Thursday, January 18, 2018

Stars Without Number Revised - Old Soldiers Never Die (they just get more hit points)

Stars Without Number Revised Edition surprised us all at the very end of 2017 with a release, and I finally snagged the deluxe copy with a print version on the way. If you've ever wondered what a SWN character might look like, or are curious to get a sense of any changes in this version (there are a few of note), here's a sample character I rolled up. I actually devised a level 1 version, but subsequently bumped him to level 6 just to see what that looked like.

Characters all have a series of random stats (there's also an assignment you can distribute if you want), a background which determines base skills, the class, foci which function like variable "non class" traits that flesh out who your character is, and psionic rules if that's a thing you're going for. Optional rules in the back expand character options in to transhumanism, magic/fantasy (Starfinder, cough) and more. Core rules cover cybernetics and alien options, too.

Anyway....here's Vastaad Delaine, professional merc:


Name: Vastaad Delaine
Class: warrior (level 6), human, soldier background         
STR 14  (+1); DEX  14  (+1); CON 10; INT 11; WIS  8; CHA 9                             

Hit Points:     35      Base Attack Bonus:    +5      Armor Class:  18 (due to ironhide enhancement)
Saving Throws- Physical Save: 9        Mental Save: 10     Evasion Save: 9             

Skills:                                                   
Combat (punch) – 1
Exert – 1
Combat (shoot) – 3
Survive – 1
Notice – 1
Pilot – 0

Class Abilities:
Warrior Luck (once/scene may either auto hit or receive an auto miss)
free combat focus level (put in to gunslinger)
+2 HP/level

Focus:
Gunslinger – 2 (gain shoot skill; add level to damage; quick draw and reload as on turn action; miss on shoot deals 1D4 dmg)
Ironhide – 1 (natural AC 15+1/2 level round up due to augmentation)
Starfarer – 0 (gain pilot skill; auto success on spike drill checks of Diff 10 or less)

Equipment:
Combat rifle +6 to hit; 1D12+3 damage (hit) or 1D4 damage (miss)
Vacc Suit
Knife +5 to hit; 1D4+1 damage
80 rounds of ammo
Backpack (TL0)
Compad
500 credits


NOTES:

This character is basically a level 1 PC elevated to the status of a level 6 PC, but I didn't bother to modify equipment or anything to reflect that. Soldiers in SWN are pretty efficient. He has his slightly above average HP for a soldier (they get a +2 bonus per level as a class feature), and as a soldier with his combat rifle he can dish out 1D12+3 damage thanks to being able to add his Shooting skill to level (thanks Gunslinger Focus!) He needs a vacc suit to survive harsh environments, but his Ironhide focus effectively means he has some sort of nanoweave armor laced into his own skin...he's shirtless with an AC of 18 and it will continue to grow over time. 

The die mechanic for basic resolution in SWN is to roll 2D6, add skill level and attribute level (if any) and beat a target number of 8, or higher for excessively difficult tasks. This is essentially the same mechanic as Traveller, but with some simpler approaches.  Skills in the new edition of SWN got a bit of a revision, and the rules later discuss ways you can reintroduce the old skill system, or adapt to this one. Skills in SWN for those new to the system are fairly simple...there's one page on the available skills, of which there are 19 base skills and 6 psionic skills. 

Rolling a SWN character once you're used to it takes minutes. Maybe 10-15 minutes, tops, if you're thinking hard about your choices. There is also a "quick and dirty" generation method that must be even faster if it's the quick method!

I'll be writing more about this book as the days roll along. It may be my cure for how to break the bizarre spell Starfinder has held over me, at last. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fantasy Age Companion is Actually Planned for 2018


So I'm going to claim I was using reverse psychology, but truth is it looks like the Fantasy Age Companion really is on track for 2018. Yay!

I'm looking forward to this book and seeing what it has to offer. Consensus among my group has been that we should give Fantasy Age a try (again) soon, as the right combo of players and interest seems to be in the mix now.

Also of interest is the Modern Age book, due out some day (right)? and the Lazarus adaptation which I know nothing about other than it ties in to an Image comic (I think), as well as the planned supplement for Dragon Age, which remains intriguing because honestly I think that the tabletop RPG for Dragon Age is a better successor to the original computer game than every other CRPG sequel to be produced so far.

