Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Starfinder: Delevan trask, Level 10 Soldier Merc (vs. CR 9 Xenovore)

In messing around with Starfinder I decided to see what higher level characters would look like. The game's damage scaling is maddeningly weak at low level (with the caveat that some classes have spell or special effect limited-shot boosts to help out) but it was clear from the weapon tables and level bonuses later on that PCs must scale up....quite a bit, perhaps. But what does this look like in an iteration of D20 System that has ditched iterative attacks entirely?

Enter Delevan Trask, a sample character I leveled from 1 to 10 to see what an average soldier with the mercenary theme might look like. Trask is a human, so nothing particularly special here to note other than that a Vesk might be a better overall soldier.....

Delevan Trask
Human male Soldier, Level 10 (mercenary theme); Neutral Good
Speed 30 ft
STR 20 (+5), DEX 15 (+2), CON 16 (+3), INT 12 (+1), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 10 (0)
Hit Points 74; Stamina Points 97; Resolve 7
Armor: EAC 24; KAC 25; DR 2 (dermal plating MK 2)(wears Freebooter Armor III; see below)
Armor Notes: 3 upgrades: jetpack (fly 30 feet), white force field (temp HP 15, fast heal 4, Cap 20), targeting computer (ignore concealed conditions)
Saves: Fortitude +10; Reflex +5; Will +9

Skills: Acrobatics +4, Athletics +16, Engineering +7, Intimidate +8, Medicine +8, Perception +2, Profession (mercenary) +10, Sense Motive +2, Stealth -1, Survival +15

Mercenary Theme Bonuses: special modifier for profession (mercenary), +1 STR for determining bulk limit

Soldier Abilities: 
Main Fighting Style: Hit and Run (as level 10)(opening volley, nimble fusillade, duck and weave)
Secondary Fighting Style: Arcane Assailant (as level 2)(Rune of the Eldritch Knight)
Gear Boosts: Laser Accuracy, Electric Arc

Feats: Toughness, blind-fight, versatile focus (all proficient weapons), improved combat maneuver (disarm), improved initiative, diehard, weapon specialization (as soldier; all weapon proficiencies), cleave, barricade, deadly aim, extra resolve (+2); soldier weapon and armor proficiencies

Equipment: freebooter armor III, clothes, comm unit, aphelion laser pistol, serrated longsword, tactical autobeam rifle, 6 high cap batteries (40 charges each), 6 regular batteries (20 charges each), one level 5 advanced medikit, implanted MK 2 Dermal Plating (DR 2)

Melee Attack - microserrated longsword level 9; +16 to hit, 2D10+15 S damage, Crit bleed 2D6, special analog
Ranged Attack - aphelion laser pistol level 9; +14 to hit, 3D4+5 F damage, Crit burn 1D4, range 90', 40 charges, special Boost 1D4
Ranged Attack - Tactical Autobeam Rifle level 11; +14 to hit, 5D4+10 F, Crit burn 2D4, range 60', 40 charges, special automatic

So...Delevan has a lot of abilities which I summarized with the various special titles/feat names above, but the short version is sort of like this: Trask can get a boost going melee against a foe he has already shot (opening volley), he can move around in combat while attacking (nimble fusillade), he can protect himself from attacks of opportunity when attacking (duck and weave), he can imbue weapons with a basic magic property (rune of the eldritch knight), he is a better shot with laser weapons and knows how to use electric attacks for effect (laser accuracy and electric arc), and his mess of feats make him tougher, better equipped with all weapons to deal more damage and hit with greater precision, go sooner in combat, hit extra opponents on a cleave, and his best feat is deadly aim, in which he adds his BAB (10) to damage when using a full attack action. Oh, and he can throw together crude but protective barriers quickly for some nice cover (barricade feat). WHEW.

The book suggests a level 10 PC has 66,000 credits to spend (page 391) but this seemed a bit stingy so take note that Delevan Trask is armed with about twice the gear he is supposed to....closer, perhaps, to a PC of actual level who geared up through play. If you want to view him at the appropriate "wealth level" then remove the pistol, dermal plating and maybe the longsword (replace with a lower level blade of level 7ish or less).

