Friday, December 31, 2010

Arrow of Time

The battle was not going well.  Rathgar was down, Allainora was backed into a corner, and Feris was on his knees while the serpent man held a wicked looking sword above his head, ready to remove Feris'.  Nimble was above it all.  Literally, as he stood upon a balcony looking down upon the battle.  He'd scouted ahead, finding nothing but an empty room with an lone arrow sitting in the middle of the room.  It was an odd arrow, with butterfly wing fletching but as Nimble was out of arrows, he took it.  Now, as he looked down upon the scene, he notched the arrow, and aimed it straight for the serpent man about to decapitate his friend.  The arrow shot from his bow... and froze about halfway to its target.  "Nooo!" Nimble screamed.

No one heard it however, as everyone but Nimble seemed frozen.  Blinking in surprise a few times, he sprinted down the balcony stairs, drawing his short sword as he ran.  As he passed Allianora he sliced the unarmored back of the snakeman's leg that had her pinned into the corner.  He then charged toward the snakeman threatening Feris, and shoved his blade hilt deep into its chest.  At the same Moment everyone unfroze Nimble felt a sharp stabbing pain in his back.

The Arrow of Time is a single use item that when fired will pause time for 2d4 rounds, allowing the launcher of the arrow to take any actions in that time that he is capable of.  Any attacks made will cause maximum damage automatically. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Starter Traveller - Strange New Worlds V

Sectors 0501-0510

Sector 0501 - Aitheyi - C98569D-8
An agricultural bread basket, Aitheyi provides food for many of the local systems that are less than self-sustaining.  Unfortunately the bureaucracy keeps things so tightly in check that the people are chafing under the repression and ready to burst.  The local scout base resides in the dirtside starport.  The local gas giant supports an extensive ring and moon system. 

Sector 0502 – Empty

Sector 0503 - Sewea - C636566-5
The oceans of Sewea constantly bubble, which keeps the planets atmosphere refreshed in spite of the local gas giant’s attempts to strip it.  Unknown to the general population, the government is currently being controlled by a wild telepath.  Fuel is provided by a pair of Neptune sized gas giants. 

Sector 0504 - Knaleff - E8997BF-3
Once ruled by the charismatic father of the current leader, this is a world fallen into ruin.  Pollution has ruined the atmosphere and the expansive oceans, causing rising temperatures that have melted the ice caps, flooded and destroyed much of the world’s agriculture.   Lacking a gas giant there is little reason for Travellers to stop here. 

Sector 0505 – Empty

Sector 0506 - Saecketo - C889402-9
Most of this world is covered in tropical oceans flourishing with a wide variety of unique life forms.  Most of the 35 thousand inhabitants live fairly primitively on the scattered islands, harvesting what they need from the worlds oceans.  Access to technology is available, and there is one city on the worlds largest island, but most natives prefer the carefree existence of island living.    The local scout base is located in orbit of the system’s innermost gas giant (of 3), and is currently studying the effects of the naturally occurring very mild relaxant in Saecketo’s atmosphere. 

Sector 0507 – Empty

Sector 0508 - Tau Erython - A130326-G
**Warning – Red Zone!!  Unauthorized access will be met with extreme prejudice!**
Tau Erython is a small rock in an uninteresting system.  The official story is that this system is used for weapons research & development by the Navy.  The truth is that a planetary fragment from an alien precursor civilization was found orbiting the local gas giant.  It was discovered by the Scout service, which is why they also have a base in system.    

Sector 0509 – Empty

Sector 0510 – Empty

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Starter Traveller - Strange New Worlds IV

Sector 0401 - Davidia Prime - A6619A9-A
Davidia Prime is a busy point in the subsector, hosting a rather dry but comfortable habitat, a large lawful population which is overseen by an immensely popular governor, and hosts a Navy Base, a Scout Base, and a set of twin gas giants.  The system is patrolled by numerous craft, and while the world neither qualifies for Ag World or Industrial World status, it is very successful.

Sector 0402 - Empty

Sector 0403 - Eurtade - C923212-7
The Corporate world of Eurtade was originally host to a large industrial complex, the ruins of which still cover much of the surface.  After the planets natural resources were tapped out, leaving a stripped and poisoned atmosphere and ocean, most of the worlds employee-citizens were reassigned to other job sites, leaving only a small skeleton crew.  Today, the few remaining descendants of those workers live on, keeping the life support of a small complex on the southern continent running.  The former processing station has been shifted from orbit around to the orbit of the local gas giant for ease of harvesting fuel.  The remainder of the planet is host to whoever chooses to land there and stake a claim.

Sector 0404 - Alicia IV - B663851-7
A cool mountainous world, much of the water is trapped in snow and ice, and hardy evergreen forests cover much of the surface.  There is a significant tourist trade (it might even be considered a vacation world), and many of the worlds inhabitants are involved in servicing these visitors.  A Navy Base orbits the world, maintaining security in space, but the surface is a wild frontier.  The titular rulers are those who can maintain the equipment used by the visitors, technology the rest of the population is not so lucky to have access to.  The local gas giant is a hot Jupiter class which has a year of 4.5 standard days.  Specialized ships designed to withstand the brutal heat and winds of this giant are necessary to collect fuel which is sold at the starport.

Sector 0405 - Empty

Sector 0406 - Gibsonia - A440577-C
A poor, non-industrial, desert of a world is ruled by a variety of regional gangs and governments (which is which is often hard to tell).  A Navy Base and Gas Giant orbit on a rather askew track, which tends to send comets careening around the system with more than usual frequency.   The system is listed as an Amber Zone due to the navigational hazards and the planet's chaotic situation.

Sector 0407 - Greece - X354424-1
This system is listed as a Red Zone due to it's protected status.  The world is inhabited by a genetically modified strain of human that is capable of dealing with the low gravity and ammonia tainted atmosphere.  They live in small democratic city states with a level of technology reminiscent of Ancient Greece from Terra's early history.  A series of satellites monitor the world's development.

Sector 0408 - Groton Station - A120133-E
A small orb, barely bigger than an asteroid, hosts a Navy Station and the few civilian workers.  The civies are managed by the private company the Navy contracted to run some of the entertainment establishments for the sailors.  The local gas giant has alternating bands of violet and yellow.

Sector 0409 - Eckaitont - E677754-6
This beautiful world has a high concentration of iron in it's upper crust, lending to a very red-orange dominated planet.  The Technocrats rules the world, keeping one of the most successful terraforming projects running.  In the next 200 years the atmosphere should be completely purged of the tainted chemicals used to help sow life.  The scout base is located on the south pole, and the local gas giant is a dull brown orb.

Sector 0410 - Empty

**Edited to fill in a couple of missing planet names**

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Starter Traveller - Strange New Worlds III

Parsecs 0301-0310

Sector 0301 - Empty

Sector 0302 - Quemar - E100233-8
This barren rock sports a scout base and a small research station focused on the odd chemistry of the local gas giant, which for some reason is constantly glowing with a globe wide aurora.  Harvesting fuel from this gas giant takes double the usual time due to the scarcity of the proper chemicals.

Sector 0303 - Empty

Sector 0304 - Deniz - D41044-4
Deniz is a dry rock in a tidally locked orbit just a little too close to it's star.  The people living on the surface inhabit the twilight band collecting solar energy from the light side, and trying to scratch a living growing a variety of foods in subsurface caverns.  The starport sits in it's own orbit between the inner rocky world and the further out gas giant.  Aside from servicing passing ships, it's also used to collect ice comets and send them in controlled descents onto Deniz's surface.

Sector 0305 - Aranliq - C898486-8
Shrouded in thick clouds, Aranliq is a former industrial world who's population recently was halved by a plague.  The Civil Bureaucracy has handled the recent demographic shift capably, but an end of the world cult has sprung up and is causing problems.  The Starport and planet have all only just ended their quarantine.  The system is still listed as an Amber Zone.  The gas giant is still available for refueling for those nervous about the plague. 

