Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Boldly Go Character Art: Part 5

In this, the last post featuring the various crew members of the Oswego, you will finally meet the captain of our dauntless ship. Unlike the other characters in the game, this one is based on a real person.

I would also, once again, like to take this opportunity crow about the artwork of Dave Woodward of Badgerlord Studios. Do you need art for a project? How about a cool drawing of your LARP or tabletop gaming character? If so, look him up!


This is Ray Sexton, the many-times decorated captain of the Oswego. He was the former helmsman of the SFS Megalodon prior to being promoted to the captaincy. He's one of those captains who always winds up becoming something of a parental figure to the people under his command. His relaxed, sometimes jokey attitude while in command has gotten him in trouble with higher-ups more often than he'd care to admit. Still, virtually everyone who has served under Captain Sexton likes and respects him, and would be more than happy to lay down their lives and professional reputations in defense of their captain.

When I was running a session of Boldly Go! at Metatopia, one of my players remarked, "Ray Sexton! That's a great pulp sci-fi name."

It is, indeed, random player. And it's made all the more fortuitous by being someone's actual, factual name.

Captain Sexton is based on Ray Sexton, a dearly-departed friend of mine. I met Ray thanks to my work with SlugFest Games. In brief: He and some of his friends, many of whom are now dear friends of mine, created an expansion for Kung Fu Fighting, discovered that I was local to them, and asked me to come hang out with them and play the game and the expansion with them.

After that fateful meeting, the group and I began meeting quite regularly. Initially, these meetings were to test new SlugFesty products (this was before Red Dragon Inn became the thing that it is now, thereby becoming all the products). Shortly thereafter, these meetings became just hanging out and playing role-playing games (mostly Marvel Super Heroes, if you're wondering).

Through all of this, I learned quite a bit about Ray. He was one of the most relaxed people I have ever known, and he was friends with just about everyone. He had several game groups (and a backpack full of stuff for each) that he gamed with regularly. As a gamer he was very intelligent, clever, and a team player who had a penchant for goofy humor and IG jokes. He never talked over anyone, he always made people feel welcome, and he always made games better with his presence.

I am sad that he passed away before I got to know him even better than I already did.

Ray was big into Star Trek. Several members of his fan group attended his funeral in full regalia. At the local con the following year, the group that he once played Star Fleet Battles and various flavors of Star Trek RPGs ran a series of commemorative convention games in his honor. 

Because of his love of Star Trek, and because of what a great friend and gaming buddy Ray became to me in the brief time I knew him, I could think of no better tribute to him than to include him in my first solo role-playing venture. I hope you're still out there, Ray, having incredible journeys among the stars and making alien species crack up with your unique brand of humor. You are missed.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Burgundar: The Musical

I play Enoch, a gravedigger, at the Mystwood LARP. Mystwood takes place at two sites: The Keep, in Jefferson, ME, and Burgundar, in Harrison, ME.

Lately, in Burgundar, the town has been beset by a vile Chaos demon named Old Grom. As Grom is wonderfully played, delightfully scene-chewy, and possessed of a somewhat generic appearance (an old man in a black cloak and an eyepatch), he has started to get blamed for things he hasn't even done.

This amused me so much that I wrote a song about it. Here it is.

NOTE: I am not a musician or a poet. I don't know the tune to this song, or if one could even be crafted for it. I doubt that it will scan. Please be gentle. Also, this will likely make sense only to about 40 people, but I hope the conceit is amusing enough that people conversant with the fantasy genre will also enjoy it.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Boldly Go Character Art: Part 4

We're almost done with the roster for the Oswego. This installment features the last two members of our bridge crew. Then I'm going to follow that up with another post devoted to the dauntless captain of our heroic ship. (The captain deserves a post all his own, for personal reasons. You'll see why when we get there.)

As a constant reminder, the art in this post (and all other Boldly Go posts) is provided by the amazing Dave Woodward of Badgerlord Studios. He's not single, ladies, but he does do commissions!





