Sunday, December 9, 2018

Canon & the Multiverse

There's a Teen Titans show out on TV, movies from characters in the DC Universe, and a steady stream of other DC TV shows (live action and animated) out.

And there's yet another iteration of the DC Universe out in comics (I lose count).

My POV on continuity is a complicated thing, one that I may put together blog posts or a podcast on in the future. But this blog is about gaming and RPGs -- so what does that give me?

Well, I've always had my own take on how the DC multiverse and timelines should be. My headcanon -- and thank you to the blogosphere for this term -- is one that still believes in a particular kind of continuity. That there is a universe where the events of the primary timeline matters, and all the elseworlds and splinter timelines are just echoes.

And I've always wanted to set superheroic RPGs in this shared universe, one where:

  • the big names are known heavyweights, but there's still space of newcomers
  • the other superheroes and teams are constants (after a fashion) but are still constantly adventuring and in flux (out on a mission, missing, changed powers, etc.)
  • the villains and heroes occasionally get weird team ups
  • major crises periodically (and hopefully sparingly) pull everyone together into adventures allowing for many cameos and easter eggs for comics fans.
I guess what I'd like to do is to put together some ideas and toolkits for creating sandbox superheroic adventures in an established universe (well, a combined one, picking and choosing from the plethora of Marvel / DC / other comics lines and their continuities) that players would have no problem sitting down and playing in one week and disappearing the next -- but one where GMs also can juggle the storylines of present and absent players and PCs.

Time to put on the hot cocoa and think a bit before returning to the Armchair Gamer study for some setting writing. See you soon!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Data Scan: Cyberpunk 2077 E3 Trailer

If you're one of those Cyberpunk / Cyberpunk 2020 fans that have been looking at getting that late 80s cyberpunk fix this side of the 21st Century, I'm sure you've been wondering how to make it less dated and more relevant.

Of course, there's been no shortage of modern takes on the near future technodystopia in films and series -- perhaps it's time to come up with a new list of inspirations, since we're so close to 2020. However, a trailer was released at E3 for Cyberpunk 2077, sharing a glimpse into the world of that classic RPG, but updated (and hopefully ignoring the outdated technology that was touted as the 'bleeding edge' at the time it was written).

It looks promising, with an interesting set of 'slice of life' scenes that show that the strange, slightly violent cyberfuture has a wealth of alien, yet approachable locales to adventure in -- where not every streetcorner is awash in violence.

There are scenes of cybered up, gear-toting people on trains, hanging out on the street, enjoying the future as something mundane. I enjoyed the brief clip of the motormouth taxi driver chatting away, unimpressed by the gun-carrying cyberpsychos in his taxi, a sort of acceptance of the way of life in the future-shocked world.

There's a flood of vids and articles about the gameplay that a number of game reports actually got to see from E3, and I have to get caught up. But it looks promising, and I can't wait to hear more -- while digging up my old CP2020 collection!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

On the Radar: Fictional Past, Present, and Future

Three RPG books that caught my eye on DriveThruRPG this week were the following:


Oh, yes. The latest version, and crafted by the hands of Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, Jason Durall, and Steve Perrin. Rules update, and a delightful dive into the world of Glorantha.

Here's the book pitch:

RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha is an all-new edition of one of the world’s most influential and acclaimed fantasy roleplaying games. First appearing almost 40 years ago, RuneQuest is as dynamic and vital as ever. This all-new, deluxe edition introduces RuneQuest and its setting of Glorantha to new players everywhere.

Try out a skill-based percentile system that balances experience-based progression with deadly combat!

The core rules of RuneQuest are essential for players and gamemasters, as they contain all the rules for character creation, starting homelands, background history, professions, skills, starting Runes and magic, and the cults and gods whose influence will define your character’s activities. Further, the rules for character advancement are contained here, for the times between adventures.

Torg: Eternity

I have fond memories of the original Torg rules and setting, and wanted to impact the outcome of the Possibility Wars during its heyday with other Storm Knights. Perhaps now, if I pick this up, I'll have that chance again!

The invasion of Earth told in previous tales of TORG took place on one version of our world. The High Lords there were successful for many years, but were eventually stopped by the planet's valiant Storm Knights.

But there are infinite versions of our world.

This is the tale of a different Earth, one where things did not go as well...

The Torg Eternity Core Rules include all the rules and setting information you need to create characters and play the game, including

  • Background on the Possibility Wars
  • World Laws and adversaries for Core Earth and the 7 invading Cosms
  • Creation and advancement rules with dozens of perks for all kinds of characters
  • Magic, Miracles, and Psionics rules
  • Gear for all tech levels

Star Trek Adventures: Command Division supplement

Last but not least, a supplement detailing what life is like for characters in the Command Division of Starfleet:


The Command Division supplement provides Gamemasters and Players with a wealth of new material for use in Star Trek Adventures for characters in the command division. The Command Division supplement includes:

  • Detailed description of the command division, including its role in Starfleet, the various branches within the command division, the role of Fleet Operations, life as a command division cadet, and details on starship operations.
  • Expanded 2d20 Social Conflict rules, enhancing social encounters and galactic diplomacy.
  • An expanded list of Talents and Focuses for command and conn characters.
  • Over a dozen additional starships and support craft to command and pilot, including the NX, Nebula, Sovereign, and Steamrunner classes, as well as many shuttle types and the indomitable Work Bee!
  • Advice on creating command division focused plot components for your missions to test the mettle of your captain and flight controller. 
  • New rules on running Admiralty-level campaigns that let you command entire fleets, as well as information on commanding starbases.
  • Detailed descriptions and game statistics for a range of Command and Conn focused NPCs and Supporting Characters.

