Holiday Adventures in Tephra December 23, 2016 19:25 12 Comments
This magical, festive time of year can inspire amazing adventures, whether they be part of the over-arcing plot, or a pleasant break from crashing airships and mad scientists. While everyone in Rilausia celebrates the winter solstice in some form or fashion, each country has different traditions.
Here are a few ideas you can incorporate into your saga.
Evangless - Market Mixup
On the darkest day of the year, the bells of Tailemy chime to mark the Beloved Mother’s triumphant sacrifice to save the world from Aeon’s black despair. What started long ago as a feud between a couple of merchants competing to see who could mark the occasion with the most festivity has become a nationwide spectacle of lights and bustling commerce. For a week, merchants host ostentatious events including auctions, raffles, and featured exotic entertainments and dining experiences. The cityfolk gather on the streets and breathe renewed life into the country.
Dalvozzea - Stranger’s Gift
The land of elves and farishtaa may be divided, but the Jinzium tradition of the Stranger’s Gift is ingrained across cultures. Long ago, when Aeon felt jilted by Jinzi’s obsession over the world together, he wove the bands of the great Angelwing Nebula to appease her. To commemorate this event, much like our world’s own “Secret Santa”, each person in Dalvozzea receives a random name of a family member or neighbor, and they are tasked with acquiring the ideal gift for that person. Sometimes, just as Jinzi reconciled with Aeon for a time because of his thoughtful present, enemies embrace, and farishtaa and elves come together for a brief moment of mutual delight.
Tordryon - The Frozen Flame Games
In the frozen north, the people of Tordryon partake in boisterous and energetic gatherings to celebrate the victory of knowledge and will over the harsh elements. These events are often filled with all manner of food and drink, as well as deafeningly loud drums and music that rattle the ice for miles. During the monthlong exhibition of nightly festivities, competitions are held to test a Tord’s endurance, strength, and ingenuity. This includes everything from frigid water sports to challenges involving hot coals. Visitors are encouraged to join in these games but should do so with extreme caution.
Zelhost - The Grand Ball
There’s no party like a Zel Haudi party--Zel Haudi parties are usually the best parties year round, and under Archduke Zimarati, they are bigger than ever. December 13 marks succession day, the biggest bash of the year, when the Zel Haudi’s dear leader began his reign. Even farishtaa have been known to turn green with envy upon seeing the celebrations. The finest orchestras fill the air with patriotic songs as nimble dancers dress like spreading flames in the national colors of orange and red. Zel Haudi cuisine and culture is offered up on golden platters as gun salutes pierce the smog and heat the already sultry night air.
While the other nations of Rilausia also celebrate the winter season, their festivities are too numerous and complex to describe in one post.
Thank you all for reading! If you would like to share your favorite holiday celebrations, in game or in real life, whether new or as old as time, please feel free to share on our Tephra reddit page here. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
Keep the Train Moving November 30, 2016 08:50 90 Comments
Between the election and the holiday season, this month has been an emotional rollercoaster. In many ways, it feels like some campaigns I’ve played. Good stories often feature drastic twists to keep things fresh. Here, I will give a few tips and tricks you can use to keep your game moving forward in interesting directions.
Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal!
A great catalyst for a story is a gut wrenching betrayal orchestrated by a beloved character, especially when said character has been a huge (and pleasant) part of the story so far. As a narrator, betrayal is best served using a character the adventuring party has come to know, love, and trust. This setup will create intrigue as well as a healthy amount of doubt about whether the betrayal is real or even possible. As a player, you can also take the story in an interesting direction by acting out a betrayal, whether genuine or false. It’s best to collaborate with your narrator to work out how your actions can spur the adventure along (otherwise, you could derail the game and frustrate your fellow adventurers).
Examples include: The murder of a beloved character, a trusted ally switching sides to join the enemy, or a character in good standing suddenly kidnapping a noble’s child or valuables for ransom.
Let’s Get Ready to Crumble!
Another catalyst for reinvigorating your game is to destroy something impressive. Anything from an airship to a city will do, so long as there’s enough collateral damage to get the adventuring party’s attention. As a narrator, you have many tools at your disposal to wreck havoc, from dangerous NPC factions to mother nature’s finest horrors. For players, dealing with the aftereffects of a major disaster could be something you propose as a side-mission to blow off some steam. In either case, the way the world responds to massive destruction can help create new story arcs in your ongoing saga and add a dose of chaos to a simmering plot.
