Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's Halloween

a poem by Jack Prelutsky

It's Halloween! It's Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can't be seen
On any other night:

Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.

In masks and gowns
we haunt the street
And knock on doors
for trick or treat.

Tonight we are
the king and queen,
For oh tonight
it's Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

read Jurgen

Compared to many RPG fans I know I don't read a lot of fiction normally pidgeonholed as sci-fi or fantasy.  But this week I started in on James Branch Cabell's Jurgen.  It was originally published in 1919, whichs fits my normal criteria for taking a blind shot at a new fantasy author: the work has to be written before Tolkien and Howard became the eclipsing forces of the field.

I'm ninety pages in and absolutely delighted.  Gives this one a shot if you appreciate the opulent roguery of Vance's The Dying Earth, the haunting dreaminess of Dunsany and the jocular bathos of "Farmer Giles of Ham".  Jurgen is a turning out to be a picaresque fairy tale of the first water.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

May the force be with you, fool.

Mad Science on Tatooine, part 2

Our heroes show up at a mostly abandoned Darklighter Ranch, one of the more prosperous moisture farms in the Tosche Station area.  Most of the people and droids are out trying to pick up the trail on the Sand People who abducted Biggs' kid sister Cindel two nights earlier.  Two hired hands were left behind to repair the blasted door to the main compound.  Ivuur the alien jedi helps repair the doot and she notes that the blast marks were too precise for Sand People.  Meanwhile Rand (IIRC) heads to the outhouse to see a man about a bantha.  We have a brief discussion about how every possible drop of liquid is harvested at a moisture farm, but I decide against explicating the actual apparatus involved.  When setting a mood sometimes a suggestion works better than an explanation.

Tiberius Starwalker whips out his tricorder and picks up the an ion trail suggestive of a souped up landspeeder heading towards the Jundland wastes.  The party confirm that no one in the Darklighter household drives a turbospeeder, so they decide the trail must lead to the fake Sand People.  As they get ready to leave one of the farmhands gives each of the PCs a space brewsky as thanks for the help with the door and all.  The players inquire if my ale quaffing house rule is still in effect.  I don't know about you, but I reserve the term 'house rule' for things that I will use in any game I run, so I agree they can continue to imbibe alcohol once per session for d6 healing.

The rest of the night is a series of action sequences.  First up they stumble across a dozen legit Sand People out looking for the dillweeds sullying their bad name.  I give a 1 in 6 chance that no parley will be possible with these guys and the magic die says they attack.  Blasters and lightsabres quickly overwhelm gaffi sticks and those Tuskens who aren't dead and/or dismembered flee into the night.  The party decides that they may want to use some of the Sand People's gear for disguises and/or deep desert survival, so they loot the bodies.  I decide that for purpose of this campaign Sand People are hideously scared, mutated and generally grody humans.  The head wrappings flake away like crusty bandages.

Finally the PCs arrive at the hidden fortress of the Imperials. It's a squat construction built of hardend duranium (whatever that means) with a dual-mounted laser turret, a floating 'eye in the sky' style security droid and a laser drawbridge over a quicksand moat. The players watch the droid long enough to realize it makes a slow, regular circuit around the facility which they then exploit to load the barrels of the laser cannon with rocks. Eventually they provoke a fight, which causes the lasers to explode when they are fired. The main doors open some Imperial douchebags (pictured left) come out looking for trouble. One of them activates the laser drawbridge just before the PCs open fire on them. Amaiza Shadowslayer aims for the guy packing what I describe as a back-mounted beerkeg connected to a weedwhacker by a length of vacuum cleaner hose. I figure she's going to pop that guy so she can snag his Heavy Plasma Wrecker but instead she aims for the fuelpack. Dice indicate a hit and the keg spews hot plasma all about the place, melting all of the Imperials nearby.
The PCs rush into the place only to discover that the duranium building is the top two floors of an extensive underground facility, with lots of catwalks and very few safety railings. A quick tricorder scans shows a room a few levels down with a bunch of lifeforms crammed inside and another room on the same level, not too far away, giving off a strange energy reading. Bless their souls, the party splits up once they reach the target level. The jawa and the jedi bounty hunter head for the energy reading while the rest of the group makes for what they hope is the detention block. Along the way they have a running gun battle with more Death Squad Commander action figures.

Turns out all the lifeforms are in some sort of evil science room where all the kidnapping victims are strapped to tables with needles and stuff jammed into their skulls. It looks like some substance is being slowly sucked out of their brains. Amaiza starts to unhook people while Ivuur interrogates the droid in the room. Rand Skystar keeps an eye out for more badguys. Meanwhile Tiberius and the jawa open the door leading to the energy reading only to come face-to-face with a Monster Droid. Combat droids are higly regulated in the Galactic Empire, so occasionally the jawas cobble together frankensteinian ones to sell on the black market. What would an unlicensed combat droid be doing smack dab in the middle of an Imperial facility? Acting as an insurance policy.