TM & © 2018 CBS Studios Inc. © 2018 Paramount Pictures Corp. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Things I Learned from Champions: Keep Some Surprises Under the Hood

Much of the superhero genre is steeped in secrets and misdirection. The heroes themselves were referred to mystery men and women, so a surprise or two from them was to be expected.

I'd argue therefore, that the 'classification' of superheroes into narrow categories (in other words, representing them as rigid classes) in an RPG runs counter to the spirit of the source material. Fortunately, many of the early superhero RPGs avoided this, despite the influence of D&D.

TSR's Marvel Super-Heroes may have had types of origins in the random generation of characters, but they didn't shackle you into 'mage' or 'fighter' or 'speedster'; that tended to be a function of the powers you rolled up. Mayfair Games' DC Heroes RPG and Hero Games' Champions, as point-buy systems, sidestepped this entirely -- your combination of purchased stats, skills, and powers crystallized the type of character you were playing.

And while the was a shorthand on the types of builds you had (Brick, Martial Artist, Energy Projector, etc.), there were always different kinds of each, and certainly mixes of several builds, as was often seen in the source material.

So, we used this to our advantage, in-game.

What you see isn't necessarily what you'll get

One of my characters was a martial artist had a grappling hook that he used to attack the enemy, ie up the enemy, and so on. The obvious build was to use Energy Blast (for the ranged attack) and Entangle (for tangling up the enemy) -- but I didn't go that route. It was built as stretching, bought on a focus, and I used my Martial Arts for Strikes, Throws, and Grabs at range. And while I could therefore take damage from damage shields, it also allowed me to type at long distance, feel the texture or warmth of things far away, etc... chalking it up to mastery of my weapon. It helped with that element of surprise when playing under good GMs (or perhaps more adversarial GMs who forget the builds that they approved, and just go by your character art).

But building in surprises -- like a woman whose costume shouts martial artist, but is really built as a brick ("My kung-fu makes my body impervious to bullets!"); or an item that seems to be a focus (like a power ring) but is bought straight ("I summon it back onto my finger via sheer willpower!"); or building a martial art that allows you to Full Move with every manuever; or combat skill levels that only work when you're fighting by yourself ("I just didn't want my friends to think badly of me, when they see what I can really do.") -- but using them sparingly, does add to the mystique of your character.

And helps when your opponents stereotype you and your capabilities.

The joy of Champions is that it allows you to do all this -- after all, points pay for the effect; the special effect is up to you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Earth 641: Saturday Morning Remix

My vision for Earth 641 is not limited to the merging of only DC & Marvel Universes. In a past  post, I identified the Ultra-family as one of the other intergalactic peacekeeping forces. I'd always also wanted to find a place for many of my Saturday morning cartoon faves -- which include many of the Hanna-Barbera heroes!

With the continuation of DC's Future Quest series, I was struck by how much this was an echo of the 80s-era DC comics effort: redefining and celebrating continuity via Crisis on Infinite Earths and Who's Who: a definitive guide to the DC Universe.

Here we see how Mightor's efforts in pre-history might find themselves crossing over with the galaxy-spanning adventures of Space Ghost! Or how Birdman might fight crime alongside Jonny Quest! Or how the Herucloids might find themselves teaming up with the Galaxy Trio!

Hanna-Barbera did have a broad selection of times and places for their heroes; it's great to see those characters revitalized for the modern era -- and so open to mining for gaming fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

All Under HERO: Thoughts on Magic Systems of the Known World (Part 1)

The Magic-User Archetype (for Karameikos)

Karameikos was crafted to be the stereotypical D&D fantasy realm, and as a result has primarily stereotypical D&D wizards. As a result there's no shortage of ways to build this magical system in HERO. The classic magic system is known for:
  • verbal (Incantations)
  • somatic (Gestures)
  • material components (Foci and/or charges)
Also, you need to re-learn / re-select what spells you can cast each morning via spellbooks that is basically the list of spells you can learn and cast. You have newer spells that arise out of research (or learning from scrolls, other mages, or from acquired spellbooks) added to this spellbook.

However, given the HERO points-based, non-class philosophy -- not every mage will be shackled into these exact set of restrictions. In fact, the concept of a magic school or tradition may help very well here.

Magical Learning: Academies or Apprenticeships?

We know that there is an official school established in Karameikos, just as there schools elsewhere (Thyatis, Glantri, Alphatia, etc.), so there's no doubt that well-traveled mages and adventurers will be able to guess where a mage picked up their skills not only by the spells, but by the limitations and advantages open to them. There will be a certain rigor and breadth of knowledge and understanding of magical theory and history, even if they turn out to be not-so-great as students.

