Friday, March 31, 2006

Torpedo 1, fire!

Just wanted to pop in and let you know my first review is done and submitted to RPGnet. I decided to tackle Instant Game from those knuckleheads at AnimalBall. You can download your own free copy of Instant Game from their online store.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

FYI - taking a break

This here gameblog will be on hiatus for the next 5 or 6 days as I try to crank out one or two new RPG reviews. Maybe during this time I'll also be able to figure out what the heck I'm going to say in part 2 of Mapless D&D Combat. Either way, I'll still be on the net on and off for the next few days, I'm just taking a break from blogging to concentrate on slightly more substantive writing. See ya next week!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Another great pic swiped from Tangency

Hitler sans moustache!

Visions of the Future

The Traveller materials that I own are kinda light on illustrations compared to later sci-fi RPGs. And more importantly, much of the game as published uses an equally light touch when describing the details of future life, especially compared to later setting-intensive games. Fans who've religously followed the game since '77 no doubt have a clearer idea of life in the 3rd Imperium than I, but the game as I know it leaves conceptual blanks that I fill in with stuff from other sources.

My memories of old movies often fill those blanks. I'm talking about the sci-fi stuff I saw as a kid in the 80's. The original Star Wars trilogy takes first place here, as it does for a lot of gamers. When space traders hit startown in the Spinward Marches my thoughts naturally flit to Mos Eisley. Star Wars also establishes the utter ubiquity of robots and aliens, such that nobody even really notices them much of the time. Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan provides one of my alltime favorite big ship space duels. The burgundy tunics are also about the only naval uniforms in sci-fi that I think look cool. Weyland-Yutani from Alien and the Tyrell Corporation from Blade Runner pretty much define the megacorp for me. Those two films also take the 'used future' concept from Star Wars and push it to the max. The first Alien sequel also yields valuable data on how to run a space marine squad. Those poor sons of bitches.

So there you have it. When I talk about Traveller I'm really talking about Han Deckard flying the Millenium Falcon past Admiral Kirk's Star Destroyer blockade while somewhere in the Solomani Rim some Colonial Marines hunt Nexus 6 replicants. Add in a dash of Sean Connery shotgunning Sting and have the Russian ship from 2010 make a fly-by and you've got my vision of Traveller-style scifi.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

[External Memory] Franco-Prussian War stuff

Minis Rules

They Died For Glory
In the Age of Bismarck and Napoleon III
Days of Iron (15mm, free)
Fire & Fury Francese (free adaptation of Fire & Fury)
Warmaster: Franco-Prussian (one page chart adaptation for GW's Warmaster)
GodFox Enterprises (defunct?) published some sort of minis rules, title unknown
Grande Bataille/Grande Victoire

Minis Rules covering a broad period, including the FPW

Armchair Generals (free)
Little Battles (free)
Fields of Honor (Shane Hensley)
Fix Bayonets!
Volley & Bayonet (Chadwick & Novak)
Command Piquet
Hallowed Ground (Piquet)
19th Century Principles of War - Version II


Silver Eagle Wargames Supplies - carries the UK-based Irregular lines (15mm, 6mm, 2mm, some rules, spaceships)
Old Glory (15mm)
Minifigs (15mm)
Noble Miniatures (10mm)
Arsenal selling Pendraken (10mm)

retailer of books on the period
a replay of several battles in 6mm
L'Aigle Foudroyé, board wargame published in Vae Victis #38, English translation
La Campagne de Loire, board wargame published in Vae Victis #14, English translation
Franco-Prussian War (SPI)
Franco-Prussian War, S&T#149
painting guides for sale
Irregular brand 6mms in use
"The Mitrailleuse in the Franco-Prussian War",Wargames Illustrated #83, 2 pages

Why I still read RPGnet Tangency sometimes

People sometimes post things like this:

Approved for for use with Traveller

Smalltime PDF publisher ComStar Games has teamed up with Avenger Enterprises to produce some new Traveller/T20 stuff. If I understand it right, Avenger Enterprises is comprised of some of the fellows who worked on the T20 corebook. It's nice seeing new 3rd party support for Traveller, and some of the products look interesting. They're selling a book giving more details on the Imperial Navy, for instance.

Monday, March 27, 2006

An Itching For Lead

Although RPGs are my preferred sort of game, I like other sorts kinds of games as well. Mondays I play boardgames, mostly German stuff like Puerto Rico. I have an on-again, off-again relationship with wargames. The last time I was really hot and heavy into wargaming was BattleTech back in high school. BattleTech is one of those games that combines the comforting structure of a hex map with the awesomeness of miniatures. The measuring tapes and foam terrain of most minis games turn me off almost as much as the tiny cardboard chits of the board wargames.