Character number seven is a personal favorite of mine, and is none other than Helmsman Grummox Benthos. Grummox first came to life many years a go in a funny sci-fi novel I was writing. I may try to finish that novel someday, especially since I've learned quite a lot about writing between then and now. I'm not sure if I'd keep Grummox in that story or if I'd change him a bit...It might be too confusing. Then again, it might give the fans (he says, somewhat hopefully) something to argue about for the rest of time.

Oh, right. Grummox! He's a krakenoid, a species of squid people that originated on the oceanic planet of Yurgos. The krakenoids have a culture based around their military, and hierarchy and proper protocol. Grummox is an exemplar of his species, and is even more fussy and hidebound than the usual krakenoid. As described by someone who played him at a playtest, he's, "kind of a cross between Worf and Sam the Eagle."

High praise!


Character number eight is Ensign Vexxa Smith-Merienas. She's best friends with Janine Tarian and a member of the Oswego's security team. Vexxa is also the game's example of a Mixed-Species character; in her case, she is half human and half krakenoid. Mixed-species characters are able to mix and match benefits from both of their parent species, but also gain the I Don't Fit In trait. Many characters who are mixed-species join Space Fleet in order to "find themselves" and find a greater purpose.

Vexxa is more than a bit like that. She grew up in the Terran Embassy on Yurgos, all but unaware of the finer points of krakenoid culture. She has always felt different and like an outsider, even on her own planet, and for that reason she is often hesitant and unsure of herself. She does, however, possess a natural empathy which makes her an asset to any security detail she is assigned to. She's often teamed with Janine, and acts as the "good cop" to Janine's "bad cop."

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Boldly Go Character Art: Part 3

Four crewmembers down. Five to go. Let's talk about two more of them here, shall we?

For those of you who forgot, all of the art in Boldly Go! is being drawn and inked by the fabulous Dave Woodward of Badgerlord Studios. I am sure that Dave would be happy to take your money and draw for you, so drop him a message or something if you are so inclined.


Character number five is none other than Dr. Phinnea Del*Prinnus, the Oswego's Chief Medical Officer. She is a rittian, which are a species of sapient sloth people native to Rittia I. Like most of her kindred on Rittia, she is extremely laid back, eerily calm, and seems never to be phased by the strange phenomena the crew encounters every week. Under her care, the crew of the Oswego has never been healthier, whether physically or mentally. In her spare time, she hangs around on the cargo netting strung from the roof of her quarters, or on various bits of piping or ductwork that run throughout the ship.

She has a good working relationship with Omolara Namuyangu, the Oswego's Chief Science Officer.


We cross the hall from Medical to Engineering and encounter crewmember number six, Vistabo Roseus. His name means something in Latin, and that something is a joke that is marginally funny to, like, six people or so.

Vistabo is a gattoan from the savage, desert world of Gomeisa (which orbits Beta Canis Minoris--another terrible joke for those of you playing from home). Vistabo's species is based on our very own sand cat (seriously, check them out, they're super cute). Like other members of his species, Vistabo possesses keen reflexes, cat-like grace, and a somewhat territorial disposition. Do not touch his console, or you risk pulling back a stump.

Vistabo has personally saved the ship on numerous occasions, which has won him the respect of the crew and a certain amount of forgiveness for his personality. In addition to his territorial nature, Vistabo can be rather brutally honest, and sometimes this can border on offensive. Despite this, he has become rather close friends with Mott'trog, sharing a love of big band music and all things technical.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Gamma World 3rd Edition

At least, I think it's 3rd Edition.

I decided to jump from the earliest edition of this game (Metamorphosis Alpha) to the most recent version of the game that I own (and also, the only other version of the game that I own), to see what had changed and what had remained the same.

The short-short version is: The rules are better. It feels like it's a much better thought out game and game world. A lot of the early ideas (mutants, etc.), have been updated and expanded to differentiate them and make them more interesting. There's still a bizarre preoccupation with future tech, for reasons I can't quite explain. The game is set on an irradiated, post-apocalyptic earth instead of on a space ship, which helps to explain all the wilderness and the stable populations of various mutant beasties.

Once again, I went in without any idea of what I was going to make, other than that I wanted to make some kind of mutant creature, because that's way more fun than playing a straight human.

The game starts me off with the Mutated Animal template. I get some Physical and some Mental Mutations. +2 Stealth, -6 to Robot Recognition (robots once served human masters, and I am not human), and I get some abilities from the animal stock, which I must choose.