And there might be some rivalry between schools from a given academy, or between different academies as well.

However, there could also be apprenticeships. Depending on where the master or tutor learned his/her magic, the student could have strengths and weaknesses that academy-trained mages lack. And there could also be greater dangers associated with them as well, assuming that part of the approach of the larger academies is to teach magic that works for ALL students, rather than customizing curriculum for each student. Therefore the apprenticeship style of learning could have a more eclectic selection of spell, or a more specialized approach toward things.

And of course, depending on the build, some fighters and thieves may have picked up a minor cantrip here or there...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

All Under Hero: BECMI D&D To Hit progression

Karameikos has always been the starting point of my understanding of Mystara; the first Gazetteer was my first realization that it was its own setting.

And since the Gazetteer states that Karameikos was designed as being designed to accommodate the rulebook classes, I've decided to assume that the D&D cyclopedia classes and levels are sort of 'rules of thumb' to build Mystaran characters -- and even to use as NPC templates for customization in the course of play.

So -- let's look at the To Hit tables for the classes (which include demi-humans)!

Progression Insights

According to this table, we can see that:
  • Character classes are a cut above normal humans (even magic users), with a +1 to their To Hits at 1st level. 
  • Fighters improve their To Hit chances by +2 every 3 levels.
  • Clerics, Thieves, and Druids improve their To Hit Chances by +2 every 4 levels.
  • Magic Users improve their To Hit Chances by +2 every 5 levels.
  • Demi-humans progress a little bit differently (see the letters).
This can easily be done in HERO with equivalent bonuses to the PC's OCV per level.

Why not make these straightforward Skill Level purchases? Well, there are a couple of things that might complicate matters:
  • reflecting hit points: rather than a straighforward boost to BODY, STUN, or PD / ED, allowing a bonus to CV instead of just OCV could reflect how higher level characters are just better at combat in general (as a guideline).
  • weapon mastery rules: these also have an effect of boosting your skills, and any characters with this should have these reflected as skill levels with their chosen weapons; implementing with skill levels instead of a straight OCV bonus might confuse matters.
So, I'll proceed on this basis for now.

Friday, May 4, 2018

All Under Hero: HEROic D&D

Mystara has been a setting that fascinates me, due to the long-lingering influence of the Gazetteers on my fantasy gaming life. One of the reasons I attempted, years ago, to do a "HEROic" conversion of D&D (see the following old links), was partially due to the setting.

HEROic D&D - Part 1
HEROic D&D - Part 2
HEROic D&D - Part 3
HEROic D&D - Part 4
HEROic D&D - Part 5

Someone asked my why I would attempt such a thing, given how well HERO does fantasy, and the fact that I was obviously a HERO fan, and knew Fantasy Hero. I answered the following:

"to convert various NPCs, PCs and monsters into HERO characters and then play straight using HERO rules. 
It's not REALLY a system re-creation, but two things:
(1) primarily a way to rationalize in my head how these conversions would be done;
(2) very secondarily, a way to explore how HERO deviated from the original ruleset -- as I think I've hinted at here by how I handled stats."

Looking back, I would have to say that it was probably more of a combination of the first sentence, and #2 of the last paragraph.

To be honest, it seems to me that #2 of the last paragraph was a major part of it -- I wanted to explore why the ruleset of HERO resonated so strongly with my own mental model of how the world works, as opposed to my occasional hesitations when remembering the abstraction choices made in D&D rules (like the abstract Armor Class approach, which combines difficulty in hitting someone with the ability to penetrate armor / do damage).

At the same time, I also felt that Mystara had hidden depths that I could best express in HERO system (which I think echoes in my own explorations of magic systems elsewhere on this blog). I wanted to have a depth and breadth of fighting builds for characters, and a way to express how different magical / mystical systems could be realized in the world -- and why those differences matter when recognized by players.

That being the case, I'm returning to this project with a different perspective, perhaps to ground my explorations more. I'm going to begin building components for the Mystara / Enigmundia world in HERO to see where they bring me in terms of the ideas for the setting.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

On the Radar: Dawn of the Emperors is out!

So, for those Mystara-philes out there, here's something of interest:

The classic Gazetteer boxed set, Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia, is now in available on DriveThruRPG.

I haven't picked it up yet, mostly because I've yet to run any kind of D&D game again, let alone in my "Dark Corners" version of Mystara.

But I do have fond memories of flipping through the pages and reading through the maps -- and thinking about how I would go about tweaking it for my game.

Apparently, the instructions given to the late Aaron Allston for this set were "to make Thyatis a country that specialized in the concerns of the fighter class, while Alphatia would be a magocracy." Of course, given the linear progression of power for fighters, and the exponential progression of power for mages, it makes sense that Thyatis would have spellcasters with a martial bent, while Alphatia would have fighters (treated as second class citizens, however).

To my mind, Thyatis really draws on historical Rome / Byzantine Empire, which has a different set of cultural touchstones in the wake of TV series like Rome, Spartacus, and so on. Alphatia is a bit of a mystery to me -- this is a culture that has access to great magical power, and is actively engaged in research, but is also of a chaotic bent. Since, according to canon, "Alphatia, a land of magicians, was itself colonized by people from another world", the argument can be made that perhaps it is meant to be a very alien culture that has grown into an Empire.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Things I Learned From Champions: There Are Always Possibilities

In retrospect, one of the things that made Champions (and the Hero System) stand out for me, compared to most of the other RPGs that I'd been playing at the time, was a sense of almost limitless possibilities.