Examples include: An airship full of nobles crashes into Castle Hazard after a Bomb Rat attack, or a massive storm sweeps in from the horizon and devastates the ports in Evangless.
The Circus is in Town!
If you don’t want to destroy buildings or relationships, you can always put on a grand show. The idea here is to take some time to figure out what kinds of entertainment interest your adventurers and incorporate them into a grand performance. As a narrator, you have a wide array of options. Say your gaming group is really into combat competitions. Nothing delivers quite like a gauntlet challenge or a gladiatorial arena. The best part is that you can always throw a wrench in the gears by having something go wrong that sweeps the adventuring party into a new side-arch. For players, grand performances can present an enjoyable opportunity for collaborative roleplaying and staging amusing scenes.
Examples include: Gladiator combat, gauntlet arena, or traveling minstrels in a suspicious town.
I often use the above tips and tricks when I need a breath of fresh air in my sagas, and I hope they’ll inspire you to create some amusing adventures of your own. Thank you all for reading. If you’d like to share your favorite techniques you can comment below or start a post on the Tephra subreddit here.
Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
What Inspires You? October 29, 2016 15:31 28 Comments
Last week I posted a question on the Tephra subreddit. I asked members of the community to share their greatest Tephra inspirations and the community answered!
The first inspiration comes from Rozial who writes: “What inspires me is the characters and the world. Particularly, as a narrator, I listen to music and I picture moments that would go with the music. Those often turn into major moments of any campaign I run. I could provide a soundtrack to nearly every campaign I've ever run. Songs with lyrics inspire characters and orchestral songs inspire campaigns and moments.” I can directly relate to this, Rozial. I also find that music gets the creative juices flowing. I find that classical music resonates best with me, so that’s what I use most often.
Our next inspiration comes from Keegan Troye who writes: “As a player or GM I like to twist cliches into something new and creative. There is always a lot of room to expand old ideas and it isn't easy coming up with anything that hasn't already be done. So I'll watch or read things in a similar setting and see something that interests me and ask myself how can I take this and make it my own.” Keegan, borrowing ideas from other media is something I like to encourage for two reasons: 1) The stigma against clichés is something I disagree with. Clichés are catchy and enjoyable for a reason. 2) Borrowing can work for someone new to creating stories just as well as someone who has been plotting narratives for years.
7StarSpanner writes: “I personally tend to draw my inspirations from a lot of different sources, previous games, old cartoons and tv shows, video games, music, books. It's one of the things I love about Steampunk and this system, it's really easy to pull inspiration from a variety of different sources and remix them to suit the aesthetic.” 7StarSpanner, I do this all the time too, especially when it comes to dialogue. I like to mine quotes from movies or shows I’ve enjoyed and see if my players catch on. Plus it helps to visualize your setting when you use another story as your foundation.
Our final inspiration of the day comes from ObligatoryTankGal who writes:, “Personally, as a narrator, I let my players run the show. Players do the darndest things, and I've never seen a better source of inspiration for future quests and plot hooks. Once I had a player rescue and attempt to redeem the villain of an adventure instead of killing him. He is now dating said villain in character, and is working on establishing a new life for the fellow when he's not adventuring. I could never plan a flavourful storyline like that, without his unexpected actions. Even characters and actions my players have taken in other games, systems, and even worlds become sources of inspiration, and make appearances. Mechanically, I'm also a big fan of building on our RPG elders. I've borrowed ideas from a lot of old adventures from old editions of D&D, and other games for inspiration on dungeons, quests, and other adventures for my Tephra party.” ObligatoryTankGirl, I love this response, and I know people who do this all the time. Your prioritizing the players’ histories is wonderful because it gives players a sense of contribution beyond their immediate character’s choices. How fun would it be to play the villain in one campaign and then face off against that same villain in another?
