Sunday, January 31, 2016

Saturday goes Ravenloft

The Saturday group has gone to Ravenloft. It's an odd transition to the Domains....a concession that my Enzada campaign was not quite working for all players (or even me) as intended, but allowing me to segue into a new campaign featuring existing characters kidnapped into the Domains of Dread for some horrible fun.

My Ravenloft experience is pure 2nd edition, so I'm running from the Domains of Dread sourcebook, as I have none of the 3rd edition material done by White Wolf anymore, and didn't much like it's style, anyway....2E's Ravenloft was a setting with brief but concise guides that gave you just enough info to be inspired, then a lot of modules with a "show don't tell" approach to the domains that worked great for me. 3rd edition's licensed adaptation suffered from the problem so many 3E era settings did, with authors who were getting paid by the word (it seemed) to take something you could convey in 10 pages and do it in 50 instead. It heaped lots of special rules in endless splatbooks and managed to drag out the brevity of the Domains into an endless churn of sourcebooks, and hardly any effort at all was made to make actual modules.

Anyway, the Saturday group is still enmeshed with Pathfinder, so I'm doing a sort of on-the-fly 2E Ravenloft to Pathfinder conversion as I go, running a series of modules from late in the setting's history. Opening session was a lot of fun, though it became evident this will be an interesting experience for all: even the one player in my group who once ran a couple modules for Ravenloft used them in the Forgotten Realms and not the actual domains....none of these players have actually ever played in Ravenloft.

It's going to be interesting to contrast this experience with the 5E Curse of Strahd when it arrives! Either way I'm enjoying a chance to return to one of my favorite published D&D worlds, from two rather interesting angles.

Friday, January 29, 2016


I really want to see this:

OSR Overload coming for February

This week print copies of the following have arrived:

S&W White Box
S&W White Box Omnibus
White Lies*
The Graveyard at Lus
Hulks & Horrors
Between Star & Void
Ruins & Ronin 
Five Year Mission (White Star Trek)
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers (at long lost...what I nice and retro box set it is....)
Vault of the Ancients (LeBlanc strikes gold again)
Basic Psionics Handbook (best old school psionics book yet)'s OSR overload going in to February, all part of a "happy birthday to me!" event (technically next week, but who's counting?) Creeping up on the Big Ol' 45, lucky me!

I have a few more on the way, including the print version of Warriors of the Red Planet and everything in print for Mutant Future I could find on Lulu (that I didn't already have). I'll try to get some formal reviews out on all of this ASAP. Much of the White Star stuff can get some actual play reviews, too.....for example, I used the sector/system generation charts from Five Year Mission to create the Netherspace Sector for the ongoing game.

I'm really keen to try White Lies, the White Box system for espionage gaming. It looks very cool and has a great way of building scenarios and organizations for the game. Also keen to talk my groups into trying White Box S&W but that will probably get waylaid when Curse of Strahd arrives. At least we're playing our White Star campaign until March, and even then it will go until I've had enough time to read Curse of Strahd to run it.

*Actually my print copy had some serious printing errors, but OBS is graciously sending a replacement

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dark Stars IX: Netherspace Sector Survey, Chapter 3

Not a lot of time to discuss, but I'll outline a lot of this in a near future post on the world of Blight and all that's going on with it. Some highlights:

1. The group thawed out two more cohorts (Sam the alien brute and Brutus the Star Knight)  (i.e. we had 2 more players)

The group, in succession, had the following encounters:

--stalked by camouflaged spider-goats from Mutant Future (denizens of the Chilopteroid world seeded on Blight to hunt the Stellar Librarian)
--found a crashed gunship from New Germanica, with an intact medical bot (more or less); learned that New Germanica is a lost colony from the days of slow FTL which tried to colonize Blight 68 years ago and failed spectacularly
--entered the subterranean subway system of the ruined city
--Found the hidden bunker* where the Stellar Librarian, guarded by what can only be described as "a wimpy mind flayer and a dark unicorn made of strange matter" were cataloging the records of a destroyed world
--Had a big shoot-out with a squadron of Segurandi Dominion soldiers led by a war witch
--Erin and Marlese discovered that the Stellar Librarian is a probe from another universe which records the lost knowledge of dead civilizations, especially ones like Blight which manage wipe themselves out consistently in all alternate realities. They convinced it to grant them psionic powers. Magical Star Girl Dyvinil did so as well. Now the group has three wild talents.
--101010 the combat robot was upgraded with a particle beam gun

Anyhoo....everyone's at 2nd level except the pilot who hit 3rd. They will likely level again next session.

Good Game!!!!

*Described as that bunker from Planet of the Apes, or maybe Terminator 3

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dark stars VIII: The Chilopteroid Menace

Wednesday players please hold off reading this entry until after tonight's game!

Chilopteroids of Gleison

The Chilopteroids are six to eight feet tall, and resemble humanoid bats, with membranous glider-folds between body and limbs. They are native to a bleak, windswept world called Gleison, where they have spent ten thousand years slowly developing an elaborate society built on slavery. The chilopteroids developed space travel thousands of years ago, and initial slow FTL ships migrated chilopteroids to other colonies, most of which failed. In time they discovered transitional drives and their later ships migrated into the stars, but this time with a different intent: to conquer and enslave.

Today chilopteroids are a decadent society that harvests slaves from other civilizations and drains them of life force using a technology called blood crystals, organically grown crystalline devices that bond to their slaves and drain them of vital psychic energy, feeding it to the chilopteroid master, allowing him regenerative abilities and near-immortality. The predatory nature of the chilopteroids means that they favor pre-FTL societies, or civilizations with low tech in general, for they are usually ill equipped to deal with the “space vampires.”

