Katanas & Trenchcoats - Episode 1: Welcome to Darkest Vancouver by GimpInBlack
Prepare yourselves for immortality.Original SA post
Do you yearn to portray the passionate and harrowing drama of awesome Immortals in a secret supernatural world? Does your heart sing the ancient aphotic melody of ’90s storytelling? Does endless fire burn within you to make an everlasting mark on this Darkest Cosmos? If you meet another Immortal in on a windswept street, do you fight with swords as your way of saying hello?
That’s because you’re a badass, and this book wants to be your best friend and squire. Katanas & Trenchcoats is your personal Egyptian Scots-Spaniard on this deep narrative journey. It presents for you—just you because you’re special—a totally unique system that isn’t at all ripping off countless other roleplaying games.
So gaze into this abyss, and let it gaze lovingly back. It wants to be a vessel for your truth. Open your heart and live the Immortal dream of the ’90s now!
Harken, Immortals, for the time has come to emerge from the tenebrous dissimulation of your shadowy lair and take your place as the trench coated, be-katana'd badasses that you truly are. The time has come for a revolution in roleplaying that will change the very face of the 90s. The time has come for Katanas & Trenchcoats - Episode 1: Welcome to Darkest Vancouver.
For those who dare to take this journey with me, follow these winding trails through the digital maze of the Netrealm:
The Basic Edition will provide you with what you require to essay the tragic stories of the Undying Ones. Should your immortality trend toward more rarefied tastes, however, you may desire the Premium Edition which, aside from being personally watermarked for you and you alone, grants its owner a +1 Grandeur Rank. (Have no fear, Grandeur Rank shall be discussed anon.)
Alas, like all things that dwell within the Realms Mortal, the time of the Immortal Edition has come and gone. And yet, like its namesake, might it not rise again? Time will tell....
And now, let us crack the spine and drink deep of the storytelling marrow that dwells within. Prepare yourselves for immortality.
Part the First: Forged from Stardust and Ancient Fire
Immortals walk among us, ruling from the shadows. There they do battle with rivals, friends and erstwhile lovers, masking the pain of an endless existence behind a facade of stoic hedonism. Since swordfights, emotions, and ruling from the shadows are the ingredients that make for the richest stories of all, Katanas and Trenchcoats takes its inspiration from those secret princes of the universe who truly live in our world. Whether 'tis meant as a tribute to their glory or to expose their secrets to those mortals who yet slumber, who can truly say?
And what even is an immortal? Even among themselves, that knowledge is shrouded in mystery. They have come among us in every era of history, moving silently down through the centuries. Immune to such tawdry frailties as age, sickness, and injury, they live forever--unless another immortal takes their head. Immortals know this deed as "perma-killing," and it is the engine that drives the drama of their lives. Can you even imagine it? Knowing that at any moment your dearest friend, your sweetest lover, might strike off your head for the power contained within--or even that you might do the same? That's roleplaying. Other games might let you kill a dragon--this game lets you slay a dragon and then shed a single tear over it. Deep.
The great tragedy of Immortalkind is that they are, to a one, sterile. No Immortal will ever know the joy of holding their infant child in their arms, or seeing her grow into a properly badass swordswoman in her own right. On the other hand, this means Immortals can have all the consequence-free sex they want. (STIs, naturally, are only a concern for mortals.) That's how you give a character rich, inner conflict. Give them a curse that is also a blessing. I might have to take a break here, folks, because my mind is seriously blown. But no! We must press on.
Yearning for companionship and understanding, Immortals congregate in various Houses, which they call their Genus. The Houses define a great deal about their members, and their number are:
, the House of the Wolf, are lone wolves, forever outside society. Social creatures forced to live in isolation, they find purpose in their loneliness, undertaking great quests, fulfilling sacred oaths, or merely preying on the mortal flock. Of them, the Immortals say "a Wolf's loyalty is forever."
, the House of the Raven, delve into arcane lore and ancient mysteries. "Dark are the Corvids' souls," the Immortals say, "and darker still their lore."
, the House of the Cat, are stealthy, sometimes cruel, hunters, thieves, and sensualists. "Curiosity kills the cat, but satisfaction always brings it back," as the saying goes. Years ago, someone leaked this saying into the society of slumbering mortals, but it has always been about Felis.
