Monday, May 31, 2010

The Madlands Campaign: Four Unusual NPCs...

Good Afternoon:

I couldn't think of much to talk about today, given that I haven't had much sleep from last night, so I decided to exercise a little creativity. Firing up Inspiration Pad Pro, I generated a few unusual titles using a set of tables taken from the Age of Fables website, which in turn was inspired by the unusual titles of major NPCs in the Carcosa setting. From the list of entries that IPP created, I decided to choose a few of them and create some NPC descriptions for these guys. Hopefully, you find them interesting, and perhaps can use them in your own campaigns. For me, I intend to find a way to work them into the Madlands Campaign, or barring that, perhaps some of these guys may see some play in a future One Shot.

Ancient Regent of Dreams
A serpentfolk mage dwelling in exile near Scorpion Bend, the Ancient Regent of Dreams is an oracle of considerable talent. When this serpentfolk predicted the fall of the Empire's armies, he was chased into the wilderness, never to see his homeland again. The Ancient Regent of Dreams is still sought out from time to time, as he is rumored to still offer insight into the future to those that pass his trials.

Eloquent Joy-Giver of Small Petals
A minor lord of the fey courts that border on this region of the mortal realm, the sprite known as Eloquent Joy-Giver of Small Petals maintains friendly relations with the criminal underworld, and is said to traffic in unusual vapors, such as the euphoric fumes of a pseudodragon's breath weapon. Small Petals, as the mortals call him, often holds audiences with those seeking his services or assistance in a twisted mockery of a traditional fey court.

Inapproachable Victory
In recent years, an artathi warlord bearing a self-appointed title that roughly translates as Inapproachable Victory has been forging a large tribe from a number of conquered artathi tribes. As Inapproachable Victory's purposes remain unclear, the orcs of the Malnoth Tyranny watch the lands of the artathi with an attentive eye. Little do the orcs know that Inapproachable Victory's true goals are much more sinister than causing trouble for the Tyranny.

One with the Gatherer
While many of the mantisfolk hives of the great plains worship the demon lord of insects, those that follow the mantis queen known as One With The Gatherer swear their souls to a being that is neither god nor demon, but a being from beyond the stars above known by many names, including Star Child and the Gatherer. Her faithful hive worships One With The Gatherer as the mortal avatar of their otherworldly patron, and aggressively expand their territory as they seek new converts. Those that accept One With The Gatherer as the Star Child made flesh here in the mortal realm are integrated into the hive, and given a position of service to the collective. Those who do not are sacrificed to the Gatherer through bizarre rites to strengthen the Star Child's hold in this plane.

Hope This Helps,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stellar Quest: More On Specialties...

Good Afternoon, All:

I've started compiling a list of Specialties below, to cover the basic types of activities that characters might desire to pursue in the course of their exploratory adventures on strange, new worlds as they boldly go where no one has gone before. Borrowing from a variety of sources, and trying to narrow it down a bit, I've come up with the following list for consideration:

Heavy-G Environs
Life Sciences
Physical Sciences
Sensors Operations
Social Sciences
Zero-G Environs

These are simply the basic "skill" categories that I can perceive for characters. Under the basic ability check system, all characters can attempt these actions at a base chance, and Specialties simply grant bonuses to specialized characters, so they are more likely to succeed. This way, a party can continue whether or not they have an appropriate specialist, instead of being stuck and unable to continue to pursue the remainder of the adventure for lack of a "required" skill. As I may have mentioned before, I can chalk this off to the overall comprehensive training that the Fleet gives all of its members.

Now, with psionics, it will likely be different. If you don't have a psionic specialty, you can't attempt to be psionic. An alternate approach would be to require the expenditure of psi points with the use of a psionic talent, and only allow the psionic class access to psi points. I don't know yet; the jury is still out.

What do you think? Am I forgetting something you'd like to see in your space adventuring? Have I listed something you don't think should be considered a specialty?

With Regards,

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Madlands Campaign: Inspiration from Witchville...

Good Morning, All:

Every campaign needs at least one big villain, if not more, and the Madlands Campaign is no different. Sometimes big defining enemies can add as much flavor to a campaign as a distinctive locale. Inspiration for interesting villains can come from a number of sources. In this case, I found the creative spark in an idea stolen from Witchville, which aired last weekend on the SyFy Channel. Yes, it was a movie with bad acting, moderately cool special effects, a few fun fight scenes, more bad acting and a relatively "vanilla" plot, but I usually watch these bad fantasy flicks for two reasons: ideas and cleavage. This movie wasn't particularly high on the cleavage quotient, but there are plenty of gaming ideas to be picked up here.

The core of my inspiration comes from a quote in the movie describing an isolated town as being ruled by the Crimson Queen and her demon ladies. From this came the concept of an isolated township ruled by a diabolist known as Lady Serova and a ruling family with a demon-tainted bloodline. The men of the family lineage are transformed magically into the warrior-servitor half-demons that serve Lady Serova, while the women become practicing sorceresses (warrior-mages).

Running with the idea, I'll take the male transformation one step further. While the nobles that display demon-taint are transformed into servitors, the rest of the men in the village are treated as slaves. Stealing an idea from the Amazons of Greek mythology, the village itself is a haven for a very female-dominated culture. With that in mind, I check out the Amazons entry on Wikipedia, and decide to name the village after one of the Amazons listed therein: the Amazon Thermodosa led me to name the village Thermodosia, which in turn transforms into Merdosia. Okay, that's a name I can run with.

With Merdosia ruled by the court of Lady Serova and her sorceress elite, protected by demonic servitors and served by enslaved mortal men, I now have an interesting villainess for the campaign. Her sorceresses often travel beyond the isolated environs of Merdosia on raids for more male slaves. So, a common encounter in the area might be a raiding party of sorceresses. If the party discovers some demonic treasure trove, one of Lady Serova's sorceresses and a few servitors could be dispatched to recover the treasure. Known for her love of magic, the Lady Serova may also be sought out for lost magical lore, such as spells or rituals. Perhaps the Lady Serova has captured a young noble among the men she's enslaved, and his father is willing to start a war against the villainess.

And of course, the ideas don't stop with just Lady Serova and company. As mentioned above, there's likely a demonic treasure trove, so here's inspiration to locate a demon-themed dungeon in the Madlands Campaign. One of the main characters in the Witchville movie was a witch hunter, which could inspire an organization that fills a similar role in the campaign setting. Of course, Lady Serova wouldn't be the only reason they'd gathered, so that implies that there are other threats of a similar ilk, even if Lady Serova is the most powerful and well known.

There's a lot of ideas here, and still more to come as I continue to explore the concept. This is the reason why I watch those cheesy B-grade fantasy flicks on SyFy. You can never tell where your next set of cool ideas might come from. So, what do you think? Where would you take the concept?


Friday, May 28, 2010

My 150th Post...

Good Evening, All:

Today is my 150th post, which isn't bad for a simple blog about gaming and such. I am blessed with 23 followers, and I've enjoyed my share of comments. I want to thank everyone that has contributed so far to what I feel has been a successful beginning, and I look forward to many more posts and some interesting discussions.

I've noticed lately that there's been a trend among other bloggers, particularly among the Old School crowd. I've read several blogs lately where the authors are reporting that they have run out of things to talk about. They are getting burned out, or they don't feel they have anything further to contribute on their preferred subjects, or in a few cases, they've become frustrated with a perceived attitude from a select group of others in the community. For whatever reason, these bloggers have become overwhelmed with a lack of interest or creativity in continuing their blog, and so are taking a break.

Personally, I think that's perfectly valid. When you get burned out or frustrated by any particular process, you need to take some time away from it in order to recharge. You may never return to that which frustrated you, particularly if you let it burn you out too deeply, so being able to recognize when you need to take that break is an important skill, not only in gaming, but in Life in general.

At some point in time, I may join the chorus and announce that I need to take a break to avoid burnout. However, for the time being, I feel like I still have plenty to say, and a lot to offer. I change my focus frequently enough that I don't get bored, and hopefully it's still interesting to those who have elected to follow the words I post. I know that these next two months are likely to be rough for me, as I will be dealing with a newborn here at the house. Still, I hope to be able to continue to contribute to this blog with topics that proves enjoyable.

In the meantime, please feel free to keep up your comments as you feel so inclined. I'll do what I can to respond, and rest assured that they do have the ability to impact the direction of the blog itself.

With Regards,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stellar Quest: Thoughts on Psionics...

Good Afternoon:

In looking at Stellar Quest, I started considering the possible presence of Psionics in the game, as many of the inspirational material presented creatures or characters with psionic powers as adventure fodder. In addition, the ship's First Officer had some mental talents of his own. Finally, psionics have a place in science fiction. While I considered basing psionic potential on Wisdom, because it often represents insight or enlightenment, or Charisma, which is a measure of one's personal magnetism and self-confidence, in the end, I think I'm going to follow the lead of Starships & Spacemen and Traveller, and introduce a Psi ability score. Psi would be generated just like the six original stats, and follow the same ability score modifiers.

Given that I already have a branch of the Fleet based on each ability score, I would imagine that we should have a separate class based on the Psi ability, which I imagine we'd call the Psionic branch, Mentalist branch or Sensitive branch. The reason I want to go with a class for this is because I don't want to add yet another mechanic or level of complexity to a simple system. With a class, I have two possible options: I can either make it a basic spell-like system modeled after the Magic-User class, much like how it was handled in Savage Swords of Athanor; or I could use Specialties to create a pseudo-skill based approach inspired by Traveller. For the sake of consistency with other classes, I think I'd prefer the Specialties approach, but I am concerned that others may desire an approach more in tune with Swords & Wizardry.