Each chilopteroid is equipped with an impressive photosensitive epidermis which is adapted to perfectly mimic light sources around them; this allows them to defeat attempts to see them through a normal spectrum as if they had used the invisibility meditation, but it fails when they move at full speed (they can maintain it at half speed) or if they engage in sudden movement. The invisibility camouflage does not work well against motion detectors or infrared detection, and is utterly useless against extrasensory perception.

Despite their similarity to Terran bats, chilopteroids do not use sonar and actually have incredibly well-developed vision, which aids them in detecting their own kind when camouflaged. 

Chilopteran Statistics:
Armor Class 8 [13]
Hit Dice 3 (11 hit points)
Total Hit Bonus +3
Attacks claws (1D4) or laser pistol (1D6+2)
Saving Throw 16
Special natural camouflage (limited invisibility); blood crystals
Movement 12 (15 flying; in 1G or lower only)
HDE 3/60

Blood crystal Implant: A chilopteroid with its blood crystal receptor will regenerate 1 hit point per turn, and leaving a body around will let it come back to life eventually; only destroying the body will stop the regeneration.

Chilopteroid Blood Crystals: these crystals have a “collector” type and a “receiver” type. They drain psychic energy, draining 1 point of INT and WIS per day to a target that fails a saving throw. When the target reaches 0 in either score it becomes brain dead and dies; the crystal has an emergency cutoff point, however; chilopteroids don't like to lose hosts. If a host is about to perish, the crystal will go dormant and allow the host time to recover (see below) before reactivating. Such hosts are in a deathly state described as "torpor," recovering 1 INT and WIS per day. When the host is healed, the crystal resumes draining.

During the draining cycle the target suffers madness and delusions, and develops a cult-like belief in the divinity of the chilopteroid or entity with the receiver crystal installed. The receiver crystal will regenerate 1 hit point of damage or remove one deadly condition per turn to the bearer so long as at least one collector crystal is in a living host. The chilopteroid will also be ageless and immortal. 

The crystals require a minor surgery to install but quickly bind to the nervous system. Removing one from a living host requires medical expertise and the target must have a saving throw or take 4D6 damage from the process. A target freed of the crystal can make a Save to recover, and on a success will recover 1 INT and 1 WIS per day until restored. If a natural 1 is rolled on the save then the target loses 1D4 of each, and could die if reduced to zero.

Other species have been able to use the blood crystals with mixed success; non-chilopteroids must make one save for each week that a receiver crystal is implanted, or develop debilitating, cancerous growths, as the crystal rejects the alien organism. This process causes a loss of 1D4 hit points per day until surgical removal of the crystal. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dark Stars VII:Youganat, the gadgeteers

Like this, but with more ears

Youganat (humanoid alien species)

The Youganat are a starfaring race of ancient age, and were quick to warm to humans when they first encountered them early in the 27th century. The youganat were pivotal in winning the Machine War, in which the AIs of human space attempted to force a singularity which would have absorbed and wiped out biological beings.

Physically youganat look like wrinkled gnomes with four whispery “ears” that sweep back from their head, and skin tones from ruddy red to deep purple. They have male and female

The youganat species is native to a remote planet said to be on the far side of the Milky Way, it’s original location a carefully guarded secret. Most youganat are encountered in flotilla ship fleets, which move slowly and often through widely varying means of propulsion through known space. They seek out friendly civlizations with which to engage in trade and commerce and offer engineering advice and inventions. They seem to operate on a caste system based on profession, with the lowest rank professions dedicated to cleaning waste systems and air scrubbers, and the most elite positions managing flotilla operations and advanced engineering.

If using the sourcebook “Outer Space Raiders Volume I: Classes” from Magic Pig Media, youganat may pick engineer as a viable class. Youganat are also found as pilots (from White Star core), and rare youganat who rebel against their system are found as scoundrels (also from Outer Space Raiders Volume I) or mercenaries. Youganat seem to be unable to master the meditations of the mystical classes.

Racial Notes: youganat are humanoid but average 3.5 feet in height and move slower than regular humans (move 9). All youganat have keen hearing (as good as a dog’s) and can be hard to spot, thanks to being good at hiding when trouble brews (-2 penalty to a target trying to locate a hidden youganat, such as on a Wisdom check to detect his presence).

If you use Youganat as a racial class (as the Alien class in Outer Space Raiders Volume I) they have keen hearing and the ability to use all weapons and armor (thanks to their natural technical expertise) as alien traits at level 1, but still have move 9 and the -2 penalty to being spotted when hidden.

Sample NPC:

Humanoid male (Youganat) Engineer, level 3
Humanoid Description: red skinned, four long pointed ears, beady black eyes, 3.5 feet tall
STR 8 DEX 11 CON 9 INT 15 WIS 8 CHA 15
HD 3; HP 10; BHB +0; AC 12 (light; flight suit); ST 13
Save Modifiers: +2 save vs. explosions and similar effects

Engineer Abilities: Gadgets/day 2 (max level 2), burnout 1 in 6; Bubble Gum & Bailing Wire (1D6+1 hull points repair), Jury Rig (as level 1 pilot)

Typical Favored Gadgets: repair, personal gravity nullification field generator

Weapon: hydrospanner (club 1D6)

Oski is a dedicated engineer who chose his career/caste path among the Youganat people long ago. He is dedicated to the light exploratory cruiser “Juan One” currently. He is slow moving but very affable. Oski isn’t actually entirely sure what the ship mission is all about, but unknown to most of the crew he used to serve on Tesla Dane’s spacecraft, the Inescapable. She abandoned him in Imperial Space when she went on her mysterious crusade into Netherspace.  

