Showing posts with label RPG. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RPG. Show all posts

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Recovery in or of Star Smuggler

In my last post, I hypothesized that the player could recover from the loss of their Antelope spaceship by pulling together a small team of pilots, medics, and engineers to scavenge in the Ruins found on so many planets. 

While this is basically true, it takes a very long time. I used Random.org's dice generator to rapidly roll hundreds of dice. The primary limiting factor is loading a hopper (25 CU) or using an orbital shuttle (50 cu) to move goods around. The problem with this method is it takes a lot of time and money to do so. You can cache items to speed the process but the scenario becomes a little ridiculous and tedious. 

If you are down with embracing the ridiculous you can reduce the tedium by purchasing items like repair units, fuel units, or GM bots right in the Spaceport. Once you have spent every penny on these items all you have to do is sit on them until you receive a good sales result. Picture Duke sitting on a pile of craters right in a hanger waiting for someone to happen by in need of item x, which he has cornered the market on. On Regari, a roll of 6 sales results in a 1.5 base price modifier. You are converting 1 secs. spent into 1.5 secs. per cycle. In a month or two, you should have enough to purchase a new Antelope. 

If only you get over the fact that Duke is sitting on a pile of thousands of repair units or fuel units...

The reason this isn't an obvious solution is you cache a tremendous amount of items inside the Spaceport for a very short period of time. Like thousands of CU worth of goods. The rules don't place a limit on the number of items you can have only a limit on items you can move.  

It is a very unsatisfying solution because it kills the game engine's balance. In fact, using this method breaks the economic restrictions that the game places on you. So long as you do not engage in any other activities such as RRR, there is zero risk due to a lack of opportunities to make contacts or otherwise experience negative effects. 

Now I have further expansion possibilities because there must be a mechanic to offset the easy solution of not engaging in play to win. In solo play, this is not as dangerous as the solo player is playing for exploration not cheating their way through the money problem. It's just easier to fudge the rolls or be a bad timekeeper. 

If you want to adapt Star Smuggler to an actual multiplayer game, then you need a solution to this possibility. 

I think that creating a table of random events that can occur when you do not move or engage in activities would work to resolve this unique issue. The Star Smuggler system has many different built-in; scenarios that range from flavoring to pushing events that can speed world build while not obviously punishing a lack of activity. A party of characters will need some downtime to stay centered on tasks, but a random table of events can spark new plans and ideas. Think of it as exposure without railroading like a solo game has to do. 

Another cool idea for multiplayer options is to use randomly generated systems to express change. As time goes on a Spaceport could morph into a colony, city, or slum. This wouldn't happen overnight, but a referee could present the changes over the natural weeks and months which are hardcoded into the game system. The referee could even change the star charts as exploration opens new routes or even open up completely new systems. 

This solo game system is remarkably robust for such a simple thing. A necessary limit in the system is how scattered the rules are within the events. For example, there exist psionics, grenades, and combat droids however, if haven't read every event you wouldn't even know. Also, combat is super tight. There are relatively few ways you can make changes without upsetting the game balance. 

However, in using this as an actual RPG ruleset, the referee knows exactly what to expect. Change can come in other ways, such as the expansion of planetary systems, new events created by the players' choices, and the referee's goals for the game. 

Most of my amazement and fascination with this game is how tightly integrated and edited it is. I spent a few days going through every event and rule, mapping out where each went to find loops or mistakes. There are a few loops, but as near as I can tell no actual mistakes which is a testament to how well thought out it is. 

There are a few relics and oddities in the rules and events. For example, events are sequential from e001 to e199 but then hop to e400 before ending at e341. That leads me to believe that the game might have meant to have 200 more events. The rules do the same thing, flowing from r201 to r242 before hopping to r300+. Maybe there are 60 or so missing rules entries. Were that true, someone painstakingly edited them away without the benefit of a computer. 

There is another option. Two people could have been working on the set at the same time and divided the entries between them which explains the gap. One person finished before the other but in order to maintain the document refused to reference unnecessary numbers or renumber what they had. Not surprising if you are using pen and paper or worse, a typewriter.  

Personally, I believe this second option to be the more possible one. There is a subtle hint in e005. It is the only event that straight-up duplicates events: 

"If you disable the controller and capture it, the event takes 1 hour and roll 1d6: 1-e117, 2-e017, 3-e059, 4-e117, 5-e017, 6-no effect." 

This does not occur any place else in the rules. Omitting tension-building choices which hop through an intervening event before directing the reader/player back to make a different choice at the initial branch. This is a common trope in "choose your own adventure" books. It is different than a duplication.  

I believe in this case one of the e117 and e017 events were supposed to lead elsewhere but do not because those events were either edited away or simply not written. 

A similar thing happens in the rules section for combat. The events and rules call out "sidearms" and "heavy sidearms" while a few areas mention "explosive weapons" and "armor piercing" weapons. I personally believe that this is the result of two authors being on the same page, but not the same word. Or perhaps they intended for there to be a couple of classes of weapons that were discovered to be unbalanced, like a machine gun or blaster rifle. Or maybe "too much like game, movie or TV show x." 