The strange energy reading is the Mad Science lab (complete with Jacob's ladders and smoking beakers) belonging to one Skullbryn Limbic, a scowling big-brained alien in a classic mad science outfit: doublebreasted white lab smock, long rubber gloves, goggles that do nothing. He bought the monster droid because he doesn't trust the Empire as his sole source of personal security. That's also why he carries a Neutron Whip at all times. I really should have typed this sequence up last week, as Tim and Alex did some brilliant maneuvering in this encounter and now I can't remember it all clearly. There wasn't much actual fighting, as the monster droid's ion emitter shut down Tiberius's lightsabre and Tiberius used the Force to yank away Limbic's Neuron Whip and his Monster Droid Remote Control. However, Skullbryn was able to telepathically shut down Tiberius's agression, forcing him to negotiate briefly. That created the opening for the mad scientist to get away. But the party ended up with a mostly intact Monster Droid, its controller unit and a Neu(t)ron Whip, whatever that is.

Meanwhile an ambitious young junior lieutenant had taken some intiative and gotten one of the tripod-mounted Gatling lasers out of the base armory. His men were setting it up in the hallway outside the lab but the PCs caught on and broke up the operation before they could open fire. The imperial troops routed under heavy blaster fire but the young officer stood his ground, exhorting his men to rally. I described the officer as a kid who was too young to have made it out of the academy, his family must have bought a commission for him. Rand did not hesitate to blow this young punk away even though the kid wasn't actually firing at anyone. Maybe it's only retroactively that I now see his shooting the lizarddog as stone cold. The two incidents in one night gave the scoundrel a definite Han Shoot First edge, at least in my mind.

We're nearing the end of the alloted gaming time, so we quickly wrap up at this point. The party quickly loots an armory they stumble upon. The stolen arms, mad science victims and monster droid are crammed into the back of a heavy transport speeder they find in a hanger area. Speaking of the hanger, when they arrive they see a small silverly starship shaped like an asymmetrical crescent taking off. The fire some blasters at it but we all know that never works. I had expected the party to kill the mad scientist and steal his starship, but maybe they can do that next time they run into him.

Two of the party members earned enough XP to reach level two, so first thing we'll do next session is go through the level-up procedure. Then we'll deal with the consequences of them wrecking an Imperial installation and stealing the Empire's stuff.

Friday, October 22, 2010

two very brief items.

Post of the Week goes to JB over at B/X Blackrazor for his detailed analysis of Basic/Expert hit points and nonvariable weapon damage.  It's a little long, but I found it totally worth the read.

Jim Raggi teaming up with both Zak S. and Geoffrey McKinney is as awesome as a flamethrower that shoots chocolate hundred dollar bills.

Adventures in the Bootoo Galaxy

So here's an interesting place to set a sci-fi campaign.  Boötes II is a galaxy located pretty close to the Milky Way at only 137,000 lightyears away or so.  It takes the form of a roughly spherical cluster of stars only 72 to 102 parsecs in diameter.  That's its half-light diameter, at least.  You could lay out some more stars past that sphere, but either way the point remains that Boo II is friggin tiny.  A circular slice of this place that cuts through the centerpoint could fit on only 2 or 3 Traveller sector maps!  For simplicity's sake, I'll set the effective radius of Boo II at about 32 parsecs or two sector maps placed side by side. 

Mapping a third dimension for this galaxy would be relatively easy.  Just imagine a stack of 40 pairs of sector maps.  The middle two are full-sized sectors.  Label those Z-1 and Z+1.  Above and below them you mark through the three outside edges of the map before you stock it.  Those are the maps for Z+2 and Z-2.  For Z-3 and Z+3 you remove another two rows and single column from the outside edge of the hexmap.  Repeat until maps Z+20 and Z-20 are only two hexes wide and 13 hexes long per sector map.  Those are effectively the north and south poles of our galaxy.

You could stock Boötes II using the standard Trav method of a 50% of all hexes contain a star with some sort of randomly generated world.  Running numbers of yields a galaxy of not quite 11,000 hexes with over 5,000 stars.  You could play with the stellar density a bit.  A low density galaxy where 1 in 6 hexes are occupied would get that number down to less than 2,000 worlds to dice up.

But there's another interesting option: keep the stars and ditch the planets.  The real Boo II is a low metal galaxy with only one eightieth the metallicity of our Milky Way.  The usual astronomical definition of 'metal' is 'anything heavier than hydrogen'.  So only one in eighty of those stars will have a solid world or asteroid belt around it.   The rest will be bare or orbited by things like brown dwarfs, the latter being a tremendously useful fuel source under these conditions.  So keep the 5,000 stars on your 80 sector maps.  Only 60-odd of them have planets actually worth talking about.  Put that in your Drake equation and smoke it: only 5 dozen worlds you can actually set foot on in the entire freakin' galaxy.