Thank you all for reading, and thank you guys for your input. These are great responses and I love hearing from our wonderful community. Check out our Tephra subreddit here if you would like to join community discussions. I will be posting more community blogs in the future. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
Tephra Iconic: Sir Henry Black October 20, 2016 19:03 13 Comments
I absolutely love the Tephra community and everyone in it. The discussions and ideas going on in our groups remind me that creativity doesn’t stop. Luiz Prado created this lovely fan art of Sir Henry Black last week, and it inspired me to dedicate this week’s blog post to Sir Henry Black’s origin and story. Thanks Luiz Prado for your wonderful work!
Born into the gentry and gaining inheritance to the estate after his parents’ death, Henry Black sought to give meaning to his life beyond his wealth. When the Hurricane Wars began, he left control of his country estate to his wife, Jessica Black, and engaged in battle after battle during the long Hurricane Wars.
When the wars subsided, he returned to his family home with several military honors, only to learn that there was a rebellion at his doorstep. A new domestic war began for Henry as he took up arms with the Royalists while his wife offered the Black Estate funds to the Militarists. This rift only widened between Henry and Jessica, who had gained powerful and influential friends in his absence.
During dinner one late evening, Jessica Black poisoned her husband’s meal and buried him in the woods. Henry barely survived, awaking from a brief coma and digging himself free from his muddy grave. After recovering, he proceeded to fight the Militarist threat and was later knighted for his efforts.
After so much war, Henry sought to focus on his faith and joined the Tailemite Church, favoring the peaceful life of a priest for the rest of his days. He found that he could not quell his adventurous spirit, however, and he left service to the church to take up law enforcement. This would be a brief role for Henry, as he found the system to be corrupt and inefficient, despite his attempts to change it. He soon broke away again and took to traveling, offering help to those who needed it and preaching the teachings of Tailemy on the way.
The character design for Sir Henry Black and Jessica Black are an homage to Tephra developer Henry White and his wife, Jessica. Henry’s tendency to play paladin-like characters became the strongest influence for this iconic character, and the tragic story that he and his wife developed give this character an amazing strength.
Thank you all for reading, and on behalf of Cracked Monocle, thank you to Luiz for this beautiful piece. If any of you would like to see more art by Luiz, you can check out his Facebook page here and his DeviantArt page here. Luiz is also doing “Inktober,” and his daily ink drawings are something to behold. You can find Sir Henry Black in our Rapid-Fire Guide, here. For more information on Jessica Black, check out our adversary book here. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
Dark And Twisted Stories October 1, 2016 12:27 19 Comments
Variety is, indeed, the spice of life. I enjoy a different type of scene from time to time, and I know I’m not the only one. The same desire for variety extends to my games, and I often find myself craving a story filled with depravity and dark intentions. Of course, I have my own limits within that field, and I know it’s not for everyone. It’s because of this that I like to reference movies or shows that can accurately reflect how dark my story will go. In this article I will list a few stories that inspire my own dark sagas.
Penny Dreadful: First on the list is Penny Dreadful, a perfect example as it takes place in Victorian era England. This series tackles supernatural stories depicted within the era, including one Doctor Frankenstein, a personal favorite of mine. There are people sick with disease, victims dying from nocturnal monsters, and talk about the mysterious Jack the Ripper. There’s plenty of blood and gore to go around, and the depravity evoked in some scenes can leave the viewer speechless. If I were to rate the level of darkness here, I would give it a 10/10. I have been affected by some scenes that I did not expect to witness, and I have yet to find any story that raises the bar.
If you want to watch Penny Dreadful yourself, it is currently available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing: When I want a lighter shade of dark story, I turn to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing. The movies may have had an action feeling to them, but there are dark atmospheres that emphasize individual corruption.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel depicts visuals that give more insight into the characters as well, and many of my stories are inspired by these scenes. My favorite character’s depiction is Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, as the reader learns how the characters have taken a different development than in their original story. I would rate these stories at a 6/10 on level of darkness as they don’t go into as much depravity as other stories. They are more lighthearted and more appealing to a wider audience.
Both of these films can be found on DVD, and may be available on streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu.
Written Horrors: When in doubt, it never hurts to turn to some classic literature to inspire your dark adventures. Many works by Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft can offer interesting experiences for your party, and, if you’re interested, you can even start to give the story some supernatural tones.