It is pretty clear that the author used their personal experience at the game table to create a solo game. I find it kind of satisfying to reverse the process and use the ruleset for a multiplayer game. 

What do you think? 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Perfect Pairings, Episode One The Rain

In this post series, I will be selecting TV shows and movies that pair nicely with different rulesets. I won’t be picking big-budget, well-known series that probably have dedicated rulesets, like Star Wars, Firefly/Serenity, Farscape, or anything in the MCU.

I wanted to start off with an easy one, a TV show is adaptable to many sets of rules.

The Rain is an amazing Danish TV series running 3 seasons. It is available on Netflix and it’s a very quick binge. The Rain’s story is covered in just 20 episodes, which is great for gaming. Once establishing the scenario, the tight episode schedule allows for a great amount of deviation for role play.

The main characters are Rasmus and Simone Andersen, two children who live through an apocalyptic plague carried by the titular Rain by escaping into a secret bunker. Cut off from the world, they live in isolation for 6 years. They are forced out of the bunker by an alarm and are taken captive by Martin, Patrick, Lea, Beatrice, and creepy Jean. Simone turns the tables on the raiders by revealing that there is a network of bunkers full of food and supplies the gang desperately needs.

It soon becomes clear that the raiders are atypical survivors who avoid as much trouble as they can. They live by their wits and their ability to hide. It is rather anticlimactic when the plot reveals a dangerous organization called Apollon that hunts survivors for unknown purposes, making Martin and Patrick’s gang far less dangerous than they seemed in the prior episode. Even Jean who starts off creepy is far, far less threatening than one would imagine.

The technology stays about 5-minutes in the future, with the highest tech items being either drones or one-off 3d printed affairs with little purpose other than to build suspense. The vast majority of the technology revolves around detecting various things and horror-style virology experiments gone wrong.

The series is weapons-lite, where the primary purpose is either defense or mayhem. This is kind of understandable given the possibility that the sky could open up and kill everyone. Marin has a semi-automatic rifle, but no one else bothers to pick up a piece. The scenario puts the rule of 3 in full effect: water, shelter, and food, in that order. Many of the other survivors have weapons but not the skill to use them effectively nor the ability to maintain them. Apollon is a paramilitary group that uses Humvees, body armor, and automatic weapons but is not terribly inclined to use them. The story is more of a cat and mouse game than a post-apocalyptic shoot ‘em up.

In adapting this universe for gameplay, the referee or gamemaster will be crossing off more items than they add to pretty much any ruleset. That makes for quick set-up and low maintenance.

I did notice some odd items that were missing in this series. Of course, cell phones are a thing of the past given that electrical power is not generally available. The same goes for private vehicles due to the total societal collapse. Some characters have bows and arrows. I found it odd that almost no one has a knife, axe, or hatchet. Nothing could be more useful in a survival situation.

This universe would be perfect for a low-tech introduction to any version of Traveller. Personally, I enjoy the Cepheus Light edition but literally, any edition will do. The lack of gunplay will increase the character’s survival rate because guns in Traveller are rather… ah, final. Traveller’s skill collection and mechanics are perfect for this sort of cat and mouse thriller but would require some careful choices in character generation. 

On the plus side, most of the characters in The Rain are under 30, so straight character generation might not be too off kilter. Simply replace certain items from the tables with more mundane goods. I would urge a referee to modify the tables in advance with goods and resources from the world of The Rain preloaded so players don’t feel cheated.

More than a few of Traveller’s skills are not made for a 5-minute in the future story but by performing the same preplanned swap for other skills is easy. Logistical and basic education skills are king in this sort of world. It is important to let the players know you aren’t taking things from them but substituting a skill that is more appropriate.

Another old ruleset that could work is Top Secret. That game has a good set of skills baked right at character generation. Going light on starting skills mirrors the feel of The Rain’s characters. Many of the main characters have no college education while a handful are “Super Asmodeus” types when it comes to knowledge. Depending on the player’s style and desired characters, you could make a “team level” pool of skill points where the party chooses who to dump points on. Top Secret isn’t set too far in the past, so it’s almost perfect for this TV show’s era. Again, the lack of weapons in the show will merely enhance character survival.   

My last pick of rule sets is After the Bomb by Palladium. The reason I place it last is The Megaversal system is so well integrated, it is easier to expand the possibilities than reduce them. Megaversal is a great system but the referee would need to cull a ton of bits to fit with The Rain. While After the Bomb seems a little off-beat for a bunch of plain Jane humans, I have not revealed details of the TV show which make this a sensible choice. 

The skill system is robust and sound. There is a total lack of MDC weapons used in The Rain but that doesn’t mean the heroes won’t encounter MDC tough items in the form of vehicles and bunkers and such. I like the hand-to-hand combat system for this sort of survival scenario. Lots of dodging and parrying and pushing, as opposed to city leveling MDC combat. 

What I haven’t mentioned in some mysterious events and people in The Rain, so as to avoid spoilers. After the Bomb and Traveller have the best rules to support these things while to my knowledge, Top Secret has none. A savvy referee could probably adapt these issues away while using the strengths of the Top Secret to keep things together. 