Delvan Trask, with a full-round attack, can deal 5D4+20 fire damage (using deadly aim plus associated modifiers like specialization), for an average of 32-33 damage per attack if he has a decent spot to shoot from. A full attack lets any character in Starfinder shoot/attack twice with a -4 penalty, so Trask could roll at +9 to hit but potentially deal 65 points of damage per round.

According to Starfinder's encounter building rules a single CR 9 opponent should technically be a match for our intrepid soldier. In looking through the Alien Archive's tables for combatant-based templates  I see that a typical generic CR 9 opponent from the combatant statistical array would look something like this:

Murder Alien CR 9 (animal)
EAC 22, KAC 24, Fort +13, Ref +13, Will +8, HP 145 (NPCs don't have SP)
Ability DC 16, Base Spell DC 13
STR +6, DEX +4, CON +3, INT -4, WIS 0, CHA 0
Senses low-light vision
Special no breath
Ranged Alien Death Spikes +21 (60 feet; 5D4+9 P)
Melee Claw +18 (1D10+15 S)
Multiattack 4 Claws +12 (1D10+15 S)
Xenovores are indigenous to various worlds where they have been dropped off by unwitting merchant ships, traders and smugglers who did not know that the beasts had attached to their hull. They look like armored hulks of moving muscle with four vicious claws. Their proboscoid "mouth" is not effective for combat, and the xenovore secrets a digestive acid on slain prey, then suctions up the liquid mess after an hour or so with its proboscis.
(I'd just like to comment that this monster was drafted up in about 8 minutes using the incredibly flexy and easy to use array design rules in the back of the Alien Archive)

The example creature is drawn from the design rules in the back, and represents an average space monster. This one can dish out four attacks per round with its multiattack claws for an average of 20.5 damage per claw, or 82 points of damage if all four claws connect. It can hit at range for 21-22 piercing damage with a weaker but more precise ranged shooting spike attack. This thing is lethal at close quarters!

I'll let you do the math, but this will be a tough fight for Trask if he doesn't find high ground and stay out of melee range.

So....this has led to an observation about Starfinder that sort of undermines my low level experience with the game so far: mid to higher level the game gets really interesting. Not that I doubted that, but the damages not only look more "Pathfinder-y" but they look more like you might expect damage to be in a heavy hardware future tech setting such as Starfinder. It makes me intrigued to consider starting a Starfinder game at higher level just to see how that feels.

That, or I could make higher level gear available (cheaper?) at low level. There is absolutely nothing in the rules preventing that, other than some commentary on page 167 suggesting that the GM beware if he allows this.

Things to consider. (And yes, this means Starfinder, I ain't quit ya' just yet....I may end up never running SF again, but I concede I'm having a lot of fund messing around with it mechanically.)

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Next Post-Apocalyptic Campaign Begins Here

This image, right here, is going to be the basis for my next Post-Apocalyptic campaign, probably powered by Other Dust (the SWN-powered Post-Apoc RPG), or at minimum a great image for a future apocalyptic world for adventurers to visit:

This picture has dense and subtle layers to unpack....

The lone survivor atop a high peak in some damage skyscraper

The city, overrun with what appears to be nebulous, drapped webbing everywhere

An eclipsed sun which appears at once to be an interesting but also possibly an entirely common phenomenon on this world

The city itself is a modern city, with skyscrapers on a world much like Earth....or perhaps it is, in fact, Earth and this is some prominent coastal port

Five RPGs That Maximize Your Time (and yes they are all OSR)

In thinking about the issue of time and RPGs...and how much time it can take to get the most out of your average contemporary game, I realized a few things:

1. I remain obsessed with the idea that my "golden age" of campaigning was when I focused on short 5 month-long 10-12 session campaigns in AD&D 2nd edition during my college years as the "gold standard" of enjoyment, but acknowledge that my ongoing campaigns I ran from roughly 1981-1989 prior to college were really like dozens of these 10-12 session games strung together into a coherent arc.

