Archive for May, 2013

New S&W Whitebox Class – The Space-Age Sorcerer

May 27, 2013

Just playing around with a new class idea for Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, inspired by Hereticwerks recent supplement, Space-Age Sorcery (which you’ll need to use this class; you may also want to pick up Gorgonmilk’s Dungeon Funk Table, as well).

Frank Frazetta's take on a space-age sorcerer?

Frank Frazetta’s take on a space-age sorcerer?

Rather than spending decades in study and training, the sorcerer is looking for a quick and easy path to power.  However, power never comes cheap; there’s always a price to pay and for the sorcerer it comes in the form of dire consequences.  The alien gods whispering in your head don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind.

The Space-Age Sorcerer

WH40K Ultramarines Movie

May 26, 2013


So I had a chance to watch the Warhammer 40K Ultramarines movie on Netflix, based on the tabletop miniatures wargame.  It’s a full CGI movie and I have to say they did a pretty decent job with the animation.  The Space Marines move a little weird in their power armor, but otherwise not bad.

For those who are fans of WH40K fluff, the movie does a good job of capturing the mood and tone of the game: massive gothic architecture, dark foreboding future, doom and gloom, Space Marine litanies and all the rest.

Unfortunately, for a movie about Space Marines you’d think there’d be more shooting and battles.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s some fighting and action, but it’s mostly mooding and brooding on a desolate planet.  The movie does drag a bit, though it’s only a bit over an hour long so they don’t keep you hanging too long.  If you’re a nerd for the WH40K setting (like I am) you may not notice the slow parts as much because you’ll be drooling over all the ‘grim-dark’ details they capture in the movie.

There's shooting in the movie, but nothing this epic.

There’s shooting in the movie, but nothing this epic.

If you’re a fan of the game (or just the setting) you should catch the movie, if you haven’t already.  If you have no idea what WH40K is about, it could be a good intro to the game/setting, though you’ll probably find that the movie is slow in parts.

Campaign Idea I’m Totally Going to Steal

May 22, 2013

Paul at the Blog of Holding recently posted about an unpublished, unnamed campaign setting for 2nd Edition AD&D.  My take on it is, the good guys lost some kind of apocalyptic war, the world is covered with clouds (which I’ll call ‘the Gloom’) and the last few survivors live on top of mountains that jut up out of the Gloom.  In my mind, these are massive, vault-like cities which extend for miles below the surface (where most survivors live).  The last few mountain-vaults stay in communication with one another via sky ships of some sort.

Now, it sounds like the original premise was going to be fairly straight-up fantasy (you know, flying wooden sailing ships and all that), but I think I’d go with a more steam-punk take on it.  An early industrial setting with relatively low levels of magic, most of which are relics predating even the Gloom.  The mountain vaults are maintained largely by massive steam machines and analytical engines (constantly in danger of failing, and thus in need of rare parts).

A mithril plated, steam powered skyship.

A mithril plated, steam powered skyship.

The few remaining sky ships are mithril-plated, steam-powered, probably with a few cannon to discourage sky raiders or flying monsters.  The means to produce new sky ships is lost, so they are increasingly rare as they break down, are shot down or simply disappear into the Gloom, never to be seen again.  Few captains are willing to risk flying their ships below the clouds, and then only for a really good reason.

The PCs are scavengers and salvagers (naturally) who venture down into the Gloom to find relics and salvage equipment not easily obtained in the vaults.  Below the clouds they must contend with savage hordes of goblinoids and outcast river raiders, venture into lost cities ruled by the undead or explore lost vaults whose inhabitants have regressed to morlock barbarism.

Guns exist, lethal and rare; ammunition is scarce and quite expensive.  Most of the denizens of the Gloom are savages so salvage teams can usually get by with bows, pikes and swords.  You break out the guns for those ‘oh shit’ situations, when you’re really in trouble.  If you’ve got a mad scientist on your team, he may be able to concoct some kind of rocket launcher (read: fireball) or lightning gun to help even the odds.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine how simple savages could defeat an established, industrial society (with some magic, no less).  My first thought is some kind of contagion that decimates the world’s population.  Maybe weaponized/aerosol green slime (the ‘Green Death’)?  Though the idea of apocalyptic cities filled with undead is kind of appealing, too.  So, maybe some kind of biological weapon that turned most people into ghouls?  Maybe both.  The Gloom followed in the contagion’s wake, the nail in civilization’s coffin, so to speak; it made living on the surface nearly impossible, especially with such a depleted population base.  The mountain vaults were the only refuges left.  The origin of the Gloom is a mystery for the player’s to discover (or not, as they desire).