Sector 0306 - Empty

Sector 0307 - Empty

Sector 0308 - Empty

Sector 0309 - Gradina - B767552-B
Gradina is one of the bread baskets of the local area.  The world is ruled by the Poor Richards Council, venerable farmers who are very concerned with land use but not much else.  The people work hard, but enjoy some of the best quality of life of anywhere in the subsector.  The starport requires imported fuel due to the lack of a local gas giant, and the Council's unwillingness to allow the harvesting of the worlds oceans for fuel.  

Sector 0310 - Zhivak - C324797-7
The thin poisonous atmosphere of Zhivak swirls at high speeds, blowing sand and water vapor which tends to wear away at anything left out on the surface.  The 30 million inhabitants live entirely in subterranean metropolises which 50 years ago were ruled by rival gangs.  The gang leaders eventually came together, realizing that things would go better for all of them if they worked together.  They instituted a byzantine bureaucracy that doesn't really relate to the people, but brings in great profits for the government in "fees". 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Starter Traveller - Strange New Worlds II

Sector 0201 - Orzavay - C6A2233 - 9
The world of is notable in part because of the naturally occurring nitrous oxide.  This mostly dry world is inhabited by a few hundred hardy souls and is ruled over by the Desalinators.  Most of the citizenry works at ranching giant flightless fowl and farming, and all live along the edge of the worlds only "ocean" a large salt lake.  The starport is located atop a space elevator that is anchored to the center of the ocean.  The trip up or down the elevator takes 3 days.  This is the only planet of the system.

Sector 0202 - Didiquila - D511A55 - 6
A trace of atmosphere rolls off of the frozen poles.  80 billion people cling to life on the surface in towering ugly habitats.  Chairman Bob has been ruling the world for the last 120 years (and looks as young and handsome as the day he took office).  Crime is all but unheard of, but the people live dull gray lives.  The starport is an ancient orbital platform with a corresponding landing sight.  Both are maintained by a bare minimum of staff that don't really know what they're doing.  An independent scout base is located on the planet's asteroid moon.

Sector 0203 - Verrio - B432253 - A
There is barely any air on this hot planet, and all the water is trapped in subterranean pools.  The few inhabitants keep these well stocked with a wide variety of exotic fish.  The biologists in charge of the pools are in charge of the colony.  In spite of the inhospitable environment, the small population lives in relative luxury.

Sector 0204 - Erabis - E361787 - 9
The largest moon orbiting the gas giant Erabis is a dry world bathed in the radiation of the larger planet.  In spite of this, the large population thrives.  Unfortunately most electronic technology doesn't last long in the extreme radiation, so mechanical devices powered by that radiation are most common.  Of these, the Imperial Civil Service atmosphere generators are clearly the most important.  Since Erabis is such a welcoming environment they don't get a lot of visitors.  The "starport" is nothing more than a high flat plateau. 

Sector 0205 - Empty

Sector 0206 -Tebea- X233400 - 7
This small icy ball floats alone around a dark nearly dead star.  The 27 thousand inhabitants all live in small habitats containing no more than 30 people each where they mine what they can from below the surface.  There is no law.  Piracy and claim jumping are common. 

Sector 0207 - Pal Rathra - A13086A - F
A gleaming starport orbits this small rock with wispy clouds.  Geodesic domes dot the surface, connected by silvery tunnels.  A small fleet of system ships from the starport keep their guns trained on the domes.  They're waiting for the colony to turn over some highly valuable biotechnology found in a dig site of an ancient civilization.  Currently the system is listed as a Red Zone. 

Sector 0208 - New Indonesia - B4878AC - 6
The tropical world of New Indonesia is ruled with an iron fist by a revolutionary young warlord who has taken control of the planet.  This is an Amber Zone, as the new ruler and his military allow no disobedience with their new laws.  Access to the planet is strictly prohibited, even by space radio, and attempts to skim fuel from the local gas giant are met with extreme displeasure and usually laser fire.

Sector 0209 - Berdion - B300130 - C
A scorched rock blasted by its star's near constant solar flares is tidally locked.  The starport sits in the shadow of the planet, and serves the few remaining researchers below.  The planet's core reacts oddly to the flares, creating odd space time distortions. The lead scientists haven't promoted anyone into their ranks in years, and are generally disinterested (at best) with visitors.  A ringed gas giant with an extensive moon system gleams and glistens with every flare, making it one of the most beautiful sights in the subsector.

Sector 0210 - Gerdi - C87988A - 5
This garden world is one of the most hospitable spots in the local area, though the people do seem to live in relative poverty.  Any traveller arriving in system should be aware that the law is strictly enforced.  The air is thick and slightly toxic, yet paradoxically sweet smelling.  In spite of the planet's rich resources and industry the people live safe but rather drab lives.

This ended up being a very full column, with a lack of gas giants and a bunch of dictatorial regimes.  

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Kringus - Demon Lord of Evergreens

"Bow Down!"  The pine tree shook, branches whipping around.

Rathgar, Nimble, Allianora, and Feris paused about 20 feet away from the tree, confusion showing on their faces.

"Bow Down, for I am Kringus!" the tree repeated.  "Fear me!  Give me your gold!  Or I will destroy you and yours!"  Some needles began to drop from the branches.  Trees near Kringus began to move, apparently on their own.  "Bow down before The Demon Lord Kringus!!"

"So..." Rathgar begain "shall we press on?"

"Yeah, lets." Feris agreed and everyone continued down the path through the woods.

"Come back here!  Fear me!"

Kringus - Demon Lord of Evergreens
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 12** (L)
Move: 60' (20')
Attacks: 4 branches + Special
Damage: 2d6 each + 1d8 + Special
No. Appearing: 1 (unique)
Save As: C12
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: C
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 2,875

The true Demon Lord Kringus is the subverter of winterfests and appears as a demonic evergreen tree which often burns with a blueish nimbus.  Kringus is harmed only by magical weapons, and blunt weapons only inflict half damage.  The Demon lord attacks with 4 needles and sap covered branches with a reach of 10 feet.  In addition anyone within 10 feet of Kringus is frosted by it's nimbus for 1d8 points of damage, and they must make a save vs Paralysis or reduce their speed by half for 1 turn.  

Kringus is also able to summon 2d4 additional demons once per day which will poses nearby pine trees (treat as chaotic Treants)

Impostor Kringus
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 2* (L)/2hp (S)
Move: 0' (0')/120' (40')
Attacks:None/2 claw
Damage: None/1point each
No. Appearing: 1 (unique)
Save As: Normal Man/Normal Man
Morale: na/7
Treasure Type: P, Q, S 
Intelligence: 0/5
Alignment: na/Chaotic
XP Value: 10

A magically awakened feline once read about an encounter with the Demon Lord, and decided that impersonating him would be an easy means to riches and world conquest.  Unfortunately for him, he doesn't actually have any powers, so except for extremely gullible passers by, few are fooled.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Belt of the Winter Wonderland

"We were not down in the dungeon that long!" Rathgar yelled over the howling wind and swirling snow.  The group huddled just inside the entrance of the dungeon looking out into the near white-out conditions.

"We must have passed through a gate of some sort.  This isn't anywhere near where the entrance we used" Feris yelled.

"What are we going to do?" Asked Nimble  "We can't go out in to that!"

"And we can't really go back into the dungeon right now" Allianora said "we're almost out of torches, rations, and spells."

"I think I've got something that can help" Rathgar set his backpack and shield down and began to dig down into the bottom of the bag.   After a moment he pulled out a large round belt buckle attached to a brown belt. Swapping out his usual belt for this new one, he then packed away his old belt, and reequipped his backpack and shield. He then stepped out into the snow. "Sleigh-bells ring! Are you listening!" He yelled out into the snow.

The wind seemed to pause for a moment, and the swirling snow began to settle. Off in the distance a form began to take shape. 4 Reindeer pulling a large sleigh were speeding toward Rathgar.

