Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I've been having quite a bit of fun with drow's random generators on the donjon site. I discovered that tucked away inside the SciFi Name Generators is a great Star Trek Technobabble generator. Just select "Star Trek" for Type, and on the second drop-down menu select "Technobabble" and you get a randomly generated list like this.

Gravitronic Interference Module
Central Electro-magnetic Variance Multiplexer
Antimatter Phase Multiplexer
Particle Phase Circuit
Central Phase Drive
Auxiliary Antimatter Frequency Node
Primary Degeneration Buffer
Multiphasic Phase Node
Gravimetric Variance Multiplexer
Holographic Degeneration Capacitor

These are great names for starship components. ST is often criticized for relying on technobabble to advance the plot, but I think it's perfectly legitimate to have groovy technobbable names for all those complicated spaceship parts. So instead the GM saying, "You have to roll 15+ to fix the hyperdrive." he or she can now say, "You're there in the Jefferies tube and the diagnostic you've just run indicates that the Particle Phase Circuit is burnt out. You have to roll 15+ to repair it and get the Warp Drive back online."

Friday, December 18, 2009

9390 Leporis

Randomly generated over at donjon.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Star Wars SSDs

Donald "Smiley Lich" Miller has just about every imaginable kind of SFB SSD on his site, including these for Star Wars fighters. "Stay on target!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

USS Enterprise-A

Here's a SSD for the SFB Cadet rules that includes the USS Enterprise-A. It's from Jonathan "Caraig" McDermott's old site which had a good section devoted to Cadet Ships.

"A few more oddballs. We have a cadet-scale battlepig, a WYN auxilliary battlecruiser. (Please note that all phasers are 360-degree.) There is also what is probably the first cadet X-ship. (I know, I know: "Why bother?") The USS Enterpirse, NCC-1701-A (and that's what this game is all about, isn't it?) was meant to introduce newer players to the game with something that might be more familiar to them: the "Big E" from the movies. I was going to do a matching Reliant, for STII cadet scenarios, but it seems the technical folks running the Trek Franchise are saying the Miranda- class light cruiser has pulse phaser cannons. Guess this is their reaction to fans putting axial (mega) phaser cannons on her. Oh, well. (Added 09OCT2001: I may yet do the pulse-phaser-equipped Miranda, after all.) The last one on the oddballs sheet is a WYN fish ship. In particular, please let me know if this ship is overgunned for a cadet game!"

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes (50 Character Points)
(First Appearance in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet, Beeton's Christmas Annual, 1887)

Body: 4  Mind: 6  Soul: 4

Attack Combat Value: 6
Defense Combat Value: 4
Health Points: 45

Attributes: Heightened Awareness 3, Highly Skilled 10, Servant 5 "Dr. Watson"

Defects: Nemesis 2 "Prof. Moriarty",
Physical Impairment 1 "Cocaine Addiction"

Skills: Area Knowledge (Britain, London) 2,
Biological Sciences (Anatomy) 1, Disguise 2,
Etiquette 2, Forgery 1, Interrogation 2,
Languages 4, Law (Criminal) 2,
Performing Arts (Public Speaking, Fast Talking, Violin) 2,
Physical Sciences (Chemistry, Geology, Tobacco) 2,
Poisons 2, Police Sciences (Criminology, Forensics) 3,
Sleight of Hand (Lock Picking, Safecracking) 2,
Stealth (Silent Movement) 2, Urban Tracking 1,
Gun Combat (Pistol) 1, Melee Attack (Cane, Sword) 2,
Melee Defense (Cane, Sword) 2,
Unarmed Attack 2, Unarmed Defense 1

Dr. John Watson (30 Character Points)

Body: 4  Mind: 5  Soul: 5

Attack Combat Value: 5
Defense Combat Value: 3
Health Points: 45

Skills: Area Knowledge (Afghanistan, Britain) 1, Etiquette 2, Languages 3, Medical (Surgery) 3, Writing (Fiction) 2, Gun Combat (Pistol) 1, Unarmed Attack 1, Unarmed Defense 2

Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant London-based "consulting detective." Holmes is famous for his intellectual prowess and is renowned for his skillful use of astute observation, deductive reasoning and forensic skills to solve difficult cases. He is assisted by his friend and biographer, Dr. John Watson.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Triton Witches

The land is threatened by an evil android, Ferrakall, who controls an incredible armory and a legion of criminals, the Lurking Spawn.

Our heroes, Secret Force Morphing Five, are a group of young children, led by a time-travelling military commander, Koshimo Hisu.  Drawing their powers from the universe itself, can they save the day?  Watch for the archnemesis of the heroes to fall in love!

(Randomly generated at Seventh Sanctum and donjon)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Buck Rogers

Anthony "Buck" Rogers (50 Character Points)
(From the 1928 novel Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan)

Body: 5 Mind: 4 Soul: 6

Attack Combat Value: 7
Defense Combat Value: 7
Health Points: 55

Attributes: Attack Combat Mastery 2,
Defense Combat Mastery 4, Gadgets 2,
Highly Skilled 2, Organizational Ties 2 (Wyoming Gang)

Defects: Conditional Ownership (Gadgets) -1,
Significant Other -1 (Wilma Deering)

Skills: Gun Combat 2, Military Sciences 2,
Piloting (Light Airplane) 3,
Physical Sciences (Geology) 1,
Unarmed Attack 1

Gadgets: Ultraphone, Rocket gun (Special Attack 4:
40 damage, Area Effect, Concealable); Inertron "Jumper"
(Jumping 4 2-400 m, Speed 1 (Restriction: only for jumping)),
green uniform

While surveying an abandoned mine, Anthony Rogers, a former U. S. Army Air Corps officer, falls into a coma after exposure to a leaking gas and awakens in the 25th century. Together with his new comrades, the beautiful Wilma Deering and the intrepid Dr. Huer, he struggles against Mongolian domination and rival gangs.

Friday, December 4, 2009

8-Bit Gundam

[via AltJapan]

Now you can live the experience.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Star Trek Plot Generator

"Whlist investigating a form of energy never previously encountered Bones encounters an apparent duplicate of an old friend which is in fact a shapechanger but their opponent turns out to be just a kid and vulnerable to a cunning bluff and dies, which means everything turns out okay, give or take a few personal tragedies. Then, finally Spock says something snappy and they leave at warp factor seven."

John Sensebe's ST:TOS Plot Generator not only creates random Star Trek plots, it also automatically misspells "whilst."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Star Fleet Battles Cadet rules

 Star Fleet Battles is one of those games that, like Hero System, has a not undeserved reputation for complexity and crunchiness. Some people love that kind of thing, others are guaranteed to have their eyes glaze over. However, once you get the knack of them neither game is quite as hard as it seems (as long as you steer clear of advanced rules). The Star Fleet Battles Cadet Training Handbook is intended to ease newbies into the complete SFB rules, starting with the bare basics of gameplay and slowly adding more rules in each chapter. However, with its simplified and reasonably fast game play it makes for a good rules-lite Star Trek combat game on its own.

What makes the game play faster is four things. Shorter turns of only 8 impulses. Simplified SSDs that don't have as many components as the Captain's Edition sheets. Simplified damage allocation rolls using only 1d6 per hit instead of 2d6 per hit. (That means you can just chuck as many dice as hits you've taken rather than rolling 2d6 a dozen times or so each turn.) And the option of playing without Energy Allocation. Doing that won't set well with purists, since Energy Allocation is as central to SFB as heat management is to Battletech, but if you get rid of it you'll drastically speed up play even if you'll lose some of the flavor of the game.

