Thursday, December 30, 2010

Filling the sandbox

When it comes to designing a game setting I've always wondered how much to put in one area. How many dungeons should be a days ride from The Constipated Hobbit Inn? How many ancient alien complexes should be a short jump away from that Class K space station? There seen to be different approaches to question, with some gamers cramming lots of hot-spots into a map, with others spreading them out over a larger area.

The former style is clearly at work in the late Dave Hargrave's legendary (notorious?) Arduin campaign setting. Take a look at this map from one of the grimoires and you'll see that despite being just a small corner of the world it's bursting with dungeons.

In fact, all of the published Arduin dungeons are on that map. They're all within spitting distance of one another. A somewhat similar approach is evident in Jeff Rients' excellent comedic Encounter Critical module, Asteroid 1618. Jeff mapped out the Vanth sub-sector of space Traveller fashion.  Along with the planet Vanth it includes Gamma (Gamma World), the spaceship Warden (Metamorphosis Alpha), Orezius (Uresia), Mythika (Mazes & Minotaurs) and more.

Even given that this is something of a tongue-in-cheek game, that's a lot of adventure locales in one small sub-sector.

The other approach is the one taken by the Judge's Guild in their classic Wilderlands of High Fantasy setting. This involved maps covering near-continental swaths of land and the dungeons and adventure modules that were published to tie into it were spread out over vast distances. A similar approach seems to be evident in Christopher B.'s Dark World, where you have a large area mapped out where the dungeons will be spread around.

So which approach do you use? Do you put all the interesting thing within easy reach of each other? Do you disperse them, placing them far apart and setting the stage for epic voyages?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The earliest T& T map

I'm a little behind the curve on this, but the Troll God has been posting some of his early fantasy maps on his blog.

The earliest Tunnels and Trolls map

Before I ever had an inkling that my life would be bound up with imaginary characters delving imaginary dungeons in imaginary lands, I was trying to write fantasy is a mode that mixed the styles of Robert E. Howard and Lord Dunsany. Fantasy places shoud have great evocative names. If you study this map you will find the city of Khosht, a place of ruins called Khazan-Tharothat, and other names that might sound familiar to T & T players. Wherever you see the little hammer/pickaxe symbols was a stronghold of the Dwarves. The Elves, of course lived in the forests. And Men lived in the cities. I wasn’t gaming yet, but my inner dream cartography was beginning to take shape.

I drew this map after writing my first Howard-esque swords and sorcery story called “Some Legends Should Remain Forgotten".

This is not only an interesting glimpse into Ken's raw imagination but these maps could easily be used as adventure locales in a game. Besides, what gamer worth their salt hasn't scribbled out some fantasy lands of their own? I just wish mine were as interesting as these.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dune redesign

Over in the BoardGameGeek fora there's a really cool project underway. Gamer Ilya Baranovsky has started doing an excellent redesign of the graphics of the classic Avalon Hill game Dune.

While I usually prefer boargames that involve hexes and dice, this game is one of the exceptions and this new art makes it even more appealing. I'm really looking forward to the finished project.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Steranko characters

Courtesy of Golden Age Comic Book Stories here are some amazing space opera characters drawn by the legendary Jim Steranko. Just add stats and go!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Tower of Druaga

The Tower of Druaga makes great inspirational viewing for FRPGs. It's about a group of delvers who dare to climb the evil tower of the title and draws on Babylonian mythology. It's based on an arcade game from the 80s and the first episode is a comedic spoof of all the games clichés. After that it settles down to a more serious adventure yarn, but with plenty of comic elements. For example, the party's wizard, Melt, has an assistant, Coopa, who basically acts as a caddy handing him different wands she pulls out of what amounts to a golf bag.You can watch both season one and season two over at ANN.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age (1975)

Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age: A Wargamer's Guide to the Age of Conan is an old-school wargame. It's probably the first commercial wargame based on Robert E. Howard's hero. (The first wargame based on the Conan saga was of course also the first ever fantasy wargame, Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign.) Written by Lin Carter, who at the time was one of the editor's of the expanded Conan stories, and Scott B. Bizar, game designer and founder of Fantasy Games Unlimited, it also features a few illustrations by Roy G. Krenkle. It's a 56 page, staple bound book in Letter sized (8.5" × 11") format detailing rules and army lists. It includes as inserts a card-stock QRS and a paper map of Hyboria.

There are two introductions, one by each author. Carter informs us that he is acting as the authority on the setting, basing it on REH's work but inventing details as they're needed, mainly for things like national emblems, etc. Bizar tells us the the inconsistencies in the original tales made them difficult to quantify, so some elements have been left out. The emphasis is on playability rather than simulation.

These rules were written before standard dice notation came into use so dice are referred to as "an average dice", i.e. 1d6, which is used for combat, and "decimal dice", or d100, which are used for morale and magic. The scale is 1:20, with one model, or "casting" as they call them, representing 20 individuals. Each turn represents roughly one hour, and they recommend that games be limited to twelve turns. To simulate the time it takes for armies to ready themselves for combat, they suggest rolling a six-sided die and subtracting the result from twelve to determine how many turns the game will last.