, the House of the Serpent, are masters of disguise and deception. They were once feared and worshipped openly, and have never forgotten it. If the other Houses say anything about them, none dare to record it here.
, the House of the Bear, are fierce, proud warriors, but also healers and protectors. Many tales link them with Artorius, the Bear-King of Camelot. "Never awaken a sleeping Bear," the Immortals say.
Speaking of story hooks, we're also treated to brief summaries of Houses Minor and the three Lost Houses: House Pistrix are madmen, shunned by Immortal society for their horrifying customs. Every Immortal knows that the proper way to perma-kill an Immortal is to take their head in the street, but Pistrix prefers to bite them off. Gross. House Acerodon is a little-known house that does little, but may have connections to vampires. That's right: this game has vampires too.
The Lost Houses include House Gallus , who were destroyed in an orgy of violence, House Anatidae , who disappeared mysteriously, and House Meleagri , who are not so much lost as newly found. They claim to be Anatidae returned and even call Gallus their ancestors, but their goals remain mysterious--at least, here in Episode 1.
Part the Second: Immortalizing Yourself
What You Need to Play posted:
The usual stuff: character sheets and pencils. Each player needs 8–10 d10s. But, really, you can borrow that shit. The one thing you must bring that’s uniquely yours is your awesome. Nobody can give you that. Yes, play the laconic antihero. Yes, brood over inner tragedy. Yes, of course it’s snowing softly as you duel your sworn enemy against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains. Revel in it. Embrace it. Bring. Your. Awesome.
Welcome to a character creation section that will blow your mind. You might be reaching for your dice right now to start "rolling up" a character. STOP! In Katanas and Trenchcoats , the greatest emphasis is placed upon your Saga , or "Personal Bullshit" as it's sometimes known. You'll start by rolling 3d10 to determine the year of your immortal birth. You may arrange the dice in whatever order you like, and use good roleplaying to determine the thousands digit or BCE suffix.
Next you must inscribe the saga of your history in five parts. As we all know when writing character backgrounds, more is more. The quality of your backstory determines your starting Grandeur Rank, so don't skimp here! Your Saga encompasses the following richly-detailed aspects of your story:
The one great loss that you brood over while Evanescence plays softly over the rain-slick streets. The story that makes people tear up, then sleep with you, when you finally bare your soul to them.
What you're known for in Immortal circles. Your rep can get you laid, so make sure it's suitably impressive. And remember that it's
Rep, so be badass.
The secret truth at the heart of your character. See, when a character presents one face to the world
is actually completely different on the inside, that's multifaceted depth. This should be kept close to your soul at all times, only to be revealed in soliloquy form just before you get laid.
As an Immortal, you've naturally been present at many important historical events and slept with many famous historical figures, and this is where you get to brag about them.
The tragic, badass, or tragically badass tale of how you became Immortal
Stay thine hand from yon dice, knave! For Katanas & Trenchcoats is not content to merely hand you a pile of random numbers and force you to eke character from chaos. Nay, this system personally hand-crafts your character along with you, as though you were Hanzo himself and the text your able apprentice, working the bellows and keeping the flames hot. The flames are inspiration. That's right, you actually get to pick your own stats in Katanas & Trenchcoats .
First you'll define the five Traits common to all Immortals: Awesome Sword, Ancient Memories, Raging Passion, Mystical Talents, and Kickass Wardrobe. You'll choose one to rate at three Marks , two at two Marks, and the rest at one. It's considered good roleplaying to rename one or two of these to reflect your personal character. Perhaps your Ancient Memories are Memories of Old Paris or your Awesome Sword is Durandal, Which Roland Gifted Me on the Field of Ronceveaux.
Next are Skills, which we'll discuss anon. All Immortals begin with Fight at 3 Marks, this is the Immortal's Essential Skill. You may choose one further Skill at 3 Marks now; the rest you actually rate as you play. The first time you roll a new Skill, you decide what your character's rank in it is (four skills at 2 Marks, the rest at 1). Your character actually adapts to the game, like a master of kenjutsu shifting seamlessly into the Jodan stance to counter an enemy's attack.