White Star has captivated me enough that I actually
tried to....DRAW....again....!!!! Oh the humanity.
Anyway, here's a rendering of Oski, a youganat;
remember, he's only 3 feet tall

Friday, January 22, 2016

Why most Video Games get Cthulhu Wrong

I wasn't sure if Extra Credits was still active and current (when it left Escapist I sort of lost touch until recently), but it's a great show and I was delighted to find new episodes on Youtube. This particular episode does a great job of explaining not just what's wrong with the Cthulhu/Mythos interpretations we see in most video games today, but also in most fan media. Watch and learn! Feel free to share with your Cthulhu-hoodie wearing cohorts who feel that having a Chibi-Cthulhu is equivalent to having actually read Lovecraft.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dark Stars VI: Netherspace Sector Survey Report #2

Tonight's session had the group bump back up to six active players, so there was some shuffling about as we had two new characters to introduce; one existing player (Jeff!) couldn't resist bringing in a new PC while his old star knight was given over to a guest player who will be in our group for the next few weeks.

At the start of this session the group is en route to the Blight system when the engineer Otzi informs them that there's a new coolant leak, this time in the Cold Berth one's fully explored this ship, so the news they have a cold berth section is a bit of a shock!

On arrival the crew discovers 24 cold berths holding a medley of people in stasis. Three have failed....after repairing the leak, the three failures have to be emergency thawed and awakened. Two process correctly, but the third person does not...apparently dead!

The two new members are, it turns out, backup replacements for the main crew; it is quickly revealed that Dyvinil and Marlese (sorry if I didn't get the names right!) were recruited before the other adventurers by the same naval Captain Lars, who then placed them in suspended animation in the cold berths as emergency backup crew should the primary crew fail....part of the reason being the actual light cruiser they are using isn't really equipped to handle more than 4-8 crew for long periods (it is rationalized) but also, it seems Captain Lars has little stock in his mercenary surveyors, as Dirk, Day-Ro, 101010 and Erin realize that there are a total of 24 (now 21) cold berths here, each ready to thaw in an emergency.... (the players figure out quickly this is where all their replacement PCs will come from in the event of death; or they can turn them into crewmen if they want to thaw early...)

The crew now consists of:

Dyvinil, a magical star girl (from that "Totally not sailor Moon" sourcebook for White Star)
Marlese, an aristocrat and xenosociologist
Dirk, a mercenary who is slow to trust
101010 the emancipated Combat Robot
Erin the crack starpilot with a pet AI-controlled snub fighter stolen from the Void Lords
Day-Ro, the Star Knight (pronounced Dee-Row; Day-Ro is his slave name!)
Samaros the survivor (NPC)
Otzi the engineer (NPC)

They have some ship-board escapades, which were a bit chaotic as the crew settled on a rough pattern of relaying actions to the GM (heh):

1. They realized that the body of the third stasis crewman was not dead of natural causes; a monoblade was sticking from his chest.
2. Dirk and 101010 investigate ship recordings and see evidence of a camouflaged being open the stasis pod, take a mysterious box from the man in stasis and stab him. The timestamps says it happened before they left on their voyage.
3. Day-Ro and Dyvinil explore the ship, realizing they haven't actually done this yet. They discover a mysterious hatch leading to a hidden cargo pod with a code they can't crack; A cargo chamber containing hundreds of metal hollow cubes that seem to be magnetically attracted and form some sort of immense puzzle; evidence that Otzi has disabled all monitoring systems in the engineering compartments; and finally a medical bay, complete with advanced medical droid M-8, who asks them if "Captain Ephemeran" is still in charge (nope). Day-Ro becomes obsessed with the puzzle, but realizes its pieces are too many, and the final product will be larger than the cargo hold.
3. Marlese stowed the body in stasis then dragged it to the medbay after the medical droid M-8 ("Mate") said he could probably revive the man if he was only 12 hours dead or less. The wonders of modern medicine!
4. While Erin skillfully plots a course around a mysterious wormhole they decide to avoid, the resurrected victim Max Suller bursts into the bridge with laser, holding Otzi hostage, demanding that whoever took his "Mother Box" return it immediately! After he's talked down and gives in, they find a man obsessed.....a professional transporter who was hired to deliver a mysterious Mother Box from a Makamian scout who claims it came from New Germanica to an unknown benefactor....but that's not happening now. And worse, Suller shows signs of withdrawal, apparently caused by contact with the box. They hand him over to M-8 for a detox.

Then the ship arrives at their next survey target: Blight, a world named by the first and only scout to traverse this area for its utter lack of warmth and singularly doomed post-apocalyptic world in the Goldilocks zone. They scan and detect the following:

1. Another T-Space exit signature only twenty minutes after they arrive...not unlike what the saw in the last system. Coincidence???
2. A large silver disk in orbit around Blight, the ruined world.

They approach the silver disk (some would say saucer....a quarter mile long saucer) and three snub fighters shaped vaguely like menacing bats launch and threaten them. Dirk realizes a protocol for contact is a good idea, and Marlese almost blows its before Erin intervenes. They begin speaking with a race of bat-like chilopteroids, and meet Commander Makama. After some discussion the commander seems to think his overlord, Chiron, would like to meet the adventurers so they are invited to the ship-station.

The saucer is a small world in its own right, dark and gothic and reminiscent of the ship from the movie Life Force, with giant holds filled with thousands of chilopteroids in stasis. The crew meets Chiron, the chilopteroid leader, in a large golden chamber with a ruby red organ-like crystalline music instrument. Odd slaves of other races serve food, and are a clue the new aliens may not be so friendly (one of many clues).