As far as anyone knows, dragons (and most similar fantasy monsters) went extinct long ago.  There’ll still be elves and dwarves and evil lizardmen, but they’re accompanied by half-ogres, mutants, morlocks and steambots controlled by insane analytical engines.  Fighters, rogues and priests are joined by mad scientists and medics.  Part of me really wants to incorporate Space-Age Sorcery as well, but the more I think about things, the more I’m de-emphasizing magic; some of it might be a little too over-the-top for this setting.

If you’ve got any ideas or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  Cheers!

Star Trek Into Darkness

May 17, 2013


Saw the latest Star Trek movie tonight and must say that it is a very fine film.  Benedict Cumberbatch makes an excellent villain (and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, so I won’t say who).  Lots of shooting and action (like most of the Star Trek movies).  Special effects are amazing (par for the course, these days).  And plenty of nods to the original series (a tribble and a reference to nurse Chapel, among others).

One thing I’ve like about the reboots is that the ships have a hard, industrial look (especially the engineering sections), rather than being sleek TV sets.  I really liked the warp core reactor in this movie; instead of a glowing glass tube, it really looks like a massive piece of industrial equipment that just pumps out energy and lethal radiation.  Very nice touch.

So, if you liked the first reboot, you should like Into Darkness, too.  I’d pay full price for this one (if I had to 🙂 ).

Relics & Ruins – Skills

May 16, 2013

Skills are percentile based.  Roll d100 equal to or under the appropriate skill rating.  The only modifier is for ‘hardcore’ (i.e. difficult) actions, which are at 1/2 rating (rounded down).

A skill’s base rating is determined by adding together two related ability scores.  For example, the Shooting skill uses Dexterity and Perception.  If a character’s Dexterity is 11 and Perception is 13, then base Shooting is 24.

Every player can also select one ‘pip’ skill (well, pure humans get 2 pip skills, and certain mutations may allow a character to pick additional pip skills as well).  Once a pip skill is chosen, it can’t be changed.  Simply add 30 points to the pip skill’s base rating.  In the example above, if Shooting were chosen as the character’s pip skill, then the rating would be 54.  In addition, each skill grants a special ‘pip’ bonus, available only to characters taking them as pip skills.

My guiding philosophy is simpler is better, so I’m going with a smaller list of broad skills rather than a kitchen-sink list of narrowly defined skills.  I think this’ll lend more flexibility and versatility to the game.  So with that in mind, here’s a tentative list of skills:


Shooting (Dex + Per) = All ranged/missile attacks.  Pip: +1 damage to all ranged/missile attacks

Fighting (Str + Dex) = All melee/hand-to-hand attacks; Fighting can also be a stand-in for dodging (i.e. Reflex type saves).  Pip: +1 damage to all melee/unarmed attacks.

Psychic (Per + Will) = Used to resist psychic mutations; perhaps also a stand-in as a general social skill.  Pip: Character gets a free psychic ability; only mutants can take this as a pip skill.

Tech (Dex + Int) = Using and repairing technological devices.  Pip: Character gains +1 Maximum Item Complexity.

Scavenging (Int + Per) = Finding salvageable technology, and stands-in as a general searching and awareness skill.  Pip: Character starts with 10 additional pieces of salvage.

Survival (Con + Will) = Knowledge of land navigation, tracking, wasteland hazards and finding water, food and shelter in the wastelands.  Pip:  +5 hit points.

Stealth (Dex + Will) = Sneaking, hiding and general thieving skill.  Pip:  ? (not sure yet)


Resilience (Str + Con) = Resistance to physical hazards, such as radiation, disease, toxins, and a general athletics skill (swimming, climbing, etc.).  Pip: Movement bonus maybe?  Not sure on this one yet, either.

