Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Memories: Hida Gotetsu

A decent drawing I did many years ago,
with some really crappy digital inking and coloring.
(Note: This is kinda long, but I hope you find it interesting)

Last week, in talking about L5R, I mentioned my RPG character, Hida Gotetsu. Today, I’d like to go into to some depth about him, and maybe shed some light on who I am as a gamer.

To understand Gotetsu, you probably need to understand Rokugen, the fictional setting the game takes place in. basically, it is based heavily on feudal Japan, with some Chinese, Korean, and even Middle-Eastern influences. The Empire is divided into clans, and each represents a specific aspect of the culture; the Crane Clan are courtesans who excel in Iaido; the Lion Clan are the paragons of honorable samurai; the Scorpion Clan are the spies and seekers of secret knowledge, etc. For a detailed background, you might want to go to AEG’s website, as they will no doubt give you more accurate details than what I can recall off the top of my head (I’ve been out of the games for a while now).

Gotetsu is a member of the Hida family in the Crab Clan. The Crab are charged with protecting the Empire’s southern border from the Shadowlands, a place rife with demonic power, black magic, and pestilence. It’s basically a fantasy version of a scorched earth, filled with monsters, mutants and demons. To help them defend against this, the Crab built the Great Wall of Kaiu, which holds the Shadowlands back, and on which Crab samurai patrol vigilantly.

The Crab are notorious for being crass, crude, and very “uncourtly.” They are the rabble-rousers and “barbarians” of the culture. Their honor is rarely questioned, and in their eyes, they are the most honorable clan, as they regularly sacrifice their lives for the safety of the other clans. Hida samurai tend to be tall and muscular, and often favor the Tetsubo (a studded, 2-handed club) over the Daisho. And Gotetsu is a very typical member of his clan.

One interesting thing about the RPG was that every character had to have a flaw of some kind. Gotetsu had a dark secret. He was a lecher. Now, this doesn’t mean he wanted to pork anything that moved (though that sometimes came into play). No, he just believed that worldly love and passion were as important as personal honor and sacrifice. In short, he believed in grabbing life by the throat and squeezing every ounce of pleasure out of it before he met his inevitable fate. This made for some interesting RP interactions with the stodgy, yet extremely honorable Lion samurai in the group. It also confounded the Scorpion, because she never did figure out what his secret was. And it also almost got him killed.

As a Crab, Gotetsu had the ability to always be in his heavy armor. He took no penalties from sleeping in it, so he was always armored. Thus, he almost never actually took damage in combat. This frustrated the GM, as the rest of the party regularly got sliced and battered. Eventually he figured out a way to get Gotetsu out of his armor.

He introduced a Geisha NPC who managed to seduce Gotetsu in a tavern. They went in a room in the back for a little “fun time,” and when Gotetsu had shed his armor (he’s not Uther Pendragon), the Geisha revealed herself to be a Bog Hag in disguise and proceeded to attack him. Naked and alone, he did what any sane man would do; he punched her, then broke a table leg off and bashed her skull in! But, not before taking some damage from her claws.

That was some fun gaming, right there! I miss Hida Gotetsu. The GM would later bring him back as an NPC in another campaign set years later (after I had moved away, and could no longer play). Gotetsu was a General at that point, with two daughters and an adopted nephew, who was a Crab Shugenja (wizard).

At one point, I built a card for him, and my friends allowed me to use him in our personal games of the CCG. I even started writing some fiction about him. It’s nothing special, just a little vignette, but I kinda like it…

The Test
By Tom Doolan

Hida Gotetsu looked down at the two figures moving away from the Kaiu Wall. One was dressed in drab brown and dark orange. This he knew to be Shiba Teku, would-be suitor to Gotetsu’s youngest daughter, sent by the Phoenix in the hopes of starting some ties between the two great clans.. The other wore a deep blue, sleeveless kimono, his forearms and shins wrapped in white, his head topped with a straw sampan favored by shugenja. This he knew to be his nephew, Kuni Yoshiro, a young man on his gempukku. Beside Gotetsu stood Hitami, his youngest daughter, as she, too, watched her would-be husband go to meet what she was certain would be his death.

