Thursday, December 31, 2015

Beam me up!

Amarillo Design Bureau are the designers of one of my favourite games: Starfleet Battles. The game is based on Star Trek TOS and the animated series. If you are looking for a game that captures the flavour of Star Trek, this is for you. Each ship has limited power to complete its objectives, it is up to you to provide that energy to overcome your opponent.
ADB has one of the most active player bases I have ever seen, each book typically has a page of contact information detailing the roles of each staff member at ADB. In addition there are usually several player submitted questions answered in each and sometimes special acknowledgement of players who have gone the extra mile to question rules, events and themes within the game.
Although Starfleet Battles is my favourite game produced by ADB, they have a wide variety of products to suit nearly every sci-fi fans desires. Please take a moment to visit them.

StarFleet Battles

There are just a handful of tabletop games that have any longevity. Star Fleet Battles (SFB) has been around since 1979, which is pretty amazing. The game is based on the Star Trek Original Series (TOS) and includes a variety of species not found in any other series.
The game places you in the Captain’s chair to do battle with a host of enemies. Ships are ranked by Basic Point Value so players can select ships of the equal power or use the point system to handicap one or more players. All ships are limited to certain pre-planned actions that consume energy. With limited energy only bold, daring, and cunning captains win.
Your choices of powers are: Federation, Romulan, Klingon, Gorn, Kzinti, Tholian, Orion Pirates, WYN, ISC, Lyran, and Hydran. Each power’s ships have a different flavor and to win you need to know not just your ship, but the enemies too. If that’s not enough, each power has dozens of ship choices. No two ships are remotely the same, captain. Planning is key to winning.
All ships share some basic characteristics: a top speed, turn rate, boxes representing equipment, weapons, shields, etc. When a ship runs out of internal boxes, it is all over. Boxes require some energy to function, with a few exceptions like shuttles or drones which are self-powered.
There are a myriad of weapon choices. Phasers are found on most ships, especially Federation ships. Phasers have a couple of different types basically describing the range and power. The Fed’s also have a photo torpedo as a heavy weapon. Klingon’s use disruptors which are more powerful than Phasers but require more time to charge. To offset the rate of fire, they have drones as a supplemental weapon. The Romulan’s have a monstrous weapon called the Plasma Torpedo. One hit can blow down a cruiser’s shields; two hits can transform a cruiser into an expanding ball of plasma. Luckily, they can only fire once per three (or two) turns. For this reason, they have cloaking devices and pseudo-torpedoes to fake out an adversary.
SFB is a knife-fight, not a slugfest. The last thing most captains do is waltz up their opponent and let ’em have it. Usually, your opponent can make you pay more for that than you can afford. Then they wipe the game board up with what is left of you. Don’t do it.
The game turn is broken into 32 (or 16 in the Cadet game) segments called an impulse. In a turn’s 32 impulse series, each ship has X energy to move, shoot, power shields, and run other systems. This means you have to both posture and fight. Bluffing is critical to SFB.
Each ship has a best firing point and range, so know what it is and get there when you are good and ready; hopefully that point is not where your opponent wants you to be. In addition, some ships are equipped to either dance outside of your sweet spot peppering you fire or ride right through it.
One of the coolest aspects of this game is the player derived content. Each book has one or more pages of submission information. Players write articles, tactics, artwork, create ships and scenarios. Sometimes key concepts are named after the creative ones. Three classic attacks are named by players or for them. Mizia strikes ,The Gorn Anchor and Yo-yo-ing are all player created strategies.
Doesn’t it sound complex? Heck yeah, but wait until you add on Advanced Mission to the Basic rules for even more detail. The options are endless. But the best feature of SFB is the player support from the staff at Amarillo Design Bureau. Their website is loaded with content, including a free download of the Cadet Game. This is a simplified rule set of the Basic edition rules. Don’t forget to check them out on Facebook.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Google Docs Templates for D&D

Google Drive shared files and templates are a rich find for gamers of all types.
Under templates, you can find a ton of D&D resources.
My personal favorite is Benjamin Connell’s 3.5 Character Sheet. I plan on making the standard for my 3.5 campaigns.

As time permits, I will be loading pre-genned characters in the top bar. Right now, I have characters for D&D and AD&D. I also have a link to my own AD&D character sheet for Unearthed Arcana pictured on the right.

Additionally, if you like having secondary skills for PCs or stat'd up NPCs, try my book Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners.