Under these circumstances a decent trade route between worlds will probably involve a circuitous 3-d zig-zag of a route through systems with brown dwarfs and/or hideously expensive refueling stations.  Most jumpships will be built with the capability of storing sufficient fuel to make 2 jumps, as so many routes between worlds could involve a stopover at a naked star somewhere en route.  Maybe some ships run with 'hot' fuel scoops and can actually skim stars for fuel.  Watch out for flares, dude!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Episode I: Mad Science on Tatooine, part 1

Last night I had five players take me up on running an Encounter Critical-fueled Star Wars type game.  There was a little fumbling over the handouts I gave them for chargen.  At least one high-strung player was having a bit of trouble getting his mind wrapped around the idea of rolling ADA, DEX, ESP, INT, LEA, LUC, MAG, ROB, STR without knowing what those things were.  But by maybe 20 or 30 minutes into the game we had the following party:

Tiberius Starwalker, male human Jedi with an Imperial bounty hunter's license
Rand Skystar, male human scoundrel
Amaiza Shadowslayer, female human warrior with a mysterious past and a 'Theopolis class computoface'
Ivuur Pefan, female hammerhead Jedi
Awtoonay, male jawa warrior

I announce that the PCs are all members of a small Rebel cell on Tatooine and their contact with the Alliance is a space satan named Queede Zabalus.  The party is to redezvous with him in a cantina in Mos Eisley for their next assignment.  The PCs then have an initiative roll-off amongst themselves for who gets to cause trouble in the cantina before the adventure proper starts.  Dane wins so he decides that his Hammerhead spots her no-good ex-husband across the bar.  The jerk took off on her, leaving nothing but a note explaining how he was going to fufill his lifelong dream of turning a desert planet into a lush, green world.  Ivuur uses the force to throw a drink in his face, then puts on a blindfold and beats the crap out of him.

The blindfold was an attempt to qualify for level 2.  In Encounter Critical to gain a level you must earn the required XP and perform a specific deed that varies from class to class.  For Psi Witches (i.e. Jedi) to advance they must defeat an equal or better foe using only their blindfight skill.  I'm not sure a gardener who was obviously stoned on whatever was in that double hookah of his really ought to count as an equal foe, but I decided I wanted to go easy the first time around.

Once everyone in the joint turns back to their drinks and the band starts back up everyone slides into a round booth with their pal Satan.  He tells them that people are being kidnapped from moisture farms near the edge of the Dune Sea, in the vicinity of Tosche Station.  All the locals believe the Sand People are to blame but the real culprits are the jerkwads running a secret Imperial research station in the Jundland wastes.  There mission is to find out what the Empire is up to there and to rescue the missing people if possible.  Since the PCs need transport, Queede arranged for a speeder to have the keys left in at a local used car lot.  The vehicle will only be reported stolen if plausible deniability is need on the part of the lot owner.

Rand Skystar volunteers to go get the speeder and meet the rest of the group with it at the city park.  It's the nicest green spot on the planet, as some kind soul has volunteered to maintain it out of the kindness of his heart(s).  Anyway, Rand arrives at the lot after twosundown, hops the fence and heads over to the assigned speeder.  Imagine a late seventies stationwagon painted bright green with a yellow racing stripe.  Trade in the wheels for a floaty forecfield effect and add three jet engines like on Luke's speeder.  The racing stripe was to placate the original owner, as he couldn't believe that his first new speeder purchase was such a doughty family model.

Rand encounters two brief complications in what should be a milk run.  While the used car lot owner gave the tired old Clone War vet that serves as nightwatchman the evening off, he forgot to tell the dude not to release the junkyard lizarddog that usually wanders the place at night.  I thought this was going to be a big hassle, as what kind of a good guy casually blasts a dog?  Turns out Rand is that kind of good guy.  The other problem was that the gate was locked.  I was expecting Rand to use the key on the same ring as the ignition key for the speeder, but he insisted on failing to pick the lock, then kicking the gate down.  The whole operation is a bit of a fiasco, but on the upside Rand has managed to commit a new crime (Grand Theft Speeder, Space Animal Cruelty, Needless Destruction of Private Property, take your pick).  Since he is a criminal that qualifies him for second level.

The party zooms across the wellworn road between Mos Eisley and Tosche Station, where they get in just before the place is shutdown for the night.  The buy a crapload of desert survival gear (with the money I am totally refusing to keep track of) and rent five cots set up in the back room for people who don't want to leave while the Sand People are mucking about.  The next day they get up just in time for the gorgeous sunrise and also managed to catch the blinding second sunrise.  They set out across the blistering landscape for the scene of the most recent attack, the Darklighter homestead.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

non-resolution mechanics

I'm a big fan of the Call of Cthulhu/Basic Role-Playing resistance roll chart, whereby you compare two 3-18 type stats and get a percentage to roll.  So my 10 Power versus a spell with a hex cast by an 11 Power witch gives me a 45% chance to resist.  You can use that for all sorts of thing.  You can do Strength versus Strength for wrestling.  Poisons can be rated 3-18 versus the Con of the victim.  Hazards can be rated for ninja-ing past them with Dex.  All sorts of good stuff can be resolved this way.

The only thing I don't dig about the RR chart is its binary output: You win or I win.  Sometimes I want a third option where people are still wrestling on the ground and neither has quite reached the gun or the poison is ravaging their body but they can still get off one last action.  2 dice rolls are the easy way to get these results.  The players roll, the GM rolls, and a tie is interpreted as some sort of standoff or incomplete resolution.  But if you want to keep the basic RR chart methodology, here's an alternative I whipped up.  Click to make it legible.

The basic thought at work here is that the closer the two stats are to each other, the more likely an unresolved result.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mr. T'sday

Monday, October 18, 2010

Irrefutable proof!