Starfinder Reviews: Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends and Strange Worlds Series: Dead Planets and Desert Planets


Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends

This very nicely illustrated PDF from Fat Goblin Games (also available in POD) takes the conventional demons and devils of Pathfinder but gives them an SF makeover that would make the Event Horizon proud. The concept of the Fiendish Wastes introduces an interesting concept, in which the planar realms of the Abyss and the Nine Hells have somehow collided and bled through in to the Drift, creating a new dimension which has captured both demon and devil, and in turn both twisted them for the worse and forced them to work together to try and escape their prison, so they can get back to their rightful dominions. To this end the fiends seek to build drift-navigable ships and they need a hyperspace engine to escape their fate. It includes some guidelines on using the concept of the Fiendish Wastes as well as fourteen adaptations of demon and devil for Starfinder as well as two ships and some adventure seeds. The artwork is incredibly evocative and will probably make you (like me) want to find further ways to repurpose these bad boys for your own adventures.

If you get one supplement for Starfinder from a 3PP, I suggest you check this one out. Well worth it, and will go far toward realizing your own Event Horizon incident in the Pact Worlds for sure.


Strange Worlds: Dead Planets
Strange Worlds: Desert Planets

When I talk about good utility in PDFs I mean exactly what these PDFs represent. Both Dead Planets and Desert Planets, for example, are great resources to help build worlds for GMs, and they provide plenty of ready-to-use content for a low price.

Dead Planets is a 16 page PDF which provides an overview on typical dead worlds of science fiction, with details on how to survive, gather resources, deal with airless dead worlds, and wrestle with what made those worlds like they are: total war, destruction by AI, extinction events, or the unquiet, worlds ravaged by the undead. In addition to survival, terrain and threat advice the PDF provides stats for four sample monster encounters: the bloodshade (a terrifying CR 20 undead blob), embalmed ones CR 2 denizens of a dead unquiet world), living holograms (Cr 5 relics of the dead civilizations gone) and overseer robots, who somehow survived the civilization that created them (think CR 10 variant on Halo's Guilty Spark).

Desert Planets is laid out in very similar fashion at 16 pages, with an overview on how starfaring explorers could survive a hostile desert world (Arakis and others), from getting food and resources to dealing with dust storms, flesheater storms, mirages, survival equipment for the desert and so forth. It's not the be-all-and-end-all resource for running your Red Planet or Dune inspired desert campaign in Starfinder, but it gives you plenty for your spacefarers who are jumping around the drift looking to explore random weird worlds. Like the other tome, Desert Planets also includes desert stalkers (CR 7 rat-wolf-cat things), CR 1 dust rats, and the CR 20 sand annelid (sense a theme here?)

So yeah, if you totally want your Starfinder crew to go explore not-Arakis, this book will help you out a lot. Both PDFs are cheap (only $1.95) and in my opinion are some of the most fairly priced PDFs for Starfinder in terms of bang for your buck. I am definitely looking forward to future releases in the Strange Worlds line from Fat Goblin Games, and hope they eventually become available in some POD format, perhaps as a compendium.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cryptworld Returns with Burial Plots


Cryptworld is the Goblinoid Games' edition of classic Chill, from the late, great Pacesetter games. If you haven't checked it out, you should! It's a slim but complete package, and is the best campy, hammer-horror inspired RPG on the market. You can run it straight (true horror) or you can run a game that leaves you convinced Bella Lugosi himself will come to haunt you along with Christopher Lee and George Romero.

Burial Plots is the third book in the line, and it was just released in both print and PDF. I was initially wondering if this would be worth getting, since I have never had an opportunity to actually run Cryptworld, but on reading the preview and immediately getting engaged with the scenario I realized I not only wanted this book, but I really need to run this game. Given that my group is now hooked on Call of Cthulhu, it may in fact be distinctly possible now to convince them to try Cryptworld out in the near future.....!