You might even want to even modify the game's order of play to make things go faster. For example, taking Donald Miller's house rules as a starting point I've come up with this.
  1. Each player rolls 2d6 for Initiative 
  2. Movement (going from lowest initiative to highest) 
  3. Non-weapon Activity (transporters, tractor beams, shields, etc.) 
  4. Seeking Weapons Launch, those from previous round resolve 
  5. Direct-Fire Weapons Fire (must fire Hell Bore before other weapons) 
  6. Post Combat (Seeking Weapons hit, Explosions resolve, etc.) 
  7. Damage Control
I'm still playtesting it, but I like how it works so far.

And even if you don't want to change the rules as drastically as that the Cadet's Handbook is fun. There's plenty of supporting material out there too. Jeremy Gray has a great page devoted to it as does the BoardGameGeek site. The point is that the Cadet version is a fun little game even if you're not a big fan of SFB's idiosyncratic Star Fleet Universe or of the complex SFB rules. Who knows? Maybe you'll like them so much you'll want to buy the Captain's Edition. In any case you'll probably want to pick up some of ADB's Starline 2400 miniatures to use in your Star Trek games.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Collector Knights

The solar system is threatened by a wealthy demonness, Xaxnu Jadelock, who controls an incredible armory and the Seekers From The Night Dimension, a legion of elementals.

Our heroes, Sonic Angel Upsilon, are a group of scientists, led by a sexy inventor.  Drawing their powers from the high technology Albedo Process, can they save the day?  Enjoy the antics of their funny assistant, Weowe!

(Randomly generated at Seventh Sanctum)

Monday, November 30, 2009


Spider-Man (125 Character Points)
First Comic Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962)

Body: 9  Mind: 6  Soul: 7

Health Points: 80  Energy Points: 65  Shock Value: 16

Combat Value: 10  Defense Value: 10

Attributes: Attack Combat Mastery 3,
Defense Combat Mastery 5, Gadgets 3  (6 spider-tracers),
Highly Skilled 1,  Jumping 3 (100 m), Sixth Sense 1 "spider-sense,"
Special Movement 3 (Wall-Crawling, Balance),
Speed 1 (+2 Initiative, Dependent -1 on Jumping),
Super Strength 3 (8 tonnes and +30 damage in close combat
and +12 strength check bonus), Item of Power 9 "web-shooters":
Flight 1 "Glider," Sensory Block 1 "blind with webbing,"
Special Attack 7 "Web" (Tangle, 70 Health Points),
Special Movement 1 "Swinging/Brachiating,"
Telekinesis 3 "Web strand" (100 kg)

Defects: Nemesis 2 "Green Goblin,"
Significant Other 2 "Mary Jane," Significant Other 1 "Aunt May"

Skills: Acrobatics 2, Area Knowledge (New York City) 2,
Physical Sciences (Chemistry) 1, Physical Sciences (Physics) 1,
Visual Arts 1 (Photography)

After being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker became the Amazing Spider-Man. Learning at a young age that with great power comes great responsibility, Spider-Man selflessly devotes his time to being one of New York's greatest heroes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hell Acht

The land is threatened by a criminal entity, Manarc, who controls a secret society, Hive Of Blood, and a legion of golems.

Our heroes, Mystical Force True, are a group of mystics, led by a magical alien, Fate Valentine.  Drawing their powers from magical abilities, can they save the day?  Enjoy the antics of Yuuma Rokuro their funny assistant!

(Randomly generated at Seventh Sanctum and Behind the Name)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Monster Reaction Chart

The trusty Monster Reaction Chart from T&T 5th Ed., section 2.4 More About Monsters.

"Not all monsters need to be hostile toward adventurers in their domain."

Monster Reaction Chart

2        Monsters and men automatically attack each other.

3-5     Monsters automatically and openly hostile.

6-8     Encounter may be friendly in a guarded manner, but either side will attack if provoked.

9-11  Monsters more interested in parley or making deals than in fighting. There must be language in common for parleying.

12    Monsters are panic-stricken and flee immediately.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Astro Boy

Astro Boy (150 Character Points)

Body: 8  Mind: 6  Soul: 6

Health Points: 110  Energy Points: 60  Shock Value: 14

Combat Value: 9  Defense Value: 7

Attributes: Attack Combat Mastery 3, Armor 4 (40 damage stopped),
Defense Combat Mastery 3, Flight 4 (500 kph, Burns Energy),
Highly Skilled 1, Heightened Senses 3 (Vision, Hearing, Radio Reception), 
Special Attack 5 "Finger Lasers" (40 damage, Accurate, Long Range,
Penetrating (20 pts of Armor Reduction), Burns Energy),
Alternate Attack 3 "Tailgunner Machine-Guns"
(20 damage attack, Auto-Fire, Limited Shots (6 shots)),
Super Strength 8 (1,000 tonnes and +80 damage and +32 strength),
Special Defense 6 (Air, Disease, Poison, Sleep, Hunger, Ageing), 
Tough 2 (+40 health points), Tunnelling 2 (50 m/hour, Burns Energy)

Defects: Bane 1 (20 pts/round of exposure to electricity or magnetism),
Ism 1 (Robot), Marked 1 (Robot), Significant Other 1 "Professor Ochanomizu,"
Special Requirement 1 (Robot, needs repair and recharging)

Skills: Electronics 2, Mechanics, Physical Sciences 2 (Robitics),
Computers 2, Languages 5, Driving 1, Piloting 1

Tetsuwan Atomu (鉄腕アトム), or Astro Boy (sometimes called simply "Astro"), is a powerful robot created by the head of the Ministry of Science, Doctor Tenma, to replace his son Tobio, who died in a car accident. Dr. Tenma built Astro in Tobio's image and treated him as lovingly as if he were the real Tobio, but soon rejected Astro and sold him to a cruel circus owner, Hamegg.

After some time, Professor Ochanomizu, the new head of the Ministry of Science, noticed Astro Boy performing in the circus and convinced Hamegg to turn Astro over to him. He then took Astro as his own and treated him gently and warmly, becoming his legal guardian. He soon realized that Astro was gifted with superior powers and skills, as well as the ability to experience human emotions.

Astro now fights crime, evil, and injustice. Most of his enemies are robot-hating humans, robots gone berserk, or alien invaders.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Poseidonis was the name given to Atlantis by the mystical Theosophical Society. In books like The Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria they even presented maps of the lost continent based on "historical research by means of astral clairvoyance." Whatever you think of that, these maps would make a great place for a sword & sorcery or pulp super-science campaign.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adam Strange

Adam Strange (100 Character Points)
(First Comic Appearance: Showcase #17  November,  1958)

Body: 7  Mind: 8  Soul: 8

Health Points: 75  Energy Points: 80  Shock Value: 15

Combat Value: 10  Defense Value: 8

Attack Combat Mastery 3, Defense Combat Mastery 3,
Highly Skilled 3, Gadgets 1 "Rannian gear,"
"Rannian Protective Suit" Armour 4 (Optimized: fire,
40 damage stopped), Special Defense 1
(Survive in low-oxygen environment),
"Rannian rocket pack" Flight 4 (500 kph),
"Rannian raygun" Special Attack 3 (40 damage, Accurate)

Nemesis -2 "Kanjar-Ro", Significant Other -2 "Alanna Strange",
Unique Defect -2 "Involuntary return to Earth when Zeta Beam's effect wears off.",
Unique Defect -1 "If he remains on Rann for more than a year at a time, he will die."

