Archive for July, 2012

Orcs Must Die! 2

July 30, 2012

Some of you may remember a post I did back in December about a tower defense style game called Orcs Must Die!  Well, #2 released today on Steam and so far it’s been just as fun as the first.

They’ve added the usual new stuff…more monsters, more traps all new maps (this time in dwarven mines).  However, they’ve also added a co-op mode, which I haven’t tried yet.  You can play as the War Mage from the first game or as the Sorceress, the exiled villainess from the end of the first game.

Here’s their website, if you’re interested in learning more.


Update:  Had a chance to try co-op mode and it is insanely fun.  They also have a new ‘Endless’ mode you can play.  Endless Mode + Co-op = A special kind of awesome!

Ultimate Grand Unified Junk Table – Analog Edition

July 27, 2012

Just for fun I made a post-apocalypse junk loot table based off of the Critical Hits Junkulator Grand Unified Junk Table, which combines the junk loots from all the various editions of Gamma World into one very awesome online junk generator.  I undertook to fill out their consolidated list of junk loots to an even 1,000 items (d1000).

However, after sorting the Grand Unified Junk Table I found a lot of duplicate entries.  There were also several entries that, while not exact duplicates, were definitely redundant.  So, I’ve cleaned up the list, sorted it alphabetically, pared back most of the fluff text, added a bunch of new items and added random quantities for many of them.

I present to you the Ultimate Grand Unified Junk Table, the most complete junk look table in the world (so far as I know 😉 ).  Still, I need to find a way to get this into an electronic format, because the Junkulator is just so damned cool and easy to use, even if it’s not as complete.


Dark Knight Rises

July 22, 2012

Just got back from Dark Knight Rises.  Very good movie, though maybe not quite as good as Dark Knight.  As with Dark Knight, it’s a very gritty, moody movie with a similar theme about the nature of heroes, justice and sacrifice.  It also ties up most of the loose ends from the first movie, Batman Begins.  All-in-all a very good end to an excellent series of movies.

Well, at least, they say it’s the end of the series, but the way Dark Knight Rises ends sort of sets things up for another movie, so if there are hundreds of millions to be made on it, there very well could be a fourth Dark Knight movie.


More MechWarrior Online

July 18, 2012

This video is a few months old, but I thought it was really cool.

There’s plenty of MWO gameplay videos available here at YouTube, for anyone who’s curious about the game.


Weird Adventures

July 13, 2012

I’m a bit late to the party here, but I just finished reading Trey Causey’s Weird Adventures.  I don’t normally go in for setting or campaign sourcebooks, so I’d originally dismissed Weird Adventures as some kind of Indiana Jones-ish pulp adventure supplement set in the 1930’s/40’s of our world.  Boy was I wrong, and rarely so glad to be wrong.

It is heavily insipired by pulp adventure stories of the 30’s and 40’s, but it’s set in an alternate reality that has many similarities with our world, but is not our world.  Many locations and features of this alternate world are recognizable and yet different.  At the same time, the supplement is not a slave to real history or culture.  It mimics it where it works, and charts its own path where it makes sense to do so.

It’s a world where magic is an open and accepted part of modern society, as if your typical D&D campaign finally managed to not only advance technologically, but also incorporate, even exploit, magic industrially.  And it’s a world where adventuring (in the D&D sense) is considered a (mostly) legitimate profession.

Though the book is very light on rules crunch, it’s clearly written with D&D (or the many clones and varients) in mind.  However, it would not be too difficult to use the setting using another system, like Savage Worlds, GURPS or, as I was thinking, a modified version of Shadowrun…to me the setting feels much like 1930’s version of Shadowrun, replacing the ‘Net and cyberware with lots of supernatural weirdness.

In fact, I’d say there’s almost too much weirdness going on, particularly in the well detailed City of Empire (more commonly ‘The City,’ essentially a weird fantasy version of New York City).  Fortunately, many of the strange happenings are presented in the form of rumor and legend, so the GM is free to decide which weirdness is true and which is urban myth.

Weird Adventures provide plenty of setting material and adventure leads.  For example, there’s enough material on the surface locations of The City to run a campaign for years.  And that doesn’t count the often hinted (though not detailed) sub-levels of The City: the sewers, waterworks, subway tunnels and ancient burial complexes The City was built upon…basically endless dungeons to explore and loot.