2. My current Call of Cthulhu game, which is running long-term and indefinitely, proves that the "long term campaign" model is not in and of itself the issue that bugs me.

3. While considering OSR games in this regard I realized that most OSR games, by virtue of their design and focus actually have "respect for your time" built in to their model of play. This happens by focusing on three elements of classic gaming that lend well to this approach: procedurally generated content (i.e. roll to see what happens tables), hexcrawl style exploration (move around a literal map exploring and looking for encounters/adventures), and resource management (you have limited resources that deplete, so you are incentivized to explore and replenish those resources).

Point 3 is the one that got me to thinking about this idea: current RPGs that respect your time as a player and/or GM, and provide you with the tools to enjoy a game for one night --or twenty-- and never feel like the burden of playing or running the game demands too much of you. There are actually several games on the market that fit this bill exactly.

In the interest of promoting games which really do respect your time and provide you with a framework designed with the general experience of enjoyment and a greater "return on fun" in mind, I would propose that the following five games are excellent examples of this:

1. Stars Without Number

Stars Without Number shows up first here because I've been reading so much of it lately. It's designed with simple character generation that nonetheless allows for a wide range of interesting options to "flavor" your PCs and make them feel different. For the GM it provides a working toolbox with lots of premade content, but also provides a solid structure for quickly designing worlds, encounters and plots on the fly. Once you've used the World Tags option, for example, you will never want to play a game that doesn't offer this. Or, you know, just use SWN's system for all your gaming needs, regardless of the game you play!

2. Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons

The simple fact is, no one has beaten classic 1981's Basic and Expert D&D on ease of use and applicability. Just in the Basic set alone you can run any dungeon with minimal effort, and you have all you need for delving into D&D's worlds without any fuss or muss. Expert D&D adds wilderness exploration, sailing, and some measure of politics. There's simply nothing you can't do for at least 14 levels of play with these rules that requires overt levels of prep. The mechanical structure of B/X is it's only failing....if you don't like racial classes, that is. Otherwise it's perfect. Hell...for most people hexcrawling was essentially invented by this edition of D&D (it wasn't but for most --like me--this was the first actual exposure to the concept!)

3. Beyond the Wall

It makes sense to include this because Beyond the Wall starts with the core conceits of OD&D and Basic/Expert D&D, reimagines the magic system, then, builds the entire game around the concept of the playbook, in which you get to roll a lifepath history for your character while (and this is key) the GM uses a similar playbook to create the scenario you are about to explore. It's simple genius and hard to not want to see this style of game available in every genre once you've been exposed to it. You can literally run Beyond the Wall with all prep starting at the table at the same time as character generation.

4. Traveller

Okay, Traveller may not be technically OSR in one sense, but the current iteration of the game from Mongoose is actually still adhering to the principles that made Classic Traveller just as accessible and fun....just with more stuff to play with. Traveller, like Stars Without Number, provides procedural rules for generating worlds and systems on the fly, rolling quick patron encounters and generally offering procedural adventures that demand only that the referee make some effort at improv. Personally I like spending lots of time engaging in the "subsector generator" minigame myself so I often prep lots of stuff in advance, but it can be a very interesting experience to just sit down and run Traveller cold. You'll learn a lot about how to think on the fly using the tables in the game as the springpoint.

5. All of the White Box Family of Games

I am cheating here, because by "White Box Family" I am including the actual Swords & Wizardry White Box, the "White Box" version of the same, White Star (for SF), and the many, many other iterations that are inspired by OD&D (Warriors of the Red Planet, for example). Each of these games is built on a minimalist rules system which also encourages procedurally generated sandboxk style gaming content. Each offers enough in the way of setting background, encounter data, and rules on how to work the pieces for even average GMs to pick up and play without much effort. Pretty much any game which provides the proper tools for sandbox gaming can do this....and all White Box/OD&D variants excel at this approach.

