Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Champions: One Earth - 2024 Update

Surprise, surprise. I was able to continue my campaign up until about 3 weekends ago, when a family tragedy finally pushed me to take a break on a number of things.

I was able to pull the trigger on my take on time travel, and the Dark Future That Must Be Averted trope. Except that I seeded at least two (2) Dark Futures, and will seed a few more. One of those dark futures:

(art taken from hyperlinks in image)

(art from Marvel Zombicide game)

Yes, a dark future that combined both the Marvel Zombies & DCeased storylines. To give the PCs a chance at survival, I sent them to this dark future in a research (?) facility located in the Blue Area of the Moon, where they encountered some former heroes and villains zombified by a variant of the Anti-Life equation before hurrying back to their own time.

The other dark future was a classic that Marvel has already revisited multiple times -- the Days of Future Past future that haunts the X-comics line. This future visited their present, with different versions of Sentinels (with technology clearly traceable to a supposedly discontinued Project: Wideawake in my campaign's timeline) traveling from various futures to the present.

But now, it's time for a brief hiatus, because the power levels for PCs need to be revisited and adjusted before the next phase of my campaign.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Adventure Sources 01)

Due to one of the inspirations for this campaign being Planetary ("Archeologists of the Impossible"), I planned for each adventure to have a bit of investigation and exploration. Naturally, for adventures like this, I looked to Gumshoe's many games for inspiration and plot ideas.


This was the most obvious choice, because it's already in the second edition, is closely associated with my campaign plans (metahumans with police powers investigating the metahuman world).

I gleefully took the concept of the Quade Diagram (renamed it as an homage to the X-men creators), and added the ideas of predictable mutant power profiles (and common mental or physical problems associated to certain power clusters) to my world. Great rationale as to why there are so many mutants with healing factors, why strong guys tend to be tough too, and so on.

Also, the law and law enforcement structures are very easy to merge with DC & Marvel structures, and the various super-hero game write-ups across settings that tackle the same topics. And I do admit that I'm looking for a way to also add in the idea of Max-Tac from Cyberpunk / Cyberpunk 2020 for metahumans -- but that's another story.

However, since Mutant City Blues was heavily predicated on mutants (which I didn't want to lead off on in terms of adventures), this adventure source material was shunted back to my 3rd multi-session adventure instead. And I look forward to figuring out how the Milestone "Big Bang" event would tie into this as well.

Night's Black Agents

Due to the number of characters that are super-spy or super-agent adjacent in terms of character background, Night's Black Agents was also an obvious choice.

The trick, as I understood it, was to change the vampires (all the various types) into equivalent metahumans in the adventures, and I'd be home free.

On closer inspection, there were a couple of things that I realized I'd have to deal with in order to successfully convert these adventures:

  1. the assumed super-spy team -- the default campaign structure in Night's Black Agents -- is supposed to be burned and on the run. No big agency with deep pockets to fall back on, no official police powers.
  2. the super-spy team isn't supposed to be bulletproof, or capable of flying, or smashing through walls, or teleporting through floors, etc. The appearance of one (god forbid two) vampiric characters is supposed to vex the characters greatly, with the usual solution being evasion and escape unless they're prepared.
Naturally, a team of super-heroes, working together with proper teamwork, is more than a match for these monsters. So, some tweaking here too.

Cthulhu Confidential

Ultimately, after going through several adventure sources, my thoughts settled on one from Cthulhu Confidential -- one that I could easily tweak into an adventure dealing with monsters coming from the Kryptonian Phantom Zone.

The time period was a bit of a problem, but easily remedied by bleedover from the dimensional eccentricities of a badly opened gateway into the Phantom Zone.

The bigger issue was that Cthulhu Confidential is supposed to be a one-on-one type of game [ one GM one Player ] and having a team might wreak havoc with it. Fortunately, the adventure structure allowed for a classic JSA / JLA approach of breaking up into teams to investigate, and the presence of modern day comms allowed the team to converge on several locations at the same time just when needed.

Furthermore, unlike the Cthulhu trope of a showdown with fearful creatures causing death and insanity, the characters were happy to finally throw down and hit something after all the investigations and secrets and lies. There was some pacing that needed to be tweaked for future adventures (greater dangers and challenges to face in the pursuit of clue locations, before reaching the final showdown).

Overall, not bad. But I'll also be looking at adventures from more traditional super-hero RPGs to change things up from the investigation-heavy adventures.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Storylines 02)

Continuing the storylines from the different timelines of the DC & Marvel Universes, here are a few more that I'm appropriating into my timeline for my combined One Earth universe.