Still, I get a hankering to try some more minis wargaming from time to time. I think I get these urges because I enjoy exploring the hypotheticals of scenario writing. Spaceships are usually first in my mind when I start thinking of minis games, but some historical periods have their appeal as well. World War 1 flying aces and old west gunfighters provide sort of a quasi-rpg experience, much as running a single mechajockey in BattleTech. For a more traditional minis approach (stands full of little infantry guys and whatnot) I have some interest in ancients, but my real area of interest is the Franco-Prussian War. There's at least one good set of rules specific to the period out there, as well as near-hits and general 19th century rules. Pat's idea of recreating the entire Falklands War with Harpoon and Command Decision still appeals to me as well.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

RPGnet ain't all bad, neither

On RPGnet there's been three excellent threads for Doctor Who fans.

Doctor Who Campaign: The Stardust Memory Chronicles - Excellent multi-session actual play report. Reading this makes me want to run a Who campaign.

[Doctor Who] What do you have to know to run it? - Not as practical a thread as it sounds, but lotsa nerd-ramblings about the show.

Doctor Who - His Lives and Times - Excellent summaries of pretty much the whole of the old series by Who fan and RPG regular Topher.

RPG forums that aren't RPGnet

I sincerely hope that my bad attitude about RPGnet is a short term thing. I still hang out there a bit, but the crush I had on their forums is officially over. The review section still has its merits and their are still plenty of fun, creative people hanging out there. But I've been exploring some other general RPG forums. Anyway, here's some other places I've been checking out lately:

ENWorld - Great community if D&D is your bag, baby. Other games are barely on the radar for many users there. Sorta the good twin of RPGnet in that regard.

AnimalBall - A small forum run by some nifty dudes with a small game company. As far as I can tell they run their forum pretty much the way I would: hands off, with a "no big whup" attitude towards the whole thing. RPG Pundit/Nisarg hangs out there, so consider yourself warned.

Story Games - Andy Kitowski's new site. As one of my gaming buddies puts it "more palatable than the forge, more focused than". This place is a little artsy-fartsy for my tastes, but a lot friendlier and more relaxed than the forge.

GMs Q&A - A new offshoot of the excellent Treasure Tables blog.

theRPGsite - RPG Blog operator Zachary put me on the trail of this one. Of all the forums listed here, this one looks to me to have the potential to be the next big generalist RPG site.

Dragonsfoot - Old farts nattering on about old editions of D&D that no one plays any more. In other words this place is pure distilled awesome.

Citizens of the Imperium - The best Traveller message board in the known universe. Covers all editions. If, like me, you find the Traveller Mailing List to be overwhelming, you might find this board more to your liking.

FudgeForum - This site is new, as in just-opened-this-week new. Good initial momentum, with lotsa good people crossing over from RPGnet, such as Dave Bezio (a.k.a. grubman), Chris Helton (a.k.a. cjh, mainting of the awesome Dorkland! blog), and Bill Coffin (yes, that Bill Coffin).

Yahoo Groups - A good place to go looking for specialized forums covering just one game. In particular I like the S. John Ross groups (Encounter Critical, Risus, Risus some more, Pokethulhu) and I just recently signed up for Chris Helton's Fudge group.

[External Memory] WW1 Flying Ace games

External Memory is my friend Pat's term for when I use this blog as my personal notepad. Sometimes I put stuff here, like links and junk, just so I won't lose them. I suppose that would make sense if I didn't already have 600+ posts to sift through. Anyway, I've decided to start flagging these sorts of posts so that you can ignore them more easily if you so desire. Just so I don't bore regular readers to tears (hi, Mom!) I'll put something else up on any day I do this.

World War I dogfighting games

Fight in the Skies/Dawn Patrol - TSR (I still say this was the first roleplaying game)
Richthofen's War - Avalon Hill (my brother-in-law played this one when it came out)
Aces High - 3W
The American Aces - 3W (sequel to Aces High or vice versa?)
Wings - Excalibre Games
Jump Or Burn - Piquet
Blue Max - GDW (Steffan O'Sullivan says to get the 1st edition, with the cream & tan cover.)
Ace of Aces - Nova (was this the booklet driven one?)
Hostile Aircraft - ?
Aerodrome - minis rules
Canvas Eagles - free minis rules
Knights of the Air - AH, piblished after Richthofen's War
Luftschiff - Sierra Madre (and expansion Riesenflugzeugabteilungen!) Zeppelin oriented?
Red Baron - from Wargamer #48
Wings Over France - Lambourne Games (operational level)
Dogfight - ?
Zeppelin! - S&T#159
Wings of War series - Fantasy Flight Games (looks sharp!)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Let me tell you about my character...

A couple weeks ago Zachary over at RPG Blog reported on an interesting contest. Miniatures outfit Magnificent Egos is looking for short character descriptions to turn into figures. You can read the rules of the contest here. I took this contest as an opportunity to tell these poor bastards about one of my favorite PCs, Lord Munge.
Lord Munge, the gentleman half-orc, lacks the impressive size and musculature so common to his race. The bastard sword strapped across his back via a shoulder-to-hip baldric looks far too big for this fellow of only average physical stature. Munge's broad face reveals his orcish parentage: tusks adorn his wicked grin, his nose is upturned at a slightly piggish angle, and his beady little eyes display both intelligence and malevolence. His neatly coiffed hair is tightly pulled back into a short ponytail, tied with a cute little ribbon. Munge's clothing consists of a puffy and frilly laced shirt, rough leather pants with thick stitchwork along the seams, and swashbuckler boots left over from his pirating days. At his broad belt can be found a wavy-bladed dagger and such an array of pouches, vials, and scroll tubes that even a superhero might be jealous of the utility of it all. Clutched in Lord Munge's hands is his weapon of choice, an enruned arquebus. His stance reveals his total confidence that all the world's challenges can be dealt with using his own unique blend of quick wits and utter ruthlessness.
The contest ends March 31st, so get those entries in!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Worst cigar ever?