Now, you may wonder why I haven't suggested other rulesets. The reason for this is simple, three is reasonable AND this is a series where I'll make future pairings of movies and TV shows to game sets. Stay tuned, your favorite game may show up eventually. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Review - Serenity RPG (2005)

As hinted at before, I am reviewing the 2005 Serenity RPG which was made in conjuncture with the movie. I've had very good luck when it comes to movie-based content, the 2000 Star Wars RPG book comes to mind right away. These things come with glorious artwork, suitable for a film because they are a supporting project for a film. 

So, I guess I can ignore the artwork in this one, even though it is particularly good. The reader should understand that this is a work from 2005, the Cortex rules have evolved since then and perhaps this is the only way to get an enjoyable Firefly fix as it doesn't seem like the show is coming back in any recognizable form having been acquired by Disney. 

On the plus side, you can watch the TV show on Hulu, which isn't a bad thing to do. 

Title: Serenity Role Playing Game
Author: Jamie Chambers
Rule Set: Cortex
Year: 2005
Pages: 230
Number of players: 2 or more
Rating: ★★★★

This particular set of rules uses the Cortex system, which is unlike D&D and has some great attributes. It is meant to create characters with a thematic flair, a collection of skills and traits, both positive and negative define the player. Players assign attributes by die, so a strong character has d12 for strength and a weak one has a d4. 

One of the gems of this system that is not mentioned in this particular book is the idea of "hitches". It does come up in later versions of Cortex as "a feature, not a bug". A hitch is a roll of 1, which indicates "something bad happens". It's softly defined in this particular ruleset but easily understood that someone with a d4 die is going to roll a 1 more often than a character with a d10 ability, but both will eventually roll a one. It does appear as "botching" on page 143. 

Were this any other setting, this soft definition would be a serious problem. However, with the very limited set of live scenarios (14 TV shows and one movie), the concept of "hitches" is hardcoded into this 'verse. 

This is like Wash blasting down the canyon trench, only to have the enemy pull up and glide gracefully above the canyon, casually popping off cannon fire at the Serenity. Even a talented person can have these moments. Since they will happen so often, they are not like the evil AD&D fumbled attack roll tables, which are inherently punitive (and stupid). With the softness allowed, a player could come up with their own hitch that the Game Master merely needs to rubber stamp. Players of this game will be those kinds of people to let the rule of fun, evil, irony rule the day. 

This book does share a lot of superficial characteristics of D&D 3.5. Full-color pages, great art, a table of contents, and an index. And for Cortex, this is where the rules get their first ding. The order of the book is an introduction to the setting and the character crew of Serenity, followed by stating up the characters, traits and skills, money and gear... and so on. Exactly like 3.5 D&D. 

Here is the first ding. It's the wrong order for Cortex and it doesn't have to be. Stats come after traits and skills in Cortex, unlike D&D. You can't assign stats until you've tallied the pluses and minuses for traits and complications. It's not a big deal, but it was irksome to have most of a character fleshed out only to have to circle back to the beginning. 

This is a great character sheet! 

Character generation is relatively simple. You don't roll dice, you pick off a chart like a points buy. It also allows the player to explore a flawed character without that flaw being so powerful that it's an impediment to play. For example, a character may have a complication or flaw that requires him or her to leave no one behind. That's powerful, but not something that would prevent gameplay. There are some dubious ones like "hooked" which is an addiction. Clearly, the author meant to go beyond the Serenity universe and incorporate some harder complications that appear in other sci-fi. It's a very nice system because having a complication can push up stats and positive traits in an easy-to-use trade-off.

Equipping the characters becomes a little dicey because the equipment list contains things that are the properties of the ship as opposed to the property of a given character. For example, space suits. 

But space ships are characters in this game which is amazing. There are only two faults with this arrangement, one is annoying and one is just a bad arrangement. The ships have traits and skills like human characters and they use recycled names from the character traits and skills. So "Heavy Weapons" ends up meaning "Automatic Targeting". They should have a different name, a different list. 

The second "fault" is the book provides excellent floor plans and schematics of the ships available in the game but then leads with "Aces and Eights", a firefly variant that is not the titular ship. There seems to be no particular order to the ships, so I can't even say, "Well, it's alphabetical". The first time I flipped through, my eyes settled on the Aces and Eights page and my brain balked. For a second, I thought that perhaps the author had never seen Firefly. It's not a horrible flaw... but it is. 

The second major ding cycles back to the table of contents and is continue throughout the entire book. There is a lot of quaint, laconic doublespeak in the text. The rule section in the TOC is labeled "Keep Flyin'". 

What? Reading 200+ pages where subjects, nouns, etc. are consistently, inconsistently dropped is maddening. It's like reading the Life and Times of Yosemite Sam. 

Nathan Fillion is a great laconic double talker, but he uses it sparingly like a good weapon. When he does it, it's in character AND universe. People clearly don't understand what he is saying until they parse it out. By that time, he's doing something they do understand and they react in panic. This is not a good way to present rules and procedures. 