Honorable Mention: D&D 5E

D&D 5th edition tries hard to provide the tools to do what these games, above, all do very well. And it works! 5E, when you dig in the DMG, has a lot of useful content for running procedural or hexcrawl style gaming. Now that said, there are things in D&D 5E that may or may not capture the magic of what it is like to run a sandbox old school adventure. I think that the overall experience is simply not as sharp as it could be (but it is damned close) if only because some of the core conceits of all of the above systems (which all involve careful management of depleting resources) is not as prevalent in D&D, which puts too many safety stops on those same resources. The net result is one in which D&D 5E often feels like it hits those marks, while accidentally defeating some of the more interesting elements of the resource management game that makes the old school method so fun. But despite still deserves honorable mention as the first iteration of official D&D in 18 years to try and get back to that feel again.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Genesys Core's first sourcebook release will be Terrinoth

While perusing the strange but surprisingly informative website over at Fantasy Flight Games I discovered the listing for Genesys Core's first supplement: Terrinoth. So the first sourcebook will focus on the world of the Runebound boardgame, but it sounds interesting and ought to provide all the tools necessary to extract what one needs for fantasy gaming in the Genesys system.

From the Blurb:

"Realms of Terrinoth explores the world of Mennara featured in the Runewars Miniatures GameLegacy of DragonholtDescent, and Runebound. As a fantasy setting, Realms of Terrinoth features many races, weapons, gear, careers and more that can both be found in the world of Mennara as well as expanded to any fantasy setting you create as the Gamemaster. "

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Long Term vs. Short Term Campaign Model in RPGs (or: why board games and card games thrive while RPGs remain a niche within a niche)

Board gamers and card gamers have it so easy: they show up, play a few hours, and when they are done it gets packed up and you don't think about it again --at all-- until you feel like playing again. And if you never feel like playing again? Well there's no great, personal commitment beyond the moment (and the initial cash to buy the game/cards) so hey, no big deal!

RPGs are not like this at all, of course. They demand almost as much time when you are not playing as when you are. To get the most out of an RPG you need to play it, a lot, and you need to spend a lot of time prepping for it, learning its nuances, and then teasing those out of the game, possibly over dozens of games.

I run in to this constant problem as a GM. How to apportion my time to gaming? There's a general feeling, at least partially perpetuated by my own style of gaming, that an RPG campaign needs to be Big and Long and other verbs such as protracted, extended, eternal, etc. RPGs demand a lot of time, and feel like you aren't getting your buck's worth unless you then dedicate much of your free time to them.

This is partially due to the game of choice for most sessions: D&D 5E and it's cohorts (from Pathfinder and Starfinder to pretty much every iteration of D&D, ever*), which tend to encourage long campaigns so you can get from level 1 to level 10, 15, or maybe even 20. These games ask of the player and GM that you stick with the characters for a long time, see them grow, develop, and expand in to the Big Damn Heroes from their roots as wanderlusted nothings. At best there are some variations of D&D such as 13th Age which contort the campaign into a more bite-sized option, with the best iteration being 13th Age's optional "1 level/1 session" campaign model in which you streak through ten levels of play over ten sessions of gaming. It feels rushed and artificial, but it also accomplishes something important: it provides "mechanical closure" as well as plot closure to a storyline in the campaign, by both giving the group ten levels to play through and encouraging the GM to pace the game to last those ten sessions of play.

Recently I hit the level cap in Tom Clancy's The Division, a computer game which lets you level your post-apocalyptic Division Agent through to level 30 in a story campaign, after which you are then unleashed on the world in a level-free environment that ironically is loaded with secondary leveling mechanics for different types of missions as well as your "gear score" which is a bit like the ultimate leveling system since there's always better gear to get. Some other games, such as Guild Wars 2, also do this: provide a structured leveling experience through a story/campaign mode, then at the end it explodes wide open in the so-called "endgame" content. The idea is that the story mode meets the traditional game qualifiers, but the endgame content is where the hardcore come to play, and the publisher and developer of the game tries to monetize the game for the hardcore to keep playing and paying.