Since getting married and starting a family my tobacco usage has dropped considerably, but every once in a while I will smoke one of my pipes or enjoy a cigar. My tastes in tobacco generally involve premium stuff you can only find in specialty shops, but I don't consider it beneath me to occasionally light up convenience store cigars or pipeweed. After all, I got started with Swisher Sweets and Captain Black. My tastes have expanded and evolved since those early days, but to say they've refined might not be completely accurate. I still prefer vanilla aromatics over more 'serious' pipe tobaccos and my favorite stogie is a Mexican number called Te Amo that sits comfortably in the shallow end of the premium pool. So given my less-than-sophisticated tastes, when I happened recently to come into possession of a Phillies Strawberry, I felt duty bound to try the dang thing. You may have seen the Phillies line of fruit-flavored cigars in your local gas station check-out line. I've been morbidly curious about these strange stogies for a while, since I recall hearing tales of an excellent chocolate cigar from somewhere in the Low Countries. Maybe a strawberry cigar could be an interesting smoke. Anyway, the tobacco in the Phillies Strawberry was harsh and hard and dry. No surprise there; that's the standard for cigars bought in the wild. The strawberry effect was apparently acheived by dipping this pitiful little stick in the same sort of fake strawberry crap that is used in children's candy and cheap strawberry creme cookies. It's like the difference between orange Koolaid and fresh squeezed orange juice. As I understand it Phillies are popular among the cannabis smokers, something about removing the tobacco and replacing it with marijuana. I don't move in those social circles, so I'm not exactly certain what the motivation is for performing amateur surgery on these poor defenseless cigars. But you could probably remove the tobacco and replace it with yard clippings and end up with a better smoke.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

sci-fi gm advice

The other day RPGnetter brianm offered some great practical GMing advice in the thread Space-based Scifi games:
One thing that I’ve used well is to set up a conflict between two or three big players in the area of space I know the players are going to be in. Nothing on the level of outright open warfare (at least, not at first), but some sort of conflict all three sides will be willing to kill over. Then I describe for my own use their methods and the resources they have. Finally, I’ll describe some low-level NPCs the heroes might run into, and the level of lieutenants just above them.

Then I craft the first adventure based on this info, having the PCs land smack-dab in the middle of some little plot by one of the factions. I make no reference to the larger conflict, and probably don’t directly link the people the PCs will be dealing with to their larger faction.

Then, after adventure one, I cut the players loose to do their trading or exploring or whatever it is they want to do with their starship. But every time they seem to get excited about or invest emotionally in something, I look for a way to tie it into the big fight. And I’m always updating what the different sides are doing. Did a plan succeed? How will that affect the PCs’ lives? Have the PCs done anything to affect any of the competing factions?

If I do my job right, about the time the PCs arrive at their mid-levels or have their feet under them or whatever defines mid-level play in your game, they should be actively seeking out confrontations with at least one of the factions. They shouldn’t understand what the fight is really about yet, that’s for the rising action and climax. But they should at least be getting an inkling of an idea that there’s something bigger going on behind the scenes.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fiendish Elder Black Pudding

A few weeks back I customized an elder black pudding by adding a fiendish template. The PCs in my campaign ended up not encountering it. Which is too bad. I had a ton of little counters made up in case they managed to split it into multiple oozes.

I probably skimped on messing with the skills and feats and whatnot when I made this, so it may not be 100% according to Hoyle.

Fiendish Elder Black Pudding

Gargantuan Ooze (extraplanar)

Hit Dice: 20d10+180 (380 hp)
Initiative: –5
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares), climb 20 ft.
Armor Class: 1 (–4 size, –5 Dex), touch 1, flat-footed 1
Base Attack/Grapple: +15/+35
Attack: Slam +19 melee (3d6+12 plus 3d6 acid)
Full Attack: Slam +19 melee (3d6+12 plus 3d6 acid)
Space/Reach: 20 ft./20 ft.
Special Attacks: Acid, constrict 2d8+12 plus 2d6 acid, improved grab
Special Qualities: Blindsight 60 ft., split, ooze traits, Darkvision 60’, Damage Reduction 10/Magic, Cold & Fire Resistance 10, Spell Resistance 25
Saves: Fort +15, Ref +1, Will +1
Abilities: Str 26, Dex 1, Con 28, Int 3, Wis 1, Cha 1
Skills: Climb +16
Environment: Any evil-aligned plane.
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 14
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always evil (any).
Level Adjustment:

The most ancient black puddings are vast pools of inky death.


A black pudding attacks by grabbing and squeezing their prey.