Units are defined in a general way, as Light Infantry, Medium Cavalry, Heavy Chariots, etc. They have five formations they can assume, Line, Column, Road Column, Charge, and Forced March. The formation a unit takes determines how far it can move. Movement is pre-plotted, and takes place in two phases.

Combat takes place simultaneously. It's modified by situation and involves rolling one six-sided die, which is then multiplied by the number of troops in the unit to determine the percentage of casualties inflicted. For example, a group of twelve Bossonian archers fire on a unit of Picts, rolling a "3". That means they inflict 36 casualties on the enemy. Since each model represents twenty people, the Pict player removes two "castings". Most ancient weapons are covered, but while they include rules for crossbows they strongly recommend against using them.

Units have to roll for morale when they come into contact with enemy units, when they lose a certain proportion of their number, or when magic is used on or near them. Having commanders, heroes or superheroes in a unit will increase its morale. If the unit fails a morale roll it will fall back or may route. Heroes and superheroes (Conan) may be included in a unit, and they count as more than one person for combat purposes. Heroes count as three fighters, superheroes count as five fighters.

Magic is handled well, and involves both spell points and the chance of a backfire, two game mechanics that became staples in later FRPGs. There are ten spells listed, with a couple of special spells available in the appendix. All wizards have The Shield of Air, and Flying Spell, which are they only two that won't backfire. Examples of the spells are The Wall of Fire, Raising the Army of Ghosts, which summons a unit of light troops, and Commanding the Earth Demon, which causes landslides. One interesting detail is that all missile attacks on wizards are -1 "...due to the haze around the wizard that all wizards create prior to any battle." The spells seem well balanced and wouldn't give the army fielding a magic user an overwhelming advantage.

The game includes a point system for building armies, and some guidelines for running a campaign. They suggest artificially limiting army size to 1500 points to keep things manageable. They also don't allow for sieges, arguing that armies wouldn't risk the casualties and that troops would take to the field when faced with a siege. Each move on the strategic map represents one week of game time with a campaign length of 35 turns, so each campaign lasts one year, at the end of which troops retire to their winter quarters. When counters on the map are adjacent players go to the gaming table to fight the battle. They give general suggests that each country should be divided into provinces, but no detailed rules covering that.

The rules end with a few appendices covering the army lists for specific nations. Each nation is described, along with its point value, historical analog, and its banner and color scheme. For example, Koth relies on archers, heavy chariots and Royal Mailed Cavalry, has as a banner a yellow field with a black triangle in the center, and the troops "all favor white and off white shades with yellow as the most common trim color." There's also a break down of each army, listing units, type, class, number of figures, and percentage of the total army.

There's an appendix dealing with magic users, which lists the different groups, like the Wizards of the Black Circle, the Preists of Mitra, et al., and gives some special spells for particular groups. There's also a description of Thoth-Amon who will fight for any nation opposing Aquilonia in return for the Heart of Ahriman. "Should Thoth-Amon succeed in gaining this magical talisman, his power would be virtually unlimited so that a campaign would come to an end if this were to occur..."

This is a well done game that covers all aspects of Hyborian warfare (except navies). The rules hold up well and I could easily imagine running this game today, especially with some of the smaller armies listed. As a sourcebook for the Hyborian Age it provides some useful details, assuming you don't mind the embellishments made by Carter, et al. This version of Hyboria is probably a little closer to Marvel Comics' Conan than it is to REH's, but it's fine for wargaming. I'm not sure how many Hyborian campaigns have been fought over the years using these rules, but I sure hope they kept Thoth-Amon away from that talisman!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cool Talislanta art

Here are a few samples of an upcoming Talislanta art book from Khepera Publishing.

Necromancer with bottle-imp

Female Thrall

Warrior before a Kaliya

Kang Warrior mounted on a Strider

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Barsoomian Army Lists

This is me saving some more great gaming stuff from obscurity. In this case it's Alan Saunders' Barsoomian Army Lists for WRG's now free wargame Hordes of the Things. I've edited them a little, removing the details about the models he used and adding the sample Barsoomian armies he had on a separate page. Here's an archive of the original page from The Stronghold for comparison. As a bonus, here's the map from SPI's Barsoom game. Now, "Cry havoc and let slip the calots of war!"

Barsoomian Army Lists for Hordes of the Things by Alan Saunders

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the eleven books that make up the Martian series between 1912 and 1950. Although the writing is up to his usual standard, the plots are repetitive and the 'science' is laughable, the series is a rollicking good read and also provides scope for a series of 'Hordes of the Things' army lists. Two lists for these books are presented in the original rules book, but they are incomplete and, in my opinion, slightly inaccurate. 'Barsoom' is the name given by Martians to their own world; Earth is called 'Jasoom'. Each of the following lists is designed to give a standard 24AP army and no more than half of the points can be spent on elements costing 3AP or more.