Dings and flaws aside, this system beautifully captures the style of the series for a whole host of reasons. Many of the flaws of the presentation of the game revolve around Cortex RPG rules only being a year old at the time of publication and the author trying to present the rules laconically. Remove both of those and you have an excellent 5-star system. 

I picked up my copy locally, but you can check out Abe Books to see if they have it in stock: Serenity Role Playing Game at AbeBooks.com

Alternatively, you could get a pdf of the game but I couldn't find a listing on my favorite site,  DriveThruRPG. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Let's Run That Railroad Through the Sandbox...

I had an interesting conversation with my kids about DMing games. 

Here was the scenario: The party gets in a fight. The winner of that fight gets jumped and their cash and prizes are stolen. Then the party chases down the second group of people and gets their stuff back. 

"You planned all of that in advance. You were railroading us!" they whined. 

"No. I wasn't." I pulled out my notes and showed them. 

The Party and Group A get in a fight. Only 4 things can happen: either the Party or Group A can win. Or they reach a stalemate and no one wins, either by flight or not starting or finishing the fight without winning. 

Next. The first group out of the area gets jumped. Those 4 options happen again. 

And finally, when the loser or second people out of the first situation one catch up, you basically have the same 4 options. Win, lose, or two different draws. 

That's not a railroad. The players have a choice at each event they are present for and the dice can change that outcome. When the party isn't present, I pick the most viable option because I'm not stopping play to fight combat against two NPC groups against each. When the party comes back, they get another set of choices and outcomes. 

A railroad would be if I decided what was going to happen TO THE PARTY before they were granted a choice. I know where the branches are and what should happen next, but I have 4-5 different possible choices to account for in every scenario. If the party has an obvious choice of 4 items, and they come up with the fifth, sixth, and seventh option, I have no plan and need to fly by the seat of my pants. 

I gave the kids a good example. 

I had a party meet at a tavern. They were supposed to stop the evil lord's men from shaking down the peasants for money. The party chose not to do that. So, the peasants got shaken down. Then the party gave the peasants money to replace what was stolen. I didn't expect that outcome. 

In the next session, I decided to just re-run the whole thing. Again the party didn't bite. This went on for a bit with the peasants getting shaken down and the party replacing their lost funds. 

Now the party was responsive to everything else I did in each session, but I was baffled by their lack of activity on this one point of defending the peasants. It almost rose to the level of a joke. After a few months of play, they checked back in on the peasants in the tavern. 

Since they asked, I provided. This time the lord was there to get in on the fun. And the party sat there as the peasants got beat down and robbed again. It wasn't until the lord threaten everyone and turned to exit that the whole party opened fire with crossbows. In the dark, in the back. 

The explanation for this behavior was, everyone in the party and a few of the players are lawful evil. It was just their nature to use the peasants for bait to draw the evil lord out. 

Again, this was not railroading because the players themselves asked to check on the situation and determined the outcome they personally desired.  

So when planning an adventure, you should plan for the obvious. What if the party wins? What if they lose? What if they run? What if they won't or don't fight? If you have those few things down, then the adventure probably won't go off the track, but if it does, the DM is only scrambling for a few seconds and not moment to moment. Which reduces the possibility of railroading the players. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The One Shot Idea

I'm not good at creating one shots, however my reading activities have sparked an idea and an urge to do so. Not exactly a one shot, but series of them where the characters names remain the same but the skills and perhaps players change. 

At the beginning of 2020, I started rereading The Damiano Trilogy by R. A. MacAvoy. It's a historical fantasy about witch who finds adventure galavanting around Europe in search of his heart. Its pretty standard fare for early eighties fantasy, swinging from super light to moderately dark concepts. Clearly, the 90's antihero was not yet in fully realized, but these contemplative stories had the kernel of the idea gestating a decade before. 

At about the same time, I purchased Aquelarre Breviarium. I got the Spanish Language edition, so it's been a slow slog for me. But from the character descriptions, it seems like this rule set captures the ideas of the Damiano series very well. 

Aquelarre takes history and morphs it into a playable system. Characters don't have classes, they have professions. There are no races, there are cultures. 

Damiano, the titular character could be a couple of different professions, however the Trilogy breaks the character into different phases or evolutions throughout the series. This is fairly neat for a character in a game because each aspect is divorced from the others except for the name. 

Damiano could be un Mago or un juglar (minstrel),
each distinct from Saara the witch and Gaspare the dancer. 


The lengthy list of professions are well suited for dealing with not only the main character but also the associated secondary characters. I could see doing a series of one shots where the characters from the books display one profession per session. The names stay the same, but the professions change. Therefore, if the players change for each one shot session, no one cares. 

If you like you can pick up Aquelarre in English via DriveThruRPG.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Standard, Non-Standard Ammo Options

There are some games where it is a core mechanic to track ammo. In Battletech, Star Frontiers and D&D, tracking ammo is important. In these games, ammo is a consumable core to the player's ability to play by the rules. How many missiles, gyrojet or arrows can one person pack around? It is tied to believe-ability. 

