Sunday, November 08, 2015

White Star Hack Update: Characters

Now that baseball is over for the year (congrats to my KC Royals!), I'm putting in more time to working on cementing my White Star Hack rules. Today, I'm going to cover how character creation will work.

First off, use the normal attribute score generation method that you prefer. The scale of the bonuses has been changed to
1-3          -3
4-6          -2
7-9          -1
10-12  -/+ 0
13-15      +1
16-18      +2
Ever 3 points after 18 confers an additional +1 bonus

The Attributes essentially cover the same areas that they do in nearly all OSR games. However, the big change is that Intelligence dictates the number of starting skill points that a character has to spend on skills at level 1, so Intelligence will be very useful even to warrior types that typically don't need a high INT score.

Once attribute scores have been generated, you'll select your race. Races are structured much like 3E-era D&D races. There may be bonuses and/or penalties to attributes, special abilities, etc. Each race will also have access to six Broad Skills for free. Broad Skills are the gateways to more specialized skills. Purchasing Broad Skills is expensive, but there are no ranks. By purchasing a Broad Skill, a character can attempt any specialized skill (that can be used untrained) under than umbrella without an Untrained penalty, but they can only apply their attribute bonus to the skill roll.

Once the race is selected, the player then selects a class. There are 5 classes to choose from: Diplomat, Freelancer, Psion, Tech, and Warrior. Make a note of any special notes or abilities for the class and then spend skill points on skills. Each class has a list of skills that are tied to that class. Buying a rank in a specialized skill requires the character to first have that Broad Skill. So a Diplomat can't purchase a rank in Pistol without first paying the cost to purchase the "Modern Ranged Weapons" Broad Skill first, even then that is considered a cross-class skill for a Diplomat, unless the Diplomat's second class is Warrior. Purchasing Broad Skills costs 6 skill points, while class skill ranks only cost 1 point, and cross-class skills cost 2 points.

Instead of Alignments, the player will select a Moral Attitude and some character traits. These don't dictate the way the character is played, but can give the player an idea of how they wish their character to act, and they give the GM an idea of what to expect.

Once skills are set, the player then rolls for starting credits and purchases equipment.

Skills is going to be the most time-consuming part of the character creation process. Even then, compared to Alternity, the process moves much quicker since I've pared down the costs and number of points that are being dealt with.

Next up, I'll talk more in depth about how classes are structured.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


I've got a couple announcements, one minor, one bigger (at least for the direction of the blog that is).

First off, I'll be adding some page tabs to the blog that collect posts pertaining to certain subjects. In case you think you missed something, want to easily find an old post, or want to catch up if you're new to the blog it'll be a lot easier to find what you're looking for.

Secondly, and more importantly, I'm going to take a stab at creating a hack of White Star. For those that don't know what White Star is, it's a sci-fi/space opera game based on the White Box version of the Swords & Wizardry rules. I use S&W for all my fantasy gaming because it's simple and easily expandable. I like White Star as it is for the most part, but there are certain things I prefer in my sci-fi games that WS just doesn't deliver on. Really, from what I've got in mind, only the basic rules will truly be WS with many other parts of the game being greatly changed or expanded to suit my tastes.

Why am I attempting this? Honestly, it's the desire to kit bash a lot of bits and pieces I like from various systems into a cohesive whole. I like fiddling with systems, and ever since I read WS I haven't been able to shake the desire to tear into it and see if I can make something that both I and my group will really like. That desire has really derailed a lot of my other pursuits in other games...which has lead to a greatly diminished post count on the blog.

Work on what I'm going to tag as "White Star Hack" is likely to put the breaks on new Savage Worlds and Rogue Space material, but I'm not giving up on those games. RS still sees a lot of play, and I'm 99% completed with my re-grouping of the SW rules to fit my needs for Mythic Space. In fact, a lot of new material after WSH is done will more than likely sport stats for all three systems.