Feelies

I was seriously into gaming, I made feelies.


This was made in 1988 or so. It references the Castle Amber module, The Order of Light from Gemstone III, and Louise Cooper’s the Time Master Series, plus the city of Charn from my home brewed campaign.
The punchline to many of these references was that the characters AND players were aware of all of these references as works of fiction. The characters had copies of the Time Master Series and Averoigne stories. Each character has ring of wishes to enter the stories themselves.
When I was in high school, this seemed like a great hook.

Right! Now we are going to have company again! (Vampires)

What do you do when vampires show up? The old classics: garlic, holy water and crosses.
What do you do if you don’t have those things?
 Looks like I wasn’t the only one who got lucky last night.
Get creative or die. If it all goes to hell, you die creatively and that’s something to be written on your tombstone.
Remember the basics. Vampires can’t enter a home uninvited. Should this happen, a quick exchange of money can fix the situation. Stables, churches and other areas are not homes. Don’t hide there without a backup plan.
Holy water is great, but grease and oil are surprising. Lock the door, grease the floor and upturn a table in the middle of the room. When the vampire smashes his way in, down he goes, ready for a nice stake.
Variation two involves spraying oil under the door as the vampire attacks it. This keeps him out for the short term.
Both of these tricks makes vampires respect locked doors.
Water is another great benefit, as are small boats. Packing a rowboat full of characters in the middle of body of water is an impenetrable barrier to blood suckers. Should they turn to gas or a bat and attack the boat this way, it can be capsized and hidden under.
Fire on a larger ship is a nightmare, but doubly so for vampires. Always burn the ship before it gets dark and well out to sea, just in case.
Seeds. Vampires have obsessions and counting is one of them. Throwing seeds is a great delaying tactic. Make sure you are not holding an envelope full of seeds labeled “144 count”. This never works.
Tying is another obsession of vampires. Braiding or unbraiding your hair can be of use. However, half of this is the delaying action and half is emphasizing your neck as a target.
Many rule sets allow for knockouts if the damage is high enough. A wand of fireballs can turn a flock of vampires flying over a moat into fish food quickly. Fireballs do more damage in confined spaces. Fireballs do not have to fired direct at a target to do damage, so fire them behind the target to knock them forwards. Or in front of them to force them back.
Always remember the game mechanics that allows you to move other characters. You can’t hurt a vampire barehanded, but boy does the sun sting if you shove them outside.
There are myriad ways of dealing with vampires. Let me know if you have any favorites.

3.5 House Rules – A Crock of Equipment

Sometimes, deception is required for characters to make headway. If a caravan is ambushed every time there are no obvious defenders, it may be beneficial to hand the wizard a lance. Weapons, no matter how old or unserviceable maybe pressed into service for deceptive purposes. I have a house rule for this effect.
When a character is untrained with a type of weapon, but that weapon itself is unserviceable, the attacker only suffers half the normal penalty but only does half the damage. For instance, a wizard with a lance will suffer a -2 instead of a minus 4. The attacker only does 1d3 or 1d4 damage, which can be doubled for being mounted. The weapon is also dropped on impact. This modification occurs because the wielder is using a  known weapon in an extraordinary way. It is not normal to fling a two-handed sword at someone’s feet or let go of a lance on impact.
Players may opt to retain the weapon, but automatically switch back to the normal -4 penalty for being untrained.
Armor can also be used in the same way, with the Armor check penalty being halved. Old, unserviceable armor is ripped away when the wearer is hit or the wearer fails a Armor check roll. Since this is really poor armor, it is easily damaged. Damaged armor still inflicts half the penalties, so characters should remove it immediately. This requires either a Dex or Str roll, at the DM’s discretion.
Another trick is Doodad Armor.
Doodad Armor is a fake armor. Typically, this deceptive armor is constructed of leather, wood and blocked felt, with metal connectors. It is very warm to wear, but far less cumbersome than real armor. It imposes one half the normal Armor check roll for the type simulated and is not destroyed when struck. However, it may show signs of distress atypical of normal armor. For example, Plate Doodad armor will show a large tear when struck by a weapon.
It functions as padded armor, no matter the type of armor simulated. This can cause an Arcane Spell Failure. Speed is unmodified by this special purpose armor, so enemies may be surprised by quick movements.
Doodad armor can also be ripped off, as it is designed to be removed quickly. This requires a Dex check.
Depending on your campaign, deceptive armor types can give a bonus one or two to grappling, as both Doodad armor and damaged armor has all kinds of extra friendly grab points to enable an attacker. The attacker would have to be aware that the armor is fake to receive a bonus. This requires either a prior strike or a Wisdom check.
One comical result is a grappler grabbing the arms of the armor and pulling, which is a Strength check. The defender can also make a strength check to rip the armor off. What happens next is usually comedy gold.