In the short week since the arranged marriage had been announced with the arrival of Teku at the wall, Hitami had met him only twice. She was there when he had presented himself to her father, a grizzled veteran of the wall, as well as many campaigns. At first, she had been impressed with the young man’s poise and manner. The fact that he was rather handsome, in a plain sort of way had only intrigued her more. Yet as they spoke later during their second meeting, he seemed distant and detached, as if he had no emotions. He was obviously very disciplined, and that she could understand. But his manner suggested that he had no passion for anything. Growing up among the crab, especially the Hidas, she was used to men who had a passion for battle, if nothing else. But Teku seemed to take everything in stride, looking forward to nothing, yet fearing nothing. This had intrigued her even more, and now, as he moved out to perform his “test” for her father, she found herself worried for him, and praying to the Kami that he return safely.

“Father,” she said softly, without taking her eyes off of the retreating figure, “do you think this test is truly necessary?”

Gotetsu chuckled softly, having had this conversation before. He faced his daughter.

“The Twenty Goblin test was what made it possible for the Crab to find soldiers worthy of defending the empire.” He said. Looking around at the samurai standing guard on this section of the wall he motioned to one not far away. The man was almost as tall as Gotetsu, and though not as large, he did have a strength about him. “Take Juko here,” said Gotetsu, “once he was a peasant farmer on the verge of starving. But he took the Test and passed. Thirty goblins you brought back, eh Juko?”

“Hai, Gotetsu-sama.” Juko said, bowing low. “It was an honor.”

Gotetsu laughed and slapped the man on the back, staggering him slightly, which brought a round of chuckles from a few of the samurai nearby.

“And now he is Hida Juko, defender of the wall, and one of many I am proud to have in my command!” The surrounding samurai all raised their tetsubos in a round of cheering. Gotetsu nodded to Juko to go back to his post.

“Besides, how better than to test if my would-be son-in-law is man enough for my daughter?”

“Father, I am not Yamasaki.” She said with a mock scowl. “I am not a samurai. And my husband does not have to be able to best me in one on one combat.”

Gotetsu smiled broadly.

“I know you are not your sister. But think on this.” He lowered his voice a bit. “If this samurai from the Phoenix is to be wed to a Crab woman, do you not think he should earn her hand? Especially in the eyes of our clan? Remember, he may be skilled and intelligent, but what do we Crabs respect most?”

“Valor and insanity, it often seems.” She said with a smile. “But I see your point, father. It is better to prove his valor out there, than in here against some bully who thinks I should marry a Crab.” Gotetsu nodded.

“Besides,” he said with a hint of amusement, “it’s not like he’s out there alone.”

“Oh, yes.” She replied with unhidden sarcasm. “He is with that overbearing cousin of mine who only keeps his hands away from me because we are related.” Gotetsu laughed loud at this.

“Yes, there is much of me in that boy.” Gotetsu said. “But, this is also his gempukku. He must face an Oni. Having a samurai at his side will no doubt be of much help. So, you see? They both benefit.”

“Yes, father.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Great Walls of Kaiu

One of the few Kickstarters I have been able to back is The Gamers: Hands of Fate. Yesterday I got my digital copy to download, and immediately had to start watching it, despite the late hour (which I am paying for now). For those not in the know, The Gamers was a low-low budget film, made with home video cameras, and really cheap special effects. However, it is hilariously bad, and I often use it, and the sequel, Dorkness Rising, as a way of explaining what playing D&D is actually like.

Anyways, Dead Gentlemen Productions, the group of gamers who made both films, have steadily increased their quality. The third movie was funded with Kickstarter, and much of it was filmed on location at Gen Con. This installment centers around a fictitious Collectible Card Game (CCG) called The Nine Empires. And aside from the great stories, decent acting, and geeky references, the whole thing is bringing back a flood of memories.

Many moons ago, in the early 2000’s, I had moved from San Diego to Salinas (just outside of Monterey). I hooked up with a gaming group, and we played a lot of D&D. But, we also got sucked into playing the Legend of the Five Rings CCG. In fact, like a crack dealer, the local game store owner gifted me with an entire card box full of Jade Edition cards. At the time, Jade was on the way out, and Gold was just about to be introduced.

I had already latched on to the Crab Clan, and by extension, the Nezumi (ratlings). The Nezumi actually had a stronghold, and by the rules, your stronghold card didn’t need to be an actual card. So, I found an image of it, printed it, and put it in a sleeve. I then proceeded to build a Nezumi deck that was all kinds of military badass. That was a fun deck to play!