Anyway, check it out and if you're in to it, grab a copy. I'm really enjoying reading the PDF and have ordered the print edition.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Starfinder Reviews: Robots of Known Space and Starfarer's Companion


Robots of Known Space 

Produced by Nothing Ventured Games, this PDF is 18 pages containing nineteen robots across a CR 1-19 spread, from the lowly Observation Bot right on up to the terrifying CR 19 Hellreaver Automaton, forged literally in the bloody fires of hell to destroy all level 17-20 PCs in it's path. I'll be using this book quite a bit, as anyone who has picked up the Alien Archive from Paizo will notice that it is woefully short on meaningful robotic foes. The PDF is clean, follows the Starfinder stat block protocol, and has some nice black/white illustrations that get the job done. I look forward to seeing what the author, Paul Stefko, comes up with next for Starfinder. This appears to be the first Starfinder resource from Nothing Ventured Games, and hopefully they make more thematically utility-driven resources in the near future.


Starfarer's Companion

The Starfarer's Guide from Rogue Genius Games is a meaty 253 page compendium (in PDF and POD; I splurged for the print copy) of pretty much the entire rest of the kitchen sink that Starfinder did not include from Pathfinder. If you are looking at Starfinder and wondering how to de-retcon bards, the magus, wizards, paladins, rangers and clerics in to Starfinder, then this book has you covered. Missing any of twenty prior fantasy races (okay, give or take a couple unique aliens) missing from Starfinder? This book has you covered. Think Starfinder needs level 7 to 9 spells? Got it.

There's additional interesting content of wide use, too. New computer rules and equipment, feats, and some rules on companions and mounts with appropriate SF themes make for a rounded package. Seventeen new starships, built with the Rogue Genius Games setting in mind but perfectly useable in your own are also available, which will hold us over nicely until Paizo gets around to doing the Pact Worlds sourcebook with more starship designs in it.

Starfarer's Companion's greatest failing is the issue I griped about earlier: it's a trove of content, but most of it is reintroducing old Pathfinder material for use with Starfinder. This might be very useful to your campaign, but to me it feels like going backwards, not forwards. I want weird, new and most importantly unexpected strange science fantasy stuff; let the aasimar and tieflings rest on Golarion in peace. That said, you definitely get your money's worth with this tome if you need this content. You could probably even adapt some of it to a more conventional game by reskinning the racial options and classes, if you wanted. I can see definite utility in allowing a ranger type in some games, for example. For that matter, the bard class alone might be all you've desired if you ever wanted to play your own version of Ruby Rhod!




Friday, January 12, 2018

Starfinder Third Party Support

There's a fair amount of third party publisher (3PP) support for Starfinder already. It ranges from single-page add ons to large volume content such as the Starfarer's Companion. I haven't grabbed even a fraction of it (yet) but I have snagged a few interesting tid-bits worth mentioning, which I will do so over the next few blog posts.

One thing I think Starfinder 3PP need to steer away from is the low-hanging fruit of "Pathfinderizing Starfinder." Starfinder is set far in any future from the fantasy realm of Pathfinder, and the Starfinder core rules deliberately build from this future universe with new takes on old concepts to distance the SF setting from its high fantasy forebear. Solarians, technomancers and mystics are the new magic users; adding back in all the classic magic classes seems very popular with a lot of the 3PP support, but it's ultimately not really helping Starfinder to grow and become it's own beast. We don't need the witch, the loremaster or the sorcerer in Pathfinder, for example, except for fringe cases where maybe you're going to elevate an existing fantasy campaign from their backwater planet in to the big universe (certainly a good approach to introduce players to the new universe without breaking any comfort zones on character options).

What we need are newer, stranger things that build from the foundation that is set by the core rules. What weird surprises does a universe have in store for a future dominated by the solarians, mystics and technomancers? That's what Starfinder needs to expand on.




Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Starfinder: The Tomb Ships of the Stygian Expanse


The Legend of the Stygian Expanse and the Tomb Ships

Spacefarers speak of the Stygian Expanse like it is a defined place, but one which no star chart can show you, no drift route takes you to. The Stygian Expanse is, if anything, more of a concept…it’s the place between star systems, the area off the grid, beyond the edge of known space. It is the dark between the stars.

One of the phenomena attributed to the Stygian Expanse are the dreaded tomb ships. These immense, ancient vessels have manifested in human space over the ages, and the earliest recorded encounter with a tomb ship predates the Old Karthan Empire by nearly five thousand years. The tomb ships are usually encountered alone although in 7,791 a dozen tomb ships appeared in the Qualien system, leading to a total quarantine followed by a dedicated glassing of the entire planet by the Karthan Navy. This, unfortunately, is a distinct possibility even with one tomb ship; the arrival of such a vessel can spell almost certain doom for a planet if these horrible ships settle in to orbit.

