - The Burning Desert

The Savage Troll is proud to present a new MapTool/Savage Worlds module set in Frank Chadwick's SPACE:1889 setting which was Savaged by Pinnacle Entertainment Group in Space:1889 - Red Sands. The module comes from Tales from the Ether, a SPACE:1889 supplement available on DriveThruRPG.

The adventure begins as one of the characters receives a letter from an old school chum requesting help on Princess Christiana Station on Mercury. Attached to the letter is a newspaper article concerning tin prices. Foul things are afoot and he needs your help. The characters must survive the bitter cold, tropical river, and burning desert of Mercury if they wish to solve the mystery.

The MapTool campaign file comes complete with all handouts from the original module, a detailed map of Princess Christiana Station, two vehicle tokens, 5 player character tokens, and over 8 NPC tokens for use in this and other SPACE:1889 - Red Sands adventures.

The Burning Desert requires both Space:1889 - Red Sands and Tales from the Ether to play.

To download the adventure, simply right click on the download link, 'Save As' to the directory of your choice, launch MapTool (yes, it's just that easy), and load the campaign file in MapTool. If you have any questions, visit the Framework page followed by the FAQ page.

Related Links:
Review of Space:1889 - Red Sands
The Making of The Burning Desert
Space 1889 Pregen characters from The Savage Troll
Space 1889 Pregen characters from Pinnacle Entertainment Group

Products of Interest
Tales from the Ether ($3.95 for 5 adventures easily converted to Savage Worlds/Red Sands)
Space 1889 Adventure Bundle ($7.95 all 4 adventure products for 1889 including Tales from the Ether)
Space 1889 Product Bundle ($39.95 for everything published by GDW for Space 1889)

Red Sands Players Guide ($14.95 all the rules you should need for this adventure)
Red Sands ($24.99 full rule book)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review - The Lightning Train

Fantasy Maps: Lightning Train Map Pack
Publisher: D20 Cartographer
Price: $2.99
Artist: Joshua Bennett

All Aboard! The Lightning Train is about to leave the station. Tracks? Who needs tracks with a train that levitates above the ground on electro-magnetic forces and/or magic? Just don't step in front of the train. Those cow-catchers have a habit of flash frying anything in their way. You might want to steer clear of the engine as well. Lightning bolts fly from the front of the engine arcing backwards in brilliant displays of light.

This is an amazing map set suitable for a Fantasy or SteamPunk settings. It includes maps of the Engine, three different First Class cars, three standard passenger cars, two freight cars, a service car, and caboose. The pack also include four empty cars and object images so you can make cars according to your own personal design. You can mix and match the images anyway you wish to create the train of your choice.

The product includes PDFs for printing, JPGs for importing into your favorite Virtual Tabletop, and PNGs representing objects inside the train. The most interesting file, however, is the MapTool campaign file. It's thing of beauty containing 11 maps representing the outside of the train and the inside of each individual car.

For those who don't know, MapTool is a free VTT you can use in your face-to-face games with a projector, or connect with your friends across the Internet to play online. It is a full-featured program that runs equally well on Mac, Linux, or Windows.

Joshua leveraged several cool features of MapTool to make his map do wonders. It makes full use of lighting and topology meaning your MapTool players will only see what their characters see. The Lightning train also uses Wolph42's teleport pad. With this, players step between cars disappearing from one map and appearing on another.

This product does an equally good job of showing off the artist's talent and MapTool's capabilities. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review - Kindle Fire - the Good, the Bad, and the Must Have

I'm moving away from books to PDFs and eBooks. Books, by their physical nature, require their presence to be useful while, with a suitable device, you can view electronic media anywhere. Electronic media also has the advantage of easy bookmarks and text searches. While it might seem romantic to curl up with a book by the fire or in bed at night, my age dictates I need a strong light and reading glasses for any such endeavor. An eReader or Tablet solves both those issues.

As long time readers will know, I've long looked for a product to hold my gaming PDFs that is portable and versatile. I investigated various tablets and eBook readers but none seemed to fit the bill. The basic problem being that eReaders don't do PDFs well and Tablet Computers don't make for great readers.

