Friday, June 10, 2022

Lone Wolf: Flight from the Dark (My Son Plays!)

Art from the American Edition
(Found at this website. Fair use.)

Well, it took a couple of years, but my son has starting playing the Lone Wolf series of gamebooks!

He was patient at the beginning, was a little put off when his first Lone Wolf foray died after being attacked by the invading forces of the Darklords of Helgedad, but was thrilled when his second attempt (a) resulted in a character that had high Combat Skill and Endurance; (b) had a better selection of Kai Disciplines; (c) had a very successful ending and transition to the next gamebook!

He's a bit less cautious than I am when I make choices in this game, possibly due to his desire to flex his combat skills and endurance. Or perhaps because he has his own way of viewing the world and solving problems.

His mind was blown when he realized he could carry over the character sheet to the next book! Given his background in video games, he wants the equivalent of  'save points', which I told him was okay. After all, in these solo games, you're only cheating yourself if you cheat.

I am also hoping to get him interested in doing his own art of the world of Magnamund, starting first with Lone Wolf and his gear, and then maybe also the creatures and characters of the stories.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Hin (Halflings) of Karameikos

I've posted other times about halflings on this blog.

It should come as no surprise to longtime readers that -- for Karameikos and Mystara at large -- I'd rather ditch the somewhat roly-poly portrayal of this race and instead have a hardy, sometimes beefy, sometimes seriously cut, sometimes outrageously yoked individuals who are only about 3 feet high.

They shouldn't cut into the look of the dwarves and instead favor looking clean-shaven, or preferring sideburns or carefully trimmed mustaches over the full beards of their rock-delving fellow demi-humans. Also, they should tend to favor ranged combat and weapons of finesse over the heavier weaponry of the inhabitants of Rockhome.

With all this in mind, I began thinking about the classes for the Hin in Karameikos (and possibly the Five Shires as well). What classes (or combinations thereof) would make for interesting halflings?

Single Class Halflings

The obvious answers are Fighters & Rogues. The fighters would provide a variety of specialized defenders of the Five Shires, and some of those traditions would find their way over to Karameikos.

With the 5E Stout halflings (and their DEX + CON combo), these fighters would be the strong backbone of the defense force, probably mixing ranged attackers with some close-in fighters. The 5E Lightfoot halflings (and their DEX + CHA combo), would make for the more personable rogues that greet intruders and be a great advance party as fighters and rogues alike.

I'd round them out with some Rangers, Druids, and some Bards. The two woodland classes would help with keeping their woodlands safe for their people, while the Bards would naturally emerge from the Hin that continued to collect lore and secrets after their wanderlust subsided.

Last but not least -- perhaps a secret cabal of monks. They'd be known to the bards, as part of that secret cabal that keeps safe some of the greatest artifacts of the Five Shires.

Multi-Class Halflings

The only combinations of classes I'd think of creating for halflings at this point would be the following:
  • a fighter + rogue combination to reflect a hardier mix of sly fighting halflings; and
  • a cleric + mage combination to reflect the halflings tending to the Five Shire artifacts
But I'm largely speculative at this point, and haven't looked at the numbers and combinations for the level progressions.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Elves of Karameikos - 5E Musings

A combination fighter / mage is what the B/X BECMI elf is, essentially. So what are the options for something like this in D&D 5E?

First off, I'm not going to try to replicate super-faithfully the rules in the Cyclopedia -- If I did, I might as well be playing B/X or BECMI rules. What I'm after is something that approximates the flavor of the setting as implied by the rules.

Option 01: Elf Multi-Classing

The most straightforward approach would be to have Elves multi-class -- but only the fighter / mage combination for the most part. There's two approaches for leveling for this option.

Approach A - alternating Fighter / Mage

If we follow the standard D&D approach, then the character starts off at 1st level with either fighter or mage, then the next level they choose the other class -- and so on until the end (20th level).

Under D&D 5E, one of the implications of this would be that if you start off as a mage, you lose out on the heavy armor proficiency once you get to second level. I might rule that elves start off first with fighter, then go to mage. There is another option, though.

Approach B - combined Fighter / Mage levels

The other approach is to combine levels. 1st level elf fighter / mages are technically 2nd level already, and have to gain enough experience to clear both 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels to get the next fighter / mage level and all the associated leveling benefits.