Tomb ships are ancient vessels, often of different design or origin, and sometimes equipped with FTL drift drive and other times containing no FTL drive, or on rare occasion some other means of FTL travel, usually in the form of unknown alien technology. Many of the recorded tomb ship encounters demonstrate that human or human-like entities must have crewed the ships, while other vessels were clearly alien in origin. The smallest tomb ship recorded was a quarter mile long, and the largest was an amazing thirteen miles in length.

The mystery of the tomb ships is exaggerated by the horror of its inhabitants. All tomb ships are ultimately devoid of life, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t crewed. Some tomb ships are completely empty, containing only a hint of mystery or displaying evidence of some ancient carnage, frozen in space, suggesting the catastrophic final battle of the crew, long ago. These ships aren’t without risk, for all ships contain the necrophage virus, a virulent necrotic reanimating virus that is incredibly difficult to capture and study in any safety. In such dead ships the virus is dormant, or mutated and no longer highly virulent and transmittable.

When the necrophage is active, such tomb ships arrive in system with a horde of reanimated dead. The crew of the ship may or may not be conscious of their own undead state, but those who display consciousness are the most dangerous, capable of scheming to carry out an insane compulsion to destroy or subjugate all life, and to spread the necrophage in their wake. The incident at Qualien was such a situation, with a dozen such ships disgorging an army of millions of undead warriors on the planet.

The Karthan Imperial Research Division (KIRD) has worked closely with the Imperial Navy to find a way to capture and study a tomb ship. They have considered targeting one of the vessels that is moving at STL speeds on its transit between solar systems, out in the void where it is safely removed from living solar systems. The intent is to identify the origin of these ships, and to gain a chance to properly study their construction, crew, and origins as well as the virus itself. So far these efforts have had mixed results and more than one KIRD team has perished in the process.

Despite the difficulty, KIRD teams along with more conventional historical research have identified the following interesting pieces of information about the tomb ships:

Tomb Ship Crews

Most tomb ships tend to carry undead crew that match the dominant species of the worlds they descend upon. A vesk world visited by a tomb ship will contain undead vesk, for example. It is presumed that this means that the ships have a directive to pursue the conversion and/or destruction of the initial species of the necrophage. No one has found a ground zero example to study, however (origin of a tomb ship, and origin of its first choice of species for “crew.”)

Tomb Ship Designs

Tomb ships do not have consistent uniformity of design, but they do reflect the technological and sometimes cultural and architectural norms of the species that inhabit the ship. A tomb ship of undead vesk will look different from a tomb ship of undead humans, for example. All tomb ships seem to integrate the funerary or ritualistic elements of the culture of origin for its crew, however, often with thematic elements of ancient origin. Many tomb ships of human origin seem to glorify interment in sarcophagi, coffins, or actual tombs and crypts, for example; these serve as a maze of architectural anomalies riddled throughout the hull of the ship, writ large as if serving as a monument to the concept of death.


The Necrophage

Most species to date appear to be at risk of infection by the necrophage once exposed. The necrophage appears to have at least three states: an early, highly virulent and transmissible state in which the virus can be exposed through air or touch; a second state in which it is in the infected victim, dormant until the individual dies at which time he or she returns as an undead animated creature; and a third state in which the necrophage transmits to victims of the undead through scratches and bites. Not all undead types recorded so far transmit the necrophage, however, and no link between undead who remain intelligent and free-willed and those who appear to be mindless has been identified as of yet.

Tomb Ship Invasions

Tomb ships move through space, sometimes slower than light, sometimes using obscure and alien warp drives, and sometimes through the drift, though at least one scout vessel which tracked a tomb ship in the drift discovered that the tomb ships appear to enter a region of the drift distinctly different from the more conventional “space lanes” most normal vessels travel through. Indeed, it is suspected that there may be tomb vessels traveling indefinitely in the drift, waiting for centuries or more before dropping out in to a suitable habitable world.

