A ‘Savage’ Look Inside the Kerberos Club

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Here’s a bit of my email from January 26, 2007:

>>> I’m working on a Victorian supers setting
>>> at the moment for a bi-weekly game which if it
>>> continues to evolve as I hope, might make a great
>>> Wild Talents mini-setting. I’m playing with mechanics
>>> to track reputation and scandal, as the members of
>>> the Kerberos Club (the default assumption for the
>>> PC’s) are both heroes and monsters to the Victorian
>>> sensibility.
>>
>> I would love to do a real book like that,
>> considering the role Moore’s
>> “League” had in shaping Wild Talents and the amount
>> of reading I do in
>> Napoleonic and Regency-era fiction these days.
>> Granted, Victorian is a
>> bit further along, but still. And WT fan Jess Nevins
>> has written the
>> grandfather of all Victoriana references already for
>> MonkeyBrain
>> Books.
>
> When I get them together, I’ll shoot you my notes on
> the Kerberos Club and its disreputable and sensational
> membership.
>
> Mallum Necessarium

That was the correspondence between Benjamin Baugh and me that led to The Kerberos Club, which to this day is one of my very favorite gaming settings.

Back in January 2007, Benjamin was still working on Monsters and Other Childish Things as a Wild Talents setting capsule, and he was dreaming up Kerberos as something similar. The Monsters booklet was so much fun that I promptly encouraged him to expand it to a full, standalone rulebook, and that wound up with all kinds of Ennie Award nominations and glowing reviews around the Internet.

Unlike Monsters, which became its own rules set, Kerberos remained a Wild Talents sourcebook. But the more Benjamin worked on it, the more I fell in love with it.

kerberos-club-zigguratsIt didn’t stay a “mini-setting” very long.

The book follows the Rule of Cool all the way. If they would have made it following just the Core Rules of Savage Worlds, they would have had a winner on their hands; the writing is excellent, the time-line is inspired, and the punk ethos, as presented, of steampunk is more than ready to club you over the head and steal your girlfriend.

But, being a translation of the Wild Talents RPG, this game is built on the Super Power’s Companion. And that, my friends, makes this game, made of addicting awesome.

Rule of Cool? Meso-American Flying Attack Pyramids? You better seek shelter. And Eldritch Queen of the UK? God Save You All….

Punk? The Strangness (the raison d’tre of the game) knows nothing of the Victorians Vedy British ideas of class, properness, or social scale. It touches everyone, everywhere. There will be rioting in the streets.

This should be on every gamer’s bookshelf. Kudos all around to the creative staff.

Tyler C., RPGNow

And it didn’t stay just a Wild Talents book very long. The Kerberos Club appeared as a Wild Talents campaign book in 2009 and it got such great reviews that we promptly began experimenting with versions in other rules sets. The first that came to mind, clearly and easily, was Savage Worlds.

I had personally played a lot of Savage Worlds, including a very fun, and all too brief, campaign where a friend adapted Atlas Games’ colonial fantasy Northern Crown to the Savage Worlds rules. I knew instinctively that Savage Worlds would be a great fit for The Kerberos Club.

Of course, Savage Worlds and Wild Talents are built to do different things. Savage Worlds is pulp, pulp, pulp. It’s built around adventurers who push their way through dangerous encounters and frequent injuries with pluck and daring, all of which is encapsulated in the Bennies economy. It’s Indiana Jones and Doc Savage. Wild Talents is Top Ten and The Dark Knight Returns — its sweet spot is comic book heroes in a world that doesn’t want to follow comic book rules. But Wild Talents is also The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with superheroes often doing ugly,violent things and always at risk of uglier fates.

The Kerberos Club incorporates all those modes quite seamlessly. In Wild Talents the heroes and villains of The Kerberos Club—if you think you can tell them apart so easily!—are in the constant suspense of a game that’s built to emphasize the catastrophic consequences of violence. In Savage Worlds, Kerberans are more likely to come through their adventures battered and bloody but standing tall for Queen and Country.

And isn’t that what Kerberans are supposed to do?

In a word, wow. Benjamin Baugh has outdone himself. The Kerberos Club is perhaps one of the most real and alive settings that I’ve ever encountered. I’ve always found it a little tricky to get comfortable with external settings, but the Kerberos Club takes on all manner of strange members. There are plenty of odd folks who inhabit the club and all of Her Majesty’s territory. –Tim R., RPGNow.