As time passed, the two markets began to merge. Tablets became more reader-friendly while readers became more tablet-ish. Eventually even the products' operating system became the same, Google's Android. So I waited for the right product at the right price.

My wife finally put me out of my indecisive misery and purchased a new Kindle Fire for my birthday. I have ever said how awesome she is?

Because some of you are trying to make a decision, I'm going to give a bulleted list of the things I like and dislike about the product. An explanation will follow along with a list of 'must have' applications for your Kindle.

Likes and Dislikes

Monday, December 19, 2011

Savage Worlds Christmas Creatures - WereSanta, Krampus, Fairies

Welcome to the Krampus Christmas Blog Carnival!

Tales from The Savage Troll is proud to present three new creatures for use in your Christmas themed games: The Were Santa, Krampus, and a Fairy. While we realize that fairies aren't a Christmas critter per se, this one is a companion to the current Were Santa and so merits inclusion.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Steampulp vs. Steampunk

This is one of those articles which may cause me to lose some readers, but the topic has been burdening me for a bit so I figure it's best to get it off my chest.

Recently I decided to participate in Nevermet Press's Krampus Christmas Carnival. Blog carnivals link blogs and websites together for a common monthly theme. The theme of this carnival is the Krampus, an anti-Santa that inflicts harm and scolding upon the children on the naughty list. It sounded like fun, so I added my blog to the list of participants.

When I write something, anything really, I perform research to give the story depth. I read the Krampus wiki and asked coworkers of various nationalities about the creature. Most called Krampus by the name of Black Santa, a shadowy being that entered the bedrooms on Christmas Eve to punish bad children. You could tell the memories of Black Santa were not found ones.

Since I write Horror/Adventure books, the Krampus makes a good fictional creature. My plan for the blog carnival is to write a short story about Thomas Gunn who, as a child, encounters Krampus and plays Encyclopedia Brown to stop the Yuletide Punisher in his tracks. I ran into plot issues since the story happens all in one night and communication in 1910 was difficult. The ending never jelled in my head so I abandoned it.

Since that path failed I decided to try another track. The carnival called for a Steampunk setting so I started researching exactly what that meant. I call the Space 1889 setting Steampunk but have discovered how very wrong I am. Apparently, the appropriate title for 1889 is Steam Pulp. I agree with that name now that I've investigated Steam Punk a bit more.

Steam Punk, as detailed in the SteamPunk Magazine, is a movement akin to anarchy working against Victorian Society to bring that social structure down. As they state: "it's more than just adding brass gears to equipment." Below is a quote from their magazine.

BEFORE THE age of homogenization and micro-machinery, before the tyrannous efficiency of internal combustion and the domestication of electricity, lived beautiful, monstrous machines that lived and breathed and exploded unexpectedly at inconvenient moments. It was a time where art and craft were united, where unique wonders were invented and forgotten, and punks roamed the streets, living in squats and fighting against despotic governance through wit, will and wile. 
Even if we had to make it all up. 
SteamPunk Magazine is a publication that is dedicated to promoting SteamPunk as a culture, as more than a sub-category of fiction. It is a journal of fashion, music, misapplied technology and chaos. And fiction. 
It just may be the most spectacular magazine to ever fight against the spectacle, and it is free. Or as cheap as we can possibly get it to you. Using the latest in Creative Commons technology, we undermine the fascism of copyright while protecting ourselves from direct co-option. 
We sell the magazine for as close to cost as we can manage, and we offer it for free PDF download for printing at home.

They lost me at 'tyrannous efficiency of the internal combustion engine' and more so at 'the fascism of copyright'.

I read several articles and disliked each more than its predecessor. Apparently it's the Punk aspect they cling to, ala the Punk Rock phenomenon where thrashing singers puked on their adoring fans. How shall I say this? Punk was never my cup of tea.

So, after researching Steam Punk I realized I had nothing to offer for the Carnival. That genre is never one I would enjoy the way the purest enjoy it. On the flip side, this is just one opinion but one I saw several times. I've read stories that were supposed to be Steam Punk but had none of the 'screw technology and laws' aspect to them. They were just pleasant stories about semi-magical steam and brass devices.