So what will this hack of WS contain? Here's a preliminary list:

  • A skill system modified from the great Alternity rules. In fact, much of the game is going to be geared towards the skill system, but I'm going to change up the points and costs to limit some of the math to keep character generation and advancement flowing quickly. 
  • Race and Class separated. Racial Classes have never been a big favorite of mine, so I'm going to divorce the two in WSH. 
  • 5 classes: Warriors (I haven't settled on that name, but Soldier, Mercenary, and the like are also being batted around), Rogues (also considering Freelancer and Scoundrel), Diplomats, Technicians (I may just call them "Techs"), and Psions. 
  • Variable damage for weapons and gear drawn from many D20 sources like D20 Future.
  • Changing around how monster stats are derived. I detailed some of these ideas here in the past. While some things like creature attack bonuses might be modified, much of that will likely stand. 
  • Starship rules will largely remain unchanged from what is found in WS. 
  • Expansion of Cybernetics rules. There will be more cybergear, rules on the installation of cybergear, and on the loss of humanity. 
  • A simple mutations system.
  • Skill-based Psionics
  • More of a true toolbox feel with less overt Star Wars references. 
All in all, I hope to create something that I want to run and maybe give something that others may want to kick around as well that still feels light and fast and easy to run. While this hack will be crunchier than the White Star standard, I have no desire to bog the system down with over-complicated and over-drawn rules. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

KIC 846285

As I'm sure many of you have heard, the Kepler Space Telescope found something interesting about 1400 light years away. There is an old star that is dimming over 20% at time during the last 4 years of study. Now, when a planet occludes a star, the dip in brightness is usually around 1%, so a 20% + drop is pretty astounding. If this was a young star, then it could possibly be chalked up to debris that will likely eventually become planets, but that's not the case. So what is it? There have been theories from planetary collisions, comet swarms, to Dyson Sphere objects built by an alien civilization.

In case you don't know what a Dyson Sphere is, they are hypothetical structures that would be built around a star to collect all of its solar energy output. It's the kind of thing you'd only see in sci-fi (one was part of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation).

While the idea of why KIC 846285 is dimming so much being caused by aliens is certainly an attention-grabbing headline, I sincerely doubt that is what's going on there. Still, if it is an advanced alien society building Dyson objects, that would give me hope for humanity for several reasons. One is simply for the knowledge that we are not alone in the cosmos. The ramifications of this would send shockwaves through not only the scientific community, but religion and everyday culture as well. Even if that culture has died out in the 1400 years it took that light to get here, the simple fact that there has been intelligent life other than humans in the cosmos would be amazing to say the least. Plus, since KIC 846285 is so close (cosmologically speaking), it would make the theories of Duncan Forgan, who figures there are anywhere from 361 to 37,964 intelligent species in the galaxy right now, seem like undershots. Out of the 100,000 light years, there are 2 intelligent species within 1400 light years would certainly point that the galaxy may be more densely populated than originally thought. Lastly, it would give me hope that there is a society out there that shows that survival is possible. Survival not just against everything the universe can throw at a little ball of rock, but that survival against the odds we place in our own way can be overcome. All the petty political, social, religious, racial, and financial differences can be overcome to allow not just survival, but also the colonization of the rest of the solar system and maybe beyond. I really do think that if humankind is going to survive into the far future, it will have to be in the rest of solar system. However, we can't seem to see past our own bank accounts, our own gods, even simply the color of our own skin to realize that we're all in this together. That will likely damn us to extinction sooner than another world-killer asteroid.

Since I don't think that it is aliens (I'm leaning more on the side of planetary collision or some other giant mass spreading event), is it really worth looking at KIC 846285? Absolutely. We've found something outside of the norm. Even if alien intelligence isn't the cause that's still exciting and certainly "sexy" from the standpoint of astronomers getting to study something strange that will expand our knowledge of the cosmos. That's exciting, certainly moreso than just throwing "Aliens" into a title to get the clicks.