What do you think?

With Regards,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Swords & Wizardry Monsters: The Crocotaur, the Ichortick and the Sicklewing...

Good Afternoon, All:

Today's post includes three new monsters for Swords & Wizardry: the crocotaur, the ichortick and the sicklewing. These creatures are designed for use in the Madlands Campaign, but are easily usable in other campaigns as well. While the ichortick and the sicklewing make for good general purpose random encounter monsters, the crocotaur will have a special place reserved in the game for guarding an abandoned temple in the Blood Marsh. I think I have enough monsters now, or almost enough monsters, to generate a nice set of Random Encounter tables for the region.

But enough of this rambling. I'm sure you'd like to see the monsters:

The crocotaur has the lower body of a crocodile, the torso of a man, and a reptilian head. Known for its regenerative abilities, the crocotaur makes for a vicious enemy in its native swamps. Hiding in the water, the crocotaur leaps upon unsuspecting victims, striking hard and fast.

Crocotaur: AC 5 [14]; HD 5; Atk: bit (1d8), two claws (1d6), tail slap (1d8), by weapon (1d6); ST: 12; SP: regenerates 2 hp per round (except from electricity); MV: 15, swim 15; CL 7; XP 600.

Ichorticks are giant ticks that have been transformed by exposure to the divine blood of a god, creating a savage monstrosity with a voracious appetite. While ichorticks will hunt anything that moves, they have a special hunger for the enemies of the god that created them. Ichorticks are very sensitive to vibrations in the earth, so they tend to bury themselves and wait for prey to come along. Due to this "tremorsense", invisibility does not prevent an ichortick from detecting the location of any target in contact with the earth. When a target is directly overhead, the ichortick will erupt from the earth and attack with surprise. Ichorticks are immune to poison, sleep, paralysis and illusions.

Ichortick: AC 2 [17]; HD 7; Atk: bite (2d6), four claws (1d8); ST: 9; SP: immunities (illusions, paralysis, poison, sleep), tremorsense; MV: 12, burrow 6; CL 9; XP 1,100.

Related to falcons, the sicklewing is a devastating hunter. The most notable feature of the sicklewing is a bony ridge along the length of its wings that grows into a razor-sharp edge. The sicklewing will often dive at great speeds towards its intended targets, striking with its scythe-like wings in a flyby attack as it flies past the target before completing its movement further away. (Sicklewings do not suffer any attacks from their target for "retreating" in combat based on this flyby attack.) On a natural 20 on the wing's attack roll, the target must succeed at a saving throw or lose half their total hitpoints as they lose a limb, head or other extremity (chosen randomly; loss of a head generally results in instant death). Once the target has lost a limb, the sicklewing will often scoop up the lost limb and return to its lair to feast upon the newly acquired prize. While magic can sometimes regenerate lost limbs, any magical rings and other items attached to the stolen limb can only be recovered from the aerie lair of the sicklewing.

Sicklewing: AC 5 [14]; HD 2; Atk: claw (1d3), wing (1d6); ST: 16; SP: dismemberment, flyby attack; MV: 6, fly 30; CL 5; XP 240.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Madlands Campaign: The Artathi...

Good Morning, All:

In continuing to develop the races of my future Madlands Campaign, I decided to abandon the vanaran monkey-man concept, given that the Madlands are effectively the great plains region of Cameria, and went back to basics. In the process of reviewing Fantasy Flight Games's Mythic Races, I found the Artathi, a race of cat-men well suited for life on the savannah-esque plains of the Madlands. Borrowing the core concept of the race, I came up with the following translation for Swords & Wizardry.

The Artathi are a proud race of felinids who live upon and rule on the vast plains of central Cameria now known as the Madlands. While most resemble a humanoid lion in appearance, covered with a thin tawny coat and leonine facial features, other sub-races of Artathi exist that resemble other species of large cats. As a rule, the Artathi are very close to humans in terms of average height and weight, and possess a similar lifespan. A very proud race, the Artathi are easily insulted by others, and tend to react poorly to such efforts.
Ability Requirements: Artathi characters must have a minimum Dexterity score of 9, and a maximum Intelligence of 17.
Character Advancement: Artathi characters may progress as Fighting-Men and Clerics (from the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules, or as Crusaders, Rangers and Thieves (from the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting). They may advance as high as eighth level as a Fighting-Man, Ranger or Thief, or up to sixth level as a Cleric or Crusader.
Weapon/Armor Restrictions: While the Artathi do no suffer any restrictions on armor or weapons, they prefer simple, primitive weapons and very lightweight armor that does not hinder their movement.
Low-Light Vision: The Artathi possess the ability to see in poor lighting conditions. They ignore any penalties from darkness, except in conditions of total darkness.
Natural Weapon (Claws): The Artathi may use their sharp claws to deal damage equivalent to a dagger (1d4).
Saving Throws: The Artathi are incredibly nimble and gain a +4 on saving throws to avoid effects that target an area instead of an individual. They do not gain this bonus when wearing armor heavier than leather.
Languages: For campaigns that give each race its own dialect, the Artathi should be able to speak with other tribes in the area, as well as humans, orcs, gnolls, and goblins.

In terms of Savage Worlds, the following stats would probably work pretty well:

The Artathi are a proud race of felinids who live upon and rule on the vast plains of central Cameria now known as the Madlands. While most resemble a humanoid lion in appearance, covered with a thin tawny coat and leonine facial features, other sub-races of Artathi exist that resemble other species of large cats. As a rule, the Artathi are very close to humans in terms of average height and weight, and possess a similar lifespan. A very proud race, the Artathi are easily insulted by others, and tend to react poorly to such efforts.
Artathi Racial Traits:
* Agile: As a race, Artathi are naturally quite dextrous. They start with a d6 in Agility.
* Claws: Str+d4.
* Proud: The Artathi are easily insulted by others, and tend to react poorly to such efforts. They suffer a -2 penalty when attempting to resist Taunts, and must win an opposed Spirit trait check to avoid attacking those that successfully taunt them.
* Common Languages: Trade, Artathi

Hope This Helps,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stellar Quest: The Basic Experience Table...

Good Evening, All:

I don't have much to write about today, so I figured that I would present the basic experience table for Stellar Quest. This is based on awarding 100 XP as my base, instead of 75 or something like that. I also assume that the first level will take an average of two sessions to complete, and each level thereafter would require one additional session, on the average. That's where I got the numbers that form the basis for the table below.

Please feel free to post your thoughts on the table below, and if you have any comments, please feel free to share them.

Table: Stellar Quest Experience Table
21000Petty Officer
32500Warrant Officer
57000Lieutenant, Junior Grade
713500Lieutenant Commander
1132500Rear Admiral
1238500Vice Admiral
1452000Fleet Admiral

With Regards,

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Thoughts on Magic Shops...

Good Morning, All:

One of the most common elements that typically varies from campaign to campaign is the concept of the magic shop. As GMs and Referees, we have to decide how prevalent magic will be in our campaigns, and how accessible it will be to the average player-character. There are those that feel that magic should only be created by the PC themselves or discovered while adventuring, and can be found nowhere else in the campaign. On the other end of the spectrum, there are published settings where entire magocratic nations make their living and spread their power through magic shops in every major city and township in the setting, and you can buy anything magical from potions to magic swords to pacifiers that cast sleep on babies when the mother is tired of dealing with a fussy child. For the most part, the average campaign likely falls somewhere in between.

The prevalence of magic shops, or businesses where PCs can purchase magical goods in exchange for treasure plundered from local tombs and ancient vaults, is primarily determined by the flavor of the campaign itself. Low Fantasy games, where magic is rare and often dangerous to use, does not even support the concept of a magic shop within the context of the setting. Most Sword & Sorcery style games probably fall under that heading. High Fantasy campaigns, on the other hand, typically include the premise that magic is plentiful and easily available. Such campaigns would provide magic shops for the purchase of items and so forth. Because my players have gone through 3E and the heavier presence and dependence on magic items, I feel that, for my games, I should make such things available, but not to the extent that they were present in 3E. The following reflect my thoughts on the matter.

My first core concept is that only about one person in 250 are magic-using wizards or arcanists, and one person in 100 are clerics or divine casters. These numbers were inspired by an old Dragon magazine article I'd read. In regards to their character level, I use the table I'd previously posted for determining NPC level, capped based on the local population.

My second assumption is that most spellcasters already work for an organization. Priests work for the temples or perhaps a noble that follows the same patron deity, while mages work for either an academic institution, a guild, or a noble. Maybe one in ten actually work independently, either as adventurers or as magic shop owners. This means that there's a divine magic shop for every 1000 people, usually as part of a shrine or local temple; and an arcane magic shop for every 2500 people.

My third assumption is that it is easier to make temporary magic items than it is to make permanent ones. Items such as potions, scrolls and wands cost less to make, take less time to create, and once used up, require customers to come back for more purchases in the future. Permanent items do not create return customers. Simply put, it makes more financial sense for magic shop owners to create temporary magic items than it does to create permanent ones. Potions and scrolls will also be more profitable for magic shop owners than wands, since it takes longer for wands to run out of power, meaning that there are less frequent returns for future purchases with wands. Simply put, potions and scrolls lead to a more steady income for the magic shop owner.

My fourth assumption is that, since more people can use potions than can use scrolls or wands, there is a broader market for potions than for either scrolls or wands. Therefore, most magic shop owners sell potions, instead of scrolls or wands.