However, in other games it is in the rules but somehow violates the spirit of the game. Star Trek and Star Wars come to mind. How many characters on TV or in the movies run out of ammo? Only when the plot calls for it. 

Most games will fall someplace between the two extremes, such as any d20 game. Where the amount of ammo does not seem relevant, I prefer to use a different mechanic. In a modern setting with characters carrying normal firearms, I assume that all characters and NPCs are spending a bit of their time reloading as the opportunity presents. This means they almost always have bullets available. 

To add some tension, if the character fails their attack roll by rolling the worst possible number (say, a 1 in 20) then they are out of ammo and need to spend time to reload right now. If the rules have a mechanic for a jammed gun occurring on a one, the first time they roll a one they are out of ammo and if it happens again on the very next roll, the gun has jammed. 

Some games have weapons that simply don't work like a machine gun or semi-auto pistol. A blaster in Star Wars or Phaser in Star Trek are very unlike modern firearms. In the movies, they never run out of ammo unless the plot calls for it. As before, if a character rolls a 1, their weapon has malfunctioned. It makes a noise and nothing happens. To get the weapon working, the player needs to make a successful to hit roll to make it start working again. That seems like an oxymoron rule and maybe it is. The tension comes from the fact that the enemy knows there is something wrong and the hero can't shoot. They are drawing attention to themselves. Having the weapon suddenly go off in the enemy's face is just like Star Wars. And in Trek, fiddling with the controls almost always works. 

On the off chance these advanced weapons experience two back to back failures, then they are out of action until a repair is made, usually outside of combat. 

For most games where ammo tracking is important, I make sure the story provides ample reloads or parts where shooting is not required. My D&D players love "defending the castle walls" because by their nature, defenses have plenty of ways to get more ammo to the defenders. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Modeling Multiple Shots for Skilled and Unskilled Combatants in a Science Fiction Setting

Skill using the logo, even though I will
likely change it.
Wow. That is a wordy title for a simple idea: "How are combat skills applied?" 

In this game, we have established that a target has a defense of 2-12 and an attacker must match this number on 1, 2, or 3 six sided dice. 

Technology in a science fiction game permits a character a ridiculous amount of attacks with a weapon. In a 10 second combat round, someone with a six shooter can shoot six times, no matter their ability or skill. Without any applicable skill, that person gets one shot with 2 six-side dice and 5 shots with only one die. They are shooting fairly indicrimatly, they aimed with the first shot then switched to random blasts. Without any skill, the aimed shot MUST come first subsequently followed by random shots. This is the penalty of not having a skill. 

When a person has a skill, they are entitled to more aimed shots at a rate of one attack per level of skill. When attacking one target once, they get to roll all 3d6. However, if they attack more than once or at more than one target, they may only use 2d6 per attack. Skilled persons may mix aimed and indiscriminate fire in the same round at will.  

For example, a marine with 3 ranks of skill is guarding 2 hatches with a 6 shooter. He sees 3 robot drones approaching from his front and engages them. He rolls 2d6 for the first attack. Then rolls 2d6 for the second. Before he can shoot at the third drone, the hatch on his right opens and he indiscriminately fires a shot at the person opening the door. He rolls a single 1d6. The hatch slams closed. 

He still has 3 bullets and one aimed shot, so he returns to shooting at the drones. He aims with the first shot using 2d6. Since he has 2 more bullets, he fires them indiscriminately at the robot drones for two more attacks made with a single die each. 

In the image, shots are numbered in order.
Red is for aimed shots and green is for indiscriminate.  
This combat does not describe damage resolution as it would occur in the game. It is merely an example of a single person shooting. In later examples, we will see that this marine would have plenty of time to reload and/or move.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Modeling Combat for a New Science Fiction Game

I had a science fiction game on the back burner of my brain for a while. The working title was Accretion Disk. I liked the style of the logo, but fell out of love with the mechanics and perhaps the title.

Based on my last post about Star Smuggler, I have been thinking about game mechanics with 2 and three six siders. Probably the most common or useful scenario is to consider a single combat roll. In order to do that, I need to think of a way to compare defensive skills vs. offensive skills. How big do I want my numbers and what does each number mean.

It's funny, but most games have a mechanic to strike a stationary object with a die roll. My game will have that too, but I think that hitting a bullseye painted on something is far different that hitting an active opponent.

How do I roll to hit? 


In order to hit a target, you have to overcome its defenses. In order to explain an attack, let’s look at a target’s defense. 


Every target has a situational defense. Is it close or far? Is it moving faster than the weapon you are using? Is it cloaked or obscured? And so on. Those situational defenses change from moment to moment and are worth 1-6 points of defense. A target may have a different situational defense for different attackers, even in the same combat round.


Next, every active opponent has a set of physical and mental attributes, also rated from 1-6. This is a person instinct for danger or a device's preprogrammed defensive measures. The player determines which attribute is used for defense, which will likely be their highest. Since each attribute can only be used once per round, there are consequences for picking the highest attribute. Devices don't get to pick.


These two numbers are added together to generate the target roll number. For stationary targets, that will automatically be a number from 1-6 for a situational defense. For people or creatures, it will more likely be 2-12. 