Still, it is fun to dream...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Citadel

The Citadel is the seat of power for the Galactic Concord. Resting in the sparsely populated Prome Cloud in the heart of the Concord, the Citadel is an ancient space station still filled with mystery and secrets left uncovered. It is the largest space station in Concord space, not including the Space Hulk, The Aegis of Time.

The Citadel was discovered by the Asari over 300 standard years ago. At the time, it was believed to be an ancient Prothean station. However, since the re-emergence of the Protheans it has been discovered that the Citadel pre-dates even the Protheans, and may be as old as the infamous Space Hulks. Attempts to date the strange compounds that make up the construction of the Citadel have proven fruitless as well.

The Citadel does have a "natural" inhabitant, the bio-mechanical Keepers. These strange creatures are a form of biological insectoid with extensive nanotech upgrades that are as much a part of them as lungs and hearts are to other species. The Keepers have never conversed with anyone, even now that the Citdael is home to millions of workers, security forces, ambassadors, and Senators. They go about their day keeping the Citadel up and running. They take no orders from anyone and ignore all attempts to communicate with them. If they are kept from completing a task, they will simply move on and return at a later time. Attempts to capture and study Keepers have largely failed as well. All Keepers that have been detained for study have gone into a kill sequence that not only destroys the Keeper, but breaks the corpse down into a gelatinous goo of base materials. Doubly frustrating is that all attempts to track the Keepers have failed as well. Their nanotech renders any attempt to track them with technology inert. Attempt to mark their shells wtih paint are also countered by their nanotech as the paint is broken down leaving their shells the original olive green in color. To date, it is unknown what the total number of Keepers on the Citadel actually is. Its also unknown if the Keepers mate or if they are clones, where they live on the Citadel, and if they are truly sentient or some form of bio-mechanical drone controlled by a central computer or even by an unseen being living in the Citadel. What is known is that they are an integral part of Citadel maintenance, and are protected by law from the current inhabitants of the station. Interfering with a Keeper in its duties and causing harm to a Keeper is met with hefty fines and even the threat of incarceration and or banishment from the Citadel.

The Citadel was not originally home of the Concord. When the Great Alliance first formed, the Sol Systems Alliance space station, Babylon 8, was chosen as a headquarters. However, once the Illithid Invasion was broken and the Galactic Concord was established, it quickly became obvious that the aging space station was going to prove insufficient for the duties of the Concord. The Asari offered the Citadel as an option grudgingly at first. The Asari had kept the discovery of the Citadel a secret for many years. Even when word about the Citadel leaked, they kept the station under strict guard, only allowing rigorously vetted science teams access to the facility. As the Galactic Concord grew, and the possibility of any planetary body being a home quickly ruled out, the Asari offered the Citadel to the Concord on the condition that they be granted a permanent seat on the Council.

The Citadel consists of six areas, five wards (Zakera, Kithoi, Tayseri, Bachjret, and Shalta), each spanning an arm of the station and are metropolises in and of themselves, and the Presidium, which houses the Senate. The Wards are each vast cities, complete with neighborhoods, shops, entertainment, and infrastructure (shipping/recieving, waste removal, etc.). The Keepers maintain the overall integrity of the Citadel, but the Concord employs workers to maintain the systems that have been installed to ensure the survival and comfort of Concord member species and visiting delegates from other stellar nations. Each Ward has a population of roughly 8 million people. An artificial atmosphere is maintained at all by the highest floors of the various skyscrapers that dot the Wards, so the streets and thoroughfares are essentially open to the void of space though kept a comfortable temperature and gravitational force for most species. Specialized atmospheres and accomodations for species that do not breathe oxygen or have other environmental requirements are provided in certain areas of each Ward.

Each Ward has its own feel, but there are some constants. Generally, the ringward sides and the edges of the arms hold the most expensive and posh neighborhoods in each Ward. Zakera is widely regarded as the safest Ward. Bachjret is generally regarded as the poorest Ward. However, each Ward has their good and seedy areas. Generally, the deeper into the Ward that you go, both long-ways and under the surface, the seedy the areas get. As it goes in most cities, the further from the light a society gets, the more the criminal element moves in.