The downside here is that the player loses out on the experience of leveling and getting new abilities alongside everyone else. But they do get a big jump in abilities each time they do!

There's probably more to these approaches, but these are the implications I can see off the top of my head.

Option 02: Classes that can fight & cast spells

Another approach would be to select a class (or class archetype) that allows for fighting and spellcasting. In 5E, the possibilities would be:
  • Fighter (Eldritch Knight)
  • Ranger
  • Druids
The Fighter (Eldritch Knight) is primarily a fighter that casts offensive spells. This is a possibility, but shouldn't be the most common version of the elves. All out combat is at odds with the versatility of their class originally.

The Ranger would be ideal, but apparently it's one of the worst (?) classes in 5th edition. That's a helluva fall from being the 'broken, overpowered' class of AD&D 1st edition. But it may be just fine with special abilities of the elf -- or if we tweak the class a bit to improve it.

The Druid is a close second to the Ranger. It has that mystical woodland creature feel, and their abilities are certainly a reflection of that. Perhaps the Karameikos elves would be a combination of Rangers & Druids -- but they dress similarly to human eyes, so folks rarely can tell the difference between the wo.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

A New Fading Suns Blog Post (2022)!

I don't know who needs to hear this -- but the newest Fading Suns edition is out!

Figured I'd post this update since one of the topmost blogposts is about Fading Suns -- perhaps fellow fans who are looking for the latest news.

Strangely enough, the more recent posts about Fading Suns haven't gotten the same foothold (just click on the Fading Suns label just under the title of this blog post to see them -- especially the embedded YouTube videos). But as a Fading Suns fan, I know what it can be like to fade out of the universe for a while then suddenly wonder if there's something new!

For great information on the latest Fading Suns edition go the official page on the Ulisses Spiele site! Do you want to know the latest set of books that you might be interested in to get caught up? Here's the skinny on that:

The first three books you should pick up are the Character Book, the Gamemaster Book, and the Universe Book.

The purpose of each should be fairly obvious. All together, they should give you either a strong introduction to the universe, or a quick acclimatization to the current status quo (rules, setting, and tips and tricks to running the game).

After you've got those, there's a bunch of other books you can pick up based on the direction you're taking your campaign -- or whatever you're interested in reading about, honestly.

Dig in, and maybe I'll see you at the next Jumpgate.

Bundle of Holding Alert: Mindjammer !


Looks like there's a Bundle of Holding for MINDJAMMER! If you've always wanted to collect the corebook and various sourcebooks, now's your chance.

Here's the spiel from the site, for your consideration:

Citizen! From the 17th Millennium we've resurrected our May 2018 Mindjammer Bundle featuring Sarah Newton's transhuman science fiction tabletop roleplaying game Mindjammer from Mindjammer Press. In the New Commonality of Humankind -- a hyperadvanced far future of realistic aliens, lost colony worlds, and the vast Mindscape shared consciousness -- Mindjammer lets you play hardened mercs, cunning corpocrats, culture agents and memetic engineers, aliens and para-human hominids, scouts and socialites, uplifted animals, androids, and even sapient starships. The Second Age of Space is your stage for transcendent cutting-edge space opera in the tradition of Cordwainer Smith, Iain M. Banks, Alistair Reynolds, and Charles Stross.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Bringing Freeport into Mystara

It's interesting when two setting customization goals synergize.

First, I wanted to bring Freeport into Mystara (preferably nearish to Karameikos, which is the start of the campaign). Second, I wanted to initially remove Ierendi due to the overkill comedic elements, but realized I wanted to keep parts of it (esp. since they are mentioned in other Gazetteers and have a nice role as an epicenter of bardic excellence).

Fortunately, I realized I could just chop out several islands from Ierendi (Safari, Alcove, Utter, and Honor) and replace them with Freeport's islands largely intact.