The Belt of the Winter Wonderland is an item with limited utility, but it is invaluable in some situations.  It appears to be a copper and brass round belt buckle adorned with a red gem with a pair of stylized reindeer antlers.  To use the belt, it must be worn, and the local ground must be covered in snow.  When these conditions are met, and the activation phrase spoken, the belt summons a sleigh pulled by 4 reindeer.  If used by a wizard or cleric of name level it will summon a sleigh pulled by 8 flying reindeer.  The sleigh will come equipped with enough warm blankets, hot chocolate, mulled wine, and Turkish Delight for up to 6 passengers, and will remain available for use for 24 hours.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bits and Bobs

My most recent poll has closed, and the vast majority of you did indeed download Starter Traveller, and those who didn't already owned it!  I hope you are enjoying my read through of it.

At the start of the month I was worried that I wouldn't get more than 10 posts written, but I'm already well past that mark.  This is all thanks to Traveller, however for the next couple of days I'll be sharing some seasonal themed magic items. This will give me a chance to finish writing up the subsector (which I should really give a name to).

Lastly a shout out to my newest followers: Porky and Higgipedia.  Please don't be shy, let me know what you like, and what you don't!  This goes for all my readers too!

Crown of Candles

Allianora stood over the dusty skeleton in the rotted robe.  Rathgar, Nimble, and Feris stood off to the side and looked around at the various murals that adorned the wall.  "She made this a haven against the darkness" she siad softly.

"Who did?" Feris asked.

"The priestess, for her followers.  They trusted her."  Allianora knelt down next to the body, gently lifting her skull and looking into it's empty eyes.  "She did the best she could for them, but they were overwhelmed.  The last of them barricaded themselves in here... they were safe, but trapped."

"What kept the attackers out?" Rathgar asked.

Allianora reached over to a dark circlet with several odd protrusions. "This." 

The Crown of Candles is a holy relic from ages past.  It appears to be a silver circlet darkened with age, with two bands that cross over the top.  There are 4 protrusions spaced equally around the circlet, each designed to hold a tall tapered candle.  At the center of the cross is a fifth spot for a candle.  When worn by a female cleric or other holy woman of good/lawful alignment with 5 lit candles, it will provide light as the spell until the Crown is removed.  In addition, all those of the same alignment as the wearer of the Crown will be under the effect of the Bless spell, and the area illuminated by the light will be under the effect of a Protection from Evil/Chaos.

Creatures of evil/chaos will be magically inclined to ignore the crown, should it be encountered unlit.  A Save vs Spells at a penalty of 4 must be passed for them to treat the crown as anything other than a silver trinket.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Starter Traveller - Strange New Worlds

Following up on yesterdays post, here are parsecs 0102-0110.

Sector 0102 – Shijie – C400688 – 6 – Non Agricultural, Non Industrial, Vacuum
Yet another barren rock, this one a little smaller than Mars.  Most of the 3 million inhabitants live below the surface in dungeon-like cities, and work at extracting the mineral wealth from the rock.  A few locals work in the Scout Base perched near the top of the highest peak of the globe.  Much of the rest of the surface of the world is covered with the rubble and slag of the mining operations. 

The people are hard working, but lacking in many of the common conveniences of the Imperium.  The mining is done with large inefficient machines or by hand.  Entertainment is provided by primitive black and white televisions and wired audio broadcasts.  It resembles most closely 1940’s urban England.

An old starport is serviced by a small fleet of antique fuel collectors that swarm over the local gas giant. 

Sector 0103 – empty

Sector 0104 – Dumiya – C575016 – 5 – Uninhabited
The Starport of the Dumiya system is actually located in orbit of the local gas giant, as there isn’t anything worth being had on the rock that is Dumiya itself.  It’s an unremarkable sphere a little larger than Mars, with a thin poisonous atmosphere, and ice caps that cover about half the world.  No one lives there.  The only population and government are found on the Starport, which is privately owned.  Most of the workers of the Starport live at 1920’s level of technology. 

Sector 0105 – Ensel – A896324 – 13
An earth sized world with a thick poisonous atmosphere, oceans that cover 60% of the surface, and exotic vegetation.  Animal life never developed on this greenhouse world, but some of the plants have some unusually animal like features.  The 3,000 inhabitants live primarily on the North Eastern island continent, and spend their time studying the local flora.  When a decision needs to be made it’s done by consensus.  Being a scientific research station they are equipped with top of the line technology.  The class A Starport serves as an orbital platform for the research team, as well as being a refueling and repair station.

Sector 0106 – Rojudeu III – C100636 - 8 – Non-Agricultural
Barely big enough to be spherical, this cold rock sits well outside the habitable zone.  It does contain a large concentration of crystals useful for building computers.    As such there is a large mining and refining industry which employs most of the 1.5 million inhabitants.  The rulers of this world live sequestered on its southern pole, and rarely communicate with their people.  Neon is the predominant shade of fashion.  The gas giant of the system is less giant than average and is a shockingly violet color, but still provides the necessary fuel for the Starport and those that are passing through.

Sector 0107 – Sokocuka Delta – D984324 – 7
This almost earthlike world suffers from one big problem.  The atmosphere is thick and it stinks.  It isn’t poisonous, but it isn’t pleasant either.  This is due to a slightly elevated level of sulfur in the air.  It does grow the best tomatoes on this side of the galactic rim however.  The 9 thousand inhabitants are the descendants of the original Neo-Hippy colonists, and they live much as their forefathers did.  The starport in orbit is cobbled together from the hulls of 2 of the original colony arks.  It’s never been upgraded, and is barely staffed.

Sector 0108 – Quartus – A985989 – A
A cultural metropolis, Quartus has a top of the line Starport and shipbuilding facility.  The billions who live on its surface enjoy a thick atmosphere which helps protect them from the bright white sub-giant star at the center of the system.  It is one of the few planets that is truly self sustaining, though it does not produce enough to be an exporter of food or finished products to be of note.  The civil service keeps things running very efficiently, in spite of the ever growing population.  The system has gas giants, an inner hot Jupiter, and a much further out ringed green one. 

0109 – Empty

0110 - Empty

There you have it, the first column of the subsector, and an interesting mix of worlds to explore! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Starter Traveller - Worlds

In Starter Traveller you begin the creation of the universe on a more local scale; the subsector.  Consisting of an area of space 8x10 hexes.  Each hex represents one parsec, or 3.26 light years.  There is a 50/50 chance that there will be a star in any hex with a potentially inhabited planet.  Once you determine of there is such a star & planet combo you follow the check list to roll up the world.  Like characters, worlds are described by a series of letters and numbers.  These represent, in order; Starport type, planet size, atmosphere, water, population, government, and law.  You also determine the tech level for the planet, which ranges from stone age to basically godlike power.  It's funny how it scales through the list.  For example tech level 5 resembles 1900-1939.  6 is 1940-1969, 7 is 70-79, 8 is the 80's, 9 is the 90's, and then 10 is Interstellar Community.

Did you know that we're a decade into our interstellar period?  Go us!

Once you have your worlds figured out, the next step is to plot out communication and trade routes.  It does not tell you how to do this.
World building in Traveller can be... weird.  You may end up with an airless asteroid with no population, but a corporate government that's pretty strict with it's laws.  In looking over the world generation system, there do seem to be a few minor adjustments I'd make, just to help things make more sense. 

Here is an example world I rolled up today.  It is in hex 0101.  The world is Munduan - A30069A-C.  The first digit stands for the Starport, in this case a Class A Starport.  Next is the planet's diameter, atmosphere, and water level.  for Munduan it's a small planetoid of 3,000 miles, which for reference is about the size of Mercury.  It has no atmosphere and no water.  The next 3 digits represent the population, government type, and law level.  Munduan has somewhere between 1 million and 10 million inhabitants.  It is ruled by an Impersonal Bureaucracy, and they are very strict - no one is allowed to own, let alone carry a weapon of any type.  Walking sticks without a doctors note could get you brought up before a magistrate.

The final notation represents the worlds technology level.  C stands for Average Imperial.

Munduan is obviously a vacuum world, non industrial, non agricultural.  It needs to import just about everything.  In fact, the only thing it has going for it is that it is the link between this subsector and 3 others, and has a large if somewhat older starport. It also hosts a Scout Base, and it shares it's star with a gas giant, which is where the Starport harvests it's fuel to sell to those passing through the system.