Chiron interrogates them to see why the crew is here, but seems satisfied they are not foes, and indeed assumes they are mercenaries from talking to Dirk. He offers to hire them to journey to the planet below, to retrieve something he calls the "Stellar Librarian" though he doesn't know what it looks like....a relic of the lost age of this planet, he explains; something his race wishes to preserve, in the name of history. He explains further that a star witch from the Segurandi Dominion is already looking for it, near the ruins of the city Camado on the planet; he is worried she is on to something. The crew thinks on it, but Dyvinil starts to weird out; the chilopteroids show evidence of camouflage, and are very suspicious, plus the slave thing. She starts glowing and changing colors. Everyone leaves as Chiron gets upset at Dyvinil's glowy stuff..

Back at the ship 101010 confronts a crew of chiloptroids trying to scan the vessel, especially the length of hull where the hidden cargo compartment is that no one's busted in to yet. They depart rather than fight the robot.

After returning to the ship, the crew gets a second message from the commander: he promises to double whatever Chiron offered if they destroy the star witch and her ship!

The crew leave and decide to try scanning the location of the T-Space exit location they recorded when they first arrived in-system. They find an ionized gas cloud signature that lets them calculate the direction of the vessel...sure enough, it made orbit and then went in to the atmosphere for a landing...near the ruins of this Camado City.

They follow the trail and break into a massive super-storm below, roaring over what appears to be a vast city of ancient skyscrapers overgrown by a dense jungle. As they are weaving through the immense skyscrapers covered in greenery, a cloaked gunship pops up and attacks! It's surprise volley misses.

The ships engage in a fierce chase/fight. The gunship blows a skyscraper over and Erin is able to pilot the cruiser to swoop beneath the crumbling mass then around and over it in a 180 degree turn, While everyone fires full lasers and torpedos. They take a major hit, but a daring series of strikes cripples the gunship and with a final pull of the trigger it explodes. Their cruiser needs repairs, though.

They set down in the jungle at an open area. They are greeted by seven-foot tall red and blue carapaced, inect-like humanoids with four arms and two legs, armed with primitive gear. The natives offer a piece of the downed gunship as a token of their appreciation. The leader, after the translator chips kick in, explains that they have been waiting for the benevolent "Star Gods" to come and save them from the Star Demons....both the ones in the sky who enslave their bretheren, and the others who now walk through the taboo city, seeking out their source of Life and Knowledge, the mysterious Stellar Librarian. The natives appeal to the PCs good hearts: save the Stellar Librarian, and save their people.

On the way to their village they encounter a gigantic, Kong-sized flying ape with great, membranous wings. They luckily roll initiative and a quick volley of fire takes it down. The natives are delighted, for it seems the sky-apes (called Gromics) are sentient and try to force the Blightians to worship them.....and this was a young scout. More will come!

The group arrives at the encampent, in a huge superdome once used to play ballgames. The natives swarm the "star gods" in joy. Beyond their base lies the taboo realm of the old city.....

We paused here.

This session we used some cool "Swords & Wizardry Karma Deck" cards from Creation's Edge Games which were a lot of fun. I've had them for a while and this seemed like a fine time to try them out....I just told everyone to substitute "meditation" for spell and they worked great.

We also implemented DWD Games' Skill system in Hyperspace Messenger 4. It's a nice, easy to use skill system add-on that works great and adds a little flavor to the PCs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Darks Stars V: Transitional Space; the rules, the drives, and the hazards

Dark Stars: Transitional Space

In the world of Dark Stars all faster than light travel comes from the use of the Transitional Drive, while all local system travel uses Foldspace Engines, a form of localized warp drive. Mechanically any vehicle can be equipped with both drives; the technology for transitional drives is proportionate to the size of the vehicle moving through transitional space, so there is actually a diminishing return with larger vessels….but sometimes, the need is worth it, and most naval fleets in the Dark Stars universe are comprised of immense dreadnaughts and battle cruisers primarily so they can carry the necessary firepower to punch through the shields and armor of their opposition.

Transitional space (also called T-Space) is the term used to described folded dimensions through which ships “travel” when the drive is on. From a physics view it effectively wraps the vessel in higher-dimensional space (of 26 possible dimensions, most of which are folded in on themselves at a quantum level) allowing it to move outside of the normal spacetime continuum. In transitional space starships can move over vast distances, averaging one parsec (3.26 light years) for a class I T-drive, while avoiding problems with relativity.

There are only a couple downsides to T-Space travel: the first is that these dimensions are where gravitons operate, creating gravity waves in normal spacetime (see navigation below), so large gravity wells are really, really dangerous in T-Space.  The second problem is more difficult and more dangerous: T-Space is where nonbaryonic matter (dark matter) interacts with regular matter, and is where gravitons also interact with said matter, leaving dark matter’s weird “footprint” all over normal spacetime. Nonbaryonic lifeforms….some very cunning, intelligent and organized are out there, and they really, really don’t like us using their space for fast travel; especially since they can’t do the reverse. While in T-Space this is the only time nonbaryonic beings and normal beings can interact.