Well, you get the idea.  I may add one or two additional skills.  When adding new skills, the skill rating should be based on the scores of two different abilities, rather than multiplying a single ability by 2.  This gives a less swingy distribution.

As there are no character levels in Relics & Ruins, skills improve by use.  Specifically, by failing skill checks, on the theory that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.  Only problem is, in the world of Relics & Ruins, failure may kill you. 🙂  Every time a skill attempt is made during an adventure, or for an action with meaningful consequences for failure, if the skill check fails the skill’s base rating improves by 1 point.  It’s important that GM’s don’t allow players to ‘grind’ up skills during down-time when they don’t face meaningful consequences for failure – no risk, no reward, period.

I think I’ll cover mutations next, but that may take a while to put together.  Cheers.

<< 2) Primary & Derived Attributes


May 9, 2013

Neverwinter is Cryptic’s new free-to-play MMO based on the Neverwinter D&D franchise.  Open beta began about a week ago, so anyone can download the game and give it a go (it’s about a 3.5 Gigs).

The game is loosely modeled on 4th Edition D&D, but heavily MMO-ized.  It’s an action-oriented game, having more in common with, say, Diablo, than World of Warcraft.  The beta launched with 7 standard D&D races and 5 basic classes, though they promise to gradually release more races and classes over time.

For classes, you’ve got your basic fighters, clerics, rogues and wizards.  However, Neverwinter classes are structured more like 4E class builds, rather than as customizable templates.  For example, the magic-user class is called a ‘control wizard’ and specializes in crowd control.  This implies that in the future they’ll release different wizard ‘build’ classes, perhaps one that specializes in nuking.  This idea is further reflected in the two fighter classes, one using two-handed weapons and the other using sword-n-board.  Over time there will probably be many variations of ‘build’ classes, several for each core class.  Rumor is, one of the next classes to be released will be a Ranger Archer class.  Max level is 60.

Every class gets its own set of ‘powers,’ broken down into the 4E model of At-Will, Encounter and Daily.  You can equip up to two At-Will powers (activated using left/right mouse buttons), 3 Encounter powers (activated using Q, E and R buttons) and 2 Daily powers (activated by hitting 1 or 2).  Each class has several of each power to choose from, so you can swap them to suit your needs and/or play-style.  At-Wills can be used anytime, just by clicking your mouse buttons; Encounter powers operated on a standard MMO cool-down timer (usually 10-20 seconds); and the Daily power can be activated once you’ve built up enough Action Points.  Different classes build up Action Points in different ways, but it usually involves violence of some sort.

Another thing about the classes, they are extremely gear restricted.  For example, Great Weapon Fighters can only use two-handed swords.  There are no two-handed axes or two-handed polearms.  And you can’t equip a GWF with a longsword or a dagger.  I know that in other games this kind of limitation would have bothered the hell out of me,  but with NWO I was so engrossed in the action I hardly even noticed it.  And for what it’s worth, the game is very generous with the loot drops, so it’s generally not difficult to equip your character.

As you progress in levels you earn points to buy new powers, or to enhance existing powers.  You also earn ‘feat’ points, which work more or less like standard MMO talent trees.  Every 10 levels you can boost your ability scores.

Along the way you can pick up companions, which work very similar to companions from Star Wars: The Old Republic.  However, as the companions are sort of generic and interchangeable, they don’t have any personality and no back-story of their own (unlike SWTOR companions).  You can get companions to heal you, or tank for you.  You can get pet companions (even a honey badger!) or even use IOUN stones as companions.  Companions level as you play and they have a few equipping options, though not nearly to the same extent as your PC.

NWO also has a crafting system they call ‘Professions,’ which is basically getting hirelings to do menial work for you while you go out and have fun killing stuff (and taking their loot).  Professions are leveled by having your hirelings work a profession and, as you progress, you gain the ability to perform more (and better) tasks.  Eventually you can have up to 9 profession tasks going at once.  In my experience, professions seem to take a great deal of time to advance.  Even at level 3 some of my profession tasks take 4+ hours to complete.  There are ways to reduce the time required (including a ‘buy out’ option) but so far I haven’t acquired any means of doing so.