When a tomb ship does target a world, it have a number of unique approaches. Some ships have been recorded to arrive and immediately fire what are known as Cenotaph Clusters, smaller drop-pod like ships carrying anywhere from one to an entire squad of undead invaders. There is no consistency here; the invaders might be armed with heavy weaponry and armor, or they might be unarmed and unarmored, set only to spread the necrophage through their bites and scratches.

Some vessels arrive in-system and take up orbit with no hostile action….until the locals poke their nose in to the ship and decide to board it, thinking they’ve stumbled on a salvage boon. Despite the reputation of these vessels, there are still thousands of systems that have never heard of the danger of tomb ships.

A few tomb ships are especially dangerous, and are equipped with active defenses as well as snub fighters and drop ships, along with devious, free-willed undead who express their intense desire to destroy or subjugate all life. The Qualien incident was headed by one such undead, a lich called Karidais the Eternal, who claimed he was the chosen priest of Death Incarnate. Unfortunately his recorded exchanges provided little detail on his origins, though the fact that he spoke the standard galactic basic of the Old Karthan Empire with just a trace of an unknown accent was telling.

Folklore of the Tomb Ships

Spacers are known to fill in the blanks when they lack information, but a few of the legends, rumors and folklore of the tomb ships tend to get repeated often enough that KIRD investigators have taken that as a sign that there may be more than a grain of truth to some of it.

One of the most famous stories is one in which a famous freighter captain, who name changes from one tale telling to the next, stumbled in to an unknown world on a drift jump failure and found a dead planet with hundreds of tomb ships in orbit around it. He escaped, but not (so the story goes) before seeing dozens of tomb ships leave to chase him. As the story goes, when this mysterious captain appears in your system, telling his story, then the tomb ships will soon arrive.

A scholar and madman named Erintos Pathaer, who is recorded as being a famous astrophysicist and xenocultural researcher back in the pre-empire days, wrote many books on the subject of the tomb ships. He claimed that the source of the tomb ships might be an actual entity from beyond the edge of the galaxy, which creates the necrophage and then utilizes its dark energy to manufacture the ships and send them in to living space specifically to subjugate and destroy entire civilizations. This entity, which he never identified the name of, had decided that it was literally “death, the destroyer or worlds,” and had chosen the necrophage as its tool.

A third popular story is that the necrophage originated with an ancient human empire, one founded at the dawn of the space age nearly eight thousand years ago, and that this lost empire rose to power but was destroyed by its enemies with the necrophage. The unintended side effect was the rise of a powerful undead army seeking to slay all life and make the universe a tomb for all beings. The planet of origin is a cenotaph world somewhere out beyond the galactic rim…or according to some stories just next door….but cloistered away by the ancient tech used by the old empire’s enemies to hide the evidence of what they had wrought on the universe.

Adventures within Tomb Ships

Adventurers who encounter tomb ships may well find one entering some region of inhabited space, perhaps threatening a local colony. The colonists may have few resources, or be located in the Vast, such as the region of the Conarium Expanse, where the hope of Imperial intervention is nonexistent. In these cases their first choice may be to hire expendable mercenaries such as the PCs to see if something can be done about the tomb ship before it becomes too late.

Escaping a tomb ship can be as simple as infiltrating the vessel and finding a way to destroy it before becoming infected to as complex as evacuating an entire colony or station to the safety of another system. If the colony is too large or has grown world-wide then this pay not be a feasible option. Direct confrontation with a tomb ship could be a viable option if it is a lesser ship with few defenses or assault capabilities, but a well-armed tomb ship could be capable of handling its own against an entire flotilla of the Karthan Navy.

Spacers could encounter tomb ships in strange locations or trajectories, too:

Chart I: Appearance of the Tomb Ship (D12)
1 – one tomb ship floating, seemingly powerless, in an asteroid field where belters are active and mining for ore (roll on chart II)
2 – one tomb ship seemingly resting, frozen, at the edge of a star system in the Kuiper Belt region
3 – on tomb ship captured on a slowly decaying orbit near a local gas giant
4 – one tomb ship drifting in a sling-shot effect around a local star, seemingly uninterested in approaching any nearby colonies
5 – one tomb ship moving through the plane of the ecliptic in a strange angle that would seem to suggest it’s heading out of the local galactic area
6 - the tomb ship sets up orbit around the local inhabited world but then proceeds to power down and take no action
7 – the tomb ship appears with a bang, plowing in to a major orbital station or L5 colony and plows in to the station, lodging itself in the process
8 – the tomb ship appears in orbit over the habitable world or in a parallel flight with the local station and immediately attacks using cenotaph drop ships.
9 – 1D3 tomb ships appear in orbit and begin an immediate invasion using shuttles, cenotaph drop ships and fighter craft
10 – A flotilla of 2D8 tomb ships appear! They begin a full scale invasion of the system
11 – a tomb ship appears, unchanging in its trajectory, and appears to be on a dangerous collison course for the nearest inhabited world
12 – a single tomb ship that has crashed on a local world, but which remains mostly intact, has been discovered; it is either buried in a desert, in a frozen sea, or possibly largely exposed on an otherwise dead world

