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.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

I saved the timeline!

One of the other participants in the game jam I joined produced a Game Boy adventure called OuttaTime. You can try it yourself in your browser here:

It’s a short game—only two levels—but given the jam was only a month long, that’s still quite an accomplishment. I finally completed the second level and this the game this morning:

The story line is that the Time Crystal has been shattered into six fragments, which you must reunite. Each level is split into two half levels, one half a dinosaur-infested past and the other a high-tech future. A simple press of the B button slides you between the two half levels. The trick is that the two half levels are similar but not identical, requiring carefully timed B presses where you jump in the past and land in the future or vice versa. Very cool.

My biggest concern with the game is the same problem I have playing any platformer on my phone: I have been unable to get used to virtual controls on the screen. The lack of the tactility of physical buttons throws me off.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Bro! Beowulf!

At last year’s Philly Zine Fest I bumped into a cool Temple University faculty member who recommended Maria Dahvana Headley’s newish (2020) translation of Beowulf to me. I had heard that she was a bit of a troublemaker, so I was already inclined toward checking out her take on ol' Bee Wolf at some point. Then my friend dropped this on me:

“She renders the initial Hwæt as 'bro!'”*

Sold, my dude, sold.

So here are my favorite lines from Headley’s version.

Old grudges recrudesce.

Bro, fate can fuck you up.

Any season is a season for blood, if you look at it in the right light.

not living, but living on in legend.

…through perilous passageways, places off-map, paths too slender for company, where sea monsters sang and cliffs called for suicides.

Meanwhile, Beowulf gave zero shits.

Living has killed us all.

Both he and his enemy had seen the edge of existence, tripped and fallen over it.

bro, nobody changes God’s mind.

now they were custodians of the bloody mud. [referring to the winners of a battle.]

He was our man, but every man dies.

*How to convey the proper tone and meaning of the first word of the poem, Hwæt, is a long-running problem among translators and adapters. Seamus Heaney's otherwise much-admired version stumbles out of the gate with a bloodless "So.", while Roy Liuzza's more scholarly translation manages to be both unimaginative yet strong with "Listen!" Tolkien opts for "Lo!", which I quite like. In grad school I vigorously argued for "Yo!" But since everything I know about the Anglo-Saxon language fits neatly into a single lecture suitable for undergrads, no one listened. Headley goes all-in with her choice of "bro!", turning the bleak landscape of Dark Ages Scandahoovia into a romping ground for braggy jocks.
Dennis Mize's Beowulf & Grendel (Ral 01-189) figured into my Beowulf slide deck back when I taught this stuff on the regular. The parallel poses helped me make the case that in some ways the two characters are apposite as well as opposite.


Tuesday, April 09, 2024

a pretty clever alternative to 3d printing

In the Star Fleet Battles facebook group there's a guy named Larry who has been using a laser cutter to make pretty decent looking flat minis. Dig it:

The hexagons are custom bases, presumably the two will be connected by some sort of dowel rod.

Jim Stevenson's Starship Schematics Database ought to be chock full of image files that could be used for this sort of thing.

And of course you could do flat upright D&D figures this way, rotating the view to the front or side rather than top. You'd just need good black and white art.