In terms of content, there are plenty of single player quests to keep you going.  The game is divided into level-appropriate zones (fairly standard fair in MMO design now).  Each zone has enough quests that you can solo to progress to the next area.  But in addition, most zones have 5-player skirmishes and dungeons you can qeue up for.  There’s also PvP and many areas have periodic contests that are open to everyone in the zone.

And that brings me to what is probably the most revolutionary aspect of NWO: The Foundry.  Paying homage to the origins of Neverwinter Nights, the game provides an option for players to create their own adventures and release them to the rest of the community.  Unfortunately, I don’t have much experience with the Foundry yet, as I’ve been having so much fun with the rest of the game, but it’s high on my list of things to do next in the game.  Also, Foundry adventures can be rated by players, so you can weed out the lame ones.

Fair warning, NWO makes its money from micro-transactions, and they hit that aspect of the game up pretty hard.  Zen is Cryptic’s special currency for buying special items, like mounts, companions (the aforementioned honey badger, for instance), apparel, respec tokens, additional character slots and more.  However, from what I’ve seen so far, it is entirely possibly to play the game just fine without ever spending a dime, if that’s what you want (though I’m seriously thinking about picking up that honey badger 🙂 Honey badgers are bad-assed!).  There’s even a mechanism for selling astral diamonds (the game’s primary currency) for Zen, though I gather it’d take a LOT of astral diamonds to get a decent amount of Zen.

I’ve encountered a few bugs so far, but nothing game breaking.  And the game could do with more variety in gear itemization (like, why can’t the Great Weapon Fighter use two-handed axes/polearms in addition to two-handed swords?)  However, this ‘beta’ game seems far more complete to me than many ‘finished’ MMOs I’ve played recently (looking at you, Defiance).  There’s plenty to do with a solid ‘actiony’ combat system.

If you’re a fan of MMO’s, you should check it out.  However, if you’re looking for a more authentic D&D experience, this probably isn’t the game for you (D&D Online may be what you’re looking for, though).

Relics & Ruins – Primary and Derived Abilities

May 8, 2013

Primary Abilities

Simply roll 3d6 for each primary ability, in order.  Naturally, GM’s could house-rule other, more forgiving, methods of generating ability scores, but they won’t be part of the ‘official’ rules.

So, the six primary abilities:

Strength – Modifies melee damage, and how much stuff you can carry.

Constitution – Determines hit points.

Dexterity – Mainly used for skills; optionally, modifies initiative rolls.

Intelligence – Modifies a character’s Maximum Item Complexity; also modifies logic reaction rolls.

Perception – Mainly used for skills; optionally, modifies surprise rolls.

Willpower – Determines hit points; modifies social reaction rolls.

As you can see, Perception is substituted for Wisdom, and Willpower for Charisma, from the standard D&D abilities.  They just seemed a better fit to me for a post-apocalyptic game.

Score        Modifier

1-6                 -1

7-14                0

15+               +1


Derived Abilities

Armor – Characters have base armor 0, unless they have a mutation that gives them some form of natural armor.  Armor is acquired by junk rigging pieces of salvage (more on this later).  Armor reduces the amount of damage taken from physical attacks.

Hit Points (HP) = Constitution score + Willpower score; characters reduced to 0 (or fewer) HP typically die, though should they manage to survive the experience their hit points permanently increase by 1.

Encumbrance – R&R uses what is in effect an ‘inventory slot’ system.  Characters have a number of encumbrance slots equal to their Strength score.  This limit assumes the use of backpacks, satchels, bags, pouches and the like.  Each slot holds one item, though several smaller, similar, items can be grouped into a slot (for example, a bunch of grenades).

The first three encumbrance slots are referred to as ‘Ready Slots’ (denoted with an ‘R’).  These are items you keep close at hand and can be drawn immediately, without having to take time search for them.  You’ll want to keep weapons, emergency medical supplies and other items that you might need to access quickly in your ready slots.

Encumbrance slots are hard limited, and for two reasons:  1) PC resource management and 2) to encourage players to use junk-rigging to combine their salvage into more complex items.  Naturally, players can hire porters or acquire pack-animals, wagons, vehicles to haul more junk around.  But that will cost them salvage, slow them down and make big targets for raiders.

