Friday, September 8, 2017

Even More Boldly Go Art: The SFS Oswego

I got yet another email from the fantabulous Dave Woodward of Badgerlord Studios, and...

(Do you remember who he is? If you don't, let me remind you! He's the guy who is doing all of the art for Boldly Go. You can see all of the hard work he's already done by clicking on this self-referential bit of text right here! If you want to hire him for things, I'm sure he would be both excited and gratified to work with you! Let him know I sent you!)

Okay, now that that's out of the way, I got an email from Dave that had more art in it. Specifically, the art of the sample ship, which is referenced quite frequently throughout the text of Boldly Go. That's right, I'm talking about the dauntless ship that is currently crewed by our dauntless sample characters. Put your hands/hand analogues together and give a warm welcome to the SFS Oswego!

I have to say, I'm really happy with how this turned out, especially since I gave Dave virtually no guidance at all beyond, "yeah, so I want something iconic-looking that's not so iconic that people, and large entertainment conglomerates, can sue me for it." He sent me a half-dozen drawings or so and this is the one that I liked the best. I really do love that giant viewing window in the center!

As is right and proper for a game set in this particular genre, the Oswego is every bit as much of a character as the ones who crew her. Part of this has to do with the fact that, during character creation, players get to assign a traits to their new ship. As with character traits, ship traits can be pretty much anything the players can imagine. In many cases, players try to make a "well-balanced" ship with traits that cover a wide variety of possible adventure scenarios. In other cases, however, I've had players make experimental ships, abandoned alien ships that they've found and barely know how to drive, medical ships, science ships, and the ever-popular, 'bristling with weaponry and heavy shielding' ships.

That last sub-category of ship probably doesn't have the giant viewing window. I'd imagine they replace the window with more guns.

Since the Oswego is a character, I thought I'd run through its traits. Keep in mind that this ship was designed organically by one of my long-suffering teams of playtesters, so it is, for all intents and purposes, a "real" ship made by "real" people.


The Oswego is a part of Space Fleet's new line of deep-space exploratory vehicles. It rolls off the factory assembly line with the following customized traits and features:

  • Upgraded Canteen (Featuring Robot Chef Pierre)
  • Superior Maneuverability
  • Advanced Shuttlecraft
  • Reinforced Hull Plating
  • State-of-the-Art Xenobiology Lab
  • Upgraded Navigational Systems
  • Point-to-Point Teleport Pods
  • Enhanced Tractor Beam
  • Well-Trained Security Personnel

The Oswego, and ships like it, can be yours for the low price of zero galactic credits, because we don't use money in the future, for some reason!

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
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)

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
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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Powers & Perils

Spoilers for the following post: Remember how much trouble I had with FASA Star Trek? This game was at least an order of magnitude worse. This game broke me. I didn't finish character creation.

Powers & Perils is a game by Avalon Hill. It reads like a tax form. I would imagine that you could create very diverse, unique characters with this game, but the granularity that the average player is faced with in order to actually make a character is (at least for me) too steep a price to play. I've played Rolemaster games that were easier to understand than this.

It starts off innocently enough. There are ten characteristics (Strength, Stamina, Dexterity, Agility, Intelligence, Will, Eloquence, Empathy, Constitution, and Appearance). I roll 2d10 for each one. Fine so far. Then the book tells me:

Native Ability, for each modifiable characteristic, is determined using the procedure below (See 1.111 to determine Constitution and Appearance).


After looking back and forth between tables, I realize that I'm supposed to select my race and gender and then add (or subtract) a modifier to my base rolls. At least, I'm supposed to do that for all but Constitution and Appearance, whose modifiers are calculated differently.

I look over the races and decide that I'm going to play a fairy (or, in this case, "Faerry") lady, because that's different. I note that the usual 1980s canard of female characters being physically weaker, but much wiser and more agile, than male characters is in play here. I also note that the lowest any of my attributes can be is 1, which is good, because Strength and Stamina modifiers for faerrys are pretty hefty.