Once Gold came into play I switched focus to my Crab decks. The most successful one I had was an Honor Runner based on "The Great Walls of Kaiu" stronghold. The CCG led to us playing the RPG, and therein was born Hida Gotetsu, one of my all-time favorite characters (and probably the subject of a future Monday memories post).

So, why do I bring this up? Because Gamers 3 has me almost jonesing to play CCG’s again. However, I can’t afford to invest any money into an expensive hobby like that. And, I don’t actually have to. If I can find people willing to play a little, I have about a dozen L5R decks, some of which have never even been opened. I had taught my wife how to play a few years ago. So she would probably play with me again.

Hmmm. I may have to push for this.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mutants & Marvels

So, after putting so much work into something that will never (legally) see the light of day, I have decided to close the book on Mutants & Marvels. What I have is a more-or-less complete set of rules, minus any setting info. Let's face it, anyone who would play it already knows the setting well enough. And there are literally dozens of complete resources for any information you would need to play a Marvel Super Heroes game out there. Many of them for official games.

My version is a slim 17 pages of rules, with a cover, character sheet, and a pleading legal disclaimer. I guess I could have inserted a copy of the OGL, but why bother? It's not sellable. I'm even a bit leery of sharing it publicly.

That being said, if you're interested in it, drop me a line at mighty_fighter at yahoo dot com.

The rules are basically the old TSR rules, updated with some mechanics born in the d20 system. I'm referring to it as "An Unofficial 3rd Edition of TSR's Marvel Super Heroes RPG." I think that fits. The rules are lite, flexible, and open-ended. I am a big believer in letting the GM (or Referee, as I call him in this one) make most judgment calls, without having to follow strict rules about minutia.

I kind of implant that idea into all of the indy games I create/write. Mainly because I just don't want to waste a lot of time re-inventing the wheel. But also because I don't like rules to be restrictive. Most of us have been playing RPG's long enough to know how to handle most situations without having to look things up.

Anyways, it's done. It's kinda pretty. And I had fun doing it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday Memories: Army Days

I thought I’d share a rather funny RP-related anecdote from my Army days.

In 1994 or so, I was stationed at Ft. Polk, LA. As an Airborne Infantryman, I had been assigned to the OPFOR for the Joint Readiness Training Center that had just relocated from Arkansas. It had been a couple of years since I had had the chance to game, and honestly, the bug was starting to leave me.

Then one day I was in the back of a Hummer being brought back in from The Box (what we called the training area where we played wargames every month), when a conversation with one of the newer guys turned to D&D. Dave and I had chatted briefly about it before, but we kept quiet because we knew that there was a guy in our platoon who played, but not in the way we played. Unfortunately, that guy was driving the Hummer at the time.

While the vehicle was moving down the gravel road, the noise was loud enough from the tires, and the open air of the back of the truck, that he couldn’t hear our conversation. So, we gleefully talked about all manner of D&D stuff, focusing mainly on Dragonlance, and our desire to get together and play.

However, whenever the driver had to come to a stop, the noise died down, and we would instantly just stop talking. Only to start right back up when the vehicle started moving again. This went on for the entire half-hour drive back to the base, much to the amusement of the other guys in the truck with us.

We ended up playing a lot of AD&D during the following months. We even got a couple of the guys who had overheard our conversation to join in. And we also managed to keep it all a secret from the one guy we wanted to avoid.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Still on the Supers Kick

A lot of my down-time at work is spent doing things for me, and things that don't require a whole lot of precision and planning. Mainly, this amounts to writing. Lately, even though I have a research paper due on Sunday, my brain has been passively obsessed with the idea of doing a Superhero RPG. But, not just running one. I've been writing one.

When I was a lad, and Role-Playing Games were new and exciting, and TSR ruled the RPG universe, I and my cohorts came across what would become my all-time favorite super hero RPG, Marvel Super Heroes.

Why was this my favorite? Well, mainly because it was a game about Marvel characters. I had been reading comics off and on since I was about 4, and even though I could appreciate DC, Marvel was (and still is) my favorite. And in 1984, I was reading several titles that included the Avengers and all of their members, as well as Spider-Man, Daredevil, and a few others. So, the idea of playing those characters…well, you can probably guess the level of glee that inspired.