Maximum Item Complexity (MIC) – Max Item Complexity is used in junk rigging to limit the number of pieces of salvage that can be combined into a single item.  All characters have a base MIC of 2, modified by their Intelligence.  Pure Humans gain +1 MIC, and characters that take Tech as a ‘pip’ skill gain an additional +1 MIC.  MIC will max out at around 5.

Next up, Skills.  Cheers.

<< 1) Relics & Ruins – Races               3) Relics & Ruins – Skills >>

Relics & Ruins – A Post-Apocalyptic Game Project

May 6, 2013

A few years ago I wrote a post-apocalyptic RPG called Relics & Ruins.  It was my first attempt at an ‘old school’ type game, based on Microlite74/Microlite20.  On the Microlite20 site it had close to 400 downloads, though I have no evidence that anyone ever actually played the game.  Ah well.

As I am in need of blog fodder, I decided to write v2 of the game as an ongoing project, though it will end up being quite different from the M74 version.  And even though the game will be significantly different, I’m recycling the Relics & Ruins title because 1) I’ve always liked it and 2) I suck at coming up with decent names for stuff.

So here’s what I know about it so far:

  • The game will nominally be based on Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, though the final output will vary significantly
  • It’ll still be post-apocalypse, on the gonzo side
  • It’ll be percentile, skill-oriented; no classes or levels
  • It’ll be a fairly lethal game by design (one reason I didn’t want to incorporate character levels)

Things may change as I come up with new (hopefully better) ideas.


R&R – ‘Races’

So, to kick this off I’ll start with the ‘races’ (for lack of a better term).  Note that some concepts presented herein will be clarified and expanded upon in later posts.  Sorry for that, but it’s the nature of the project.

Pure Human

A pure, un-mutated survivor of the apocalypse, probably living in a sealed bunker or vault (until recently, that is).

  • Pure humans are better educated; they start with 2 ‘pip’ skills
  • Humans have a better grasp of ancient technology; +1 to maximum item complexity (note, this builds on a previous post about junk-rigging for post-apocalypse games)
  • Humans are often idealized, and ancient machines were (usually) designed to interact positively with humans; therefore, they receive +1 to social and logic (machine) reaction rolls


It wouldn’t be the apocalypse without mutants, and it wouldn’t be any fun if you couldn’t play a mutant.  For the purposes of Relics & Ruins, I’m assuming mutant humanoids, though if the GM wants anthropomorphic mutant animals or plants, feel free to pump up the gonzo.

  • Roll four random mutations; they could be good or bad (the tables will be weighted about 75% in favor of beneficial mutations and 25-ish% defects)

Currently I’m leaning towards less gonzo-style mutations (no laser eyebeams), but may create an optional ‘gonzo’ mutation table.


Cyborgs are relics of Ancient wars, or perhaps created by insane A.I. or a mad scientist hiding out in a bunker somewhere.  They’re essentially half-human/half-machine, with many vital organs replaced by mechanical parts (though not the heart or brain).  These cyborgs look hard, with obvious mechanical implants, not sleek and sexy like something out of Shadowrun.

  • Cyborgs require half the food, water and sleep as normal humans, though they do require nominal amounts of power for their machine parts
  • Anything that affects a machine (like EMP) has 1/2 effect on a cyborg (so, for example, cyborgs take 1/2 damage from EMP weapons)
  • Cyborgs can restore hit points either from normal healing or from mechanical repair
  • At the player’s option, some (or all) of their starting salvage may be incorporated into the character’s body as cybernetic components; these items cannot be lost, dropped or stolen and are always considered ‘readied’


Robots are a work in progress.  I’ll likely do a separate post for robots later when/if I get something I like.  However, I will say that R&R robots are clunky, like something out of Fallout or Star Wars droids, rather than near-human androids or replicants.

Next up are primary and secondary abilities.  Cheers!

2) R&R – Primary and Derived Abilities >>

Iron Man 3

May 3, 2013

ironman3Pretty good movie.  Better than Iron Man 2, but not quite as good as the first Iron Man.  Ben Kingsley was quite entertaining as the ‘Mandarin.’

Though I saw it at a matinee, I wouldn’t have been sorry to pay full price to see Iron Man 3.  If you’re a fan of the franchise, or super-hero movies in general, you won’t be disappointed.

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