Since Shinobicow of The Dump Stat is posting characters for the rest of the year, I'm going to give them a subsector to inhabit and explore. 

The Classic Traveller Starter Kit is currently available for free from RPGNow. It contains all you need to play Traveller including rules for character, world, sector, starship and encounter generation as well as two complete classic adventures to kick start your own exploration among the stars. Go get it!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Starter Traveller – Starships part 3

Miranda clicked on the intercom “Wei, we drop out of Jump Space in 3 minutes, it might be nice if my pilot was actually at the helm when that happens.”

About a minute later the pilot hurried onto the bridge, still zipping his jumpsuit up.  “If you hadn’t gone for those discount rations from Imaltor III Captain, I wouldn’t have spent most of this last jump in the head.”  Taking his seat he scans the controls and reported “The board looks nominal for return to N-Space.”

“I don’t know what your problem is with the rations.  I think they’re fine.”

“You ate navy grub for how many years?  Of course you thought it was good.  It’s 5 times better than what they fed you.”  Wei paused.  “Preparing to enter N-Space.  60 second countdown”

The lights of the control panel flashed and shifted, the countdown clicked by.  “30 seconds” Wei reported.  “20 seconds, all readings nominal.” Pause. “10 seconds.  5, 4, 3, 2, 1.”  For a moment every light darkened, and the world went grey.  “Board reads N-Space.  Maneuver Drive coming online.”

Miranda checked her board as Wei continued his commentary.  “Computer confirms we have arrived in the Perseus System, beginning system scans.  Course laid in for Perseus a.” 

“I read the course, firing engines.”   The thrust of the Maneuver Drives pressed them deep into their chairs. 

“I’m picking up another ship in system.  It’s a big one… reads as a class T.”  Miranda watched the board.  Seconds ticked by.  “They’re firing their engines.  Come on…. Compute.”

“Still haven’t gotten a signal from them.” 

“That only means they aren’t an imperial patrol.”  The computer beeped.  “Shit.  They’re on an intercept course.  Wait…   Double shit, they just launched 3 fighters.” 

Space combat in Starter Traveller can be just as deadly, if not more so, than personal combat.  Like personal combat the goal is to score an 8+ on your attack roll, and just like personal combat, there are a wide variety of factors that impact that roll. 

Ranges are much greater in interplanetary space, and the weapons are correspondingly more powerful.  There are an infinite number of range bands that can be used, but ships are only capable of tracking out to 90 bands away.  Once a combat encounter has begun, there is a very specific turn sequence that is followed – Intruder Movement, Laser Fire, Native Return Laser Fire, Ordinance, and Computer Reprogramming followed by the Native Movement, Laser Fire, Intruder Return Laser Fire, Ordinance, and Computer Reprogramming.  What programs you have running greatly impacts what you can do during any one combat round. 

Like many universes the different weapons do different things.  Pulse Lasers do a single point of damage.  Beam Lasers are more powerful (2 hits each), but less accurate (-1), and ordinance is even more powerful (1d6 hits) but takes a while to arrive, and is vulnerable to being shot at and other countermeasures.  Hits on the ship are determined randomly.  One interesting thing is that it is far easier to disable a ship than it is to destroy it.  Even hitting the fuel tanks only cause the loss of 10 tons of fuel, the first hit against the hull is the only one that does any damage, and there is no possibility of a direct hit on the bridge!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cool Links

Roger the GS over at Roles, Rules and Rolls explains why there is a dungeon under your city using real world examples.

Melan over at dragonsfoot dissects megadungeon mapping and adventure design.

The Welsh Piper talks about the problem with retroclones.  I disagree with him a bit, but it's an interesting read.

EG Palmer over at Old Guard Gaming Accouterments posted a wonderful post about the types of thieves found in Wyrd Greyhawk.  You should definitely take the time to read this, especially if you're planning on

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Meta-Post - This one is about you!

Due to blogger making stats more easily viewable, I have a few things to share.

First a thank you to Lamentations of the Flame Princess, RPG Bloggers, Roles Rules and Rolls, Fist Full of Coppers and the Underdark Gazette for being the top referring sites to my blog.

Second, it seems that my most popular posts are:
Racial Weapon Styles: Humans, Dwarves, Elves
The Best D&D Race is the...
Free Paper Minis
Racial Weapon Styles: Dragonborn
Bearshark & Sharkbear
What is Dungeons and Dragons?
Random Magical Book Name Generator
Megadungeon Level 1 Complete!
Your favorite edition - AD&D!
Imagining Dungeons and Dragons
I get that Bearshark and Sharkbear are in the top, but I'm surprised at how popular the racial weapon style posts were!

Thirdly, the vast majority of you are from the US, but there is a fairly interesting mix of visitors to my blog. 
United States 10,876
United Kingdom 1,028
Canada 894
Germany 391
Australia 328
South Korea 185
Russia 136
Italy 118
Finland 114
France 105

I'm glad I that I've kept you all entertained, and I hope that you continue to enjoy my posts!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Starter Traveller – Character Creation Bonus Character 2

Yet another bonus character!

There are times being the son of a major player in local interstellar politics can be a boon, for instance when you’re Harold Von Konan (95636C).  Strong as an ox, dumb as a box of rocks, he managed to enlist into the Marines, and survived basic training (+1 Endurance, Cutlass 1).  Thinking he was hot stuff, he tried for a commission, and failed miserably (2/9).  He was assigned to dirtside convoy duty where he learned to drive big rigs (Vehicle 1).  His one notable accomplishment while serving his first tour was saving the life of a VIP by shielding him from an IED.  After his first tour he tried to reup, but due to his inability to remember basic instructions was sent on his way.  He didn’t leave the service empty handed however, as the VIP he saved gifted him with membership in the Travellers Aid Society. 

Starter Traveller – Starships part 2

Starship Computers and Economics.

Computers in Traveller are not the sleek sort of thing that you can get at the Apple Store; the interfaces don’t look like those on the bridge of the Enterprise (reboot).  They look and act much more like those of the original Star Wars. 

Computers are rated 1-7, each with different storage and processing capability.  In addition, you need a computer of at least equal level to the ships jump rating.  So for our Jump 3 ship, we needed at least a level 3 computer.  I originally wrote a level 2 computer, but that would reduce our jump capability. 

Our level 3 computer has a rating of 5/9, which means it can store a total of 9 spaces worth of progams, and it can run 5 spaces worth at any one time.   From the list of available software the Grendel will need the following:
Jump 3 (3 slots)
Maneuver/Evade 1 (1 slot)
Navigate (1 slot)
Generate (1 slot)
Anti-hijack (1 slot)
Target (1 slot)
Launch (1 slot)

The computer comes with a MCr3 allowance for a “standard program package” which lets you spend up to MCr3 for free on programs.  Our total cost for the programs is MCr5.7 minus MCr3 brings us to an out of pocket expense of MCr2.7.

Our total cost for the Grendel is MCr135.0715 fully equipped.  To actually buy it, we’ll need to put down 20% or MCr27.0143, and a monthly payment of 562,797.92 Credits a month for 480 months. 

Additional monthly costs include 20-28,000 Credits for Life Support (5-7 crew), 1126 to go into the annual maintenance fund, and 21,400 Credits for crew salary (presuming 5 crew are all NPCs).  This is a total of 50,526 Credits a month, plus the monthly payment for the ship equals 613,324 Credits a month.  If we had to buy fuel we’d be looking at an additional 115,000 Credits per month for the refined stuff! 

To pay for these costs, the Grendel will have to make some very profitable ventures.  If the Grendel is able to completely fill its hold with mail and cargo and 2 passengers per trip it’ll bring in 222,000 credits per month, which leaves us 391,324.00 Credits short every month. 

Clearly, straight cargo runs won’t pay the bills.  Trade goods may do the trick, but I’m still several chapters away from that. 