Taking these assumptions as a whole, the average magic shop in my campaign worlds will tend to sell mostly potions, some scrolls, very few wands and no permanent magic items. In addition, they will offer basic services like detecting magic on treasures and identifying the magical properties of items. They may or may not purchase magic items from adventurers, and are much more likely to arrange deals with prospective buyers for a small fee (usually ten percent of the final sale price). Magic shop owners will not likely create permanent magic items except on commission and even then, the money will need to make up for the lost income from not creating temporary items for sale. Again, they may instead serve as intermediaries, making arrangements with those rare individuals that make permanent items, in exchange for a small fee (the usual being ten percent).

There's roughly a 10% chance that a village will have an arcane magic shop, owned by a wizard of up to 4th level, and a 20% chance that there will be a divine magic shop, owned by a cleric of up to 4th level.

Townships will almost always have one divine magic shop, and a 50% chance of an arcane magic shop. The proprietor of such a shop is likely to be up to 7th level.

Cities will typically have 8+d4 divine magic shops, and 2+d4 arcane magic shops, and the owners range from 1st level to 10th level.

The average metropolis, of which there are likely to be only one or two in the entire region, if they exist at all, will have almost a hundred different divine magic shops and around forty arcane magic shops, with owners that could reach 13th level.

These are my thoughts, anyway. Yours may likely be different. What do you think about magic shops in your campaigns? As a player? As a GM? I look forward to reading your thoughts, either in the comments below or perhaps in your own blog, should you have one.

With Regards,

Saturday, May 22, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Referee's Guide Update...

Good Evening, All:

Some people have been asking me how the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide is progressing. In a nutshell, it hasn't. I'm focused on the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting, and being sidetrekked by Stellar Quest ruminations. However, I thought it would be good to review where I'm at on that project, and what lies ahead before it is ready for layout and release.

Here are the outstanding elements that remain to be completed:
  • Training and downtime
  • Duties, taxes and other fees
  • Gods and pantheons
  • Guilds
  • Magical research
  • Orders and organizations
  • Royalty and nobility
  • Slavery
  • Strongholds and territories
  • Wars and other catastrophes
  • Many, many monsters (or just some monsters and cut down the bestiary even further...)
  • Some common monster traits
  • Some stock NPC stat blocks
  • Encounter creation advice (most of that chapter)
  • Using modules
  • Creating wilderness adventures
  • Gems & jewelry
  • Power components
  • Spells books
  • Finish magic items section
  • Monster lists (once finalized)
  • Random encounter tables
  • Finish conversion notes

Some of these elements may be removed from the list as the project moves towards completion, and others may be added. I definitely hope that, between some basic elbow grease and feedback from my peers, this book turns out to be pretty useful for Referees as more than just a reference for magic items and monsters.

Okay, looking at the list above, do any of you guys have any suggestions as to what topics are more important (or less important) to you than others? Your input will very likely help shape the direction that this book takes. The core will contain the elements I need to play the game I want to play. The rest, that which makes it a more well-rounded and usable product, will ultimately evolve as time and interest allows.

Hope This Helps,

Friday, May 21, 2010

Stellar Quest: Specialties...

Good Afternoon, All:

In thinking about the classes for Stellar Quest, I looked at ways of expressing class abilities in a very Old School manner. Using Swords & Wizardry as my model, it looks like every class pretty much should have one special ability at 1st level and then there's the traditional 9th level ability to reflects reaching "Name" level. While I could go with something generic like giving each class a bonus on ability checks used to resolve actions when the ability is the prime requisite of the class, that somehow feels like I'm repeating the same basic concept as the SIEGE Engine from Castles & Crusades. In addition, some classes provide opportunities for differentiation. For example, the Operations class could reflect training and skills in Communications or Engineering, while the Flight class could cover Navigation or Piloting. To reflect that, I'm considering the introduction of the concept of Specialties.

Specialties remind me somewhat of Non-Weapon Proficiencies from 2nd Edition, or possibly skills. At their most basic, a Specialty simply gives a bonus on ability checks to resolve a particular kind of action. Anyone can try anything, in keeping with the Old School philosophy, but some people are just better at certain tasks than others. A Specialty in Engineering gives bonuses when making checks to build or repair starship systems, while a Specialty in Navigation provides bonuses on checks based on astrogation, plotting courses and even knowledge of the stars. My current thought is that each class allows you to choose one Specialty out of a list of two to four options. I may even give Humans a bonus Specialty to reflect their adaptable nature (and make up for their lack of racial abilities). If I do that, this would explain why Humans are the predominate species within "Star Fleet".

Is something like this enough? Is it too much? What do you think?

Now, NWPs from AD&D 2nd Edition can also represent minor abilities instead of skills, such as being Ambidextrous. I would prefer not to do that with Specialties, as it takes us into the realm of talents (ala MyD20 Lite) or feats (D20 System). However, if I do go that route, then I can introduce alien-specific Specialties like the Vulcan's mind meld, er, I mean Eridanite's share minds ability. For that matter, I could also explore the addition of a psionics system, but that's a matter for another post.

With Regards,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Swords & Wizardry: The Manspider, the Scorpionfolk and the Wrathfey...

Good Morning, All:

Here are three more creatures for your Swords & Wizardry campaign. The manspider is an arachnid humanoid with the ability to entangle and paralyze its prey. The scorpionfolk are a conversion from an OGL creature found in 3E's MM2, which originally came from Sword & Sorcery's Creature Collection I. Finally, the wrathfey is just an annoyingly cruel pest that demonstrates the flavor of the Unseelie court. I think all three should make for interesting encounters. What do you think?

A large humanoid monstrosity with arachnid features, the manspider stands head and shoulders above normal humans. Covered in bristly black hair and dark, shiny chitin, the manspider possesses four arms that end in savage claws. The mandibles of the manspider secrete a poison that paralyzes its prey for an hour, unless the victim successfully makes a saving throw. In addition, the manspider can spit a stream of sticky webbing in a line 40 feet long, entangling anyone in the area of effect unless they make a successful saving throw. Any entangled target cannot move, cast spells or perform any other action. In order to break free, the target may spend an entire combat round trying to escape, which allows another attempt to make a saving throw. The manspider prefers to entangle his prey in webs, paralyze them with his poisonous bite and then eat their prey live and at their leisure.

Manspider: AC 4 [15]; HD 8; Atk: bite (1d8 + poison), four claws (1d6); ST: 8; SP: poisonous bite (paralysis for 1 hour, save negates), web spitter; MV: 18; CL 11; XP 1,700.

Forged by an infernal pact, scorpionfolk resemble an insectile centaur, being a giant scorpion from the waist down and a human from the waist up. At home in deserts, scorpionfolk leave no tracks when moving through sand. The poison of their stinger is particular devastating, inflicting 6d6 points of damage (a successful saving throw halves the damage inflicted). Scorpionfolk often lead bands of giant scorpions on raids against caravans and outlying civilized lands.

Scorpionfolk: AC 2 [17]; HD 12; Atk: two claws (1d10), stinger (1d4 + poison) and by weapon (typically 1d6); ST: 3; SP: poison (6d6, save for half damage), trackless step; MV: 15; CL 14; XP 2,600.

Wrathfey are cruel and bloodthirsty sprites that have been corrupted by divine blood spilled during a war between gods. Malicious and cunning, wrathfey find great pleasure in blinding, maiming and otherwise torturing the weak and the infirmed, including pets, children and the elderly. With a fast breeding period and their generally small size, wrathfey frequently infest an area, displacing more mundane vermin as they unleash their wrath upon rats and other small animals, before moving on to larger targets. When these foul fey are discovered, they are mercilessly hunted down and destroyed before they have a significant impact on the local community.

Wrathfey: AC 5 [14]; HD 1d6 hp; Atk: Tiny dagger (1d3 + poison); ST: 18; SP: poisoned weapon (1d4 damage, save for half damage); MV: 6, fly 18; CL 2; XP 30.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stellar Quest: Filing Off The Serial Numbers...

Good Afternoon, All:

Since Stellar Quest is inspired by Star Trek, yet Star Trek is a licensed product, I obviously can't make mention of what would be considered Product Identity, if not Copyrighted material and Trademarks. For that reason, I have to make a few changes here and there. Most of this is names and certain background specifics. I don't want to make too many changes, so that the material is usable for those seeking a true Trek experience; however, I have to make some changes or I can't offer POD versions of the rulebook. The hardest part, of course, is walking the line between too little and too much. I have heard this process referred to at times as "filing off the serial numbers."

Since we know that the Vulcans in Star Trek come from 40 Eridani A, I'm inclined to call the race modelled on them Eridanites in reference to their homeworld. Using that same logic, the Andorian homeworld orbits Procyon, so the honorable warriors inspired by Andorians would likely be called Procyans or Procyonites. Sadly, this falls to the wayside with Tellarites; Star Trek does not define which star system contains the Tellarites' homeworld of Tellar. The best idea I've come up with so far in these regards to come up with a homeworld name of similar style and/or sound, such as Tolan and calling my race the Tolanites.

The model of history for such a game can be stated in a fairly generic fashion. I only need to provide a page of background, to be honest, and so long as the names and such are changed to protect the innocent, much as Starships & Spacemen does, then I imagine it should be fine. You can always substitute the actual Trek history for the short synopsis I intend to supply for Stellar Quest, or mix and match in your games as you wish.