House of X / Powers of X (The Krakoan Nation)

I found this storyline useful, because its core idea solved something for me with regards to mutants: there were so damn many of them intermingled within the fabric of multiple societies. While I could've scaled them back (there were never that many) or had some major event prune their numbers down (no more mutants, the Genosha Genocide, etc.), I liked the idea that they would form their own nation.

I also liked that there were plants that Krakoa provided that were beneficial to mankind and to mutantkind, that there would be a council that oversaw the birth and growth of the nation, and that there would still be dark futures that kept the attentions of the new 'super-power' in check: Orchis and various little known factions with great power.

There's a great summary of this storyline here on YouTube by Comics Explained.

Rather than use the heretofore unknown mutant ability of Moira MacTaggert, I'd rather come up with an excuse that it was an unforeseen tangent that united the factions of mutants under one banner, with world changing results.

Against the backdrop of a Counter-Earth with Kryptonians on it (who are allied with Earth), numerous alien races and empires growing wary of Earth's corner of the universe, and the anti-mutant technofuture alive and well, it adds an air of mystery into the older, somewhat repetitious formations and reformations of the X-men and related teams.

One wonders how the Green and its avatars view Krakoa and its sentients as well.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents

Not originally a DC property, a series came out under the DC banner sharing with us a more cohesive, more modern, and less innocent view of super-spies and super-agents in a world containing The Higher United Nations.

Setting aside questions about Checkmate, The Global Guardians, S.H.I.E.L.D., S.W.O.R.D., and the Agents of Atlas, it adds another wrinkle to the many super-soldier initiatives posited in Marvel and DC. Dynamo, NoMan, Lightning, and Raven fighting against the forces of S.P.I.D.E.R. and villains such as the Iron Maiden, and a fantastic underground nation that suggested that the Mole Man wasn't the only would-be ruler below the earth.

The super-agents had trade-offs on their powers -- an earlier version of Strikeforce: Morituri but with a super-spy flavor and slightly (?) less common incidents of death for its protagonists.

The DC series takes place some time after the original series, so the idea of legacy and old vendettas resurfacing also ads a nice potential element to the campaign.

[ NEXT UP: Batman / Captain America, All-Star Squadron, Invaders, The Liberty Legion, etc. ]

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Storylines 01)

I'd indicated that I'd be tying the storyline to initial appearances of heroes in comics, but as all comics continuity buffs know, there's just too many storylines and stories out there that contradict, retcon, and change the current continuity to make it easy to do a straight history in either timeline (Marvel, DC) without doing some pruning and editing.

My approach: lock down some tentpole characters and storylines and move forward (and backward) from there. Of course, since I'm looking at what my players are interested in as well, I have to ask them which storylines they remember and enjoyed -- then I try to find a way to make it have happened in the skeleton timeline that I have.

Ignoring the multi-versal, time-twisting events in both universes, here are a few storylines that I'm weaving into the history, based on my own interests -- we'll get to the players' interests and favorite storylines and arcs later:

Batman: Court of Owls

The existence of the Court of Owls dovetails nicely into the Earth 2 opposite number of Batman being Owlman. But even better, it sets up Gotham as a place of secrets -- some that even the World's Greatest Detective is unable to find until it's almost too late.

While Gotham may be their home base, a decades-old conspiracy of wealthy families that have surely spun their webs of influence throughout the world. Also, they have likely spent their wealth of techniques and tactics that placed them in the blind spot of Batman, making for an almost bottomless source of conspricay - crime families that would give John Wick's assassin-rich culture a run for its money.

Speaking of assassins, the Talons are a great recurring foil for some of the more agent / espionage members of the Knight Watch Red team -- regenerating, semi-undead foes that are relentless and backed by as much money as the other wealthy crimefighters in the world.

Lastly, it sets up some great mystery that the descendants of the Bat would wrestle with -- Dick Grayson? The half-brothers each known as Jason Todd (same father, different mothers)? Helena Wayne?