For no reason I can determine, my Constitution and Appearance modifiers are figured out by rolling a d10 for each and looking at the specific table. Both modifiers are listed on the table, with App in parentheses and the Con one is not. I managed to max out on Appearance (x8!) so this character is even sexier than the last.

Welcome to the game grid, insanely hot, albeit tiny, lady!

The book then tells me that all of the stats apart from Constitution and Appearance can be improved during the course of play. I guess no one in the P&P universe has heard of marathon training, designer clothes, or fleek eyebrows.

Now, the book tells me that I have to determine my maximum ability. This takes me several attempts before I mostly understand it. The gist of it is this: I roll 2d6+14. This gives me the total number of multipliers that I can apply to every stat except for Constitution and Appearance. The minimum modifier I can apply to a stat is 1.5, while the highest is 4. The book tells me that I need to assign multipliers in either whole or half numbers or the whole system collapses. I roll and get a total of 21. I do some more math.

After that, I get to roll randomly to determine my Age and my Station. There's a note that says that non-humans (like smoking hot faerry ladies) spend most of their lives in the Lower World before joining the humans in the Middle World for ADVENTURE! I don't know what this means, but I guess time flows differently in different places? 

I learn that I am 23 and come from Station 3. The book gives me a list of occupations to choose from, so I pick Noted Scholar. My Coin Type for my station is 2SC. This means something. I'll get to it in a minute.

Because the game goes on to say that I don't pop out of the womb (or hatch from a cocoon, or whatever) ready for adventure. I must have lived life a little bit before I had gotten to this point. As a result, I get to roll (Age x 2) + Station + 2d10. I find the total on yet another chart and that gives me my Character Points, Experience Points, and Expertise Points.

I roll a 62. The chart only goes up to 30. Buh?

Closer reading reveals to me that I should not use this rule if I used the Maximum Ability rules, which I did. If I did that, I need to take 25% of my roll result. Instead of looking things up on a chart, I take the new total as a pool of points that I get to spend on everything but Character Points. At least 5 points must be assigned to each area.

I have 16 points, which I split as evenly as possible. Then I take an Advil.

Next, I encountered the Special Events table. This table is optional, but, I figure, why not use it? I roll percentile dice for every ten years I've lived (rounded down). I get a Nothing result on my first roll, but on my second one I get Supernatural Stamina. The only thing that would have been better would have been for me to get Supernatural Strength. This ability boosts my Stamina by 1d6x5 points, to a minimum of 25. I roll a 2. I add 25.

There is a chart full of bonuses on various sub-stats based on the base stat. I am already tired, so I have mostly skipped these, other than to add in any appropriate bonuses. Then I move on to Other Factors...God, this is taking forever!

My Hit Points is equal to (Strength + Stamina + Constitution) / 4 (round up).

My Offensive Combat Value is equal to CEL + SB + StB. Wait. WAIT! What are those?

My Defensive Combat Value is equal to CEL + AB + DB. WHAT?!?! What are those? I'm confused!

I decide to sit in the dark for a while and listen to the blood rushing in my ears. Once I've calmed down some, I go back through the rulebook for some hints. CEL is my Character Experience Level, which is something I would have gotten if I had rolled on the chart (but I didn't roll on that chart, because I rolled on a different chart first). I'm assuming that my Character Experience Level is 0. Then, after a lot of scrutinizing, I realize that all of the other stuff is abbreviations for: Strength Bonus; Stamina Bonus; Agility Bonus; and Dexterity Bonus. 

Ah, it's all so clear to me now! Whew! I'm feeling like I'm in the home stretch.

But wait! Now there are derived sub-stats, including Portage Ability, Healing Chance, how attractive you are to members of other races based on your race, know what? No. Moving on!

Height and Weight are, of course, randomly rolled. For Height. I add my Native Strength to my Native Stamina plus my racial number (which is 28). I learn that I am 17 inches tall. Concentrated hotness.