In tabletop terms, I think it's interesting that we don't really see any game try to structure itself like this. Leveling up can be a long, drawn out process in many RPGs, and RPGs that look at the subject differently do so not by making the leveling process the "opening act" followed by a post-level-up endgame, but rather the alternatives eschew level mechanics entirely, or better yet focus on tighter, shorter campaign experiences with advancement rules there primarily as a minor extra perk. FATE Core for example is an excellent example of an extreme alternative to classic D&D leveling mechanics. You don't really need to level up at all in FATE, though it does provide rules for advancement, and in fact it seems that a great many FATE gamers are accustomed to short story structures in their gaming: advancement is incidental to the goal, which is a short campaign experience.

I've been running lots of Call of Cthulhu lately, and as a BRP system CoC does have some advancement mechanics (skill gains), but the net effect of skill gains is slow and over time; the real enjoyment comes from the prolonged experience of the campaign scenarios themselves. The fact that I've kept up a coherent campaign in Call of Cthulhu for close to eight months now shocks me, honestly....and it's thankfully because the story itself is so engaging. But this is in some ways the exception to the rule. I do feel that the fact that "mechanical advancement" is so nominal/secondary in CoC actually helps make the long campaign more interesting, because nothing that happens in the campaign feels like it needs to be there to promote artificial level advancement. The thematic core of the game opposes this style of play as relevant to the as a result, players don't need the feel of "mechanical closure" to appreciate the game itself.

All of this has been a lot of rambling discussion to get to my core problem with this model: I don't actually get to play the games and scenarios I want most of the time, because every time I start something it's essentially designed to accommodate the "long campaign model" of play and the level mechanics of the system usually encourage that it function this way, otherwise it feels like you're not really getting the most out of the system. This is in contrast to, ironically, the other long term campaign I have where leveling is not such an issue but the campaign itself is sufficiently rewarding that everyone is happy with it without the feeling that you're missing out if you don't play for dozens of sessions to level up.

Back in the old days, I designed some of my best campaigns around 10-12 session story arcs designed to run through a single semester when I was in college, with the idea that I never knew if I'd have the same players the following semester. A side effect of this was that most of the AD&D 2E games lasted for maybe 5-6 levels of play (we'd start with a specific level and everyone would level up every other session or so) but the campaign would have a very satisfying conclusion. Characters could continue on a future campaign, absolutely....but that would be a new story arc, lasting 10-12 games, with another satisfying conclusion. And so on and so forth.

These days, I kind of feel like what I need right now is the opportunity to play more games with less dedicated time and effort to get payoff. I'd like to try a campaign of Symbaroum for 3-5 games, just to see how it is. I'd like to run some scenarios for Conan RPG without feeling like I have to commit for six months or more to get it done. I'd like to run another ten-session arc in 13th Age down the road, or take that model and apply it to D&D 5E. Just to see how that feels. I'm kind of doing that in my current D&D game right far everyone has done enough to gain a level per session, but admittedly they all started at level 1 and the first 2-3 levels in D&D go by quickly if you're busy.

The downside of this model is that some of the really interesting emergent gameplay and RP that pops out after very long campaign sessions might not come to pass. But then, the opposite also applies: the sort of intensity and focus a tighter scenario or campaign run with a deliberate aim toward brevity can lead to sessions where players will behave very differently than if they think they're in for the long haul.

I'll wrap my planned 10-game D&D run and see how it goes, then maybe propose some shorter, more focused games later this year. We'll see how (or if) that goes over.....for me, I'm just hoping that I can find that particular beat and rhythm I need to really enjoy the gaming. I'm getting it in spades right now with CoC on Saturday, now if I can only find that extra something to make Wednesday great as well....maybe my instincts at the start of 2018 are right, and I really do need to give D&D a break for a while, focus on other games and/or genres.

*OSR and old school games are different, though. There's a fundamental shift in how an RPG feels when played out over time when you adapt old school sensibilities which actually makes long-term play more comfortable and interesting (and also simultaneously making you feel like you get more out of each session)....but more on that in a future column!