Five Minute Map - Island

Google Plus is a rich repository of gaming information. One of my favorite communities is Five Minute Maps.
Yesterday, I had five minutes to sketch out a quick map.
This map is based off of the real life island of New Providence. I envisioned a port city as the capital and a series of canals connecting the east and west coasts via small lakes. A little north of these canals is a series a small ponds modeled on the Finger Lake regions of New York.
Inspiration came from my summer time vacationing.

Quick Doodle - Stave Church

I’ve been doodling to get back in the habit of drawing. Tonight’s offering is a Norse themed church.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rifts on Google Plus


I haven’t played Rifts since 1995. One of the key elements of play is simplicity, and the highlight of the rules is the artwork. Palladium has been producing quality works for decades.
I am tempted to pull out my old books and give it a roll again. But for now, I will have to content myself by watching others in the Rifts Google Plus Community.

J5T - Classical Hack

The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com and DriveThruRPG, respectively. Funny that my site is missing a reference to Classical Hack.
Classical Hack is a full gaming system created and published by Lynne and Philip Viverito. As a kid, I watched epic battles play out in my living room, dining room, basement, garage and bedroom. At first I was an outsider, then I was a participant.
My parents engaged me in creativity and gamesmanship from a very young age. Castles and knights lurked in every corner of our home. Every house and every apartment we ever lived had a game room. And if it didn’t, any room and every room could be transformed into one.
One of my earliest memories was of a convention in Lockport, New York. My dad had constructed an amazing castle of incredible detail, complete with a custom table to hold it. The whole construct seemed amazingly tall, I couldn’t reach the top standing on a chair.
I recall sitting on the edge of tables as dice were rolled and Romans met barbarians with sword and spear. People played, laughed and cursed late into the night.
Which brings me to Classical Hack.
 ClassicalHack.com is a web site dedicated to historical miniature gaming, created by life long gamers. 
The game system is very period specific. The series includes:
  • Holy Hack Hacking by the Book Biblical Warfare,
  • Homeric Hack Warfare in the Age of Homer,
  • Classical Hack Warfare from 600 BC to 250 AD,
  • Hack In the Dark Warfare in the Dark Ages 250 AD to 1000 AD,
  • Knight Hack Warfare in Middles Ages 1000 AD to 1450 AD,
  • Pike Hack The Road to Dunbar Warfare in the Age of Cromwell.
To support these rules there are two scenario books:
  • Classical Hack Rome
  • Classical Hack Macedonia.
All books, even prototypes were written on Macintosh Computers typically using Adobe for editing and page layout.
You can check out ClassicalHack.com for updates to this great gaming system, get it from DriveThruRPG or purchase a copy from Amazon:

Or DriveThruRPG. 



Saturday, December 26, 2015

Fire 7"

Oh, did the family score this Christmas. We each picked up a Fire, 7" Tablet.

The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com.

(Ads provided by Amazon help fund this site by remuneration for clicks and purchases.)

These little devices work with almost any computer. I tried it on a Windows 7 and a Chromebook and both worked well. I was able to make some magic and install Google Play and Google Drive without too much trouble.

Here we have DoubleTwist from the Google Play Store displaying Matt and Kim from Amazon Music.

Between the native Amazon app and the Play Store, I have the best mix of software available on Tabbies today. Below you can see my new favorite NewsHog, available from the Amazon store. It beast the heck out of Google News.


In the coming days, I am sure I will be adding more great software. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this thing.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Strange Chromebook XFCE Glitch

This morning, I had some trouble with my version of XFCE on my Chromebook. Tab-Alt stopped working, the menu bar had vanished, the programs opened would not keep focus and the cursor was either X or invisible.

How I hate messing with a perfectly good distro. The solution is rather easy. Delete your ~/.cache/sessions directory and the functions come back after logoff/reboot. How simple.


Of course, I forgot you can't rm directories and needed to try three times before I remembered the rm -r modifier. So the actual command is above.

Whew! Thank god for Ubuntu and XFCE's easy of use. If this was Windows, I'd be screwed.