Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lost, Forgotten

Chaosium's Elric!/Stormbringer 5th had a character generation system that gave players a list of Adventurer Occupations. They could either pick one, or randomly roll on the chart. While most of them were standard fare, like Soldier, Thief, Sailor, etc., one of them was very unusual and evocative.

Lost, Forgotten -- you're a drifter, or a person plagued by dreams and visions, or a young person newly orphaned,  or you just woke up an amnesiac. You don't quite know who you are, and you can't remember a time when you knew. You grasp at strange clues and bewildering notions that never quite work, and scheme for riches that never quite appear. Skills: Conceal Object, Fast Talk, Hide, Insight, Listen, Move Quietly, Search, and one other skill as a personal specialty. Optional Spells: Cloak of Cran Liret (1-4), Midnight (1), Witch Sight (3). Extra Money: 15 bronzes.

My players didn't like the random occupation option, and no one ever chose this one, preferring to stick with more obvious picks. Which is too bad, because this "occupation" is so cool.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Traveller lasers

I've never been big on Traveller even though I don't have any major problems with the game system. Most of the criticisms I have of the rules are nitpicks. But I don't particularly care for the OTU, partly because it's so low-tech. When you roll up a character you just might end up with skills like "cutlass" or "revolver". Those are great for a certain type of setting - like campy space pirates - but it doesn't quite fit my view of the average space opera game. My views on this were shaped by things like larry Niven's Known Space tales where Louis Wu doesn't know how to use an axe, or the TOS episode "Shore Leave" by Theodore Sturgeon where Sulu has to explain what a revolver is.

Skip to to the 10:00 min mark for Sulu's history lesson

So my idea of a space opera setting is one where things like cutlasses and revolvers are antiques, not standard issue. If characters have weapons they'll be things like force blades and lasers. But in OTU the lasers that are available are cumbersome weapons that require a bulky external battery to use.

That's the kind of weapon that would be more at home in the near-future of Cyberpunk 2020 than in a star-spanning interstellar empire where anti-gravity tech is common. As for laser pistols, forget it. They didn't show up until MegaTraveller. I'm not sure why Miller and co. decided to go this direction, but maybe it was to make the game seem more realistic. Or something.

This isn't a major problem. Creating your own campaign setting is part of the fun of gaming. And it's relatively easy to come up with some house rules for laser pistols and such like. But there are a lot of little things like this about the rules that are sticking points for me. Traveller is a game I want to like, but it takes quite a bit of tweaking to get it to where I want it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Generating Percentages with 2D6

The Best of the Dragon had a bunch of interesting articles, including one on alternative ways of generating random numbers for games. In "What to Do When the Dog Eats Your Dice," Omar Kwalish listed ideas from the straightforward, like drawing chits, to the bizarre, like plucking chest hairs (WTF?). A couple that I really liked involved ways to generate a wide range of numbers using ordinary six-sided dice.


The following table is from FIGHT IN THE SKIES. The column on the left is percentages and numbers needed to get them, while the figures on the right are the actual probabilities. (I.E., if there is a 10% chance of an encounter, a roll of "9" indicates that it occurs. The actual percentage chance of rolling a "9" with two standard dice is 11.1 %.)

05%... 11 5.6%
10% 9 11.1%
15% 6 13.9%
20% 7, 12 19.4%
25% 4, 7 25.0%
30% 7, 8 30.6%
35% 2, 4, 5, 6 36.1%
40% 5, 6, 8 38.9%
45% 6, 7, 8 44.4%
50% 4, 5, 6, 7 50.0%
55% 5, 6, 7, 8 55.6%
60% 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 61.6%
65% 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 63.9
70% 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 69.4%
75% all except 2, 3, 4, 10... 75.0%
80% all except 2, 4, 10 80.6%
85% all except 3, 11, 12 86.1%
90% all except 9 88.9%
95% all except 11 94.4%


One six-sided die can be used to determine any number range divisible by two, three or six. (I.E., for 1-100, first roll determines if it is between 1 and 50, or 51-100, the second 1-25 or 26-50 (assuming first roll indicates 1-50), the third determines in which group of five (discarding rolls of "6"), and the last the actual number.)