I will also likely shift the scale of the Star Trek setting down a bit, more in keeping with that of Traveller, for two reasons. The most important reason is that it still takes a ridiculously high Warp Factor to travel the distances involved in a reasonable amount of time. For example, according to the Okuda Scale of Warp Velocities, and assuming the Federation maximum of Warp Factor 5 for civilian ships, you can cover the distance of one parsec in just under a week. A trip from Earth to Alpha Centauri, our nearest star, would take eight days. Travelling 16.1 lightyears from Earth to 40 Eridani A, the homeworld of our emotionless logic-minded Eridanites, would require a civilian ship to travel just over 27.5 days. Now, at Warp Factor 9, that distance only takes 3 days, 21 hours. In order to get from Vulcan to Earth in an hour, you'd have to travel slightly faster than the speed of subspace radio (~ Warp Factor 9.9997). That makes a much smaller universe than Star Trek presents. Given that it takes 21 minutes for a subspace message to travel one parsec, the scale of a Traveller quadrant or sector really becomes a nice viable option. It also implies that messages from Star Fleet Command are pretty much one-way. This doesn't fit with the experiences of the TV series or movies, but this is based on the math used by the guys behind the scenes of the Star Trek universe. Aiming for too high a scale interferes with the math there.

The second reason for scaling down the setting is that it opens up the Traveller System Reference Document as a source for some rules and details.

However, all of this said, it doesn't matter what I publish for background, so long as I keep it light. The material just needs to be useful for those that desire to use the Trek universe on their own, while giving enough to work with for those that want to use the rules as a standalone universe. The core of this kind of project would be the rules themselves, and how useful they are in creating the Trek-style space exploration experience.

Hope This Helps,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stellar Quest: Thoughts on Weapon Damage...

Good Evening, All:

I've been considering various weapon statistics for Stellar Quest, I started with the following basic assumptions: First, keep it simple. Second, keep it consistent if you can. Third, keep it within the context of an OD&D experience. The following rules reflect what I currently think I'm going to go with.

Melee Weapons
I think I'm going to follow the basic concept of tying weapon damage to weapon size.

Weapon SizeDamageExample
Diminutive1d3Under-sized dagger
Small1d6Short sword
Medium1d8Long sword
Large2d6Great sword
Huge2d8Over-sized great sword

I use the following chart for determining what weapons a particular race may use.

One-handed, light weapon, concealableDiminutiveTinySmall
One-handed, light weaponTinySmallMedium

At the moment, I don't have a large race, but I want the information available just in case. The Tellarite race will use the Small category, while Humans, Vulcans and Andorians will use the Man-sized category.

Ranged Weapons
Ranged weapons follow the same basic pattern. Muscle powered weapons such as bows do the same damage as a melee weapon of equivalent size. Gunpowder weapons do double dice damage for their size. Energy weapons inflict triple damage. The following chart captures this data in a tabular format.

Weapon SizeDamageExample
Tiny, Muscle-Powered1d4Throwing dagger, shuriken
Small, Muscle-Powered1d6Short bow, light crossbow
Medium, Muscle-Powered1d8Long bow, heavy crossbow
Tiny, Gunpowder2d4Hold-out pistol
Small, Gunpowder2d6Pistol, revolver
Medium, Gunpowder2d8Rifle
Tiny, Energy3d4Hold-out phaser
Small, Energy3d6Phaser pistol
Medium, Energy3d8Phaser rifle

In regards to phasers, setting such a weapon to Stun means that it will inflict subdual damage (half real, half temporary) instead of normal damage.

At any rate, these are my current thoughts on weapon damage for Stellar Quest. What do you think?

With Regards,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Swords & Wizardry: Four More Monsters...

Good Morning, All:

I thought I would start this week off with four new monsters for Swords & Wizardry. While a few of these will definitely see action within the Madlands Campaign, I hope to be able to use them all, should the circumstances allow for such. The howling ape and the tharkanth are intended to use as random wilderness encounters, while the dread reveller would make an interesting element to a burning village or funeral pyre scene and the snare worm makes for a great living trap in a dungeon. However you wish to use them, I hope that they add a little something extra to your campaign.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to post them in the comments below.

Dread Reveller
Created by a gluttonous god in the final days of a war between the gods, dread revellers are a race of humanoid scavengers that feast upon dead flesh, preferably burnt flesh. Drawn irrestibly to burning homes, funeral pyres and sacrificial rites, dread revellers can smell their preferred delicacy over a mile away. Immune to the effects of fire, dread revellers have been known to leap into burning buildings following the scent of burning corpses, giving them the unwelcome status of harbingers of death. Dread revellers bear the stench of death upon their fur; upon first encountering a dread reveller, all those within 10 feet must succeed at a saving throw or become nauseated, suffering a -2 penalty to all attacks and saving throws for 1d8 rounds. Finally, dread revellers were crafted by their god with a very foul essence that taints sanctified items (including holy water) and consecrated ground, desecrating such items or locations if the dread reveller succeeds at a saving throw upon first interacting with their holy auras.

Dread Reveller: AC 7 [12]; HD 2; Atk: bite (1d8), two claws (1d6); ST: 16; SP: immunity (fire), stench, taint; MV: 15; CL 5; XP 240.

Howling Ape
A powerful primate the size of an ogre, the howling ape is notable for two characteristics. First, it is a very territorial carnivore with a penchant for horse flesh. This makes the howling ape a bane to adventurers and others traveling through the wilderness on horseback. Second, when the howling ape springs its attack, it unleashes a hideous, ear-splitting howl; everyone within earshot must succeed at a saving throw or suffer a -2 penalty to all attack rolls for the duration of the encounter.

Howling Ape: AC 4 [15]; HD 4; Atk: bite (1d8), two claws (1d6); ST: 13; SP: hideous howl; MV: 15, climb 6; CL 5; XP 240.

Snare Worm
More than fifteen feet long, the snare worm dwells in crevices and fissures, waiting to strike at unsuspecting victims as they pass. Once it has latched on to a victim with its powerful mandibles, the snare worm continues to constrict and crush its victim each round for 2d8 points of damage. Not a very intelligent creature, once the snare worm has latched on to a victim, it tries to drag the creature back into its fissure, making it difficult for the victim to escape for its comrades to aid him. The snare worm is highly photophobic, releasing its victim and retreating into darkness if exposed to bright light, such as from natural sunlight or the magical equivalent. (Much to the chagrine of many an adventuring party, torch light is not simply not bright enough to trigger this photophobic reflex.)

Snare Worm: AC 8 [11]; HD 5; Atk: bite (2d8); ST: 12; SP: constrict (2d8), photophobia; MV: 15; CL 5; XP 240.

Closely resembling a giant wolverine the size of a small horse with a rusty red pelt, the tharkanth is a voracious predator that frequently assaults campsites and outlying homesteads for food to satisfy its insatiable appetite. If left alone, the creature eats what it can easily reach and then moves on, much like a bear would. However, if confronted or provoked, the tharkanth becomes extremely aggressive. If a tharkanth bites its target with a natural 20 (i.e. scores a critical hit), the beast shakes the target savagely for an addition 2d8 damage (above and beyond any additional damage due to a critical hit). Tharkanths are extremely stubborn and dim-witted creatures; as such, are immune to fear and mind-influencing attacks.

Tharkanth: AC 0 [19]; HD 10; Atk: bite (1d8), two claws (1d6); ST: 5; SP: immunity (fear, mind-influencing effects), savaging bite (2d8); MV: 18; CL 12; XP 2,000.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stellar Quest: Thoughts on Experience...

Good Morning, All:

In thinking about how I would want to handle experience points in Stellar Quest, I quickly realized that simply awarding XP for monsters slain and treasure gathered would not work in a Trek-inspired game. With that in mind, I borrowed the core concept of my own OGL Alternatives: Alternate Advancement System, modified it a little, and came up with the following concept.

The Referee awards XP based on three components: time spent adventuring, completing adventures and performing class-related tasks. At the end of each night's session, the Referee consults the following table and adds up the XP awards earned during that session:

Table: XP Awards
ActionXP Earned
Every hour spent actually adventuring75 XP/hour
Completing an adventure or "episode"150 XP
Performing class-based tasks75 XP
Performing class-based tasks that have significant impact100 XP

Other awards can be added, such as "Excellent Roleplaying", for 50, 75 or even 100 XP. Nothing should go higher than the Completion award, and most bonus awards should equal roughly an hour of significant game time. Note that even if your session is scheduled to run for four hours, if the guys show up late and don't make much forward progress because they are chatting instead of playing the game, you as the Referee are empowered to reduce the XP above based on the number of hours actually spent gaming instead of measuring "butt in seat" time.

Assuming that a single adventure is two four-hour sessions long, and everyone performs class-based tasks every session, the average XP award for the first session would be (4 hours = 300 XP, plus class-based tasks = 75 XP, for a total of) 375 XP, and the second session would be (same as the first session plus completion = 150 XP, for a total of) 525 XP, or 900 XP for the entire adventure. If we use the Fighting-Man XP table, then we're looking at something like two adventures or so before advancement from 1st Level to 2nd Level, which isn't bad.

Anyway, these are some basic thoughts on Experience in Stellar Quest. What do you think?

With Regards,

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stellar Quest: The Four Player Races...

Good Afternoon:

Because the concept of Stellar Quest continues to haunt me, I've decided to look into the concept of developing this pseudo-Trek game a little further. Following Inferno's recommendation to check out Old School Star Trek Role-Playing, I found a nice thread discussing common races in a Trek campaign. The basic list for primary character races includes: Humans, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites. While there's also a list of hostile races, including Gorn, Klingons, Kzinti, Orions, Romulans and Tholians, these probably should not be included as basic player races in a game based on interstellar exploration aboard a Federation starship.