This number, 2-12 is compared to a roll made by the attacker.

The attacker receives one six sided die for simply making the attempt. They receive a second die for having an attribute which is applicable to the roll. Attackers who not have an applicable attribute of zero do not get this second six sided die. An attacker can also receive a third six sided die for possessing an applicable skill, such as marksmanship. This will generate a number between 3 and 18, depending on how many dice are rolled. No more than 3 dice can be rolled for each attack. 


In order to hit the target, one must match or roll higher than the target’s defense. 


Higher rolls are not necessarily better as the goal is to match the target’s defense exactly to be most effective. An exact match does damage, prevents the target from taking an action during that round, places them flat on ground and might cause them to lose consciousness. 

While every number over the target’s defense value is a hit, all pairs or triples which are higher the target’s defense are nearly as good as a matching roll. A pair (6 and 6) will do damage and stop an action. A triple (such as 3, 3 and 3) will do damage, stop an action and put the person on the ground. Neither will automatically knock the person out. 


Let me know what you think either in the comments below or by taking a survey. You can also go back and answer the first survey or poll here.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

#TBT review - Miniature Treasures - The Moldy Unicorn

Title: The Moldy Unicorn
Code: N/A
Author: Nate Treme
Rule Set: Angostic
Year: 2019
Pages: 6
Number of characters: As needed
Levels: N/A
Rating: ★★★★★

If a book has a good cover, I'll probably take a look. If it has that haute 70's look, the smash of day old banana and lime colored paste, I'll do a double take. If it has both of the above, plus the childish, rounded look of a composition notebook, my brain shuts down and the money comes out, no questions asked.

Well, that's what happened with The Moldy Unicorn a few days ago. I purchased one of a few physical copies based on a single image on MeWe.com. And then I forgot about it.

It arrived today.

I opened the envelope and was all disappointed. It was tiny. Really tiny. "I paid money for this?"

Then I opened the booklet. And the frisson hit. Suddenly, I was 8 year old me, standing in Walden Books, smelling nasty carpet chemicals and mall pretzels, looking a copy of the Red Basic D&D rule book. Gary, Dave and Tom whispered, "Go ahead, turn the page."

The thing is six g-ddamn pages, packed with amazing stuff. Pages 1 and 2 describe The Moldy Unicorn with a colorful map. Page 3 lists encounters for the Inn. The next page describes how to design a Demon, with 3 tables, conveniently labeled 1-12 for easy die rolling. The last two pages are a mini dungeon, Grotburk Crypt.

The artwork is excellent. It isn't excellent in the sense of a masterpiece, but the odd, brightly colored outsider art that masters cannot duplicate. The text is tight, it has to be in a volume this small.

While its only 6 pages (8 if you count the covers, the thing that made me **WANT** this 'zine), those pages are highly concentrated. Being so tiny, it is delicate. I already know that I am going to buy a special picture frame for this. I am just moments away from heading to DriveThruRPG and purchasing an electronic copy, to jealously protect the physical copy like mage protects his spell book.

It's been decades since I have been this happy with a purchase. Of course, I've read it cover to cover. But I'm going to do it again tomorrow. And the next day. This is great buy. This is well worth the $6.00 for the physical copy (Sold out, sorry), $10.00 for the PDF.

To put some perspective on the Star Rating above, I review a lot of things. Computer hardware and software, novels, games, historical books, etc. If I'm not going to give something 3 stars, I'm not giving any stars. If you're not going to give at least 3 stars, its like trash talking people. This is the first time I have been compelled to give 5 gold stars, underlined. I've reviewed several of my mom and dad's books. I don't hand out gold stars. It is very rare that I am so enchanted with any product to completely rethink my rating system.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Star Wars: Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook

Title: Star Wars: Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
Author: Andy Collins, Bill Slavicsek, JD Wiker
Rule Set: d20
Year: 2000
Pages: 319
Number of players: 2 or more
Rating: ★★★★


For many years, Star Wars was in the stable of West End Games. Over the years, I accumulated many of their books, but never had a chance to play. In 2000, with The Phantom Menace coming to screens, Wizards of the Coast produced a gamebook for the series, which included everything you needed to play, including a set of rules to convert from WEG Star Wars to d20.

The system is a pretty close skin of D&D 3.0 or 3.5, with some great differences.

The system is a standardized d20 system. Standardization from the ground up is very good. One of the great advantages is it breaks every character down into a couple of stat blocks, which makes building a quality, unique character easy. Each character is made of 7 different categories of descriptions, all of which is uniform between classes. You start with ability scores, then everything changes. You select a species which is an approximation of race in D&D terms, a class, skills, feats, character descriptors like reputation, equipment and finally spells, if any. All characters have the same 6 items, unlike D&D where some characters get spells in addition to their other "stats".

So, what about The Force? Those aren't spells, they are tied into one Feat and several Skills for Force Sensitive people. Hit points are replaced with vitality and wound points. This changes the dynamics of how characters work. Vitality is how much energy and stamina you have, while wounds are actual chunks of flesh. Hike through a hellish landscape will reduce your vitality, but a blaster to the head is a wound. Wounds stick around or are fatal, while vitality tracks how much "give" you've got. Nice system, considering how dangerous a lightsabre is. Vitality returns with rest and wounds require healing. The reputation system is a replacement for alignment, which actually has some mechanical advantages or disadvantages, unlike the alignment system.