My Weight is derived from my Height. I roll 1d10 and consult yet another table. I rolled a 2 and, according to the table, Faerry ladies have a weight of 1.2. I multiply this by 17 to get a total weight of 20.4 pounds. That seems...wonky? 

Right. What's next? Food Requirements? The minimal amount of nutrition I need in a day to remain alive? Okay. I'm going out for a walk.

*several days later*

I'm back! Where were we? Oh yes! Food Requirements is listed in Food Points. You determine your FP based on your weight. Since I'm less than 100 pounds, I need half a FP per day. Since I'm also a Faerry, this is reduced by a further half, so I need a quarter of a FP per day. I am told that I will eventually starve if I get less than this in a day. I am also told I can eat three times as much per day, if I need to. So I can enter the local Sidh Hot Dog-Eating Contest, I guess?

We have to be done, right? Wrong. There's so many other things to figure out. Liiiike:

Movement Rate is a straight number based on race: 6 inches for walking,  27 inches when flying. No, I'm wrong. I add my AB (Agility Bonus) to walking speed and DB (Dexterity Bonus) to my flying speed. 9" and 31". 

Influence is my chance to influence other people and is equal to my Eloquence + Empathy. There's a pile of modifiers for this, but I'm tired. Just trust me when I tell you that my base chance is 69.

There's healing rules but la la la I don't care!

Now we start to get into Skills with Common Knowledge. These are things that I get because of my race and class. If I were a human, I would get to pick from one of two lists, Barbarian and Civilized. Faerrys only get one list. It's long. It's listed with my character below. The big thing is that the game talks a lot about MEL and EL. I didn't know what these were for a long time. It turns out they're explained in the next section. They stand for Maximum Experience Level and Experience Level. 

Okay! Now I get to purchase skills that my character has learned over the course of her training and wanderings. I have 105 Expertise Points (from a previous table) to spend on skills. I assume that each skill costs a certain amount and...


Oh god. No.

I can't. I can't even.

It starts off by explaining things that I didn't understand from the previous section, notably that all skills are increased in Experience Levels, which cost a certain number of Expertise Points, up to the cap that is the Maximum Experience Level, which is based on your stats.

That's bad enough, but each skill costs a variable amount of points to learn and a variable amount of points to level up. The MEL for each skill is calculated using a complicated formula that is, again, different for each skill. Let me give you an example.

Say I want to buy the Axe skill. It costs me 18 EP to learn at Level 1. Each increase costs 6 x the new EL (12 for 2, 18 for 3, and so on). The maximum level is equal to (Strength + Stamina) / 10. My character can have an Axe MEL of 3.

Now, let's say I want to buy the Rhetoric skill. It costs me 30 EP to learn at Level 1. Each increase costs an amount of EP equal to the new EL squared (4 for 2, 9 for 3, and so on). It's maximum level is (Will + Eloquence + Empathy)/15. My character can have a Rhetoric MEL of 8.

And that's when I decided I was done. Here's my character so far.

Oh! And one of the charts determines my base wealth, which is multiplied by the coin type of my Station to determine my starting money. Almost forgot!

Myrradin the Very Pretty, Albeit Unfinished, Faerry Scholar and Sorceress


+10 (25)

Age: 23
Station:  3, Coin Type 2SC, Noted Scholar
Initial Increases: 16

Experience Points:  6 25 (Level 0)
Expertise Points: 105
Wealth: 25 (multiplied by coin type from Station) = 50 SC
Special Event: 13-None; 77-Special Attribute – Stamina
Hit Points: 10
Offensive Combat Value: 0
Defensive Combat Value: 5
Height/Weight: 17”, 20.4 lb.
Food Requirements: ¼ FP
Movement: 9”/31”
Influence: 69

Learn new languages at half cost.
Mana Sensing and Mana Reading (MEL and EL determined by character)
Speak: Faerry EL 80, Elf EL 80, Human EL 60, Sidh EL 80 if magic-user
I have wings and can fly.
I can enter the Lower World (MEL and EL determined by character)
I have the maximum EL in either Forest or Swamp Survival.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chaos Eclipse: Part Three

The third and final installment of the Twilight/Beautiful Creatures/NCAA 2017 fanfic requested by Meg.