Sure, you could do it the easy way and generate these numbers using your fancy-schmancy polyhedral dice, but this way's more fun.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

D6 Star Trek

The D6 System is a natural choice for space opera games, largely because of the popularity of the old D6 Star Wars RPG. Several years ago gamer Craig Griswold came up with some conversions of that game to other sf universes, like Doctor Who and Star Trek. He posted them on his Hyperspace Crossroads site which is now only avalable via the Wayback Machine. The Trek material has character Templates, equipment  and some new rules for handling Warp drive and those exploding bridge consoles. It was designed using the D6SW rules, so they would need to be tweaked to work with the free OGL D6 rules which are different in many places. But they're similar enough that these write-ups are still useful. I've always thought that the D6 System is a great match for a ST game and this material is a good place to start. To give you an idea of what's there, here are the stats for the TOS version of the venerable U.S.S. Enterprise.

Starship: U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701
Craft: Federation Starship Constitution Class
Type: Exploratory Starship
Scale: Capital
Length: 288.6m, Height: 72.6m, Width: 127.1m
Crew: 430, gunners: (?)
skeleton: 250, +5
Crew Skill: varies
Passengers: 500
Cargo Capacity: ?
Consumables: 3 years
Cost: not available for sale
Warp/Hyperdrive Multiplier: x1 (cruise x3)
Hyperdrive Backup: N/A
Nav Computer: Yes
Maneuverability: 1D+1
Space: 5
Hull: 3D
Shields: 2D+2 (see special shields rules)
Passive: 50 / 1D
Scan: 100 / 2D
Search: 200 / 3D
Focus: 7 / 3D+2


* Phaser Banks: 3
Fire Arc: Forward, Right, Left
Crew: 4
Scale: Capital
Skill: Capital Ship Gunnery
Fire Control: 4D
Space Range: 3-15 / 35 / 75
Atmosphere Range: 300m-1.5 km / 3.5 km / 7.5 km
Damage: 4D (variable settings)

* Photon Torpedo Launchers: 2
Fire Arc: Forward
Crew: 6
Scale: Capital
Skill: Capital Ship Gunnery
Fire Control: 3D+1
Space Range: 2-12 / 30 / 60
Atmosphere Range: 200m-1.2 km / 3 km / 7 km
Damage: 9D

* Tractor Beam Arrays: 1
Fire Arc: Forward
Crew: 3
Scale: Capital
Skill: Capital Ship Gunnery
Fire Control: 2D+1
Space Range: 1-5 / 15 / 30
Atmosphere Range: 100-500m / 1.5km / 3 km
Damage: 4D

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Traveller morale

While the current Mongoose edition of Traveller has a lot to recommend it, one thing they omitted is a morale system. Which is too bad, because CT has one of the best and most straightforward systems for handling morale. Here it is from pg. 33 of my horribly water damaged LBB.


A party of adventurers (player or non-player) which sustains casualties in an encounter will ultimately break or rout if it does not achieve victory.

At the point in which 25% of a party are unconscious or killed, the party must begin throwing for morale. Average morale throw is 7+ to stand, or not break. Valiant parties may have a higher throw. DM's are allowed: +1 if the party is a military unit, +1 if a leader (leader expertise) is present, +1 if the leader has any tactical expertise; -2 if the leader is killed (for two combat rounds, and then until a new leader takes control), -2 if casualties exceed 50%.

And that's all there is to it. It's a great set of concise rules that are easy to tweak. For example, I might add a provision covering situations where the characters are outnumbered by 2 to 1 or facing overwhelming odds (a mecha, Godzilla, etc.). This rule never should have been left out of the newer editions, but that's what house rules are for.