While this is a d20 system, there are several advantages to this rule set over a typical d20 RPG. First, your players will have a general idea of what they want to be if they have seen Star Wars. To this end, there are 25 character templates so you can play right away. The rules allow you to flavor these characters, so you are a cutout character, but perhaps not made of cardboard. Additionally, if you played WEG Star Wars, there is a set of conversion rules in the back. There is a section on Starships, Droids, and a Game Master Section, with a module included. Everything you need to play is right there.

4 of 5 stars.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Old School Mass Combat? Fantasy Hack

How I loved this game. Fantasy Hack is an old school mass combat game which fits right in with D&D, Lewis and/or Tolkien settings. If you are into OSR, this could be your go to mass combat set.

The rules are totally retro feeling because they are printed in one color, black, on yellow paper. Published in 1993, they'll send you back a couple of decades.

While not perfect for every setting, the set manages to handle most fantasy settings. Give it a try.


Sunday, November 3, 2019

RPG Podcasts

Alright, I turned on the radio and heard Christmas music the day after Halloween. I love Christmas music... at Christmastime. This is why I listen to podcasts when I drive.

Let me give you my short rundown of Favorite RPG Podcasts*. The link is for the associated blog and the naked link is the feed location.

Thought Eater Podcast by Jeremy “frothsof” Smith. This is an Anchor podcast covering all things blogs on Wednesdays and a five minute Friday show, which is often off the cuff and right from brain to 'cast. He has 130 shows in the can, so you have a lot of replay-ability. Love it.

Link: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/thought-eater/id1448611668?uo=4

The Red Dice Diaries by John Alan Large. Like Jeremy, John has 102 episodes available, so the back catalog is huge. Again, I love this show. John runs the gambit of gaming, so this the depth is great. He sometimes takes time out to cover methodology, so you might hear about things like journaling, preparation and from special guests. In addition to special guests, John throws the topics over to Hannah for treatment. It's like 2 or 3 podcasts in one. A wonderful find.

Link: https://anchor.fm/s/55de8b4/podcast/rss

A relative new comer is the Super Adventure Friends Co. Podcast by Robert Loftin and friends. They have only 7 episodes, so if you want to jump in from the start on an excellent Traveller/Science Fiction pod cast, here you go. This is the first ensemble pod cast I encountered, with five high school friends chatting about great stuff. (Red Dice Diaries also gets this vibe when John hosts his friends.)

Link: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/super-adventure-friends-co-podcast/id1465659876?uo=4

The last podcast I signed up for is vb Wyrde's Sunday Night Live From ElthosRPG. ElthosRPG is it's own thing and vb is ALL ABOUT METHODOLOGY. Mechanics, ideas, fitting it all together, from a non-D&D point of view. Great, eye-opening stuff.

Link: https://anchor.fm/s/ed1f0d4/podcast/rss

*The little star beside Favorites is there because I reserve the right to add more favorites. They Might Be Gazebos was previously mentioned and has it's own post. I've left off Patreon information in this post, that will be revisited later.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

RedBlade Character Generator Review

RedBlade is a super fast character generator for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. This tiny piece of software is lightning fast and full featured. Don’t let the price or size of the package fool you.
The Base screen is all business. Down the left side are buttons to guide you through the process. Select a name, class, multi-class, adjust hit points, etc.


As you select items, the graphical interface displays changes. Click the Abilities button to continue.

Rolling abilities couldn’t be easier. But what kind of player would you be if you didn’t reroll? The program orders the rolls high to low. Assign the highest first by clicking the ability button and proceed through the numbers sequentially. Should you wish to make changes ability assignment, use the arrow buttons on the right.


The Class button displays all the class skills and abilities available. Since I have selected a rather plain fighter, nothing is displayed.

Skill selection is a breeze. There is a drop down box for class and Class skills and Cross Class skills. The software tabulates points to Class and Cross Class skills. The initial selection occurs on the center screen and more ranks are added on the right with the arrow buttons.

The Feats screen is rather ingenious; not only are bonus feats displayed in their own area, feats with prerequisites are greyed out. Hovering on a feat displays a blurb about it in the bottom box.


Languages are a snap with this software. Class and race are used to create a list of languages, the number available is counted off on the top box.


Shopping for equipment is fun; this is my favorite part of character generation. RedBlade breaks equipment down in to a dozen or more types and will display standard magical versions. The only oddity of this screen is the fact that coins are optimized to the minimum quantity. Silver is automatically converted to gold while gold converts to platinum.

The software allows you to customize equipment in the form of masterwork creations or non-standard magical items. It is very comprehensive.


Through out the software, helpful pop ups will appear and describe issues. Each is very clear. To resolve the issue below, you may add more money or click the “Buy for free” check box.
Each screen feeds another, so selecting armor under shopping calculates information for both the “Equipped” screen and the actual armor class.