We put together a free Quickstart Guide to go along with The Kerberos Club, and now that guide is available for the Savage Worlds version. The Quickstart Guide itself is great fun. The first few pages encapsulate this alternate history of the Victorian Age and the ways that the supernatural “Strangeness” touches and changes it. But at the core of the Quickstart Guide are four ready-to-play characters. Each of them highlights different aspects of the setting, and the way the Kerberos Club interacts with the setting, and the way the players interact with the Club and the world around them.

There’s the Lady Constance Davies, prim and upright and yet armed with a most unladylike magical sword, ready to defend the realm when the realm’s men can’t or won’t. There’s Sgt. (ret.) William mac Donald, “the One-Man Army,” scarred by the many dark sides of colonialism, who can summon countless duplicates to sacrifice himself over and over for a cause in which he no longer believes. There’s Pale Tom Teach, the gutter magus, a low-class sorcerer with a spell and a quip for every occasion. And of course Jonus Earl Underbridge, Esq., everything you would expect in a florid, bombastic gentleman about town — or rather, the image of one as created by a creature of Faerie, a monstrous troll who finds the streets of London more interesting than his old bridges and caves.

LADY CONSTANCE DAVIES: THE GLAIFSANTES (20 EXP)
Rank: Seasoned
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d12+1 (d12+3 with the Sword of Oss), Intimidation d6, Notice d12, Persuasion d6, Riding d4, Shooting d4, Streetwise d4, Taunt d6 Charisma +0
Pace 6; Parry 9 (8 without the Sword); Toughness 16 (6) (Sword sheathed)/10 (Sword drawn)/6 (Sword not in her possession)
Hindrances: Heroic, Monologuer (Minor), Stubborn, Vow (Protect All Things British) (Major)
Edges: Command, Improved Trademark Weapon (The Sword of the King of Oss), Power Points (x3), Quick Draw, Strong-Willed, Super Powers
Super Powers:
—Attack, Melee (16): AP 12, Focus, Switchable (Armor, Awareness, and Heightened Senses function only when the Sword is sheathed), Device. Damage Str+d8+3d6 AP 12, ignores armor of inanimate objects and vehicles (Sword of the King of Oss).
Armor (6): +6 Heavy Armor (The Sword Sheathed).
Awareness (8): Danger sense. Ignore vision impairments, −4 to be hit (Singing Sword).
Heightened Senses (1): +2 to Notice rolls (Ever Vigilant).
Super Edge (3): Device. Improved Trademark Weapon. The Sword of the King of Oss (Blade Mastery).
Super Skill (2): Device. Fighting +3 steps, Notice +3 steps (The Wielder of the Sword).
Toughness (4): Device. +4 Toughness (Resolute).

And those barely touch on such Strange inventions as the automata that run riot in “The Adventure of the Black and White Decks,” found in The Kerberos Club rulebook; and the Electrophorus Firing Piece that is so favored by a better class of muggers; and the Wolfriemen cloak that transforms Her Majesty’s Lupine Rangers into terrifying dire wolves; and so many more.

kerberos-flag

You can tell the authors love this era. I was amazed by the detail and depth of the book. Do you need all the information to run a supers game in Victorian London? No. You can take a map of the time, pull out your favorite H. G. Wells story and do a decent job of GMing. However, that sort of adventure is only good for a game or two. The information in the supplement allows you to game in this setting for an extended period of time without the need to purchase other add-ons.

Overall I greatly enjoyed the book even though I groaned when I first saw the page count. The histories are fanciful, enjoyable, and detailed. The characters are interesting and exotic as is the Kerberos Club itself. Eventually you’ll be saying, “Tonight, I’ll be dining at the Club.” It is a feast well worth consuming.

Keith A., RPGNow

I adore The Kerberos Club. I would snap up anything about this setting if anyone else had published it. It fills me with pride to have had a hand in bringing it to life as editor and manager of Benjamin Baugh’s original Wild Talents version, then the Savage Worlds edition with conversions by Dave Blewer and Erica Balsley, then the Fate edition with its own innovations by Mike Olson.

The Savage Worlds edition holds a special place in my heart. We set out to capture what’s special and fun about Savage Worlds itself and also the terrific rules for superhuman characters in the Super Powers Companion. Both of those shine brilliantly in Benjamin Baugh’s ingenious vision of a world that blends superheroes, steampunk, sorcery and fairy tales, and transcends them all.

Place your order now and tonight you, too, can be dining at the Club.

About Arc Dream Publishing

Arc Dream Publishing creates roleplaying games and fiction including Delta Green, Godlike, Wild Talents, Monsters and Other Childish Things, Better Angels, The Kerberos Club, The Sense of the Sleight-of-Hand Man, and the award-winning magazine of Cthulhu Mythos gaming, The Unspeakable Oath.