You may further define your character by choosing Edges . Edges are cool tricks and special talents that mess with the rules. Immortals are double-edged characters, so they receive two Edges. However, if you were lucky enough to roll triple-digits when you determined your Birth Year, you are triple edged and may select three.
Now comes the most important stat in the game, for it is the stat you, the player, share with your character. Grandeur Rank is the mark of good roleplaying, the measure of your commitment to the chronicle of a brooding Immortal, and the roll of your awesomeness. Your starting Grandeur Rank is determined by your Saga: a sentence in each category earns you a Grandeur Rank of 1, paragraphs are worth 2, and so n, up to epic poetry being worth 4 Grandeur Ranks. You'll earn additional Grandeur for drawing your character, dressing as your character, bringing your actual Awesome Sword to the game, and so on. However, bad roleplaying will cost you Grandeur Ranks, so don't suck.
Finally, you must name your Throne of Comfort. This is the one thing so important to you that a threat to it would spur you to immediate action. Don't worry though, this is just for roleplaying--the SM would never actually threaten it. And with that, you have forged your Immortal hero! Or perhaps... villain?
Part the Third: Rules That Bind the Cosmos
Katanas and Trenchcoats employs a system that is sheer elegance in its simplicity. When your Immortal desires to undertake an action, you assemble a dice pool equal to your Marks in a Trait + a Skill. Your opposition has a chance to respond with an action of her own (if there is no direct opposition, the SM sets a difficulty between 1 and 10 and rolls that many dice). Any die showing 7-0 is a success , and whoever rolls the most successes wins, with the difference in successes determining the degree of their victory. The three types of actions available are Attack (striking to wound with the Fight Skill), Boost (create an advantage for a follow-up action; spendng a Boost gives you two free successes), and Push, which is the catch-all for "doing something." And yes, you can respond to Arttacks with your own Attack. That's badass.
Combat follows much the same system, with liberal use of Attack actions to inflict Wounds . When an Immortal has filled her last Wound box, she is vanquished, and her vanquisher may choose from one of several fates, including killing her, demanding some immediate concession, or taking a Trophy. Fortunately, Immortals heal quickly. All normal Wounds go away after a few moments of rest. If you die, though, you suffer a Hardcore Wound , because dying and coming back to life is the definition of Hardcore. Hardcore Wounds only go away if you undertake an epic quest. If you fill your Wound Track with Hardcore Wounds, you're critically vulnerable . You can't Attack, and even a single Wound will put you down.
Ah, but what of Perma-death? That black doom is present here as well. When an Immortal is killer, her slayer may attempt to take her head. Doing so requires critical success on a roll of a Trait + the Will Skill, opposed by the victim's Will + 1 die per non-Hardcore Wound currently marked. (So a fresh Immortal with no Hardcore Wounds yet adds 5 dice, but a critically vulnerable one must resist with Will alone.)
Sometimes the rules will call for a character to Break a Trait , rendering it temporarily unavailable. There is only one way to restore a Broken Trait, which Immortals name Resverie . During this state, an Immortal's past sins and failures return to haunt her. She and the SM (and the other players, perhaps) play out a flashback scene of one of the lowest moments of her Immortal life. When these scene is resolved and the character developed to everyone's satisfaction, the Resverie ends and all Broken Traits are restored.
THEME SONGS MAKE YOUR GAME posted:
You literally can’t have a good game without a fucking awesome soundtrack, got that? Here’s how music works in Katanas & Trenchcoats . Every player should bring their favorite song. The song can be about their character, nay, should embody the very essence of character. The best songs grant +1 Grandeur.
When stuff gets intense, any player can call for a song. Play a random song. Whoever’s song it is gets a Boost while that song’s playing. If you’re sexing when your song plays, double the results of your Sex Moves roll. (Yes, always call for a song when you’re getting lucky.)
Pick any song for your character’s theme, but like, don’t pick anything that sucks. That’s bad roleplaying. Start with Queen or the Crystal Method or N.W.A. and work out from there. Or check out the YouTube playlist at SoManyKatanas.com .
Part the Fourth: Skills and Mastercraft Actions
As you can see the Skill list on the Immortal Record Sheet available at http://somanykatanas.com I won't repeat them here, except to mention that the Knowledge Skill is split into five categories: Academics, Politics, Secret Lore, Street, and Damascus Steel Production.