BENEFITS of FREEPORT in this Location

This allows me to do several things:
  1. Freeport becomes a colorful, semi-dangerous, yet useful stopping point for sea adventures for those coming from the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, the Five Shires, the Minrothad Guilds, the Kingdom of Ierendi -- and of course the Thaneigoth Archipelago to the south.
  2. Possible unholy alliances between the factions of Freeport and the Black Eagle Barony.
  3. Another reason for older 'retired adventurers' settling in the Five Shires -- aside from the idyllic location, they work with the smaller, more determined Kingdom of Ierendi to keep watch on threats new and old from Freeport.
  4. Another locus point for a "Cults of Chaos" that interpid adventurers can trace some of the evils in Karameikos back to.
  5. A reason to work in the classic Death in Freeport adventure early into the career of the adventurers, setting the stage for future conflicts.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Back to the Dark Corners of Mystara in 2022


Almost a year since my last post, and I find that I've decided to finally start running my Mystara campaign, using the 5th edition of D&D (more or less).

While I continue to read and look at other systems and settings, my goal -- to run some of the most memorable old D&D modules in an integrated, re-imagined Mystara -- is paramount in my mind.

Furthermore, several old friends are familiar with the 5th Edition rules (and I am not), so I'm counting on them to help on the mechanical side, while I focus on the setting and adventures and characters (player & game master).

That being the case, I would be remiss if I didn't mention some System + Setting RPGs that have shaped how I'm thinking about this Mystara campaign. So here they are:

Lex Arcana RPG by Acheron Books

This is a beautifully laid out and illustrated RPG that provides rich source material for running a setting with a Roman Empire that did not fall.

For someone trying to replicate this aspect of the Roman Empire (for the Thyatian Empire, of course) this is a gold mine not only about the political, cultural, and military telling details of the Empire -- it comes with its own ready rationale for adventurers in this setting.
In Lex Arcana, you are a Custos (warden) of the Cohors Auxiliaria Arcana, sent by the Emperor to the four corners of the world to further the study of arcane lore, investigate forbidden cults, and face the thread posed by dangerous supernatural creatures.
Very clearly explained setting with a lot of authentic-sounding (I'm not an expert, so I'll trust Acheron Books here) terminology for weaponry, armor, social status, military and political organizations, and so on. It also shows how the many conquered lands and provinces of the Empire have been integrated into it, so it is quite useful for my own questions about how similar Thyatian provinces might be handled.

It's entirely possible that some day I'll play the game as is -- but for now, I'll plunder its contents for my campaign. I'm already looking at a customized Castra (found in the sourcebook Encyclopaedia Arcana -- see image below) to replace the Keep in the classic B2: Keep on the Borderlands.

Also, because the Roman Roads were such an important aspect of the Empire, it meshes with my idea for the Roadwardens campaign (which I had originally lifted from WFRP), giving a different campaign frame from the traditional adventuring party.

If you're similarly interested on good material for your Roman Empire-inspired RPG source material, I highlight recommend their books.

Mythic Constantinople by The Design Mechanism

For almost the same reason, I've picked up this sourcebook for the game system Mythras by the folks at The Design Mechanism. While I do not intend to use the playable character classes and races listed in this well-researched and detail-rich book, they will add also to the source material for Thyatis (which has been stated to be a Byzantium-inspired setting) -- geography, history, politics, organizations, and religions are all here for use and enriching the default Karameikos / Thyatis aspects of Mystara.

The emphasis on recreating a mythical version of the city and setting, rather than a purely historical one, is also quite good for my purposes. It adds to the mystery, the intrigue, and the implied danger that permeates the city, and emanates across the rest of the Empire.

Questions for you, dear reader:

  1. Are there other books out there that you've repurposed for your game settings? What are they?
  2. Are there other aspects of the Mystara setting that you've gleefully edited and replaced with something from some other setting -- D&D or otherwise?

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Running Cyberpunk RED (Dual GM)


This year, a friend and I have been more or less alternating the reins on a Cyberpunk Red campaign.

We've been marinating in the various videos online and the wealth of official and homebrew source material out there, and each sharing our own take on the genre and the setting.

Admittedly, I'm more enamored with the glitz and the chrome and the high-octane nature of the setting, while he's been more of the grit and corporate backstabbing aspects. But it's come out as a great sort of shared setting between us two, with the players enjoying a semi-episodic campaign with some short story arcs that we coordinate on.

Plus, each of us gets to play as well.