The eleven books in the series are: A Princess of Mars, Gods of Mars, Warlord of Mars, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Chessmen of Mars, Mastermind of Mars, Fighting Man of Mars, Swords of Mars, Synthetic Men of Mars, Llana of Gathol and John Carter of Mars.

Peter Pig do very nice ready made Green and Red Martian armies in 15mm.

Red Martian, Yellow Martian and Black Pirate
Jed or Jeddak and Retinue Blade General @ 2AP 1
Warriors Blades @ 2AP 4-11
Assassin Sneakers @ 3AP 0-1

Helium and Allies only:
Upgrade Jed or Jeddak to John Carter or similar mighty swordsman
Hero General @ 4AP 1
Lesser Heroes Hero @ 4AP 0-1

Any but Manator and Yellow Martians:
Scout Fliers Fliers @ 2AP 0-2
Fliers Airboats @ 3AP
if Black Pirate 0-4
if others 0-2

Any but Black Pirates and Yellow Martians:
Thoat Riders Riders @ 2AP
if Gathol 0-6
if others 0-2

Only if Yellow Martians:
Apts Beasts @ 2AP 0-1
Solon of Okar Hero @ 4AP 0-1

Only if Jahar:
Phor Tak Magician @ 4AP 0-1
Cannibals Hordes @ 1AP 0-10

This list covers the majority humanoid race on Barsoom, the Red Martians, and covers all of their city states, including Helium, Ptarth, Kaol, Jahar, Dusar and so on. It also includes the less common but still humanoid Yellow Martians of the North Polar regions and the Black Pirates of the South Pole and Rift Valley. Other humanoid races either have their own lists or are not considered numerous enough to field an army. Red Martians and Black Pirates had radium rifles but preferred to fight at close quarters, hence their grading as Blades. Only the Twin Cities of Helium and their allies such as Ptarth, Kaol and Gathol seemed to produce men sufficiently super-human enough to be classed as Heroes. In the case of John Carter the element need not even have a retinue as he seems to have been virtually undefeatable even when on his own! Manator lacked the technology to produce fliers, but the Black Pirates used them extensively in their raids. The Yellow Martians protected their lands from aerial attack by use of a gigantic magnet which prevented use of fliers by them as well. Accordingly, no army opposing Yellow Martians may use fliers. Most Red Martian cities made use of Thoats for patrols and scouting; Gathol was famous for its Thoat herds and is therefore assumed to have more available for military purposes. Apts are fearsome creatures of the North Polar regions and there is some evidence for their domestication. Solon of Okar was an extremely old (even by Barsoomian standards) Yellow Martian rated by John Carter as the finest swordsman he ever faced. The city of Jahar tried to create a huge army to defeat Helium by a forced breeding program. This produced over-population in some areas and resulted in the inhabitants resorting to cannibalism to survive. Phor Tak was a master scientist who developed a number of weapons to aid Jahar against Helium, chief amongst them being a disintegration ray. Rating him as a Magician best reflects his abilities and those of his weapons.

Red Martian (Helium)

1 Hero General @ 4AP...John Carter, Warlord of Mars......4
6 Blades @ 2AP.............Swordsmen of Mars.................12
2 Airboats @ 3AP..........Fliers........................................6
1 Flyer @ 2AP...............Scout Flier................................2
Stronghold: None as yet.

Black Pirates

1 Airboat General @ 3AP...Battleship.........................3
3 Airboats @ 3AP..............Lesser Battleships.............9
2 Flyers @ 2AP.................One-man Flyers................4
4 Blades @ 2AP................Black Pirate Swordsmen...8

Red Martian (Jahar)

1 Blade General @ 2AP...Tul Axtar with bodyguard.......................2
3 Blades @ 2AP..............Warriors...............................................6
2 Airboats @ 3AP............Large fliers coated in ghastly blue paint...6
1 Flier @ 2AP..................One man fliers......................................2
5 Hordes @ 1AP..............Cannibals of U-Gor...............................5
1 Artillery @ 3AP.............Phor Tak.............................................2


My fifth Martian army, and my first 'repeat' in terms of race. Jahar is a city state that goes to war with Helium in the seventh book in the series A Fighting Man of Mars. It's ruler, Tul Axtar, has two weapons at his disposal. Firstly he has instituted a forced-breeding program to boost his empire's population and supply of fighting men. This has lead to cannibalism breaking out in some provinces as the population outstrips the food supply. Secondly he has the disintigrator ray invented by Phor Tak fitted to all of his ships. This is represented in the army by giving them a fleet equal in size to that of Helium (assume it is fewer ships but armed with the secret weapon) and by fielding Phor Tak as an artillery element to provide extra firepower. Needless to say in the book his plans come to naught, but on the wargames table? Who knows?