Skills  (3 points left out of 50): Acrobatics 1, Foreign Culture (Rann) 2,
Military Sciences 2, Physical Sciences (Archeology) 3,
Physical Sciences (Physics) 1, Piloting 1 (Spacecraft),
Social Sciences 1 (Anthropology), Wilderness Survival 1

Description and Character Notes:
Earth archeologist Adam Strange was transported to the planet of Rann via the Zeta-Beam. He immediately befriended the Rannians and took up a flight pack and raygun to assist them. While there, he also fell in love with a Rannian woman named Alanna.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Yesterday's Future Duke Armageddon

The city is threatened by a arrogant conquerer, Clawdouse The Enraged, that controls a space base and a legion of robots.

Our heroes, Rock Team Heat Ranger, are a group of doctors, led by a brillaint supernatural being, Albion Eternity.  Drawing their powers from alien ancestry, the Meteormancers Of Polaris, can they save the day?  A mysterious love triangle complicates matters.

(All randomly generated at Seventh Sanctum)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Own a Big Mecha

 While Tri-Stat dX is a complete set of free RPG rules, the Own a Big Mecha Attribute is somewhat anemic. That's something one of the game's designers, David L. Pulver, addressed in a posting to the old GoO forum. Here are the revised Own a Big Mecha rules he published there.

Own Big Mecha Attribute
Revised version by David L. Pulver

My thanks to everyone who responded. Here is a slight revision and clarification of the Attribute. Comments are welcome. As before, note that this is not (yet) an official rule.

Own a Big Mecha (OBM)
Cost: 8 points/level for 10 or 16 points
Relevant Stat: None
Required PMV: None.
Optional PMV: None.
Progression: Linear; +10 or +16 Character Points for vehicle building each Level
Reduction: Fewer Character Points awarded
Restrictions: Mecha belongs to agency; Mecha is stolen

This is an alternate open-ended way of building mecha and other vehicles using the OBM Attribute that provides additonal flexibility.

Each level of OBM gives 10 or 16 Points to build a mecha, which may be any kind of suit or vehicle that a person can ride in or on. A default mecha is assumed to be anthropomorphic but a mecha can be anything from a row boat to a 100' tall giant robot to a starship -- just assign appropriate Defects.

A mecha is always assumed to be too obvious or awkward to easily carry in many social situations, such as a bicycle or a suit of bulky armour, or most vehicles. If a mecha is small enough to be worn or carried socially, like a pair of roller skates or a light or invisible armour suit, it should be built as an Item of Power instead. If a mecha is a form-fitting suit worn rather than ridden or driven, it can be built with these rules but each Level only grants 10 Character Points (matching Item of Power) instead of the usual 16 Character Points.

The mecha is created just like a character, with two exceptions that differentiate it from someone created via the Servant attributes: it has no Stats and its occupancy and land speed are determined as shown below.

A mecha must be piloted by a character to operate it. The mecha's operator uses his or her Stats when the mecha must make a check. If a mecha has multiple occupants, only one operator can control it at any one time. Other passengers are just that, unless the mecha has specific attributes that assigned to other crew (see below).

In addition to normal attributes, two specific Attributes can be bought for the mecha using its Character Points: Capacity and Land Speed.

Land Speed costs 1 Point/Level. Each Level gives the mecha the ability to move on the ground (via wheels, tracks, legs, etc. – you decide). The speed is found using the Slow Progression chart beginning at 30 kph. A mecha with no levels of Land Speed cannot move on the ground; it is stationary, like a boat or base.

Capacity costs 1 Point/Level. It is the amount of space inside the mecha for occupants and passengers. Refer to the Targets column of the PMV chart (dX, page 10) to determine capacity. For example, Level 1 capacity is 1 person or 50 kg. Distribute it between people and cargo (at 50 kg per human-sized occupant).

If no Levels of Capacity were assigned, the mecha can still carry one person, but it is small enough that any damage that penetrates its armour also applies to the wearer, although his or her own armour will protect. This might be a form-fitting suit, a racing car, or other tight-fitted design.

A mecha may be given just about any Attribute. In particular, the Flight, Hyper Flight and Water Speed Attributes will allow it to operate in various environments. Mecha will usually not take the Speed Attribute, but it may be appropriate for certain types of designs, such as a suit that enhances reflexes.

Armour and Tough are common. A mecha must be given at least as many Levels of the Tough Attribute as it has Levels of Capacity. If the mecha can manipulate things, giving it equivalent levels of Superstrength is a good idea. The operator's own Body is used for Body checks, modified as usual by Superstrength.

A mecha's Attributes are used by the operator and occupants when dealing with the world outside the mecha. Attributes Attacks and other Attributes that affect specific targets can only be used by one of the mecha's occupants. Other Attributes, such as Adaptation, will protect the occupants along with the mecha itself.

Attributes are usually used by a single operator but may be assigned to other crew when the mecha is designed. For example, a starship might be built with the Hyper Flight and Flight Attributes with one assigned to the "pilot" and the other to the "navigator." Occupants other than the primary operator can only attack from within a mecha if it has additional Special Attacks that are assigned to them. If such a "different gunner" uses a mecha's weapon, the operator cannot use it in the same round.

Attributes that a mecha has do not usually stack with those of a character. If a mecha has Flight Level 1 and so does its operator, this does not give the mecha Flight Level 2, for example.

The GM may make exceptions for mecha bought using the Item of Power Point progression (10 points/Level of OBM). Thus, a powered suit designed for a dragon (which already has Superstrength and Flight) may add its Levels to the dragon's own abilities.

Vehicle computes can be simulated by giving the mecha the Highly Skilled Attribute. For play balance, it is suggested that a mecha not be able to grant more than 2 levels.

A mecha should be given Defects to reduce its cost and define its capabilites. The effects of these Defects only apply when the mecha operator or other occupants are trying to manipulate, perceive, or affect the outside world. For example, if a mecha has Sensor Impairment (to vision), the occupants cannot see out. They can still see normally inside the mecha. Similarly, Physical Impairment (no hands) -- which most non-anthropomorphic vehicles will possess - means the vehicle has no ability to lift, punch, and so on, but doesn't affect the driver if he or she wants to scratch an itch or pull out a cell phone.

Since mecha have no self-awareness, a Defect that assumes the mecha has a mind, soul, or personality is inappropriate unless it could be plausibly extended to the occupants. Thus, Blind Fury, Significant Other, or Recurring Nightmares would not fit unless (for example) the mecha has some form of neural interface system that influences its crew's mentality, a concept that does occur in some giant robot anime (for example). On the other hand, the Owned Defect is not normally appropriate to a mecha. Instead, the character (not the mecha!) should take the Conditional Ownership Defect linked Own a Big Mecha. A Defect like Famous, Red Tape, or Wanted could be assigned to a mecha, however.

For realism's sake, a mecha should have at least as many Levels of Awkward Size Defect as it has Levels of Capacity. Likewise, a mecha should only have Diminutive if the standard occupants are appropriately small.

Required Skill: Assign the mecha a required skill, e.g., Driving if it has Land Speed, or Piloting if Flight or Boating if Water Speed. This is the skill used to operate it. A character may operate a mecha without having the appropriate skill, if the GM believes it is relatively simple (e.g., driving a car). Some mecha may require multiples skills for different functions such as sensors

Gadgets and Mecha Points: Each major gadget can be traded for 4 Points to build a vehicle, or to augment an existing mecha to create one of intermediate power.

Servants and Mecha: Intelligent mecha are built as Servants or characters. The GM may optionally allow the Land Speed and Capacity attributes to be taken by Servants. If Servants have Capacity, the GM should rigidly enforce the requirement for mininum levels of Awkward Size (a Servant could, of course, have an Alternate Form that was large enough for Capacity).