Acid (Ex): The creature secretes a digestive acid that dissolves organic material and metal quickly, but does not affect stone. Any melee hit or constrict attack deals acid damage, and the opponent’s armor and clothing dissolve and become useless immediately unless they succeed on DC 29 Reflex saves. A metal or wooden weapon that strikes a black pudding also dissolves immediately unless it succeeds on a DC 29 Reflex save. The save DCs are Constitution-based.

The pudding’s acidic touch deals 21 points of damage per round to wooden or metal objects, but the ooze must remain in contact with the object for 1 full round to deal this damage.

Constrict (Ex): A black pudding deals automatic slam and acid damage with a successful grapple check. The opponent’s clothing and armor take a –4 penalty on Reflex saves against the acid.

Improved Grab (Ex): To use this ability, a black pudding must hit with its slam attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can constrict.

Smite Good (Su): Once per day the creature can make a normal melee attack to deal extra damage equal to its HD total (maximum of +20) against a good foe.

Split (Ex): Slashing and piercing weapons deal no damage to a black pudding. Instead the creature splits into two identical puddings, each with half of the original’s current hit points (round down). A pudding with 10 hit points or less cannot be further split and dies if reduced to 0 hit points.

Skills: A black pudding has a +8 racial bonus on Climb checks and can always choose to take 10 on a Climb check, even if rushed or threatened.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I Ain't Been Shot, Mum

A fellow by the name of Daron Patton recently reviewed a new set of WW2 minis rules called I Ain't Been Shot, Mum, published by Two Fat Lardies. That's the name of the game company. Patton describes the game as card-driven, with good limited information rules, and possessing that friendly spirit I like in historical wargames. In addition to I Ain't Been Shot, the Two Fat Lardies have some other wargames they'll sell you. Bag the Hun does the Battle of Britain with "dogfighting rules that do not need car aerials or aeronautical qualifications". If The Lord Spares Us brings you World War 1 in the Middle East, including "camels, arab war bands, sweeping cavalry attacks, opposed beach landings, massed machine guns, gas attacks, tanks, armoued cars, fighting in the mirage, water shortages, trench assaults, river gunboats - and enough command and control dilemmas to test the most cunning Pasha". I'm tempted to get their Napoleonic naval rules, Kiss Me Hardy, to see if their card-based mechanics can be of use in spaceship fighting. All their prices are in pounds, so I'm not exactly sure how many dollars americano I need to give these guys to get the game.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Oh, yeah.

I had forgotten that I have an account over at Uploadit. Here's a picture of my daughter and I from 2004 that I had stored there. My sister Jenn and I were playing Carcassonne at our parents' house when little Elizabeth decided to join us. Jenn had her camera handy and snapped a quick pic.

Ain't she a cutey?

So anyway, if any folks reading this blog were the least bit curious what I looked like now you know. Elizabeth has grown considerably but she's still just as adorable. And I like how the table conveniently conceals my enormous belly. Yes, I am a typical fat gamer guy. But I shower and I don't live in my mom's basement, so one out of three ain't bad.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

"No thanks. I'm not hungry."

Pat (Intruder_W) dropped the above line in his comment to the previous post. It's an old in-joke between us.

Several years ago now I ran an AD&D campaign using a hybrid of the 1st and 2nd edition rules. The game was set in the Bandit Kingdoms region of the World of Greyhawk. Pat was one of the key players, as well as the now missing-in-action Ray St. John (Ray, if you see this post, e-mail me!), and Jim Westbrook. RPGA maniac Thom Hendricks would occasionally guest star in the game.

Pat played Doctor (later Baron) Phostarius, a bard/mage with an affinity for the forces of Chaos. Ray played the Doctor's half-drow half-brother, the cavalier Sir Cleave, who later achieved the rank of the Count of Bronze. I believe Jim Westbrook played a couple of different characters over the course of the campaign, but his most memorable guy was Bryo Phyta, the self-described "world's tallest half-elf". From time-to-time one of the other players would take over the DMing duties and I would get to play Munge, my vile half-orc cleric/assassin.

Anyway, one session Doc Phostarius and Bryo Phyta were exploring the upper levels of the Dungeon of Doom. This was probably one of their earliest forays into that particular underground realm. The players had decided not to tackle the dungeon as a duo of adventurers, but rather they brought some assistance. The good Doctor hired a squad of polearm-equipped mercenaries. The world's tallest half-elf decided it would be more cost effective to buy some attack dogs. So here they were, a human bard (this was before Phostarius dual-classed to mage), a half-elf (cleric/mage? cleric/thief? whatever), 4 or 5 peasants with ranseurs, and a pack of dogs.