Green Martian
Jeddak on Thoat Knight General @ 2AP 1

Up to 1/2 on foot as Blades @ 2AP
Rest on Thoats as Knights @ 2AP 6-11
Outriders and Scouts Riders @ 2AP 0-2
Calots Beasts @ 2AP 0-1
Warriors with Radium Rifles Shooters @ 2AP 0-4

Only if Thark:
Upgrade Jeddak to Tars Tarkas Hero General @ 4AP 1

This list covers all of the Green Martian nomad hordes that roamed the dead-sea bottoms of Barsoom. Most were hostile not only to other Barsoomian races but to other Green Martian hordes as well. Thark was an exception in that it was allied to Helium due to the friendship between their leader Tars Tarkas and John Carter. Green Martians generally fought mounted but were capable of fighting on foot if need be. Their impetuous desire to close to hand-to-hand combat whilst mounted along with their large size almost requires their classification as Knights. They were capable of shooting their radium rifles with almost legendary skill, but only tended to use them against enemy fliers. Some form of anti-aircraft artillery was also available, but since it was fairly static and used to protect a horde's current base it can be considered to be part of the Stronghold's defences. Calots are the Barsoomian equivalent of the dog, although they have more legs and teeth than an Earth canine and are the size of a Shetland pony! Although they domesticated a mastodon like creature called a Zitidar there is no evidence of Green Martians using them in war.

Green Martian

1 Knight General @ 2AP...Jeddak on Thoat..................2
7 Knights @ 2AP..............Thoat-Mounted Warriors.....14
4 Shooters @ 2AP...........Warriors with Radium Rifles...8
Stronghold: None as yet.

Holy Thern
Holy Hekkador Blade General @ 2AP 1
Warriors Blades @ 2AP 6-11
Banths Beasts @ 2AP 0-1
White Apes Warbands @ 2AP 0-1
Plant Men Hordes @ 1AP 0-4

The White Martian Holy Therns made up a priest caste in Barsoomian society until exposed a frauds by John Carter. The vast majority of them lived near the South Pole in the Valley Dor, the Martian ‘Heaven’ where they enslaved other Barsoomians who made the pilgrimage there. The Valley Dor also contained many fearsome creatures which were used to destroy those Barsoomians not enslaved. For the purposes of this list it is assumed that the Therns had some measure of control over these creatures. Banths are the fearsome Barsoomian lion. White Apes are gigantic four-armed hairless gorilla-like creatures. The Plant Men are mindless, mobile, humanoid plant creatures with a taste for human flesh.

Tario of Lothar Magician General @ 4AP 1
Illusionary Bowmen Shooters @ 2AP 6-8
Regrade Bowmen as Hordes @ 1AP
(2 such Hordes replace 1 element of Shooters) Up to 3/4
Banths Beasts @ 2AP 2-4

The hidden city of Lothar contained a small population of the almost extinct White Martians. Possessing amazing mental powers the inhabitants created an illusionary army of bowmen to fight their mortal enemies, the Green Martian horde of Torquas. These illusions could kill as long as the viewer believed in their reality. Tario is the Jeddak (or leader ) of Lothar, and the most powerful illusionist. The list allows Lothar to field small numbers of competent bowmen or larger numbers of lesser men or a mixture. Illusionary Banths fought alongside the troops, but a few real ones were mixed in with them as a nasty surprise and to clean up the battlefield afterwards.


1 Magician General @ 4AP...Powerful Mentalist with Bodyguard...4
4 Shooters @ 2AP................Illusionary Bowmen........................8
6 Hordes @ 1AP..................Illusionary Bowmen.........................6
3 Beasts @ 2AP....................Banths.........................................6


This is the fourth of my Barsoomian armies, based on the Orovars encountered by Carthoris in 'Thuvia, Maid of Mars'. Powerful mentalists were able to create illusions of vast armies of bowmen from their distant past. The army is a mix of shooters (to reflect the effectivness of the bowmen) and hordes (to reflect their limitless numbers). The banths were a mixture of real ones and illusions.

Jed and Retinue Blade General @ 2AP 1
Hormads in ‘Human’ Bodies Blades @ 2AP 1-3
Hormad Warriors Warband @ 2AP 4-8
Poorly Proportioned Hormads Hordes @ 1AP 4-10
Hormads on Giant Birds Flyers @ 2AP 0-3
Out of Control Growth Vat Behemoth @ 4AP 0-1

Hormad were synthetic humanoids created by the master scientist Ras Thavas in the deserted city of Morbus. Grown from huge vats of undifferentiated organic material they tended to lack symmetry and in many cases intelligence. However they were virtually indestructible; severed limbs would carry on moving, severed heads could still carry on conversations. Only fire could completely destroy a Hormad. They captured humanoid Martians and transferred the brains of the more intelligent Hormads into their bodies. Lacking fliers they traveled on genetically engineered giant birds. A growth vat once went out of control and threatened to engulf not only Morbus but the whole of Barsoom. It is assumed here that a more controlled form of this accident could be used to create a fearsome opponent.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Blaster pistol (Tri-Stat)