This was fun! Hooray!

            It was Edward's hardest basketball game ever, and, in a way, it was also the most fun.
            He had no idea what the crowd, or what the people watching the game at home on TV, were seeing, but he guessed it wasn’t anything like what was actually happening. They’d be stampeding or screaming or…calling their congressman, maybe? Did people still do that?
            No time to think about that; he needed to concentrate. Lena matched him in speed, somehow, seemingly everywhere at once all the time. It took all of his hunting skill to keep up with her, shadowing her so that she couldn’t get near the basket or pass to her open teammates. By midway through the first half, he realized he was playing a game within a game. Cut off from his teammates, focused entirely on the Caster, he gave everything he had to make sure that her blatant cheating didn’t cause a blowout.
            He was used to going up against other vampires and their weird powers, as well as the occasional werewolf, but he always had the benefit of his telepathy. Lena was blocking him somehow. Like Bella, she was inscrutable. Unlike Bella, she was clearly enjoying herself. She faked him out more times than he cared to admit, dribbled circles around him, stepped in just the right way so that he collided with her, causing him to both fall and foul. And colliding with her hurt. His skin was supposedly diamond hard, but smacking into Lena felt like being hit by a freight train.
            And even when she wasn’t out-thinking him or out-playing him, she used her magic to frustrate him in other ways. There were ten Lenas on the court, each with their own ball. There was one Lena, but she had wings and did loop-de-loops in the air before perching deftly on the top of the backboard.
            Even with all that, it was nice not to have to hold back, whether out of fairness or for the look of the thing. It was exhilarating, even to the point of what drunkenness must feel like, to throw off the mask and push himself to the limit. He leaped to the rafters, ran as fast as he could, sank a three-pointer from the opposite court.
            It was also fun because it was a challenge, and a different sort of one than keeping his powers reigned in all the time. This must be what his other teammates felt like when they went up against a bigger and better team. This must be what the coach meant when he talked about how adversity made you stronger, because you had to reach inside yourself and find the will to continue onward.
            He was playing the best basketball of his unnaturally long life, and even though Lena kept laughing at him and mocking him in her southern twang, Edward couldn’t help but smile a little.
            A few minutes into the second half, he thought that he had the Caster girl figured out. He noticed the pattern to her movements, the tiny microseconds where her attention was divided between weaving spells and sinking shots, and he pressed the advantage.
            He was feeling quite confident until it started torrentially down-pouring indoors. Edward took a header on the slick court, cracked his skull on the boards, and slid out-of-bounds, taking the ball with him.


            There was a long, fuzzy moment of black spots and disorientation. He came around to see the assistant coach and the team physician kneeling beside him.
            “What’s your name, son?” said the physician.
            He blinked. “What?”
            The assistant coach and the physician looked at one another. “I’m trying to assess you for brain injury. What’s your name?”
            “Okay,” said the assistant coach, “take him out.”
            “No, no, wait,” said Edward, hopping to his feet. “I’m Edward Cullen. I’m from Forks, WA. The president is…” not Woodrow Wilson…don’t say Woodrow Wilson, “that Donald Trump guy, but I kind of wish it was anyone else.”
            While he talked, the physician stood, took Edward by the temples, and peered into his eyes.
            “How do you feel, Cullen?”
            Edward glanced back at the court. Lena quirked a grin at him and tossed him a wave. “Good, good. I’d like to get back out there, if that’s okay.”
            “You’re sure?” said the assistant coach.
            “Sure, I’m sure.”
            “All right,” said the physician. “I’ll let you back in there, but the second. Cullen, look at me. The second you get dizzy or start to feel sick, call a timeout and get out of there, you got it?”
            “Yeah,” he said. On the court, Lena was sticking her tongue out at him.
            “Yeah. I get it.”