Of course, that was more of a dawning realization rather than a sudden flash of life-changing insight. It arose after getting over the hurdle of reading the rulebook, building a character or two, and talking to the Champions group that seemed to be a very regular pillar of the Beresford Rec Center initiative in the late 80s.

Let me explain.

Exactly the character you want -- revisited

As I mentioned in my now-ancient post "Exactly The Character You Want", I felt a sense of freedom when released from the level-progression approach of D&D when exposed to a point-based system. Furthermore, the "effects cost point, special effects are free" really opened up what was possible in terms of building a character; no longer consciously or subconsciously shackled to the 'character class' concept, there was a tendency to go wild with character concepts.

When I began introducing this to others, many began often started by building a character that was either a clever implementation of a set of rules, or building a character that would be impossible in another system -- rather than building a character that you wanted to play for a sustained period of time.

But I suppose that's part of the charm. The 'old school' mentality sort of bled into Champions campaigns -- the GM was responsible for a sort of living continuity of the Superheroic campaign, and was expected to allow players to switch between different characters. As a result:
  • all players had at least one favored character that they would often play, and would be requested by the GM when pursuing particular storylines;
  • some players actively built new characters on a regular basis (with one friend holding the record for most PCs with game experience);
  • some players had a stable of characters that they kept re-tooling as they gained experience (in-game, and meta-gaming wise);
  • most players would attempt building experimental characters and try them out to gain better familiarity with some rules, some tactics, and character builds -- no shortage of one-trick ponies or novelty characters;
  • all players would occasionally do a 'stump the builders' sort of question, citing a character concept from comics, movies, books, TV or their own imagination that would require a tricky build -- and the gaming group always threw out several ways to do it;
  • at least one person would always be negotiating to go beyond a certain point limit or cap on a characteristic value or combat value or damage class, in exchange for some crippling deficiency in some other part of the character (Captain Glass Cannon, at your service).
This culture of experimentation -- and occasional lack of mercy for players when the dice rolls definitively indicate maiming or death -- really drove home the point that you really could build the character you wanted, and have him/her as powerful and competent as you imagined, so long as the GM (and to some extent, other players) agree to play along with you.

Surviving Contact With The Enemy

Another thing that I enjoyed was the variety of combat options available. It wasn't necessarily simply building a character and pounding away at an opponent until one of you dropped. There were combat maneuvers available for a tough brick to take out one of those pesky, hard-to-hit martial artists (area effect attacks by picking up vehicles and attacking the hexes they're in); or for martial artists to do enough damage to stun those tough bricks (like targeting vital hit locations).

Depending on the flexibility of your character build, you could shift around skill levels (if you bought enough of the right ones) to improve your accuracy, your damage, your ability to avoid attacks. You could sacrifice the damage of an energy blast to affect a larger area. You could risk your endurance and even STUN by pushing your abilities beyond their normal limits for extra dice of damage or effect.

And there was always the opportunity for teamwork -- the right set of skills, abilities, and tactics could often allow a lower-powered team to take out more powerful opponents.

Beyond the Borders of the Map

In most games, you were sort of limited to a map. Whether the campaign map made of hexes, beyond the borders of which -- here be dragons. On a smaller scale, you were often limited by the areas defined by a dungeon map -- going through walls that were often solid rock, tended to severely limit your encounters into specific approaches. Which, to be fair, is kind of the point of the dungeon -- city adventures are very different.

But access to the various powers led to regular map border breaking. Speedsters could race across the country in a matter of minutes. Teleporters could bypass sealed off areas. Desolid characters could walk through walls. Flying characters could visit the tops of unscalable peaks. And the damage from super-strong tanks to metal-melting energy projectors could power through otherwise impregnable barriers.

In summary, the genre -- and the ruleset of Hero -- encouraged out-of-the-box thinking for the players, and therefore by necessity, the GM.

Friday, March 16, 2018

On the Radar: Jovian Chronicles in a Bundle of Holding

 And, as if in answer to my plan of ships in the same fleet having different tech levels, there's a Bundle of Holding for Jovian Chronicles!

The bundle covers the following books:
  • Silhouette CORE Deluxe Edition
  • Jovian Chronicles Player's Handbook 2E
  • Mechanical Catalogs 1-2
  • Spacer's Guide
  • Space Equipment Handbook
  • Earth Sourcebook
  • CISLunar Space
  • Jovian Chronicles Companion
  • Four Jovian Planet Sourcebooks
  • Ships of the Fleet 1-3
  • The Chaos Principle
  • Jovian Chronicles GM Handbook

This will give a comprehensive set of materials for the rules and the setting, one that's surprisingly hard SF, despite the presence of humanoid mecha used as fighters.