So, what to do?

Basically I decided to ignore them. It's akin to changing the channel if you don't enjoy a TV show. I play games as an escapist. I have no desire to fight old ideologies of colonialism and stratified social structures. The equipment and period settings attract me to Victorian game Savage World settings like Space 1889 and The Kerberos Club.

I eventually stumbled upon Frank Chadwick's blog, where he states that Space 1889 is actually Steam Pulp. I now realize that most of the Steam Punk fiction I enjoy is actually Steam Pulp fiction. Everything slid into place in my head like a metal gear turning to advance an 1890's clock.

I love writing pulp. The pulp genre has a few rules: good is clearly good and bad is clearly bad, people seldom die unless it advances the story in some way, and the villain always gets away. Even these rules aren't set in stone but act more as guidelines. Pulp is a genre I can get behind and enjoy. It's not that the character's can't be complex with foibles aplenty, it's just you can empathize with them.

So, I sat down to write the short story and stared at my empty Scrivener window. Nothing came. The curse of the blinking cursor dogged my every thought. Once more I'm left with the question: what to do?

Eventually I decided to resurrect an old character of mine that is truly twisted. Tomorrow you'll see a Savage Worlds version of my were-Santa along with his punishing sidekick Krampus and a drunk Fairy named Tinkler Girl. I hope you enjoy it. It's about as Punk as I get.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Savage Worlds Poker Deck for MapTool

I've had several requests to handle a deck of cards outside the initiative system for the MapTool Savage Worlds Framework. Sunday morning, I added a new Library Token called Lib:PokerDeck .

The Framework update includes a new Library token for the SWEX campaign file called Lib:PokerDeck and three new macro buttons on the campaign macro window. You control the new PokerDeck token from these three macro buttons.

Draw Card for Select Tokens campaign button draws a card from the Poker Deck for each token selected. You'll get an error message if the deck runs out of cards.

Manage Hand macro button displays an HTML frame with the hands of all the players, including your own. Below is an image of the Troll's hand. It shows all the cards for other players as well (if they don't have the cards set as 'Hole' cards).

The Troll has several options of what to do with his card. He can make the card Face up, Face down, put it in the Hole (other players can't see it), or discard it. The Troll could also draw another card from the deck or fold his hand completely, losing all his cards.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review - Fantastic Maps - At The Gate

Fantastic Maps: At The Gates
Publisher: Rite Publishing
Price: $2.99
Artist: Jonathan Roberts

Jonathan Roberts is a cartographer for Kobold QuarterlySunken Empires, and Adventures in the Hyborian Age. He also contributes regularly to the Maptool forumsunder the name Torstan.

For December, he's produced another fine battlemap showing a wintry fortress with a barricade. It was originally used in the Pathfinder adventure The Breaking of Forstor NagarThe battle scene depicts an encampment outside a city fortress with a tent, bonfire, damaged buildings, and a sturdy barricade to prevent a counter attack.  The fortress is protected with a wall, moat, and bridge.

The product includes .pdf files for printing, jpg for importing into VTTs, and .rpmap files for importing directly into MapTool.  It also contains a set of .png files for the objects that appear on the maps for use in other scenarios.

Related links:
Announcement on RPTools forum
Fantastic Maps Blog
Fantastic Maps on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Very Zombie Holiday

Tales from The Savage Troll does its best to be a good netizen. To that end, please view the short, informational PSA about what to do in the case of a holiday zombie invasion.

Happy Holidays from The Savage Troll.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Super Hero Dating Service

I ran across this while cruising the web. I think it might be an option for those looking for a holiday hookup.

The outtakes are pretty funny as well. Lex Luthor with an iPhone is priceless.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review - The Savage Worlds Horror Companion

Savage Worlds Horror Companion
by Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Publisher:  Studio 2 Publishing, Inc.
Price: $19.99 (Print), $14.99 (.pdf DriveThruRPG)
Pages: 144

Pinnacle Entertainment Group released a new member of their Companion series for the Horror genre. This work joins the Super Powers and Fantasy Companions as suplements to the Savage Worlds rules set. Like the others in the series, the Horror Companion is in the smaller Explorer’s Edition format.