Though it is meant to be a largely systemless sourcebook, it is clearly rooted in D&D.   I would have liked to have seen a few rules, or at least suggestions, on how to handle things like modern firearms (particularly machineguns) and car chases using D&D style mechanics.  And while some information is given for services (like hotel rooms and train tickets), a price list for adventuring equipment in 1930’s dollars would have been nice, too.

Likewise, more information on how adventurers operate in this industrial-fantasy world.  Do modern adventurers still wear platemail armor exploring The City’s sewers, or do they have more effective modern alternatives?  Is it better to use a Tommy Gun or a magic sword?  I suppose much of this kind of detail is meant to be sorted out by players and GM’s as the game progresses, a process of invention and discovery, so to speak.  But more fluff (i.e. hints) about adventurers would have been nice, especially considering how much other detail is provided on the setting.

None-the-less, Weird Adventures is one of the best setting sourcebooks I’ve ever read.  If you don’t mind mixing fanatasy and technology, and like pulpy adventure, you should check it out.  You can sort of preview the book by going to Mr. Causey’s blog, From the Sorcerer’s Skull (click on the Weird Adventures Index in the sidebar).  Cheers.

Free Art Resources?

July 11, 2012

Just wondering if anyone out there knows of any places where one can obtain royalty-free art, particularly with lots of fantasy and sci-fi resources.  I’ve done a Google search but what I’ve come up with was extremely limited.  I know there must be something out there because I’ve seen plenty of indie gaming products that have used them (or, at least, I assume it was royalty-free art, and not pirated).  Many thanks…and cheers!

XUM20 Free-form Magic System

July 10, 2012

Expanding on my post about UltraMicrolite20 from a c0uple of days ago, perhaps the biggest shortfall of the system is the lack of a magic system.  There was the Open Ended Magic System (I think by Alex Schroeder, but not 100% certain of that), but I found it to be a little too crunchy for my tastes.  I’ve come up with an alternative, rooted somewhat in the Open Ended Magic System, that I think simplifies things a bit.

XUM 20 Free-form Magic System


In order to be a spellcaster a character must have the Knowledge skill as a Tag skill.

Limitations of Magic

1)      Magic can neither create nor restore life.

2)      Magic can change matter’s form, but cannot create or destroy matter.

3)      Like water, magic flows through the path of least resistance.

4)      The caster must be able to see, with his/her own eyes, the creature, object or area targeted by the spell effect.

Spell Points (SP)

Spellcasters have a number of Spell Points equal to their Mind score.  Spell Points are spent on spell effects, and regenerate over time.  Spellcasting monsters and NPCs have SP equal to ½ their Hit Dice, rounded down (minimum 1).

As an optional rule, casters can take hits to gain additional SP for spellcasting.  These hits can be healed magically, but otherwise require extended rest to recover.

Base Spell Effects

A spell is assumed to be an instantaneous effect cast on a single subject, object or area within the caster’s natural line-of-sight.  This line-of-sight cannot be extended through Clairvoyance or other means of remote viewing, though enhanced vision, such as infravision or x-ray vision, do apply.

Damage and healing spells have a base effect of 1 hit.  Spells providing bonuses to stats (STR, DEX, move rate, etc.) have a base +1 bonus.

Increased Effects

A caster spends SP to increase a spell’s base effect as follows:

Area of Effect = 1 SP per 10’ radius; spell will affect everyone in the AoE, friend and foe alike

Increased Bonus = 1 SP per +1 bonus to STR, DEX, Mind or move rate

Increased Damage = 1 SP per +1 hit inflicted

Increased Healing = 1 SP per +1 hit healed

Increased Spell DC = 1 SP per +1 to spell resistance DC or to spell attack roll

Meta Effect = SP cost modifier applied by the GM for more powerful effects

Stacking Effects = 1 SP per additional effect stack, plus any other SP costs associated with that effect

Wearing Armor = +1 SP per AC bonus of the armor worn by the caster

Sustained Spells

A caster may sustain a spell’s effects, causing it to stay in effect as long as the caster concentrates on sustaining it.  The spell ends immediately should the caster stop concentrating on it, become unconscious or die.  However, sustaining a spell effect makes it more difficult to cast later spells, increasing the cost of spellcasting by 1 SP per sustained spell.