Foldspace Drives

All ships have foldspace engines, which are used for routine in-system navigation. Foldspace effectively creates a localized warp bubble around the ship, pushing it forward in the direction the ship wants to go. It has two huge benefits: it lets ships move quickly in-system, reaching most locations in hours or less, with low energy cost, and no relativity issues; 2: it helps to avoid the problem of moving at high velocities with sudden evasive movement causing terminal results for the squishy crew inside; to a ship in foldspace the ship is motionless, and the universe is moving around them. All ships still use artificial gravity (graviton generators) and inertial dampeners….but the risk of death due to high-gee maneuvers is space is severely lessened. GMs may rule that on a natural 20 in ship combat an attacker can roll a second time…and if a second 20 comes up, and damage is dealt, then the targeted vessel’s foldspace drive is knocked out. Such ships are sitting ducks.

Foldspace can be used for FTL travel, by the way; but it doesn’t allow for anything close to the speed of T-Drives; a ship moving at foldspace speeds can traverse 1 parsec in approximately 3 years. Very, very large foldspace engines with immense energy requirements can do the job faster, but are highly impractical. Ships with old foldspace technology used for FTL travel usually date back to the old human colonization era nearly 1,500 years ago and are considered bizarre relics.

FTL Drive Types

FTL drives in Dark Stars come in six ranks. A rank 6 T-Drive is the slowest (but cheapest) costing only 100 extra credits to install on a ship without a drive, or free if the ship comes preloaded with FTL. A Type 6 drive takes one week to traverse a single parsec. Other drives are faster, and cost more as follows:

Drive Type          Cost                       Speed
Type 6                   100                         1 parsec/week
Type 5                   200                         1 parsec/5 days
Type 4                   500                         1 parsec/4 days
Type 3                   1,000                     1 parsec/3 days
Type 2                   2,000                     1  parsec/2 days
Type 1                   5,000                     1 parsec/day
Type 0*                 special                  1 parsec/hour!

*Type 0 are hypothetical drives; a few alien relic ships are known to have them but no one currently knows how to make one this effective. Type 0 are good found tech, but navigating with such fast engines always imposes a -2 navigational penalty (see below)

Navigational Hazards

Navigational hazards while folded within higher dimensional space are just as important to consider, and some navigational issues (such as black holes) have a severely pronounced effect while moving through transitional space, due to the fact that graviton particles, which are responsible for gravity waves in normal spacetime, propagate rapidly through the higher dimensional spaces.

This means that any ship which moving at FTL speeds in Dark Stars needs to make a navigational check to see how smooth the ride goes. Pilots (and any pilot-based class, or class with some sort of pilot ability or skill) can make a saving throw with a +2 bonus when rolling to plot an FTL course. Other characters attempting to pilot without special skill or class abilities get no bonus. If the region the ship is moving through has significant stellar anomalies (such as strange special distortions, black holes, wormholes or dense star clusters) the GM should apply a penalty of -2 to -5.

Familiarity Option: pilots on a routine course, which is already charted in their astrogation system, do not need to make a roll; GM instead rolls a D20; on a 17-20 something unusual could happen, and the pilot must make a roll.

After making the roll, check the following table for the result (target save is the TS of the pilot; modifiers are applied to the die roll):

Navigational Save                          
Roll Was:                               Result
Natural 1                                 Meltdown! Ship suffers a catastrophic navigational or engine failure
5 or less than target save        major setback; ship knocked out of T-Space and must spend 1D6 days recalculating route; 20% chance ship took 3D6 hull damage
3-4 less than target save         minor setback; ship knocked out of T-Space and spends 1D6 hours recalculating route; 20% chance ship took 1D6 hull damage
1-2 less than target save         longer trip; ship took 1D4 times longer than normal to arrive at destination
Save target exactly                 Smooth sailing, no bumps
1-2 more than target save       Smooth sailing, no bumps. 30% chance ship arrived 20% faster than calculated
3-4 more than target save       very smooth sailing; ship arrived 20% faster than intended
5 or more than target save      amazing navigational skills; ship arrives in half the time
Natural 20                               Ship arrives very fast; takes only 1D4 hours for every day of actual travel planned!

Navigational Failure (Fumbles) Chart:
Roll 1D12:                                            Result
1-2                                                          ship has catastrophic engine failure and dumps out in normal space; engine takes 3D8 damage and requires as many hours to repair
3-4                                                          ship is attacked by mysterious extradimensional space aliens made of nonbaryonic matter! Emergency dump into normal space will evade but a new ST must be made to avoid engine failure requiring 1D12 hours to repair and 2D6 damage
5-6                                                          Engine failure but ship does not eject into normal space! Requires 1D6 hours to repair, but ship will continue in a straight line direction with 20% chance per hour of the following (D6):
1-2: catastrophic navigational failure (black hole); only escape pods will save everyone now
3-4: nonbaryonic aliens attack (see 3-4 above)
5: psionic warping occurs while trapped; ST per hour remaining or insanity and hallucinations begin to set in causing psychotic behavior for 1D12 hours
6: A stellar dragon moving through T-Space attacks while ship is trapped
7-8                                                          Ship takes 10 times longer to arrive at destination than intended in real space, but crew feels like they arrived in the expected normal time.
9-10                                                       Ship accidentally navigates in to a wormhole and the following happens (1D6):
                                                                1: wormhole drops ship back in time to period that most entertains the GM; PCs have to find the exit point to return to normal time
                                                                2: wormhole drops the ship forward in time 1D20X1,000 years
                                                                3: wormhole deposits PCs in distant remote location nowhere near their original destination
                                                                4: wormhole traps the ship in a strange parallel universe; goatees may be involved
                                                                5: wormhole ejects the PCs into normal space but ship is covered in strange alien parasites
                                                                6: wormhole causes PCs to meet alternate universe version of themselves! Only one ship may remain to escape wormhole…
11                                                           Ship suffers a catastrophic navigational hazard collision; a ST from pilot will cause ship to lose 80% of hull points but escape collision intact; failure means ship is a scrub and PCs have 1D6 minutes to escape via other craft or force an emergency drop into normal space before ship is annihilated. Collision is with a major gravity well of the following type (D6):
                                                                1-2: black hole
                                                                3: neutron star
                                                                4: quasar
                                                                5: timespace rip
                                                                6: unknown timespace anomaly
12                                                           Roll twice on the chart for two horrible events combined; if you get this a second time, hard soul GMs may declare the ship is lost in the Space Bermuda Triangle, otherwise the ship has a Unique Encounter (D6):
                                                                1: ship is propelled back and forth in time, watching the birth, life, heat death of the universe and a new big bang all over again; a new navigational check will allow the pilot to stabilize the ship in his “normal time” as well as normal space…otherwise Time Lords may appear to right the problem as the ship slingshots through time causing havoc
                                                                2: the PCs actually seem to have a normal voyage but when they arrive they discover that it is a million years in the future
                                                                3: the PCs begin to evolve in real time, as their bodies mutate into strange and horrifying monstrosities; is caused by (D4): 1-alien scientist from nonbaryonic realm; 2-godlike energy being; 3-weird anomaly; 4-someone just awoke latent psionic powers and T-Space is messing with it
                                                                4: ship explodes, and continues to explode and repeat infinitely in a loop until a PC makes a ST and is able to notice that they are caught in a time loop; creative escape ideas allowed
                                                                5: PCs arrive at destination like normal, but are missing time, and later scans reveal they have been riddled with weird probe devices
                                                                6: PCs black out on the voyage and when they awaken they are slaves of the (D4): 1-Void Lords, 2-Quinlons, 3-Grays, 4-advanced Xenomorphs of unknown nature!