As I recall it they were on level 1 or 2 when they ran into a pack of goblins. The number of gobbos present was sufficient that the players considered a parlay, but the leader of the green weenies flipped his visor down like the guard in the tavern scene in Conan the Barbarian. Doctor Phostarius was not about to stand for a freakin' goblin to try to act badass in his presence. So Pat did what would become his signature move for that campaign, he lobbed a fireball. Now, this was back in the old days. Those of you who started play with 3.0 have no idea how dangerous fireballs used to be in AD&D. The area effect for those babies used to be a 2" radius sphere, where one inch meant 10 feet. That doesn't sound like much until you consider these facts:
  • A sphere is three dimensional. Few dungeon corridors and not many dungeon rooms will fit a 40' tall effect.
  • Many DMs, including yours truly, ruled that fireballs always expanded to maximum volume.
  • A 40' diameter sphere equalls something like thirty-three 10' cubes.
So back then when someone dropped a fireball in a typical dungeon it was rarely certain whether or not you or your fellow party members would be safe from the effect. Even with a DM being generous with estimating ceiling heights and whatnot, 33 squares on a dungeon map is a lot of space.

So when Phostarius cast fireball at the goblin leader he managed to toast all the gobbos, some of his own men, and all of Bryo's new pets. The half-elf emerged from the smoke clutching the charred remains of one of his precious doggies in his arms, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Doc deadpanned, "No thanks. I'm not hungry."

Jim Westbrook eventually disappeared off our radar. Is he still in the area? I'm not sure. Ray St. John moved back out to Washington state and we've never heard from him ever since. Two of the peasants that Doc hired went on to earn xp and later became Lords in their own right. And Doc Phostarius continues to be one of the baddest mofos I've ever seen in a D&D campaign. Since '99 Pat and I have talked several times about converting the characters from that campaign to the new standards, but we haven't quite found a satisfactory conversion. Phostarius and Munge were the kind of characters that some folks would consider twinked out, with way too many followers, magic items, and special abilities. Still, few sessions went by where Pat's guy didn't have his ass on the line. Heck, he died once or twice and got better. That's pretty good for a campaign that never featured a party cleric higher than 5th level or so.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mapless D&D Combat, part 1

I'm considering getting rid of the battlemat and figures for my next d20 campaign. The main disadvantage in doing so is that several sections of the rules are designed for to allow for tactical advantages based upon positioning. In this post I'll tackle Area Effects in abstract combat. I'm saving the whole AoO's and Flanking for a future date. But first, how many orcs does my fireball hit?


5' radiusd4d3+1d2+2d2
10' radiusd8d6+2d4+4d3
15' radiusd20*d12+12d6+18d4
20' radiusd30d20+24d10+34d6
15' coned6d4+2d3+3d3
30' coned20*d12+12d6+18d6

*Substitute a d24 if one is available.

Adjust the number rolled based upon foe size. For example, double the number affected if the foes are small and divide the number rolled by 4 for large numbers.

At the DM option specifying a particular target in a group ('I center the effect on the wizard') bump the dice range one category to the left. Crowded groups are treated as average density and average groups as sparse. Half the numbers rolled for sparse groups.

The special 'vs PCs' column is designed to take into account that most players are smart enough to avoid crowding up against a dragon or fireball-lobber. A DM could probably get away with occasionally using this column for tactically-minded NPC groups.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

BBC reports on Star Wars TV series

Well, it looks like the Star Wars TV series really is going to happen. According to this item the plan is for 100 episodes centering on young Luke Skywalker in the dark times between the two trilogies.
Some of you might be familiar with RPGnetter and blogger Random Goblin. Yesterday his wife gave birth to their first child. It did not go smoothly. Baby Oliver had to be delivered by unplanned caesarian and whisked away to a Special Care Unit, where he is expected to stay for at least a week to recover. Mother Katy will be in the hospital at least a few more days as well.

Many gamers I've encountered over the years are pretty jaded about organized religion. I can be one of them. But if there is a time in life for a little prayer, a friend in this kind of tight spot is one of those times. Maybe you can find it in your heart to say one for Oliver, Katy, & the Goblin, too. At the U once I had a crusty old lefty professor tell me "Religion may be the opiate of the people, but sometimes you need the opium!"

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

40K RPG X3

MARCH 14 2006 (Nottingham, England) 2007 will mark the 20th anniversary of the first publication of Games Workshop’s legendary Warhammer 40,000 game system. It’s no coincidence that March 2007 will also see one of the most eagerly awaited events in gaming history – the release of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay (40KRP)! Rumours have been circulating in the roleplay community for many years about such a game. Now Black Industries, fresh from the success of the revamped Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, can reveal that it really will be happening, and in a way no one is expecting. Because there won’t be one 40KRP game, but three!

Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy will be the first 40KRP game, allowing players to take on the role of an Inquisitor’s retinue. Their task is to uproot the taint of Chaos in Imperial society, to smash dark cults and foil sinister plots. It’s a game of investigation and will be an ideal introduction to the dark and gothic universe of the 41st Millennium. Dark Heresy is just the beginning, however. After this basic game, two further games released eighteen months apart will allow the players to progress and explore the universe first as Rogue Traders and alien pirates, and eventually experienced players will be able to roleplay the devastating warriors of the Adeptus Astartes Deathwatch.
Back in the day I owned the original Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader hardback. My group never really did anything with it because all our miniatures dollars went towards BattleTech. Still, I always thought 40K looked like a neat universe to explore. More than once I considered using the setting for an rpg campaign. My usual idea involved the PCs as draftees in the Imperial Army who then were sent on insanely dangerous and nonsensible missions by the soulless Imperial bureaucracy, sorta one part Paranoia troubleshooting and one part Aliens with a light sprinkling of Red Dwarf.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

site update

I've added a new section to the rightside menu. As you can see (at least if I did this right) it's called "Some Old Posts". You can think of this as my self-selected top ten entries. As with nearly everything other link here I put this up mostly for my own use. I got tired of sifting through old crap to find some of this stuff. Newcomers might find some of these old posts worth a click. Or not.