Here we also get rules for such vital elements of roleplaying games as rolling to find hidden clues and influencing people. Also, to prove that this is a game for mature minds, there are actually rules for what happens when you have sex. (Spoiler alert: You roll off and whoever gets the most successes has the best sex.) If anyone rolls a 1, the sex is interrupted by something batshit crazy, like ninjas or your ex.
Part the Fifth: The Darkest Cosmos
The Darkest Cosmos takes the world you know, the Boring-Ass Timeline, and peels it back to reveal the Supernatural Underneath. It's a world where every organization is puppeteered by shadowy puppeteers, where every club has a secret sex dungeon under it that only the darkest and most beautiful are invited to, and where magic lurks just out of sight of slumbering Mortals who are just too dumb to Get It. Poor mundanes. The capital of the Darkest Cosmos is Darkest Vancouver , and its turgid, throbbing heart is the Granville Entertainment District. Moreover, Glamour cloaks Vancouver in a rich, heady stew of illusion, showing he city's chimerical face and drawing film and television production from all over the world. It's the city on the edge of the world, with the best view of the coming Apocalypse, and there's room for a thousand thousabd stories in its shadown alleyways.
The immaculately-researched skyline of Darkest Vancouver.
Part the Sixth: Dancers in a Perilous Tango
Here we meet many of the great powers of the Darkest Cosmos. I'll tell you no secrets, but herein you might encounter the Royal Mounted Black Ops Task Force or the mysterious Team Nunchuck. You might dance the night away at Scars Sub Rosa, or stumble across the secrets of the Illuminated Council of the New Future... secrets they might kill for.
FULIGINOUS CITADEL: IRELAND posted:
Ireland, or Tír na nÓg in the whispers of supernaturals, is the threshold of the Faery realm—a threshold drenched in blood and terror. The land is bitterly divided between Catholic native and Protestant invader, from the capital Dublin ( Tara in the true tongue) to the other cities and villages. If you hail from this ancient land, you have red hair and alcoholism and totally wield a traditional claymore. (It’s cool; an actual Irish writer wrote this. That makes insulting and appropriating their culture okay, right?)
Part the Seventh: Playing Other Supernaturals
Ah, so the siren song of Immortality calls not to you? Have no fear, for Katanas & Trenchcoats accomodates your most forbidden desires. Herein you'll find rules for playing Vampires, Werebeasts, Technomages, Ghosts, and the Fey-Touched. Each takes the basic template of Immortality and adjusts it slightly at various steps: changing elements of the Saga, replacing Traits, providing new Essential Skills, and so on.
The Fae-touched, for example, replace Ancient Memories and Mystical Talents with Faerie Marks and Wyrd Bonds, have L.C.S. (Lie, Cheat, Steal) as their Essential Skill, and can be perma-killed only by weapons of cold steel. Later Episodes, we're promised, will cover Demons, Mummies, Sorcerers, Nephilim, Paladins, Mutants, Orcs, Urban Shamans, Avatars, Dragonkin, Visible Clergy, Halflings, Pre-Ghosts, and more!
Part the Eighth: Being A Damn Story Master
Alas, I took an oath and dare not reveal the Story Mastering secrets where a mere player might chance upon them. Rest assured, however, that they are masterful.
Part the Ninth: Armory: Edges
Here at last are presented the secrets of Immortal power: the Edges that make your character cooler than everyone else's. You might be the Inheritor of the Dragon Spirit, possess Deadly Hanzo Steel, or even have a Majestic Accent. Herein observe a sampling:
Deadly Hanzo Steel posted:
Every Immortal bears a Awesome Sword, but yours is told in story and in song. 6s count as successes when you wield your blade against someone who knows its legend. Requires: Awesome Sword 2+ and a poem about the deadly beauty of your blade.
Part the Tenth and Final: LARP Rules, Part One
You know this is what you wanted. Rules for not just portraying your Immortal, but embodying her in that most mature of hobbies, Live-Action Roleplaying. The LARP rules for Katanas & Trenchcoats replace the simple, elegant dice pool system with a simple and elegant Rock Paper Scissors system. Those with advanced Traits and Skills (3+) may employ additional hand-signs granting them an edge. For example, in a Will Challenge, Immortals with a Will of 3 or more may throw the Horns, which lose only to the Anvil and the Fist. Further LARP rules will be presented in future Episodes.