These blue-skinned, white-haired humanoids are known as much for their focus on honorable combat as for their two blue antennae. In a Stellar Quest clone, I'd likely do something akin to the following: +1 Dexterity, -1 Constitution, +4 on perception-based Wisdom checks, +2 on saving throws vs cold and cold-based effects.

Being the standard race for any roleplaying game, Humans represent the baseline character abilities from which the other races are derived.

These short, stocky humanoids are covered with hair and have faces reminiscent of a pig's. Somewhat resembling a cross between an orc and a dwarf in some regards, filled with stubborn pride and a love for arguing, the Tellarites would probably have the following racial abilities: -1 Dexterity, +1 Constitution, +2 to AC against creatures larger than man-size due to their stature, +2 on saving throws vs fear.

A humanoid species known widely for their stoic nature and logical minds, the Vulcans are probably the most recognizable of the primary Trek races. Given their basic nature, and trying to keep it simple for gaming purposes, I'd probably give Vulcans the following racial abilities: +1 Strength, -1 Dexterity, +1 Intelligence, -1 Charisma, +4 on knowledge-based Intelligence checks, +2 on saving throws vs heat and heat-based effects.

These are just simple racial write-ups, which do not include all of a species's traditional abilities (such as a Vulcan's mind meld or nerve pinch, for example.) I'm still up in the air on what would need to be covered, as I'm not a fan of just front-loading a ton of abilities on one race but not on others, but at least the above gives you some ideas of what I would do with racial traits.

What do you think?

With Regards,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy/Madlands Campaign: The Kujara...

Good Morning, All:

I offer the kujara for consideration as a monster in your own Hammersong's Legacy or Madlands campaigns. Given the presence of a divine war in the relatively recent past of the setting, I felt that the divine forces would probably use creatures of their own creation to supplement their mortal forces. Using the foot soldiers of the "Blood War" between demons and devils, namely the dretch and lemure, as inspiration, I came up with the following. Based on their ability to take half damage from normal attackers, I imagine that these creatures would probably take out an average of 3-4 normal men before going down themselves, but wouldn't be much of a problem for adventurers, a rare breed indeed.

Please take a look at them and let me know what you think of these creatures. If you like them, I will probably add them to the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting as a bonus creature. (As an update, I'm still doing layout work and wrapping a few things up on the PDF. My wife is about three weeks out from her due date, and preparations are really eating up my free time. My apologies for the delay in publication.)

In the War of All Gods, many battles between the Gods were fought on the Plane Prime. Although mortals made up a majority of the forces involved in these conflicts, the Gods also dispatched extraplanar soldiers of their own creation. The collective term for such divinely-created warriors is kujara. The appearance of a kujara varies according to the Patron that created it, but they often share similar characteristics, given that their targets were typically mortal men, not one another. Kujara suffer half damage from all weapon-based attacks except for cold iron or holy weapons. In addition, they take half damage from fire and acid. Kujara are immune to diseases and poisons, and are able to see in total darkness.

Even though the War of All Gods ended a century ago, kujara can still be found in isolated areas, such as the ruins of abandoned shrines and temples dedicated to their Patron.

Kujara: AC 5 [14]; HD 2; Atk: two claws (1d6); ST: 16; SP: darkvision, half damage from fire and acid, half damage from weapons except from cold iron or holy weapons, immunity (disease, poison); MV: 12; CL 5; XP 240.

With Regards,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Half Dozen Fantasy Encounter Scenarios...

Good Afternoon, All:

Today, I felt like pushing my creativity, as time has been a constraint of late. Like any physical muscle, the more you use your brain, the better it becomes. With that in mind, I'm going to make myself post a brief synopsis of six different fantasy encounter scenarios. Basically, with a list like this on hand, it becomes easier for GMs to run an improvised rather than structured game. In addition, I hope that this serves as inspiration for other GMs, and perhaps some day I might be able to see a half-dozen of their scenario suggestions to add to my resources as a GM.

A Half Dozen Fantasy Encounter Scenarios

  1. There Are Nomads In My Meadow: A nomadic tribe of barbaric humanoids are moving through the area in search of better hunting grounds. While generally keeping to themselves, herds of cattle and flocks of sheep sometimes make for easy hunting with so many mouths to feed. The locals are angry and nervous, creating a tense environment that could flare into violence with an overt act of aggresion from either side. If left alone, the nomads travel on after 1d3 days.
  2. Rat Stampede: As the echo of a loud monstrous bellow dies down from the nearby woods, several waves of giant rats surge forth, squealling in terror. The size of large dogs, these giant rats charge through nearby farms and orchards, running through hovels and barns, basically fleeing their former woodland home with wild abandon. Once the initial issue of giant rats has been handled, the party may seek to investigate the source of the rats' fear.
  3. Skeletons In The Mist: In recent weeks, several nearby villages have reported that the graves of local criminals have been excavated and the corpses stolen. The morning after it happens locally, a dark fog mysteriously rolls into town, and a small army of skeletons marches on a local church, led by a necromancer demanding a magical staff rumored to be hidden within the holy site.
  4. Attack of the Dummies: The party comes across a devastated merchant caravan that had recently been attacked by animated wooden practice dummies stolen from a nearby weapon master's training hall. The wooden golems and the rogue that led them have disappeared into the nearby wilderness, along with the goods from the caravan.
  5. The Buzzing Corpse: A loud buzzing sound in the woods draws the party to investigate. They discover a large mastodon's corpse, covered with a writhing mass of giant mosquitos. Although many are laden with the mastodon's blood, a small hungry swarm still patrols the immediate area, seeking more victims upon which to feed.
  6. All About Caves: A lone child runs across the party's path, crying about his friends. They have fallen through a hole in the earth into a dark cave, and are lying there hurt and injured. The cries of the fallen children have attracted the attention of a number of large insects, who are only being held at bay for the moment by walking staves, and the wounded children are tiring quickly.

Hope This Helps,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Madlands Campaign: Capturing the Setting's Flavor...

Good Evening, All:

When it comes down to running the Madlands Campaign, I want to make sure that I maintain a certain flavor. Given the nature of the Madlands themselves, the key element I want to capture is the aftermath of the Divine War. There should be creatures that survived the war itself, bringing those elements to the countryside. Monsters tainted by the spilled blood of a fallen goddess, or the cast-off ichor of her foes (even if they did not fall), should generate an unusual series of encounters in the area. I'm thinking that I should never use a common creature if a more unusual one can fill the same niche, so long as it conjures that warped/tainted flavor or leftovers from a holy war.

I think that ruins should somehow capture that flavor as well, with shrines to fallen gods and ghostly armies warring on forgotten battlefields, that kind of thing. Magic items should be focused on battling creatures from the "enemy god's armies." Legends and holy mysteries should be the rule, not the exception. Toward that end, I should create some new random charts that reflect that flavor. Writing up some new monsters and magic items should do a lot to help with that.

Ultimately, it's all about flavor. Settings come to life because of the details. Since I have time to think about it before the next game begins, I can take the time to develop this on the ground level. On top of that, I can turn to my friends and peers for help, and so I do. What do you think would help capture this flavor? Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks In Advance,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yet Another Retro-Clone Idea: Stellar Quest...

Good Afternoon, All:

As you can see by my review of Starships & Spacemen, I really enjoyed looking at a rules-light class-based approach to a Star Trek-inspired game. I know that Goblinoid Games is going to be creating a Labyrinth Lord-compatible version of the game. I will pick that up myself, but I understand that it is still months away, if they've even begun work on it at the moment. In the meantime, I myself am entertaining the idea of making a retroclone of my own using a blend of Swords & Wizardry and D20 Prime Directive, with heavy influences from Starships & Spacemen. While I doubt it would sell, I think it would be fun to write, and amateur game designers like myself rarely need any other excuse to do something than because it's fun.

What would such a system need? Well, the first steps would be obvious to me: character creation rules. Of course, that means that you'd need an idea of the alien races present in the setting, some basic background and history worked out, and an understanding of the kind of game you're designing for (which should be easy given the Star Trek influence.)

Where would I begin? Obviously, I'd start with Swords & Wizardry, much like what X-Plorers did. I'd separate race from class, and introduce only the basic species (a human, a logic-based psionic species, and a warrior-based species, if nothing else.) For classes, I'd probably go with six, one with each ability score as a prime requisite: Warrior (Str), Explorer (Dex), Savage (Con), Technician (Int), Mystic (Wis) and Noble (Cha). The Mystic would be the only class with access to psionic powers (outside of some minor racial abilities). There would be a minimal skill system, probably based on the same rules-light approach I use in MyD20 Lite. I'd need to detail equipment, combat and the psionics system, and that part would be done. For the Referee's section, I would need to cover character advancement, starships and starship combat, alien environments, and a sci-fi bestiary.

After reviewing D20 Prime Directive, I would also consider following the model set by both it and Starships & Spacemen, and go with classes based on branches: Security (Str), Flight (Dex), Recon (Con), Technical (Int), Medical (Wis) and Command (Cha). Doing this would not mandate a society that required a "Noble" class, for those that sought to avoid it in their own personal campaigns, and helps bring the focus of such a game back on exploratory and paramilitary missions.

What would I call such a game? I'm not sure. All the good names have already been taken, to be honest. I imagine that I'd call it something like Stellar Quest, if I couldn't think of something else to call it.

Okay, time for me to get back to work.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Starships & Spacemen...