Blaster Pistol   Damage: 15    Concealable    Skill: Gun Combat (Pistol)   Major Gadget

A generic blaster pistol for Tri-Stat.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vampire (Tri-Stat)

pic by Wolfenheim

Vampire (110 Character Points)

Body 6, Mind 5, Soul 6

ACV 7, DCV 3
Health Points: 100 Energy Points: 55 Shock Value: 12

Attack Combat Mastery Level 2, Contamination Level 3, Heightened Awareness Level 3, Mind Control Level 2, Natural Weapons (Fangs) Level 1, Regeneration Level 1, Reincarnation Level 2, Special Attack "Vampire Bite" Level 1 (20 Damage, Drain Soul, Vampiric, Melee, Low Penetration), Special Defense Level 3, Tough Level 3, Special Movement (Balance, Cat-like) Level 2, Speed Level 3, Super Strength Level 2, Swarm (Bats or rats) Level 2

Achilles Heel (Wood) 2 BP, Bane (Holy Symbols) 1 BP, Bane (Sunlight) 2 BP, Easily Distracted (By blood) 2 BP

Stealth Level 1, Unarmed Attack Level 2, Unarmed Defense Level 2

A generic vampire for Tri-Stat.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vampire (Fuzion)

Vampire (50 Points)

Mental 4, Combat 8, Physical 6, Move 5
Hits: 30, Defense: 12, REC: 6

Armor +6 (Vulnerable to wood) 1 PP
Clinging 2 PP
Damage Reduction 50%  (Vulnerable to wood) 4 PP
Infrared Vision 1 PP
Killing Attack "Bite" 2DC 3 PP
Life support 6 PP
Regeneration (5 Round, Vulnerable to wood) 4 PP
Transformation (Cumulative) 1d6 "Human into Vampire",  No Range (-2), Linked to Bite (+3), Bite Must Do Damage (-2), Activation DV 8 (-2) 2 PP

Skills: Interrogation 3, Seduction 4, Stealth 4, Shadowing 3, Concealment 2, Melee Weapons 4

A generic vampire for Fuzion using the Heroic Abilities Plug-in.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Werewolf (Tri-Stat)

Hunter (92 Points)

Body 5, Mind 4, Soul 4

ACV 4, DCV 2

Health 65, Energy 40, Shock Value 9

Alternate Form Level 7, Heightened Awareness Level 2, Gadgets Level 1 (Hunting Rifle, Canteen, Compass), Tough Level 1

Involuntary Change (Under full moon) 1 BP

Animal Training (Dogs) Level 1, Stealth (Silent Movement) Level 4, Wilderness Survival Level 1, Wilderness Tracking Level 1

Werewolf form

Body 7, Mind 1, Soul 4

ACV 7, DCV 2

Health 135, Energy 25, Shock Value 11

Alternate Form Level 7, Attack Combat Mastery Level 3, Contamination (Bite causes lycanthropy) Level 2, Heightened Awareness Level 4, Heightened Senses (Smell) Level 1, Natural Weapons (Claws, Fangs) Level 2, Regeneration Level 4, Speed Level 2, Super Strength Level 1, Tough Level 4

Awkward Size 1 BP, Easily Distracted (By prey) 2 BP, Physical Impairment (Cannot talk) 1 BP, Unskilled 2 BP, Vulnerability (Silver) 2 BP

A generic werewolf for Tri-Stat d6.

Update: The Alt Form LVL was off by one, so I raised it and adjusted the Character Point tally. And I forgot to included Contamination, so I added it and dropped the skills and Jumping to balance the points.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Werewolf (Fuzion)

pic by Zero-drk

Werewolf (55 Points)
Mental 2, Combat 6, Physical 5, Move 5
Hits: 25, Defense: 10,  REC: 12

Bite DC4
Claws DC6
Morph (Composition, Shape)
Armor +4 (Vulnerable to Silver)
Damage Reduction 50% (Vulnerable to Silver)
Regeneration 1 Round (Vulnerable to Silver)
1d6 Transformation (Cumulative): Human into Lycanthrope, No Range (-2), Linked to Bite (+3), Bite Must Do Damage (-2), Activation DV 8 (-2)
Tracking Scent
Enhanced Perception (Smelling +4, Hearing +4) 
Skill: Stealth 5 

Human Form (20 Points)
Mental 4, Combat 4, Physical 4, Move 4
Hits: 20, Defense: 8, REC: 4

Skills: Animal Handler 2, Firearms 3, Navigation 3, Survival 3, Tracking 4
Shotgun (12-Gauge buckshot) ROF: 2 Range: 40m Area Effect DC5

A generic werewolf for Fuzion using the Heroic Abilities Plug-in.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Zombie (Fuzion)

pic by TwinDragon

Zombie (27 Points)

Mental 2, Combat 3, Physical 4, MOV 1

AV 3, DV 3, Hits 20, Defense 8

Bite (2DC Killing Attack) 3 PP
Infrared Vision 1 PP
Life Support 10 PP

A generic shambling zombie for Fuzion written using Instant Fuzion and the Superpowers Plug-In.