White Star Galaxy Edition Now In Print!

More specifically, over in print at Head here to use Tenkar's affiliate link (help out the Tavern!) and also get a 20% off code and free shipping good for today only (SHIPSAVE20).

If you liked White Star and wonder if the Galaxy edition is worth it, I'll just assert that I really like the layout of this new edition, which is a better design and includes new info beyond just the core rules and companion, so I'm actually really happy with this Definitive Edition. As soon as I have this book in my grubby little paws I'm going to spring a new White Star campaign on my group* they have been warned!

*If I'm not running a SWN campaign, that is....

Reviewing the Free Edition of Tunnels & Trolls Adventures on Android - Spoiler....It's Kinda fun! (but not free. Nope.)

Tunnels & Trolls Adventures on Android is actually an app which lets you roll up characters and run them through classic T&T solo adventures, of which there are 17 currently available. So yeah, you can via this app roll up a warrior and take him on a challenging solo adventure, in which all the flipping to paragraphs, rolling of dice and messy note taking is handled for you.

It's kind of cool, actually! And very much like playing and actual T&T solo. But there are a few catches.

The first is price: you get two solos unlocked, including a decent introductory adventure "The Ascendant," and the legendary Naked Doom. As old T&T vets know, Naked Doom was something of a character was rife with quick death. Some of the Android store reviews reflect the dissatisfaction with this (pansy noobs that they are). So far so good.

Once you are done with those two modules, the rest are unlocked for between 10 jewels (for mini solos like Circle of Ice and Grimtina's Guard), 40 jewels (for most normal sized solos such as Mistywood and Caravan to Tiern) and 50 jewels for Overkill. All told I determined that it would cost 450 jewels to get all of the solos currently available. The going rate right now is 10 jewels for .99 and 110 jewels for $ essentially it's $41 to get all the modules. Not horrible, I suppose, unless you maybe have all of them on PDF and have played more than a few to death....also there's some question of overall replayability; you can only play Naked Doom so many times, for example, before you've memorized the module more or less.

To contrast, other solos in the style of pic-a-path adventures available on Android range from the Sorcery! series at $4.99 for each entry to the many Fighting Fantasy adaptations which tend to be priced at $2.99. Arguably the T&T experience is a better deal....but it's really interesting that T&T is presented as a single app from which you then buy module installments. This does have the advantage of supporting your recurring cast of characters as you play through the game.

Interestingly, when your character dies the game doesn't delete it....but you do get a trophy hall which shows which characters actually did succeed at a module. Also, you can delete your character if you so desire, and roll again.

Things that perplex me so far:

First, you seem to be able to only roll warriors. I think this is because the app currently doesn't support magic options and the solo choices definitely reflect that. In order to get the full T&T experience this needs to be upgraded, soon.

Second, since when do humans roll twice because they're human? I guess this isn't a's nice to know they have a slight edge, but that took me by surprise.

Third, the game so far seems to be liberally exploiting existing T&T art to accompany the text. I haven't ponied up for any of the premium modules yet so I don't know if there's more new art elsewhere, but I can say that it would be nice if they broadened the range. Especially since the full cost of this app to get all content is currently $41.

Finally, it is currently missing a number of solos, though I suspect that's because they haven't implemented a way to handle spell casting wizards and rogues, and some of those solos just aren't going to be fun without those classes.

Also of note is the ad at the top of this blog....notice it mentions "create?" So when do we get to see this feature? Color me very intrigued. If they implement a creator tool for solos, it will be a major step up from most of the other competition on the Android.

Beyond that, I'm really kind of happy to have this. It's a trip down memory lane for me (I haven't played any T&T solos in many years) and the app makes it incredibly easy to revisit T&T on the solo side. So....I wonder when we can expect a T&T Beyond for some tabletop fun?????

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Woodland and City Gnome in OpenQuest 2

Gnomes in OpenQuest2

Gnomes have long been identified as a type of elemental in Runequest derived systems like OpenQuest 2, but for those of us who need…nay, crave gnomes in their fantasy adventuring, here are some stats you can use to handle your gnomes in OQ2.