And here, dear readers, our journey together through the Mysteries must end, for we have come to the close of this tome. Now that you have an understanding of the Ways Immortal, know that should we meet again in a mist-shrouded alley or snow-swept mountain temple, I shall not be so merciful. Ours is a lonely and intemperate existence, and I shall not hesitate to take your head, for in the end But One May Remain. Keep your blades sharp, my lovelies.
I leave you, then, with final words of wisdom gleaned from the text itself:
Okay, dropping the ridiculous character bit for a moment: Yes, Katanas & Trenchcoats is a parody game, and yes it's a loving tease aimed at the excesses of 90s-era roleplaying, but it actually is a solid, playable, and fun game n its own right. There are some Edges that don't actually have any mechanical effect, and a couple of deliberate inconsistencies and "poor editing," but it's all part of the fun. Anybody who likes getting drunk and binge-watching Highlander: The Series or laughing at F&Fs like Immortal: The Invisible War or any of the old World of Darkness games should definitely drop a few bucks on it. Also, all proceeds go to Seattle Children's Hospital, so you're being awesome and helping sick kids.
Finally, full disclosure, I did write a teeny, tiny bit of Katanas & Trenchcoats , so maybe I'm biased. But if I am, it's only about 150 words worth of bias. You should buy it anyways.
Car WizardsOriginal SA post
I know I promised
soon, and it's still on the docket, but in the meantime I have a few moments to share with you more nitro-boosted secrets of the Darkest Cosmos. Hearken, my immortal lovelies, to the full-throated V8 song of the Mechanical Talents, the Physics Benders, the Road Ronin. I speak, of course, of nothing less than:
Not content merely to blow our minds with the pinnacle of bleeding edge 90s roleplaying, the Secret Masters have seen fit to peel back the Curtain Temporal and deliver a supplement that lives life a quarter-mile at a time. Packed into three tiny pages is a fully tricked out 250 hp hemi engine of story.
And what even is a Car Wizard? They are the first in a new breed of playable character, the Exceptional Mortal. "Mortals?" I hear you scoff. "Exceptional? What a parochial notion!" It's true, no mere mortal can hope to match the dark sexiness of Immortality on its own terms, but when a Car Wizard is behind the wheel, the Darkest Cosmos itself is her co-pilot. And that, my beauties, is about as dark and sexy as it gets.
Making A Car Wizard
Thanks to Katanas & Trenchcoat's incredibly robust and innovative story-building system, creating a Car Wizard is simplicity itself. The process is much the same as creating any of the Higher Supernaturals, with but a few adjustments. Firstly, for Age Generation, a Car Wizard rolls 2d10 and sums the results. This is the number of cars she stole last week, or perhaps the number of months (or years) she spent in prison before getting out last week, or perhaps (if she's an undercover cop) the number of criminals she's tricked into thinking she's one of them. Use Good Roleplaying to decide which, and to determine how old your Car Wizard actually is.
Since Car Wizards live the mayfly lives of Common Mortality, they replace Influence on History with Shadowy Connections, representing favors owed and debts to call in.
Car Wizards have two options for detailing the amazing vehicles they drive. You may replace Awesome Sword with Awesome Ride , representing your iconic vehicle and its storied past. It is the car that defines you, and because you spend most of your downtime tinkering with it, you must have Make at 2+. Alternately, you may replace Kickass Wardrobe with Kickass Rides , representing the string of fast, sexy vehicles that you burn through like nitrous in your fuel-air mix. For this option, you must have L.C.S. (recall that this stands for Lie, Cheat, Steal) at 2+ to explain how you're constantly conning or straight-up boosting your way into all those rides.
Did I say two options? Forgive an old Immortal his japes, for it is in fact three: Like the gluttons of House Sus, you may choose both of the options described above, should you wish to have a string of disposable cars to blow through before pulling the tarp off of your father's 1970 Dodge Charger for the final act. Oh, such decadence!