Chart II: Contents of the Tomb Ship (D8)
1-2 – the vessel is empty, but contains the nanophage; only hardsuits will protect from exposure
3-4 – the vessel contains evidence of a massacre, many dead bodies, but no evidence it is infected with the nanophage; 25% chance the bodies in the vessel reanimate after awakening from a deep torpor after 1D6 hours
5-6 – the vessel contains an undead horde, but the horde is small (2D100 undead of various types) and sequestered away in deep holds within the ship
7 – The vessel is fully crewed by thousands of undead, and has a 40% chance that there are one or more free-willed, intelligent undead directing their actions
8 – the vessel is a worst case scenario, packed with an army of the undead, both intelligent and malign as well as mindless infectors and soldiers


Exposure to the Necrophage

Exposure to type I necrophage means that the individual comes in to physical contact with an object on which the necrophage rests (the dust on the ship’s hull, a computer console, etc) or breathes in the air after the dust has been disturbed. Exposure requires an immediate DC 15 Fortitude save which must continue every round until medical treatment can vacuum the contaminated dust out of the individual’s system (if breathed in) or decontaminate his or her skin (if touched, or both). Proper treatment can save the person from conversion to the undead.

One save failure leads to infection and a progression to the Type II virus. The person will now be at risk of spreading the virus and also will turn in to an undead (usually a zombie, but there’s a chance of a ghoul or worse) on death. If the save was critically failed then the person sickens and dies within 1D10 minutes, returning as an undead 1D6 rounds thereafter. While a living person is carrying the type II necrophage anyone who remains present around the infected has a chance per hour of becoming infected as well. If a person spends more than 10 minutes within 15 feet of an infected living they must make a Fortitude save DC 15 or also become a carrier. The moment any carrier dies, they become an undead infected with the Type III necrophage.

Exposure to Type III necrophage means being bitten or scratched by an infected undead or an infected living being with the Type II exposure who is a carrier. As above, a DC 15 Fortitude save can protect against the necrophage, but the target must make 3 successful saves in a row (one per round) to be free of risk, otherwise the necrophage enters the system. In Type III then the effect is more dramatic: the necrophage will convert the infected within 1D6 hours to undead unless the individual is killed, at which time conversion is immediate (1 round after death). Conversion is usually to a zombie or ghoul, at the GM’s discretion. Ghouls are intelligent undead. Individuals with arcane potential are much likelier to convert to more advanced forms of undead, as are more prominent and powerful individuals (of level 5 or higher).


Suggested undead denizens of the tomb ships can include skeletons, zombies, ghouls, mummies, grave knights (armed with suitably powerful solarian technology), liches, wights and even wraiths and vampires. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Grom the Enlightened

From the weird archives...a very odd Pathfinder character. I don't even remember what game this was for, or if he was a PC I was going to run or an NPC I was going to subject the party to...anyway, he might make an interesting guest appearance in a Starfinder game. Hmmm.


Grom the Enlightened
Male Awakened Gorilla  level 4 XP 9,000
STR 19 (+4)                      Alignment neutral
DEX 19 (+4)                     AC 19 (+4 hide mail; +1 natural, +4 Dex) FF 15 Touch 14
CON 20 (+5)                    HP 40                 
INT 15 (+2)                      Speed 30           HD 4D8+16
WIS 15 (+2)                     BAB +4   Melee +8 Ranged +8
CHA 8 (-1)                       
SAVESFortitude +9, Reflexes +8, Will +3

Racial Cass Abilities: 2 slams, scent, lowlight vision, dark vision 60 feet, acrobatic and climb racial bonuses