Update: I had the cost of the Bite wrong so I corrected it, and put up a different pic.

Zombie (Tri-Stat)

(pic by SmokeryDots)

Zombie (40 Character Points)

Body 4, Mind 1, Soul 3

ACV 6, DCV 0

Health Points 75, Energy Points 20, Shock Value 7

Attack Combat Mastery Level 4, Contamination (Victims are zombified) Level 4, Natural Weapon (Bite) Level 1, Reincarnation Level 2, Sixth Sense (Living people) Level 1, Special Defense (Does not breathe) Level 2, Tough Level 2

Bane (Holy Symbol) 1 BP, Easily Distracted ("Brains!") 2 BP, Less Capable (Slow) 1 BP, Marked (Undead) 3 BP, Physical Imparement (Cannot talk) 1 BP, Unskilled 2 BP

A generic shambling zombie write-up for Tri-Stat d6.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Torchships & Trolls

I was thinking about games like X-plorers yesterday and got to imagining what it would be like to run a game like that using Tunnels & Trolls. Obviously the first thing you'd need would be the T&T rules.T&T is a classic, especially the 5th ed., so any gamer worth their salt should have a copy. If you don't you can download the abridged free edition from sites like RPGNow or DriveThruRPG.

Then you'll want Garen Ewing's Trolls in Space weapons list. This is what got me thinking about this in the first place. It covers almost all the sf weapons you could want, like Blaster Rifle, Photon Guns and Light Sabres. It also gives you some reference for prices so you can add other equipment, like space suits and whatnot. But sf games are about more than gear. What about the other aspects of the game?

T&T 5th ed. has four basic Character Types, Warrior, Wizard, Rogue and the rare Warrior Wizard. The Warrior can just be renamed to something like "Trooper" and work just fine in a space opera game. Whether he's a Space Marine or a Space Barbarian is detail for the player and GM to work out. The next two types are a little trickier, and my idea is to split them each into two.

The Wizard would become either an "Esper" or a "Scientist". Espers act just like the regular Wizard type, only they've been trained by the Esper's Guild and the spells are renamed as psi powers. For example, "Knock Knock" would be a minor Telekinesis, "Omnipotent Eye" would be Psychometry, etc. Some spells, like Vorpal Blade, the Wall spells, etc. might not be appropriate for Espers and could be omitted. Instead of magic staffs Espers would have psi crystals. Scientists are a little different. They have the ability to use and build build devices that have the same effect as the spells. For example, a Scientist could jury rig a weapon to do double attack dice for one turn, i.e. he "casts Vorpal Blade on it". He could blast an alien with his ice cannon, or "cast Freeze Please". And so on. For Scientists the STR cost of the spell is how many hours it takes them to fabricate the item.

Rogues are handled in a similar manner. They are "Techies" or "Latent Espers". The Latent Espers are just like the standard Rogues in that they can learn psi powers from an Esper. Techies can use supers science items and can learn to build them from Scientists.

Wizard Warriors are "Esper Knights", and are act just as described in the rules. These are the Lensmen and Jedi.

Aliens are pretty easy to handle. To play an alien character just come up with a customized Peters-McAllister chart. For alien beasties just give then a monster rating, or Alien Rating.

But what about space ships? The easiest way would be to treat them similar to monster and give them a Spaceship Rating. For example, a small scout ship might might have a Spaceship Rating of 200 and a blaster turret that does 21D plus adds, while a Space Pirate cruiser might be SR 1000 and have beam batteries that do 101D plus adds. Ships could even have ablative Deflector Screens that are equal to their starting SR and which don't count toward their adds. I'd probably also give each ship a Speed rating to help figure out if you could outrun that Imperial Patrol.

So there you are. Some quick rules to take let your T&T game blast off.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Random Starting Tech Level

Inspired by games like Encounter Critical and Terminal Space, here's a Random Starting Tech Level chart for Fuzion characters. I followed the Fuzion Tech Levels (which like most Tech Levels are very Eurocentric) but added some details.