Thank you all for reading. If you have stories that inspire you, feel free to share them on the comments below or begin a discussion on our reddit page here. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
Changing Places September 22, 2016 10:27 11 Comments
The world in Tephra is incredibly vast and very different from our own. Sometimes, you may decide you want to step away from the Tephra scene and play in a setting that’s easier to relate to. Adapting the Tephra system into a true Victorian Steampunk setting is easy, and I’ll give you some tips on making the necessary changes to our system.
To start things off, you may want to limit race selection. Humans are the go-to choice, but you could also include simulacrons if your setting includes intelligent constructs. Furthermore, you could change the names and histories of Tephra races and attribute them to mad science or eugenics.
How advanced do you want your setting to be? Bio-Zappers may seem too advanced. Maybe firearms are less common than swords. You may decide that different parts of your world may have different levels and types of technology. England may favor subtlety and tradition and focus on developing smaller trinkets and gadgets. Meanwhile, the United States might be experiencing an industrial boom that is churning out automatons and giant land vehicles. You could even adjust crafting costs to account for local strengths and weaknesses.
The second decision you need to make is your beginning point and how your setting diverges. World War I, or the Great War, makes for a memorable point in Victorian time. The Leviathan book series makes use of this period to spur the story, keeping a few events true to history while adjusting others to fit a fictional narrative. Maybe your setting takes place a few years after The Great War. Perhaps the repercussions are drastically different than in our history. Using real history as a guide can help to fill in any gaps. I personally struggle with developing and representing religion in my settings, so I’ll look up different historic faiths from around the world to inspire my writing.
Most importantly, remember that Tephra books exist to suggest rules. If you find that your setting requires adjusting these rules, you are free to make changes as you see fit. Sometimes you may want to give your party a new game mechanic to try out. It’s okay to use your creative liberties and give your party a great story. Don’t worry too much about breaking the game. You can always talk to your group and change things that don’t work.
Thank you all for reading. If you have any questions or tips you would like to share, please comment below or check out our reddit page. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
Your Adventure Awaits September 18, 2016 11:04 7 Comments
September is halfway over and autumn is just around the corner. There are only 23 days until GameExpo in San Antonio, Texas, and Cracked Monocle is attending!
GameExpo has it all: Board games, card games, video games, and Tabletop RPGs. Expect an adventurous weekend overflowing with fun shenanigans! How could this event get any better? How about the fact that Daniel, the creator of Tephra, has three games on the docket? That’s right, Daniel Burrow himself will be running three Tephra games during this event!
FridayThe Tombs of Dust
8 PM - 12 AM
An ancient artifact, buried deep under the desert, is said to have miraculous powers. But does everyone have the truest of intentions? Find out in this adventure for Tephra: the Steampunk RPG!
SaturdayDerailing the Gold Standard
10 AM - 2 PM
Is it a train heist, a bank robbery, or a heroic adventure to put an end to a thug's reign of terror? Join us for a crazy ride through this introductory adventure to Tephra: the Steampunk RPG!
Capitalism Killed the Capitalist
10 AM - 2 PM
Overnight, the branch manager's daughter went missing, and he's willing to pay anything to get her back. But she's just one part of the puzzle. Join us for this introductory Tephra adventure!
GameExpo is one of our favorite conventions, and it does the San Antonio scene proud. The convention staff are accommodating, the volunteers are friendly, and the atmosphere is alive with imagination and excitement. So stop by and join us!
We will have our Tephra Playing Guide and expansions on sale at sweet convention prices. If you haven’t picked up a copy of our game for yourself, or you want to get one for your friend, this is a great opportunity. Gaming accessories and awesome rhombic dice crafted specifically for Tephra’s Clockwork System can also be purchased at our booth.
Thank you all for reading. Check out the convention website here for details on Daniel's games and other events going on. If you have any convention memories with us you’d like to share, feel free to comment below. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood September 9, 2016 10:18 11 Comments
Something I have often looked for in the tabletop gaming community is a written module with different paths that can be taken. This adds more replay value and can offer an element of surprise to the game.
Introducing: A Big Misunderstanding.
This two-player module offers a quick and easy adventure for narrators of any experience to run. Contained within is a list of four villains with different styles of combat. Simply choose which one you want to throw against your dynamic duo and let the story begin!