The Cyberpunk 2020 perspective

Now, the thing is -- we've actually done this before! Decades ago, I was the primary GM of our group's Cyberpunk 2020 campaign and I absolutely devoured all the books that R. Talsorian released on the setting and the game proper. I ran week after week, and then he also started running games with the same player characters when I wasn't there.

The roles are reversed now, with me handling much less of the absorption of the setting and rules. He's primary GM now, and when I run my games, I lean on him more some of the rules. And of course, since we're both learning about it still, we quickly check the rules while the other one is running to help keep things flowing.

But it's still a bit of a jump for me to run in the setting because:

  • the setting timeline has advanced to 2045 and the old big players have changed
  • mega-corporations are still powerful, but they're balanced out now by the backlash of nations after the 4th Corporate War
  • the semi post-holocaust feel allows for a nice mix of Mad Max-ish games in the badlands while still having the comforts of a civilization in the cities
  • the economy is a bit different -- mass production and mass consumption are not as much of the norm with the international supply chains devastated by that aforementioned war
In the end, we're both having our own type of fun as well -- playing and running -- as we figure out how the new setting allows us to tell a dark future storyline with a different spin from the Cyberpunk we knew before.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

DriveThruRPG Top 12 Review (17 Apr 2021)


There are a number of items here that catch my attention, while others -- well, my gaze & attention just slides off them.


In the Number 01 spot, as expected, we see Dune: Adventures in the Imperium published by Modiphius. I have been eagerly awaiting this, though I'd probably have to dive into the novels once more to get back up to speed on the setting feel. Have picked it up and will review it when done reading.

In the Number 02 and Number 06 spots are Sine Nomine's offerings Worlds Without Number and Stars Without Number respectively. I already own Stars Without Number and started creating characters until I realized that did not actually have a gaming crew who'd play it. It's on the backburner while I wait for my current GM duties to slide back to a Neo-Clone (OSR) area of interest.

Speaking of current GM duties, that would by Cyberpunk RED by R. Talsorian. A former top of the lister, it has slid down to a respectable Number 04 on this list. Setting, Art, and overall rules are excellent -- streamlined for speed of play in this modern gaming culture. Though, tactically, it does raise eyebrows to this veteran of the Interlock & Hero Systems, including their mad, forgotten love child Fuzion.

Whitehack 3rd Edition is in the Number 09 spot, and I've also picked this one up -- and immediately afterwards I realized that this was a completionist impluse buy from my days of collecting these types of rulesets. Still, when I finish it, I'll see how it fares against the other F20 rulesets (modern & neo-clones) as I try to find my preferred one to run a Mystara campaign.

Number 11 is The Company of the Dragon for RuneQuest (Community Content) which hooks my interest only because I have yet to finish reading and creating a character for the latest edition. Someday, RuneQuest, someday!

Number 12 is Arc Dream Publishing's Delta Green: Impossible Landscapes. Which I am tempted to pick up once I pick up the new Delta Green set of rules and either choose to run it myself or find / convince a gaming group that wants to run it.

That's it for this week! Which ones caught your interest?

Sunday, January 3, 2021

2021 Gaming Plans

Happy New Year to all. May this year be better for everyone!

So, this year -- what's gaming going to be like?

When we last left off (last year when the pandemic had yielded strange combination of free time and cabin fever that drove me to reconnect with friends online interested in gaming), I was going to work on a Star Hero Tactics series of posts. Still working on that one after some detours -- it's just that a science fiction setting has many, many, many attractions that can detract from your focus.

However, I'm also now running a PBTA game called Monster of the Week. Great for working on a sort of evolving meta-setting for a bunch of monster hunter adventures. I'll post some of my session reports for this one as we get a few more done.

Lastly, I'm also co-GMing a Cyberpunk RED campaign with a friend. As we are liberally using screencaps from the much-maligned but fantastically realized computer game Cyberpunk 2077, it should make for a great cyberpunk game with a very distinct visual and musical identity as we push their edgerunners to their limits.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Star Hero: Terran Empire Tactics

Rather than diving headlong into my gaming group's homebrew campaign, I decided to make a quick visit to one of the official Star Hero settings -- closest to what we're playing, I guess -- the Terran Empire!