The Presidium is the central ring of the station. Most of the buildings here are related to Galactic Concord business. The Senate is housed here in the Spire, the large tower that stretches from the Presidium ring to the center of the Citadel ring. The offices of many of the senators and Concord agencies are also housed in the Presidium, as well as the homes of the Council members. As the Galactic Concord continues to grow, many agency offices and some senatorial offices have moved to the ringward portions of the Wards. The Presidium is enclosed, complete with a holographic sky (set to the Concord standard 20 hour day). The Presidium is also home to the most beautiful park space and highest end shops and restaurants in the Citadel.

Security is tight on the Citadel. C-Sec controls the flow of people coming and going at the customs offices located in several points in each Ward as well as being the everyday police force. As would be expected, the threat of terrorism on the Citadel is high, so keeping close tabs on who and what are coming aboard is a constant concern. The Concord Navy also maintains a presence in and around the Citadel. The Bastion, the headquarters of the Concord Navy, is housed on the far edge of Kithoi Ward. There are also five dreadnaughts, two carriers with full fighter squadrons, and a full battalion of troops are stationed on the Citadel as well. Add in the orbital defenses, the cannon batteries installed by both the Asari and the Concord, and the ability for the Citadel close the Wards in together for maximum protection and the Citadel is one of the most heavily defended installations in the galaxy.

Despite the security, there is a thriving criminal element on the Citadel. The marging of various cultures and societies leads to a veritable smorgasbord of vices and appetites to sake. Various gangs, syndicates, and cartels all maintain a presence on the Citadel. Smuggling in contraband is a full-time job for these organizations. Despite the best efforts of C-Sec, contraband makes it through both by the ingenuity of the smugglers and the bribes given to C-Sec customs officials.

Friday, October 09, 2015


I'm not making any promises, but it looks like I'm finally gettin out of both the heavy season of extra-cirriculuar activities and this creative funk I've been in so I should actually be posting something in the very near future.

I've been waffling a bit between Savage Worlds and wanting to take a stab at hacking White Star into something more palpable to what I like. Don't get me wrong, White Star is a great game, but there are certain aspects that don't really grab me like race-as-class and d6 for all damage. However, much like with Swords & Wizardry, White Star is the kind of game that begs to be hacked and molded into something else. I did that with S&W and I like the results, so I've been thinking of doing the same with WS. The only thing holding me back is Savage Worlds scratches my sci-fi itch better. I've never been the biggest fan of classes in sci-fi games, unless they are pretty loosely defined. Plus, I've pretty much finished my re-write/re-grouping of the SW core rules to encompass the Sci-Fi companion and other bits from other SW sci-fi games (finally, and sorry for my and my group's own use only). A lot of work went into that tome, and it's tough to just walk away from that to start on another massive undertaking. Plus, with the Savaged version of Rifts on the horizon, I have a feeling that my thoughts will be going right back to SW once that gets released.

For the time being, unless the lure of tearing apart and rebuilding White Star in my unholy image become too much to ignore, I'm going to stay the course with write-ups for species and creatures for Savage Worlds and Rogue Space. Rather than locking myself into any one set project, I'm going to get back to just writing about whatever I want. Now that the core rules are done I'm into just adding the bits and fluff to the setting, which honestly is more fun. The one thing that will tie all the posts together is that they will be focused on detailing parts of my Mythic Space setting. Some will be about creatures found on various worlds, while others may cover conversions from other systems or from comics or whatever.

I found that when I focused on converting stuff from a single source for too long, I just lost interest (like with the string of Spelljammer conversions). I had more fun when I just focused on whatever I was interested at the time (like when I converted various Marvel aliens). That's not to say that I won't go back and offer another batch of Spelljammer conversions in the future, or finally finish my post on the Tyrant Expanse, but they'll wait until I'm really into it rather than feeling like I need to do it because I said I would. (Really, Beholders are such a mechanical pain in the ass, and I've thought and re-thought about how I want to implement them both mechanically and thematically so much that I just need to step back and look at them again at a later time...maybe much later...)