How does this compare to the basic Free Trader?  With 82 tons of available cargo space, it brings in 164,000 credits just from that.  If we add mail it goes up to 204,000 per month.  When we add 6 high/middle passengers we get 48,000-60,000 additional Credits, plus 20 low passengers for an additional 20,000 Credits per trip.  This is a total income of 340-364,000 Credits per month. 

The Free Trader costs 154,000 Credits per month to the bank, 15,000 Credits in crew costs, 20,000 Credits in life support, and 309 Credits for the annual maintenance fund for a total of 189,809 Credits per month.  The basic Free Trader makes a healthy profit with basic cargo runs. 

Both of these scenarios are based on a full cargo hold and passenger complement.  Things only get worse for the Grendel if they run at anything under full, whereas the Free Trader has a very comfortable cushion.

I’ll return to this topic when I reach the Trading section!

Monday – Space Combat!  (Note: I edited part 1 to accurately reflect the posting schedule)

Like Greywulf says - The Classic Traveller Starter Kit is currently available for free from RPGNow. It contains all you need to play Traveller including rules for character, world, sector, starship and encounter generation as well as two complete classic adventures to kick start your own exploration among the stars. Go get it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mobius Dungeon Actual Play!

I have been biting my tongue for a month now watching as Patrick from Bugbears for Breakfast ran his Pathfinder group through my Mobius Dungeon!  It took them 3 sessions to get in and then get out, and it seemed like they only explored about half of it, so should they return, they’ve at least got the key to escape.  Or do they… the dungeon warps space and time, so who knows what’ll happen if they return.

I can’t tell you just how thrilled I am that someone ran my adventure, and wrote about it!  I don’t really expect that anyone else will find much value to the stuff I’ve created.  I do it for me, and I enjoy it purely for that.  Having someone actually use something I wrote? 

Pure Awesome.

If you aren’t already reading Bugbears for Breakfast you should, and if you’re interested in reading how Patrick ran my dungeon, here are the links to those entries.

Starter Traveller – Starships part 1

Don’t panic!  In addition to being emblazoned on the cover of the Hitchhikers Guide, it’s also a useful statement for dealing with Starships in Traveller.  There is a lot of information so I’m going to split it into multiple posts.  This first post will deal with Travel, Starships, Starship Construction.  Tomorrow I’ll follow up with Starship Computers and Economics, and we’ll start out next week with Starship Combat.

In the Traveller RPG “Travellers travel.”  This statement is both obvious, yet it seems vitally important.  This very clear and concise statement tells you what this game is about (in case you didn’t get it from the title).  While I’m sure that it would be possible to run Traveller as an entirely planet bound game, that doesn’t seem to be what it’s about. 

So how do Travellers travel?  By interstellar craft (aka starships) of course!  If they aren’t crewing their own ship they may be going High Passage (first class), Middle Passage (business class, similar to High Passage, but with fewer entertainment options) or Low Passage (frozen and shoved in the hold).  Of course, your players are much more likely to be running the ship than taking a trip. 

The rulebook goes on to talk about starship economics from here, but it was rather out of context without having dealt with the starships section first.  So, Starships!

Starships are very specifically described as vehicles that are over 100 tons and are jump (FTL) capable.  Everything fewer than 100 tons is a “vessel” and is incapable of jumping.  Anything 100+ tons that is not jump capable is called a “ship.”  However, Starships are the focus.  There are a variety of components described that are necessary for any vehicle, and some that are required depending on the ship’s size, and others that are optional.  Crew positions are also described here. 

There are a variety of standard designs of vessels and starships given primarily for reference, however they are so standard that they cost significantly less to have one built for you than to design your own.  Now this is another bit that seems strongly suggestive of the setting.  While it is possible to get a vessel of a different design, these standard ships are EVERYWHERE.  The basic 200 ton Free Trader is about as common as a YT-1300 is in d6 Star Wars.  Every group has one, at least for a while.  If you have a different ship, a custom ship, it’ll be noticed. 

Being an RPG, your characters will quickly tire of having the same ship as everyone else, which conveniently brings us to Starship design!  This also brings us back to the phrase “Don’t Panic!”  While the process may seem complex, there is a handy checklist for starship design on page 11 of Book 2.  To try the system out, we’re going to build a 300 ton long range cargo ship, and we’ll call it the Grendel.  Because it is a non-standard hull design, the cost will be 0.1*300=30 Million Credits (MCr30), which is almost twice as expensive as a standard 400 ton hull.  Our theoretical patron is rich, so we’re not going to worry about that.  Into this hull we’re going to install a Type C Jump Drive (20 tons), Type C Maneuver Drive (5 tons), and a Type E Power Plant (16 tons).  This costs MCr82 and a total of 41 tons, which brings our total cost to MCr102 and reduces our available space to 259 tons. 

Next we need to calculate our fuel requirements.  The formula is 0.1MJn+10Pn where M=Ships tonnage, Jn=Jump Rating, and Pn is the ships power rating.  For the Grendel that works out to 0.1*300*3+10*5=90+50=140.  That’s a lot of fuel, and it reduces our available space to 119 tons. 

Now we look at the other components.  A bridge takes up 2% of the tonnage, or 20 tons minimum.  We have to go with the 20 tons, and a cost of MCr1.5.  That brings us to 99 tons of available space, and a cost of MCr103.5.  Following the checklist we come to the Computer component.  We’ll take a Model 2 computer, which is the minimum for our 3 jump drive.  It costs MCr9, takes up 2 tons, and has a capacity of 3/6 programs. 

To crew our ship we’ll need a Pilot, a Navigator, 2 Engineers, and a Medic at minimum.  As we’re not planning on carrying passengers we’ll only need staterooms for the crew, but we’ll presume that we may need as many as 7 staterooms.  At 4 tons and MCr0.5 we’re looking at a total of 28 tons, and MCr3.5 which leaves us with 69 tons, and a cost of MCr116.  At 300 tons we can add 3 hardpoints with no loss of tonnage and a cost of only MCr0.3.  We’ll add three single turrets (MCr0.6) with a Sandcaster (MCr0.25), and 2 Beam Lasers (MCr2) for a cost of MCr2.85 and 3 tons for fire control which brings us to 66 tons of cargo space, and a cost of MCr119.15.  We’ll also make it streamlined so that Grendel can skim fuel off of gas giants at a cost of MCr3, for a total of MCr122.15. Finally the Architect’s fee of 1% or MCr1.2215 brings our grand total to MCr123.3715 and a cargo space of 66 tons. 

When you compare that to a standard Free Trader which gives you 82 tons of cargo, 6 High or Medium Passage staterooms, and 20 Low Passage cryotubes for a mere MCr37.08, the Grendel doesn’t have a lot going for it.  It’ll get wherever it’s going a lot faster than a stock Free Trader, but the lack of cargo space and passengers may make it economically unfeasible.    

But we’ll tackle that topic tomorrow. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Starter Traveller – Character Creation Bonus Characters

Because rolling up characters is such fun, here’s another two characters. 

Rudy DeBumpkin was born and raised on a backwater low grav planet, and while his family was certainly more upper class than many of his neighbors, that just meant that he used soap when he stood in the rain.  Aside from that, he was a rather pathetic specimen rating in at 646539.  Physically and mentally weak, with no education to speak of, he knew he wanted better.  At 18 he decided that the Army was his way off Bumblephuk A, so he did everything he could to pass then entrance exam.  Amazing everyone he not only passed, but was given a commission.  In basic training he worked harder than anyone else and managed to bulk up a little (+1 dex & +1 endurance, Rifle 1, SMG 1).  His first posting was to the motor pool, where he quickly earned the respect of those under him who thought he’d be easy pickings (Promotion, Mechanical 1 & Brawling 1).  Since the Army was the best thing to ever happen to Rudy he decided to reenlist, and was taken back with open arms (10/7).  His second tour sent him again to work as a mechanic, but a tragic accident with a faulty lift ended his career, and his life. (6/7 survival roll)

Mancrel “McDuff” Duffin was smart but lazy.  He thought the merchant fleet would be a cake walk, and getting in and commissioned was.  However they put him to work on mining rig located on a high gravity low atmosphere rock as a medic for his first tour.  (+1 Strength, Vac Suit 1, Medical 1).  While the work was hard, he did find it rewarding, and so reenlisted (10/4).  His second tour was on the same rock, but he cross trained as a vehicle operator (tracked).  Unfortunately his laziness became more apparent to his commanding officers, and he was not invited back for a third term.  He did manage to muster out with C10,000, a low passage, and some courses at the correspondence school (+1 edu). 