Spell Attacks

Spells deployed as direct attacks that inflict hits require a Spell Attack roll:  d20 + Mind + Knowledge ≥ target’s AC.  For area effect attacks, make a single roll and compare the result to the AC of everyone in the AoE.  A roll of 1 on the d20 always misses.

Spell Resistance

Unwilling targets are allowed a spell resistance check to negate a spell’s effects on them.  Use an appropriate stat and skill rating for the check (use Hit Dice for monsters and NPCs).  The resistance DC is 10 + caster’s Mind + Knowledge rating (use 10 + Hit Dice + 3 for monsters/NPC spellcasters).   A d20 roll of 20 on a resistance check always succeeds.

GMs should assume that objects always resist spell effects.  Further, assume that any creature that does not, or cannot, consent to a spell resists it, even beneficial or benign spells.

Some examples:

Resisting paralysis, polymorph or poison = STR + Physical

Seeing through an illusion or invisibility = Mind + Subterfuge

Resisting charm or mental effects = Mind + Communication

Recovering Spell Points

Resting for a few minutes allows a spellcaster to recover 1 SP.  This means that casters effectively do not recover SP during combat, but can recover all their SP with a short rest after combat.

Example of Spellcasting

Mad Marko is a spellcaster with a Mind of 4 and a Knowledge of 6.  He’s wearing no armor and has 4 SP.  Exploring a dungeon with his friends, he decides to scout ahead, casting a spell on himself that makes him invisible and silent.  This costs 1 SP for the invisibility and +1 SP for the silence effect.  Furthermore, he’ll have to sustain the spell.

Spying a lone orc sentry, Marko quickly casts a damaging spell at it from down the passageway.  Knowing most orcs are weak, he only does the base 1 hit of damage.  Normally this would only cost 1 SP, but since he’s sustaining a spell, it will cost him 2 SP.  His spell attack roll is 9, + Mind (4) + Knowledge (6) for a total of 19, well over the orc’s AC of 15.

Marko’s now spent all his SP.  He’ll have to find a place to rest for several minutes if he wants to cast anymore spells.

After resting a bit and recovering his SP, Marko scouts out a room of orcs.  Feeling lucky, he decides to cut loose with a fireball.  Again, orcs are weak, so he goes for the base 1 hit of damage (1 SP), but adds a 10’ radius (+1 SP).  He’s still sustaining a spell as well (+1 SP), for a total cost of 3 SP.  Making his spell attack roll, he rolls a 1…disaster!  The spell misses and now he’s got a lot of pissed off orcs that know something’s up.

The GM makes a spell resistance check to see if the orcs notice Marko standing in room’s doorway.  The DC to notice him is 10 + Mind (4) + Knowledge (6) = 20.  The orcs get a 19 on the d20 roll, plus their 1 HD for a total of 20, just enough for one of the orcs to see through Marko’s invisibility and yell out a warning.

Marko beats feet back to his waiting friends with a pack of angry orcs hot on his heels.


While this system is a bit simpler to use, it is also considerably more powerful than traditional D&D spell systems or even the Open Ended Magic System, particularly spellcasting outside of combat.  Therefore, GM’s may want to place some additional constraints on casters, such as requiring 15/20 XP to increase skills (instead of the standard 10 XP).

UltraMicrolite20 Hack

July 7, 2012

Before I even heard of the OSR I discovered a little gem called Microlite20, by Robin Stacey.  M20 is basically a boiled down version of 3E D&D, slimmed down to around 2 or 3 pages (not including spells and magic items).  But if M20 was still too complicated for you, there was an even slimmer version called UltraMicrolite20…lighter even than the one-page RPG Searchers of the Unknown, if you can believe that.

I’ve been fascinated by UM20 since I first laid eyes on it.  It pares down the D&D experience to its barest essentials and yet retains a high degree of flexibility using M20’s stat + skill mix-and-match system to resolve actions.  At the same time, it is wide open to all kinds of tinkering, tweaking and houseruling.

So, here’s my UM20 hack, which I have cleverly named eXpanded UltraMicrolite20, or XUM20 for short (because X is cooler than E):


Three stats:  Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX) and Mind

Divide 5 points between the three stats; maximum starting score is 4.