Finally, Car Wizards replace Ancient Memories with Storied Past , representing their improbably former lives as hackers, undercover cops, or pro-wrestling superstars, and Mystical Talents with Uncanny Talent , representing their ability to tell the laws of physics to shut up and sit in the corner while behind the wheel.
Move, of course, replaces Fight as the Car Wizard's Essential Skill.
And what of the sweet embrace of sweet Lady Death? Simply put, as long as a Car Wizard is behind the wheel of a moving vehicle (and it matters not how the car is moving--tumbling off a cliff, sinking into the sea, or leaping the gap between two skyscrapers), she cannot die. If the rules say otherwise, then either the rules are incorrect or the car has, obviously, come to a stop somehow.
There follows a short summation of Exceptional Mortals. Chiefest of these points is the matter of death and healing. While in truth mortals heal far more slowly than the Higher Supernaturals, such would be dreadfully dull in a dark, sexy epic like Katanas & Trenchcoats. One cannot brood sexily in a brightly-lit, sterile hospital room, after all. Thus, for the sake of King Story, we bend the laws of probability and decree that Exceptional Mortals heal at the same rate as Immortals, and that "death" merely means, for them, grievous injury and Hardcore Wounds. Hardcore Wounds likewise heal for Exceptional Mortals the same way they do for Immortals, you simply need an outlandishly awesome narrative justification. For example, if you've had your back broken and been thrown into a hellish prison-pit, you might simply need a wise old prisoner to un-break your back with ropes, believe in yourself extra-hard, and your Hardcore wounds would be healed.
High Supernaturals, however, get a free Boost when attempting to perma-kill Exceptional Mortals to reflect their fragility.
Instead of Resverie , Exceptional Mortals have Reflection , which is basically the same except that it involves brooding on something that happened months or years ago instead of centuries. For Car Wizards, it's usually working on their Awesome Ride while drinking a beer, because shit's fucked up and right now that's all you can do.
Skills & Car Wizardry
While Move is the Car Wizard's Essential Skill, it's far from the only one they might require on the Darkest Streets. Fight is useful when you try to Wound someone (but not some thing ; Move does for that) while behind the wheel, Knowledge (Street) covers not just "the streets" as a concept but the actual, literal streets and the surfaces you drive on, be it concrete, asphalt, dirt, whatever. Knowledge (
) covers automotive engineering, the auto industry, and related fields like the international oil market and new energy technologies.
New Dancers In a Perilous Tango
Two new Dancers are presented herein: The demon-haunted street races of Tokyo's Yami No Sugano, where three different clans of Immortals duel over a mighty temple, and the Road Ronin, a loose network of small, tight-knit Car Wizard crews that often serve as couriers and transporters to the shadowy underworld--both literal and figurative. Both are, naturally, surpassingly awesome and dripping with story hooks.
Rules for Chases, Races, and Car Fights adorn this section, condensed, we are told, from the Darkest Drift Episode, which one day may yet be. Races and Chases both rely on a system of Move rolls to gain Distance, with Races being a flat attempt to be the first to reach a set number (say, five for the typical quarter-mile street race) and chases involve one party trying to reach a fixed number while the other tries to match the chasee's total. You can also accept a chase scene in lieu of Breaking a Trait when you flee a scene, but of course you run the risk of being caught again. In both instances, the exploding dice rule is, of course, in play.
Finally, proving that the adage "save the best for last" is like all good and wondrous things an invention of the Immortals, we end with three new Edges suitable to Car Wizards: Cars Do Fly , One-Point-Twenty-One , and War Rig . All are elegantly-crafted mechanical jewels, but I will share one with you in its entirety:
Cars Do Fly posted:
When the SM tells you that your car probably can’t do something—like drive off of a perfectly good cargo plane, parachute down, and immediately start racing once you land—you tell the SM to shut their filthy lying face, then explain with the loosest grasp of physics why obviously it can.
Required: Kickass Rides 2+ because you go through a lot of cars, and Grandeur Rank 3+ to tell the SM to stuff it.
That, then, is the secret truth of the Car Wizards. Learn it well, my pretties, and remember: If you're idling at a traffic light on the Darkest Highway and you hear the roar of an engine off to your left, don't dare to look. You just might find yourself in a race...
A race straight to Hell.
(Go buy Car Wizards .)