Also check out the new poll!

Starter Traveller – Combat

It turns out the echo chamber effect is alive and well.  Greywulf is spending this week talking about classic Traveller, and like me The Dump Stat is checking Traveller out for the first time!  It’s nice to know that I’m in good company. 

One thing that Greywulf noted in his post on character creation is that while “most folks are human” your little snowflake of a character isn’t “most folks!”  He created a barkskinned plant person from a jungle world as his example character.  It is worth pointing out that there are no rules for aliens, blue skinned, green blooded, furry, or otherwise.  In the best tradition of old school games, it’s up to you and your DM – or Referee in this case. 

As an aside, I cant tell you how many times I’ve been told “It’s not DM, it’s GM” or “Referee” or “Storyteller.”  It doesn’t really matter to me if there is a dungeon in the game or not, or if in trying to be different they give the person in charge of the game world a different title.  In the end, they’re all DMs in my head, so that’s what I write and say. 

Now that that’s taken care of, lets get down to business.  Personal Combat!

Combat occurs either on a grid, or abstractly based on relative ranges.  To attack someone roll 2d6, and on an 8+ you hit. 

Of course that isn't all there is to it, as there are a wide variety of modifiers.  Damage reduces your 3 physical scores, and as soon as any of them reach 0 you fall unconscious.  If two reach 0, it's very bad news, and if 3 reach 0 you're dead.  With most weapons doing 3d6 damage and abilities rolled on 2d6, combat looks like it'll generally be a short affair.  Armor can help, especially against melee attacks, less so against guns, and even less against laser weapons.  

As John Morrow pointed out in the comments section of my first Traveller post, there are no rules for bow weapons in these rules.  I probably wouldn't have noticed that had he not pointed it out.  I do notice that there are no laser pistols or laser swords, but then the laser weapons that are included require big backpacks, so I guess the laser tech isn't as advanced as in Star Trek or Star Wars.  I was also surprised that the options for melee weapons were as limited as they were, consisting mostly of swords and pole arms.  I could see myself creating a wider variety if I ever run this.  

Tomorrow we look at Travel in Traveller!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Starter Traveller – Character Creation

I now understand how fascinating character creation in Traveller is!  It’s really a mini-game all by itself, especially with the chance of death!  I never got how that could be a good thing, but it makes character creation so much more interesting!

Having the characters come into the game with a random history makes for a great springboard to develop your character’s personality.  That promising young commissioned officer, who is then passed over for promotion time after time, or the gifted engineer who rockets through the ranks, the army grunt that becomes a baron, or even a duke!  Each of these suggests quite a lot about the type of person each of these characters might be. 

I rolled up 4 characters to see the flexibility and diversity of the system. 

My first character Eugene Riviera was drafted into the merchant fleet with an above average strength, endurance, and intelligence.  He served 4 successful terms, becoming a commissioned officer, and being promoted twice.  He became one of the hottest navigators (4 ranks!) in the fleet, until a jump went horribly wrong, sending all hands to their deaths because of an unexpected nova. 

My second character, Miranda Clayton was physically weak, but had a highly developed intellect, which was further enhanced by expensive schooling, made affordable because of her high social status.  Enlisting in the Navy she served 6 terms attaining the rank of Captain.  During her service she performed some exceptional missions, and became very proficient with a wide variety of technologies (Engineering 5, Pilot 3, Computer 2, Jack of all Trades) before retiring.  At her retirement she was given a 75k bonus, a Navy Cutlass and training in it’s use, a High Passage, +2 to Education and to Social (Duchess!) and membership into the Traveller’s Aid Society!

Joe McGrunt wanted nothing more than to be a soldier in the army.  He got his wish, and was quickly singled out as officer material.  After basic he was taken out of the field, commissioned and then spent the next 4 years behind a desk.  He did a great job and was promoted almost immediately.  Joe unfortunately was something of a hothead, and on the day before he was to reenlist he punched a superior officer, and was tossed out. 

The last character I rolled up was Sir. Eric Huston, a young man out to make his fortune.  Enlisting in the Merchant Fleet, he was immediately commissioned as 4th officer, and spent his time in the service in the operations department, fixing things.  He served 6 terms, and received only one promotion the entire time.  While he always felt himself above his fellow fixers, he couldn’t help but pick up a few of their skills and contacts.  His last term found him serving on a ship that was repeatedly attacked by pirates, and gained some skill with automatic rifles. On his retirement he was given a cash bonus of 41k, and free enrollment at the local imperial university (I rolled +1 education 4 times!!)

Some thoughts on what I’ve read – It’s interesting to see the difference in abilities, and how age impacts them.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the abilities impact the game. 

150,000 credits a month just to maintain your ship?!?  Yowza, that’s a lot of credits.  Especially when the best mustering out bonus would only cover 2 weeks, and the monthly retirement pay would barely touch it.  I’m really wondering how any character could afford to keep a ship without a really successful merchant business.  

I found this Classic Traveller Character Generator which does a pretty good job of replicating the process shown in the Starter Traveller, but you do lose the thrill of getting through all the stages alive!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Starter Traveller Read Through

Right now, through the end of the month DriveThruRPG is offering GDW's Starter Traveller for free. 

I've never played Traveller, or even read the rules.  Not unless you count the T20 version of the game, anyway.  I'm going to take some time this month, and read through the rules of the Starter version, and I'm going to post as I go.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Review: Bits of Darkness: Dungeons

By Tabletop Adventures

This was one of the Gamers Helping Haiti bundle items, and it’s a fairly impressive and useful little pdf.  It’s written with d20 in mind, so it references certain crunch like Fortitude saving throws.   

The cover isn’t anything to write home about, and I wouldn’t bother to print.  The first 2 pages are the copyright and table of contents, and these are followed by a 2 page introduction and “how to use this product”. 

Page 6 is a lovely splash page showing a rope bridge over a mountainous gorge with dungeon/cavern entrances on either side of the bridge, and a castle off in the background.  I actually like this piece much better than the cover. 

Page 7 – 9 is titles “Dungeon Shards” and provides 6 dungeon area descriptions running from 1-3+ paragraphs long with some accompanying mechanical info.  This section gives a little more to work with than the following section, and seems to serve as an example of what you can turn the shorter ideas into.

Pages 10-17 contain Dungeon Bits - 100 shorter descriptions that are broken down into Sights (1-50), Sounds (51-74), Scents (75-83), and Stuff (84-100).  Here are 3 examples pulled at random:

The floor here is slick with water and moss.  You must walk carefully. You see a 2-foot circle of wetness on the ceiling and from its center water drips, ever so slowly.

Dripping sounds come from somewhere in front of you. They are faint at first, but grow stronger as you move along. Something seems to be dripping incessantly and plopping into an unseen pool.

There is a dark opening measuring about 2 feet by 2 feet, roughly six feet above the floor.  When you first look at it there are two red eyes peering out at you from the inky blackness. The eyes are set about 5 inches apart, and disappear as soon as someone makes a move in that direction. [If the explorers examine the opening:] You find a tunnel that narrows quickly to about one foot by one foot and turns to the left after five feet.

Pages 18+19 contain 8 longer descriptions for Catacombs modeled on the Dungeon Shards above. 

Page 20 is labeled Bits of Trouble, and contains 6 descriptions of potential trouble for anyone exploring.  Granted 4 of the descriptions are exactly the same, but the effect they each cause is different. 

Page 21 is an index of the different bits, as sorted by Sights, Sounds, Scents, Stuff, Hallways, Rooms, Stairs, Indications of abandonment, Evidence of previous adventurers, Possibility of intelligent inhabitants, Inspiring dread, and Mood setters.  Probably the most useful index I’ve ever seen on such a short product!

