Thursday, July 18, 2024

Engines of Destruction


So, I'm back on my BattleTech bullshit. The construction rules in the original BattleTech rulebook included this handy chart.

Multiply the tonnage of your mech by its walking speed in movement points. That gives you the engine rating needed for you mech design. Look at this table to find how much the requisite fusion engine weighs. And the manufacturer of that engine, which has never had any impact on play, in my experience. But it is kinda funny to discover that your giant robotic killing machine is powered by Nissan or General Motors.

But what finally struck me the other day, nearly thirty years after first encountering this chart, is that this chart has more entries than it needs

Mechs are always designed in tonnages divisible by five, between 10 and 100 tons inclusive. Walking speeds are always positive integers, generally between 2 and 10. That means that there are some engine ratings that appear on the chart but are mathematically impossible to achieve. My math suggests that, under the rules as written, there's no combination of tonnage and movement that will produce the following engine ratings: 115, 145, 155, 185, 205, 215, 230, 235, 265, 290, 295, 305, 310, 335, 345, 355, 365, 370, 395. Feel free to double check the numbers on that.

Is there anything to be done with this information? I dunno. Maybe someone should write a scenario where the attackers are raiding a stockpile of fusion engines, only to discover they are a bunch of Vlars that won't do a damn bit of good in any mech chassis in the whole damn Inner Sphere.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

I don't need DriveThru. Does DriveThru need me?

Below is the message I just sent to DriveThruRPG via their contact page:  I encourage you to do the same. Feel free to cut and paste from my letter if that helps you to get started. Note that copying and pasting my draft into the text box screwed up the formatting and I ended up re-entering the paragraph breaks by hand.

Dear DriveThruRPG, 

I have been a customer of yours since October of 2004. I don’t know if the 512 items in my DriveThru library makes me a big, medium, or small customer. But I wanted to make sure to let you know that I am a fan of your service before I took the time to complain. 

I honestly do not understand what the hell you are doing with James Edward Raggi IV and his Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) products. 

I purchase most of my LotFP books as pdfs via your site, as I just don’t have that much shelf space any more. I would like to give you money to buy last month’s new releases, including Don't Fuck the Priest, The Butchery of Agnes Gooder, and Orgasm, but James reports that you will not list these three products for sale. 

Do you not want my money? 

Your site possesses adult content features. If you find the material objectionable, why not list them with the other adult content? The idea that there is a level of content beyond “suitable for adults” is the fairytale stuff of secret societies, conspiracy kooks, and prudes. 

Personally, I find lots of stuff in LotFP products objectionable, were they to leap from the page and manifest in the real world. But I reserve the right to read the books and make that call for myself. Why are you trying to do that for me? Are you concerned that I am an unsophisticated reader lacking in proper analytical skills? Do you worry that I cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, an absolute minimum requirement for anyone who enjoys the rpg hobby if they are to function in larger society? 

This situation is no longer tolerable to me and I am seriously considering taking my business elsewhere, even if that means locking myself out of many future rpg products. I’d rather make that decision for myself than allow a middleman to make that call for me. Even for one book. 

Please explain yourselves. 

Sincerely, Jeff Rients

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Saturday, June 08, 2024

more settings should do this

N. Robin Crossby's Hârn setting included a beautiful poster-sized hexmap that allowed for all the hexcrawlery an adventurer's heart could desire. Here's a thumbnail of the map:

Here's a close-up of one region:
(click for an even bigger view)

This is one of the all-time great fantasy campaign maps, but, like so many such maps, it is ultimately a referee's map.

But Hârn also has a player's map, what it calls the "poetic map" of the realm:

"The map is not the territory," as ol' Al Korzybski used to say. Without a "poetic" map, there's no gap between the world-as-it-is and the PC's view of it. That gap is something the referee can exploit.

Friday, June 07, 2024

gamebook glossaries are weird

From Sprawling Wargames by Paddy Griffith.


Saturday, May 11, 2024

Presenting... Professor Power!

So this guy came to me in a dream last night.

Professor Power

Thaddeus Bauman, a.k.a. the Amazing Thaddeus

  • Fighting: Good (10)
  • Agility: Good (10)
  • Strength: Good (10)
  • Endurance: Excellent (20)
  • Reason: Excellent (20)
  • Intuition: Excellent (20)
  • Psyche: Excellent (20)

  • Health: 50
  • Karma: 60

  • Popularity: 4
  • Resources: Excellent (20)

Staff of Power: Taking the form of a golden cobra-headed rod with a ruby in mouth, Thaddeus is still figuring out how to tap into its awesome powers. He regularly uses its forcefield power, which provides Remarkable protection against physical attacks and Amazing protection versus energy attacks. This power only works against attacks Professor Power can anticipate or see, rear and sneak attacks are not affected. A FEAT allows him to extend the protection to adjacent allies.

The Professor can strike foes with the staff, fighting at Excellent level and inflicting Remarkable bludgeoning damage.

Once per session, the Professor can attempt to use the staff to achieve nearly any power effect at Remarkable level. He must make a FEAT roll at Green level if the referee agrees that the specific power usage advances the plot of the adventure. If the power would end the adventure prematurely or otherwise spoil the fun for other players, it requires a Red result. Any other usage requires a Yellow result for success.