In addition to the variety of bosses, the combat environment will also vary based on where the fight takes place. In one encounter your party may find bear traps they can use to their advantage, while in another one they might scavenge from piles of rubble to find anything of use. The party’s decisions will drastically change how the story progresses.
For the narrator, this module includes notes and suggestions for shaping the story around your players. Listed within are adventure hooks to draw the players in, detailed maps and tables to resolve player actions, and story rewards based on player decisions and consequences. Not only is this module a great experience for new and experienced players and narrators alike, but it also provides a great environment to try new character ideas and different approaches to each combat.
I remember when this module was being tested. I hadn’t played in a game run by Austin Witt, the module’s writer. I was amazed at the level of detail this man put into his games. Throughout the session I listened eagerly to his descriptions of scenery, people, and even the actions of his bosses. I can see that same energy when I read over this module. The relentless imagination carves out an unforgettable scene that reels in your senses and takes you on an adventure. The dialogue and energy of the characters bring them to life, and suddenly your heart is racing in the middle of combat. I took inspiration from Austin, as I wanted to give my players the same feeling I had. I wanted to create an experience that would pull them in and leave them begging for more.
Thank you all for reading! This module is in the final touch-ups and will be released soon. Check out our store page here, or our products on Drivethru RPG for promotions and bundles. If you would like to be kept in the loop on current or upcoming specials, sign up for our newsletter here. Until next time, Cheers and gears!
Beware the Kind Old Lady August 26, 2016 12:13 5 Comments
There is a legend circulating small towns in Evangless, where dastardly deeds are done. Children go missing and are never heard from again, and blood-curdling screams dominate the night. Many a townsfolk has lost hope as these somber places faced a dwindling population, until that fateful day Mrs. Goodrich arrived.
No one could quite say where she came from, only that she simply showed up in town one day wearing a modest gown of earthen colors. No one could think anything mean to speak, but something always seemed off about her. Her skin seemed dry and leathery, and yet no one could call her anything less than beautiful. She would sit at the local tavern, or mill about the town talking to the laborers. There was something about her voice; it was soothing and yet carried a hint of menace. No one could resist sharing their woes with her, as she seemed keen to listen and had plenty of sympathy to offer. This would go on for a few days, and then she would just as quickly depart without a trace. The next day, without fail, the missing townsfolk would be returned safe and sound. There would be tears of joy all around, and then the big question would be asked: What happened? This is what the survivors would say:
Locked up by a gathering of bandits, the prisoners wallow in their cells and ask themselves many questions. Suddenly the carousing would stop and the bandits would draw weapons, looking on in horror. One of the bandits had been strung up by his feet, his heart ripped neatly from his chest and stuffed in his mouth. Hushed swears would be exchanged, and suddenly another bandit would be found strung up the same way. The crowd would turn again, and one by one be thinned out by this invisible spectre. Some would try running, only to be seen moments later pinned to a wall with various sharp instruments, their heart in their mouth. The panic would rise and eventually only a few would remain: the leader and two more pawns. In quick succession the two would be dispatched, leaving the leader, pale with terror, glancing at a figure that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The scene that would follow often went unseen as the hostages would cringe and look away, but every account recalls hearing something before the leader would meet his terrible fate: a voice saying, “Eat your heart out, dearie.”
Mrs. Goodrich is a simulacron, designed long ago for unknown reasons. Few have been able to find out much from her, save that she is not fond of rudeness and she believes in personal hygiene before all else. Her specialties and augments can be found below:
Soulless Blade (Frenzy): Spend 2 reflexive AP to deal a fatal effect rather than a wound effect.
Invisible Blade (Espionage): Light melee weapons cost 1 AP to use.
Phase Step (Agility): Move without being seen and unable to receive reflexive attacks unless the attacker rolls a Cunning vs your Agility.
Leave No Trace (Agility): Use Phase Step reflexively any time someone attempts to notice you.
Wall Runner (Agility): Run along walls for an additional AP cost to the move.
Staggering Strike (Overpower): For a weapon attack + 1AP, deal damage at one higher tier.
Thank you all for reading. If you would like to create a simulacron character of your own you can find the free PDF by clicking the image above! Please let me know what you think of this character concept in the comments below, and if you have any suggestions for a character build please comment as well. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!