Skills: acrobatics +13, climb +19, perception +9, stealth +11

Languages: common,

Feats: power attack, simple weapon proficiency, martial weapon proficiency, medium armor proficiency

Armor:  Hide armor (+4 AP, +4 max dex)
Weapon: 2 slams (1D4+4 damage, attack +8, crit 20/X2)
Greatclub (1D10+4 damage, Attack +8, 20/X2 crit)
6 bolas (1D4+4 nonlethal damage, Attack +8, Crit 20/X2, range inc. 10 ft)

Equipment: satchel, belt, loincloth


Grom escaped from a mad wizard’s tower and has been slowly discovering his dramatically enhanced abilities ever since. Grom understands common, though he is unable to speak it with any clarity. He learned a simple form of sign language that the wizard taught him, mixed with a few symbols from thieves' cant that a thief whom the wizard had imprisoned also taught him (before the thief was transformed by the wizard). 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Starfinder Campaign Ideas Take 3: Exploring the Conarium Expanse (An expansion on the universe of Enzada)

As I continue to toy around with Starfinder I have worked out one more "starting point" for a setting. This one specifically does not require reinventing anything currently in the game, presumes that somewhere in the galaxy are the Pact Worlds, and keeps everything suitably ambiguous....there's not a lot of assumptions about this universe at this point outside of the basic outline below.


Exploring the Conarium Expanse

Premise: Current year is 8,850 years since the dawn of the era of spacetravel, roughly, but usually called the year 3,200 of the Old Karthan Empire. The Old Karthan Empire could be considered a region of space in the unexplored frontier far from the Pact Worlds (so typically base travel to this region is at least 5D6 days).

The Conarium Expanse

The Conarium Expanse is a region of space in the Frontier of the Galactic Rim (the Vast in Pact Worlds terms). Its dominant human controlled system is the Enkannu system, which was the first colonized world in this expanse.

The Conarium Expanse was first found by human scouts and settlers approximately 1,100 years ago, but little headway was made due to the dangerous nature of local uncharted space and hostile local species. Enkannu is the heart of the human center of trade and commerce, providing a support network to roughly one hundred colonies, but the expanse has over three thousand unexplored or contested worlds.

Rumor is that those who dwell too long in the Conarium Expanse develop a form of enlightenment, a “third eye,” followed by a revelation of madness. This is where the name comes from. In truth, few regard this as a risk, but claim that the closer you get to the center of the expanse, dominated by a dense cluster of suns claimed by the Dominion, the likelier you are to “go strange” while traveling in the Drift.

Long cut off from the rest of humanity save for some treacherous trade routes, few have adopted the old ways of worship. Other gods rose to prominent belief in the Conarium Expanse, and include Pegara, the old goddess of luck who was worshipped by the first explorers in the region. There is also Samathros, the god of well being, Tythor who is the god of conflict and Deremondre, the goddess of technomagic. Kayhindrel, an obscure nonhuman deity of travelers has long been adopted in this region as well. Golgothra, the Ysoki deity of wealth and abundance, is also incidentally popular among those seeking wealth.

Stories exist of even older, darker alien gods. There are five old Star Gods as well that are said to exist in the void beyond the Outer Rim, but are believed to have long ago destroyed the forgotten cradle of human civilization once called Enzada.

The Old Karthan Empire and the Orion Expanse

The Old Karthan Empire is located in the Orion Expanse, which is located some distance away. Between Conarium Expanse and the Orion Expanse is the Serpentine Nebula in the Ophidian Expanse. Here lie the star kingdoms of the Vesk, who conquered this region thirteen centuries ago, splitting the Karthan Empire in half. The part that is located in the Galactic Rim includes the Conarium Expanse.

The Drift, the mechanism of star travel is considered semi-divine, and the nature of technomancy and the solarians is a given. The origins of these powers is lost to time, but many religions and strange beliefs have risen on dozens of worlds as a result. The most noteworthy is the Church of the Techno Union, which is the official religion of the Old Karthan Empire. The Techno Union espouses the belief in the First Sun, which they consider a monotheistic deity of creation, and believe the source of all magic and power in the universe.