The reason -- I don't really want to go into the details as to how we built our own weapons and our own races and so on. At least if you're already an owner of this book (or want to pick it up for $10 on DriveThruRPG), you can follow on your own and come up with your own scenarios & tactics.

Initial Framework

We'll need to establish a squad comprised of several characters (therefore, character sheets are needed), and put in the general logic of the build of the characters (alien race and various MOS packages, plus extras) and the composition of the team in terms of 'roles'.

Then we go into the three components of each scenario -- the opposition, the terrain, and of course the equipment you've been assigned! Now there's a standard loadout (we're going for a military group that gets standard equipment), but can request for specialized equipment as well, depending on organizational pull of the team's leadership and the nature of mission itself.

And then we'll talk about how the combination of these might play out in a given situation; how to make decision making and running combat smoother without sacrificing the combat options, and so on.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Hero System as a Gaming Engine

Been playing a lot of Star Hero, and with some other new Hero System campaigns potentially spinning out of that regular play -- it's time to capture some thoughts about the system.

We're fond of playing in a mixture of roleplaying scenes and some hardcore, dangerous combat situations -- currently under the flavor of a principled, militarily influential, star nation in another galaxy.

The Hero System is really something akin to a computer game's physics engine. Not only does it handle a lot of environmental effects with internal consistency, it also allows you to model almost any effect you want (given its roots in a system that attempted to simulate the bonkers physics of a super-heroic universe). And like any toolkit, there's usually more than one way to build something.

We've used it to create a reality where more militaristic, but no less powerful "jedi" run through the battlefield wielding beam sabers (Old Imperial tech). Their weapons do massive damage, and make for interesting combat against hordes of crazed HTH aliens AND impossibly powerful powered armor suits with area effect weaponry.

Multi-armed aliens with infantry training wield squad support weapons and HTH weapons when fighting off crazed hive-mind drones. Crystal-shaped telepaths (with telekinetically controlled 'hands') wield standard issue military rifles.

Drones zip ahead of the squads, and the team's combat armor allows for active sensor arrays to gather intelligence on their opponents -- who may just have the right combat tech to counter ours.

So, I suppose I'll be generating a series of posts that highlight some combat tactics that we like to follow (based on our training packages and our equipment) to showcase the capabilities of the Hero System -- to reward combat tactics with more than just simple bonuses to hit or cover. It really has a depth that rewards teamwork, planning, using the environment to your advantage, and so on, without abstracting to a simple advantage or disadvantage to a roll.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Month of Online RPGaming

Due to a cinematic inciting incident (a pandemic) that has become a grim reality, I have surprisingly found myself logging more RPG playtime than I have in a while. Gametime has been split between two systems and settings:

Star Hero: Tales of the Confederation Starfleet (Hero System 5E)

The last time I played in this campaign was decades ago, one with lensmen, clan sentinels (think slightly more militant, and more combat savvy jedi), and a host of different military branches of the principled Confederation, carrying out missions in an intrigue-ridden galaxy populated by the the profit-motivated Alliance, the expansionist Second Empire, the militant religious Unity, and other stellar nations.

Our recent adventures have taken us on a variety of missions, including:
  • stopping a reactivated 20 mile long, 5 mile wide colony ship from impacting on a inhabited world;
  • enforcing a quarantine on the aforementioned world, where a bio-engineered plague that irreversibly converts victims into powerful, fast, and deadly units of a hive mind;
  • traveling to an ice planet within New Imperial territory where a number of Alliance companies have apparently carried out similar biological experiments with the plague;
  • using a surprising cache of Old Imperial technology, gating to a planet deep within Alliance territory to escape the tactical nuclear detonation in booby-trapped underwater research base;
  • surviving on an Alliance hunting preserve with some of the galaxy's deadliest creatures long enough for a secretly chartered vessel to rescue them;
  • surviving a short-lived battle against an Imperial Admiral in powered armor, in order to negotiate an information-sharing agreement regarding the bioplague;
  • investigating a low-tech, feral planet for the source of the bioplague's key components to help in combating its use in future warfare.
Seems like we were making up for lost time!

Challengers of the Lost Mine (D&D 5E on Roll20)

Because some old classmates wanted to try out D&D gaming (some with their kids), I volunteered to DM for them the intro module to D&D: Lost Mine of Phandelver.