I should be more active now that the summer is over, and the fall sports season is done for my oldest son. I've been far too lax in my creative endeavors, so I'm looking to exploring the galaxy once again!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Return to the Dungeon Crawl

Last week I bought the Warhammer Quest video game on Steam. While it's plagued with the actrocious idea that everything from characters to monsters to tilesets needs to be its own DLC pack, it is a fairly faithful translation of the classic (dare I say "ultimate") dungeon crawling boardgame. I've been battling my way through dungeon after dungeon in a quest for loot and levels and thoroughly enjoying every second. It got me in the mood again to look at both my own collection of dungeon crawler board games and what is coming on the horizon, not to mention the idea of putting together a dungeon crawler of my own as well.

On the horizon is Dungeon Saga from Mantic Games. It looks a lot like Warhammer Quest, which isn't surprising since Mantic makes a lot of games that are similar to many Games Workshop titles from Blood Bowl to Warhammer 40K and Fantasy. (Seriously, check them out at Mantic Games. They are the anti-Games Workshop with good games, great minis, and a company that really seems to care about their customers.) What really interests me with this game is the Adventurer's Companion that is going to contain rules for creating heroes based on figs from your own collection, no matter who made the mini. You'd never see Games Workshop do that! I'm eagerly awaiting Dungeon Saga's release next month, and I hope that it's quickly carried by a retailer stateside.

I've got a lot of these kind of games from the well known (Heroquest, Castle Ravenloft, and Descent) to the obscure (Dragonfire to an older D&D board game from the early 90's whose name escapes me at the moment) and a ton of minis from those game as well as a vast assortment of other figures from Reaper to Mage Knight to the D&D prepainted minis line. It would be great to draw up on that vast store of figures and dust them off for some crawling action. However, as it's been with deciding on what rules to use for my Mythic Space setting, deciding on which system to adapt my collection to has been tough. With Dungeon Saga still a month away, I think what I'm going to do is adapt the Warhammer Quest system into my own game.

Warhammer Quest hits the sweet spot for me in terms of crunch and ease of play. However, I am going to make a few changes to how the system works. I'm going to D20-ify it a bit. Gone will be thw WS charts. Instead, characters will have a base bonus. The bonus will be rolled against the opponent's Melee bonus +10. Much of the game still runs very much the same, however. I'm also changing up character creation a bit. I'm going with a race/class set up. That way I can have elven rogues alongside halfling clerics and dwarven warriors. Classes have set stats with the races adding in possible modifiers and a racial ability or two. Classes will have a selection of abilties to choose from at start and others for when the characters level up. The Winds of Magic still plays a huge part in both keeping spellcasters in check and adding an extra element of danger to the dungeon.

Monster stats will run in much the same way as well. Opponent spellcasters will often roll on a random table of spells to determine what spell is cast (for co-op or solo games). Many of the monster special abilities will be standardized to make the game flow faster.

I'm still knocking around ideas for how I'm going to handle treasure. I'm thinking I may simplify the charts I use to randomize magic items in S&W (which is modified from the Diablo II rpg sets). However, the idea of having a set of cards to just draw treasure from has a lot of appeal as well, even if is would mean more work on my part.

As for the dungeon creation system, I'm going to largely use my Warhammer Quest sets since that's the rules base as well, but I do have some ideas for using D&D Adventure games tiles as well.

Unlike many other projects, this one seems to be going really fast. It's a nice change of pace to work on a light-hearted, really simple game for a while. That said, I'm starting to feel the itch to get back to Mythic Space. We'll see. If I keep playing Warhammer Quest, I may stick with this for a while...

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Fantasy Flight Games Once Again Wants All My Money

Well, it's Gen Con time again and once again it's time for a crap-ton of new game announcements. Now, I'm going to delve into the news that is coming out about Savage Worlds, but since there is so damn much that has come out and is continuing to hit, I'm going to wait to post about that later. Let's just say that Rifts is shaping up nicely (even though it's release has been pushed into early next year) and there is a LOT of great SW material coming out!