Good Evening, All:

Today, I wanted to review the recent re-release of Starships & Spacemen, now owned by Goblinoid Games. I had never heard of this simple sci-fi RPG until Goblinoid announced that they had purchased the rights. Based in creating a Star Trek-inspired gaming experience using rules similar to OD&D, this little game quickly piqued my interest. I went about the internet and read a few reviews here and there, and finally decided to splurge on the PDF, just to see what a rules-light Star Trek game looked like. Since I own Amarillo Design Bureau's D20 Prime Directive, which is built in their licensed Star Fleet Universe, I was curious to see how Starships & Spacemen stacked up. In the interest of full disclosure, I purchased this PDF on my own, and was not solicited to provide a review. In short, all of this was my idea.

While Starships & Spacemen is available in perfect bound soft cover and in hard cover, the review focuses on the PDF (or softcopy) product.

The Starships & Spacemen PDF is a 93 page document in black & white. The front cover depicts a ship in orbit about a gas giant or large planet, and is evocative of science fiction roleplaying. The interior text is written in a very plain typewriter-style font (for those of you old enough to remember what a typewriter is, of course.) Aside from the front cover, the title page, a copyright page, one page of a table of contents, and a blank page at the end of the book, the rest is all gaming material. There are eight pieces of art in the document, four of which are evocative pieces and the other four are used to explain rules for starships and movement. The traditional pieces are nice, but the four rules-related pieces are quite amateurish (but still what you'd expect back in 1978, when this was first released.) While the presentation was probably state of the art back in the day, and is perfectly functional, it's not nearly as pretty as what we've come to expect by today's publication standards. Still, there are those that will feel that keeping the style of the original release in this PDF is nostalgic, and I can see where they are coming from here.

The different sections of Starships & Spacemen are organized much like an outline. Section One is four pages long: the first page is a brief introduction to the concept of roleplaying games, followed by two pages of basic history on the setting against which the game is written. The last page details the equipment needed to play, namely dice, paper, the rules and imagination.

Section Two is fifteen and a half pages long, and focuses on Characters. Some of this is a little confusing, but in essence, there are eight ability scores: Marskmanship, Intelligence, Technical Skill, Contact Skill, Charisma, Strength, Psionic Potential and Loyalty. The first four are considered acquired skills, generated much like D&D characters and can be improved as the character advances in experience levels. The last four are considered inborn. Charisma and Strength are generated like D&D stats, but Psionic Potential and Loyalty are determined from a value based on your selection of race and class, plus a d6. Ability scores frequently represent a target number that must be rolled under in order to succeed, much like Non-Weapon Proficiencies from the late AD&D 1st Edition and 2nd Edition Eras. (In this regard, abilities in Starships & Spacemen represent a cross between ability scores and skills.) Psionics are abilities with a certain cost, and characters purchase their abilities during character creation, up to the value of their Psionic Potential.

After three pages on ability scores, Starships & Spacemen then proceeds with information on the various classes of the Space Fleet Service, which are built as classes. There are three core classes (Military Branch, Scientific Branch, and Technical Branch). Each core class has two or more subclasses (Military: Command, Security-Guard and Fire Control; Scientific: Alien Life and Medical; Technical: Communications, Navigation and Engineering.) Each class describes the circumstances under which they gain bonuses on certain rolls, and when they gain experience. That's right; combat is not how all of the classes gain XP. This little detail, in and of itself, probably encourages people to play their respective roles moreso than anything else in the book.

The book then spends a page discussing NPCs, and then goes into experience and ranking. Like the D20 System, all characters advance on a single advancement table. Each level gained grants a bonus to one of the four acquired ability scores, and allows the character to take more equipment during missions. Level also represents a character's rank, which impacts the size of ship they are assigned to, as well as other systems within the game.

Three pages on races provide some good background fluff and game mechanics to support characters from x different races. Options include Terrans (humans), Rigel (human-Zagrid hybrid mercenaries), Taurans (emotionless psionic heavyworlders, aka Vulcans), and Andromedans (small empathic blue "care bears"). Two NPC races, the Zagrids (angry cousins of the Taurans, aka Romulans), and the Vidani (religious zealots on a interstellar jihad), are not detailed in this section but elsewhere in the book.

The remainder of this section focuses on equipment. The list is perfectly functional for a Star Trek style game. Gear is picked based on a character's level, and reminded me of Spycraft's equipment package rules rather than shopping for equipment in exchange for gold coins. I think this works very well for the paramilitary nature of the Space Fleet Service background.

At thirteen and a half pages, Section Three focuses on Starships and all related matters. Six pages describe the different sections and capacities of a starship in the game, and how characters can use those capacities to aid them in their adventures. After a page of ship statistics, Starships & Spacemen describes the use of energy to power the various systems onboard a starship. A page and a half discusses Enemy Ships, and then wraps up this section with three and a half pages on Ship To Ship Combat.

Section Four is fourteen pages long, and focuses on Galactic and Planetary Adventures. This section discusses how to create a galactic map, discusses the time scale and play sequence for various stages of exploration, travel and adventure, provides details on galactic hazards, and introduces some random encounter tables. This section then discusses star system creation, time travel, diseases, and wraps up with starbases.

Section Five focuses on Alien Encounters, and spends twenty-five pages covering many different types of encounters on alien worlds. Three pages cover monster encounter tables, and then we get into specifics: two pages on humanoids (including details on the Zangids and Videni), six pages on animals, a page on plant creatures, a page on machines, two and a half pages on psionics, a page on miscellaneous creatures of an unusual origin, three and a half pages on alien artifacts, and then three pages on combat itself.

The Referee of the game, called the StarMaster or SM for short, is the star of Section Six. Four pages provide information to the SM, including general advice, details on experience points, and notes on inspirations and sources for the game.

The remainder of the book is bonus material that has been released since the original book was released back in 1978. First, we see some sample missions (four pages worth), followed by the Starships & Spacemen Expansion Kit. The Expansion Kit covers errata and clarifications, reference sheets, a simple character sheet and a character creation summary page.

My Thoughts
This book packs a lot into a small number of pages. The system is archaic, yes, but it's not far off from some of the retro-clones that are out there. I can see some elements of what I would call modern games present here. I love how earning experience is designed to emphasize the different roles of a character. The system itself is designed to create a strong feeling of engaging in Star Trek-esque missions of exploration.

The setting is simple, yet evocative enough to conjure a number of adventure ideas. Between those and the two chapters on adventures and encounters, there's plenty here to lend itself toward running a great Star Trek game. You can tell that this game is a labor of love by its creator. Personally, I found that the book inspires the urge to run such games in me, even though I have a few problems with the rules as they currently stand. I understand that Goblinoid Games is creating a Labyrinth Lord version of the system, and I'll definitely be picking that up, simply because it will marry rules that are closer to my D&D experience with a great setting and information that inspires a Star Trek style game.

I would definitely recommend this game to anyone looking for a rules-light science fiction RPG. The adventure and encounter system is very evocative and interesting. The rules are designed to be unobtrusive, and while they may take a little getting used to, they leave a lot for the GM to handle on the fly as needed. For $5, it's well worth it. I'm also looking forward to seeing the Labyrinth Lord version of this game. If I have to admit, though, that if you were only going to get one version of this game, you should probably consider waiting until the Labyrinth Lord version is available. However, for only five bucks, it won't hurt to pick up this PDF while you wait. The layout leaves a bit to be desired, but don't let that detract from your enjoyment of the material inside.

All in all, I'm going to give Starships & Spacemen a 7.5 out of 10.

Hope This Helps,

One Shot Adventure Creation: The Climax...

Good Morning, All:

This article continues the One Shot Adventure Creation Series. Like others in the series, we will be discussing one of the core scenes from the basic One Shot adventure outline I originally proposed at the beginning of this series. In this article, we will be looking at the Climax, the final major scene of the One Shot adventure.

The Climax scene is the final showdown, the last big fight with the Big Bad Evil Guy and his minions. This scene is most often a big fight, but under the right circumstances, it could combine combat with a social or mental challenge as well. More than any other scene in the adventure, this is the scene where everyone should have a chance to shine. It is suggested that this scene contain a good number of minions, as well as one or two challenging leader types. Having too few opponents could end in a quick resolution through ganging up on the enemy. The extra numbers allow warriors the chance to engage in martial combat, while rogues can use their extensive skills and sneak attack abilities. Priests and mages should have plenty of targets for their offensive spells, and reason to be happy for their defensive preparations. The site for the climax should also include at least two different terrain features, to provide for some interesting situations that make such scenes memorable. While you don't want to overdo yourself, you also want to make this scene feel more important and more exciting than the others in the adventure.

While the effort you've put in to designing your One Shot adventure in the previous scenes helps to create a well-rounded and challenging game experience, if the climactic scene of the adventure is lackluster, the sense of fulfillment from completing the adventure is reduced. Creating a memorable game requires distinctive and exciting moments to help lock the adventure into the memory of your players. While near devastating combats, leaving half the party at only a handful of hitpoints or even unconscious before the final villain dies can get the adrenaline pumping, you are essentially putting your trust in the vagaries of the dice. Don't depend on the dice for the success of your climactic scene. Instead, create distinctive environments and interesting characters that stand out. A kobold dressed in over-sized purple robes may not work for you, but it adds one more detail that may stand out in the players' memories of the game later on. Running up the stairs towards a dark granite altar is fairly mundane, but racing across one of three rope bridges to get to the crystal platform both sounds cooler and offers more distinctive flavor to your final climactic scene.