Quotey McQuoteQuote

Maybe chopping my head off isn't such a good idea.

-Strong Bad

Monday, March 13, 2006

Castle Hacks & Treasure Hunts

Here's a page with a neat little rules thingy that takes some of the cooler parts of HackMaster and injects them into Castles & Crusades. That's pretty darn cool. HackMaster is way too crunchy for me while C&C is a little too light. With this rules plug-in suddenly C&C looks like a very good option for a fantasy campaign. Yay, critical hit charts! I really think a lighter system than 3.5 could go a ways to help me put together a campaign that's a little bit more than a string of unrelated dungeoneering. Even with the CastleHack elements added in, C&C looks like a good candidate to be that system.

Of course I just made up my mind yesterday that my next fantasy campaign would use Arcana Evolved. I came to this conclusion after grappling with the issues regarding starting a new campaign in an unfamiliar setting. With straight D&D people already know the races and classes and most potential players have a PHB so they can make their character at home before the first session. With AE you encounter the twin problems of Explaining the Setting (including all the races and classes) and the dreaded Chargen Session of Doom. Few things kill my buzz harder than wasting the first session of a campaign on passing the book around while trying to build characters.

So I decided that I will short-circuit the process somehow for this theoretical campaign. The easiest way to pull that off would be with pre-gen characters. Anybody out there remember module N4 Treasure Hunt? An AD&D module written by Aaron Allston (author of Strike Force, one of best supplements every produced by the hobby) and published during the late 1st edition era, Treasure Hunt ain't exactly a classic of the genre but it does have a cute gimmick. The included pregen PCs are zero level characters. They have some stats and a race. They're each proficient with a dagger, a staff, or a club. Other than that these PCs are a blank slate. No character class. No alignment. Heck, they start out with a negative XP total. During the course of the adventure the DM tracks what the PCs do. There's a nifty little chart. Example: Attempt to use the dead hobgoblin's polearm? The DM marks a plus sign ('+') next to the classes that wield such things and a minus sign ('-') next to the classes that can't weild polearms. Everyone is allowed to try all the class abilities useable by a first level character. When a PC reaches 0 XP the DM assigns them a class (and alignment) based upon their prior activity. So the guy who put on the armor and swung the sword will probably end up a fighter. The PC who used the spellbook to cast sleep winds up being an magic-user, etc.

It's a cute little way to start out a campaign. Newbies don't have to know anything about the class system, they can just try to do stuff. I've seen veteran players enjoy the process, too. Module N4 is one of the handful of published adventures I've run more than once. Because of the differences in system and setting N4 isn't directly adaptable to Arcana Evolved, but I see it as inspiration for how to get an AE game off the ground. I'm not exactly sure yet how I'd implement the idea. One thought I had involved just whipping up one member of each PC races, each as a first level member of their respective racial paragon class.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

eBayers are weird sometimes

Within the last week or two a lot of obscure old Classic Traveller items have appeared on eBay. I bid a fiver on the old set of ship deckplans pictured to the right. Deckplans aren't that critical for me, but I'm a fan of the FASA-produced Trav material and the Vlezhdatl class is one of the few canonical Zhodani designs. Considering that the Zhodani are often protrayed as the evil outsiders that threaten the fabric of life in the Spinward Marches, a surprisingly small number of official Zho ship designs have been published.

Anyway, I was the high bidder for almost the entirety of the first 6 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes of the 7-day auction for this item. Then in the last minute of the auction three sniper-bots leap into the fray and bid the price up to an astounding $52.99. That's crazy money for some old ship deckplans and a booklet. I'm no expert on the resale prices of old Trav materials, but I can't see how the Vlezhdatl deckplans are worth more than twenty bucks to anyone but the most obsessed completist.

I like how the fine fellows at FASA put the High Guard statblock for the ship right on the cover. (Better shot of that here.) Even without winning the auction I can unpack the Universal Ship Profile provided to get a lot of data. Or I could finall try out the High Guard combat system and see how a Vlezhdatl fares against a similar-sized Imperial vessel, like maybe a Kinunir class cruiser.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Quote of A Little Later Than The Last One

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. --Robert Heinlein/Lazarus Long

Quote of the Right Now

I didn't spend all those years playing Dungeons and Dragons and not learn a little something about courage.
--The X-files

Friday, March 10, 2006

Speaking of minis

The gallery for the War Drums expansion to the D&D minis game is now available here. Someone needs to write up a race of six-armed giants so that this guy can be used without invoking Hextor. This whole "Aspect of" thing just doesn't do much for me.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I now know what I want for Xmas

It's not officially announced yet but the rumour mill has it slated for a late '06 release: Star Wars: Galaxy Conquest, the ship-to-ship collectible minis game. It's about damn time! More than any other CMG I've seen, this is the one that I seriously need to get in on. Hell, put me down to run a session of it at the next Winter War. I'm that juiced about this game. The way I figure if the rules suck I can still use the figs for Starmada and such.

