11 May 2011

Ah, Free Time Abounds

Well, seeing as how I'm going to be unemployed by the end of the week, I should have some free time opening up. I've been thinking about what to do with some of that free time. Part of it will be spent working on my expanded Hommlet campaign and getting it up and running again. And, yes, some time will be spent looking for a job, but that won't start until June; thank you, Rick Perry, for screwing up education in this state. Until the legislature figures out the education budget, all ISDs and state universities and colleges are on a hiring freeze.

Anyway, I'm thinking about making Isungr Games a reality. Maybe working up some OSR modules for Swords and Wizardry, seeing if I can pull off some POD/PDF sales on Lulu. It's not like I'll make a mint or anything, but it's something I can do. And I have a resident artist these days as well. I have an idea for a fane. Now, where did I put those notes?

05 May 2011

On a Quest for Good TV....

Well, I've decided to re-watch the Babylon 5 series. This is, naturally, due to gaming. I'm currently in the process of reading the Stars Without Number RPG, a scifi RPG loosely based on the 0E D&D engine. The game uses the familiar six stats (ST, IN, WS, DX, CN, & CH) as well as HP. There are three classes (Expert, Psychic, Warrior). Experts are, well, experts, usually in technical matters; as a class feature, the player can re-roll a failed skill check once per hour. Psychics are the only class that can use psychic abilities; the way these are arranged remind me of Classic Traveller. The categories are: biopsionics, metapsionics, precognition, telekinesis, telepathy, and teleportation. Warriors get to ignore a hit against them once per melee (they have mad combat skillz!).

Skills are fairly broad in scope and few in number. They rely upon the use of specialties to flesh them out. The skill roll is a simple 2d6 + skill rank (-1 to +4) + attribute modifier (-3 to +3)  against a target number of 6, 8, 9, 11, or 13 based on diffuculty. Skills appear to be there to apply some tension, but not in the "do or die" level of a game like Spacemaster.

Combat looks like it'll be quick and potentially deadly. Kevin Crawford does away with cumbersome charts but his attack roll (d20 based, of course) isn't quite the same as 3.0/3.5's. First of all, AC is still descending, not ascending. To hit, the player rolls 1d20

+ target’s Armor Class
+ attacker’s Combat skill
+ attacker’s attribute modifier
+ attacker’s Attack Bonus

If the total is 20 or greater then the attack hits. A natural roll of 1 always misses, and a natural roll of 20 always hits. Damage is in the standard 1d6 to 2d8 range. Primitive armors are available and still have AC similar in rank to the modern ones. However, TL3+ weapons ignore primitive armors (a nice touch that).

I've only skimmed starship construction and combat. Construction appears to be fairly modular (as is to be expected). Space combat really needs a test run before I can comment. (I've played enough D&D and its variants to make a snap judgement about personal combat!)

What does this have to do with David Warner as a Grail Knight (from the B5 S1 episode "Grail") up there in the lead off picture? Well, the default setting in in A.D. 3200. Human space is recovering from an event called the "Scream" about 600 years ago when a wave of psychic energy came through and either killed the psychics are drove them insane. Humanity had become dependent on the use of psychics in interstellar navigation and civilization fell apart and is only now recovering.

It's seem like the type of place Babylon 5 could have become if the Shadow War had played out differently. That's the feel I get. I think that SWN could emulate B5 quite well, actually. It has that gritty, below decks feel but with a hint of optimism in it. There are hidden secrets that could destroy Humanity or lift us up to the highest levels.

Stars Without Number is available from RPGNow as a free download; it is also available as a POD product in soft- or hardcover. There are also several free (optional) rule add-ons (called "Mandates"), an adventure ("Hard Light") and "Skyward Steel" a supplement that expands naval characters/campaigns.

Also, note that Mongoose Publishing has picked up Stars Without Number for publication so it'll be in the mainstream distribution channels, hopefully by the end of summer/beginning of fall.