The Equip screen allows for multiple sets of armor and weapons. It is intelligent, allowing for two handed welt weapons. This screen will create a series of armor classes and to hit numbers on the final character sheet.


One set of equipment is labeled primary combat kit. Using the Dropbox allows for secondary kits such as bows.
The magic screen displays all things magical. Typical this is reserved for inherent abilities. Our fighter does not have any so the screen is blank.


The spells screen divides spells into level and class.  It will allow you to “cheat” and obtain more spells than normally possible. It will also calculate any bonus spells based on race, domain, class or ability points.  It will display both known spells and spells memorized. There is a row for spell DC which I find to be very handy.


The role play section is all free form. Basic information is entered on this page.


A separated area is available for history.


The last area is for goals. If an area is omitted, it does not appear on the character sheet. No need for clutter, eh?


“Finished” gives two options, character sheet and save. The sheet is saved as an HTML file and clicking the sheet button will display it in your favorite browser software.
Since RedBlade uses standard HTML portability is not a problem. Pages can be opened in Word or converted to pdf to fine tune printing.
All and all RedBlade is not the most comprehensive character generator, but if you want to quickly crank out characters, this is the tool for you.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Title: Crash on Volturnus
Code: SF-0
Author: Mark Acres, Tom Moldvay with Doug Niles
Rule Set: Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn
Year: 1982
Pages: 30
Number of characters: 4-8
Levels: 1
Rating: ★★★★★

Crash on Volturnus is one of my favorite modules. The player start of as passengers on the Sierra Dawn, where they first encounter trouble en route to Volturnus. After an epic battle and escape, players move on to phase two, an incredible hex crawl on the planet of Volturnus culminating in a final(?) battle with the pirate forces on the planet. Aided by the local inhabitants of the planet, surely the players will win the day.

This module was released with the Alpha Dawn rules set and to my knowledge, was not released independently of that set. I received my set of Alpha Dawn rules peice meal and ended up with two copies of the module. The whole boxed set includes giant maps and wonderful counters, which makes SF-0 a snap to play.

Crash on Volturnus is the first module in the series and was followed up by SF-1 and SF-2. The other SF series modules are unrelated, but are valuable as they are set up for characters to continue their adventures in new settings. The series was also brought back to life by the Endless Quest book Villains of Volturnus in 1983. It was published in relatively short time frame making the series rock solid in game play and feel.

Having played SF-0 several times, there are few game breakers built in to the scenario. First, when the escape pod crashes, the characters only have time to get the survival packs. Several of my players started out with standard equipment packs and used the coveralls as a makeshift backpack tied across their chests before seating themselves. Since the equipment was attached to them, I couldn't justify taking it. The players also started with 4 medical kits, which made them neigh unstoppable in combat. They kept pulling back to heal. Of course, these were the same players who tied their equipment to their chests. I kept running them against random encounters to try to eat up resources, but that was unfulfilling. Eventually, I figured I'd let them run in god-mode and kill everything and everyone. Many of the challenges they faced were thinking scenarios and not fighting scenarios, so it really didn't change the outcome. 

All and all, I found this one module to be the best of the best for Star Frontiers. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

The whole shebang is available over on DriveThruRPG.

Alpha Dawn with SF-0
SF-1 Volturnus, Planet of Mystery
and SF-2 Starspawn of Volturnus

Monday, November 12, 2018

I Just Can't Stop...

I just can't stop.

While organizing my desk, I happened upon a book by Robert Pearce. It is an incredible set of ship plans for Traveller. Sure, it says "Traveller", but it could be used for any game system. The detail and scope is amazing. It is campaign fuel for sure.

 Why not take a look yourself.

I know I will be pouring over this book for days to come. For some odd reason, it isn't even for sale. It's free.

Damn. A mighty big thanks to you Mr. Pearce, you made my day.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

What now?

Last week, I launched Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. Everything looks great! I have been very happy with

So, what's next? The Place We Will Stay. This will be a series of maps, places where commoners will be found. I've been roughing out some maps, exterior and interior art for many medieval and fantasy homes for our heroes to find NPCs, commoners and other background characters.


The Places We Will Stay will be in digital format, pay what you want and be between 25-50 pages. Coming soon in early October, 2018.

Again, thank you to everyone who took the time to download Zero to Hero.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Spaceship Study

Here are some draft ideas for a spaceship, perhaps a snub fighter. I will ink this one at some point but the design idea was fun verse realistic.

The initial design was rather slight.


A few details that I wanted to look at where the cockpit and shielding for the crew. The movable panels came from details of the drooping nose on the Concorde.


I decided to make the ship beefer. Those rounded rectangles are fuel tanks, not engines. Although parts are rounded, this ship is not aerodynamic. 


Each square is about a meter, so the ship stands 8 meters high. It is loaded out with 14 missiles, a centerline minigun and two large wing tip pods. There are 4 retractable radiators, the items with the 2x3 grids on them.


I hope to revisit this design again with ink, smoother lines and better proportions. This ship would be good in several rule sets like Traveller or Star Frontiers.