My source.

I'm a Disco Bandit!

A couple days ago I discovered Kingdom of Loathing, a browser-based fantasy adventure MMORLMNOP or whatever. It's made of all sorts of stupid. The graphics are intense. Check out my guy! My character Arbogast the Disco Bandit has fought Undead Elbow Macaroni, put on a puppet show fo some Knob Goblin children, and joined the Order of the Literate. And after two days of adventuring I finally found some pants. They're pants previously owned by a bugbear, but that's better than nothing.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My Bluff Was Called

I make no effort to keep up with the products coming down the pipe over at the Wizards of the Coast, but the players in my D&D campaign do. And sometimes they want to incorporate into their PC some new megapower in the latest hardback. I think that my game is pretty loosey-goosey as it is, seeing as I allow pretty much all the material in the core books, the Complete series, the Miniatures Handbook, and some goodies from Unearthed Arcana. But I told the group, half in jest, that if they bought me a copy of another Wizards product then I would allow it in my campaign. Well last night it happened. Doug handed me a spanking new copy of the Spell Compendium. The game was derailed for a while as the party magic-flingers re-examined their spell loadouts. Boy, were they happy to get some new toys to play with! Like kids in a candy store. For my part I regret nothing. I haven't known exactly what weird powers the PCs could manifest for pretty much the entire duration of the campaign. One more book of spells I haven't read isn't going to do much to widen this ignorance. I know some GMs think it's important to know the full capabilities of the PCs. Those people won't be surprised and delighted by their players nearly as often as I am. Besides, I'm too damn lazy to read all those character sheets.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spaceship Zero vessels in Traveller terms

Back in December I looked at the vessels in Star Frontiers through the lens of Traveller ship classification, just to see how the vessels in the two game-universes compared. I recently acquired a copy of Spaceship Zero, which I first mentioned in my piece on Apocryphal Gaming. Here are some rough volumes of the vessels in the Spaceship Zero rulesbook, given in Traveller displacement tons.


Star Skipper: not enough information given for an actual calculation, but it looks like these two-man jobbies are so small as to be less than a whole ton. In Traveller terms that's way smaller than can be simulated by the design rules.
Galactic Frigate: 76 tons
Space Hopper: 223 tons (I guestimated the diameter of the Star Hopper at 32.75 feet)
Star Cruiser: ~2,900 tons

The Spaceship Zero herself is a modified Mark V Space Hopper. That puts the default PC ship right in line with a Traveller PC ship like a Free Trader. The ship cutaway on page 158 of the book makes it clear that life on either a Space Hopper or Free Trader is very crowded. At least the Free Trader crew have their own rooms. Those sorts of luxuries have been removed on the Zero for the experimental Better-Than-Light Drive.


Scout Saucer: 6.3 tons (Small, but not shockingly so. These things are basically space winnebagos for a couple of gilled goons.)
Dreadnought: 400 tons
Slave Ship: 1,000,000 tons
Planet Smasher: 10,000,000 tons (No size is given for the Planet Smasher, but it masses 10 times as much as a Slave Ship.)

Very interesting. Half of the hydronaut vessels are small enough to be viable targets for one-on-one fights with the good guys. The other half are clearly designed to make players say "That's no moon..." The Planet Smasher class Hydronaut vessel is bigger than any canonical Traveller vessel and twice as big as the Titan class MegaMerchant mentioned in passing here. In the Traveller universe only the mythical Flying Dutchman Starship outclasses the Planet Smasher.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Fantasy Artist: Ugurcan Yuce

There are times when I can be a provincial yokel. Save for one family vacation to Niagara Falls ("Niagara Falls! Slowly I turn...") and one night of debauchery in a Mexican bordertown, I have spent all of my life in these here United States. Moreso, I rarely leave my native stomping grounds, the cornfields of the Midwest. Since Dungeons & Dragons and the hobby it spawned are also proud children of Middle America, I sometimes forget the international scope of the role-playing hobby. Sure, I'm vaguely aware that some games get reprinted in crazy moon languages and that France is the homeland of In Nomine, but most of the time I can barely remember that Greg Costikyan got started gaming in the faraway realm of New York or that the UK series of AD&D modules were written by guys who sound like the dudes on Monty Python's Flying Circus. This tendency is especially dimwitted of me because RPGnet is chock full of gamers from Foreignlandia and my dark master RPGPundit is a Canuck living in Evil Uruguay.