Also, since the human homeworld is lost to the rest of the world in Stars Without Number, it's not much of a problem to set up a different solar system with the same setting elements. And I would do that, because the setting building is so well done -- it feels like a very well thought out set of interlocking political, economic, and social factions, along with the aforementioned hard SF approach. It's nice to have a semi-stable "home base" for the campaign that characters can refer to in their backgrounds, or return to from the front lines.

Of particular interest to me are the different ship designs for the setting. I like the designs for the Jovian ships, and I'm always interested in the Tender-class ships of any given setting. They'll form the regular ships of the fleet, with the ability to use jumpgates. This is unlike the Star Trek-inspired starships that will have Warp capability.

Not sure where to start aside from trying to build an idea of how many fleets there are, and what ship composition each would have.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Cubicle 7 and Call of Cthulhu part ways (Old News)

They say any news you haven't heard is new news. However, since the announcement came out in December of last year, and it's already March 2018, it still feels a bit old. But no less shocking.

Three Call of Cthulhu-powered settings from Cubicle 7 have lost the license to the system, and must now retool their material for a new (unnamed system). That's The Laundry (which I collected), World War Cthulhu, and Cthulhu Britannica. Official statement from the Forums of Cubicle 7:

Cubicle 7’s Call of Cthulhu license expires at the end of the year and by mutual agreement with Chaosium it is not going to be renewed. There are no hard feelings on either side, and we are still on great terms - these things happen. Call of Cthulhu is Chaosium’s baby and we wish them all the best. 
We’ve enjoyed working with Call of Cthulhu and Chaosium, but we’re also looking forward to the challenge of designing our own game systems for Cthulhu Britannica, World War Cthulhu and The Laundry. Putting together games that really showcase the themes of their setting is what we do best, after all! Keep an eye on the newsletter for more information in due course.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Ships Without Number: Artificial Gravity and the Post-Scream Universe

The Stars Without Number universe has a lot of variance in tech levels, enough to make the expeditionary fleet I've been thinking of interesting.

While many of the newer ships would be more akin to the designs of Jovian Chronicles (no artificial gravity, rotational sections, and constant 1G thrust) and similar settings, there would be some space for Star Trek-inspired ships.

The idea is that, with the current level of technology (and psychic construction) they can only achieve Star Trek: TOS levels of starships. And with the limited number of psychics, there are limits to how many can be produced in a solar cycle.

The fleet will therefore have a mix of mostly lower tech ships (which will be higher tech in some areas of non-psychic technology), and a small cluster of slowly growing artificial gravity, transporter-capable ships.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

On The Radar: Go go, Glorantha!

Glorantha-philes rejoice. Two books are out, and available for devouring!

One of them is 13th Age Glorantha by Chaosium (developed by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet). You'll still need a copy of 13th Age to play though.

Here's some of the promotional blurbage:

For Game Masters, 13th Age Glorantha includes:
  • More than 80 pages of monsters and enemies fully compatible with any 13th Age campaign, including Chaos priests, dragonsnails, scorpionmen, Crater Makers who call down the Moon, and the awesome Chaos demon known as the Crimson Bat.
  • More than 60 pages of ready-to-run adventures and heroquests—venture into myth to refight the battles of the gods and gain their cosmic powers!
  • A distinctive setting that will entertain longtime fans but is aimed at gamers who've never heard of Glorantha.

For Players, 13th Age Glorantha includes:
  • 5 new classes, including the hell mother who summons Darkness spirits and giant spiders; the swordmaster Humakti who wields Death; and the trickster who (in theory!) funnels your bad luck onto your enemies.
  • 5 new class variants, including the wind lord, a fighter with magical storm-related exploits; and the rebel, a rogue with the supernatural ability to get where he’s not supposed to be.
  • 2 new PC races, the trolls and ducks, plus Gloranthan humans with new cultural traits.

The other book, also from Chaosium, is The Glorantha Sourcebook. As you might guess from the title -- it's a rich sourcebook about Glorantha, but don't take my word for it, check out the blurbs:
The Glorantha Sourcebook is an essential resource for Greg Stafford’s world of Glorantha, one of the most extensively developed and renowned fantasy settings of all time. A world of mythology, gods, and heroes, Glorantha has inspired roleplaying games, board games, computer games, comics, fiction, and more, a setting beloved and revered worldwide. 
An invaluable resource for gamemasters, players, and readers of fantasy worlds, this sourcebook is gorgeously illustrated and filled with informative maps and diagrams. Drawn from a variety of out-of-print and rare sources, this material has been dramatically revised, updated, and expanded. Alongside this foundational material are new essays, insights, and extrapolations on the world and its incredible denizens. 
Inside this sourcebook, you’ll learn about the creation of the world; the main ages of its past; the history of Dragon Pass and its people; the pantheons of the gods, including the Lightbringer and Lunar pantheons; the Coming of Argrath; Elder Races such as the Elves, Dragonewts, Dwarves, and Trolls; genealogies of the major royal dynasties; legends and lore of the various tribes and peoples inhabiting Glorantha; the fundaments of Gloranthan magic and the Runes that shape the world; the history and gods of the mighty Lunar Empire; and finally, the Hero Wars!