When planning on time constraints for the Climax scenes, picture this one taking at least an hour, if not an hour and a half. If you are running your One Shot adventure within the time constraints of a standard three and a half to four hour time slot at a convention, you will want to make sure that you are entering this scene no later than two hours, forty-five minutes into the game's scheduled time slot.

So, dear readers, what are the most memorable Climax scenes of any One Shot adventure you've participated in? What made it memorable for you? What could have been done better, if anything? Your experiences could help out other readers, so please feel free to share.

With Regards,

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Random Chart: 36 Interstellar Missions...

Good Afternoon, All:

Intrigued by reviews I'd read, yesterday I picked up the PDF for Starships & Spacemen, and really liked what I read. In fact, I was inspired to create the following random chart on interstellar missions. Although it was originally created with Starships & Spacemen in mind, it could work for Traveller exploration campaigns, Star Trek, Savage Worlds, Space Opera and other science fiction gaming systems. Please let me know what you think.

d66Interstellar Mission
11Answer an emergency distress call from a starship, space station or planet.
12Assist in search and rescue operations in the aftermath of a natural or technological disaster.
13Defend an outlying colony, frontier outpost or space station from attack.
14Deliver a political prisoner to a high security prison.
15Deliver an ambassador or other diplomats to and from a peace conference with an antagonistic interstellar polity.
16Deliver emergency supplies to an colony world or frontier outpost.
21Deliver top secret orders to a high-ranking official on a distant starship, space station or frontier outpost, and then assist in the fulfillment of those orders.
22Engage in official first contact with an observed alien species.
23Establish diplomatic relations with a new alien species.
24Establish diplomatic relations with a recently discovered "lost colony world".
25Investigate a creature encountered in the depths of space.
26Investigate a recently discovered artifact of human historical significance (such as a slower-than-light generational transport, a long-lost space probe, or a ship bearing refugees in suspended animation.)
31Investigate an abandoned starship, space station, colony or frontier outpost.
32Investigate an astrographical phenomenon.
33Investigate an unusual artifact constructed by a highly advanced species from an early time.
34Investigate rumors of creatures attacking an outlying colony or frontier outpost.
35Investigate the mysterious disappearance of a starship, space station or frontier outpost.
36Investigate the mysterious disappearance of an important person or persons from a frontier outpost.
41Observe an alien species clandestinely in preparation for official first contact.
42Participate in a battle exercise used to test a new technological prototype.
43Patrol disputed territory in defense of domestic interests.
44Prevent a natural or technological disaster from devastating life on a colony, space station or frontier outpost.
45Protect a "low tech" world from the interference of an antagonistic interstellar polity.
46Provide transportation for an important person or persons to a world in another star system.
51Regain control of a starship, space station or frontier outpost that has been taken by mutiny, piracy, conquest or deception.
52Return to the nearest star base for mandatory starship maintenance, to be accompanied with supply upgrades, crew transfers (if any), and routine R&R.
53Survey a new star system or planetary surface.
54Track down and capture a ruthless interstellar criminal that has been identified as being in the region.
55Track down and capture an alien or aliens that have performed recent criminal actions of significant interstellar impact.
56Travel into enemy space and attempt to recover or steal an example of alien technology.
61Travel into enemy space and attempt to rescue a prisoner or prisoners from the enemy.
62Travel to a distant space station, colony or frontier outpost, and assist the local leadership in handling a situation with the potential to impact interstellar relations.
63Travel to frontier outpost for routine inspection of personnel, equipment or site.
64-66Unusual Event (typically involving time travel, extradimensional travel, parallel worlds, direct and unexpected contact with a highly advanced species, or some other unique situation, while performing another, more mundane, mission)


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Yet Another Retro-clone Idea: 3d6 Fantasy...

Good Afternoon, All:

I have another idea for a retro-variant that keeps bouncing around in my head, which I call "3d6 Fantasy", for lack of a better name. In essence, it combines the Bell Curve Rolls variant rule with Swords & Wizardry: White Box to create a game that runs completely off of d6s. No other dice are necessary. You simply replace the d20 with 3d6 when rolling to resolve a d20-based check. The rest of the White Box variant is very d6-friendly, and it wouldn't take much to rewrite the portions that are not in order to reflect a d6-centric game variant.

Why would I want to do this? I really doubt I would take it beyond the thought stage, to be honest. Why would I think of this? Probably because one of my gamers about four years back came from a strong pro-HERO System gaming background and wanted to roll 3d6 instead of d20 to get rid of the swingy nature of the d20 for attacks and skill checks. We didn't go that route, but the idea got stuck in my head. For some reason, the thought came back earlier this week, and so I'm writing about it here simply to get it out. I'd rather work on and build up MyD20 Lite, as that's the system I'd prefer to play when looking for for a D20-esque experience. Would anyone play "3d6 Fantasy"? Probably not, as leaving behind the d20 would make it not D&D for most people. Still, the game system could be created, and it wouldn't take that much work to do so. It might even be fun for a one-off game sometime, just to see how it plays out, but I doubt I'll even get that far with this idea.

With that being said, if someone out there wants to take this idea and run with it, more power to them. I release the concept of "3d6 Fantasy" to the wild, for whoever desires to take it on as their own pet project. If someone ever does pick this up and go forward with it, I'd love to see a final copy of their work, but that's simply because I'm curious to see where a project like this might go.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Class Balance: The High/Medium/Low Method...

Good Afternoon, All:

When I am developing new classes within a d20-based context, I tend to maintain a balance of class abilities by evaluating a class in three different areas: combat abilities, magical abilities and skill/feature abilities. I rate them all in terms of High, Medium or Low. I make one High, one Medium and one Low, unless the class is a balance in all three areas, in which case they are all Medium. Using this process, I can quickly evaluate whether a new character class is overpowered or underpowered to me, simply by looking at these three elements.

In terms of combat ability, I use the following standards:

High - Attacks, Hitpoints, Weapons and Armor as a fighter/fighting-man.
Medium - Attacks, Hitpoints, Weapons and Armor as a cleric.
Low - Attacks, Hitpoints, Weapons and Armor as a wizard/magic-user.

In terms of magical ability, I find that the following works well:

High - Casts spells as a wizard/magic-user.
Medium - Casts spells as a wizard/magic-user of ¾ level.
Low - Cannot cast spells at all.

In terms of skill/feature ability, I assume that one class feature is roughly equivalent to two initial skills/skillpoints under the D20 System, or one skill under a skills-light system like MyD20 Lite. I like the following standards:

High - Starts with five or more class features. (In MyD20 Lite, that means one base talent and four skills.)
Medium - Starts with around three-four class features. (In MyD20 Lite, that means one base talent and three skills.)
Low - Starts with two or less class features. (In MyD20 Lite, that means one base talent and two skills.)

In addition, High combat ability typically means saving throws made to withstand physical damage are easier, while High magical ability emphasizes better saving throws to resist mental effects, and High skill/feature ability places a premium on saving throws that avoid consequences by not being there (effectively dodging out of the way or utilizing good reflexes).

With that in mind, I have found that I can define seven distinct class types in terms of general abilities under this system:

Fighter High Medium Low
Paladin or Ranger High Low Medium
Cleric or Druid Medium High Low
Thief Medium Low High
Adept or Scholar Low Medium High
Wizard Low High Medium
Bard or Battle Sorcerer Medium Medium Medium

Looking these options over, the one class concept that doesn’t get as much play as others is the Adept or Scholar, who sucks in combat and has moderate magical talent, but more special abilities or skills than other classes. I think the other class concepts get represented at least once in most systems, if not twice. So, what do you think of an Adept/Scholar character concept? Would it be viable? Would it be fun?

Looking Forward To Hearing Your Thoughts,

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Madlands Campaign: Considering Stock NPCs...

Good Morning, All:

Today I've been thinking about stock NPCs for my Madlands Campaign. I was first introduced to the concept of stock NPCs by E.N. Publishing's Everyone Else: A Book of Innkeepers, Farmers & More, but I honestly didn't start using them until my last campaign, using the stat blocks from Pinnacle's Savage Worlds Fantasy Bestiary toolkit. Now that I'm used to using stock NPCs, though, I find them invaluable for running a freeform sandbox-style campaign.

Although the actual system for play hasn't been settled for the Madlands Campaign, I can still build a list of desired NPC types for development once that choice has been made. Looking through Everyone Else and the Savage Worlds Fantasy Bestiary, I think I've come up with the following list:

  • Aristocrat
  • Assassin
  • Bandit/Brigand
  • Beggar/Common Slave
  • Bureaucrat/Clerk
  • Commoner/Craftsman
  • Courtesan/Pleasure Slave
  • Cultist
  • Guard/Soldier
  • Healer/Midwife
  • Hunter/Tracker/Guide
  • Knight
  • Laborer/Labor Slave
  • Mage
  • Merchant/Trader
  • Priest
  • Rogue/Thief
  • Sage/Scholar
  • Spy

I imagine I could probably blend some of these further together, but for the moment, that appears to be a nice list of basic NPC concepts that are different enough in gear and skills to warrant distinction. I would definitely seek to prepare three different power levels of NPCs for each of these concepts: a novice, an experienced and an elite.

Of course, should I proceed with Savage Worlds for the next campaign, most of this work has already been completed. If we move forward with MyD20 Lite, then I'll need to create them, but once these are done, I'll put them into the Referee's Guide and I'll be able to share them with others. Since we're a few months from beginning the game, I'll have to wait and see what other rules systems are suggested, and then proceed from there.