Amused that it's an option, and reminded of a certain character I played at a LARP once, I choose Weasel. Weasel gives me a Physical Strength (PS) 9, Dexterity (DX) 12, and Constitution (CN) 5. I can also bite for 1d6 damage, get Night Vision (per the mutation), and have a Base Speed of 14 (9 if I walk just on my hind legs).

I can also choose to have my mutant be of a stable strain, which means there's a village of weasel-people just like me off in the world somewhere. Cool. I can dig that. Let's do that. Maybe they live somewhere in the ruins of Venice. (Inside joke)

I now get to do adjustments. To start with, I look exactly like a weasel, except I’m smart. If I was under a meter in height, I’m now a meter in height. I cannot talk or use tools, however, various mutations can remedy this. If I don’t take any mutations to make me more human, I get +1 Physical Mutation, but have -8 Robot Recognition.

I get all of the stats listed above, plus a 2d4 roll. There are also other attributes for which I must roll. Different species (Mutant Plant, Mutant Animal, Human) all have different ways of rolling for their listed attributes. For every other attribute but Senses and Mutation Power, I roll 3d6 (like you do). The other two are calculated by 4d6 drop the lowest. Thank you, TSR.

I should also point out that Mutation Power seems to need to be rolled for each power that requires it (it's basically a casting roll). At least, I think it does. The rules are quite extensive, but I was skimming.

Now I roll for my mutant powers (1d6, consult chart). I will always get five mutations, but the roll tells me how they split. In my  case, I get three Physical and two Mental. I now roll percentile dice and consult the appropriate charts. 

Unlike Metamorphosis Alpha, there's a wide variety of powers that are all very well described and defined. In addition, the GM doesn't get the ability to hobble me with a randomly awful power. There are still powers that are defects (marked with a D), but I'm not guaranteed to have one (or any), and if I roll them, it's my fault. In addition, I can only have one physical and one mental defect maximum, so I won't wind up playing a character whose mutant abilities only weaken them.

Now, the mutant powers that turn my animal from a mutant animal into an uplifted, bipedal animal are not listed in this section. They are listed in the animal section, however, and they are Talk, Bipedal, and Manipulate Tools and Objects. I spend all three of my Physical Mutation points to buy these. I am now a chatty, humanoid weasel. Yes.

And now I determine my mental mutations.

99: Roll 2 mental mutations. Okay!
95: Pick any one mental mutation of your choice.

I was bound to roll well sooner or later!

I roll for my two random mutations and get:

04: Death Field Generation (This ability has a Mutation Power score. It's 11.)
28: Heightened Mental Attribute

This is funny, because the character that I played, who was nicknamed "Weasel," was a super-smart necromancer. So I decide to go whole hog (full weasel?) and name the character "Callen."

Death Field Generation allows me to damage the life force of all living things around me. The field isn't as game-breaking as one might thing it is, because it also targets me. I can also only use it once per week. 

Heightened Mental Attribute randomly affects one of my three mental stats (Mental Strength, Intelligence, or Charisma). I add a number of points equal to 6 - the attribute's modifier. This is nice, because it's guaranteed to give low attributes a nice bump. I roll 1d3 and get 3. My Charisma gets improved. It's modifier is +6, so I raise it to 18. Hello, cutie!

Telekinetic Hand is the power I took for my selected power. It doesn't have the oomph of true Telekinesis, but it allows me to make fine motor manipulation as if I was using my hand.

Now I get to pick my character class. There are four: Enforcer (Fighter), Esper (Magic User), Examiner (Good with Tools), Scout (Rogue). I decide to go with Examiner, because it's the different one, and because the character that this character is loosely based on was interested in ancient history and magical artifacts. 

My class gives me a whole pile of things, including one randomly rolled Tech IV item (I get a parachute), +1 Robot Recognition, +1 Use Artifacts per level, 16 points to distribute between four skills: Avoid Artifact Disaster, Jury-Rig, Read Schematics, and Repair Artifact. Since I have 16 points and 4 skills, I make them 4 each. Mostly because I don't know what's better.