You may reduce one stat to -1 to add +1 to another stat.


Six skills:

Combat – Making melee and ranged attacks

Communication – Social interaction

Knowledge – Lore and book learning

Physical – Climbing, swimming, etc.

Subterfuge – Sneaking, guile and trickery

Survival – Tracking, hunting, land navigation, etc.

Select one skill to be your ‘Tag’ skill.  Your Tag skill starts at +4.  All other skills start at +1.


New characters are assumed to start with basic adventuring gear, plus a primary melee weapon, back-up melee weapon (such as a dagger) and a ranged weapon.  If desired, either the back-up weapon or the ranged weapon can be exchanged for a shield.

Finally, select either light or heavy armor for your character:

No armor = +0 AC; full DEX for AC; move 6 (fast)

Light armor = +3 AC; ½ DEX (round down) for AC; move 5 (moderate)

Heavy armor = +6 AC; no DEX for AC; move 4 (slow)

Shield = +1 AC; off-hand


Roll d20 + relevant stat + skill ≥ DC (set by GM) for success.  Not all actions require a check for success; the GM should only call for a check when the consequences of failure are significant, when time is a consideration or when it’s important to determine the degree of success.


Roll d20 + DEX to determine initiative.

For melee attacks, roll d20 + STR + Combat ≥ target AC to hit

For ranged attacks, roll d20 + DEX + Combat ≥ target AC to hit

Monsters and NPCs use d20 + Hit Dice

AC = 10 + Armor bonus + DEX (modified by Armor worn)

Any PC taking 3 hits in the same battle is unconscious for the rest of the fight; immediately make a DC 15 Phys + STR check to survive.  Most monsters take only 1 hit to kill, though particularly large or tough monsters can take hits equal to their Hit Dice to kill (at the GM’s discretion).

An attack roll that exceeds the target’s AC by 10 or more points is a grievous injury, inflicting 2 hits on the target.

At the beginning of their turn, a character may make two attacks (melee or ranged) against the same target, or against different targets within range.  Both attacks incur a -5 penalty to their attack rolls.

Character Advancement

Each time a character survives a battle they gain 1 XP.  If the GM determines that a battle was particularly long or tough 2 XP may be awarded.  Likewise, the GM may group multiple easy battles together and count them as only a single battle for awarding XP.  At the GM’s discretion, additional XP may be awarded for accomplishing objectives or performing heroic deeds.

You may spend 10 XP to increase all of your skills by +1 each, or you may spend 20 XP to increase one of your stats by +1.  You may also spend 30 XP to take an additional hit in the same battle before going unconscious.

The argument can be made that UM20 is rules-lite to a fault.  Witness the lack of a magic system or different character races (the lack of character classes, on the other hand, is actually a feature of the system in my opinion).  I hope to address some of these shortcomings in future posts in a manner consistent with the rules-lite spirit of M20 and UM20.


MechWarrior Online

July 5, 2012

Just a heads-up for anyone who might not of heard about MechWarrior Online yet, based on the tabletop miniatures game.  I’ve been following this game for a little while now.  A friend of mine is in the closed beta and I’ve been able to watch him play a few times.  From what I’ve seen, it looks pretty interesting.  In its current incarnation, it’s basically a team-shooter with giant mechs, but at some point they’ll add in factional fighting for control of planets and such.  The game allows for a fair amount of mech customization, eventually to include external appearance, paint and even unit patches.  They’ll be adding electronic and information warfare elements to the game in the not-too-distant future, as well.

Though it’s online, from what I’ve seen and read so far it doesn’t appear to be a true MMO, where you run around a persitent world with an avatar.  Rather, it seems most of the in-game action will take place on the battlefield in PvP matches.  You will still earn pilot XP and C-Bills (in-game money) which you can use to improve your performance in the game.  It’ll be free-to-play, with a premimum account that nets you 50% more XP and C-Bills and some kind of RMT store (which, I gather, won’t allow you buy stuff that helps you win more, just customize appearance and such).

Go to the game’s website if you want to learn more.  You can still sign up for closed beta and for a limited time they’re doing a Founder’s program pre-order deal.


Happy 4th!

July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July everyone.

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