Example of 4-point Vehicle

Sports Car
Capacity 2: (carries 4 people and 100 kg) (2 points)
Land Speed 4: 250 kph (4 points; Restriction: Land speed only on road (-1 point).
Armor 1 (unarmored area, -2) (1 point)
Tough 3 (60 Health) (6 points)
Awkward Size 2 (-2 points)
Special Requirement 1 (machine: needs fuel to run and requires repairs to heal) (-2 points)
Weak Point (gas tank, -1 point)
Physical Impairment (no arms, -3 points)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Revelation Seed

The country is threatened by a sexy spirit that controls a planet and a legion of demons.

Our heroes, Steel Infinity X, are a group of inventors, led by a virtual enemy of the villain.  Drawing their powers from animal spirits, can they save the day?  Political machinations make life even more complicated.

(Title, sentai team name, and story all randomly generated at Seventh Sanctum.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Random Dr. Who

The Personality Traits chart from the old FASA Dr. Who RPG.

1 or 2                                   
1 Stubborn
2 Squemish
3 Boastful
4 Forgetful
5 Compulsive Gambler

3 or 4
1 Temperamental
2 Gentle
3 Neat/Messy
4 Snobbish
5 Indecisive
6 Collector

5 or6
1 Fearful/Brave
2 Energetic/Lazy
3 Patient/Impatient
4 Outgoing/Shy
5 Talkative/Silent
6 Optimist/Pessimist

"Compulsive Gambler"? Really?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tri-Stat roll high

One of the problems with the Tri-Stat rules as written is that they use a roll-under dice mechanic. There's nothing wrong with that as such. Games like BRP, Hero System, and Thousand Suns use roll under mechanics to good effect. The thing is that in BESM/Tri-Stat it isn't implemented well.

For Tri-Stat d6 take the example of two average people, each with Stats of 4 and no Attributes, Defects or Skills. Each will have an Attack Combat Value of 4 and a Defence Combat Value of 2. That means that if they get into a fight they will only have a one in six chance of hitting each other and only a three percent chance of defending themselves. Not only couldn't they fight worth a damn, they'd be terrible at darts.

Now, reverse things so that instead of rolling under four (or two!) on 2d6 they roll the dice and add their Stat to the total. Suddenly things play out very differently. There's no more flailing around, and one of them will be successful each round. Plus characters can have superhuman stats and still just roll 2d6 instead of switching to 2d10, 2d12 or whatever. Not surprisingly Mark switched to this mechanic for the BESM 3rd edition rules.

In most cases rolling high will involve opposed rolls between two characters, but for situations where a player is making a skill roll to accomplish a task (e.g., repairing something, climbing something, etc.) here's a list of target numbers to use. The Easy, Average, or Difficult TN's, will be used most often, but others are listed for extreme circumstances or superhuman games. For cinematic games I'd also use the Tunnels & Trolls rule of DARO, doubles add and roll over. That way there's always a chance for the characters to accomplish the impossible.

Tri-Stat d6 House Rules:

Target Numbers:
Difficulty.....Target Number
Very Easy........06

Optional Cinematic Rule: DARO, doubles add and roll over.
If you roll doubles, add that number and roll again until you don’t roll doubles.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


This map of the planet Mongo makes me want to run a Ray-guns & Rockets campaign. The Witch Kingdom of Syk could even be the stage for some Sword & Sorcery antics. I'll just have to watch out for Ming's rocket submarines.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jaxxon The Gunslinger Rabbit

Jaxxon (156 Character Points) (97 Character Points)

Body: 6 Mind; 5 Soul: 4

Health Points: 55 Energy Points: 45

Attack Combat Value: 5 Defense Combat Value: 3

Attributes: Combat Technique (Two Weapons) +4,
Heightened Senses +2 (Hearing, Smell),
Highly Skilled +4, Jumping +1,
Natural Weapons +1 (Kick),
Own A Big Mecha +7 ("The Rabbit's Foot")

Defects: Easily Distracted -1 (Quick Temper),
Wanted -1

Skills: Mechanics (Astronautical) +1,
Navigation (Space) +1;
Piloting (Space Transport) +2

Combat Skills: Gun Combat (Heavy Blaster) +2,
Heavy Weapons (Gunnery) +1
Ranged Defence (Personal) +2,
Unarmed Attack (Kick) +1

Equipment: Two heavy blaster pistols (Damage 20), modified WUD-500 Star Yacht The Rabbits Foot, Good Luck Charm, 525 credits

Intelligent, 1.9 meters tall, bipedal, green, furry and armed to the teeth. Jaxxon is not a being to be trifled with - despite the cuddly appearance. This 'cuddly appearance' has caused many a foolhardy spacer to fire off a flippant comment - and quickly spit out his teeth. "I aint no rabbit" Jaxxon curtly points out, usually punctuated by a savage kick with his huge feet.

The Rabbit's Foot (modified WUD-500 Star Yacht)

Required Skill: Piloting (Space Transport)

Health: 80  Force Feild: 40  Quad Laser Cannons: 80

Capacity 4: (7 people and 3 tonnes cargo) (4 pts)
Features 1 (HyperRadio) (1 pts)
Flight 8: (5k kph; Detectable -1, hearing) (31 pts)
Force Feild 2 (-40 damage reduction; Detectable -1, sensors) (7 pts)
Heightened Senses 5 (Sensors; Detectable -1, sensors) (4 pts)
Hyperflight 3 (100x light speed) (3 pts)
Special Defence 6 (Freezing Cold 2, Lack of Air 2, Low Pressures 2) (6 pts)
Tough 4 (80 Health) (8 pts)
Weapon 10 "Quad Laser Cannons" (Long Range 6) (40 pts)
Weapon 8 - Alternate Attack "Ion Cannons"
(Incapacitating (electronics), Long Range 6) (8 pts)
Awkward Size 4 (Size 4; 18.5 metres) (-4 pts)
Physical Impairment (No hands) (-3 pts)
Special Requirement (Frequent maintenance and fuel) (-2 pts)

TOTAL: 103 Points

Created using the Tri-Stat dX rules with a tip of the hat to the SWRPGNetwork Conversions site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Real gamer's character sheet

There was a great post the other day over at The Sandbox of Doom singing the praises of the 3"x5" character sheet. Even though I wouldn't necessarily label myself an Old School Gamer I can dig this. When it comes to character sheets I've always thought smaller is better. Maybe it's because of playing wargames where models seldom have a sheet bigger than a playing card. But I thinks it's really because of my fondness for good ol' Tunnels & Trolls 5th Ed. where men were men, Amazons were Amazons, and Trolls smelled really bad.

Monday, November 16, 2009


A post today by James Maliszewski reviwing C. J. Cutliffe Hyne's classic novel The Lost Continent got me thinking about how seldom it's been used as a setting for FRPG's. You'd think people would naturally be attracted to this major, fantastic continent of folklore when imagining fantasy geographies. Instead, almost everyone prefers to frolic in the fields surveyed by Tolkien.

The only RPG line based on Atlantis was Bard Games' Atlantean Trilogy stuff that came out back in the mid 1980's. There was the The Arcanum, The Lexicon, and The Bestiary. All of it was recently re-edited and released by Morrigan Press as Atlantis: The Second Age. A nice effort, and by all accounts a very detailed treatment. But even so they couldn't avoid the Tolkien derived pseudo-medieval fantasy species such as trolls, faeries, and elves. I'd rather have seen creatures from classical mythology in this setting. Or the completely original creatures they later went with in Talislanta.

Aside from the odd superhero/occult investigation module touching on Atlantis the only other supplement was GURPS Atlantis. In addition to giving a good account of the Atlantis myth, it covers the fabled continent from three angles. The Orichalcum Age which gives it a high fantasy treatment; The Heirs of Minos that gives details for use in conspiracy games; and Lords of the Deep, that gives presents a fantastic background for steampunk or superhero games.