All classes have several common skills, with percentages based on the class itself. These are Read, Write, Ride, and Swim.  Examiners have Read 100%, Write 100%, Ride 25%, and Swim 10%. 

After that, I get my derived attributes. They are also called skills and everyone gets them. I will say that this rulebook is laid out in kind of a strange way. For instance, my derived attributes are based on my primary attributes, but are listed after classes, not with the attributes themselves. But what do I know? I'm not a game designer.

The derived attributes are a big, long list, and it sort of clunks up a game whose design I felt was running pretty smoothly thus far. I won't copy the list here, but you can see it at the end, with the character. I will note that they kept CN as hit dice, just like it was in Metamorphosis Alpha, which is something I rather liked.

I now have the option of joining a Cryptic Alliance. I take a read through them and they are all silly. Like, okay, not silly-silly like Paranoia, but not too many steps removed from that. I find that I can't take any of them seriously and, so, I don't join any. Besides, I'm playing a charismatic loner. I don't need no allies!

Now we get to the Equipment section and, to my mind, the most baffling part of the game. The world is listed as being Tech III generally, which makes it Renaissance-times, according to the book. This would be fine, except things like laser pistols and micromissiles are listed under Common Equipment. It's fine, because I can't afford them anyway, but it seems like a very strange design choice. I would almost prefer it be split up like D&D, with regular equipment being more primitive and fancy future stuff being the "magic items."

The section also says that the GM gets to decide how much money and equipment I get based on where the game starts. Then it says, "oh, just kidding. Give them 250 + 1d10 x 10 donars." I roll a 1. So I get 260 donars. I purchase some basic weapons and armor and decide to call it a day.

Callen, Level 1 Mutant Weasel Examiner

Physical Strength: 13, +1
Dexterity: 18, +3
Constitution: 10, +0
Mental Strength: 13, +1
Intelligence: 12, +0
Charisma: 18, +3
Senses: 11, +0

Physical Mutations
Talk
Bipedal
Manipulate Tools and Objects

Mental Mutations
Death Field Generation: 11, +0
Telekinetic Hand: 14, +1
Heightened Charisma: +6

Class Skills 
+1 to Robot Recognition and Use Artifacts
+1 bonus to Use Artifacts per level
Read 100%
Write 100%
Ride 25%
Swim 10%
Avoid Artifact Disaster: 4
Jury-Rig: 4
Read Schematics: 4
Repair Artifact: 4  

Derived Attributes
THAC melee: PS mod (1)
THAC ranged: DX mod (3)
Armor Class:  10 + DX mod (13)
MD: 10 + MS mod (11)
Hit Points: CNd6, or 10d6 (39)
Health: 10 + CN mod (10)
Use Artifacts: IN mod, (0)
Perception: SN score + IN mod (11)
Stealth: DX mod (3)
Remain Unseen: IN mod (0)
Speed: Base + DX mod (14/9)
Robot Recognition: 20 - mods (15)

Equipstuff
Flintlock Pistol 2d8, 40 D
Dagger 1d4 5 D
Studded Leather AC 3 25 D
24 musket balls, gunpowder, and horn 10 D

Donars: 180

Monday, May 1, 2017

Boldly Go Character Art: Part 2

As previously mentioned, Dave Woodward; from Badgerlord Studios, is slaving away over a hot Bristol board to finish up some high-quality art for Boldly Go.

In this installment of the art-o-blog, we have two more portraits of the crew of the SFS Oswego.


Our third crewmember is Mott'trog, a mordon from Gajwanbex II, an extremely dense planet that orbits a dying, red giant star. Because they were born beneath the light of a dwindling star, Mott'trog, like all mordon, is a little bit melancholy, but also sees the fragile beauty in all living things. They, like all members of their race, have aspects of both male and female, though the particulars of their reproductive cycle are kept secret from outsiders.

Mordon are silicon-based species, so Mott'trog here is essentially a rock person. They, like most mordon, have shiny, metal skin. This description, plus their innate androgyny, inspired Dave to give Mott'trog a look inspired by David Bowie.

Mott'trog is the Chief Systems Officer on board the Oswego. They are constantly muttering about defragging, uptime, and other computer words I remember from reading xkcd.