In this post I want to focus on Fantasy Flight Games. FFG has always been pretty prolific, and make some really great games. Much of my board game shelf space is made up of their offerings. They have announced a ton of new games and expansions that are going to bust what little game budget I have these days. Not just bust, but obliterate. It will likely be a long time before I catch up with all of these games, but at least there's always something exciting on the horizon!

First off is the next wave of expansions for Imperial Assault. Now, the next wave hasn't shipped yet (should be soon since they've been listed as "on the boat" for nearly 2 months now, and there's a wave in between the one about to hit and the one announced this week, so there's a lot of material in the pipe for IA. This wave will add Hoth-based characters, missions, scenarios, and tiles to the game. the wave will consist of a new small box expansion that will add the tiles, 3 new hero characters (including a Mon Calamarian and a 2-1B Medical Droid), 6 snowtroopers, 3 HK Assassin Droids, 2 Wampas (!), and a SC2-M Repulsor Tank! Just like with the small box expansion that is due out soon, this one will feature a bounty hunter as well, Dengar, who will be one of the figure expansions in this wave. The other figures will be Princess Leia in her Hoth gear, Echo Base Trooper ally pack, and a General Sorin villain pack. I really like IA and hope this trend of numerous expansion waves each year continues.

Next up is new material for Descent 2nd Edition. A new box expansion, the Mists of Bilehall, Unlike other expansion sets for Descent, this one won't offer up an new heroes or expansions of class skill sets. Nope, Bilehall is all about bolstering the strength of the Overlord player. The theme for this set is creepy undead menaces. Along with a new one act campaign, the set will include new rules for Tainted heroes, 12 figures: 6 Reanimates (skeletons), 3 Broodwalkers (disease-ridden zombies covered in bugs), and 3 Bone Horrors (a sort of snake like golem made completely out of bones). This set will also introduce 3 new Lieutenants for the Overlord as well as figure expansions for each. (I've never picked up any of the Lieutenant packs. Never seemed like they added much to the game.)

There's a new edition of Runebound coming out by the end of the year (more likely early next year). The Terrain Dice are still a factor, but the game is touted as being different enough that none of the earlier material will be compatible. Only 4 heroes are included in the base game, which is a big change as well. There will be differing paths that heroes can take on their journey to complete their quest: Combat, Social, and Exploration. A hero can focus on one arena to complete their goals or mix and match the three. The combat is very, very different and one aspect that interests me. Both the hero and the creature toss or roll a bunch of tokens. Depending on how these land each can use them to attack defend power special attacks/spells and so forth. I've had a love-hate relationship with Runebound in the past. The first edition was, well, it just wasn't very fun. The Second edition was much improved, but it still just didn't grab me. I like the idea of what the game is trying to do, but it just hasn't clicked yet. That said, I am interested, which is why I'm posting about it, but this is one that I will definitely wait until I can try it out at the FLGS first.

Finally we come to the "big dog" of FFG's announcements: a new Warhammer Quest. I've been a huge fan of WQ since I first laid eyes on it back in 1996. I now own two base sets, the Catacombs of Terror expansion, and several of the expansion hero packs. That's not even counting the mountains of new monsters and heroes I've either created or downloaded of the net over the years. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of WQ, so seeing the banner across the top of FFG's homepage made me giddy like a schoolgirl. However, my hopes of a new and updated dungeon crawler with a solo component was quickly dashed by finding out this version of WQ is a card game. I should have known. There is little chance of FFG putting out a new version of WQ in the style of the original game when they have the Descent line. While I would vastly prefer the new WQ be more like the old, I am interested in this new game. I've never been one for card games beyond poker and blackjack. They largely don't interest me. However, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game has shown me that such a game is possible and can be interesting. I have my doubts that a card game will be able to capture the same feel as the original dungeon crawler, but I will be itching to try this out once it hits later on this year (once again, knowing FFG's schedule it'll likely be early next year).