The Old Karthan Empire is called such because after the sundering by the Vesk, dozens of smaller regional powers grew up in single worlds, systems and clusters. Only the Conarium Expanse lacks any true central authority, due primarily to the threat of the Outer Rim races such as the Drow and the elder beings called the Deh Nohlo of the Dominion. The existence of the Nether is also strong in this region, with light-year long nebulae bleeding the abyssal nether into realspace from the Drift. Periodically an empowered noble of the Karthan Empire seeks to gain power and prestige by finding a new, safer passage to the Outer Rim and to then conquer the colonials in the region.

One such noble, Duke Kalas Atrophion has recently established a beachhead on Sorovas, the closest world in the Karapath Expanse edgeward along the Conarium Expanse. There he is now exploring the uncontrolled region to seek control, even as his private army conquers the local planets of the Karapath Expanse in the name of the empire. His eyes are set on Conarium Expanse though, and it is believed that he thinks there is hidden power there kept by the Dominion which he seeks for himself.


Notes:

Some core conceits of this setting:

1. "standard" or classic fantasy race options exist, but are not really indigenous to any region discussed (Old Karthan Empire or Conarium Expanse). So they can be viable PCs but I won't have to worry about imagining ancient galactic star empires of elves, which seems to be the trigger for my anachronistic meltdowns. In fact in this universe I kind of like the idea that elves may only come from the Pact Worlds, or be a relic race that doesn't take well to technology and space so are exceedingly rare as a result. Only drow seem to thrive.

2. The Conarium Expanse is the "frontier of the frontier" and seems like a good way to put the PCs in a SF/fantasy setting with lots of potential for limited tech resources and difficulty escaping to safe planets in a pinch.

3. I'm fully embracing the idea that there are ancient star gods. I am implying this is the same galaxy that Enzada exists in, which is fine with me because A: Enzada was built from ground up to be a Pathfinder campaign originally, and B: the underyling plots of that fantasy setting strongly imply that it's been meddled with by ancient aliens, star gods and a supreme AI who is responsible for the creation of most deities. It allows for possible cross-over with a campaign setting that embraced the underlying fantasy/sci fi principles behind Pathfinder and now Starfinder, so requires no shoe-horning.

4. Why are Deh Nohlo fully statted out in Starfinder but Neh-Thagglu are only referenced? I love the brain collectors and need to convert them ASAP!

Anyway, I'm planning the next game for Starfinder to happen soon. I am also starting a "family night" of gaming using Starfinder. It will help my wife and I teach our son how to game in a tight group with the infinite patience of parents...heh....

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Music - Three Albums To Listen To - Dead Planet by Eat Static, Balle by Yullipe, and Tamoanchan by El Buho

One thing I want to do with this blog in 2018 is to explode it a bit. I can only write about games so much, but I also happen to love music, archaeology, astronomy and other stuff such as good books. I won't ever dive into politics -the blog is my happy space!- but I'd love to write about these other interests more, and how they might also bend around gaming. Music, for example, is excellent for background noise during games. Indeed, I used to do this more often on the blog a few years ago....

I'm a huge fan of Bandcamp, which is a fantastic resource for finding and supporting a bewildering variety of musicians on the world scene. Over the last couple years I've discovered some really incredible gems at Bandcamp, and thought I'd share them with you.

Fair warning: I love music, but I'm eclectic in my tastes and I'm not much of a critic, so if you want to read the almost poetic and nuanced reviews of music available elsewhere....well, head on over to elsewhere and get that! I'll just be using my plain language attempt to convey what is so cool about this stuff, while linking you to it since listening to the actual music at Bandcamp is so easy, anyway.

First up, the album I love the most and have listened to almost more than anything in the last two years or so...

Dead Planet by Eat Static:



The science fiction thematics, the electronic conveyance of lost worlds and strange stars, the general sense of the otherworldly are all embedded deep in this music.

Next up is Tamoanchan by El Buho.  his is a deep, modern take on traditional Mesoamerican themes, mixed with modern dark tones and content. It's very resonant and excellent mood music.



For something especially different and haunting try Balle by Yullipe, a Japanese artist who marks industrial music such as Nine Inch Nails as well as 90's Japanese theatrical bands (which feel a bit to me like the Japanese version of grunge from that time) as her influence....but listen to her work, it's singularly unique and haunting. An interesting article is here about her and the Japanese music scene, along with the problems of public dance spots in Japan.