The idea of the Dominators managing to pull together an alliance of alien races to invade Earth -- in order to eliminate the threat of metahumanity (mutants, mutates, and peak humanity speciments) not only thrusts the awareness of alien races into the public consciousness, it also sets up several useful setting threads:
  • aliens are real and humanity knows it;
  • aliens see Earth and humanity as both a threat and an opportunity in their complex plans for peace, war, isolation, and conquest;
  • alien technology scraps and fragments were left behind and reverse engineered by humanity -- and while manufacturing  capabilities and raw materials vary between worlds, the science behind the technology has led to breakthroughs in many fields;
  • some alien races came to Earth's defense once they found out about the invasion (including some already living among us for their own purposes).
I'll be avoiding the worldwide effects of the gene bomb that occurs in Book Three, but I'll allow for limited exposure to these in certain areas. After all, this gene bomb could be the basis for the Big Bang that took place in Milestone Comics' Paris Island.

[ NEXT UP: The Mutant Nation of Krakoa, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents ] 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Player Characters)


As mentioned before, I waited for the initial batch of characters from interested players before beginning to flesh out the campaign further from the general direction of the campaign. This is so I can take into consideration the characters and the directions the players want to take them.

I got the following other character pitches (which slowly evolved in play):

Agent Armstrong (Mister Elastico)

The grandson of Plastic Man, he was envisioned as as a fairly powerful, wise-cracking hero fascinated by ice cream.

Surprsingly, this leads to obvious connections to Batman and the Justice League, but also connections to the modern Mister Terrific, and the rest of the super-team The Terrifics.

Strong, tough, and capable of shape-shifting into many different forms. There's an opportunity here to explore generational heroism back to the World War II era, and perhaps some of the community of shape-shifters (human and alien) in the universe.

Agent Brightshield (The U.S. Avenger)

This one was a bit complicated in terms of legacy, because it merged two legacies: a mutant from the Summers clan (child of Cable & Domino) displaced in time who lucked into the Captain America Adamantium-Vibranium shield. He created a variant uniform of the U.S. Agent, but chose to call himself the U.S. Avenger instead.

Not a super-soldier in anyway, but hoping to uphold the ideals of the bearers of the shield before him, he has been allowed to continue to carry the shield as a member of Knight Watch Red.

Funnily, enough I was hoping to avoid the complications of the confusing history of Cable, the Summers family tree, AND the dark future timeline where Apocalypse has conquered the world. 

However, now I'll have to do a bit of research and come up with some storylines related to these. I was thinking about a war between some dark and bright future timelines fighting for key events to take place in the present. But honestly, I'm not fond of time travel in game campaigns unless it's easy to clean up the mess of timeline changing paradoxes.

It does allow for some more "super-agent" adventures, and mutant adventures in the campaign, so it was approved.

Agent RocketDoc (Professor Strange)

Coming from the lineage of Adam Strange, he has a more advanced weaponry array (with more non-lethal options, and futuristic targeting systems), he is a classic gun-wielding action scientist.

Potential storyline from this character background pulls in the alien worlds of Rann & Thanagar, and the current possible villains from the space-faring superheroes of DC. There might also be some smattering of involvement from Marvel's space-faring races and empires.

Not sure that the Zeta Beam will come into any storylines soon, nor any echoes of the Rann-Thanagar War, nor any enemies from the rogues galleries of Adam Strange or the Omega Men. There might be some other interesting alien races that might come into one-shot adventures but am trying to keep an alien menagerie from infesting my campaign at this point.

So, this character will probably play the role of the scientist who can reverse engineer technology, act as an expert on alien races and technologies, and can fly and shoot opponents with energy blasters.

[ Even More PCs in our next installment ]

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Player Characters)


Having learned from prior aborted campaigns, I waited first for the initial batch of characters from interested players. My weakness has been pre-plotting the direction of the campaign without taking into consideration the characters and the directions the players want to take them.

I got the following character pitches (which slowly evolved in play):

Agent 36 (The Kryptonian)

One player wanted to portray a Kryptonian from the House of El. Not a warrior, but an activist pushing for a different way of living, inspired by exposure to different cultures on Earth and the aliens that visit it.

In my universe, we are going with the assumption that Kryptonians don't instantaneously gain all the standard powers at once, but develop them in stages and branch off in different directions based on genetics and which powers are used (supported by the power levels of the Golden Age Superman when he first appeared, his forgotten ability to SCULPT HIS FACE TO LOOK LIKE ONE OF HIS ALIEN CAPTORS in one comic, the mutations in powers due to exposure to Red Kryptonite, and Superman Red & Superman Blue), this one has some basic invulnerability, super-strength, flying, some super-senses, but doesn't have the whole shebang yet.

And he works as a writer on Earth, as a known Kryptonian assigned to Knight Watch Red with the approval of the Kryptonian Council.