The only other serious coverage of Atlantis is Hero Game's The Atlantean Age setting book for Fantasy Hero. It approaches the mythic land from a high fantasy direction as you might expect. The book provides detailed coverage of the continent's history, culture, religion and magic. The monsters are suitably colorful, with things like war apes, battledons and Atlantean Dragons. Basically it's a focused and detailed treatment of the sword-and-sorcery aspects of the myth.

All of these supplements have something to offer, though the Hero Games version is my favorite. In large part that's because it matches what I imagine the lost continent to be. I see it as a place of high adventure and fabulous magic like the realms depicted in the pages of Weird Tales. Hopefully we'll someday see more gamers exploring fabled Atlantis and discovering it's wonders.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random Dungeon Maker

Rob Lang has a great post today linking to Dyson Logos' amazing Random Morph Map dungeon generator. I love these kind of things, and this one's better than most. The maps not only work for traditional fantasy dungeons, but would make great alien ruins, or asteroid tunnels. Here's what they look like. Thanks, Dyson.

Friday, November 13, 2009

RPGs by the numbers

Profiles on blogger that list as an Interest...

Mekton: 1

Fuzion: 2 (Including the guy above.)

BESM (Tri-Stat): 12

Traveller: ~143

D&D: ~2,300

So there you go. BESM/Tri-Stat is marginally more popular than Fuzion. (And it's interesting that more wimmin than men list it as an interest.) Traveller is over ten times more popular than either. And they all get crushed by the D&D juggernaut.

I still like Fuzion, and there's more than enough material online to run a decent science fiction/mecha game. But with Tri-Stat being a more complete free game and having more appeal to wimmin, and therefore a bigger potential audience, I think I've talked myself into focusing on using it for the near future. Unless I do the smart thing and just play Traveller...or drink the D&D Kool-Aid. "Magic Missile!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vanishing games

It seams like the webpages devoted to the RPGs I like are vanishing at an alarming rate. This has been happening slowly over the past few years. Now that Geocities, which was home to many a RPG related page, is defunct it's really noticeable.

I'm mainly thinking of Fuzion here. Even though it never really caught on with either the Hero System or Interlock fans, there used to be a huge amount of material for it available to download for free. There were major plug-ins covering magic, psi powers, aliens, and Road Warrior style combat. Supplements like the Total Powers plug-in and the Heroic Abilities plug-in gave you complete superpowers rules. And Naughty Tentacles even provided material for hentai games. All that material is basically gone now. Even Lightspeed, one of the few games left using the Fuzion mechanics, is supposedly switching to a different system.

Action! System, which is an OGL knock off of Fuzion, hasn't fared much better. There was never as much material available for it in the first place, and now even that's disappearing. My favorite use of the game, Jamie Borg's ASsembler rules which ported OGL Mecha to A!S, vanished with Geocities. And it doesn't help that the Gold Rush Games site has been down for years, although you can still by their games at sites like RPG Now.

It's very discouraging. I have copies of most of this stuff archived, but it's hard to get people interested in playing a game they've almost never heard of and that has almost no web presence.

As it stands I think Tri-Stat dX is one of the best free games out there. It's a complete RPG, with a full-fledged power system that covers everything from mecha to superheroes. It's sort of like a free, rules-lite version of Hero System. I have a few nits to pick with the game, but nothing that a page or so of house rules can't cover. And even though Guardians of Order went under years ago, BESM/Tri-Stat have a good reputation and fairly wide recognition. Plus they have a slick, active fan site online.

Maybe I'm just in a funk because I haven't been able to get any games going lately. Aside from the occasional pick-up game with friends I haven't been able to get anything rolling. I'm probably just approaching things at the wrong angle or something, but going with more popular free system that I like may help. We'll see.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Marauding metal monsters to menace your meritorious heroes.

Hydra Miniatures offers a good selection of retro-bots as part of it's Retro Raygun line.

(Size comparison w/figure from Rattrap)

Wargames Supply Dump has a couple of robots as part of their Dick Garrison line.

Pulp Figs also has some robot that come straight from a mad scientist's lab.

Killer B Games include a hovering 'bot in their G.A.F.D.O.Z. line.

('Bot comparison: Left, Rattrap's Robot Type II; Center, Killer B's GAFDOZ4; Right, Hydra's Robot Legionnaire)

And Rattrap have a robot in their .45 Adventure line of pulp models.

(unpainted Robot Type II)

Monday, September 28, 2009


Rient's ongoing Mutant Future campaign has me thinking about Negromundheim. Now before you get the wrong idea, the name isn't some kind of slur. It's a punning reference the the Games Workshop games Necromunda and Mordheim. However, instead of using the overpriced GW rules, the game uses Shockforce II.

Negromundheim is a war scarred, radiation soaked, mutant infested planet somewhere in the Galactic Empire. Think Gamma World in a space opera context. It was created by a group of French gamers to use as a setting for their tongue-in-cheek battles. It's an entertaining setting with a history that makes for a fun read.

The Shockforce rules themselves use the WarEngine system which can best be described as a simplified version of the D6 System adapted to wargaming. One significant change is the die rolling mechanic. Here's how the rules describe it:

"Many attributes like Attack Value and Defense use values like 2k2 or 4k3. The ‘k’ stands for ‘keep.’ You roll the number of dice before the ‘k’, but keep only the number of dice after the ‘k,’ usually the higher ones."

So if you have an AV of 4k2, you roll four dice but only count the two highest. It's a clever variation that fixes the glitch in the original D6 mechanic, but as you can imagine it leads to an uneven distribution of probabilities. (A much better implementation of the idea is EABA's mechanic where you keep the highest three dice rolled.)

Shockforce also included a simple set of point-build Special Powers that can give a model mutant abilities, which really gives them a Gamma World vibe. Unfortunately the point system used isn't very balanced -- kinda like BESM. All-in-all it's a fun game that makes for colorful skirmish battles. Plus you can get the rules for free on-line now, so what's not to like?

Negromundheim is a great example of how to make a (not-to-serious) post-catastrophe campaign setting. And by putting it in a space opera context you don't limit the players to being natives. They could be interstellar Travellers there after treasure, information, or just looking for repairs after a mishap. Who knows what they'll find...

Friday, July 24, 2009

ENnie Award

The polls are open for the 2009 ENnie Awards. This years nominees for Best Rules -- and isn't that really what makes an RPG a game? -- include A Song of Ice and Fire, Starblazer Adventures, and the juggernaut that is D&D 4th. Normally I'd be inclined to vote for Starblazer Adventures as the only SFRPG, but I don't care for the FATE game mechanics. So I may give it to Green Ronin just for being plucky indie game publishers.

As you might have noticed by that logo in the upper corner of the blog, there's some controversy over the Best Free Product category. It turns out that most of the entries are nothing more than demo versions of commercial games, including two of the nominees for Best Rules. The only entries that really are free games are Swords and Wizardry, a"retro-clone" of the 1974 original Dungeons & Dragons, and Trial and Terror: SVU, a supernatural play on the popular "Law and Order" TV show. So if it matters to you it might be something to keep in mind when you vote.