03 May 2011

A-to-Z Challenge: Reflections & Plans

Well, I pulled it off. Some of posts where pretty sparse at times (just a monster conversion or a short rant!), but they were there. I tripled my post count in a month, quadrupled my followers, and feel better about writing again. comments are still sparse, but a lot of what I write is not so comment-able. I do read the traffic reports so people are reading. I just hope that people are using and enjoying my few monster conversions for S&W. I purposely chose ones that fit in one paragraph, just like in the Whitebox booklets.

So, what did I learn? Well, I really like how easy it is to convert 1E monsters "down" to 0E/S&W. Quick and easy. Of course, that should surprise me; I converted 3.5 modules like Tomb of Abysthor on the fly for Hackmaster. I also learned that I can write quickly and well if I have the need. But, conversely, I need to watch for those little errors I chide my students on when I do write quickly.

And what are my plans? Well, I do plan on writing 2-3 times a week as the mood strikes me, or even if not. It's about the discipline of writing. To butcher Frank Herbert, "Mood's a thing for cattle or loveplay, not for writing." I do plan on more S&W topics. I need to start a campaign journal for CLD (player) and Guardians of the Polar Bear (DM). I also want to get back to Palladium and V&V as well. So much good stuff out there these days.

Well, it was a fun April and I definitely learned some things. Now, upward and onward.

01 May 2011

Z is for Zombie!

It was a long Saturday, so I'm running a little late on my blog...go figure. But we made it! The final post has arrived.

Zombies. Everybody loves zombies, right? If the series The Walking Dead is any indication, I think that's a resounding "Yes!" Maybe it'll finally do something about the lame-ass vampire craze that's going on. Sparkling vampires...indeed!

I find it someone ironic because the vampires of medieval myth were more like zombies and not suave, urbane aristocrats like the one portrayed in Bram Stoker's Dracula. They did return to their graves, yes, but they also gorged themselves on Blood AND Flesh, in some sort of profane, satanic mockery of Holy Communion. When found, they were undecayed, but they were also described in monstrous terms..."bloated like a tick" is the phrase that springs to mind, even if it's not a direct quote. They were creatures that frequented charnel houses and abattoirs, not Victorian parlors or 1980's discos. Remember this fellow? Not a medieval vampire at all.

Some literary historians point put that the "medieval" vampire (zombie?) is a symbol of the fear of death by disease that was so prevalent. They go on to say that vampires in the Victorian era were symbolic of repressed sexuality and the fear of conditions like syphilis or unmarried pregnancy. Since we're no longer all that afraid of those things (due to abortions, birth control, and antibiotics), we're reverting to something more primal in our fears...death.

Who knows? I'm just a regular historian. I do know that zombies should cause a bit more consternation among players and not just ones with 1st and 2nd level characters who don't have the benefit of a cleric, either. And so, I submit my final monster for the A-to-Z Challenge. Enjoy!

Zombie, Juju

AC: 6 [13]                                   Special: Immune to sleep, charm
HD: 3+12                                    Move: 9
Attacks: Punch or weapon           HDE/XP: 5/240

No one is exactly sure from whence these souless husks come, but they are definitely stronger than the normal zombie. Like standard zombies, they are immune to the effects of sleep, charm, and other mind control spells, They are immune to effects of magic missiles, electricity, and cold; fire only does 1/2 of normal damage (save for 0 damage). Acid and holy water have full effect. They have great strength and whether they use fists or weapons, they cause 2d6 damage per attack; they also attack as 6 HD creatures. They are agile and intelligent enough to hurl javelins or to load and use crossbows. They can climb sheer surfaces easily and are not hampered underwater, either. Only magical weapons (+1 or greater) can affect a juju zombie and even then piercing and crushing weapons have difficulty getting through their tough skin and only do half normal damage (cleaving weapons cause full damage). Finally, juju zombies turn as spectres.