            Zags lost 71-65, but what a game!
            At least, that’s what Edward kept picking up from the minds around him. His fellow players were disappointed of course, but the game had been so close right until the end that, while everyone was down, no one felt like they had done a bad job at playing.
            Amusingly, it wasn’t even Lena who beat them. Edward had gotten her locked down in a corner right at the end of the game, but that didn’t stop Justin Jackson from turning a three point lead into a five point lead with ten seconds to go. Only someone with superhuman strength and speed could make up the difference with so little time left on the clock, and, while Edward could have done it, he knew it would be wrong.
            So the Zags lost 71-65. But what a game.
            He commiserated with his teammates, assured the coaching staff and the physician that he was really all right, really, and hit the showers. Long, long after the crowds had left the arena, Edward shouldered his gear bag and headed back to where his teammates would be staying.
            He bumped into Lena right outside the back door. She held out her hand.
            “Good game, Eddy.”
            He shook it. Her hand felt small and fragile in his, but he knew the girl behind the hand was anything but. “Don’t call me ‘Eddy,’” he said. “But, thanks. Good game to you, too.”
            She released his hand and brushed a stray hair out of her face. “So, what are you doing right now?”
            “Crashing, I guess.” He leaned in and said, in a lower voice, “or, pretending to.”
            Lena laughed. “Well, listen, if you’re just going to lie in bed and pretend to be asleep anyway, do you want to come hang out? There’s this good coffee place down in…”
            “I don’t drink…coffee,” he said, smiling despite himself.
            “Right, no, I guess you wouldn’t. Well, we could just hang around. Talk, you know?” she moved in closer—uncomfortably close, now. Edward could smell the sweet aroma of her blood. “See what happens?”
            He stepped back. “I appreciate it. I mean, I had fun, even though we lost, but…I just got out of this kind of messed up relationship and I…”
            She laughed again. “I’m not talking about a relationship, Mr. Cullen. I’m talking about sex.”
            “Yes!” she said. “You look so shocked. Jesus Christ, what are you, Mormon?”
            “No, no,” Edward replied, holding up his hands as if to ward off her accusation. “Of course not. I just assumed that maybe you…I mean, you’re a literal magical girl…I figured you had a boyfriend.”
            She shook her head. “Not in this continuity. Thanks, mom.”
            “Oh. Well. Uh. Sorry.”
            “It’s fine, it’s fine.” She took him lightly by the hand. “So. How about it? You share, I share, we see what happens?”
             Edward looked up at the moon, breathed in, breathed out. He realized that, for the first time, he couldn’t quite remember what Bella looked like.
            “Sure,” he said at last. “There’s just…this is embarrassing, but there’s just one more thing.”
            “What’s that?”
            “Well, I’m super strong and nigh invulnerable, and—”
            Lena smirked again. “Floorboards in there tell a different story, buddy.”
            “Ha ha. Shut up. Anyway, you’re a Caster, whatever that is, but you’re also just a human right? I’ve hurt way more people in my life than I’d care to admit. I don’t want to hurt you, too.”
            “Oh, emo kid, you wish,” said Lena. “I’ve got plenty of ways to protect myself. Besides, you’re not the biggest badass out here right now, or have you forgotten already.”
            Edward ran a hand through his hair. “I might have. Probably the brain damage.”
            “Ha! Well, listen. I can’t kiss unprotected mortals without causing them to experience painful shocks and, if I ever have sex with one, I might just shoot so much electricity into them that I give them spontaneous heart failure.”
            “You say that like you’re boasting,” said Edward.
            “Maybe a little.” She looped her arm around his. “Come on, corpse boy. Let’s see if you can ride the lightning.”