Doing this kind of work in advance is great for allowing you to improvise as the need arises. When the party comes around the corner and bumps into some town guards, it only takes me a second to pull up the stats for the experienced Guard/Soldier and there we go. Most of the time, though, I can simply roleplay the encounter and never have to worry about the stats themselves. Still, I can move forward with confidence, knowing that I'm ready should the players decide to take the game in the direction of combat.

Hope This Helps,

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

House Rules: Determining NPC Levels...

Good Morning, All:

How do you set the levels of your NPCs? Personally, I tend to base the levels of NPCs on population. Small villages tend to have a maximum of 4th level NPCs, while townships can support up to 7th level characters. Cities typically harbor up to 10th level characters, and you can typically find NPCs of up to 13th level in a thriving metropolis. As a rough rule of thumb, I assume that there are either one or two characters of the highest level in the settlement, and double that for each level down.

Why do I do this? Because I want to create a world where characters, even low level characters, stand out. The smaller the community, the lower level you can be and still stand head and shoulders above your peers. Likewise, in bigger communities, you shouldn't stand out unless you are significantly talented, as there are a much broader selection of talent to compete against when there are more people to choose from. This models my perceptions of the Real World, and I find that this assumption lends itself well to common gaming experiences, making my worlds easier to accept for suspension of disbelief.

For the leaders of a community, I assign character levels manually, so to speak. However, I use the following table when I'm trying to determine the level of a character randomly. I typically cap the results based on the local area, but it is not uncommon to have some high-level NPC in the region to serve as a patron or contact for the party (or to represent the Big Bad Guy's interests). I typically limit results above the cap to only one or two characters per region, though.

Table: NPC Level
19-20Roll again, add 4 to the result

You can also reflect the relative rarity of a given class by imposing a penalty to the resulting level (treating all results of less than one as 1st level). For example, many campaigns assume that clerics are rarer than fighting-men, and magic-users are rarer than clerics. When determining the level of a cleric NPC, you could subtract one from the generated value above. For a magic-user, subtract two. Doing this also makes such player-characters more accomplished in the setting, because they achieve levels above the locals more readily than their peers. After all, if 7th level magic-users are rarer than 7th level fighting-men, then a magic-user PC will likely get more attention from the community than a fighting-man PC of the same level, for better or for worse.

While I offer this suggestion for Swords & Wizardry, it can be used for almost any level-based game. I've been using it (or a variant thereof) since my AD&D 2nd Edition days, and it has served me well.

Hope This Helps,

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

One Shot Adventure Creation: The Complication...

Good Morning, All:

This article continues the One Shot Adventure Creation Series. Like others in the series, we will be discussing one of the core scenes from the basic One Shot adventure outline I originally proposed at the beginning of this series. In this aricle, we will be looking at the Complication, a scene about half-way through the adventure that impacts the party's ability to fulfill the needs of your plot.

The Complication scene often forces the party to decide between several consequences as they proceed with fulfilling the needs of the plot. This scene often requires the characters to expend resources, forcing them to decide on whether to spend their resources on this particular challenge or the big climactic challenge that is coming up next. In addition, this scene often introduces a plot twist or restriction that makes the resolution of this challenge and/or the climax that much tougher. Forcing players to make such decisions often leads to a deeper investment in the game, as challenging the players typically brings a stronger focus on the events of the scenario.

The complication that arises here often possesses a moral quality, since moral judgments and other ethical challenges are frequently not governed by game mechanics (and it is a very small issue on the GM's part to avoid those challenges that are). What you are seeking here is something that would require players to step beyond their character sheets and add an element of roleplay into the scenario. We've already looked at the combat and non-combat capacities of the characters with the first two scenes; this one hopefully adds elements of character portrayal into the mix.

Of course, if the entire party sees the complication you've presented in the same light, there may not be any issues that arise, and the ability to roleplay in regards to this scene is somewhat diminished. If you have NPCs in the mix (which I strongly suggest against doing, unless they are simply men-at-arms, guides or porters), you can introduce the different sides of the dilemna through them, and let the players talk it out once you've opened that can of worms for them.

Another key point in the complication scene is that the dilemna you've created impacts the course of action the PCs might undertake. If they are fighting trolls, the trolls could have a pair of human children in an iron cage suspended over a cauldron of boiling water, which limits the kinds of area effect abilities that the party can use without putting the children at risk. (Children are always good for creating limitations on the scene itself.) If the PCs are chasing bandits that have captured the princess and the bandits set fire to hovels of the poor district to help cover their escape, the party has to decide whether they will save the orphanage or pursue the bandits as they pursue the kidnappers. (Should they decide to split the party, you have carte blanche to hit them with your best shot.) There are literally hundreds of different complications you can add to a given scene to create dilemnas and promote character choices.

One final point to remember is that there should be no right choice and no wrong choice here. Each option should have both good points and bad points. Ultimately, this is a One Shot, and you want the players to leave the game feeling good about the game. If making a choice totally screws them over for the rest of the adventure, then you've probably created the wrong complication. Even if it seems like the decision should be a no-brainer, chances are that you'll get the party of adventurers that take the choice you'd prefer they didn't consider, and then you're stuck. Make plans for either option, including both success and failure for each, so that your overall adventure can move forward. This may place more obstacles in the climax, of course, but their decision shouldn't remove their enjoyment of the scenario, however matters get resolved. It can be a rough line to walk, but if you can manage it, the result will be a very memorable encounter and a very enjoyable game.

With Regards,

Savage Worlds Fantasy: D&D Classes In Savage Worlds...

Good Morning, All:

Today, I wanted to explore the concept of translating common D20 Fantasy classes into Professional Edges for Savage Worlds. Many already exist, in the form of the Holy/Unholy Warrior, Thief, Wizard and Woodsman edges. However, adding some more edges to cover other common classes, such as the Fighter or Monk, could help with the kind of D&D-inspired Savage Worlds fantasy games that I like to run. (Yes, I am aware of the very awesome Advanced Dungeons & Savages fan supplement, but it makes different assumptions than I like to make for my games.) Towards that end, I've looked to games like Swords & Wizardry and Dungeons & Dragons for inspiration, and came up with the following ideas.

Use the Berserk edge.

Use the Jack of All Trades or Common Bond edges.

Use the Holy/Warrior or Common Bond edges.

Use the Beast Bond or Beast Master edge.

Requirements: Novice, Brawny, Strength d8+, Fighting d8+, Intimidation d6+
Those that fight for a living are called warriors, and the warriors most devoted to improving their warskill are called Fighters. They are often physically imposing, and can perform great feats of strength and martial prowess.
When Fighters deal enough damage in melee combat to drop an enemy target into Incapacitation or death, they get an immediate bonus melee attack against another adjacent enemy, if they so choose. This edge only grants one bonus attack per round.

Requirements: Novice, Acrobat, Agility d8+, Spirit d8+, Fighting d6+
Monks are experts at unarmed combat. Trained from a young age to deliver devastating blows with their fists and feet, Monks are greatly respected for the martial arts they practice.
Monks are trained to fight unarmed. Opponents no longer gain the Unarmed Defender bonus against them, and they do not suffer a penalty on attack rolls when using their unarmed strikes to deliver nonlethal blows. Finally, Monks deal Str+d6 damage with their unarmed strikes.

Use the Holy/Unholy Warrior or Champion edges.

Use the Woodsman edge.

Use the Thief edge.

Use the Wizard or Familiar edges.

Use the various leadership edges.

Hope This Helps,

Sunday, May 02, 2010

From Another Blog: The Twelve Touchstones of Old School Modules...

Good Evening, All:

The other day I read a great blog entry on the 12 Touchstones of Old School Modules that pretty much blew me away. When I look at a list like that, it reminds me not to forget certain elements in my adventures if I really want to capture that Old School feel. For the sake of covering the basics, here's the list in brief:

  1. Environmental hazards, such as slippery floors, ledges, extreme temperatures, etc.
  2. Combat encounters with baseline monsters, increasing the difficulty through use of terrain and/or circumstances.
  3. At least one encounter that would best be resolved by means other than combat, lest it lead to a TPK.
  4. At least one trick, puzzle or obstacle that requires the players to think rather than rely on a die roll to resolve it.
  5. At least one item, location or creature that causes a significant permanent effect to the character, as determined (good or bad) by rolling on a random chart.
  6. At least one item of treasure that is cursed or has a detrimental side effect when used.
  7. A "false climax" that sends inattentive players home or takes them off their guard, while clever players will realize that this could not have been the true climax of the adventure.
  8. At least one disorienting effect that makes mapping difficult.
  9. At least one location where resources are an issue due to environmental circumstances.
  10. At least one area that has items of value that are too large to transport without considerable detriment.
  11. At least one creature that appears to be something it is not.
  12. One encounter (and only one) that makes absolutely no logical sense, for the players to explain through their own imagination.

I tend to write smaller adventures than this, simply to keep a smaller scope on "modules" and give players a greater sense of accomplishment and forward motion. However, it wouldn't hurt for me to expand my repertoire to include these elements at least once every other adventure, just to make sure that the campaign as a whole captures that Old School feel.

Now, don't let this kind of thing fool you. Having an Old School campaign is not simply a matter of following a formula. It's really a flavor of how you run the game. Still, certain iconic experiences trigger certain reactions in your players. If you tap into those iconic experiences, you can encourage them to feel the same way about your game that they've come to associate with other Old School campaigns. These elements, when used judiciously, can help you achieve exactly that.

And besides, it's just a lot of fun. :)

More Tomorrow,