Monday, February 12, 2018

On the Radar: D&D Cyclopedia and New Styles of Play

You may not have heard yet, but at the end of January 2018, the D&D Cyclopedia went up for sale on DriveThruRPG. Apparently, it's possible to order printed versions of this, but I'm sorely tempted to get the PDF version, for archival purposes -- because it's only $9.99 at the time of this writing.

Now while, this was available before, they now also offer a softcover and hardcover version (POD, I believe). I own the hardcover, but the concept of a softcover version blows my mind!

Story Games & Indie Games in Mystara

The setting of Mystara is a such an easy go-to for me, especially when I have to force myself to read through new material these days (it used to be so easy to read and retain stuff) that I've been looking at how to build characters using the old system here -- then just use mechanics from a variety of sources to add a different sheen or style of play for a night or two, before going back to the old rules. What rules sets are these?

Retro-clones and Neo-clones

I won't go through the list, especially since you can find it online -- more than one, actually. But it's a trivial matter to go through this list to see what particular aspect of play might be spiced up by the emphasis of a given ruleset. In fact, that may be part of a future series of posts.

D&D 5th Edition

Given the system's construction, it's pretty easy to just use characters built from the Cyclopedia and then apply a handful of rules from 5th edition (Advantage / Disadvantage, hit points and death) and so on to get the modern feel without doing a full on conversion.

Special Plug-ins

If you want to handle something like investigations in the world of Mystara (there's been a multiple murder -- of the same guy, and he wants you to find out who's been killing him over and over), you may want to pick up something like Gumshoe (especially their rules-lite version Pocket Gumshoe), and pop it into place to handle some Manhunter of Mystara adventures in the Known World.

There's also the possibility of taking from the page of FATE, and similar and similar aspect-oriented games, to create an aspect or two for your character, which allows you to trigger a special Advantages / Disadvantages when you can invoke it them game -- due to circumstances -- in order to further cement your character's uniqueness in the world. They can be serious ("Not on my watch!") to silly ("Kobolds must but saved"), but do add a twist to the traditional gameplay in the setting.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Time Tunnel Thursday: Armchair Reviews... er, Review (Expanded)

I've done this before -- should probably make this a standard page and put the link in one of the sidebars. Also: some of the products reviewed area apparently no longer available...

 DOCTOR WHO: Adventures In Time And Space

Night's Black Agents

The Laundry RPG

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Various RPGs

  • Runequest 6th Edition
  • Leverage the RPG [Cortex System]
  • Mystic Empyrean RPG
  • Eldritch Skies [Unisystem]
  • Yggdrasil
  • The Rocket Age [Vortex System]
  • Fading Suns Player's Guide (Revised Edition)
  • Clockwork & Chivalry
  • Devil's Gulch [BRP System]

 Various RPG Sourcebooks

  • The Book of the Empress [Champions / Hero System]
  • NeoExodus [Setting for Pathfinder]
  • Asuang: Shapechanging Horrors [D&D 4E]
  • Cursed Chateau [1st edition, OSR adventure]
  • Carcosa [OSR setting]
  • Isle of the Unknown [OSR setting]
  • The RetConQuest [ICONS adventure]
  • Weird Adventures [system-agnostic setting]
  • The War of Horus & Set [general info, system agnostic]
  • The Nazi Occult [general info, system agnostic]

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ships without Number: 0-hr. Carriers

As mentioned in a prior post, I was looking for a ship that PCs could be based on -- one where they'd have interactions with the other crew, where they could conceivably have their backup characters walking around in the background, and where they could snag some heavy firepower if needed.

In addition to that, I also wanted an option for a ship that has shuttles or fighters launched from it, for a possible set of other PCs that are on pilot missions or away team missions.

How fortunate that 0-hr. has three Carriers for use!

Drake (Exploration Vessel)

"At 292 feet long, this PL-7 frigate carries a crew of 18 and a complement of six Sparrowhawk-class fighters. Though only lightly armed as a vessel of exploration, statistics and story for a more heavily armed 'pirate' configurations are also included. Exploration, reconnaissance, journeys to distant stars - Drake is designed to fill these roles and more."

Of the three carriers, this is the most intimate potential home setting (with the option to mingle with the rest of the fleet on the larger ships). With a crew of 18, and an average party of 4, you have enough space for some other NPCs who may eventually become PCs, should tragedy befall one of the party. Also, the six fighter ships on such a small crew can indicate that most of the crew know how to fly them -- great for the variety of missions. Definite naval or merchant campaign use, some espionage groundside options -- not so much for groundpounder campaigns, except perhaps as air support.

 Orion (Strike Carrier)

"Orion is a Retribution-class strike carrier designed to serve as a transport and base of operations for combat vehicles both in space and on the ground. Orion carries sixteen Vulture-class heavy fighters in its internal bays. The side nacelles can rapidly deploy a dozen Aries-class hover tanks and four modified Brahma transports for use as personnel carriers. When added to the strike carrier’s impressive built in fire power, this single ship decide many engagements."

Obviously larger, carrying larger fighters and ground vehicles, this a very combat-oriented ship -- perhaps more appropriate for naval and military campaigns; less so for espionage or merchant campaigns.