Page 22 is the OGL.

Pages 23-40 are each divided into 6 blocks, and each contains one of the 100 bits from pages 10-17.They’re designed to be cut out and turned into a deck of random descriptions.  Now, if you’re quick at math you’ll realize that 6*17=102.  Those extra 2 are for you to make up your own descriptions to add to your deck. 

The Art
I’ve already talked about the cover and the splash page, but there are also 4 black and white quarter page illustrations, all of which I think are better than the cover.  Page 7 has a creepy dungeon corridor with lots of little spiders.  Page 12 shows a dilapidated room.  Page 16 gives a great dungeon water feature and page 20 a battle that didn’t go so well for anyone involved.

Overall this is a pretty good product, and easily convertible for any fantasy RPG, though a bit on the expensive side at $5.25 for a PDF. I think this product would have been better off skipping the back half with the cards, and just suggesting that a DM roll d100.  Especially when you consider how many DMs will want to lug yet another thing to game.  If they'd have skipped the cards and dropped the price by at least half, it would be worth it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Random Links

For your amusement I offer these links.

The Madness of Messerschmidt Rather disturbing artwork for inclusion in your game.  It'll work well

Random Spell Names Vancian spell name generator

Random inn generator Complete with maps!
4e templates  html templates for formatting your 4e homebrew things.

Cthulhu art It's cthulhu art.  What?  You need a better description?

A History of Gamma World - as told by the guy who did those great posts about stupid D&D monsters.

Digger an online comic about a wombat and a dead god.  Great material here for a slightly unconventional D&D game.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Poll Results & New Poll

Are you playing your favorite edition of D&D?

  10 (34%)

Close - a clone
  8 (27%)

No, I'm playing a different edition
  2 (6%)

Not playing D&D right now
  9 (31%)

It seems the vast majority of you are playing either your favorite edition of D&D, or a clone of it.  Good for you!  Judging by the previous poll, that’s a whole lot of AD&D being played!!

The new poll asks this: Have you ever given your players in game gifts for the holidays?  If so, what?

Monday, November 29, 2010

4e Innovations - the good and the bad

Flynn asked “What are your three most favorite game mechanic innovations from 4E, and why? Also, what are your three least favorite game mechanic innovations from 4E, and why?”

I've been stewing over this post for, well, about a month now!   Part of the problem I've been having writing it, is that I've again been working on my megadungeon, and haven't been working with 4e very much.  However, I have thought about it, and here's what I've come up with.

My favorite innovations for 4e would have to be the balance they've achieved.  Granted, I've only got the first round of releases, so I don't have any experience with PHBII or III or MMII or III.  I know there was some cleanup that was needed from the first round, and the FAQ came out really quickly, but still, the level of progression from 1-30 is pretty even across all the classes.  In previous editions, and 3.x especially there was little reason not to play a spellcasting class.  Batman wizards, clericzillas, and druids were the go to classes for power gamers.  A lot of that was taken away with 4e, and I like that.

I also really enjoy the way that monsters are designed to work in mixed groups, and how different monsters have different roles to play in encounters.  I personally always enjoyed mixing up the opponents my players faced, as it made for a more interesting time for everyone.  4e makes that the official way to do things.

The 3rd mechanical innovation that I really like is the chart on page 42 of the DMG.  Ok, yes, I know they revised it, but with the PHB and that page you can run a D&D game.

My least favorite mechanical aspects of 4e are the skill challenge, the necessity of picking certain feats, and standard array ability scores.

Skill challenges seem like a really neat way to handle a variety of situations, but the presentation is awkward, and I didn't enjoy trying to run it with my players.  I do feel that with a good example, I might be willing to change my mind on this.

Feats - this 3.x holdover is a neat way to customize your character, make it a little different from the standard.  Unfortunately, there are a few feats with such clear mechanical advantage that they are automatically taken. 

Ability scores are random in every edition, except this one.  The degree of randomness changes, but there is always a chance that you'll roll a whole bunch of 1s or a bunch of 6s.  I kinda miss that, though I think that having the option of taking a standard array isn't a bad one, but only as an alternate option.  Give my my d6's!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dynamic Shield

Rathgar pulled the strange shield from the slain serpent man's arm.  The colors of it's face were shifting from blue to yellow-green in a very fluid motion.

"Are you sure you want to be taking that?"  Nimble asked.  "You don't know where it's been."

"It's unusual, but I don't think it's evil."  Allianora chimed in.

"It may be cursed." Feris added helpfully. 

"Well, I need a shield." Rathgar stated.  "My last one got eaten by that owlbear."

Nimble looked skeptical.

"Tell you what.  Until we can get a good look at the thing, I'll use one of these wooden ones.  And if it does end up being cursed I'll just hang it over the mantle.  Does that sound fair to everyone?"

The Dynamic Shield is a round metal shield enchanted with protective magics.  The face of the shield shows a constantly changing flow of colors.  It usually is a somewhat slow movement, but during combat, especially combat involving spells and other magical effects, the surface is in a constant state of agitation.  In addition this visual show, the Dynamic Shield serves as a magical shield +2, that also provides a +4 to the last type of saving throw it's owner had to make.

For example, if Rathgar had to make a saving throw versus spells last round, he would get a +4 to his saving throw vs spells until he has to make a different saving throw.  If he then has to make a saving throw vs Dragons Breath, he'll get no bonus this round, but from next round on the bonus will shift to Dragons Breath.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dark Jelly

"Feris, pass the rolls over here" Rathgar calls over the sound of the bards playing in the corner.

"Oh, excellent" Nimble says with his mouth full as the rolls pass in front of him.  He snags 3 before passing the basket around.

"Isn't this a bit much?" Allianora asks her feast companions.

"What do you mean?" Nimble replies.

"Look around" She gestures around the empty room. "You bought out the entire tavern for the night.  We're feasting, and drinking, and you even hired musicians!  You made everyone who was already here leave!"

"And?" Rathgar asks. "It's our gold!"

"I feel bad about not sharing it."

Nimble spreads jelly on his rolls, and takes a big bite before Feris takes the jar.  "So... go give a donation to the temple, this is our celebration."

"Isn't it more fun to share it?"

"Not really" Feris says, bread crumbs spilling from his mouth.  "In fact, you aren't making this much fun either."

The tavernkeeper stood nervously by the kitchen doorway, thinking about the platinum coins he took to add the jar of jelly to the adventurer's feast.

Dark Jelly

Originally the creation of a dark cult, this chaos infused food was made to bring disorder and confusion among  the forces of Law and Order.  Those who taste this sweet jelly must make a saving throw of be compelled to share the jelly among their closest companions.  As they eat, their alignments will shift to chaos, becoming more selfish and suspicious of those around them.  The effects will last for 24 hours, after which the victims will have to live with all that they said and did during that dark day.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What does it take to change your world?

My game world, as I’ve mentioned before, is very heavily based in the forests and hills of England, Germany, and New England.  In much the same way that most of the planets that SG-1 visits looks like the Pacific Northwest, my world looks like temperate forests.  Does my world have jungles and deserts and badlands?  Absolutely!  Does anything ever happen there?  Probably, but I’ve never worried about it. 

In my PbP game, one of the characters is playing a rather savage elf from the jungle.  Suddenly, my Megadungeon (the game’s setting) moved from under the ruins of a hillside castle, to under the ruins of a jungle temple.  Just as suddenly, I'm exploring a part of my world that I hadn't ever visited.

All because of one choice, a choice I wouldn't have made, a choice that I didn't make, my world has changed.  I'm now forced to confront something that I hadn't before.  My world has literally changed because of this one choice. 

Now I'm considering that my megadungeon may distort space, and that entrances thousands of miles apart may all connect to the same dungeon... I may need multiple first levels...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Poll - are you playing your favorite edition?

I am both really tired and really busy, so a real post will be coming later.  For now, I have added a new poll question, a followup to my last one.  Are you playing your favorite edition of Dungeons and Dragons?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grim Travelers of the Red Dawn

Recently I was playing around with Meatshields! Classic Fantasy Hireling Generator and on the first click I generated an interesting collection of characters. They seemed ready made to drop into a low level game, and their background seemed to write itself, with a little help from Bruce Cockburn.

Brother Lartag leads this band of pilgrims to bring the light of the Red Dawn to the masses. He is a brooding figure in his brown and scarlet robes, skinny and bald, with dark circles around his eyes. He is quick to anger, and even quicker to launch into a dawnfire and brimstone sermon. He is protected by 2 elves – Dalis and Kerlon who he freed from enslavement. They have pledged themselves to him (but not his god) for 5 years. Dalis, a failed magic user, had his teeth and tongue removed to prevent him from using his magic to cause trouble.

Drogos and Gargar, deserters from a local duke’s forces, were Brother Lartag’s first converts. Drogos was a member of the Dukes crossbow corp. Gargar was a cook, and is slow of thought. Both were drawn to the message of redemption though the fire of the Red Dawn.

Gillo is a streetwise thug, but in spite of all he’s seen, he can’t tell a convincing lie. Lerdo, his younger scrawnier brother worked as a stable boy before being found with the innkeeper’s youngest daughter and a sizable skimming of the contents of the cashbox. Gillo is a whole hearted convert to the teachings of Brother Lartag, while Lerdo is merely biding his time till the Brother accumulates enough gold to make it worth stealing.

When encountered, Brother Lartag will be in the lead, flanked closely by the elves. Drogos and Gillo will cover the rear, and Lerdo and Gargar will be carrying the bulk of the group’s supplies. If combat begins Lerdo and Gargar will drop back and Gillo will counterattack anyone who closes with Brother Lartag. Otherwise, the Grim Travelers will pepper their opponents with missile fire.

Those more receptive to a little sermonizing may find rough but generally friendly company.

The chart from Meatshields didn't format well for posting here, so I put it, and a copy of this post onto a PDF for download.

Grim Travellers Download

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ozan Class Insertion Transport

“Oh man!” Said a pained male voice over the com.

“What?” came a bored reply.

“Doesn’t that give you a headache?”

“Doesn’t what give me a headache?”

“That thrumming!”

“What thrumming?”

“Dude, the big ship behind you?  The one we’re guarding till the commander gets back?”

“What about it?”

“The antigrav.  It thrums.”

“… I don’t hear anything”

“You don’t hear it because it’s subsonic.  You feel it.”

“… I don’t feel anything either.  Are you sure you’re ok?”

“No!  I have a headache!”

“Maybe you should stop yelling then.”

“You know what?  Fine.  Never mind.”  

Originally designed as a military transport ship, it has since fallen out of favor (and production) and is now most often encountered with paramilitary security forces and mercenary groups.  Ozan’s are designed to deliver small units of troops with light vehicles dirtside as quickly as possible.  Most often they carry four 5 man light combat vehicles, although other secondary vehicles have been observed ranging from a gang of bikes to a heavy tank.   

Ozan’s were designed without landing struts, as it was presumed that they would be too vulnerable to remain in one spot planetside for long. Instead it relies upon a strong antigravity drive which keeps it above ground. 

Craft: Ozan Class Insertion Transport
Type: Medium freighter
Scale: Starfighter
Length: 70 meters
Skill: Space transports: armored transport
Crew: 6 + 3 gunners
Crew Skill: Varies
Passengers: 20 (troops)
Cargo Capacity: 30,000 metric tons
Consumables: 3 months
Cost: 240,000 (new), 110,000 (used)
Hyperdrive Multiplier: x2
Hyperdrive Backup: x12
Nav Computer: Yes
Space: 4
Atmosphere: 280; 800 km/h
Hull: 5D
Shields: 1D
Passive: 10/0D
Scan: 25/1D
Search: 40/2D
Focus: 2/3D
3 Laser Cannons
Fire Arc: Turret
Skill: Starship gunnery
Fire Control: 2D
Space Range: 1-3/12/25
Atmosphere Range: 100-300/1.2/2.5 km
Damage: 4D

It helps if you read the dialog as the guys from Red vs Blue.  Simmons and Griff or Church and Tucker.  Either or. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Your favorite edition - AD&D!

Well this wasn't the distribution curve I expected to see!  

4E                           2 (5%)
3.x                          5 (14%)
2nd                         4 (11%)
AD&D                  11 (31%)
BECMI/RC            4 (11%)
B/X                        5 (14%)
OD&D                   2 (5%)
Other                      2 (5%)

Not much love for OD&D or 4e.  More love than I expected for 3.x, but I am really shocked by the love for AD&D.  I never played AD&D, since when I left the Rules Cyclopedia it was off to 2nd edition.  I did read a fair amount of 1st edition back in the early 90's, but I never played it.  I wonder why the love?  Is it the Gygaxian prose?  The charts?  The art?  I'm also curious about the two "Other Edition" answers. One of the answers was the Holmes edition of basic, but I have no idea what the other one was. 

This poll actually raises more questions for me than it answered.  How many of you are playing their favorite edition? Why do you read my blog if I'm not writing for your edition?  What is the average air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Nimble crept softly among the shelves.  A dizzying array of items filled them, all marked and labeled but in no language or order that he could determine. 

A soft clicking caused him to freeze.  The moonlight coming in through the small high windows was barely enough to see by, but Nimble turned slowly to look in the direction of the noise.  Seeing nothing, he closed his eyes and listened closely.  Multiple clicks, more like a ticking, faint, but coming closer, and from above – the top shelf most likely. 

Still too dark to see anything, Nimble drew the dirk from his belt, and waited.  After what felt like an hour, but was more likely just minute or two, Nimble spotted a spider leg, and then another walking along the top shelf.  The ticking was still soft, but much clearer now, and definitely coming from the spider.  When it finally was visible, Nimble could see its distinctive black eight legged form.  What caught his eye was the gleam of copper above its head.

The spider continued along the top of the shelf, until it was near Nimble’s location.  It paused and seemed to look down at Nimble, but made no other move.  The ticking continued. 

Eventually Nimble had to breathe, and his position shifted slightly to relive an impending cramp.   The spider reared back, the ticking sped up, and it leapt at Nimble’s head. 

Instinct and training fought for a fraction of a second, and in the end neither won.  Nimble ducked and jabbed with his dirk.  The spider missed his head, but landed on his back, avoiding the dirk completely.  Reacting as only one who has a spider on them can, Nimble used his free hand to swat the creature off of him, and jabbed down onto it with his blade, in the process knocking several boxes, jars, and cages onto the floor with a crash. 

Arthrotomita are a fusion of magitech with various arthropods.  They are able to understand and follow simple commands, and are used for a variety of purposes.  When creating an Arthrotomita, the maker must decide what purpose it will serve. 

Defense: These Arthrotomita will be equipped with various attack powers, usually poison for those interested in a lethal option, and webbing for those interested in live capture.

Scouting: Arthrotomita designed for scouting will often have enhanced movement capabilities, and the ability to record limited visual data, which they can then replay using a minor illusionary magic.    

Communication: Sometimes you have to get a message delivered ASAP, and a grasshopper is less likely to be spotted than a horse and rider!

Arthrotomita base statistics are as follows:
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 1 hit (S)
Move: 60' (20')
Attacks: none
Damage: none
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Normal Man
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: none
Intelligence: 3
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 2

They can be upgraded with no more than 3 of the following abilities
Armor I: AC 7
Armor II: AC 5
Improved Movement I: 90’ (30’)
Improved Movement II: 120’ (40’)
Flying Movement I: 30’ (10’)
Flying Movement II: 60’ (20’)
Flying Movement III: 90’ (30’)
Attack: Poison
Attack: Web (per spell)
Attack: 1d4 damage
Once the method of construction of an Arthrotomita is known, the base cost for creating on is 2,000gp, which gives the base creature 1 pick from the upgrade list, as chosen by the creator.  Each additional upgrade costs an additional 2,000gp, which means fully upgraded Arthrotomita cost 6,000gp each!