Archive for June, 2013

Reaping the Bones

June 26, 2013

Just got the notice that my Reaper’s Bones Kickstarter order is shipping (finally).  I should have it early next week.  I’ll post some pics when I get ’em.



Neverwinter is Live

June 21, 2013

For anyone interested, Neverwinter Online is now officially ‘live,’ not that there’s much of a distinction between ‘live’ and ‘open beta.’

Aside from bug fixes and tweaks, ‘live’ also introduces the Alchemy profession and the Gauntlgrym end-game content.

Alchemy seems like it has good earning potential and could be a lot of fun to play around with.  However, progression isn’t done through the normal XP grind.  Instead, you have to ‘experiment’ to advance, which is just a fancy way of saying that Alchemy progression is essentially random.  So, first you gather resources (10 minutes), then you make virtriols (another 10 mins) and then experiment (starts at 2 minutes but rapidly requires a greater and greater investment of time).  If you’re lucky you’ll acquire ‘Basic Alchemy Knowledge’ after the experiment (an object that looks like a scroll, which binds on pick-up, so you can’t buy or sell them).  The first experiment only requires 1 B.A.K., but the next requires 3, then 4 and I’m sure the requirements grow as you progress.  Add in the random nature of acquiring B.A.K.s and you can understand why my first reaction was “This sucks.”  But I was trying to advance the profession using only one apothecary…which of course will take forever.  Using multiple apothecaries on multiple open profession slots (you can have up to 9 in Neverwinter) would industrialize the process somewhat, making progress much faster.  It’ll just take time to acquire sufficient apothecary hirelings.

Gauntlgrym consists of a PvP element and a PvE element.  I have no idea what’s it like because you must join a guild to do anything in Gauntlgrym.  Basically, the guild master picks one of two (or maybe three, not sure) NPC factions competing with one another to exploit Gauntlgrym (an ancient Dwarven city recently re-discovered).  I’m not big on being in guilds, so I’ll probably never experience any of this content.

Neverwinter is free-to-play, using micro-transactions to pay the bills.  In my experience it is technically true that you can do everything in the game without spending a dime, but you’ll progress faster (especially in professions) if you spend a little money.


Thoughts on Stars and Planets in Imperial Space

June 14, 2013

Any science-fiction (or, in my case, science-fantasy) RPG setting needs to give some thought to the subject of space, interplanetary travel and stellar bodies, primarily planets.  One of the things that makes sci-fi so hard to standardize, in the same sense that D&D has pretty much ‘standardized’ fantasy, is that there are so many different ways to approach the subject of space, especially space travel.  Star Trek and Star Wars take a fairly laissez faire attitude towards space travel, whereas other settings, such as the Traveller RPG (and the literature that heavily influenced it), take a more hard-science approach.


One constant, however, is the focus on planets as the center of action.  As we all know, in our universe solar systems form with many planets orbiting one more suns.  But works of science-fiction rarely, if ever, spend much time dwelling on star systems as a whole.  They tend to focus, almost exclusively, on the ‘planet of action’ (for lack of a better term).  Even Traveller’s star system generation rules places heavy emphasis on the most important planet within a star system, leaving any other stellar bodies in the system to be fleshed out by the GM as needed.

As I’m thinking of a science-fantasy setting, the rules of our physical universe don’t have to apply.  So why not use a more geocentric approach?  Instead of multiple planets orbiting a star, most of which are ignored anyways, why not a small star orbiting each planet?  Instead of a hex on the space map containing an entire solar system, it simply contains a single world, the ‘planet of action,’ if you will.

The suns are much smaller, of course, probably smaller than the planet itself.  However, they’re also much closer, orbiting from, say, a few hundred-thousand miles out (maybe further).  Planets would still have other attendant satellites, such as moons or an asteroid ring, orbiting closer than suns.  Also, a few planets lack an orbiting sun; aside from being perpetually dark, these ‘shadow’ worlds would be more difficult to locate and thus make great bases for pirates, criminal syndicates and invading aliens.

And while planets are still separated by vast distances of space, those distances are not nearly as great as the distances between star systems in our universe.  A fast space vessel, using some kind of reaction engine, could make a journey between planets in a few weeks or months, without the need of FTL technology (though, certain spells allow a near instantaneous jump between worlds, at some additional risk).


I’m also thinking of modeling planets off of the various D&D planes of existence.  The elemental planes would be easiest to model (fire = volcanic planet, water = water world, air = gas giant, etc.), though not all planes translate well as planets.  Using planes as a template for standard planet types makes them much easier to populate (just use an appropriate random encounter chart from your MM of choice).  Along with this, different colored suns could have different properties as well.  Perhaps blue stars emit cold rather than heat (yeah, totally stole that from Dr. Who) and so tend to orbit ice worlds; or maybe green stars emit weird mutagenic radiation, causing mutations in anyone exposed to the radiation too long.  There’s a lot of fun, neat stuff you can do with this.  And you can still have all the usual space anomalies as well: black holes, worm holes, temporal displacement fields, nebulas, radiation storms, etc.

Ice Wizard of the Outer Worlds

June 5, 2013
Yeah, totally borrowed this from Pathfinder.

Yeah, totally borrowed this from Pathfinder.

Xarxelix, popularly known as the Ice Wizard, haunts a region of border space known as the Outer Worlds.  Posing as an explorer, xeno-archeologist and adventurer, his primary trade is actually smuggling.  Imperial authorities have tried for years, in vain, to capture him and bring him to justice for his many “crimes.”  No doubt a horrible fate awaits him should they ever succeed.

Among his many exploits is the infamous Tarcin Incident, wherein he smuggled illicit magical arms to rebellious aliens on the eponymous planet, enabling them to throw off their Imperial chains.  It later turned out the weapons were merely decaying relics looted from a nearby tomb-world, endowed with a faint magical aura (enough for detect magic) and sold for obscene profit to the desperate aliens.  None-the-less, the placebo weapons provided the aliens a powerful psychological advantage, sufficient to wipe out the entire Imperial garrison (unfortunately for them, the Empire later hell-bombed the planet, wiping it clean of all life…an act publicly blamed on the Ice Wizard).

And then there was his raid on the Imperial harem world of Ghorsha IV, but this is a family-friendly blog, so I really can’t go into much detail about that…

The Ice Wizard’s primary means of conveyance is a captured comet, Zephyr, converted by means unknown into a interplanetary space vessel.  Many-a-time the Ice Wizard has slipped past blockades and patrols, mistaken for nothing more than a speeding comet.  It is said he can destroy ships simply by ramming them, though this has yet to be independently verified.

The Ice Wizard's ride.

The Ice Wizard’s space-ride.

Despite his arcane moniker, don’t expect any cones of cold or ice storms from the Ice Wizard.  The nickname comes from his preferred method of foe-disposal: teleporting enemies into the frigid void of space, where they can suck vacuum and freeze solid…though he’ll settle for fireballs  and lightning bolts in a pinch.

Nemys, murdering hapless space-goblins

Nemys, murdering hapless space-goblins

The infamous smuggler-wizard is never far from his partner-in-crime, the blood-crazed Flumph known only as Nemys, a nom de guerre (as the creature’s Flumph identity is nearly undecipherable).  Only Xarxelix understands the foul-tempered Flumph, often translating for the edification of others.  Fortunately the wizard is able to keep his irritable companion in line…for the most part.

The Imperial bounty for the Ice Wizard’s head currently stands at 10,000 electrums, though it is said the nefarious Shadow Council is offering more…much more.  Should you go looking for him be ready for a fight, for no bounty-hunter yet has even come close to ensnaring the clever wizard, Xarxelix.

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