Snakes: The Professor fights crime with two large constrictor snakes, named Past and Future, that he rescued from a swamp witch named Angurboda in one of his earliest superhero adventures. The Professor often refers to them as his "lovely assistants".

F:Gd A:Gd S:Rm E:Ex R:Pr I:Pr P:Pr H:70 K:12 +1 shift for grappling and escaping

Although these slithery pals are mostly just slightly clever ordinary snakes, once per session they can attempt a Strength FEAT to do something silly and cartoony such as serving as a lasso or coiling into a spring to superleap somewhere.

Talents: The Professor is a stage magician, appearing under the name the Amazing Thaddeus. When appearing as Professor Power he usually has a trick or two up his sleeves as a means of distracting his foes.

Origin: Stage magician who bought a magic staff in one of those storage locker auctions.

Costume: Black luchadore-style mask with red paste gem on forehead, deigned to look like the ruby in the staff. Disco collar Dracula cape over Seinfield-style puffy pirate shirt. Rockstar type black leather pants. Vintage 70's zebra striped high heeled boots. Well, high heeled for a dude's boots.

PS: I know that Professor Power isn't an original comic book moniker. But that's what he was called in my dream.

Saturday, May 04, 2024

Draft Two-Step Status rules

Hey, we're trying to remove a saving throw penalty in here!

The basic deal here is that the first status of each pair has no direct mechanical effect. Gaining that status is a warning to the player that worse things are to come. If you have the first status and trip the conditions again, you move to the second status. That's where the real hurting begins.


Characters become Tired after 6 turns of serious dungeoneering (exploring, searching, sneaking) or 12 turns of casual dungeon travel (tromping through previously explored, mostly cleared areas), and after every combat that lasts more than one melee round.  Doing nothing for a turn will remove this status, assuming no wandering monsters or anything like that bust up your smoke break.

If you are Tired and you get Tired again, you are now Exhausted. Exhausted PCs are penalized -1 on all die rolls, except percentage rolls, which are -5%. Exhausted spellcasters have a 1 in 20 chance of fumbling every spell they cast. These penalties stack with all other status penalties (see below).

The only non-magical way to remove Exhausted is to take 1d4 days off with only light activity and a lots of naps.

Every time someone becomes Tired or Exhausted, roll 1d6. On a 1 they are Hungry as well. On a 2 they are Thirsty as well (see below).


A Hungry status can be removed by eating half of a day's rations or the equivalent. If you are Hungry and you need to eat again but lack food, you become Starved. Starved PCs are penalized -1 on all die rolls, except percentage rolls, which are -5%. Starved spellcasters have a 1 in 20 chance of fumbling every spell they cast. These penalties stack with all other status penalties.

Starved status can be removed by eating a whole day's rations or equivalent.


A Thirsty status can be removed by drinking a half of a skin/bottle of wine/water or equivalent. If you are Thirsty and you need to drink again but lack water or a beverage, you become Parched. Parched PCs are penalized -1 on all die rolls, except percentage rolls, which are -5%. Parched spellcasters have a 1 in 20 chance of fumbling every spell they cast. These penalties stack with all other status penalties., i.e. if you are Exhausted, Starved, and Parched, you are -3 to do everything.

Parched status can be removed by drinking a whole wineskin/bottle of wine/water or equivalent.


The referee can award any character Dirty status for falling in mud, wading through murky waters, fighting ooze monsters, getting blood splattered, wrestling orcs, being swallowed whole, etc. Taking a turn to do your best to get the gunk off of you removes this status, but the time spent tidying up does not count as resting for purposes of getting rid of Tired status (above). If this is not done and additional Dirty activity occurs, the status is promoted to Filthy.

Anyone who is Filthy is -1 to reaction rolls and saving throws except against fellow smelly creatures, such as ghasts, troglodytes, and fart demons. Furthermore, any standard rations carried are ruined. This penalty stacks with all other status penalties.

Only a full bath and cleaning or replacement of clothes and gear will remove this status.  


The first time a character takes more than one point of damage from a single attack, they become Scratched. To remove the Scratched status, the character must be healed back to within one point of their full hit points.

A Scratched character who takes another hit worth more than one point becomes Wounded. A Wounded character is penalized -1 on all die rolls, except percentage rolls, which are -5%. Wounded spellcasters have a 1 in 20 chance of fumbling every spell they cast. These penalties stack with all other status penalties.

Wounded status is removed by fully healing the character.


The Dim status is applied to the whole party any time the referee realizes that once again the players have been getting away with exploring the dungeon without a light source. It can be removed by one character per six party members lighting a torch or lantern or a single character casting a light spell. The torchbearers/lantern carriers will fight at disadvantage and can only use one hand to do so.

If the players get busted twice for lax lighting discipline, they find themselves in the Dark status. There torches and lanterns will not function; some eldritch force has ruined their capacity for illumination. All activities done in the Dark are at disadvantage.

Dark status can be relieved by using magical light or returning to the surface.