The Empire is arming droids to achieve it evil ends!


Here's a page from an early Star Wars coloring book showing some Death Star droid armed for battle.

Image via Plaid Stallions.

quick artifact book update

Hey, haven't talked about this project in a few weeks.  Check out this sweet cover:


The cover art is by Jennifer Weigel while the font is Cup & Talon from S. John Ross's Cumberland Fontworks.  The title and eye-gouging blue are my fault.

I've got a bunch of other neato art by Jennifer and several other extremely cool folks.  I've done a first pass through at editing the text.  I'm trying to use a light hand, doing the minimal possible error correction so as not to marr all the excellent submission.  In no particular order and off the topf of my head here is what's left for me to do:
  • A second run through on the text.
  • Lay it out twice.  Once for Lulu, once for my handmade booklets.
  • Finish writing my own submissions.
  • Finish the list of possible artifact powers (I want to include charts for folks who don't own Eldritch Wizardry or the 1st edition DMG.)
  • Figure out if I will need to do two volumes in order to use all this material.
  • Brief intro note & credits page

Sunday, October 17, 2010


A week or so ago I posted the prelude to Star Wars: From The Adventures of Luke Skywalker.  This novelization written by Alan Dean Foster but credited to George Lucas came out six months before the movie and some of the details weren't all nailed down.  It was neat to reread it again, especially in the context of this 'road not travelled' approach to a Star Wars campaign I've been trying to work out in my head.

Lucas commissioned  Foster to write a follow-up novel, basically to explore the possibilities of a cheap-o sequel.  Lucas wanted something lined up if the first movie did well enough to warrant one but not well enough to get a lot of money to do it.  I think the original Planet of the Apes movies got stuck in that vicious cycle.

I never finished Splinter when I first bought it, but coming off of finishing the first novel I'm giving it another go.  Something pops out at me immediately in the first paragraph.  Writers have tells, just like poker players, and it seems that one of Alan Dean Foster's (at least circa '76-'78) was use of the word 'throve' as a past tense of 'thrive' .  Zak S. and Evan picked up on this construction in the Star Wars prologue and Foster whips it out again in paragraph one of the follow-up!

Ready Ref Sheets poison rules

I like this chart a lot, except for the fact that belladonna hardly seems worth the 10gp to me.


Cyclopeatron pointed this out a couple days ago, but I wanted to make sure everyone knew to check out the first two episodes of Multinauts, a timespace adventure freakout brought to you by the Dungeon Majesty crew.

THE MULTINAUTS- Episode One "Flashback" from Multinauts on Vimeo.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

sometimes players need help

Another galaxy, another time....
PC name help

Human throw 3d6, consult charts below

Male first name
1 Biggs
2 Colton
3 Rand
4 Serji
5 Tiberius
6 Wedge

Female first name
1 Amaiza
2 Barbarella
3 Camie
4 Jolli
5 Meri
6 Shira

Last name, first element
1 Dark- (or Shadow-)
2 Fox- (or Wolf-)
3 Moon-
4 Sky- (or Space-)
5 Star-
6 White- (or some other color)

Last name, second elements

1 -killer (or -slayer)
2 -lighter
3 -shine (or -gleam)
4 -sun (or -star)
5 -train (or -jet)
6 -walker (or -strider)

Droid, roll d12 and 2d10

1 First letter of first name/d10 roll/Last letter of first name/d10 roll
2 First letter of first name/d10 roll/Last letter of last name/d10 roll
3 First letter of first name/d10 roll/First letter of last name/d10 roll
4 Last letter of first name/d10 roll/First letter of first name/d10 roll
5 Last letter of first name/d10 roll/First letter of last name/d10 roll
6 Last letter of first name/d10 roll/Last letter of last name/d10 roll
7 First letter of last name/d10 roll/Last letter of first name/d10 roll
8 First letter of last name/d10 roll/Last letter of last name/d10 roll
9 First letter of last name/d10 roll/First letter of last name/d10 roll
10 Last letter of last name/d10 roll/First letter of last name/d10 roll
11 Last letter of last name/d10 roll/First letter of first name/d10 roll
12 Last letter of last name/d10 roll/Last letter of first name/d10 roll

Wookie, roll d20 on the chart below d4+1 times

1 At
2 Ba
3 Bo
4 Buk
5 Chit
6 Chu
7 Ful
8 Gee
9 Ka
10 Kuk
11 La
12 Lum
13 Ma
14 Pa
15 Roo
16 Tar
17 Ti
18 To
19 Var
20 Wa

Jawa, 3 rolls of d10, put together as Roll + 't' + Roll + 'n' + roll. E.g. Eetawnyo.

1 Ah
2 Aw
3 Ay
4 Ee
5 Eh
6 Ho
7 Oi
8 Oo
9 Uh
10 Yo

Sand People do not give their names to the few outsiders they speak to.
The rest of the party should come up with a nickname for the character.
If the party cannot quickly agree on a nickname, the default choice is 'Sandy'.