Our fourth crewmember is Chief Social Sciences Specialist Robert Trebuchet. Robert is a synthoid from the R-7 series. He chose the last name of "Trebuchet" both in honor of his studies (he was researching medieval French warfare at the time), and to differentiate himself from his fellow Roberts.

The synthoids have an interesting history: They were manufactured in secret laboratories on Europa as part of the Jovian Conspiracy--an attempt to peacefully overthrow Terran governments by replacing their leaders with synthetic copies. The plan might have just succeeded, had not the synthoids gained sapience, realized what they were doing was wrong, and politely turned themselves in to the Terran government. Since then the synthoids have repeatedly proven themselves valuable allies to the humans, and have become fully integrated into society and Space Fleet.

While it is not uncommon for synthoids to serve on starships, it is a little strange for them to pursue a career in the social sciences. Robert has done so, due both to his interest in cultural and social histories, as well as his endless fascination with the personality quirks of the organic beings he encounters.

Yet more crewmembers to come! Stay tuned!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Metamorphosis Alpha

I've always been a fan of the genre in which an apocalypse turns a far-future society into post-apocalyptic fantasy. There's just something about it that seems really cool and interesting. I had high hopes that the Covenant LARP (a game explicitly set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world) would turn into Gamma World. Or, at least, Metamorphosis Alpha.

You've been on a giant worldship this entire time. Oh, and you're going to crash into a star. Good luck!

Oh, and it's written by Drawmij himself. So that's nice. I wonder if he can make the game rules appear in his hand as a free action?

It turns out that what one might think one wants can easily turn out to be something that one doesn't really want at all, and that, as it happens, is the case with Metamorphosis Alpha. I think I like the idea of this game much better than it's execution. I feel like if I were to do this sort of a game, my emphasis would be focused more on the culture, society, and world inside the ship and have much less to do with all of the cool ray guns and robots located on the storage levels.

I will say though that, in the game's defense, it was made in 1976, where the focus on games was quite a bit different than it is now. It's forgivable, but I don't think I could run this game without significant rewriting.

It also doesn't help that the rules feel more than a little bit slapdash (the errata in the back doesn't help). There's not a lot of them, but I definitely get the feeling that some of them are missing somewhere. It doesn't help that the book's layout is crude and kind of all over the place.

Still, I was able to make a pretty interesting character. Here's how I did that.

As per usual, I went in with no preconceived notions. There are six stats (Radiation Resistance, Mental Resistance, Dexterity, Constitution, Strength, and Leadership Potential). Frustratingly, the list of stats is given in that order, but the paragraphs describing the stats are arranged in a different order. Oh well.

I learn right off the bat that True Humans get all six stats, while Mutants of varying stripes only get the first five. I think making True Humans the only charismatic people in the game is one of the ways that they balance the fact that humans don't get awesome powers, but it still feels like not quite enough of a boost.

I decide that I will be a mutant, because that sounds fun. I do the roll and place in order, giving me an average character who is very clumsy and who has an almost statistically significant Constitution. I'm not getting much from these stats, but there's still more to do.

I should probably explain the stats at this point, as well as how secondary stats are derived from them, since they're somewhat unique among RPGs.

Radiation Resistance is the likelihood that I will resist dangerous radiation. A failure means that I will either die horribly or mutate.

Mental Resistance is my chance to avoid psychic attacks and mental mutations. Unlike the other stats, it is strengthened by use, provided I survive an attack that harms me.

Dexterity determines when I act in combat. So I'm not necessarily clumsy, but I am slow as balls. Interestingly, my Dex doesn't seem to impact my movement speed at all, from what I can tell.

Strength indicates whether and if I do any extra damage in combat. I don't.

Constitution determines the number of hit points I have and how likely I am to be poisoned. Since I have a Con of 11, I get to roll 11d6 to calculate my hit points. I roll reasonably well and get 45.

Because I am a mutant, I am allowed to have mutant powers. I get to roll 1d4 to determine how many physical mutations I have. Then I get to roll 1d4 again to determine how many mental mutations I have. It also says that my mutations are hand-picked by me, and not randomly rolled. Considering that there is quite a wide power range between powers (for instance, one of them allows me to control time or set up an aura of death around my body), this seems unwise. On the other hand, it's much easier to build the character you want.