Gnomes are essentially diminutive forest folk who sometimes go a little weird when exposed to the big city. A basic gnome has the following stats:

Str 2D6+3 (10); Con 3D6 (11); Dex 5D6 (18); Size 2D6 (7); Int 2D6+6 (13), Pow 2D6+6 (13), Cha 3D6 (11)
Movement 12 meters; Hit Points 9; Major Wound: 5; DM 0; MP 13; Armor Leather (2 AP); Plunder Factor 1
Resistances: Dodge 50%, Persistence 30%, Resilience 40%
Knowledge: Lore (alchemy) 35%
Practical: Athletics 35%, Perception 45%
Special: Artificer gnomes have Mechanical 75% and Engineering 50%
Woodland gnomes have Natural Lore 75%
Close Combat 30%
Short sword (1D6)
Buckler (1D4)
Ranged Combat 50%
Light crossbow (1D8 damage; 125m; rate ½ CR)
Woodland gnomes normally belong to a nature cult. Artificer gnomes start with 6 points in sorcery and both type of gnome have 3 points in battle magic. Gnome characters may start with the nature cult or sorcery optional starting options, and must choose illusion as a spell.

Gnomes come in two varieties: the first is the classic gnome, sometimes known as the woodland gnome, who is commonly associated with nature spirits, the natural world and a penchant for quiet mischief. Such gnomes are generally regarded as honest folk with a solemn regard for nature, occasionally enjoying a prank or joke at another’s expense, but never with real malice or deceit intended.

The other variety is sometimes known as the “city gnome” or the artificer gnome. These gnomes are the result of what happens when a gnome or community of gnomes spend too much time in the presence of technology and magic. Such gnomes are inevitably corrupted by the delights of civilization and technology and this exposure unlocks strange and dark secrets within the gnomes themselves, who appear to be almost unbearably, addictively drawn to exploring the depths to which they can merge magic and science.

 Gnomes do not like ducks. While some speculate that ducks could be a byproduct of a mad artificer gnome's experimentation, a famous gnome named Charamis Zen'Rakatt once explained it was more about "niche protection."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

More T&T News: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures RPG is now on Android and iOS stores

I stopped by Flying Buffalo to see if anything new was posted in the wake of discovering the Elven Lord Revisited Kickstarter, and lo and behold I discovered a notice that MetaArcade apparently had adapted the venerable T&T to an android and Apple store app. I don't know if this is a "new" thing or a port of the classic early nineties T&T CRPG.

I'm not reviewing it just yet, but thought I'd let y'all know it exists. It's a free app....but it apparently has an in-game purchase option (for what I am not sure yet). I'll post more soon as I have a chance to explore it properly and see just what this is all about (right now it's sitting at 0% in a download update...hmmm). I would greatly have preferred it to be an up-front purchase (as a rule I do not play in-app "freemium" games) but who knows, maybe it's not the usual cash grab.

It's got a 3.6 rating on the app store right now for Android. FB's website implies a small payment can be made to remove ads.

UPDATE: so it appears that solo modules are available through this app and you buy in game currency to play once or own them. The first module is titled "The Ascendant" and is free....another one I saw was 40 jewels. Not sure how much jewels cost....yet. The game's internal downloader is slooooooow.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tunnels & Trolls: Elven Lords Module New Special Edition Kickstarter

Very exciting news: Elven Lords was one of the better solitaire adventures published back in the day for Tunnels & Trolls. a new Kickstarted edition is now available for an August release date from Liza Danforth, Steve Crompton and Mike Stackpole. This will include a black and white edition for $20 as well as a limited full color edition for $75. I'm backing the regular copy for the moment but the full color edition is very tempting, and the samples look gorgeous.

If you're not a T&T person the new print will include the rules necessary to play, so check it out...T&T remains the best non D&D classic fantasy experience you can find.

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.'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             

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

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)

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)
500 credits


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.