The biggest problem with the awards are that as usual I haven't even laid eyes on the majority of the entries. I might be familiar with a few of the nominees, but the most of them are a mystery to me. That means I either don't pick a second or third choice, or I just vote by the item's reputation, which is hardly fair. I guess I'll just play it by ear as usual.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dice fetish

One of my friends once said that role playing games are just an excuse for people to indulge their dice fetish. Not to single anybody out, but a couple of recent posts at Geek Orthodox and A Rust Monster Ate My Sword... suggest he may have been right. No wonder some Traveller veterans claim D&D stands for "Dice & Dice." After all, don't most gamers carry their polyhedral dice around in luxurious velvet bags, like some precious gems looted from a dragon's hoard?

I don't have a problem with people getting excited about dice, but It's not an enthusiasm I share. I think it's one of the reasons I tend to prefer games like EABA or Fuzion that use nothing but regular six-sided dice. Not that I'm entirely immune to dice geekery. I admit I have more than a few pair of Flying Buffalo's "Death Dice" in my possession.

Maybe the only real way to escape the dice fetish is to play a diceless RPG, like Active Exploits.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Christopher B. has been posting some great material form his old Stormbringer campaign. That brings back some fond memories for me as well because it was one of the first games that really clicked with me. Sure, I had fun playing D&D but the rules never made much sense to me. T&T was better, but still came up a little short. But Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying hit the sweet spot as far as I was concerned. For the longest time I swore by those rules. Every game I ran used the BRP system. Not that I'm a system snob. I'll play in any game with a good GM, regardless of the rules. It's just that when I find a rules set I like I stick with it.

One thing I really like about BRP that continues to set it apart from most other RPGs is that it completely dispenses with experience points. It seems like almost all games have some kind of mechanism by which the GM can bribe the players. BRP has none of that. No brownie points to massage die rolls or the like. No bonus XP for "good roleplaying." Characters succeed or fail based on their skill and the roll of the dice. To increase a skill you have to use it or find someone to train you. And even then it comes down to a die roll as to whether or not you'll actually benefit from it. There's something refreshingly unbiased about it all.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Some good news is that RPGbomb has added a forum devoted to Greg Porter's RPGs. Greg is the talented indie game designer behind one-man operation that is BTRC. He's best known for the parody RPG, Macho Women with Guns, and the generic RPG supplement, 3G3. His current RPG effort, EABA, can be described as combining the substance of GURPS with the simlicity of the D6 System. You can download the free EABAlite rules from Greg's site. Greg treats his customers right, and if the EABA rules are every updated you receive the new version at no extra cost.
As for RPGbomb, it's a really good community site. It may be overshadowed by major hubs like RPGnet and theRPGSite, but it has plenty of content. More importantly, they seem to like the same games I do. Even Fuzion, which usually either gets ignored or comes in for unfair criticism, has it's own forum there. So now that they're giving EABA it's a good reason for me to spend more time there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

T&T was old-school...

...before old-school was cool.

The old school movement among RPGers echoes the retrogaming trend in video games. It's trying to get back to a simpler, less complicated time in the hobby. As TSR's D&D evolved it took on evermore bizarre forms. Basic D&D, Expert D&D, and AD&D were rival and incompatible rules sets that competed with each other. Then came variations like Dragonlance, which some say recast the game into a novelistic form far removed from it's improvisational beginnings.

Meanwhile, there was Tunnels & Trolls.

Appearing in 1979, T&T 5th edition seems to anticipate and accommodate the discontent of the old-school gamers. While D&D was transmogrifying into the dense edifice of AD&D, T&T reveled in its simplicity. You didn't even need a set of polyhedral dice to play it. If D&D was treating PCs as protagonists in an epic narrative struggle between the forces of White Hattery vs. the Le Chapeaux Noir , T&T was celebrating the dungeon crawl. Characters are rolled up half a dozen at a time, with the assumption that the GM is going to do his best to kill off the pesky dungeon defilers. Character "sheets" are nothing more than 3-by-5 index cards. Hell, the game even bills itself as a dungeon crawl, the back cover proclaiming, "The fundamental framework for adventuring in Tunnels & Trolls is the concept of an underground tunnel complex wherein dangerous traps and deadly monsters guard undreamed-of treasures..."

But mostly T&T encouraged players to rewrite the rules to suit themselves. Whereas the D&D rules scowled at players with confining proclamations, T&T insisted that the rules were no more than suggestions and recommended that players change any rules they didn't like. GMs were free to let their imaginations run wild, and rules lawyers were nipped in the bud.

For decades T&T maintained the simplicity and emphasis on players creativity that seemed to be getting lost in the commercial juggernaut that D&D had become. But T&T languished in obscurity. Overshadowed by the numerous boxed sets and horse-choking hardbound rules of its predecessor, shunned by system snobs at conventions, it found a place for itself mainly in the byways of colorful but isolated solo dungeons. In 1999 it received some belated appreciation when Pyramid magazine named it as one of The Millennium's Most Underrated Games.

So to all you old school gamers out there, I'd like to remind you that the solution to all your complaints was there all the time. Even as you weave complicated magics to resurrect your favorite games, the magic potion that is T&T sits dusty on the shelf waiting to be quaffed. I hope you don't fail the saving throw.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

MZST Starship Update

MZST: メクトン Z 宇宙大作戦

"What if Star Trek were an anime?"

The redesigned ships, now with more FASA.

The options, Sensors, Transporters, and Tractor Beam, are freebies that don't take up any space or add to the ship's cost. A roll on the Ship Hit Table (MZ, pg. 108) of "CIDS" hits either the Transporter (1-5) or the Tractor Beam (6-10), automatically knocking them out until repaired. Sensor hits are as normal. Below are descriptions of these systems from the FASA RPG. Rules for use with Mekton Zeta are in brackets.


Reliable sensor data can be obtained by most sensors to distances of 160,000 km, with sketchy, less-reliable data available to about twice that distance. Sensor scans are blocked by large amounts of rock or water, extremely thick atmospheres, electromagnetic interference, and certain dense or reflective materials.

[New Skill: Starship Sensors (INT): This skill involves operating a starship's sensor probes to gather data for interpretation and storage in the ship's computers.]


The tractor/pressor beam is an electromagnetic beam allowing an item of smaller mass to be drawn toward, anchored to, or pushed away from the object controlling the beam. Many larger ships are equipped with these devices, which can be used carefully in pairs to manipulate objects at a distance. Maximum range for tractor/pressor beams is about 160,000 km.

Tractor beams can put quite a bit of strain on an object, especially if the object is trying to break away. A delicate structure such as a small vessel could suffer damage as a result of resisting their use.

[May be used an unlimited number of times, but only on one small craft at a time. It effects its target as an Epoxy Gun (MZ, pg. 59), but only for as long as the beam is maintained.]


The transporter is a matter/energy scrambler, capable of recording the molecular and sub-molecular pattern of an object, disintegrating that object, and beaming it across space to be reformed at another location as far away as 26,000 km. Both living and non-living material may be moved great distances at the speed of light in this manner. The transporter can also lock on distant items and beam them back to the transmitter station. No receiving station is necessary for use of the transporter if reliable data can be obtained about the destination via sensor readings, or if a communicator can be used to provide a target signal. Transporters are blocked by large amounts of rock or water, extremely thick atmospheres, electromagnetic interference, and certain dense or reflective materials. In addition, transporters cannot beam through deflector shields because the shields absorb energy discharges.

Transporter usage does not occur instantaneously. It takes time to set up a transporter procedure on the console before the transporter can be energized. After the slide has been moved and the energizing has begun, it takes several seconds for dematerialization to be completed. During this time, the objects or persons being beamed cannot move or communicate. They are invulnerable to most normal harm during this time, though they can be seen while dematerializing. Transportation takes place at the speed of light, but materialization takes several seconds, during which the objects or persons being transported may be seen.

[It takes one Round (10 seconds) to complete a transport. New Skill: Transporter Operations (INT): This skill involves the use of transporter devices, whether they be personnel transporters or cargo transporters.]