One important note: this rule book does not stand on its own. It is a supplement. You must have either the Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition or Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition in order to fully utilize this product.

The Horror Companion contains generous amounts of artwork, reference tables, encounters, character additions, and equipment for all your Horror genre needs. It’s information-packed pages contain rules and setting advice to recreate Horror/Super Natural adventures in the Victorian worlds of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelly, the modern slap-stick humor of Ghostbusters, the serial action/horror adventures of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the star-spanning terror of H. P. Lovecraft's creations, or the futuristic nightmare creatures of the Alien franchise all packed in 144 pages.

Character Creation

In the Savage Worlds tradition of Fast, Furious, and Fun; the Horror Companion jumps right into character creation. Savage Worlds is one of the best game systems for replicating the theatrical adventure one finds in movies and novels. To that end, the work includes a number of customized Edges and Hindrances to allow for characters pulled straight from the movie house.

The new Edges and Hindrances for your players and NPCs include:

  • Angst
  • Bleeder
  • Bullet Magnet 
  • Cursed
  • Combat Shock
  • Doubting Thomas
  • Jumpy
  • Screamer
  • Slow
  • Touched
  • Victim
  • Relentless
  • Fanaticism
  • Exorcist
  • Necromancer
  • Master Necromancer
  • Talisman Craftsman
  • Monster Hunter
  • Sound Mind
  • Tower of Will
  • Hardened
  • Occultist
  • One of the Chosen
  • Visions
If your campaign is a little more powerful, you can also have non-human characters and NPCs. Be warned, they will be distinctly more power than the humans. If you plan on running a mixed character group, you might want to consider starting humans as Seasoned while starting other races out at the Novice rank.

Character Races
  • Angel 
  • Demon  
  • Dhampyr - half vampire
  • Patchwork Man - like the Frankenstein Monster
  • Phantom - ethereal 
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Zombie - has a thing for fresh meat.
The Tools of the Trade

The Horror Companion equipment section was truly a joy to read. I was pleased to see Ghostbuster-style equipment present. Other equipment mimicked that found in movies series like Blade or Underworld. Below is a partial list of equipment found in this section.

  • Atomic Ghost Hunting Pack
  • Ultraviolet Grenade
  • Garlic Bullets
  • Silver Nitrate Bullets
  • Ultraviolet Bullets
  • Ghost Trap

Fear and Loathing in Gaming - Setting Rules

The Setting section adds horror tinted ideas to create custom styles of play. Your game setting might have a horrible price for magic, people splatter when killed, heightened magical effects based on the calendar day,  or the fact that immoral behavior is a serial killer magnet.

For the Lovecraft fans, the Horror Companion includes a Sanity attribute which measures the character’s Spiritual toughness. It starts at half the character’s Spirit+2. Carnage, super natural terror, and forbidden knowledge lower Sanity while triumphing over evil, rest and relaxation, and psychotherapy heal it.

If a character’s Sanity drops too low, they are odd in some way and pick up a negative to their Charisma. If it drops to zero, they get the joy of rolling on the Psychosis Table. Luckily, the rules allow for Sanity healing, so your characters might be brought back from the brink.

Other setting rules include
  • Forbidden Lore - containing information “Man Was Not Meant to Know”
  • Rituals and the Price of Failure - magic in horror settings isn’t often as easy or available as fantasy settings. The Ritual rules contain some variations to simulate this in game terms. Rituals that fail carry special consequences. Depending on the setting, Villians may use Sacrifices to power their evil Rituals and spells.
  • Signs & Portents - Horror often includes foreshadowing from a fortune teller or dreams. The Horror Companion includes a Portents Table to help the GM determine the value of the visions or advice. Unlucky characters receiving a fortune of Doom may have their Bennies removed for the rest of the game.
  • Wards & Binds -  an important aspect of Horror is the ability to ward against evil or bind an unstoppable being, so the Horror Companion has rules governing these aspects including how such a creature breaks free.


Much like the equipment section, the Horror Companion contains new powers to simulate popular Horror fiction. In addition, powers derived from Dark sources may drain sanity if the caster rolls a critical failure. Even if your character does not have an Arcane Background, they may still be able to cast spells via Rituals (see setting rules, above).