Only two sessions so far, with most of them playing D&D for the first time (all of them playing 5E for the first time). As for me, it's been my first time running a game on Roll 20 (and Zoom for the audio), so I've been learning quite a lot about the features of Roll 20, and the special customizations for D&D 5E. And trying to get my player acclimated to playing with both D&D and Roll20.

However, it's been a lot of fun as I try to impart the fun of TTRPG play and maximize the digital toolsets to tell the story and impact the tactical challenges of the adventure. Added challenge: some of the players are limited by devices and bandwidth when playing.

So, it 's been great being able to reconnect with very old friends, and meeting the kids of my former classmates. Here's to maintaining this brave new world of gaming behavior as we emerge from the pandemic and adjust to our new lives under its influence.


Monday, April 20, 2020

DriveThruDeals: Dream Pod 9 discounts

Date: Apr 20, 2020 (included because these deals may expire)
Discounted Cost: Various

Type: Discounts

I was browsing through DriveThruRPG looking for some deals that might get me through the ECQ-related stress and boredom, when I stumbled upon Dream Pod 9's page, and noticed that all the Hottest Titles are heavily discounted (66% discount or more, if I'm eyeballing it).

Now, I'm a big fan of their work, so I dove right in. Here are a few you might want to pick up and complete your digital collection, while they're on sale -- or perhaps get ready for some online gaming!


Of course I'd mention this first, as I've been a fan of the setting from the days when it was a Mekton supplement!

In addition to the artwork and mecha designs (including all the different ships, not just the powered armor suits), the setting made a decision to go semi-hard SF in terms of space travel: no hyperspeed, and no artificial gravity.

It makes for an interesting juxtaposition against the fantastic spectacle of humanoid-looking ships fighting one another, but it feels true to some of the original anime inspiration as well.

You may even wish to pick up the Jovian Wars Beta Playtest Rules Package while you're at it!


I was a big Cyberpunk fan back in the day; picked it up when it came in a box and hand three separate books and dice. So when Cyberpunk 2020 came out, you bet I picked it up again! And it looks like I'll be welcoming the return of Johnny Silverhand when the videogame comes out too!

You may not know this, but Dream Pod 9 came out with an Alternate Reality Night City setting for Cyberpunk.

Here, you can run into vampires (and perhaps other creatures of the night) that can give a change of pace from the monsters that you normally run into when Running the Bleeding Edge.

Perhaps you'll hunt them, perhaps you'll become them. Either way, Night City'll never be the same...

Are you a Heavy Gear fan (it had a TV show, you know)? Or perhaps, like me, you used to collect MechaPress -- their old magazine dedicated to mecha of all types? Those are on sale too!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

DriveThru Deals: the Fat Rite Genius Adventures Mega-Bundle

Date: Apr 18, 2020 (included because some of these deals expire)
Normal Cost: $ 846.37

Discounted Cost: $34.70

Type: Bundle

So there's a bunch of gaming material from AAW Games, Fat Goblin Games, Rite Publishing, and Rogue Genius Games that's super-discounted that you may want if you need stuff for the ff. games:

  • D&D 5th Edition
  • Pathfinder
  • 13th Age
  • Starfinder
  • any games with a need for fantasy maps & fold-and-play sets for figures
Also, there's a rules-light western RPG thrown in for those who'd like to try Fat Goblin Games' Difference Engine RPG system. I encourage you to take a look at the full list of items in the bundle to see if there's something worthwhile for you in it. But here are some things that may be of interest to you:
  1. Five (5) books with 101 spells, from 1st to 5th level.
  2. Five (5) Codex Draconis books, which help flesh out how you can integrate the different types of dragons in Pathfinder for your campaign.
  3. One (1) book with six shiny new alternative Icons for the 13th Age RPG.
  4. Six (6) books for Starfinder detailing different types of equipment (and mechanical companions) for the Science Fiction adventurer.
  5. Three (3) books for 8-bit adventuring -- if you've ever wanted to have a SF or Fantasy RPG inspired by old 8-bit games, check these out.
Which of the items in the bundle caught your fancy? Let me know in the comments below.