Greedoian roll d12, females add the suffix -ata, males -do

1 Baktu-
2 Buree-
3 Chee-
4 Flee-
5 Ken-
6 O-
7 Plaa-
8 Raamoon-
9 Rapi-
10 Thee-
11 Tree-
12 Zee-

Hammerhead, roll d8 + d10

Hammerhead male first names (d8)
1 Ammerha
2 Boolon
3 Deldob
4 Flen
5 Gillom
6 Momaw
7 Murr
8 Neelig

Hammerhead female first names (d8)

1 Cellwan
2 Flen
3 Gillom
4 Haalis
5 Ivuur
6 Oovei
7 Voonuvi
8 Wimmel

Hammerhead last names (d10)

1 Ado
2 Corrob
3 Cranata
4 Habat
5 Ixlis
6 Laka
7 Moomo
8 Nadon
9 Pefan
10 Toreena

Snaggletooth (d12)

1 Takeel
2 Takle
3 Takmore
4 Takton
5 Toogeel
6 Toogle
7 Toogmore
8 Toogton
9 Zuteel
10 Zutle
11 Zutmore
12 Zutton

Walrus Man - roll d6 twice. Reroll if you get 2,1. That guy is dead.

1 Baba
2 Ponda
3 Ruzwal
4 Sawkee
5 Sidbam
6 Teak

[These charts were a compilation of half-assed research on Wookieepedia and crap I made up.]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sand People - WTF?

 Obviously I don't care about any official answer here.  I'm fishing for ideas.  Simple economy of storytelling would dictate that Sand People are a human ethnic group and that crap on their heads is some sort of deep desert gear.  Basically they're the same guys as in Dune, with robes over their stilsuits.  But what other options are available?  Could that lovable mug be their actual faces, with their skin looking like bandages?  Could they be cybernetic desert nomads, and that face hardware is a set of implants?  Are they a race of mummies, based out of some astro-pyramid hidden in the endless sands of Tatooine? (I've often suspected the bounty hunter Dengar of being some sort of armored space mummy.  Maybe he's Tusken by birth.)  When you were a kid, what were your thoughts on these guys?
One of the best figures from the early years.  Sweet cape, pummeling implement, and lots of character.  And everybody is cooler with a bandolier/utility belt combo.

new Deitrick art

Here are a couple of new David Deitrick pieces his son Conrad posted a week or two ago. Click for bigger versions.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

EC campaign draft handout

Slightly incomplete, but I think you can get the gist:

Another galaxy, another time....
draft player’s guidelines for an Encounter Critical/Star Wars campaign

1. Forget everything you know about Star Wars from any source published after 1979. The original film is the jumping off point for your adventures.

2. Get out a piece of paper. Preferably ruled ( torn from a spiral notebook), graph, or the back of a take-out menu. Pre-printed character sheets are for wimps!

2. Roll some dice. Specifically 3d6 nine times. Assign them in order to the following stats: ADA, DEX, ESP, INT, LEA, LUC, MAG, ROB, STR. Don’t worry what those are or what they mean just yet.

3. Roll (d100) a race. Adjust stats and note anything else.

01-50 Human, no mods but see step 7.
51-75 Droid
76-80 Wookie
81-84 Jawa
85-88 Sand People
89-91 Greedoian
92-94 Hammerhead
95 Snaggletooth, tall
96-97 Snaggletooth, short
98-00 Walrus Man

4. Roll (d6) a class. Note special ability.

1. Warrior -
2. Warlock* -
3. Pioneer -
4. Criminal -
5. Psi Witch -
6. Doxy/Rake -

Note that you can add a class later, so you can still become a Jedi even if you didn’t roll a 5.All you need to do is find someone to train you.  If there already is a Jedi in the party, you can begin play as their young apprentice.

*If you have a problem with fantasy type spellcasters in a sci-fi setting just remember that Kenobi was a crazy wizard and Vader had sorceror’s ways. Or just get over it. Warlocks are here and they’re queer.

5. Get a gun.

You will need to zap badguys. Everybody gets a starting weapon of some kind. Most folks get a blaster (d10). Wookies start with a crossbow (d12 but ammo is a bigger issue). Sand People receive their choice of a blaster rifle (also d12, longer range, bulkier) or one of those wicked looking beat sticks (d6 melee). Jawas can take a blaster or an ion musket (d12 vs. droids only). Wookies, Hammerheads, Walrus Men and tall Snaggleteeth who are Warriors may opt for a Sigurdian battle-axe (d12 melee) instead of a ranged weapon. Psi-Witches may opt for an lightsabre (2d8 melee) instead of a gun, but fumbling an attack roll with one before 3rd level can be interesting.  Droids don't get a gun unless they are self-owned (see part 8 below).