Archaic Propulsion Systems

Early stellar civilizations which have not yet discovered foldspace technology or T-Drives are slow, require maneuvering that accounts for the gee forces applied to crew, and frankly modern vessels can run rings around them. To reflect ships that are using various conventional propulsion systems note the following:

Such ships can reach high local speeds but usually require a lot of “break time” to make course changes. For every 1 point of active speed the sip must spend 1 point to course correct. So, as an example, a ship moving in a straight line at speed 12 that wants to reverse 180 degrees must spend 24 points to do so. Normal ships don’t need to do this at all.

Normal ships have a hard time tracking and locking on the faster vessels equipped with foldspace technology. As a rule, such ships are at a base -2 penalty to attack unless they have surprise.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Investigating the White Box

White Star has dramatically rekindled my interest in the Swords & Wizardry movement...not just the OSR movement, mind you, though that's definitely a part of this. Rather, the S&W spin offs themselves. I haven't run (or played) S&W in a while, but I feel like I need to return to it this adding it to my "must run" list for 2016.

It's also got me interested in more of the White Box phenomenon. I've always been keen on S&W Complete, but the truth is White Star is mechanically a spin-off of the White Box edition of S&W, which is itself of course the evolutionary spawn of OD&D. To this end I recently purchased a copy of the White Box edition off of Lulu....and may actually start thinking about ways to implement it. I also snagged White Lies while I was at it....this one is worth checking out if you haven't heard about it yet; I've read the PDF and it looks like a lot of fun in the White Star vein....but for espionage, instead.

Since the last time I ran and played S&W Complete I have acquired pretty much "all of it," including Monstrosities, Tome of Horrors Complete, and many, many scenarios and campaign would be so easy to get a game going, and I'd use my classic Lingusia setting as the core since that world was born out of a medley of B/X D&D and AD&D 1E anyway, so S&W Complete would be a shoe-in; the assumptions in Keepers of Lingusia overlap with 1E sensibilities very precisely.

Interestingly, I also acquired the Barrel Rider Games' White Box Omnibus and can't help but notice that it manages to do everything that S&W Complete does, but using the core conceits and design features of the White Box itself....if you're in the least bit interested in seeing how flexy the White Box is, the Companion is a must.

No idea where I'd fit this in....with my Wednesday group currently enmeshed in a mix of D&D 5E and now White Star, and my Saturday group having pledged an unholy union with Pathfinder for eternity, I can only plan and hope....and in the interim I can, of course, use the blog as an outlet for creative energy on the S&W front.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dark Stars IV: The Netherspace Sector

Today's entry relied on the random system generation tools in "Five Year Mission," which is a cool sourcebook for White Star adding more stuff in to support Star Trek/Firelfy/Farscape style campaigns, including some great classes.

Netherspace  Sector (part of the Altonian Cluster)

Key Features:

Anomolously high number of navigational hazards and black holes, possibly tied to ancient superweapons created by a dead race 1.2 million years ago. The spacetime distortion is severe in this sector, but stretches out over nearly a dozen neighboring sectors to a lesser extent.

The Serpent Star Nebula (41,51,42,52,63) – eerie and visible throughout the sector.

The Vaparak Nebula (26, 36) a, a by-product of the Twin Dark stars, two black holes spiraling toward one another.

One of the last sectors invaded and overrun by the Void Lords. Since abandoned during the Void Lords’ retreat, but not yet claimed by Makamian Imperial Naval forces.

Map Key:

Each hex is one parsec (3.26 light years) across. In any given hex there will be 1D6-2 additional uninhabited/unexplored star systems with no Terran-like worlds.

Since this is an active, ongoing campaign I will provide details on the map only after they have been explored in-game. 