Kryptonian Council? Yes, the one based on New Krypton in a constructed Counter-Earth orbiting SOL, peopled by survivors of the Bottled City of Kandor, and the reformed criminals from the Phantom Zone confronting the reality of being the last survivors of Krypton in a universe populated by other races with powers and technologies that rival their own -- and who know their weaknesses.

Agent Dynamo (The Man from T.H.U.N.D.E.R.)

Another player proposed to be the latest bearer of the Thunderbelt -- the new Dynamo, in a world that has lost The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves.

While this Thunderbelt no longer has the long-term negative effects that the original belt had (which eventually killed the wearer), it still has its time limit for safe usage.

Furthermore, this Dynamo has had enough of the dirty tricks and backstabbing that his former agency life was full of, and is serving in his capacity as a strongman for Knightwatch Red in semi-retirement. His closest friends are his animal companions: Rex the Wonder Dog and Detective Chimp, who took him into Knight Watch Red after the fall of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. in a recent super-agency battle for supremacy whose effects are still being felt. They also serve as his service animals and support when dealing with PTSD. 

Hailing from the estate of Greystoke, it remains to be seen if his friendliness with animals comes from other residents of that land who've historically had close ties to the animal kingdom.

Agent Tumaco (Scion of Wolverine)

A grey man hailing from Columbia, this PC is one of the many children of the long-lived Wolverine. He has the regeneration and the Weapon X admantium-laced bones and claws of his father, and a history of violence and wetwork experience before joining Knight Watch Red.

He relies more on his martial arts and a small set of non-lethal weapons on his person in combat, as leaving behind a trail of bodies would not endear him to his new organization and the residents of his new home.

Despite his reluctance to pop the claws at the slightest opportunity, he has shown the viciousness and deadly skill that mark him as a worthy successor to the mantle of Wolverine.

That being said, he -- along with Agent 36 -- has been one of the most diligent and dogged investigators of the Knight Watch Red team in its current incarnation.

[ More PCs in our next installment ]

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Bayport Megacity)

In the grand tradition of DC locations for super-hero teams, I've chosen to base the campaign in Not-The-San-Francisco-Bay-Area, Bayport MegaCity.

Much like the TV show, Streets of San Francisco, players will investigate and adventure across the entire Bay Area (and adjacent locations thereabouts) as the campaign unfolds.

Since my campaign is a mix between the investigation-structured Gumshoe game systems, and traditional super-hero cliffhangers and confrontations, I felt that naming it Bayport was a nice tip of the hat to my earliest introduction to mysteries and pulp adventures: the Hardy Boys. Calling it a MegaCity also conjures up the feel of an infusion of cyberpunk elements into the Northern California feel of the campaign setting -- which works with the West Coast presence of well-known DC & Marvel companies like WayneTech, S.T.A.R. Labs, Stark Enterprises, Rand Corporation, LexCorp, Roxxon Corporation, and so on.

That being said, I'm not slavishly following the naming of the roads and streets and areas. I'll be gleefully abstracting areas and renaming them for their flavor: seedy docks, colorful and mystical asiatowns, steel-and-glass skyscraping cityscapes, and all the stolen flavor of NorCal tourist spots.

GAMING RESOURCE -- San Angelo: City of Heroes

Now, the copy I have is for an older edition of Champions / HERO. This one from DriveThruRPG is actually for M&M and Action!System.

After a few of my adventures are completed, I'll be cribbing from this lovely superhero city supplements, one that feels so fleshed out that it'll hopefully bleed into my campaign and come across as an integrated & interconnecting setting. Written by Patrick Sweeney and Mark Arsenault, this setting has always impressed me by the way it communicates the feel of a lived-in superhero city.

Of course, it'll be a patchwork job with another city setting sourcebook...

GAMING RESOURCES -- Champions: Bay City Sourcebook

Yes, I did buy the Fuzion series of books. As a fan of both the Hero System and R.Talsorian's Interlock System (Cyberpunk, Mekton, etc.) how could I not pick it up?

Anyway, this little beauty sets up a series of locations and NPCs in the actual San Francisco Bay Area (slightly changed by the dangers of being in a super-hero universe), making it a joy to pick and choose locations for my players' characters -- residences, favorite restaurants, contacts, and backdrops to adventure!

It's also relatively easy to convert to the Hero System, because of the lineage of the ruleset.

With both of these, and the locations to be established by my initial adventures, the ingredients for the setting of the Bay Area MegaCity are complete. They just need to be mixed together in the course of a storyline to really feel solid.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Champions: One Earth (Broad Strokes)

Now that I've gotten a weekly rhythm going with my Champions: One Earth campaign, I wanted to share my initial document(s) in creating the campaign -- the ones that helped me define the starting point of the campaign and moved me past the hurdle of "enough world-building" to actually running games.