Random Starting Tech Level

Roll 2D6-2

Tech Level.....Historical Era
1....................Iron Age/Medieval
4....................Early 20th Century
5....................Late 20th Century
6....................21st Century
7....................Near Future (Solar System Exploration)
8....................Early Interstellar Far Future
9....................Late Interstellar Far Future
10..................Hyper Science (transgalactic empires)

How this influences the character's Life Path is for the GM and players to work out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

C31 Translating Computer

C31 Translating Computer........12

Translates unknown languages into any selected Terran language. When spoken into it translates your words back via digitized voice. The C31 features a limited AI that has a habit of actively volunteering detailed answers to passing questions about technical matters, and has been known to offer translations of interjections that give the impression of sarcasm. Takes three turns to translate a simple language; six turns to analyze and translate a complex one. Note: on a roll of 1 on 1D6, any previously unknown language is untranslatable. Cost: 1,200 credits

(Inspired by Robert Sheckley's "A Suppliant in Space" (1973); pic via Lebedev Studio)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Free Space Opera RPGs

Jeff R's post today about DIY skiffy got me thinking about the free space opera RPGs out there. He's mainly interested in the D&Dish ones he mentioned in his post, but there are some others around. Here's the ones that I gravitate toward.

D6 Space

D6 Space is good, free pulp SFRPG. I actually have the hardbound edition of this game that I bought when it first came out. I had some fun playing in a D6 game before, so I was looking forward to the reissue. I imagined it would be just like the tried and true D6 Star Wars, only without all of the copyrighted material. Instead what I got was a game that crashed the Masterbook system right into the once enjoyably simple D6 rules. Ugh! So I put it on the shelf to gather dust. But now that it's been released as a free OGL game, I'm willing to cut it some slack. This game gives you a solid space opera RPG that you can run right out of the box, and when you add D6 Space Ships and D6 Aliens it covers all the bases.


Fuzion is a solid general purpose RPG engine that works great for space opera. Especially the older 4.4.3 rules, which includes different kinds of space suits, scanners, energy pistols, energy sabers, cyber hand blades, etc. It also has some cool dogfighting rules to handle those space furballs. Add the various plug-ins and you've got the whole genre covered. The Mekton plug-in gives you simple rules for building ships and vehicles; Mental Powers covers psionics; the Super Powers plug-in covers just about any weird mutant powers you can think of; and Martial Arts lets your your character have Venusian aikido. The only caveat is that Fuzion is more of a tool-kit than a finished rules set, so you'll need to do a little tweaking and adjusting, but that fits right in with the DIY theme of Jeff's post. For example, I'd reduce the number of characteristics to six or less and rewrite the skill list to add sf skills like sensors, zero-g, etc. And I'd beef up the Energy Sabre, which is too weak. Maybe something like this:

Energy Saber...7.........6...........+1...............2..........2h

Tri-Stat dx

Tri-Stat is another good choice. It's a pretty simple game system to run, but it would require a little more work than the others to use for space opera. That's because the Tri-Stat dx rules are a generic version of the superhero game Silver Age Sentinels, and so they're focused more on a contemporary setting. But with a little DIY tinkering they would work, and they do include a space opera skill list.

There's a bunch more great free SFRPGS around, and you can find links to them under the "Free RPGs" label just to the right there, but these are the three I'd be most likely to use.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Space Suit

(pic via JAXA)

Space Suit

Protects the wearer in space or in unbreathable atmospheres. It provides Partial Armor Level 1 (Stops 5 points of damage), Adaptation (Level 3, airlessness, temperature, vacuum). The suit can sustain 40 points damage before being destroyed, but any damage that penetrates armor affects both the suit and its wearer. The combined space suit and life support system weigh a total of 125 kilograms and can support a seven-hour EVA. Minor Gadget.

(Based on the space suit in BESM 2nd ed. rev., pg. 151)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cone rifle

(5 Armor, 35 Health Points)
Weapon  Damage   Abilities       Disabilities               Skill

Cone Rifle   18     Area Effect   Limited Shots (6)  Gun Combat (Auto-Fire)

The cone rifle, a standard infantry weapon, fires rocket-propelled, explosive flechettes. These flechettes are cone shaped, allowing them to be stacked into tubes. The explosive cones accelerate after being fired from the rifle, hitting with greater impact at long ranges. Major Gadget.

(From Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle; pic modified from MechWarrior)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Moss the Dungeon Master

In the new season of The IT Crowd, Moss entertains some visiting corporate bureaucrats buy giving them their first taste of D&D.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Klingon Propaganda Video

FASA's Star Trek RPG (which sadly I've never had the chance to play) was probably the only Trek RPG to publish supplements tailored specifically for gamers running a Klingon campaign. Modules like A Matter of Priorities, Graduation Exercise, and An Imbalance of Power were adventures for Klingon PCs seeking honor among the stars. I imagine those characters watched a lot of videos like this.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Casters, once called "spell guns," are magical weapons which fire shells that have the effects of spells. When the mana started to run out people started putting the spells in cartridges. Each of the 20 different types of cartridge has a diffrent effect. Caster shells are rare and expensive, and few wizards still know how to enchant them.

 Caster (for Tri-Stat)

  Item of Power 1x3 = 3
    Easy To Lose 
    Special Attack "#3 shell" 1x4+ 1 = 5  (60 damage attack)
      Affects Incorporeal
      Limited Shots 2x-20 = -40  (3 shots)
    Alternate Attack "#12 shell" 1x1 = 1  (20 damage attack)
      Limited Shots 2x-20 = -40  (3 shots)


I was generous with the number of shots. Usually a character will only have one or two shells of a given type. There are obviously many more types of cartridge available, but they are hard to get and characters should be required to undertake a minor quest to acquire the very rare and powerful ones, like a  #4 or #13.