Invictus (Carrier)

"Invictus is the flagship of the Confederation fleet and the first of its kind (so technically it is an 'Invictus-class' vessel). At almost 2400 ft long, the ship carries 200 fighters, 40 boarding shuttles, and a 1500 crew, soldiers, and passengers. It is designed to rapidly deploy combat craft and serve as a long range missile platform – allowing it to command a battle well back from the lines while still contributing massive firepower to the fight."

This one is huge! Opportunities for on-ship intrigue, and a lot of sub-campaigns abound on this ship. Naval campaigns, military campaigns, and options for espionage missions are possible here. Definitely involved in some of the major engagements in a campaign, and unlikely to stray from the main fleet for long periods of time.

Take your pick for the best fit in your ship-based campaign!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ships without Number (list of sources)

Given the background of the default Star Without Number setting, there’s a rationale as to why a mix of ships from different tech levels and designers would combine in a fleet with a grand endeavor.
On a simple level, you could have TOS and TNG era ships in the same fleet. More combinations would have Farscape, B5, and Star Trek ships together.

Will start building this list of sources here.

Fandom Ship Sites:

  • Star Wars Deckplans -- an impressive site that organizes the ships by manufacturer, and gives external art, deckplans, and D6 stats!
  • B5 Tech -- the site provides images (externals), and specs. No game stats, but a very extensive listing of the ships from the show.
  • Star Trek Intelligence -- similar to B5 Tech, shows images (externals) and specs for ships in the various series. Nothing from Discovery (yet), but presents the information as info gathered by the intelligence agencies of the different powers-that-be. 

 Other Ship-related posts on this blog:

  • 0-hr. Carriers -- three carriers for your campaign's home ship. One is right-sized for you!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Stars Without Number II: Sine Nomine Strikes Back

It has come to my attention that there is a new edition of Sine Nomine's Stars Without Number -- the appropriately named Stars Without Number (Revised Edition). This has rekindled an old interest of mine.

Longtime readers of my blog know that I had many incomplete attempts at building a campaign inside the setting of Stars Without Number (Confederation Chronicles posts). They all trailed off, in retrospect, because I was trying to recreate an old Hero System homebrew setting in a different system, and I got overwhelmed by the conversions.

This time, I have a different approach, and I'm going to try again.

Core Campaign Frame

I'm salvaging what I can from my old Condederation Chronicles posts; in fact it's from one of those failed restarts that I have this summary:

In "Confederation Chronicles: A Campaign Premise" parts 1 and 2, I decided that I was going to riff off of the Battlestar Galactica concept -- a fleet of ships trying to find their way home. Unlike that show, or the other inspiration show (Andromeda), they actually come from a stable part of the Imperium: a self-sufficient cluster of worlds and systems that survived the mysterious disintegration of their galaxy-spanning Empire.

And they've been charged to find a stable path of travel along linked routes back to the Throneworld.

In "Confederation Chronicles: A Mobile Base of Operations -- Part 01", I explore the benefits of a self-sufficient, ridiculously powered ship being available to the PCs, with Blake's 7, Andromeda, and Farscape as inspirations.

In "Confederation Chronicles: A Mobile Base of Operations -- Part 02", I look at how dialing back the power levels and scale might affect the setting, while looking at the other campaign elements shows like Battlestar Galactica, Robotech/Macross, Firefly, and Starblazers/Space Cruiser Yamato dealt with life on a ship.

In "Confederation Chronicles: A Mobile Base of Operations -- Part 03", I decide on the Stars Without Number source material I'll be using to build the campaign's traveling fleet: the Imago Dei and the Bruxelles-Class Battlecruiser sourcebooks in the Mandate Archive series.
However, I'm dropping the Confederation Chronicles part of things, and just embracing a lot of the elements (and ready-made tools, ships, and equipment) in the Stars Without Number setting.

My revised overview is as follows:

The Sol Finder initiative (working title) is a massive conglomeration of ships from various backgrounds with a single purpose -- to find a path across the various Sectors to the Terran Mandate worlds. A cabal of AIs have analyzed decades of data and determined the best route through lost sectors to Lost Terra.

My overall goal for this kind of meta-campaign, is to create a broad enough background wherein many different types of campaigns can be run. There are long-term campaigns that deal with the jump from a known Sector into a lost Sector, and the exploration and adventure that takes place as a result:
  • espionage campaigns to infiltrate and gather information in the new sector;
  • exploration campaigns to map out and uncover more clues as to how to progress toward the Terran Mandate worlds;
  • factional politics as the fleet's progress, discoveries, and own economic gravity impacts the sectors it passes through;
  • military campaigns (from police actions to war) as enemies known and unknown are encountered;
  • new technologies, psychic abilities, and organizations arise and impact the campaign.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Star Trek Adventures: Online Resources 2

Official Materials
Cover of the Star Trek Adventures:
These are the Voyages book
In addition to the main Star Trek Adventures rulebook, the following are now also available:

A Wiki with a Wealth of Material

You'll find at the Star Trek Adventures Resources Wiki, you can find a growing collection of documents that can help fill out the universe you're trying to populate. They include:
  • different sheets and character sheets from various eras
  • different ship registry sheets from various eras
  • links to different species builds
  • various space frames
  • adventures
  • GM & Player resources
  • NPCs

Mephit James' Blog

There are several blog posts here that tackle different types of Star Trek campaigns, including campaign for
 (updated: fixed prime link, added links to the individual campaigns)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Star Trek PLUS Star Wars: The Wormhole and The Empire

This is part of a series of posts that scours the internet for useful resources on the Star Wars vs. Star Trek discussion that is prevalent in fandom -- but with an eye towards a practical integration into an RPG campaign. Hence, the Star Trek PLUS Star Wars title.