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Prime Directive RPG

The other day Robert Saint John had a good post about ADB's Prime Directive RPG on his blog. I can't find anything to disagree with in what he said, but I thought I'd share my own approach/avoidance feelings toward the Star Fleet Universe. Despite enjoying starship combat games I was never into Star Fleet Battles, although I knew some people who played it regularly. It has such a reputation for complexity and slow play that I steered clear of it, although I have played a game or two since. Well, sort of. What I played was the free introductory Cadet's version. It's meant to ease you into the full rules, but if you stick to the basics it actually makes for a great rules lite game on it's own. And you can even find extra SSDs on the web.

Robert's right that it would be hypocritical to condemn SFB just because it's a wargame. As a kid when I drew pictures of spaceships they were usually blasting each other with ray guns. I've had fun playing FASA's STSTCS and even statted up some Star Trek ships for Starmada to use the Starline 2400 miniatures. (There's now an upcoming official SFB supplement for Starmada.) And of course Mekton Z has a large wargaming component to it, and it's one of my favorite games. So it's not fair to dismiss Prime Directive out of hand. And while I've never actually played Prime Directive, I have looked over the rules and I think they have an odd, and to me at least, off-putting tone. Nevertheless, there are some good points.

One is the aliens. Star Trek takes some heat for having aliens that are nothing more than SAG members with a few latex bumps glued to their faces. Sure, it's largely the result of budget constraints, but it is pretty weak. And in Prime Directive most of the aliens are still humanoid, but kind of interesting. There's the Rigellians, who are like space-Maoris, and the Alpha-Centaurans, who are like space-Amazons. But they also introduce some decidedly non-human aliens, like the Hydrans and Seltorians. They do get a little furry, with three different types of cat-people, but it's no worse than most other space opera games.

Another aspect of the game I like is the Prime Teams. These are specially trained landing parties made up of the PCs. Each member would ideally be trained in a different specialty, giving the group a good balance. Not only is this a great way to get the players into action, but it avoids what I think was the nonsensical way the TV shows had the senior officers constantly running off and leaving junior officers in charge of the ship, usually in the middle of a crisis. Unfortunately the Prime Teams in the game seem to focus on marines, making them more like outer space SWAT teams.

And that militarism does permeate the whole thing, as you might expect from a wargame. Whereas people like me tend to criticize Star Trek for having some goofy science, others criticize it for it's lack of military realism. Apparently the authors of Prime Directive are the latter type, because the they put a lot of emphasis on military rank and seniority. Not out of place, but it totally overshadows any sense of scientific exploration. There are no rules for exploring strange new worlds or seeking out new life and new civilizations.

And whereas the Cold War politics of The Sixties informed the Original Series they dominate the Star Fleet Universe. In this game the Federation is the U.S.A., and the Klingons are the U.S.S.R. They got so carried away with this that when they Star Wars-ized the game by adding space fighters the Federation fighters were named for U.S. jets and the Klingon for Soviet jets. That's just too much for me.

To be fair, Star Fleet is portrayed as paragons of virtue who never fire first and never start wars. And there are nice touches like the Federation Creed which would compliment any Star Trek game. But ultimately Prime Directive is very much a mixed bag. You probably won't want to dump it all out, but you might want to reach in and pull out a few things you like.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chain Reaction 3.0

Ed Teixeira of Two Hour Wargames has released the third edition of his Chain Reaction (and Swordplay!) miniatures wargame as a free download. If you're not familiar with this game, it's an excellent set of fast-play skirmish rules that can be played with any figures.

Models are divided into Stars and Grunts. The Stars are sort of like PCs with various advantages (Cheating Death, Free Will, etc.) and attributes (Born Leader, Nerves of steel, etc.) Grunts are, well, grunts. All models have a single stat, Reputation, or Rep, ranging from 1-6. The player rolls two dice (on most occasions) trying to roll Rep or less (this is a roll low game).  The dice are read individually, not added. This gives three possible results: Pass 2, Pass 1, and Pass 0.

In place of the standard moral system the game uses a unique Reaction system. That means models that come under attack must make a Reaction Test that may result in an Involuntary Action. (Now you see why the Free Will advantage is important.) This gives the game a very dynamic, unpredictable feel. The Reaction System is also something most players either love or hate. As Ed himself says, "It’s not for everyone. If you like total control of your forces then just keep walking because you’ll hate it."

The Reaction System is best suited to what I think is the finest of the published versions of the game, All Things Zombie. It really brings the shambling undead to life, so to speak. The game's add copy gives a good overview.

"ATZ takes you to where no other zombie game has before. Yes, it starts on the first day of the outbreak, but then let’s you continue your life building your very own future. It’s a game where every detail has been covered, as you first escape the soulless creatures that threaten you, then hunt them down and take back what’s yours.

On the way there you’ll find out that maybe your most dangerous enemies aren’t the zombies, but maybe your neighbors or sometimes your friends. ATZ can be played solo, cooperatively with everyone on the same side, or competitively with everyone against one another. ATZ can be played as a one up game or part of an ongoing campaign."

If the undead aren't your thing, Simon Norrington has rules on his website for using CR to run Star Trek TOS and Dr. Who games. They're written for the second edition, but should work fine with the new third edition.

So give Chain Reaction and Swordplay! a try. Ed says, "And if you don’t like CR 3.0 it’s all good. Because really it’s all about playing games that you like."

[via QuasarDragon]

Friday, May 29, 2009

MZST Shuttlecraft

Here's a write-up of a standard Class F Shuttlecraft. I had to go a bit beyond the basics and trade some Kills for Spaces (MZ pg. 54) to get everything to fit, but even so I stuck to the basic design system just like I did with the starships. Mekton Z isn't just for gearheads, you know.

While I was finishing the design and checking some details online, I discovered that the old FASA Star Trek RPG is on Scribd. So expect some updates to the starships soon. For now, here's what the FASA game has to say about shuttlecraft.


Shuttlecraft are used by Star Fleet for courier vessels and to transport personnel when transporter operation is impossible or impractical. Not intended for faster-than-light travel, they are powered by an advanced ion propulsion drive similar to the impulse engines of larger spacecraft. Takeoff and landing are vertical, the shuttlecraft standing on three sturdy landing pads. Most larger starships carry several shuttlecraft in shuttle bays; Constitution class ships like the Enterprise are assigned six shuttlecraft, but may carry more if their captains so choose. Every starbase and most smaller Star Fleet outposts berth shuttlecraft as well, and a number of them operated by Star Fleet have no set berth, acting as 'floaters' that can be used and left at the destination Star Fleet facility. Some have even been sold for civilian use. The shuttlecraft come in two standard designs, well engineered for years of service. Parts and service are available at nearly every Federation outpost of any appreciable size, and on any starship carrying them. Some have been in use for over 20 years, with newer models having only a few cosmetic and electronic design changes and additions. Model S-3, the standard model, travels at a maximum of .89 light-speed and is operated by one pilot. It carries 7 passengers comfortably, but, in emergencies, it may carry up to 12 on a short hop, though its life support system will not tolerate such a load for very long. The larger Model S-5 travels at .76 light-speed and also is operated by one pilot. It carries 14 passengers. Not in general use, it usually is assigned only to large stations or starbases, though some have been issued to Constitution class vessels. An experimental design is the S-4 aquashuttle. Developed for landings on water-covered worlds, it bears little external resemblance to the standard shuttlecraft, though its internal systems are similar if not identical. It is capable of interstellar flight at .82 light-speed, and of submerged travel at 100 kph to a depth of 1200 meters. It can carry 6 passengers comfortably in its specially padded and belted seats, and it holds sensing devices for doing underwater detection and research. Aquashuttles are being tested by several Constitution class exploration vessels for possible addition to standard Star Fleet equipment. Standard Star Fleet shuttlecraft neither are armed nor do they have deflector shields larger than those needed for protection against small meteors and other space debris. Aquashuttles carry a single forward-firing phaser cannon, designed for use on dangerous undersea life; this cannon is about twice as powerful as standard phaser rifle. Despite rumors to the contrary, shuttlecraft are not used in starship combat, at least not by the Federation. Their power plants are too small to even be effective as guided bombs.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

MZST Update

"What if Star Trek were an anime?"