Another way to write this weapon up is to treat the caster as a Major Gadget (or two) and then write up each cartridge as a different Special Attack.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Warp War Campaign

I was poking around over at BoardGameGeek and discovered there's a play-by-forum game of Warp War going on. They're using a variant of the rules and playing on a larger map from Stellar Conquest which should provide a little more scope to the game.

There are four factions slugging it out for galactic domination

  1. B.A.S.H. Boskone Aeronautical Space Horde
  2. P.O.T.W. People of The Wind
  3. RHON Rhones
  4. S.M.I.R.S Space Marines in Red Spandex

I'm rooting for the Space Marines in Red Spandex.

And I also discovered that Warp War is still in print. I don't know how this current version compares to the old Metagaming copy I have, but it's good to know it's still available.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Science Police Helmet

Some game stats for that helmet I posted pics of yesterday. In DC terms this is pre-Crisis, Silver Age stuff. The capabilities are conjectural but seem like what future cops would have.

Science Police Helmet (Major Gadget)

15 points Armor (head only); Police-Band Radio; Global Positioning System; Anti-Glare Visor and Ear Protectors (+6 bonus to checks to avoid the effects of Flare attacks and Flash-Bang Grenades.)

These stats are for the free Tri-Stat dX game, but will also work for BESM. To use it with BESM 2nd ed. change the "+6" to a "-3".

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wild '70's helemt

When Mike Grell was working on The Legion of Super-Heroes, he gave the Science Police these groovy helmets. I think the flash-back display is optional, but I bet they have a kick-ass set of built-in headphones.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nuclear Winter

Greg Costikyan loves taking the piss out of his fellow gamers. He skewered the mentality underlying most hack-and-slash gamers with Violence: The Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed. He also took on the post-holocaust genre with this short gem.

Nuclear Winter

The Realistic After-the-Holocaust Game

Design: Greg Costikyan
Development: Joe Balkoski, John M. Ford, and Nick Quane

(1.0) The 90-Minute War Table

1-4 You survive the first strike; roll on table 2.0.
5-6 You are killed in the fireball.

(2.0) Fallout Table

1-5 You survive the fallout with only minor radiation sickness; roll on table 3.0.
6 You are killed by the radiation.

(3.0) Collapse of Civilization Table

1-3 You survive the collapse of the food distribution network, the marauding bands, etc.; roll on table 4.0.
4-6 You die at the hands of looters, from starvation, etc.

(4.0) Nuclear Winter Table

1-6 A cloud of dust encircles the globe. Global temperatures drop by several degrees. Most plant life dies because it does not receive enough light. The glaciers advance. All animals larger than the rat become extinct. You die.

(5.0) Optional New Jersey Rule

If you live in New Jersey, add one to all die-rolls.

(6.0) Optional Breathing Rule

Each time you take a breath, mark off one breath box. When all six boxes have been marked off, you are dead.

Designer's Notes

For some reason, after-the-holocaust games seem real popular right now. Why is beyond me; I can think of few more depressing environments in which to live. In addition, most such games are patently ludicrous; a few years after a full-scale nuclear exchange, nothing will be left by the rats and the roaches. However, I might as well cash in on the trend, too.

Coming Soon from Costikyan Publishing Empire


The sequel to Nuclear Winter

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hordes of the Things!

Yesterday James M. posted the good news that the mass combat wargame, Hordes of the Things! (2nd ed.) is available as a free download for personal use. HOTT! is a really fun abstract wargame based on Wargames Research Group's popular DBA/DBM ancient & medieval rules. (I think the name comes from the BBC radio series Hordes of the Things that was a parody of LotR.)

Because they're abstract and use several figures mounted on a single base to represent huge hordes of troops, you can have entire armies using just a handful o figures. The abstract nature of the rules also means you can make an army based on just about anything you can dream up, like a Dr. Who army.

The premiere resource for HOTT was The Stronghold website which had a bunch of army lists and stuff, but it seems to have gone 404. (Here's a link to the archived copy).  If you do play you might want to use these rule tweaks that come from the mailing list:

HOTT is a very well balanced game. There are no uber-elements that are game winners in all circumstances. General opinion, however, is that if there is an elements that's good value for the points it's the Shooter. Likewise Warbands are regarded as a little underpowered.

There is a substantial minority (and a clear majority of the regular contributors to this list) who are using the following modified rules:

Shooters' move in good/bad going reduced to 200 paces

Warbands' move in good/bad going increased to 300 paces.

This makes a surprising difference to the perceived usefulness of the two elements.

Richard C

And don't worry if you don't have models on hand. You can always play HOTT without miniatures.