On this blog, I've been posting -- on and off over the years -- about a gaming universe for superheroes that would incorporate core elements from the DC & Marvel Universes. And I've finally done it, with a kind of vague, hand-wavey implementation on the setting history. Enough to allow the players to get a handle on their characters (and me to get a handle on the adventures and campaign) before I fill out the many corners of the multiverses.

Campaign Hook: Knight Watch Red

The PCs start off as plainclothes super-heroes tasked to investigate incidents (involving locations, individuals, and artifacts) of a potentially multiversal nature. If there's potential danger, they are to secure the location, individuals, and artifacts involved, contain multiversal incidents, and protect sentients and the dominant reality.

Borrowing from SlyFlourish's Six Truths approach to fantasy rpg campaigns, and applying it to my own (just enough for my players to jump onboard without having to read pages and pages of background), I came up with the following for my super-heroic campaign:

  1. The world of Knight Watch Red has a single timeline from WWII to the present involving different ages of super-heroes (from Marvel & DC).
  2. Super-heroes and super-villains tend to age normally from their first appearances, and have seen multi-generational legacies across heroic ages.
  3. Nations, corporations, and organizations recognize the threats of metahumanity based on battles of super-heroes and super-villains across history.
  4. Nations, corporations, and organizations also recognize the value of metahumanity in conflicts against attempts to conquer or destroy the Earth.
  5. Organizations like the Justice Society and Checkmate evolved from fighting crime to monitoring, regulating, and cultivating the super-human societies of Earth. (edit)
  6. Recent anomalous incidents suggest that multiversal incursions are weakening the fabric of reality, and must be contained to safeguard the timeline.

The combination of these Six Truths helped me establish a familiar combined universe, yet one that was also different from the ones in the current comics -- where some heroic and villainous mantles are already on their second or third generations, while others are eternally frozen in time and still hold on to their places despite their aging compatriots. It also allowed me to briefly expound on new elements of a status quo that place Earth in a universe with aliens, but have somehow placed it in a semi-static status quo that does not have an incredibly fertile mutant population with Omega-level threats around each corner, that does not have yet another alien race invading this week / month / year, that does not have hyper-advanced technology in the hands of common folk. But more on this in another post.

Of course, I added a Seventh Truth to this set, which was related to the creation of the characters themselves:

7. Each PC must be a legacy character. Whether they are related by blood to another hero or villain in the DC or Marvel universe, or they are inspired by one of them, or they have inherited artifacts, knowledge, abilities through various means, they must be tied to an existing character in these universes.

The reasons for this last one were: (a) to provide me with a handle on the types of adventures that these created characters would like to engage in; and (b) to allow me to quickly and easily grasp the backstories of these characters -- including whatever time-/science-/space-bending implications their histories and powers might have. It reduced the need for long (and potentially contentious) discussions about histories, NPCs, powers, abilities, enemies and allies through broadstrokes mentions of key figures in the DC/Marvel setting (filtered through the rough timeline and current status quo in my head). Oddly enough, it also curtailed a tendency for my Champions players to come up with the wildest character concepts executed in the most-game breaking way possible -- by giving them a chance to go through favorite character concepts and legacies and an opportunity to put their own stamp on this legacy character.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Champions: One Earth

Short post.

Surprisingly, I have begun running a Champions campaign in my Earth 641 setting.

It's a superheroic campaign where DC & Marvel Universes have merged, and I'm busy coming up with rationale, pruning, and GM's fiat that justifies why the power levels are low, and why the multiple threats to Earth, The Universe, and Everything haven't emerged and haven't driven the populace insane.

I'll post in the future about how I've been trying to translate all this "Session Zero" stuff for super-heroic campaigns into my own setting and universe -- and how I'm actually taking some of the adventures from other RPGs (super-heroic and non-superheroic) and translating them into my campaign's adventures.

I did a lot of writing and thinking about the campaign, because I really wanted to get the types of adventures and the type of campaign clear in my head, before I started. But I also had to avoid the trap of over-prepping for the campaign, because I wanted to leave space for the characters my players build to carve out their own stories and backstories in the universe.

Am also relearning building characters in HERO, and have been negotiating with my players which of our preferred versions of the rules to use, and it's mostly 5th Edition HERO with some carry-over rules from 4th. So, we shall see!

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.