In essence, these posts explore creating an additional neighbor / antagonist for Starfleet beyond our Romulan, Klingon, and other friends in the Milky Way Galaxy. I'm not sure how it would be for Star Wars adventurers entering the Trek universe, given (a) the pressing needs of the Rebellion against the Empire; (b) major technological jumps: transporter technology, replicators, warp, and -- my favorite -- the Genesis Device (also known as: hey you got another Death Star, let's make it a living world!).

The first entrant is this set of videos from the Resurrected Starships channel on YouTube:

Star Wars vs. Star Trek (part 01)

Star Wars vs. Star Trek (part 02)


Some things that I do like are:
  • the idea that the wormhole near Deep Space 9 somehow connects to a galaxy far, far away -- and to a time long ago. If events proceed more or less as constructed in this video, then you could have expeditions to the NOW of the galaxy of Star Wars... and what would you find there, centuries after the events in the Star Wars movies?
  • the strengths of Trek (diplomacy, intelligence gathering and study, and an infuriating ability to come up with breakthrough technologies to save the day) vs. the strengths of the Empire (the resources of an entire galaxy focused on war and subjugation, and a few brilliant and experienced strategies in charge of those forces).
  • the possibility of corridor battles between Star Wars and Star Trek forces, due to the joys of transporter technology, and modulating frequencies.
  • the use of the Rebellion as a possible foil to the invading armies of the Empire.
  • the hint of the alarmingly large number of nigh-omnipotent (and omnipotent) beings in the Trek universe as an expression of GM fiat, should things get out of hand.
Some things I didn't like quite as much:
  • the strong contributions of personas like Thrawn and Vader to the conflict; I'd have preferred generic references to brilliant personas or powerful Force users, but there are only a few of these of note in the Star Wars universe (by design).
  • the Organians didn't make themselves felt here? The Dominion didn't stir themselves either? Granted, it would've made things more convoluted, but IDIC does have its benefits in this kind of conflict.
  • what about them droids? Trek may have Data as its sentient construct, but Star Wars has arguably sentient mechs in many shapes and sizes -- wouldn't this be of interest to the Federation (or any one of their allies / enemies) in this war?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Flights of Fandom: Star Wars Gaming

To me, Classic Star Wars is what Lucas had envisioned: a return to the pulpy, swashbuckling, never-tell-me-the-odds heroes against dastardly villians in a never-ending series of space opera cliffhangers and reversals.

But it also transcended that. In addition to the well-worn hero's journey, there was a celebration of friendship and loyalty, and an exultation in having close friends adventuring together and -- despite seemingly adversarial banter -- triumphing in the face of overwhelming odds.

Perhaps, in light of the conflict in fandom this day, it's time to explore what Star Wars means to us in our own circles of friends and gaming buddies -- through the classic Star Wars RPG!

Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary Edition

You can pre-order this limited edition recreation through the website of Fantasy Flight games, if you're eager to have the original edition of the book. I owned one of these way back when -- two of my prized possessions (I left it in the hands of a friend who has since drifted away) were the Star Wars RPG rulebook and sourcebook.

The price is a bit steep, and delivery to my country is always expensive. But hey, if I can pull together the creds -- and pay off Jabba first, of course -- who knows? The system really supported that seat-of-the-pants-adventuring feel, and the starship combat, chases, and melee combat resolution was fast and fun. And there was something magical about seeing all the technical specs, the in-universe ads and recruitement posters, and the pitch-perfect section on gamemastering that nailed what adventures in Star Wars are all about (based on the 3 original movies, anyway).

By the way: these books, for a time, were canon, and the basis for some of the Expanded Universe novels.

Classic System, Expanded Source Material

Of course, if you're not eager to cough up the creds for this limited edition set of books, you can always grab the classic West End Games system rules online. There's a generic line, now in the care of Nocturnal Media, that you can use to run your space opera games (d6 Space) with the same ruleset as Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. You can even grab the supplement (d6 Space Ships), so that your interstellar travels aren't limited to a Stock Light Freighter.

And you can of course go to places and settings that were never covered in the chronicles of adventures a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away:
  • there's Bill Coffin's Septimus setting, which uses the same system, which will allow adventuring inside a Dyson Sphere and trying your luck against clashing factions within.
  • there's Exilium by Fire Ruby Designs, which is a setting that allows you to play post-humans in a planning-spanning setting called the Flame Worlds.
and there are a number of resources out there online that you can search for that support the Classic Star Wars ruleset and setting.

Me, I'm trying to carve out time to read the new Star Wars RPGs by Fantasy Flight Games, but I'm a bit confused by all the offerings. Staying with the classic theme of this post, I'd probably target the Star Wars: Force and Destiny RPG.