6. Roll some gear (d30). Roll twice if LUC is 12 or higher.

1. Macrobinoculars
2. Walking stick/pimp cane with silver head
3. Rad detector
4. Righteous hat
5. Cool Jewelry (ring, disco medallion, etc) with secret compartment
6. Thermal Detonator (5d10 damage)
7. Omnitool
8. Gloves (choice of cool driving gloves or armored gauntlets)
9. Awesome pet (space monkey, dragondog, astro-hawk, etc)
10. Mysterious dark cloak
11. Pack of cards, marked
12. Spaceship
13. Grappling hook belt
14. Daynight goggles
15. Cool boots (cowboy, swashbuckler, go-go, etc) - roll again if you got crazy alien feet
16. Tricorder
17. Commlink
18. TAS membership
19. Flashlight
20. Small hookah and 2d6 doses of some semi-legal herb
21. d6 Ninja smokebombs
22. Oxyfilter Mask
23. Fancy change of clothes
24. Toolkit
25. Hi tech vacc suit (non-bulky, collapsable balloon helmet)
26. Cool vest or jacket
27. Boot knife (d4 damage)
28. Bottle of Corellian Whiskey
29. Medkit (pick race it works best on)
30. Vehicle (van, speeder, motorcycle, etc)

7. Humans roll on the Drama Chart (d12).

1. Lost a parent in the Clone Wars
2. Orphaned by Imperial douchebaggery
3. Loved one lost/missing in space
4. Loved one sold out, joined Imperials
5. Loved one in a Rebel cell on an Imperial world
6. Loved one a smuggler

8. Droid determine owner (d6).

1. Another PC
2. Relative of another PC
3. Other PCs liberated/stole droid from previous owner
4. Rebel contact
5. Unknown, may possess secret data
6. Droid possesses self-ownership papers (not valid in some sectors)

Mr. T Explains

Savage Chickens is a pretty good comic and it features Mr. T fairly regularly.

Monday, October 11, 2010

a couple news items

Three parts of Mr. Lizard's review of Booty and the Beasts (featuring Erol Otus) are now up.  Check it out: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Fight On! #10 is out in both print and PDF!  I guess that piece I meant to send in on Tom Moldvay's modules will appear here instead.  If I ever finish the dang thing.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Another galaxy, another time.

Here's a follow-up to yesterday's discussion of Star Wars.  If you haven't read the comments to that post do yourself a favor and check them out. An anonymous commenter saved me a bit of typing today by posting a link to the prologue of the original Star Wars novelization, ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster and released 6 months before the first film. Here's what the novel gives us before opening with the rebel ship and star destroyer scene:
Another galaxy, another time.

The Old Republic was the Republic of legend, greater than distance or time. No need to note where it was or whence it came, only to know that... it was the Republic.
Once, under the wise rule of the Senate and the protection of the Jedi Knights, the Republic throve and grew. But as often happens when wealth and power pass beyond the admirable and attain the awesome, then appear those evil ones who have greed to match.
So it was with the Republic at its height. Like the greatest of trees, able to withstand any external attack, the Republic rotted from within though the danger was not visible from outside.

Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic.

Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.

Having exterminated through treachery and deception the Jedi Knights, guardians of justice in the galaxy, the Imperial governors and bureaucrats prepared to institute a reign of terror among the disheartened worlds of the galaxy. Many used the imperial forces and the name of the increasingly isolated Emperor to further their own personal ambitions.

But a small number of systems rebelled at these new outrages. Declaring themselves opposed to the New Order they began the great battle to restore the Old Republic.

From the beginning they were vastly outnumbered by the systems held in thrall by the Emperor. In those first dark days it seemed certain the bright flame of resistance would be extinguished before it could cast the light of new truth across a galaxy of oppressed and beaten peoples...

From the First Saga
Journal of the Whills

"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes."
— Leia Organa of Alderaan, Senator

2 brief WotC items

Click here for Dave Chalker's review of WotC's new Gamma World.  Sounds pretty decent, much better than the 3.x era version.  I still lean more toward Mutant Future, Omega World, the first or second editions of Gamma World or Encounter Critical, but based upon Dave's description I don't think I'd turn up my nose at an opportunity to play this new version.

Question for everyone:  Has anybody seen the new D&D red box in toy stores or the toy section of bigass toy stores?  These places are gearing up for the Christmas season.  I think if D&D is really reaching out to the masses with this new Essential Basic thing-a-ma-bob, this is their best way of making that happen.  On the shelf in the nerdotron section of Borders & Nobles ain't gonna cut it.  This thing needs to be in Wal-Mart next to the latest rebranded Monopoly atrocities.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Episode IV: What we know, what we don't know

Let's do a little thought experiment.  Set the Wayback Machine for late 1979.  A New Hope is the only Star Wars film.  That's our primary source for today's exercise.

Secondary sources can include the first 30 issues or so of the Marvel comic, the Holiday Special, up to five novels (the Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Splinter of a Mind's Eye, Han Solo at Star's End, Han Solo's Revenge and Han Solo and the Lost Legacy), the various toys available, The Story of Star Wars record, children's books adaptaions and the first four plotlines of the Russ Manning newspaper strips.