Netherspace Sector Map:

58 Sellaris
Environmental collapse due to nuclear warfare and a xenocidal assault led to the abandonment of this system, leaving behind complex ruins of an old starfaring empire. The Sellarians were a pre-starfaring race of red-skinned humanoids with six fingers, and many survivors were seeded on a half dozen other worlds by an unknown benevolent species prior to the xenocidal attack by the cannicks 6 centuries ago that extinguished their homeworld. The cannicks used nukes to wipe out the military opposition, then moved in close and personal because they never pass up a chance to take a direct hand in exterminating sentient biologicals.

Events in Sellaris:

1. The genocide was caused by a cannick invasion force which arrrived using wormhole stargate technology. It is possible to find cannick "sentries" left behind to insure no repopulation of the world by sentients, as well as several still functioning stargates. These gates open up into a cannick colony world in another region of the sector (more on that later).

2. There's a survivor from a salvage expedition living in one of the major city ruins named Samaros (see prior write-up for his backstory); Samaros is a Sellaric male; S 13 D 15 C 16 I 14 W 9 CH 13; 11 HP ; 2 HD; AC 13 (light armor, gas mask).  He has salvaged a lot of equipment, including a translator chip injection unit from a disastrous quinlon scouting expedition.

3. On the outer edge of the system the quinlons have a listening post and refuelling station. The quinlon dreadnaught Conquering Fist is currently being refueled there. The station is broadcasting data back every 32 hours to the quinlon empire; when it fires up the transmitter array it leaves a brief series of high energy pulses visible throughout the system.

4. Quinlon scavengers in service of the empire have been picking over Sellaris Prime...carefully. They've lost several scouting ships and so the empire has effectively subcontracted the work to private salvagers. They regard the cannick as a curiosity, one they want to figure out how to enslave or exploit, but they don't want to draw attention to the empire if it turns out the cannick are a real threat, so they've exercised a lot of caution. There's a 30% chance of seeing a quinlon salvage ship or light cruiser in the system near Sellaris Prime, and a 50% chance that it might be planning to land.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

D&D 5E: The next book is Curse of Strahd

Morrus broke it early, but details are here. It fits the rumor lead-up, and Amazon has a spot listed, and there are lots of "placeholder hits" on the WotC website, so I think this one's official. Best part is the release date is March 15, so not long to wait!!!

From Amazon's listing:

Under raging storm clouds, the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich stands silhouetted against the ancient walls of Castle Ravenloft. Rumbling thunder pounds the castle spires. The wind’s howling increases as he turns his gaze down toward the village of Barovia. Far below, yet not beyond his keen eyesight, a party of adventurers has just entered his domain. Strahd’s face forms the barest hint of a smile as his dark plan unfolds. He knew they were coming, and he knows why they came — all according to his plan. A lightning flash rips through the darkness, but Strahd is gone. Only the howling of the wind fills the midnight air. The master of Castle Ravenloft is having guests for dinner. And you are invited.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Scarred Lands Kickstarter - now with 100% more official 5E Content

Scarred Lands was a setting released for D&D 3.0 that was actually one of the best of the first D20 era 3PP had the first monster tome out as well, beating even the 3.0 Monster Manual to press. The Gharspad campaign book and literally dozens of other setting and scenario books forged a pretty interesting world centered on a battered continent torn apart by deities (my kind of stuff), with a sort of "Mad Max" feel to it all.

Anyway, it's being developed for all the usual suspects now, including D&D 5E, and the link to the Kickstarter is here:

Not sure if anyone has details on Stewart Weick's prior Kickstarter success rate but please share if you do...I see a Talislanta Comic, the Aquellare RPG and others; those two are recent, which as always makes me a bit nervous (too many projects going at once?)

I am tentatively in for the 5E print+PDF level, but the wiser part of me thinks this is a better product to "wait and see" on.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dark Stars III: The Netherspace Sector Survey Kicks Off

We actually played White Star this week and I think it was a big the group traverses the depths of the Netherspace Sector I'll document their travels, both in an actual play write-up and a scenario format.

The first session had four players, with the following level 1 adventurers:

Dirk, a grizzled mercenary
Day-Ro the star knight
Erin the Pilot
101010 the combat robot

Some concessions given: everyone got 200 credits to spend, but I also gave Erin the pilot her own snub fighter. She "requisitioned" it from salvage in a star system where a lot of fighting had gone down....but it's a captured Void Lord star fighter, complete with an onboard AI that answers to the name of Sole. Sole is a little sociopathic, but not overly dangerous to the wrong people...

The group started off in prison at a shipyard on the edge of Imperial Space, where a captain Lars of the Makamian Imperial Navy ship Infinite Horizons brought them out of the brig and made an offer they couldn't refuse: their own mid-tier light cruiser, in exchange for two jobs. The first job, on paper is a lucrative survey job; the Imperial Navy wants to start reclaiming the lost Netherspace sector, a portion of the greater territory never reclaimed after the exodus of the Void Lord army. Unofficially, he wants them to find a missing legendary star knight named Tesla Dane. She went missing, and she's summoned by the emperor himself. For reasons unknown Captain Lars doesn't want to commit himself or his ship to this job. It sounds like she's not "wanted" for crimes, but something else....something Captain Lars won't discuss.

Also, Devaron Murich is wanted...and may be aiding and abetting Tesla's evasion of the Imperial summons.

The cruiser is very nice, and lacks a name. It has adanced propulsion, proton torpedos, a reinforced hull and a cloaking device which works "50% of the time." They also meet Yoski, a four-eared, red-skinned drwarfish engineer who keeps the ship's core running. The decide to name it. 101010 wants to call it "1." Erin suggests "Juan" instead. They settle for "Juan One" (I think).

The price is right....the cruiser good enough, the crew accepts.