Jump forward to the early 2000’s. I’m in my 30’s and still gaming like crazy. Suddenly WotC makes their d20 engine open source, and everyone and their brother is writing new games using it. Naturally, of course, someone was going to do a supers game. And among that particular crop, Green Ronin hit a home-run with Mutants & Masterminds. My group at the time played a lot of it, and it was fun!

But, there was always something that my sense of nostalgia told me was missing...

A little while back, a friend gifted me his old copy of the yellow MSH boxed set (mine having been lost during one of many, many moves in the 90’s). And now I find myself wanting to play again. But, I like the d20 mechanics of M&M. And thus, an idea was born.

My fingers have been furiously writing out the unholy love-child of MSH and M&M. I'm calling it Mutants & Marvels. It's currently 11 pages long, details everything you need to create super heroes, and includes pilfered illustrations of Marvel characters.

I guess I could call it MSH3E. Just for kicks. It will never be sellable (though I'm sure I could make it so), and it may not even be playable. But, I'm still having fun with it. And that's pretty important, I think. When I am done working on it (which may or may not coincide with it being finished), I'll probably post a PDF here for download. If'n anyone is interested.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Monday Memories: In a galaxy...

My character looked a little like this.
I think I missed one or two of these over the holidays, but here I am again. This time, I shall recall some memories of a Star Wars game.

When the d20 Star Wars RPG came out, most of us in my circle of gamers were ecstatic. I think we all bought a copy of the main book (and a couple of us even bought the revised one, when Ep 2 came out). If memory serves, there were two campaigns started. For the sake of having something to talk about later, I will stick to the first one here.

I don't remember the exact situation the GM put together, but I do remember my character. Now, I have to start here with a bit of disclosure. I'm one of the few people who didn't find the Gungans in Episode I all that annoying. Honestly, I didn't even find Jar Jar that annoying at first. It was with the passage of time and subsequent viewing that I began loathing him. But the Gungans themselves have always been cool to me.

To that end, my first character was a Gungan soldier. I don't remember his name, but I do remember two things about him. First, the GM allowed him to have recovered and refurbished a STAP from the Battle of Naboo (the hover-cycles that the droids rode). This was his personal vehicle, and he stored it on the ship the party used. And second, I decided that he was kind of a badass, so when he spoke, he sounded like Clint Eastwood talking like a Gungan. In an early encounter, we were in a cantina on Tatooine, when someone suspicious approached us. I stood up, confronted them, and said "Whoosa ah yousa?" Now, say that in Clint's voice.

Yeah, that was promising to be a fun adventure. Too bad it fell apart not far into it. That seems to have happened a lot in those days. The group did pick up the game much later, but with all new characters. I'll talk about my part in that some other time.

As to the game itself, I am an unabashed fan of 3.x/d20, so I thought it fit really well. I wanted to try a force-wielding character, and seeing those who did, I was convinced that the system handled that aspect wonderfully. All in all, I would still play that game again. Unfortunately, I don't own the books anymore. But, Fantasy Flight now has the license, so I wonder how they are doing it...

Picture URL:

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Over the course of this holiday season I have watched the entire first season of Justice League Unlimited on Netflix, and am already started on season 2. First of all I have to admit that, even though I consider myself a Marvel fan, DC has always been better in the animation area. Only recently have Marvel cartoons been any good. But JL and JLU have always been good, as has most incarnations of Batman. Even the DTV features are pretty excellent.

Anyways, all of this superhero action, combined with my desire to play RPG's other than D&D, has me dusting off an old idea for a supers game. The whole flavor is a combination of The Justice League, The Avengers, and the City of Heroes MMO. The setting is the fictitious city of New Sparta, Delaware, and the main characters are a new generation of heroes, brought together after a recent supers war left the ranks of the Justice Avengers* decimated.

Right now I'm looking at either Mutants & Masterminds (1E, since it's what I own), or the old TSR Marvel Super Heroes RPG. I am going to create the characters myself, and let the players choose who they want to play (assuming I can gather a playing group), so I will stat them out for both systems.

I'm also going to try to do artwork for each, since one of the things I would like to do this year is more drawing. If anyone is interested, I'll post updates about this project here for your amusement.

*The Justice Avengers was my supergroup in City of Heroes. They actually nerfed the name, since they had a badge called that in the game. I can't remember what we renamed it to, but we always referred to ourselves as the Justice Avengers, in homage to both the Marvel and DC groups.