Given this material, what do we know about the Galaxy Far, Far Away back then that no longer holds true under present concepts of Star Wars canon?  What is as-yet (for '79) undefined?  What can we extrapolate?  Here are a few initial thoughts:

  • Luke, Leia and Vader are not related.  Luke's father was a fellow named Tan Skywalker (per the first Sunday Russ Manning strip, IIRC).  Tan used to form a chummy adventuring trio with his buddies Darth and Obi-Wan.  Leia is a perfectly normal space princess from Alderann whose lineage is not in dispute.  The big guy in the black helmet?  It says Vader, Darth right on his birth certificate.
  • Obi-Wan was an officer in the Clone Wars, leading Alderaanian forces.  The Clone Wars are presumably more than one war against some clones.  Here in the U.S. no one refers to the conflict in Viet Nam as the Poor Bastards Who Couldn't Get A Deferrment War, for chrissake.  Anybody who can clone an army can presumably clone more than one person, so as a kid I assumed that the masterminds behind the clone forces (who were themselves undoubtedly clones) also had access to dopplegangers.  Imagine young Obi-Wan fighting five clone Obi-Wans while a sixth clone is busy tricking the good guys via simple impersonation.
  • Per the original novel the Emperor is a pathetic puppet figure, not a cackling Sith overlord.  Real power rests with soulless Imperial bureaucrats like Grand Moff Tarkin.
  • Speaking of Tarkin, he's a pretty arrogant guy.  He assumed incorrectly that the Death Star was invulnerable.  He also assumed that Vader was the last Jedi.  How many more Jedi are lurking on the fringes of galactic society?  Maybe after his brush with his old master Vader ends up spending a lot of time chasing down many different Jedi instead of Luke specifically.  Vader as Witchfinder General. 
  • There's no reason to assume that the Jedi order was outlawed or disbanded in Kenobi's lifetime.  Maybe the order was suppressed generations ago and he, Skywalker and Vader were among one of the relic sects keeping the flame alive.  Maybe there is no Jedi Order.  Maybe Jedi Knights are exactly like medieval knights: a warrior class sworn to various lords.  Obi-Wan as a vassal of Leia's father?  Maybe Jedi had a wide range of allegiances, agendas and abilties.  Their martial training and religious devotion to the Force may be the only threads that unify them.
  • Han shot first.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

DYI sci-fi?

So I've been kicking around pitching a sci-fi game to my Wednesday night group. Back in April Goblinoid Games announced it had acquired rights to the old sci-fi game Starships & Spacemen and that it intended to release a Labyrinth Lord/Mutant Future compatible version sometime in the future. Since then I've really grown into the idea of doing something space operatic.  I've been on a bit of a Star Wars kick at home, rewatching the original trilogy for the zillionth time and going back through the few comics I own.  And this whole Gliese 581g thing is pretty much an open invitation to every game everywhere to start a new outer space campaign.

And it occurs to me that it was really dumb to wait for someone else to put a book in my hand.  My thinking now is to start with Labyrinth Lord as the base, then add a brain-dead simple skill system swiped from either Terminal Space or Star Frontiers and mix with the pretty straightforward spaceship rules from X-Plorers (which I don't think you can buy new right now, as Brave Halfling is working on a new edition with sweet-ass Pete Mullen art).  Then run something with space exploration and laserbeams instead of dungeon exploration and laser beams.

Of course, the other route to go for crazy space action is to follow through on my threat to run some Encounter effin' Critical with this bunch.  Some of them strike me as a little new system shy, though.  That's holding me back.  Hopefully we can discuss it before we dive into tonight's adventure.  Maybe they don't want to go into outer space at all.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Vancian links

Two recent posts on Vancian magic that I highly recommend:

Some Observations on Magic-Use on Reading Vance's Mazirian the Magician

Gedankenexperiment: Vancian Rarity

Winter War!

So I was paying attention as last month event submission opened for Winter War, my groovy little local game convention.  All y'all should come to Champaign, Illinois next January 28th through 30th and play some games.  Here are the events I just submitted.

The King's Own Frankenstein
His majesty's corpse-collage duplicate has escaped!  Bring him back alive before his stitches/the kingdom/all time and space unravel.
six players for Encounter Critical, Friday night

Revenge of the Bad Guys
You and your dungeon buddies are sick of those jerks over at the Village of Omlet.  Time for some payback!
up to twelve players for Monsters! Monsters!/Tunnels & Trolls, Sunday afternoon

Let's get this one out of the way

For those of you not on the internets in 1996, Mr. T Ate My Balls was basically that era's LOLcats.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Arduin Grimoire, part 7

I've got just enough time for a quick write-up for NEW MAGIKAL TREASURES.  Each item has a value in Gold Sovereigns, amount of charges it contains (if any), range if needed and a description.  Most magic items listed run between 5,000 and 50,000 gp in value.