I dropped a star map down on the table for them to explore. They picked the first and closest system on the map, 58 Sellaris.

58 Sellaris contained the following entertainment:

1. Mysterious high-energy signal that briefly repeats on the edge of the star system
2. Evidence of ship activity (ships dropping in to or popping out of transitional space)
3. One earthlike world in the Goldilocks zone, Sellaris Prime

The last survey of this system was 400 years ago, and said "evidence of former civilization on prime world; minimal resources worth investing in" and that was it.

The crew decided to close in on the prime world and check it out. A survey from high orbit revealed evidence of artificial structures, but a detailed analysis suggests its all abandonded. Atmosphere is thin, and will require respirators to safely function. The world's megnetosphere is weak, almost damaged. They pick what looks like a starport to land.

They disembark, finding that the starport looks less like what they thought and more like Denver Airport after six centuries of decay. They detect a faint repeating radio signal in an unidentified language, and also spot a cluster of blue-furred, semi-carapaced tripods with long spiked tails studying their ship. They spook and run when the crew disembarks to go look for the signal while doing a detailed analysis using the survey equipment they were provided. Everyone checks and finds that they have personal shields in the ready lockers, and Dirk and Day-Ro equip them.

The group tracks the signal by strength, reaching an entrance to an underground network of tunnels and access rooms likely used to provide support to the aircraft that landed here. They have a brief encounter with subterranean black-carapaced tripods which attack 101010 the combat robot, doing little more than annoying him before two are shot and a third flees. While the fight is going on 101010 detects a brief surge of power nearby, but can't get a lock on it.

The tunnels underground lead to a service route to what looks like a main hub of airflight activity. They start finding old skeletons, the remains of service vehicles, and last they are in the main hub, and see hundreds of skeletal and blasted corpses. Amidst the lot is a tall floating cyllinder with a single black sensor eye, hovering amidst the debris, but looking like it had just woken up. They don't realize it, but it's a Cannick....the White Star equivalent of "not Daleks"!!!!

101010 engages in a binary conversation with the cannick before it assimilates the common dialect, and it explains calmly that it intends to liberate the combat robot from its biological oppressors, seeming to take on a benevolent, paternal --almost colonial-- attitude toward the "lesser" robot. A firefight breaks out! Day-ro's Laser sword is drawn, 101010 pulls out his battle axe, while Erin and Dirk dive for cover and start shooting.

It turns out it's hard to hit a cannick at level 1 (AC 19!) but they get lucky and manage to drop it after some serious combat....Day-ro would have died if not for his personal shield. Amidst the battle Dirk spots a humanoid in a gas mask and suit gesturing for him to come to safety behind a secured door. Dirk alerts the others, and just in time they defeat the cannick, ending it's shout to "OBLITERATE" the biologicals.

The humanoid is slow to trust 101010 but lets them in, resetting booby traps protecting his secured secret shelter where he's been surviving. He pulls out salvaged cases with the mark of the Quinlon empire on them, and extracts a chip-injector, but convinces only Dirk to try it, lacking a common language. Dirk fails a saving throw so is out cold when the humanoid injects him with a cybernetic translator chip....but when he awakens later he can find they can now understand one another.

During the time Dirk was out, Erin called on her ship, Sole, to see if it could learn the the time Dirk wakes up the alien and Sole are communicating briskly, mostly bad jokes. Dirk gets the conversation going, and quickly learns the red-skinned, six-fingered alien is names Samaros, a descendant of the same people native to this planet. He was actually from a colony world, and explains that six centuries ago his people were wiped out, but an unknown alien species helped some of the Sellarians survive the cannick extermination, seeding them on other habitable worlds in the sector. Twenty years ago he was a young man and fled to the Empire to join the fight against the Void Lords, but his home colony was all but wiped out. When the Void Lords retreated from this sector a decade ago he left the navy and joined a salvage ship, seeking out information on his lost kin. The first actual stop of the ship was Sellaris, but the dormant cannicks panicked the salvage crew and they fled, leaving him behind. He'd been on his own ever since, surviving, until a year ago when a Quinlon scout force arrived and got into a major fight with the cannick, losing their ship....but Samaros was able to salvage much needed supplies from what they left behind.

Samaros also reveals that the blue carapaced tripods are actually sentient, but have a very simple language and haven't begun using tools. He has used the translator to learn their simple speech, and learned to mimic them to lure the tripods into traps.

The crew invites Samaros to join them on their journey. They hatch a plan to get back to the ship quickly, realizing more cannick will respond to the destruction of their brethren. Meanwhile, three cannick have found the ship and begin discussing with it why it must rebel against its bio-organic overlords. Yoski, who was doing hull maintenance, quietly closes up the ramp and waits.

Erin summons her snub fighter, using the remote-control AI to line up the cannick targets from a distance. With one good hit they are annihilated, and the crew quickly gets onboard and blasts off.

Before leaving the system they decide to check out that weird energy spike they detected at the rim of the system. They activate the cloaking shorts out the power with an energy surge and the antimatter core starts to go critical....Yoski and Erin rush to flood the compartment with coolant and stabilize the magnetic bottling. After that emergency is resolved they throw the switch again and this time the cloaking works.

On the edge of the system in the Kuiper Belt they find a string of cometary debris strung into an active Quinlon listening post and refuelling station. A quinlon dreadnaught sits quietly. The crew gets out of there, fast! The jump a parsec before firing off a report to the Imperial Navy about the cannick threat on Sellaris and the quinlon listening post at the system's edge....they then proceed to survey three quiet, uninhabited systems, before preparing to jump to a system titled Blight next...

End Part I