The GM then gives me a physical or mental defect, so that I do not become god upon the Warden. If I have five or more mutations, I get both a physical and a mental defect.

I rolleth forth my d4s and get 3 physical mutations and 2 mental mutations. Since I have five total, I get two defects. Fun!

Here's the point where my character starts to gel. I decided that I would not game the system, instead choosing powers based on a core concept. I am given further guidance by the rulebook telling me that all mutants start in the forest level of the ship with no equipment.

Okay. So what do we have so far? A slow-moving, reasonably tough, arboreal mutant. Let's see if I can pick things to complement this.

Heightened Dexterity: Despite the name, this does not improve my Dexterity in any way. My AC is 1 (equivalent to the best armor listed in the game), as long as I am not encumbered. Since no one plays by the encumbrance rules anyway, I should be fine.

Physical Reflection: My skin reflects one type of damage away from my body in a random direction. One of the damage types listed is Radiation, so I'm going to powergame the shit out of this and choose that one.

Quills: I grow quills along my arms and legs. Anyone grabbing me takes dagger damage. I can also throw them 1-10 feet away from me.

Heightened Intelligence: Unlike Heightened Dexterity, this actually does modify my intelligence. I need it if I'm going to be a mutated plant or animal to have human-like intelligence, and I have to take it if I rolled a 4 on mental mutations. Since no Geoff character is complete without improved intelligence, I decided to purchase it despite neither of those things being true. It adds +4 to my Mental Resistance (to a max of 18) and allows me a better chance to operate devices found on the ship.

Intuition: Taking a page from the Jewel songbook, I have grabbed this mutation. It gives me limited precognition, which translates to a +1 to hit, +3 damage, and am never surprised. The power notes that it cannot work if any of my other powers are active, but, since my other powers are either passives or automatic, I don't think I need to worry about that.

I tried to pick defects that would make sense for my character, learning later that the GM could simply roll randomly and assign the defects to me. The defect tables don't make it obvious that a random roll is allowed (there's 6 physical and 10 mental defects, but the chart lists all the mutations in a group in order from 1-47, so you won't notice it unless you count). I managed not to cheese it, or hurt my character too badly, and picked the following.

Skin Structure Change: My skin has been altered significantly. The examples that are given are scales that reduce my movement (but not my Dexterity) and that I cannot bear heat above 76 degrees F. I decide to reverse the second one, taking one die of damage per hour if I am stuck in temperatures of 40 degrees or lower. I don't know if that's cheesy or not, but the book doesn't give much in the way of boundaries or examples.

Fear Impulse: I am afraid of certain objects or animals. I can't look at the thing (whatever it is) without feeling total fear and running away from it. Since I'm little more than a forest creature at this point, I decide that I have a fear impulse to "Uncontrolled Fires." Campfires will make me nervous. Forest fires will make me run screaming.

Since I don't have any equipment, I can safely ignore the majority of the equipment section. However, I do need to figure out how to calculate damage for my quills. Metamorphosis Alpha has an interesting way of doing this: Armor has a Class rating (which, I think, is different from AC), and weapons also have a Class rating. The higher the class of weapon, the better damage it does against armored opponents.

I thought this would be more descriptive. Like I have an Organic Dagger, which might be pretty good, but a Plasma Dagger would be way better. I'm going to have to wait a few decades to get something like that, though, because the determination of Class is a bit more byzantine and less free-form than that. I do find out that daggers of any type are a Class 3 weapon and do 1d4 damage against opponents.

Nav the Arboreal Mutant
Radiation Resistance:  9
Mental Resistance: 9 +4 = 13
Dexterity: 4
Constitution:11
Strength: 9

AC: 1
HP: 45

Physical Mutations: Heightened Dexterity, Physical Reflection (Radiation), Quills
Mental Mutations: Heightened Intelligence, Intuition (Follow Your Heaaaart)

Physical Defect: Skin Structure Change (Take 1d6 Damage/Hour at 40 F or Less)
Mental Defect: Fear Impulse (Uncontrolled Fires)

Equipstuff: None