Witch Fire Wand - fire attack plus paralyzation (except for elves, who are stunned)
Ring of Night - invisibility only in the dark or shadows
Wind Staff - clerical staff of wizardry equivalent with a variety of wind-based effects
Ring of Rapid Transit - move 10x for 1 minute, engraved with the logo of the mighty BART
Misty Boots of Silent Speed - walk on any surface, including illusionary ones!
Shield of Defense - 95% chance to completely block any one attack
Gauntlet of the Fencing Master - +5 to hit, double attacks with fencing weapons, usable only by thieves, assassins, traders an other scoundrels
Staff of the Druids - does several stupid druid tricks
Helm of War - +3 to all physical stats plus a percentage chance to intuit enemy moves
Holy (& Unholy) Robes - basically robes of the magi for clerics, in addition to various named powers each such robe has a non-specified immunity and a secret power to be specified by the referee
Slavers' Lash - 3d6 damage plus rotting disease plus save of surrender
Ring of Remembering - reads the history of objects
Hawk Helm - triple visual range, infravision, immunity to fear and confusion
Doctor John's Salve - this is the same stuff as appears on the price list, a thousand bucks for 2d8 healing on 'heavy' wounds only
Golden Centaur Salve - same Doc John's but for animals
Golden Drops of Heavenly Essence - the ultimate Get Out of Jail Free, one drop applied to a single particle of a corpse completely restores life.  Costs 100 grand per drop and "only 21 drops have been seen in the last 1,200 years!"
Boots of Banana Peel - meant to be a cursed item, but I bet my players could figure out a way to make zero coefficient of friction footwear into an advatage
Mighty Mystical Silver Sling Shot of Slaying - each such slingshot is keyed to a monster type, save or die, if save take 4d6 damage
Ring of Ruthlessness - become "100% amoral evil", gain a bunch of stat boosts (+6 ego, +3 Str, Int, Dex, Con), fight as berserker.  Damn.
Javelin of Devastation - javelins of lightning that also drain levels
Oil of Instant Immolation - 3 minutes after being applied it burns for 6d10 damage
Oil of Instant Immobility - 3 minutes after being applied it forms a steel hard shell over anything
Oil of Instant Obedience - 3 minutes after being applied whatever is coated will become your obedient servant for an hour.  Items will animate
Whimsey Wine - effectively a wand of wonder in alcoholic beverage form.  does whatever the DM wants.
Doom Fire Wand - 6 dice of fire plus fear effect

Friday, October 01, 2010

Discovery of the Willenium

Ladies and gentlemen: exoplanet in inhabitable zone, only 20.5 light-years away, 'mysterious pulse of light'!!!
first saw this on Exonauts


The title of this post is the longest word in the works of Shakespeare.  He uses it once, in Love's Labour's Lost.  It's a totally legit word, with other attestations, meaning something like "the state of being able to achieve honors".  Personally, I like to think that ol' Billy put it in on a dare.  He and some of his fellow roustabouts were in their cups and one of them slurs "Well, if your such a friggin' genius, howzabout working honorificabilitudinitatibus into the next scene you write!"

The other day I was checking out the wikipedia page on honorificabilitudinitatibus.  Of course it has one.  Shakespeare's favorite brand of toilet paper probably has its own page.  What I discovered there was that some of the folks who think Ben Jonson wrote the plays cite the word as evidence for their position.  They see it as an anagram for I, B. Ionsonii, uurit [writ] a lift'd batch. That looks like a helluva stretch to me. What the hell is a lift'd batch?

But it got me wondering what other anagrams one can build out of these 27 letters.  Enter the Internet Anagram Server.  Turns out you can build over 37,000 phrases.  I only looked at the first thousand, 998 of which start with "A Ranbbinic".  Here's the first forty six, including the two non-rabbinic ones.

A Rabbinic Fluid Hoist I Tuition
A Rabbinic Hid Foil Tuition Suit
A Rabbinic Hid Folio Intuit Suit
A Rabbinic Hindi Outfit Oil Suit
A Rabbinic Id If Loutish Tuition
A Rabbinic Dilutions If Outhit I
A Rabbinic Dilutions Outfit Hi I
A Rabbinic Dilution If Outhits I
A Rabbinic Dilution If Outhit Is
A Rabbinic Dilution Outfits Hi I
A Rabbinic Dilution Outfit Hi Is
A Rabbinic Dilution Outfit His I
A Rabbinic Dilution Ifs Outhit I
A Rabbinic Solidi If Outhit Unit
A Rabbinic Solidi If Thou Intuit
A Rabbinic Solidi If Hut Tuition
A Rabbinic Solidi Unfit Outhit I
A Rabbinic Solidi Outfit Hi Unit
A Rabbinic Solidi Fit Uh Tuition
A Rabbinic Solidi Tofu Hi Intuit
A Rabbinic Idiots Foil Uh Intuit
A Rabbinic Idiots Foul Hi Intuit
A Rabbinic Idiots Flu Hi Tuition
A Rabbinic Idiot Finish Oil Tutu
A Rabbinic Idiot Flush I Tuition
A Rabbinic Idiot If Loutish Unit
A Rabbinic Idiot If Lush Tuition
A Rabbinic Idiot Tinfoil Uh Suit
A Rabbinic Idiot Sinful Outhit I
A Rabbinic Idiot Foil Uh Intuits
A Rabbinic Idiot Foils Uh Intuit
A Rabbinic Idiot Unfit Loutish I
A Rabbinic Idiot Fouls Hi Intuit
A Rabbinic Idiot Foul Hi Intuits
A Rabbinic Idiot Foul His Intuit
A Rabbinic Idiot Flus Hi Tuition
A Rabbinic Idiot Flu Hi Tuitions
A Rabbinic Idiot Flu His Tuition
A Rabbinic Odious Filth I Intuit
A Rabbinic Odious If Hilt Intuit
A Rabbinic Odious Lift Hi Intuit
A Rabbinic Odious Flit Hi Intuit
A Rabbinic Studio Foil Hi Intuit
A Rabbinic Duo Outfit Nihilist I
A Bicarb Fluid Hoist I Intuition
A Subbranch Idiot If I Intuit Oil