Anyway, the nice thing about knowing fellow hobbyists in other parts of the world is that they can turn me on to stuff that I didn't even know existed. Fellow Pundit minion and German gamer Settembrini has recently turned me onto the works of Ugurcan Yuce, apparently one of Germany's premier fantasy artists. Apparently Mr. Yuce has done many covers for Das Schwarze Auge ("The Dark Age"), the big homegrown competition to the German editions of D&D. Here's a sample of Mr. Yuce's work, taken from a mock-up cover for RPGPundit's as-yet unpublished game:

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Freemasonry d20

A while back I mentioned a PDF house called Silven Publishing in connection to a review of a cute little evocation spellbook entitled 50 New Ways to Blow Things Up. According to the review eight buck buys you 50 cute evocations spells for your wizard or sorcerer types to unleash on the DM's pets. I haven't bought a copy yet because my cutoff for impulse purchase elctrons is around five bucks. Maybe if I was playing an arcane caster in a campaign with a cooperative GM I'd be more inclined to spend the dough.

Anyway, later this month these Silven people plan to release a new product called Secret Societies. Its a d20 book with prestige classes and an overview of how secret societies work, but it also contains detailed information on 6 real-world cryptic organizations: the Thule Society, Aum Shinrikyo, the Mossad, the Assassins, the Knights Templar, and the Freemasons! Cover price for this book is twelve bucks, with a dollar off for pre-orders. I must say I'm tempted to get this just to see what author Landon Winkler has to say about the Lodge.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Reality Check, Please

Hey, folks. Help me out here. Am I being a dick? After once again spotting someone on RPGnet bitching about a lack of local players, I posted this:
I've done this once before, but it's worth repeating:

RPGnet has over 25,000 registered users. If you have any interest whatsoever in finding other local gamers, please make use of your Location field. See over there above the main text of this post and to the right where it says I'm in Urbana, IL? Some of the players in my current campaign found me simply because they saw I lived in their part of the world. The same could happen to you, if you choose to put accurate information in that field.

To edit your Location field, click on 'User CP' in the menu bar at the top of the page. Then click Edit Profile on the lefthand side of the screen that pops up. Your Location field will appear under 'Additional Information'. Type in your information, click 'Save Changes' and you're good to go.

Please note that it's totally cool to choose not to make this change to your account, or to put some sort of joke in your Location field. But if you go that route then I reserve the right to mock you behind your back if you start posting things like 'Woe is me! I can't find players.'

That is all.
In the original thread RPGnetter J Arcane seems to think I'm being unnecessarily snarky. I think I got a legit point. Opinions?

A webcomic I kinda dig

I don't normally like comics where the narrator gives the punchline, and some of the jokes are just plain dumb, but I've already flipped through a couple dozen pages of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, so it can't be all bad.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fantasy art used to be somewhat subtler

Among the things scheduled for a March release from Troll Lord Games is Gary Gygax's Living the Legend. Why he continues to crank out more Lejendary Adventure stuff is beyond me. Give us Castle Greyhawk, dammit! Some of us have only been waiting 3 decades now! Anyway, here's the cover art to this new book:
Now I will readily admit to having a dirty mind, but I can't be the only person who looks at this cover and sees an adventurer setting a giant white penis on fire. Back in the day they would put a dragon on the cover of something like this and assume the audience was bright enough to understand that dragon = dick.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Was Zoran Bekric right?

Zoran Bekric was recently banned from RPGnet. Some RPGnetters might remember that name. At least for a time a few years back he was Bruce Baugh's personal bugaboo, harrying Mr. Baugh across multiple internet fora, getting himself banned from some of them for his trouble. If I recall correctly this fellow's main gripe with Baugh was that Adventure! wasn't pulpy enough, or something equally crazy-go-nuts. Mr. Bekric's lengthy RPGnet review of Adventure! was pretty much a hatchet job, but this one passage has always stuck out to me:
Beyond that, Adventure! is set in the period between the wars and one of the threats Player Characters can be expected to confront is Nazism, an ideology that maligns those it doesn't like as untermensch (under-men or less-than-humans). Presumably, the Player Characters will oppose this noxious idea and champion the democratic notion that all people are fundamentally equal. However, the game system undermines them, since the Nazis are obviously right -- there are untermensch (the Extras) and, oddly enough, they always end up being the opposition. Didn't anyone give the sub-text of this rule even a moment's consideration? (The chapter on Roleplaying has the standard literary aspirations of a White Wolf game and talks about Theme and Mood, but there's no mention of sub-text.)

Now, the idea that the text of Adventure! lines up with Nazi ideology is pretty damn ridiculous. After all, a Jew can be an Inspired hero and a gaggle of Aryan supermen can be statted out as Extras to be tossed aside by that Hebrew badass. Still, I kinda see his point. Some people are inherently better than others in Adventure!. That's going to be true of any game with levels or character points. In a fantasy game that doesn't bug me. But in a pulp game where the virtues of the day involve Motherhood, apple pie, and Uncle Sam needing you? Then it seems a little weirder, I guess. Part of the mythology of Nazi-bustin' is that a regular farmboy can whup Hitler's ass in a fair fight. Does that mean every G.I. Joe in WWII was some sort of Inspired proto-superhero? Adventure! as written seems to make that suggestion.