That's the question that inspired my MZST posts, which present Mekton Z write-ups of key Star Trek characters and ships. It's a chance to show that Mekton can be about more than mecha, and to take the average Star Trek RPG in a different direction. One of the difficulties of running a Star Trek game is that cannon can often be constraining. It's a problem that Bat in the Attic commented on just the other day. By taking things back to TOS/TAS era and re-imagining the whole in terms of the stylistic elements of anime the idea is to take a step back from canon and give the GM and players the freedom to move in a different direction if they want.

One of the reasons it occurred to me to do this is that Star Trek is often referenced in the Mekton Z rulebook to illustrate a point, but to the best of my knowledge nobody has yet done a Star Trek write-up. So I did one. I'm sure my take on things may not be how others would do it. I treated the Enterprise's chief officers as standard PCs that could be used in a game, or more importantly as example characters for a game set on another starship. The is quite different from the view that Kirk, Spock and McCoy would have the status of legendary NPCs in the game, and should have extraordinary skills. I don't have a problem with that, and if you want to portray them that way just multiply the key skills (or all the skills) on my write-ups by 1.5 -- or do me one better and share your own write-ups.

Things didn't go without a hitch, and I noticed there were some mistakes in the starship designs, especially the Klingon battlecruiser. That's because it started out with a Medium Striker hull and when I upgraded it to the Heavy Striker configuration it has now I didn't adjust all the stats. That's what happens when you don't use a spreadsheet. The other glitch was the ship's sensor ranges, which were way off. They're pretty much ad hoc anyway, and don't add to the ship's cost. They're extrapolated from the basic sensor package (sensors 7 km; comm. range 1,000 km) and intended to give the ships enough sensor range to use their weapons effectively. I didn't use the full Mekton Technical System, or MTS, to design them because I wanted to keep things simple.

There were a few items of common equipment that I didn't cover, so here they are to round things out.

Communicators (as per Tech Level 7 Communicator, MZ pg. 47)

Tricorders act as a combination Bio-Scanner (MZ pg. 47), Micro-cam, Micro-Comp, and Techscanner (MZ pg. 48), but weighs only .5 kg. It can also scan minerals, chemicals and electro-magnetism. It can make general scans out to 3,000 m, and detailed scans out to 20 m.

Medical Tricorder (as per Medscanner, MZ pg. 48, but weight only .5 kg)

Medkit (MZ pg. 48)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mekton Z Star Trek

The other day over on the Mekton Zeta Mailing List the topic of out-of-range characters was being bandied about, and who should chime in but Maximum Mike himself. And wouldn't you know it, he used Star Trek to illustrate his point.

"The Enterprise crew is an anomaly in that EVERYONE (even Uhura and Chekov) are out of range characters. Only the Enterprise can fight Khan--all others get summarily pwn'd."

Well, there you have it. And me having just posted write-ups of the Enterprise crew as regular characters. しまった! So just consider my take on Kirk et. al as examples of what a group of original MZST crewmembers might look like and not as accurate depictions of that larger than life crew.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Space Opera Campaigns

The recent post over on Oddysey's blog about Six Traveller Campaign and Adventure Ideas has some good suggestions for space opera campaigns (my personal favorite being Space Ship Rockstar.) And while intended for use with Classic Traveller they're just as appropriate for any space opera game, such as Mekton Z. So to take this idea and run with it a bit, here are a few more tried-and-true space opera campaigns to have fun with.

Interstellar Patrol: The PCs are members of a service charged with keeping the peace and maintaining the safety of the spaceways. Whether it's fending off an alien menace, taking down a crooked trader, rescuing starships in danger, or ending a space-pirate's reign of terror your valiant crew is up to the task. You may even be assigned to top-secret missions that will take you undercover in the most dangerous corners of the galaxy. If it just weren't for all that red tape...

Colonial Convoy: The PCs are tasked with escorting a group of colonists to their new planet. The goal of the PC ship's officers or scouts is get the colonists to their destination in one piece. They may in one huge colony ship, or a fleet of smaller vessels. En route there can be any manner of complications, such as mechanical malfunctions (loss of artificial gravity, breakdown of FTL drive, etc.), contaminated stores, space-pirates, hostile aliens, disease, and natural disasters. Along the way you'll encounter numerous interesting planets and space stations offering rest and resupply -- as well as further tricky situations. And even once you get the colonists to their new planet they have to tame it...

Asteroid Miners: Among the whirling rocks of the asteroid belt is a fortune waiting to be had. Prospectors stake their claims and hope to find the valuable substances (and alien relics) that will make their fortunes, all the while surviving a hostile environment and fending off claim-jumpers. And in the wild boom town on that large asteroid you'll find the casinos and sexroids to squander your earnings on. Just watch out for the cutthroats and vigilantes. And don't limit yourself to asteroids. Miners can be found extracting metallic hydrogen from the clouds of gas giants, or in rubber science games, on platforms extracting unobtainium from the corona of stars.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Appendix N(evitable)

Here's yet another Appendix N consisting of the 20 classic sf authors who have most influenced me. As an added bonus I even explain why I like them. How about that?

Poul Anderson
His Psychotechnic/Technic stories show you can have colorful space opera that is scientifically realistic.

Isaac Asimov
Three Laws of Robotics. 'Nuff said.

Barrington J. Bayley
He packs more ideas into a single book than many writers manage in a lifetime.

Leigh Brackett
The queen of planetary romance.

Edgar Rice Burroughs
A red-blooded storyteller and a pioneering world builder (despite his often disagreeable attitudes) and the guy I swiped my blog's name from.

Jack L. Chalker
His Well World series are classics.

A. Bertram Chandler
He wrote some of the most convincing navy-in-space stories.

Arthur C. Clarke
Creator of Rama, the archetypal Big Dumb Object.

Alan Dean Foster
His Humanx series is great space opera and it's still going strong. (In the first game I ever GMed I let one of the players be a Tran -- and it was a fantasy game.)

Edmond Hamilton
Pioneer of space opera and creator of Captain Future.

Keith Laumer
His satirical Retief stories are just plain hilarious.

Murray Leinster
A grandmaster who I've ripped-off so many times it's not funny.

Michael Moorcock
Aside from from being a brilliant writer and inventing the character I stole my nom de blog from, he showed the possibilities of the multiverse as a narrative device.

Andre Norton
Another queen of the genre whose stories, although written for young adults, are an endless source of ideas.

Frederik Pohl
Pohl's Gateway is a campaign all by itself.

E. E. "Doc" Smith
The father of space opera.

Fred Saberhagen
His Berserker stories are the only military SF I can relate too.

H. G. Wells
A pioneer of the genre who wrote great stories that also included subtle social commentaries, and father of modern table top miniature games.

Jack Vance
A master world builder who packs more ideas into one book than most people do into an entire series.

A. E. van Vogt
One of the most influential (and weirdest) SF authors of all time. I'll blog more about him sometime.

...and others too numerous to mention.