Some of the new powers include:
  • Banish Entity
  • Bind Entity
  • Consecrate Ground
  • Corpse Senses
  • Drain Years
  • Enhance Undead
  • Grave Shroud
  • Grave Speak
  • Nightmares
  • Spirit Shield
  • Strength of the Dead
  • Summon Demon
  • Summon Spirit
  • Suppress Lycanthropy
The Horror Companion also contains a list of Arcane Items for inclusion in your game. Some of these items are cursed, others are ancient and unique, while still others can be made with the proper ingredients. The items include:
  • Bandages of Anubis
  • Frankenstein’s Laboratory
  • Hockey Mask of Terror
  • Sacrificial Knife 
  • Voodoo Dolls

What’s a Horror adventure without terrifying creatures to fight, overcome, or evade? The Horror Companion doesn’t disappoint with a list of mundane and super natural beings for encounters. They aren’t all monsters. Some are people like Vampire Slayers or Occultic Investigators that might help your characters when things go bump in the night.
  • Dark Man
  • Collector Demon
  • Pazuzu
  • Dreamreaver
  • Evil Clown
  • Haunted Car
  • Haunted Portrait
  • Mad Scientist
  • Serial Killers
  • Stuffed Animal Fiend
  • Chinese Hopping Vampire
  • Were-Creatures
The last section on Game Mastering guides the GM through a setting creation by describing the various genres of Horror. Before starting, the GM needs to decide the Horror style to use including: Action, Greater Evil, and Dark.

  • Action settings involve lots of combat where the characters wade through monsters, kicking super natural butt and taking names. The heroes are more akin to fantasy settings than helpless teenagers running way from a serial killer. Fear rules are rarely used in this style of play.
  • Greater Evil settings feature super natural creatures as far above us as we are above ants. The human race is an insignificant speck in the universe and all their technology is useless against being of cosmic power. Heroes are normal men and women who are drawn into the dark to keep mankind safe from the greater cosmic horror. Fear and Sanity rules dominate this style of play with the characters struggling to stay sane.
  • Dark settings are somewhere between Action and Greater Evil settings. In this case, there may be monsters that are easily killed but others, like vampires, are difficult and take planning. Fear rules are used often but the Sanity rules are de-emphasised. Things are scary but not mind bending.

After the GM picks the style, they must decide on an era of play. Will the campaign be in a Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Modern, or Historical era.

  • Fantasy is a well worn path with which most gamers are familiar. It’s also likely the hardest to separate from a classic fantasy campaign. The Ravensloft modules can be easily transformed into Savage Worlds using a combination of the Fantasy and Horror Companions.
  • Sci-Fi campaigns are another setting players should be familiar with. Aliens or Warhammer 40K would both do well Savaged using these rules. Likewise I could see moving the Horror Companion rules into the existing Savage Worlds Necropolis setting.
  • Modern is another era setting that would be easy to implement. Thanks to the Internet, maps and locals are easily found and used for game purposes.
  • History era settings are probably the hardest to create. The GM will need to spend a good bit of time on research to get the story-telling touches down to make the players feel like they’re in the time period. That said, the Victorian time period has many game supplements available including Space 1889, Rippers, and Deadlands. Other historical settings include Weird War II, Pirates of the Spanish Main, and Solomon Kane.


I enjoyed reading this supplement cover to cover. It’s packed with ideas, statistics, and other content to help GMs and Players create a fun (or scary) Horror campaign. While the content isn’t as extensive as other Savage Worlds horror supplements like Realms of C’thulhu or Rippers, it contains more than enough to get you started on a lenghthy campaign.

As a side note, the fact that the Creature list includes Pazuzu and Dark Man entries made me wonder if Wiggy’s been in my computer since those are the creatures I used the Thomas Gunn Detective Stories of The New Moon Murders and Prescription for Revenge.

On the up side, the Horror Companion gave me lots of idea’s for my third novel. After all, isn’t the reason we game to tell good stories and have fun? That’s what the Savage Worlds Companion series is all about.

Related Products
Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition
Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion
Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion