Sunday, June 21, 2015

Alignment Language

I've been reading B/X these last couple of weeks. It came out when I was out of the gaming loop for a year, so I had never played or read it when it was new. In all likelihood, I wouldn't have read it had I known about its release. I was "advanced" by that time.

I've been reading a "Let's Read" thread from 2013 in conjunction with my own reading. I have noticed several really cool points in my own reading, and had others brought to my attention in the LR thread. Today in my reading of the thread, they've reached the topic of alignment languages.

I like them. Period. They aren't conversational languages, though. They exist to portray concepts central to the tenets of their respective alignments. These concepts may very well be translated into Common or any other language, but the full weight of the underpinnings of the concept only come through when spoken in the proper tongue.

Thus, without further ado, I give you my interpretation of an alignment tongue in action:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Quick Thoughts About Primes

This will be brief. It is just my thoughts on the main knocks I see about Primes and the SIEGE engine.


There are quite a few comments about Primes being a base target of 12, and non-Primes being base 18. It seems that many folks are more comfortable setting the base difficulty flat and then modifying it if a Prime comes into play. Some players seem to dislike saying, "The lock is heavily rusted and difficult to open. Its difficulty is +4, so if your DEX is Prime, you need a 16." They are more comfortable with saying, "The lock is heavily rusted and difficult to open. Target number is 15 + 4, for 19. Add +5 to your roll if DEX is Prime."

I may not be saying that exactly right, but that's the spirit of the thing. I can see both sides, but I don't really think either way is a ball-breaker. I can see the second way being a bit more intuitive, but it's a near thing and I think the first way (which is RAW) has certain situational advantages.

SIEGE Engine

I was basically ambivalent about the first point. I mentioned it because it is something I've seen a good bit and I wouldn't want it to seem like a big deal. This second point, though, it riles me up.

Some forum posts and reviewers like to whine about the following:

"Your cleric rolled a 19 Dexterity check to sneak by a guard, but the rogue's stealth roll of 15 is somehow better because… well, he's a rogue."

This is patently absurd, and is carefully worded to support the "point" that Primes don't work. What this example fails to effectively communicate is that the author is referring to the roll itself. Of course, a 19 is a better roll than a 15. Things don't stop with the raw roll of the die, though. The thief had a base difficulty of 12, since DEX is Prime for rogues, plus he adds his level to the roll. So, he beat his target by 3, not counting level bonus. The cleric, on the other hand, had a base difficulty of 18 (non-prime, presumably), with no level bonus. So, yes, the thief achieved a better Sneak check result than the cleric. Which should be expected.

I don't mind well-reasoned, constructive criticism. I don't like it when someone picks something apart, then presents the pieces in a certain light, just to support their dislike of something. If you don't like it, then don't like it. Move along. But, don't ruin for the next guy with such carefully crafted "criticism".

Breaking My Own Convention

There is a game, a game I've never talked about. I absolutely love this game. The reason I've never talked about it is that it violates one of my principle desires in a rules system: it isn't freely available. Even D&D is free now, so this is a bit of a sticking point. It is OGL, though, so maybe that's worth something. Anyway, the game is . . .

I have admired this game from afar for some time. Quite some time. I really dig the art, and just the "feel" of the game. Something about it just feels so much like AD&D to me. No matter how many times I flirted with it over the years, I never really reached critical mass with it. Ascending armor class and base attack bonuses give me 3.x flashbacks right out of the gate. So, I would flip through it wistfully, but never sank my teeth into it.

Well, it isn't 3.x. It is built on the OGL, but apparently not the SRD. It has no interest in touting compatibility with 3.x. In fact, in some ways, it sits somewhere between OD&D and AD&D, power level wise, as near as I can tell. I'm currently perusing a couple of modules (praise to the powers that be, they refer to them as "modules"!) and so far the most significant stat I've seen in an NPC is a 16. One time. The baseline for character generation is 3d6 arrange to suit.

Something I have always liked about the system are the character classes. There are a slew of them, which admittedly is a love/hate thing for me, but you can't have an AD&D experience without them. I feel the fighter is underpowered (of course), but easily fixed. Plus, and a BIG plus, the ranger is non-casting. He's just a badass in the woods. As he should be.

There are no feats or skills. Skills are covered by the SIEGE engine mechanic. I am quite certain that if you read passed the logo above, you already have an interest in C&C and thus are familiar with the SIEGE engine. Having not played the game, I can't comment on either the rapture of such a flexible and elegant system, nor on the supposed burden it promises to some readers. Apparently one loves it or one hates it. I remain undecided in fact, but love it in theory.

One thing I have seen talked about is the math. It seems the game is based on the underlying math of 3.x and there is a concern that it breaks down at higher levels. I am interested in this, in an academic sense. It is doubtful I will ever have a group to explore the system with, let alone get to high enough level that the system begins to unravel. I am curious, though.

So, there it is. My secret revealed. I love a game that isn't free. I almost forgot to mention another selling point for me. This is a little silly to some perhaps, but meaningful to me. Troll Lord Games is based in Little Rock, AR. I am a Southern boy, born and bred, and I like the fact that a game I like comes from the south. I'm not sure if the Chenault boys are from the south, but their game is, which gets it marks from me.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Little Spitballing

So, I've been thinking. I like to stick as much with free RPGs as possible. It's not even a monetary thing because I usually print them or have them printed. It's just a preference. As we all know, the basic rules for 5E are freely available. I printed the player and DM pdfs this weekend and did some home binding. I've been thinking about using just these as the basis for a hypothetical campaign. Stick with the classic classes and races, as presented. Clean and simple, and in only one book (not including house rules and such, see below).

Even though the core books aren't free, I would cull from them certain things, kind of like incorporating articles from Dragon. I would include Feats. I think that between Backgrounds and Feats, it really is possible to take the "Core Four" and create most, if not all, the additional classes, to some degree. I would likely include Colleges for wizards and Domains for clerics, as much for campaign flavor as anything else.

Over at the City of Iron there is an excellent series of posts on race-as-class. Mr Norman takes the dwarf, elf, and halfing from 5E and gives them a very nice B/X twist.

A short post, I know, but it is a brief idea in the description. I may while away some time this afternoon knocking together some class/background/feat combos to represent some of the other classes. If I'm happy with how it is working, I'll post them.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


In this thread on the Delving Deeper google+ page, Simon Bull talks about alternative level titles for clerics. I'm not a fan of the cleric, as I've indicated before. I like the idea of a crusader/holy warrior/demon hunter, etc, but the implementation of the class doesn't work for me. I have some ideas on that point. They definitely make some implications about setting, so may not be everyone's cup of tea. At any rate, new level titles were in order to better reflect what I'm thinking for clerics.

Level Titles

1    Novice (of the Order of . . .)
2    Chaplain
3    Brother-Sergeant
4    Knight-Errant
5    Brother-Knight
6    Justiciar
7    Knight-Commander
8    Knight-Marshall
9    Prior

A Novice is one who is newly initiated into an Order. They are given martial instruction, and are trained in the doctrine of the Order. They are not schooled in the Rites of the Order at this time, however. Novices are only one step above the laity, and are a level between rank-and-file troops and non-comms. Most initiates never rise above this level in the hierarchy.

Chaplain is an arduous rank within the Order. It is something of a crucible. Chaplains are expected to demonstrate leadership, knowledge of the doctrines of the Order, as well as the dogma and canon of the faith. They lead the laity in prayer and perform many common functions, such as marriage, baptisms, and presiding over funerals. They are also indoctrinated into the mysteries of the Rites, and are expected to learn how to apply them to further the goals of the Order. Chaplains rarely venture out of their priory, and many clerics remain Chaplains for their entire lives, content to tend the needs of the laity.

Brother-Sergeants lead units of Novices and lay-troops in battle. They are expected to function as part of the greater whole and must exhibit deep understanding of battlefield tactics. They also typically lead the Novices under their command in prayer and minister to their religious needs.

In order for a cleric to advance through the ranks of a militant order, he must prove himself worthy. Up to this point in his advancement he has shown that he possesses the ability to follow orders as a Novice, compassion, humility, and perseverance as a Chaplain, and the ability to lead and minister his soldiers as a Brother-Sergeant. Now comes the time when he must venture into the wider world as a Knight-Errant. He sallies forth, spreading the virtues of his order by his example. Sometimes a Knight-Errant sets out upon a specific charge, such as locating a holy relic or defeating an enemy of the Order. Many simply wander, spreading their faith, drawing potential Novices to the Order. This "time in the wilderness" is crucial to their development in the Order. Clerics who lack self-direction and the strength of their convictions rarely progress beyond this point.

Once having proven himself as a Knight-Errant, the cleric advances to Brother-Knight. He returns to the Priory and gains his spurs. Brother-Knights are the heavy cavalry of the Order. They are also dispatched individually or in small units for specific objectives.

As Novices and Chaplains clerics are steeped in the doctrine and canon of the faith. The bulk of their experience and training from there is predominantly martial. Having proven himself a peerless champion of the faith on the battlefield, now the cleric must show himself a champion of the Order's justice. As a Justiciar, the cleric travels a circuit of the towns and villages under his Priory's charge, dispensing justice. Secular courts hear cases involving everyday matters, but in cases that somehow intersect with the purview of the faith, it is the Justiciar that sits in judgement. With his time as a Justiciar, the cleric has proven his worth in all aspects of Priory life and prudence in his conduct in the faith.

The next step is Knight-Commander. The Knight-Commander leads squadrons of Brother-Knights on the field of battle. This is the first step to becoming Prior.

A Knight-Marshall commands all the military forces of a Priory. Obviously, there is only one Knight-Marshall in a Priory. They are responsible for the well-being of the Novices, Brother-Sergeants, Brother-Knights, and Knight-Commanders under their command. They are expected to plan and prosecute large scale military actions.

Finally, there is the Prior. The entire Priory and all its inhabitants are his charge. Additionally, he is responsible for the religious needs of all the laity within the demesne of his Priory. He is also the final arbiter of canon justice within the demesne.

It was Simon's thoughts on this matter that started me thinking, so a big Thank You to the estimable Mr. Bull.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tinkering with NWPs

I was thinking about Non-Weapon Proficiencies this week. I'm not a fan, as written. We used the shit out of them, but I never really liked them. They are too restrictive/narrow, especially when leveraged against the slots you have available for them. Plus, I was never happy with the idea that there were no clear guidelines on trying something covered by the NWP when your character didn't have the NWP. Finally, there was an odd side-effect of that: your character went from being virtually unable to perform a certain task (NWP), to performing it very reliably (if the relevant stat was high enough), with a single NWP slot expenditure.

So, I had this idea. Not strictly original, but still . . .

  • Keep the lists divided by class, as they are.
  • There are no additional costs for "cross-class" NWPs.
  • Redefine the NWPs to make them broader in application.
  • Each additional slot devoted to an NWP beyond the first, grants a +1 to the roll.
  • If a task seems reasonable for someone with training, then no roll should normally be required.

The Mechanic

Roll d20+stat mod (from NWP table)+class level (if NWP is from your class list) +/- situational mods

If the modified roll is 20+, the check succeeds. So, it's basically a Target20 type thing.

Here's what I like about it:

  1. Your character gets better at NWPs that are important to his class as he levels. He doesn't start out great at it and only improve slightly.
  2. If it isn't on your class list you won't be as good at it as a character who should be better at it. I don't like the idea that your fighter can spend slots on Magecraft (even if it is at double cost) and automatically be comparable in that skill to my magic user (assuming your fighter has a high INT).

Untrained Use

There should be certain of the NWPs that aren't usable untrained. The remainder of the NWPs can be used untrained. In this case, if the NWP is on the character's class list, add the relevant stat mod, otherwise, the only mods are situational.

There it is, my big idea.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

[S]ine [N]omine: Scarlet Heroes

My friend, Rick, had his own campaign world. It was one of those things that was in development before he found D&D. Needless to say, it was deep and rich some 25 years later. It was its own thing. Rick bent D&D to his world, rather than his world to D&D. One thing I learned from many adventures in Rick's world: never, and I mean NEVER, fuck with anybody that was travelling alone. I called it the Rule of One, and much to my honor, it became a permanent part of the lore of his world.

The thing is, it can be hard to run games with 1 DM and 1 player. Far too often, they end up being one PC and a retinue of NPCs that the DM determines vital to success. The flip-side is a game that really is one character, but it means running from a lot of encounters. Neither is very satisfying.

Enter . . .

From the brilliant and prolific mind of Kevin Crawford, aka Sine Nomine, Scarlet Heroes offers a method for invoking the Rule of One in your games.

Scarlet Heroes starts with a chassis of B/X D&D. Sort of. It feels an awful lot like B/X, but when you get into the nuts and bolts it bears more of a philosophical resemblance than an actual one. It has the traditional six stats we all know and love. It has the B/X bonus scheme. It has the "core four" classes. The main four races are represented, as well as the Shou from the included setting. So far very B/X.

Now, here's where we start shifting our perceptions, because that is all that is really going on here. We still have hit dice, hit points, and weapons doing variable damage. You can take any D&D weapon not already on the equipment list and drop it right in. The difference is in how the numbers are used in Scarlet Heroes. For foes, monsters and mook-types, hit dice are hit points. So, a bandit can take one hit. A garden variety zombie, 2 points of damage. PCs have normal hit points and important/legendary foes may have hit points, as well.

Damage is determined differently, too. Weapons are still listed with their traditional damage ranges, 1d8 for a long sword, for example. However, rather than simply rolling and deducting that number from an opponent's hit points/hit dice, the roll is checked on a damage table. Thus:

This little table, and the damage dynamic that it applies to, is at the heart of what makes Scarlet Heroes sing. The other thing that really makes it work is the Fray Die. I love the Fray Die. It is a free damage roll PCs make every round, just because it is dangerous to stand too close to them. How awesome is that?

So, that small shift in the perception of hit dice/points and damage is pretty much the foundation that all the rest sits upon. There are other changes that essentially amount to making PC's better able to function alone. Traits add a skill-like element that can be used to mimic certain class-like abilities. There is a Defy Death roll which players can make when they reach an impasse that their character isn't able to handle. It becomes more difficult and dangerous every time the player relies on it to get the character out of a jam, though.

Scarlet Heroes is a complete game in and of itself. It includes everything you need to play, including monsters, magic items, and a taste of the Red Tide setting. There is also an extensive chapter on creating adventures, which includes a good-sized list of adventure tags, which are used in the construction of adventures. There is also a nice section on truly solo gaming, no GM needed.

I want to say one other thing about this before I wrap this up. This doesn't get mentioned much in any of the things I've read about Scarlet Heroes. The spell lists are totally awesome. They are loaded with new spells and new twists on old spells. He provides great, very evocative new names for all the spells. Some of them are really unique and could make a separate supplement of their own.

PS I forgot to mention, the system is suitable as is for one or two PCs. More than that and it gets too easy. However, it is a fine system in its own right, and by simply using hit dice/points and damage in the traditional manner, it could serve as a wonderful vehicle for a group of PCs.

A Teaser (and we know how those go)

The release of issue #1 of The Sandbox from Sine Nomine has me totally jazzed for Mr Crawford's work for the nth time. My gaming ADD drags me away from it as readily as it drags me to it. The plain truth is that Sine Nomine's line covers all the bases I like in gaming: fantasy with Scarlet Heroes, Red Tide, and An Echo, Resounding. Of course, he has sci-fi covered in spades, including Darkness Visible, which also covers the espionage genre. Then there is Other Dust, which scratches my post apoc itch. There is also a number of free supplements for these titles. In short, if my ADD would leave me the hell alone, I could happily spend all of my gaming time with Sine Nomine titles and products.

Recently I binge printed most of my Sine Nomine pdfs. Very soon I'll finish up the ones I missed. So, it is my hope (I won't use the "plan" word) to be able to write at least a brief post about all of them. I'll head each post title with [S]ine [N]omine, so that if these titles aren't your cup of tea, you'll know what's coming.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Free from Sine Nomine

I've mentioned Sine Nomine in a post about Stars Without Number. What I haven't mentioned is just how impressed I am with Mr Crawford's work, both in quantity and quality. Well, he has struck again.

Now he is producing his own free e-zine. This inaugural issue is 15 pages. It has a very nice wrap-around cover. Articles include a new class for Scarlet Heroes, two one-roll generators, one for backwater spaceports and one for abandoned structures. There is also a rather lengthy article detailing the development timetable of Sine Nomine kickstarter projects. All in all this looks to be a very useful addition to the Sine Nomine line.

One small suggestion, though. The layout of Sine Nomine products is very functional. Nothing fancy, no background textures or sidebar art pieces. This is very much appreciated for its printer friendliness. However, title spaces, section headers, chapter titles, and the like typically have the name header followed by a sort of subtitle. The subtitle is white in a black background:

That's not very printer friendly. It doesn't matter if I send it out to be printed, but if you do it at home, all that black ink adds up. And believe me, you'll be wanting to print all of Sine Nomine's stuff. It's that good.

Monday, January 26, 2015

More Cyclopean Ruins

I remembered this morning there was a supplement of weird spells. These seem like a pretty good fit for what I'm trying to shoot for here, but not necessarily a good fit for DCC. Obviously this idea is still in its infancy, with no way of knowing in which direction it will develop. Anyway . . .

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cyclopean Ruins

Almost two weeks ago I posted a query concerning Numenera. My interest in that book has cooled somewhat, but not the quote that I shared in that post.

I simply can not shake the image of a small band traversing a flat, windswept landscape. The wind howls, pulling at their cloaks as they clutch them desperately around their bodies. The light is failing, and in its twilight seems somehow thin, washed out. They arrive at a cliff face, not more than 10-12' high, curving away to either side, fading into the wan light.

They quickly negotiate that smooth face, gaining its summit. Continuing on their course, a short time later they arrive at a precipice. The lip curves away, behind them this time, symmetrical and smooth, lost in the gathering darkness. One of them takes a tube from a fold in his cloak and places it to one of his eyes. Instantly the distance shrinks before him and he can gaze upon far vistas as if they were at arm's length. There at the edge of his extended vision, he sees another precipice. This one, while curving beyond the limits of his vision, is marked by deep indentations, uniformly spaced and consistent in their depth. They march along the edge of that far cliff, fading from sight.

The view of this scene pulls back, revealing the group to be standing on a giant gear.

So, here is my idea: a post-apocalyptic fantasy set among the cyclopean ruins of an advanced previous civilization. The system I think would be suit my vision? Well, this is a weird, bleak, somewhat hopeless, blend of fantasy with a dash of sci-fi post apoc. It is over-the-top in-your-face balls-to-the-wall and a lot of other hyphenated descriptors. So, naturally, I'm thinking DCC.

Spell Lists

So, I'm thinking. We have colleges of magic that provide a handy way to "channel" magic users onto a particular path to power. We have clerical domains which define a cleric's deific proclivities. Didn't spell lists do that back in the misty ages of yore? At least sort of.

Look at the Illusionist. I'm too lazy to go rooting about for more examples. If you read this blog, you already know. You may not agree with my assumptions, but you know that there are a multitude of unique spell lists fine-tuned for specific classes. I believe that spell lists were an early effort to "univeralize" at least one aspect of AD&D. Second edition took the colleges of magic established in 1st edition and used them as a tool for defining "subclasses" of magic users. It extended the concept to clerics with the notion of Domains.

Now, I want to make clear: I think it was a good direction. Unfortunately, the more one-size-fits-all a thing gets, the more likely it is to not fit quite right. There may be a certain group of spells that a class should be able to cast, but they belong in a category with spells that have no place in the class concept. Perhaps you want a class to have limited spell casting, not just categorically, but in absolute variety, as well. That is where individualized spell lists come in.

With individualized spell lists running hither and yon throughout a campaign, the question becomes "Can my magic user learn/use spells from a subclass' spell list?" My personal answer to that is "Sort of". My ruling would be that a character could learn from another's spell list if it is of a compatible type of casting, clerical or arcane. If that condition is met, then the character has to research the spell, essentially converting the spell into a format they can utilize. The character would receive a bonus to his research attempt should he have access to a spell book containing the spell, or expert instruction from a caster who knows the spell.

I'm thinking more and more about implementing limited spell lists for certain classes, or ones less limited but still unique, a la the illusionist. I'm not dead set against rangers or paladins having some spell-like abilities, I just feel more comfortable with the idea that they have a much narrower selection. In my mind it makes it easier to view them more as magical abilities, rather than spells. I hate to paint it this way, but I will: they are like Daily Powers. There, I said it.

Monday, January 12, 2015


General query. Anyone with thoughts, experience, or information is hereby encouraged to share. I'm off work today and tomorrow and ended up and the local Books-A-Million. While there I saw Numenera. I thought it looked intriguing, and not having a lot of time to sit down with it and a hot cup of coffee (much as I would have liked), I came home and began furiously educating myself. Up to that point, it was an interest. Then, I came upon this passage, I believe from the introduction:
Then, I was lying in bed one night about a year ago, and in my mind’s eye I saw two figures pulling tattered cloaks around themselves to ward off the chill as they walked. The two trudged across a grey landscape, wary with each step. And as this scene receded, I saw that the terrain they crossed was a massive gear, and the landscape was in fact an unbelievably huge and ancient machine. The key to this scene, I realized, was that the figures were in no way part of this terrain—perhaps they didn’t even understand the concept of the machine—but they were accustomed to it. It was a part of the world they lived in as much as mountains, rivers, and forests are a part of ours.
I feel like I can see that, too, and I too find it strongly compelling. Now I feel driven to run down a great sci-fi/fantasy setting. So, tell me of Numenera, or failing that, your choice for that type of game/setting. I'm mainly interested in all-in-one things, so something like Chronicles of Future Earth aren't really what I'm looking for.

Any advice or thoughts, or pointers to things I may not know about, are heartily appreciated.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Aranor Prehistory

In The Time Before the lands were ruled by the First, the first intelligent peoples given life by the gods. The First were a divine race, being near-gods themselves. They were mighty in all things that were of the Creation. They were all warriors, wizards, bards, weaponsmiths, and artists. They were fearless and absolutely sure of their power. So sure, in fact, that in time they waged war against the gods themselves.

Of course, they were doomed. They did make an accounting of themselves before their revolution was thrown down, though. Ultimately they were defeated. Their punishment was to have their essence split. They were divided into humans, elves, dwarves, and orcs. Some of the First escaped the sentence, and bade their time, hidden from the gods.

Once the Lessers, as the First refer to the "split" races, had developed sufficiently the First came out of hiding. They very carefully assimilated themselves into Lesser society, albeit as overlords and rulers. They had carefully laid out boundaries for themselves, to prevent them gathering or coming into conflict, in order to not draw the gods' attention. They became known as the Mage-Lords.

The Mage-Lords bred, bred with, and otherwise manipulated the Lessers to create new races and/or modify the original Lessers to better fit their needs. They were ruthless and cruel, vengeance burning hot and bright in their hearts. Some descended into a madness the depth of which only godlings such as they could fathom. These became known as demons and devils.

The empires of the Mage-Lords were vast and powerful. The Mage-Lords possessed a command of magic and artifice the world has never known since. The states and provinces of their empires were interconnected by dimensional gateways and teleportation devices. Paired scrying mirrors were used for communication. Many of the greatest cities were connected by paved highways. Trade was facilitated by these paved roads, as well as by caravansary at regular intervals.

For generations the Mage-Lords were content to rule within their enclaves. Eventually, though, they turned ravenous eyes on their brethren. Their wars forever changed the world. They shared minor secrets of their magic and artifice, instructing certain talented Lessers. Some were deployed as battle mages. Some were imprisoned in magical smithies, slaves set to making magical artifacts of war.

For thousands of years these wars were waged. Eventually all of the Mage-Lords became embroiled in these conflicts. The gods were content to allow these wars to play out. They realized who the Mage-Lords were and watched as they killed each other off. Eventually, there was only one, called Zagrath. Swollen with pride, he believed that having killed all of the other Mage-Lords and assimilated their power, he was ready to vie against the gods.

He marshalled his forces and summoned great and terrible magic. He opened a gateway to the gods' realms and sallied forth. The struggle was titanic. Zagrath bested many of them before he fell. Eventually the gods, at first divided, came together and overcame the upstart. They visited every manner of suffering on him they could conceive. Finally, when they tired of their sport, they threw him down. Literally. Already broken and mad, he plummeted from unimaginable heights to crash into the world. What was left of his mind was lost in that unending fall, and what remained of his body was utterly ruined in his landing.

He landed on a peninsula extending from the southeastern shores of Calanthas, known as Fahldrag. He crashed into a mountain whose original name is lost to time. Now it is called Sloth Negaimus. It is widely believed that Zagrath lies there still, where he fell, a mad godling in a ruined body, plotting revenge and conquest.

There are whispered legends of lost prophesies that as Zagrath warred against his brethren, he kept them alive. He didn't merely assimilate their power. He kept them alive after a fashion, tapping into their living power. Some say that without Zagrath to hold them in thrall they will regenerate their former power and return to torment the world. Most of these legendary prophesies are scoffed at by sages and intellectuals as fabrications of charlatans and hustlers.

There is also the prophesy of Niamician. It is well-recorded and attributed, even if it isn't widely respected. No one knows exactly what Niamician saw in his prophetic vision, but it drove him irretrievably mad. His only writing of the prophecy was this:

"When Zagrath rises, dark and bloody,
clutch tightly your fear with one hand,
and weep your despair into the other."

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2300AD Throwback (but not because it's Thursday)

I absolute adored this game when it came out. I tend to like my sci-fi a bit more gritty than the typical Traveller-esque space opera (although I have a serious nostalgia soft spot for that game). This cover, from the original edition, roped me in the moment I laid eyes on it.

The chick looks coolly dangerous, with that big ass gun and dog-thing. The guy looks a little less capable, holding his big ass gun with both hands and looking like that is as high as he can get it. His helmet looks entirely too big, and his entire impression is of a kid playing with his daddy's military gear. But that chick can probably take care of whatever happens without him, anyway.

Their ship is at a very awkward angle, but it has "REBCO SAR" stenciled on the hull, so I'm OK with it. SAR stands for Search and Rescue (in case you didn't know). The early edition of this game was more focused on exploration than anything else. Naturally, some of those explorations would encounter problems and need rescue. This was, and is, an ideal campaign premise for me. A rescue team with a landing ship (the interstellar ships in 2300 aren't landers) being shuttled to a potentially hostile location to rescue some wayward explorers. Awesome stuff.

The choice of background was odd, though. It is a city on the second-most advanced and populated world in the 2300 universe. Rising near the right edge is the Beanstalk, one of two space elevators in the setting. Why someone needs such a well-armed and equipped SAR team less than 5 miles from a major population center is a bit curious.

Even so, this cover screamed my kind of sci-fi, and did not disappoint. However, like Star Frontiers, it did not include starship rules. Those came later, in the form of . . .

I really wanted to like Star Cruiser. That's not to imply that I didn't (or don't), it's just that I never played it. It's written from a very military/stellar navy perspective, to the point that most of the tech is of two types: military and old military. Obviously, the cutting edge tech is almost all military, while most of the best civilian tech is second-generation military. 2300AD never seems to have been intended to play out the merchant-prince type games Traveller supported. These rules didn't do anything for that, which didn't particularly bother me.

Owing to the harder sci-fi paradigm of the system, the only artificial gravity on these ships is inertially induced, mainly via spin-habitat crew quarters. I like this idea quite a bit to this day.

Mongoose came out with a version of 2300AD, as a supplement for its core Traveller rules. I haven't seen it, but it seems to have been well-received, aside from not being complete in itself. There is also a free fanzine, Colonial Times, that can be found on Drivethru RPG.

I've left out a lot about this game. Some of what I've said may be off a little, too. It's been far too long since I spent any time with it. If you like hard(ish) sci-fi, this one is well worth a look, even if you just adapt the fluff to your preferred system.